Eko Consulting Ltd will share our latest thinking in our monthly blog. We will cover matters of topical and practical interest to those interested in developing themselves and their organisations.
Alvin Toffler, the American Futurist, once said, ‘the illiterate of the 21st century isn’t the person who can’t read or write, but the person who can’t learn, unlearn and re-learn.’ Applying the underlying message to the businesses of the 21st century it is clear that in too many cases the unlearning of old and useless organisational habits is a very difficult thing to achieve. Indeed it can be argued that the long hours culture associated with British working life as an example is associated with depleted opportunities for employees and their managers/ leaders to reflect and by so doing decide what should be ‘unlearned’ and what new learning is essential.
Without seeking to push the boundaries of my argument too far, consider one of the most demoralising bits of data from the research literature, the data about change management programmes. Depending on what sources you choose anything between 60-75% of change management programmes or projects are doomed to fail irrespective of scope or scale.
The reasons for these defy easy generalisations but it is still worth asking whether the paucity of critical thinking or organisational reflection could be contributing to the failure rate observed. A good starting point might be tying down what I mean by reflection in this context
Reflection in this context refers to the ability and willingness to consider alternative courses of action based on learning from previous experience or some ideas about the novelty of the situation in hand. To my mind it is a decisive strategic advantage to companies of whatever size that encourage this in their individual employees as well as creating the space for groups of leaders to do.
In essence it is about paying attention to the often unspoken human and non human aspects of organisational life, having a system for recording and collating the observations and having ways of retrieving the relevant information at the appropriate times in the change life-cycle.
The ability to reflect in real time as well as retrospectively is off enormous benefit to the leadership cadre of any organisation if this reflection is coupled with clear and compelling communication of the insights gained as well as the infrastructure to support adaptive learning.
The project management approach to leading change is too often sterile and formulaic and frequently agnostic on the importance of human commitment and passion as catalysts of change.
Increasingly new ideas about how groups of people can be mobilised towards the achievement of shared goals on the basis based emotional as well as interpersonal factors are gaining traction.
Without an all encompassing panacea to offer all. I would be encouraging any one in business to do whether it be a singlehanded start-up or a multibillion conglomerate to do is to take a few minutes out of the often frenetic pace of everyday working life to reflect on two things.
1. What should you be doing differently today?
2. How can you develop the habit of asking yourself that question on a daily basis?
The questions scaled up to the level of team or project group might be the spur for the strategic u-turn required to unlearn faulty loss inducing organisational habits. So start today and see how your in-tray for relearning some of things you have taken for granted as a manager, leader or business owner begins to grow!