Martin Summerhayes (martinsummerhay) wrote,
Martin Summerhayes

Victim? Volunteer? Passenger? or Explorer? Which are you…..

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” ― Robert Frost

I am trying to get a new programme of change set up at work - focused on the idea of Continuous Improvement. Continuous, in terms of it is not just single set of activities, but something that is evolving in the organisation. Organic and growing and developing. Improvement in the terms of making the service better for our customers, the colleagues in the teams and ultimately, improve the performance of the business. NOTE: I like to start these types of conversations thinking about the customer, then the people and finally the company. Not the other way round. You might disagree - if so, what is your prefered approach?

The idea is to get people from various parts of the business to collaborate together, working through the key business processes and deliverables of the organisation - thinking “outside In” and seeing where we can change and improve the service we offer.

Speaking to one of the programme team, he referred to the approach that had been tried before - that of appointing one person from each of the seven departments, chosen by the relevant head of the department, to come to a meeting and “brain storm” ideas. He referred to this as volunteers! Come on, these people are victims!

Victims of their boss, where they have made suggestions, ideas and hints that things can be done differently and as a result are the “right people” to get involved.

Sorry, no they are not. We need volunteers - “a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task despite any potential risks involved as they believe that any changes will benefit the customer, colleagues and organisation and NOT themselves.”

Ok. We eventually agreed on that point. At which point, I said that we wanted to “... go on a journey with the people together, to explore possibilities and see what we could do”.

My mental metaphor was of an expedition, where each of us brings skills to the team and collectively we go explore new worlds, new scenarios - apologies for the Star Trek analogy.

His mental metaphor was getting them on a bus? A bus! Come on…. You generally think of yourself as a passenger on a bus, with someone else as the driver. I know of very few people who think of themselves as the driver. All the passengers are being critical, abusive, intrusive, distracting, and shouting directions, or sometimes just plain silent on the journey. You have no control over the journey - yes the end point or the point you want to get off at, but not the route.

He argued the bus, the benefits of knowing the route. Of knowing you were safe with a trained and qualified driver. Nope, I want explorers, I want volunteers, not passengers.

If you are going to embark on a change programme, who do you want to join you? Victims; Volunteers; Passengers on a bus or Explorers?

I leave you with this thought

“My old man says when it's time to be counted, the important thing is to be man enough to stand up.” ― Robert A. Heinlein, Between Planets

Tags: management of change, work
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