Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere – Martin Luther King Jr
I don’t fear for safety
From the simplicity of evil
or complex works of good.
Beyond the neat edge
of my experience,
security is a privilege.
Fears that I don’t share
are still unendurable,
My enclosed experience hints
at other works and wheels,
a shared system of society.
All that produces this world,
the light and dark, actors, victims
and passive accomplices.
We are interconnected –
This condition, this system,
this change is mine too.
Work changes culture, not words. The future of work needs action to create new ways of working together. Creating new value requires people to do more than communicate. They must work in new ways.
With management of enterprise collaboration often falling in the Employee Communications function in organisations it can be tempting to see the challenges as primarily challenges of communication. How do we get people to use a new communication tool? What information do we want people to share in our new communication tool? Which communication tool should we use when?
The bigger and more valuable opportunity is to change the very nature of work. Changing work behaviours runs directly into the challenges of changing the culture of the organisation. After all, culture is the expectation of future behaviours in any organisation. What ways of working are expected, what work is valued and how others will support your work is all wrapped up in a rich tapestry of cultural expectations born of past behaviours, some going back as far as the origins of the organisation.
As we have seen from communication campaigns around values in organisations, message can temporarily influence expectations. However, what confirms a change in expectations is when people see new behaviours being practiced consistently, rewarded and ultimately expected by others.
Sharing information in enterprise social networks is a start but the real value of working out loud is created when people begin to change the very nature of their work process to respond to expectations that they be more agile, more transparent, more collaborative, more trusting and more open to the expertise of others. When this occurs they get the benefits of the input of others in greater speed, productivity and effectiveness. The changing nature of work and the changing culture of the organisation will develop hand in hand in this case and be supported by increasing personal and organisation value to justify the ongoing change.
Organisations that want to realise the true value of enterprise collaboration need to create an expectation that work will change to be more open. The best way to start that change is not with talk but by fostering the action that role models it to all in the organisation.
‘We are change itself. We often think of our life in terms of things changing: we like some changes and we don’t like others; we want things to change in some ways and not in other ways. And of course this moment of ongoing change is our opportunity for skilful, appropriate response to the circumstances that reveal themselves, the conditions that reveal themselves at this moment. And yet we are change itself.’ Elihu Genmyo Smith
No moment of a human life is without change. We learn. We grow. We work. We live. Every breath, action and reaction in our lives is a moment of change. We are constantly interpreting our circumstances, adapting and changing to achieve our purposes and to manage ourselves through a changing world.
The thousands of small adjustments we make each day are barely noticed. Larger ones rise to our consciousness as an explicit opportunity to learn or to adapt our approach. Bigger still are obstacles that might challenge us to rethink our approach entirely or even set us back at the beginning of the change process again. Some of these we will see as frustrations but others we will approach as the test that gives energy to our purpose and our work.
If every individual is in a state of continuous transformation, the change in communities of people is a force of enormous potential.
Responsive Organisations Change
Because our traditional organisations were designed for the repeatable execution of a proven business model, we lost the natural and dynamic potential of this human change. We locked it away in processes, in policy, in hierarchy and in performance measures.
Organisations need to adapt as much if not more than people. Their existence is almost entirely driven by competition for resources, stakeholders and attention. They must deal with the scaled change and complexity of people internally and externally every day. However, our traditional model has been to ignore the mismatches as the environment changes and to stick to a fixed model until a hierarchical decision is made to make change. Organisations can drift a long way from their purpose and from effective execution before they see that need for change. The bigger the drift and the more stuck their system, the more wrenching the resulting change management is.
Responsive organisations distribute that change decision. Moving closer to the continuous adaptation of a human life, they recognise that organisations must learn, grow, work and change to continue to live and to continue to fulfil their purpose. Responsive Organisations explicitly challenge their people to focus on purpose, to learn through experimentation, and to leverage the adaptive potential of transparency and networks. Agile and adaptive change is a human exercise and a part of ensuring that our organisations remain relevant and effective in their systems.
Reading Seeds for a Boundless Life, a book on Zen Buddhism by Zenkei Blanch Hartman, I came across a reference to the Upajjhatthana Sutra’s Five Daily Reflections. The Sutra recommends daily reflections to help Buddhists to focus less on their attachments to ego & desires and more upon their actions.
Reflecting on these, I saw a parallel to common challenges for each change agent’s practice of bringing about a better world. Change agents are taking on difficult work, not for the benefits of ego or any personal desire. Change agents act out of a purpose to make an impact that helps others. At the same time what surprises many who take on change is that the road is harder and more difficult than they ever expected.
Every change agent lives with these five daily reflections:
- I can’t go back. There is no way to go back.
- I can’t avoid obstacles. Obstacles are the work.
- I don’t have forever. Time is limited.
- Everything changes. Loss is part of that change.
- My actions and my interactions are how I make the change work.
Once a change agent sees the need to make a change in the world, it becomes impossible to ignore. They can’t wish it away or pretend things are as they were. They can’t undo their commitment to purpose.
