Today we hear from Shona Glentworth. Shona is the owner of Implement + Associates, organisational development coaches, trainers and consultants. Shona is passionate about the need for organisations to be strategic and to work better with their people. She lives on a Taranaki dairy farm and volunteers for a number of organisations, helping with their strategy and governance processes.
The more things change…
It has been interesting to participate in discussions about social media in the workplace. They give me a strong sense of deja vu. In my nearly 4 decades in the workplace I have seen a few workplace changes that challenge the command and control management styles that are our fall back position when we need to make sure things happen in a predictable manner.
The current discussion about social media needs to be had, but it is interesting to see how much is still about predictability and control. The command and control tendency is alive and kicking.
Way back in the 80s and early 90s, faxes, then email at every desk, challenged the way things had been done. Before then, official written company communication was via a PA or typing pool, signed by a senior manager and sent by mail. Multiple copies were kept and filed for future reference. Even internal memos were typed and sent through formal systems.
Faxes challenged this approach. There was fear about the unknown. They were more immediate, their easy access potentially lacked the control mechanisms of the traditional approach. Controls, templates and protocols were developed, workplaces adapted.
And as for emails! Anybody and everybody could send information and communicate to anybody else.And guess what? Most people are responsible adults and, while some disasters happened, most of us learned the technology and the rules, and business processes were enhanced.
How many possibilities do we miss by trying to control people’s behaviour in the workplace? Yes, we need guidelines and boundaries. We need to manage risk and ensure we are accountable for our actions, but can’t we also loosen the reins and let others find their own path?
This is never more true than when we are dealing with changes in technology. We will never discover the possibilities if we first seek to control. Stephen Covey’s “Seek first to understand…” is an appropriate approach. By asking questions, having conversations and exploring options we are more likely to develop required or expected outcomes. Once we understand possible outcomes we can develop appropriate processes to support them.
It is a human response to want to control that which we fear or don’t understand. We will all introduce systems and order to create predictability if we are unsure of the outcome. The challenge is to give up some of that control and let things develop.
We will survive this latest advancement, and the next. Instead of trying to create something predictable, let’s develop some guidelines and then trust people to know what to do with it.
Imagine what we can create if we let people find out for themselves what is possible.