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Alumni Reflections on leading change in changing times

| October 20, 2020

by David Sweetman

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Dr. David Sweetman, MOR Associates Leadership Coach and Consultant.  David may be reached at [email protected].]
I hope you are finding ways to enjoy the natural beauty of our autumn season.  With all that is going on in the world today, it can sometimes be hard for us to pause and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us, a beauty that is fundamentally about change.  In this week’s Tuesday Reading, we hear from three recent MOR alums who share three very different and important perspectives through which to consider change. While the highlights of each reflection carry important lessons, the full essays linked have even greater richness and I encourage you to read each of them.
We begin today’s reflections with Robert Douglas from the Cornell University Library, who recognizes how change begins by knowing thyself:
“I think if we are clearly in possession of knowledge of ourselves, whether we are at work or at home or in our community, we will be capable of acting with the highest capacity for whatever our intention may be.”

“The teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff on the Fourth Way, point to many misconceptions we have about ourselves and others. Some of the basic premises, which admittedly can be hard to swallow at first, are that we are usually in a state of unconscious imagination as we move throughout our day, we are made of many competing personalities, where each of them don’t realize the existence of the other personalities, and we imagine ourselves and others to be fully conscious. Therefore, whenever someone slights us or makes a mistake they must be doing it from a place of full consciousness and therefore completely on purpose. Then we are offended or believe that person to be incompetent. We forget about the moments of our own unconsciousness and by and large have an illusion of uninterrupted awareness.”

“The first steps are observing oneself and validating the truth of the fact that we are actually unconscious most of the time. Next is having compassion for those around us with our understanding that they are actually unconscious as well. Only then can we start to know our true selves and grow in meaningful ways. With this we may learn to live and lead as a more complete person.” (here is Robbie’s full reflection)
Thank you Robbie for that excellent reminder of knowing thyself.  We next turn to perspectives on leading change by Aaron Maternowski at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay:
“When I think back on my leadership journey, the main point that floats to the top is change. One of the first articles I read for my first MOR workshop talked about how leaders direct change. Everything I’ve learned, talked about, and practiced had to do with change.”

“Things are always changing. Sometimes it’s little changes that we just accept and move on. Sometimes it’s a divisive national election and the changes it may lead to, regardless of the outcome.  Or a worldwide pandemic that changes almost everything. Leaders are there through all of it. Whether it’s deciding what changes are best and directing everyone towards it, or dealing with the fallout and getting everyone out to the other side.”

“As I think back over my career, there was a time I especially enjoyed working. I realize now that it was because I was a leader. I understood the systems and how they all interacted. I was invited to all the planning meetings when opportunities arose. I knew everyone in all the departments and all levels. I served on various committees. I used to think it was because I was good at problem solving and good at writing code. I understand now it was because I was invested in improvement and helping wherever I could.”

“Some words on change from some of my leadership heroes.”

Progress is impossible without change. -Walt Disney

Resisting change is resisting life. “The meaning of life is to be lived.” – Bruce Lee (extended version of this quote)

“Change can be scary or it can be exciting, the choice is mine.” (here is Aaron’s full reflection)

Thank you Aaron for helping us think about always leading change and our response to it.  And finally, thinking about specifics of leading change, Michael Layde from the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides three practical points from the discipline of quality management:

1. Continual improvement (Habits and Culture)
Stamping out fires is a lot of fun, but it is only putting things back the way they were. W. Edwards Deming
“The purpose of continual improvement according to ITIL is ‘to align the organization’s practices and services with changing business needs through the ongoing improvement of products, services, and practices, or any element involved in the management of products and services.’  It is often portrayed as the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle as popularized by Deming.”
2. Systems Thinking (Organizational Change and EduChallenge)
Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. W. Edwards Deming
“Deming defined a system as ‘a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish a common aim.’  Systems Thinking approaches to organizational change such as Juran Quality Trilogy and Deming’s 14 Points work because they look at things holistically, end-to-end, and provide a framework.
3. Standardization (Best Practices)
A common disease that afflicts management and government administration the world over is the impression that ‘Our problems are different’ They are different, to be sure, but the principles that will help to improve quality of product and of service are universal in nature.  –W. Edwards Deming
“I think that there is incredible power in the sentiment that the ‘answer is in the room.’  We face common challenges but have incredible resources at our fingertips to overcome them and be successful. (here is Michael’s full reflection)
Thank you Michael for those practical tips.  Know thyself.  Change is constant. Practical tips for thinking about leading change.  Autumn is a season of change.  We are leading change in difficult and changing times.  Take some time this week to self-reflect on leading change in your life.  What can you do to help yourself and others through change in our changing times?
Please make your day a leaderful one for you and your team,