Change. Deeper. Smarter.


Shift: Is it the wrong question?

Posted 27 August, 2015 · Add Comment

By Pete Burden @PeteBurden. First published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-arent-organisations-shifting-pete-burden

Pete Burden

Why aren’t organisations shifting?

There’s an interesting-looking unconference next week (21 July 15) in London. The question that is being floated is “Why aren’t organisations shifting? For all the talk of a deep shift required in our organisations, why is very little actually transforming?”

It’s a great question. But I think it may also be the wrong question.

I don’t really believe in organisations, so I’d rather talk about people. And I can only really speak about my own experience, not that of other people.

So let me reframe the question: “Why aren’t I shifting faster than I am?”

Personally, I have done a lot of heart searching over the years about better ways to do business, better ways for organisations to run. I have also been involved in many practical experiments, trying to test new ways to work together, and to do all the other important things businesses need to do.

But clearly I haven’t done enough. And I haven’t done it fast enough, or well enough.

In doing these experiments I have often come up against difficulties. It isn’t easy trying to navigate through issues like making people redundant in a progressive, transparent culture.

Sometimes I have faced up to these difficulties, and fought to find a way through.

Other times I admit I have compromised, and fudged it.

And other times I have given up completely, and walked away; the only positive was that I lived to fight another day.

I can’t say I am proud of the progress, overall. It is true, I haven’t done enough.

And it would be easy to dive into blame and self-recrimination for my lack of progress.

But let me add in a little compassion.

I think I am one of the people who is trying to challenge the dominant discourse about business, management and leadership.

There are many reasons for resisting that change, for wanting to slow it down. One that may be overlooked is that I also have things to lose by this change.

  • I live in a rich country, and my lifestyle is enabled by, and has been built upon, the very style of business, management and leadership I seek to challenge.
  • The traditional approach surrounds me, and it is much of what I see and know. Like many people, I fear the unknown.
  • I am afraid I will lose out emotionally too, if business, management, leadership, organisations and even the whole ‘system’ changes. Because I fear loss, and change. Is there guilt too?

I don’t think I am that different from many of the people who will be at the unconference on Tuesday. By no means all, but many of us will have something to lose as well as something to gain by that change.

Without compassion things get worse. Blame freezes us. Development slows.

By contrast, I know that when I am kind to myself I adjust faster and better than when I am cruel or harsh.

We are many parts, and the most useful thing I think we can do is recognise those parts, and integrate them in ourselves. In doing so we realise that what we find ugly or difficult or ‘a failure’ in others is only really a reflection of ourselves.

So I hope on Tuesday there’ll be a lot of compassion for others, and for ourselves.

To err is human. And it is only through compassion for our mistakes – perhaps including not shifting fast enough, or even at all ‒ that we eventually learn, and grow, and change.


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