A Part of Something Bigger…

It is fairly obvious that a huge change is sweeping across the world of work and sorely needed in our society and political institutions.

The ways of working in our corporations and governments is still optimised for the industrial age and the types of predictable problems that we faced 50 years ago. The metaphor of that age is the machine, and we humans are treated like parts. Parts of a machine must fit into the original design, and if they do not, they are replaced. The very name Human Resources conjures images of us as numbers on a spreadsheet and a resource to be used.

As the world has changed due to the internet, digitisation, and knowledge work, the problems that we face have increased in complexity, ambiguity, speed of change, and most importantly, the number of people needed to solve the problem.

Both in our organisations, and in the political space in wider society, people are feeling disenfranchised and not represented. On one hand we have Hollywood and motivational media telling us we matter and make our own destiny, that we should be spending our lives on something that gives us meaning, and on the other we have big bosses or politicians with their narrow and often profit or economic motivated visions that reflect nothing of our day to day lives.

Very rarely, if ever, are the public or workers asked to contribute to this vision, or even to understand it. In our organisations, often there is no vision. This disconnect from purpose, creates a feeling of ‘them and us’, and this separation creates despondency and lowering of motivation. It is a huge waste of human potential.

The types of problems we face today require us to work together. They are bigger than any one of us alone. We are dependent on each other for our very survival, both in business and in society. Purpose and collaboration have become necessary tools, and this must be coupled with new opinions, new ideas, and new innovation.

Our best chance at creating solutions to these new types of unpredictable complex problems is to work together and celebrate the diversity of opinion that can be generated with large groups. Inclusion of ideas, being heard, and welcoming difference are no longer nice to haves. They are the lifeblood of innovation at scale, of motivation of a workforce, success in business, and a happy and safe society.

Moving iteratively with small pieces of change, ever moving towards a better future, is the only way to deal with unpredictable and high-risk problems. Getting as much information about the environment we operate in, is essential to our survival. This means including people in a safe to speak up forum so that people can be heard.

The general public and staff know more about their problems than senior management, leaders, or politicians. These are the real problems we need to solve to succeed in business and society. Politicians and bosses may see the wider picture as that is their focus, but they won’t succeed without the motivation of those under them to help.

Without that high-trust space, people will not participate, and their voice and wisdom will be lost. This results in the same despondency and lack of motivation and inclusion that we have right now. This gap between potential and reality is the difference between survival and failure.

Understanding what the problem is, is fairly easy. Coming up with a solution is medium hard, and implementing a solution is very hard.

Over the last five years, we have been exploring and experimenting with how we can create this shift in work, and we would like to share our findings. I will be writing about our experiences over the next few months as well as recording videos and completing a book on the same subject.

It is my hope that others will work with us in new collaborations and that we can grow our community of practicing change agents who are working for better more successful organisations and a better society, to even more places around the globe and to start experimenting with communities to influence politics here in the UK.

If you are interested in running an AWA community in your area, please get in touch.

You can hear an interview of me on this latest podcast released today on transformation.

Simon Powers is the founder of Adventures with Agile, the global community of practice for agile and organizational change. Over the last decade Simon has worked in organizations moving towards agile ways of working, his approach has led him to create a series of ICAgile Certified Enterprise Agile Coaching training courses, which have received high praise from both the communities in London and worldwide.