Thanks to OD Practitioner Dorothy Matthew, who challenges organisations to put ‘human beings’ as opposed to ‘human doings’ at the forefront matters… and then make the shift; Human was also suggested by Perry Timms. H is for Humanising workplaces.
“Are we human, or are we dancer?”
Human is a thought-provoking song by The Killers. In it, frontman Brandon Flowers suggests being human is to have agency. To be a dancer is to be a puppet, controlled by others. This is a song about emancipation from those who would seek to control us. In a work context, this is the organisation for whom we work. It strikes me too many organisations still choose to do dumb things to people: by over-rationalising business processes, over-engineering restrictive policies and infantilising their people.
For me, OD is about humanising workplaces. Technology, robots – thus far the antithesis of humanity – were supposed to give us humans more leisure time. Yet we are working more and harder than ever. We haven’t managed to systematically humanise workplaces yet. Perhaps what we choose to delegate to the robots will enable us to humanise the work we keep for ourselves? Perhaps we can humanise how we choose to lead the robots?
“Take a look in the mirror and what do you see? Do you see it clearer or are you deceived?”
Human is a thought-provoking song by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. The lyric is about taking responsibility for yourself and not trying to pass blame onto other people.
I use psychometrics in my OD practice to help people understand themselves and others better, so we can all play to our strengths and achieve more together by choosing to take responsibility for furthering the purpose of the organisations where we work.
We can’t go through life blaming others and we also can’t go through life using the excuse “I’m only human”. Give yourself permission to make mistakes AND choose to take responsibility for your own behaviour.
The results we get when know the dynamic between people and, in the future, know the dynamic between the humans and the robots – the ‘aha!’ moment I look for when working with my clients – is palpable. It manifests as more collaboration, more empathy, more generative work practices, more humanised workplaces. It takes time. There is no magic potion. There are no superheroes. Just humans choosing to make a difference. Practising some fundamental principles of human processes and relationships – the doings and the beings – of a humanised organisation.
American entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of applying the basic fundamentals.” Never truer than when choosing to be human, never truer than when humanising organisations.
OD Thought Leader: Jerry B. Harvey
On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene (53 miles north) for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”
The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.
One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” The mother-in-law says that she would rather have stayed home but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.
The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.
We fail to manage agreement and end up doing things nobody wants to do. In the original anecdote above where Jerry Harvey established the Abilene Paradox, this happened at the expense of choosing to #JustBe. Why are we programmed to find stuff to Just Do, when we often find our greatest breakthroughs come from choosing to #JustBe?
The paradoxical nature of Change: Oh, Sweet Irony!
Recommended reading: Jerry B. Harvey (1988) The Abilene Paradox and Meditations on Management, New York, Wiley.
Next time: I is for the Ice Cube theory of change