Does group work feel more like fizz or flu?
How can you plan carefully AND make progress?
Does slowing down really speed things up?
And could you make your mind up to begin differently?
Eurovision 2018, and the unveiling of forty-three musical sensations. All doing battle for one of the grand final places and five minutes of fame, and a possible title. For the UK that was back in 1981 when Bucks Fizz took us to the top of the table with ‘Making your mind up’. I’m sorry if you this tune is on continuous repeat in your head for the rest of today!
I’m quite sure they didn’t have organisation development in mind when they sang about slowing down, speeding up, trusting inner vision and making your mind up. So with apologies to Cheryl Baker and the rest of her crew, here’s my version of why I got into organisation development in the first place. And it’s got nothing to do with velcro…(if you’re not sure about that check-out the illuminating YouTube clips!)
You’ve gotta slow it down
I often notice the speeding habits of organisations at the beginning of a transformation. Their ‘laser-focus’ on the problem, the solution, and how fast it can all be plugged in. And I notice how it comes at the cost of consideration. The vital thinking we do to explore what everyone needs to work well together, and how we make sure everyone’s needs are met. Things like how decisions are made, who’s included and how and what we stand for as a group. In my early career I experienced rapid planning and delivery a bit like swimming under water until I could come up for air again. Biding my time and digging in until the change had landed – in my case that usually meant a sunny holiday in an attempt to recover from a year locked in a ‘war room’ working in ways that were productive but not necessarily in ways that felt natural and authentic for me.
‘Deal-flu’ struck often, and I experienced the increasingly familiar episodic pattern of concentrated and sustained work closely followed by a holiday and flu. Lemsip replaced biscuits in meetings to keep my, and the team’s, sickness at bay. I was determined that someone was going to escape the dreaded cold. Treating the symptoms but not the sickness, and I embodied the environment I was living in.
Trust your inner vision
I knew instinctively that there had to be a better way. That it might be possible to renew through change rather than survive it. That meant I didn’t have to endure the process – I could thrive during it. I just wasn’t sure how. I decided to enrol in further study with the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioural Science. As part of their Organisation Development Certificate it was a requirement to take part in a T-group, where I learnt how to notice what groups needed to learn. That it started with taking care of how the group maintained its relationship first before looking at what it needed to solve together and how to organise itself. I noticed what it was that the group needed to learn first, by observing and considering differences, similarities, politics, power dynamics – and so much more. And we constantly had to slow the conversation down, time and again. That philosophy forms the basis of my approach to working with groups today.
Making my mind up: Meaningful Consulting
Since then I’ve been spending time thinking carefully about what groups need in order to function well and do great work together. Bringing people together to make sense of challenges for themselves is at the roots of my approach. Building independence, not dependence so that I can step away knowing that whatever’s changing is sustainable AND self-perpetuating.
To find out what’s meaningful for you get in touch.
*This reflection is part of my thinking out loud practice, helping me to notice and engage with what’s changing around me, and consider what that means for me in my work.