Embracing that commitment means accepting that there will be obstacles to be overcome. The obstacles aren’t inconveniences or distractions. They are the work to be done to bring about the change.
Time is always a constraint. Time demands we make the most of every opportunities to create change. Time means we must start now. Time means we must involve others.
Just as we must embrace the obstacles we encounter in our work, we must accept that there will be loss in bringing about change. Some things we lose will be important to us and to others. Part of a change agent’s role is to help others understand and manage that loss.
We have only our actions and our interactions. That is how we bring about change. That is how our change will be judged. Ends don’t justify means. The means are a key part of the change.
Change agents can and do wish it were different. Keeping reflections like these ever in mind helps us to avoid the disillusionment that comes along with unmet expectations and unfulfilled wishes. Change agents are pragmatic and realise that little changes without the hard work to make change happen.
1 – Make a small change today.
2 – Do it again tomorrow. You have doubled your influence.
4 (2 to the power 2)- The next day invite 3 people to join with you in the next change. You have doubled your influence again.
8 (2 to the power of 3)- The following day ask everyone to bring 1 people to make the next day’s change.
16 (to the power of 4) – From day five ask everyone to keep adding one person each time you make a change. Spread the message far and wide in your network.
1,073, 741, 824 (2 to the power of 30) – If you can double your influence for 31 days, only one month, you will have over a billion people carrying out that change.
Most changes you want to make don’t need that many people or that cumulative power for change. You might not get to double every day for a month, but the further you get down the path of small changes powered by a network, the greater your influence.
Of course, you have no influence until you start making change. Today.
Give me a lever and a place to stand and I shall move the earth – Archimedes
There’s a tiny thing on the edge of a rudder called a trim tab. Just moving that little trim tab creates a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. It takes almost no effort at all – Buckminster Fuller
Change Agents move the world to change because they understand the importance of leverage. Small actions can be leveraged into larger outcomes through their work.
The Leverage of Purpose
Change agents take grievances, disappointments and frustrations and turn them into purposeful action. Crowds can easily share a grievance. However someone needs to help the group to turn abstract frustration into a shared purpose. Discovering that shared purpose in a group is a lever of influence and motivation that scales rapidly.
The Leverage of Networks
Change agents understand that networks are extraordinary ways to scale their influence. They can connect with likeminded individuals, share information, solve challenges and develop new ways of working. The network expands the influence of the change agent across their organisation and across the world.
The Leverage of Role Modelling
Change agents do. Change agents understand that the most effective way to lead change is to show others change is possible through action. For every role model there are thousands of eyes in networks who can be influenced to magnify the scale of the change.
The Leverage of Experimentation
Change agents take advantage of the leverage that comes with experimentation. If you do more often, you have had a greater impact. Rather than wait for the perfect information, change agents experiment to learn and create an example for others. Experimentation enables networks to scale beyond individual expertise and accelerate learning and change.
The Leverage of Tension
Change agents create tension. For many organisations, the existence of people pushing for change creates tension that focuses new attention on the need to change. Creating and shaping tensions in the organisation is a role that change agents play to create the ‘low pressure’ pull through the resulting focus, discomfort and action.
The Leverage of Generosity
Change agents give because a culture of giving expands influence. Working out loud with a generous intent, giving of their time and effort to help others or focusing on the needs of others are highly effective ways to move change forward and set an example that encourages others to do the same.
Want to do something meaningful? Meaningful is hard. It is going to take hustle.
Meaningful is Hard
There is no truer statement than “if it was easy, someone would have done it by now”. Making change that matters and doing purposeful work takes effort. The obstacles are real. They are the real work. Do the work.
The effort begins with understanding what impact you want to have. Then you have to understand how you can fulfil your purpose. Lastly you need to find people to work with and opportunities to tackle. Finally you get to find out whether you can make a living through working on your purpose. Some times purpose is a living but others times purpose turns out to be a hobby or a calling.
To make matters worse, you need to do all that work in the wrong order and in overlapping steps. In many cases the answers are unclear or contradictory. You do the work and you learn a little more about where you are going. You keep doing the work and you learn even more. The work sustains you and provides momentum & networks that matter.
The Hustle Required
There is far more hustle required than you expect. Here’s one example of the hustle required to persuade others: 2% of sales are closed in the first meeting. Yes, 98% of the pitches fail when every failed pitch feels like time to call it quits. 80% of sales are closed after more than 5 follow-up calls, when every empty call feels like time to move on. No wonder 44% of sales people give up after only one follow-up. The winners are those who hustle more and hustle longer. Remember these numbers come from enterprise sales, if your change is more unique or more unusual it could require even more hustle to find your market. The winners in change stay in the game and they hustle.
The hustle is just working intensively on your purpose: making connections, building relationships, identifying problems and offering ways to solve them. You don’t need to use sharp practices. There are no shortcuts. They will only cut you in the end. You need to do more than “build it” and “turn up”. You need to get out into the market and challenge people to listen to your pitch.
Hustle. Work your purpose hard. Remember to take the odd break to reflect and reset yourself for the next burst of hustle. If you work it continuously, the hustle will become the Grind.