Archive for category Strategy Practices
After almost two years of work, I’ve nearly finished a book spanning my seven Natural Strategy workshops. All that’s left is a last look at the introduction and a final proofread of the book overall (though this may take some time).
This last bit of effort, however, requires some distance from the project and a fresh set of eyes. So I’m spending some of the summer on vacation and away from this work.
As People or Groups, We Can Know, Act, Do Both, or Do Neither full-size
Since it will be several weeks before I will post here again, and several more weeks after that until I can begin to post regularly, let me share an idea from my book before I head out for a summer adventure. Hopefully, this idea will engage you until I am back. And really, it is an idea that we can use over a lifetime and in many domains, if we want.
As summarized in the graphic above, the idea I want to share is that we can – and should, if we seek more optimal life and work – learn to better separate and examine our instances and potential states of knowing and acting. You no doubt understand the concepts of knowledge and action, so I won’t spend time on definitions m here. Instead, I would like to move right to a personal learning challenge to you.
As mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve been at work for about a year on a book spanning my seven Natural Strategy workshops.
I’m happy to advise that the book is now fully drafted and on track to be published by 2015. All that stands between the draft and eventual publication is several months of editing and polishing on my part.
That may sound like a lot of work, but compared with writing, editing is a far more specific assignment – and even a welcome prospect, after a year of waking to blank pages each day.
With this background, I hope you will allow me to characterize writing a book as going long and to point out a few lessons from the experience. There are of course many ways of going long, and I’ll define the phrase here as any personal or group endeavor that lasts several months or more, involves change or creation, requires our full attention and pulls us from other things, and has at least a little uncertainty about how and where it will end.
Writing a book has these qualities, but many other projects do as well – creating a new product or service, cultivating an organization, taking up a social or political cause, raising a child.
My title may have led you to think I was going to argue for or against Rubenesque body types, or discuss a fitness insight from my work at HumanaNatura. But I actually want to share a strategy insight and talk about the curves of our lives and groups, rather than those of our limbs and torsos.
Though few of us have considered the idea that our lives and social settings can have a distinct underlying curve or shape, these natural patterns do indeed exist and are discoverable by us. What we might call our life-curves are real and tangible reflections of the way we live and, in particular, how we pattern our actions against our progressive potential.
In theory and practice, life-curves prove quite powerful – in the results they create for us, when used as a tool of personal and group strategy, and as an aid to higher quality of life and functioning.
The Core Idea Of Natural Curves
The core idea of natural curves is that elemental patterns can be shown to underlie all of our lives, even as these patterns often remain hidden to us. In essence, our personal life-curve is the overall direction that our life or life trajectory takes over time – again, against our progressive or developmental potential. In practice, understanding and seeing our life-curves is a lot like learning about climate. Like the larger conditions that span and influence the weather we encounter each day. life-curves are subtle but ever-present shapes behind the scenes, but ones that are equally accessible and even equally obvious once grasped.
As a model of a critical dynamic underlying our lives – essentially our degree of natural progressivity or tendency to increase the quality of our functioning or health – life-curves describe organic forces or patterns that reflect and ultimately govern our lives in important ways. Because of this, probing these background patterns proves essential to the work of progressive modern living. And, as you will see, life-curves are shapes that reflect processes we can each sense, assess, and ultimately alter ourselves.
To introduce this insight-rich, immediately actionable, and potentially life-changing concept, I’d like to talk about three life-curves in particular. I would also like to again underscore that this simple but powerful model of life applies to groups too. Just as with individual people, organizations and communities, and even whole societies, can be seen as having a distinct and dominating curve or trajectory – one that expresses and predicts its underlying health and progressive potential.
As background, I should add that the idea our lives and the world around us have a tangible and health-impacting shape comes from my workshops and will be discussed in my first full-length book, due out in the second half of the year. As you will see, each of the three curves I will introduce implies a very different mode of modern living or collective functioning.
If I were to ask about the health of the organization you run or work for, how would you think about this idea?
You might understand my question as referring to the physical health of your workers or co-workers, or the level of daily stress that is typical. You may initially see my question in terms of the demands your organization makes on its members, and whether it leaves time for life outside of work.
