Saturday, 19 December 2009

Bicycle or Frog? Kiss . . . . .

Did the pricess kiss a frog to get her prince, or was it a bicycle?

To borrow Alistair Mant’s bicycle/frog analogy: we continue to treat organisations as if they are bicycles when these days they are more likely frogs.

You can take a bicycle apart, lay out and polish all the bits, modify and replace them, and when you put it back together and oil it, you have a bicycle. If you do that to a frog, when you put it back together you don’t have a frog. There’s something missing: life. A bicycle is a machine. A frog is a living thing.

Ever come out of a management team meeting feeling disappointed, flat; not excited, but can’t quite put your finger on why. Sure the usual personalities were there, the usual predictable behaviours and perspectives, but you know you can rise above that if there’s something really worth doing together, everyone’s working to their strengths, and the results are blowing you and your clients away.

It’s not that you were intentionally being negative or difficult. You actually wanted to be energised and inspired; to energise and inspire. But the usually effective process of reviewing progress and performance against the various KPIs, reviewing priorities then agreeing who, what and when for the next period somehow lacked life.

Ever felt like that? I have.

Maybe you’re tired and depressed by energy sapping stuff happening in the rest of your life. Maybe some wandering virus is having a go at you. Maybe you lost your sense of purpose. Maybe its just been a long hard year. Whatever, life seems to have gone out of work. It seems mechanical; a job.

Work’s like this for about 55% of the workforce (Marcus Buckingham): The Disengaged. They’d much rather be in high performing teams (if they could imagine what it’d be like). They and/or their managers may even be into the paraphernalia, tactics and techniques of “high performing teams”: but it’s just not sparking.

There’s a good chance that’s because the paraphernalia is little more than a set of managerial tools used mechanically and dutifully in the belief that tools magically transform disengaged workers into engaged ones; even into high performing teams.

I won’t work. Partly because “everyone knows” that these tools are just more management bullshit: for over a century managers have been using systems and structures to get things done as expected; "to control people and play on their fears; systems and processes that suppress rather than reveal and ignite the emotions that energise and inspire" (Steve Denning, see below); that achieve machine like predictability and reliability.

With a frog approach we would use those same tools differently. As the saying goes: it's not what you do, it's the way that you do it. So instead of using the tools to increase predictability and mechanical reliability we could use them to delightfully surprise ourselves and our clients: to energise and inspire continual, iterative learning to delight; with each delight revealing new possibilities. Kiss the frog to get a transformation.

If you want the real oil on achieving such a radically different approach to management; such delightfully inspiring and energising workplaces and people, be sure to grab a copy of Steve Denning’s new book when it comes out around November 2010. I’ve had a peek. It’s good! Radical, with it’s roots in his previous work.


1 comment:

  1. Steve,

    I really enjoyed this Blog. I hear what you are saying and make the following observations. Unfortunately management suffer the same weaknesses of all people. Comfort from doing what they know, using familiar and safe systems/ways etc.

    There is also an element of "state of mind". It has been a hard year, tough in business, full of negative media (always takes a toll on even the most positive.

    Have a relaxing Christmas and I look forward to more of your writing in the new year.