- Jo Chapman
Re-framing these things we call organisations
I see loads of articles and books saying the “world of work is changing” and "organisations need to change". The world of work has changed and will not stop changing. Organisations just need to catch up right? This requires requires a lot of unlearning and reframing, developing the ability and mindset to constantly adapt. But let’s rewind a bit.
Many of the organisations we have now are based on a model that worked in the industrial age – inputs, outputs, processes, cause/ effect etc... a very linear, mechanical way of thinking and doing. It’ll come as no surprise as I say, we’re not in the industrial age anymore and a different framework is needed to understand and shift those things we call organisations. It's why start-ups feel so very different, they are designed from scratch with a different framework of what it means to work. Larger organisations tend to have been around a while so have lots of routines and rituals that go way back – held in a kind of organisational memory.
What would happen if we said that organisations are just a bunch of people, working together to get stuff done. Instead of mechanical it becomes relational. So, the focus changes from how do we get this machine to work to how do we work better together to get more good stuff done – this is where it gets a little uncomfortable. Why? Because we then need to look at ourselves and what we’ve created both in terms of behaviours and infrastructure. Organisations don’t just happen, rules don’t write themselves – people/we made those rules and people/we can change them. (Now there’s a whole lot going on behind the scenes here – fear, power dynamics, stress, mistrust, the illusion of control…. These are topics for another time.)
I was chatting to a former colleague about culture change once and he said “The culture is too strongly engrained; it won’t ever change” My reply was “What action have you taken this week to change it?” The conversation then took a different turn and he later remarked that he'd never thought of it this way.
We have a tendency to “other” organisations and culture as if they are somehow separate from us and our interactions in them. Culture is everyone’s job, it’s created by how we interact, the processes we put in place, the story’s we tell.
So, my challenge for you is: Instead of saying – it’s the organisation or it’s the culture round here, try reframing it to – What can I change to get more good stuff done?
Let us know how you get on!
PS: This isn't to say that there's not more systemic elements to shift which will take a while, but if we all start with what we can control, then change will happen.