Epiphanies for Everybody

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Change Starts Within

August 04, 20232 min read

Change starts within

“The principal obstruction to an organisation getting to where its managers most want it to be lies in the minds of its managers.” -Russell Ackoff

Why can we accept that this statement is true, even though it rankles?

Let’s start with a basic premise. It has been true everywhere I’ve gone, and everywhere I’ve worked: People are doing the best job they know how to do.

What does this mean?

It means that the current performance of the organisation is a result of everybody, at every level, doing their job the best way they know how to. Whether it’s janitors, software developers, machinists, managers, or sales people, everybody is doing their best, in the environment they’re in. The results that your organisation is currently getting is what happens when everybody does their best, with their current knowledge and capabilities. That includes you.

Now let’s introduce another premise: Senior managers at an organisation are responsible for the policies, structures, environment, culture, incentives, etc that make up the system.

What does this mean?

It means that the way the system operates — how it rewards and whether it punishes, how it hires, what it values — is determined by its management.

Now let’s introduce our last premise: Performance of individuals in a system is 95% a result of the system, and 5% the individual’s performance (Deming).

What does this mean?

It means that the way that people behave in the system, and their ability to perform well, is determined almost entirely by the system itself. That same system that management is responsible for.

Taken together, these 3 things lead to the inevitable conclusion that “The principal obstruction to an organisation getting to where its managers most want it to be lies in the minds of its managers.”

Rather than introduce a massive change program, then, if managers want change, the most effective place to start is with themselves. By facing our internal beliefs, internal understandings, and internal assumptions, we gain the power to change them. As these internal reference points change, our behaviour changes. These changes lead to changes in how and what we manage, which then leads to change in others.

This is not an easy journey for most people. Working with someone who’s done it can make it faster, easier, and less lonely. I’ve been through it. I started as a technologist in traditional organisations, went through the difficult shift to agile thinking, adopted devops when it was first being formulated, lead organisations, managed teams, and consulted for people in every one of those positions. I can help.

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👣 If you’ve gotten this far, something I said resonated with you. If you want change for your organisation, and you’re ready to change your beliefs to make it happen — if you’re ready to walk the path — DM me. I’d love to catch up and see if we can help each other.

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