All of these considerations are of course important aspects of healthy modern life and work, but they really don’t answer the question of how healthy the organization is, as an entity unto itself (understanding that any organization’s health influences and is impacted by the health of real people).
But just as with real people, organizations can be seen as relatively and thus comparatively healthy or unhealthy – as existing on an organizational health continuum – once we examine and broaden our thinking about the basic nature of all forms or expressions of the important quality we call health.
Three Definitions Of Health
I would encourage you to stop and spend a minute thinking about health as a natural quality of living things – be they living individuals, groups, or even whole societies – and to craft a simple definition of health.
Don’t be disappointed if you can’t come up with a good working definition right away. In truth, even among people whose job it is to think about and advance health – including physicians but also other professionals in various fields – we frequently fail to reach a full and enduring sense of what health is in its essence.
We all know the perils of being merely efficient. It’s not hard to think of an example of ourselves acting quickly or even expertly, only to find that our actions were not ideal for a situation. For this reason, the goal of effectiveness is generally a better one than simple efficiency, if we want to maximize the value of our efforts.
This fairly uncomplicated idea of course begs us to understand the nature of effectiveness, and I encounter people and groups all the time who struggle with this important concept. But as is the case with many complex phenomena, there is a simple way to think about effectiveness that can unlock our ability to both understand and achieve it. And this ability is true regardless of whether we are considering the effectiveness of groups and organizations or ourselves and others.
To demystify effectiveness and make the concept immediately clearer and more actionable, we need only consider three variables: 1) a need or want, 2) time, and 3) cost. All three variables are pretty straightforward, and there is no nuanced understanding of these words required. More than likely, how you intuitively understand needs and wants, time, and cost are adequate for unlocking new effectiveness in your life and work. The trick is thinking about these things together and the ways in which they naturally inter-relate.
As part of this new perspective, we simultaneously learn to better differentiate between needs and wants, and tasks. This important distinction lies at the heart of the difference between efficiency and effectiveness, and can be used to promote transformative impacts in our lives and organizations.
As you may know, I am at work on a book spanning my Natural Strategy workshops. The book will provide a “play at home” version covering all seven of the workshops, and is intended to either introduce the workshop content or serve as a refresher and reference after attending one or more workshops.
Already, work on the book has been an opportunity to reflect on the workshops, to review and expand the workshop materials, and to incorporate the new perspectives that inevitably come when translating bullets and charts to prose and narrative. The work also naturally provides opportunities for posts on this blog – to share elements of the work-in-progress and solicit feedback on them. Today’s post will be a case in point
My focus right now is translating the Natural Organization workshop into outline form and then an eventual narrative. In working on this chapter of the book, I started by reconsidering and expanding slightly my list of organizational imperatives…the things that purposeful groups and organizations of all shapes and sizes must do well. I have posted my revised list below for your review and comments.
The list of organizational imperatives is important for a few reasons. It provides a useful overview of needed strategic focus areas for existing and start-up organizations. It sets up a discussion of specific strategy and planning techniques essential to progressive organizational functioning. And the list even serves as a scorecard of sorts, to gauge the general health and breadth of focus of an organization.
In keeping with my recent Strategy 101 post, I want to cover some of the key elements of my Natural Strategy method in more detail. Today, I’d like to talk about an important practice I call The Progressive Circle.
Forming recurring patterns that I see quite often, people and organizations pursuing progressive change frequently lack either: 1) a clear and motivating mid-term vision of change or 2) a strong and adventurous sense of their needed immediate next steps…or both of course.
In practice, a compelling vision and a short list of immediate actions are each essential to building lasting change and a natural complement of one another. Our vision can be used to drive and guide our next steps and choices, while progress toward our vision can test, inform, and potentially change our vision and plans.
Remove either a motivating and realistic vision or engagement in tangible short-term action, and any quest for progressive change is likely to be far less successful, or far less ambitious in scope, than it might or need be.
After all, change must always happen in real-time. It is never realized or advanced by actions delayed or imagined. At the same time, each practical step forward must be guided by values and goals – if our steps are to made intentional and optimal, and more than a random walk.