Not what… why

When situations are difficult it is easy to remain task focused (what), but does this help us maintain a future resistant approach?

Schein in “organizational Culture and leadership”  says “what happens in organizations is fairly easy to observe, but in the effort to understand why such things happen, culture as a concept comes into its own”

If leadership is the key to the future success of our organisation then culture is the lock. In a world where we are very short term-ist (just look at the financial markets) we think that we understand the ‘what’ i.e. what needs to be done, but this will again only have a short term impact. The UK gov has seen this first hand with the bailout of the finance sector. We need to “get under the surface” and understand why and change the behaviours.

This is the important of the longer term and longer vision.

In this article there is a challenge to the paralysis by analysis that can catch people who are unaware:

ASK WHAT, NOT WHY

Reckoning with your mind in order to free up your capacity for wisdom is the ongoing battle of life. For some, the battle is constant; others are not as affected. Regardless of which category you fall into, this chapter will give you the first tool for accessing the wisdom that can change your life. It’s a tool you use every day: the ordinary, common question.

One of the most common questions we ask is “Why?” “Why” is the language of seeking to understand. When we were young children, we used this question to figure out how the world works: “Why is the sky blue?,” “Why did Sparky run away?” As we get older, we still use “why” to bring our circumstances into alignment with our ability to understand our world.

Unfortunately, “why” eventually loses its power to move us forward; instead, we get “stuck” by obsessing over questions like “Why did that happen?,” “Why am I this way?,” and “Why aren’t I better-thinner-smarter?” 

 Without Why we would not progress, we would not innovate, we would not learn – copy by rote yes.. learn.. no. Anyone that has had children know very well those years where almost every question was “why” – why is a wonderful learning based question – it gets knocked out of most children by the age of 7 – a shame.

In Organisational Development the why is not just an important tools – it is the ONLY real tool. Without understanding why making any change is dangerous. In her book “the innovation equation” Byrd outlines eight orientations of innovative behaviour, one of those is the “modifier” who makes incremental changes without understanding the culture or context. this can be a dangerous activity if unchecked.

WE need to ensure that before we undertake any organisational development activity that we understand the “why”… the culture… or context in which the decision needs to be made.

many managers and leaders can be successful in one organisation but not in another  this is all down to the extent to which they can change the culture or context to match their strengths.

Over the years i have worked with many business owners and entrepreneurs that wanted to change the culture of their business, but did not realise that they were the culture – when the culture was changed (at their request) from the bottom up, often they were very uncomfortable and did not adjust – one of three things happen – they revert to the old culture or they leave or the company goes bust.

We all need to ask Why a Little more often and learn to understand the culture before proposing changes – at any level in organisations.

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