Think of “Sex and the City”.
Now stop, you’re probably at work.
Each episode has some kind of journey where the characters face some minor turmoil, but through laughter (not necessarily ours) and a few tears, with the support of their friends they overcome their setbacks and move on. Often there is sometimes even-*ahem*-closure.
Like I’ve said before, management think in terms of stories because that’s what people do.
A common convention in psychology/psychiatry is to get the patient to tell the story of their life as a fairy story. How they cast themselves in it, main character, villain or walk on part, tells how they think of their life, it exposes their inner story.
The narrative created is often that of The Journey. The created story arc, with a set-up, crises, climax and denouement is pretty much unavoidable.
I don’t think it’s helpful to do this when thinking about work.
I suspect that reality is closer to the Seinfeld ethos, in their show they explicitly said there would be “no hugging, no learning“. Things remaining the same because nothing actually changes. No matter what happens in an episode it’s back to beginning for the next one, no lessons learnt no moving on. Whether it is encounters with Soup Nazis or becoming the master of your own domain, it’s just lots of noise, no signal as nothing changes. They knew that and that was fine. Who keeps on learning?
Senge talked about organisations having learning disabilities which prevent them from learning. One of them is fixating on “events” as explanations, instead of looking at the deeper underlying systemic conditions that are causing things. Essentially organisations can fail to see reality because they are looking at the noise on the surface and concocting stories out of them, focusing on the events and the stories instead of looking for the more stable long lasting features of the organisation that are never addressed. They think they are moving on, like those gals in that city, but actually they are set in aspic. Hugging, but not learning.
Look at the picture above. It shows how reacting to the events of delayed delivery by expediting orders actually results in prolonging and exacerbating the underlying problem. It shows that the reaction to the events IS the problem.
If you concentrate on the noise of events and react to them the inevitable result will be more noise, as you are interfering in the system without knowledge.
Unless there is a fundamental change to the underlying thinking about work and how it works, there can’t be any real change.
I bet you (another) £5 that if you ask anyone in your organisation what’s wrong with it, they can come up with a story straight away. The managers are dicks. The staff are lazy and not engaged. There aren’t enough resources. I bet you that £5 I’ve never lost that nobody replies with a description of the archetypes in your organisation.
Forget the story, look at the archetype.
Oh God, its Thursday, I’ve got that bloody astronaut thing to do now. Would it be ok if we quietly forgot about it?