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How to Move an Organization

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"An organization develops along with its people...no one can increase someone else's personal mastery. We can only set up conditions which encourage and support people who want to increase their own." Peter M. Senge, et al., The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook

What does it take to move an organization? What would make movement a necessity? Poor or mediocre results would do it. So would a disengaged workforce, customer dissatisfaction, or a disappointed board of directors. There are also many well-performing organizations that want to move from good to great as they seek continuous improvement and growth. 

If you were in charge of moving an organization, how would you do it? You could find a new building and move some boxes and furniture, I suppose. A couple of moving trucks and a new location could help with a new outlook and different view. It’s funny, though, how we think of organizations as entities and forget that they consist of the people who lead them, provide direction to them, are employed by them, and who choose to utilize them. 

So, what does it take to move an organization? It requires moving the people involved, one at a time. In order to do that, an organization needs to identify the why, the how, the when, and then take action. In other words, it takes implementing and executing a strategic plan that supports a common vision and drives change. Moving an organization is about getting the people involved to think and perform differently.  

Quick, without looking at your letterhead or website, what's the vision of your organization? Is it something that inspires people to come to work full of energy, eager to contribute to the good work in support of the organization's 'why'? I hope so. Those are the best organizations and where people want to be. This is especially true if the leaders of those organizations encourage a positive, empowering learning environment where individuals feel valued and have opportunities to stretch and grow. 

My recent learning has led me back to the 'Personal Mastery' portion of The Fifth Discipline Field Book by Peter Senge, et al., and the connection between the practice of personal mastery and organizational growth. Senge sees distinct parallels between the creative tension needed to effectively move and inspire individuals and the need for passionate, dedicated individuals who can inspire both a vision and action toward that vision by utilizing their creative tension to move organizations. 

According to Senge, practicing personal mastery begins with a mindset that involves developing a strong personal vision while having a clear understanding of current reality. Personal vision is a highly individual, even intimate, deep-dive look at what truly drives and fulfills us. Current reality is recognizing the truth of what is, and what control we may have over that current reality. Understanding both of these within ourselves can lead to personal determination to 'do something' about the gap between what we want for ourselves and what we currently are, or have, or do. This is the energy described by Senge as creative tension. As you think about tension, you may begin to realize why this is difficult work. 

Tension is something that many of us seek to avoid at all costs. Instead of embracing the inherent power in tension (think physics and rubber bands), we do all we can to try to avoid the discomfort and perceived stress. The best part of the creative tension learning, however, is when the understanding hits: tension is really where the magic of growth and development begins!

Some people, and some organizations, are satisfied with complacency because it is the opposite of discomfort and stress. They are content to stay where they are because it is easier than tackling the unknown. There is a certain comfort to doing things the way they've always been done, and thinking the same thoughts that have seemingly worked before. 

The problem is that when things begin to change, as they seem to do with alarming speed, the technology that had just gotten comfortable is no longer relevant. I just got a new laptop and have to go find a young person in my house more often than I care to admit to help me find what I need. I liked the old technology. I don't want Windows 8, let alone Windows 10. I don't want a new TV with a more complicated remote. It's because I haven't figured out the old versions yet! Seriously, is there anything more embarrassing than texting your daughter at college for instructions on how to operate the DVR? At least I still know how to read a book. 

Senge further asserts that "personal mastery...teaches us not to shrink back from seeing the world as it is, even if it makes us uncomfortable." He also discusses the role of choice as we determine what we really want and make the decisions and take the action needed to create that reality. Think about giving yourself permission to take those steps. That's pretty powerful stuff. Individuals who do so can create a positive energy and inspiration for those with whom they work that does transform organizations. So, if you want to know how to move an organization, start by investing in and encouraging the development of people. Then empower them to do the good work of your organization. Amazing things will happen. 

Thank you for reading. Your feedback is welcome. 

5 (4)


deb

Deb Sparrow



Deb Sparrow worked in financial services senior leadership for over 25 years. She is a firm believer that "the universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart" as she explores the fork in the road and writes about it from time to time. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Priority Learning's inaugural Executive Leadership series. Follow her on LinkedIn at Deb Sparrow worked in financial services senior leadership for over 25 years. She is a firm believer that "the universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart" as she explores the fork in the road and writes about it from time to time. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Priority Learning's inaugural Executive Leadership series. Follow her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/deborah-sparrow/.

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