“Great minds talk about ideas
Average minds talk about events
Small minds talk about people.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Yes, that quote again.
But this time, think on a larger scale, and ask yourself:
What do people talk about at work?
What are the subjects that make the story of your workplace? Do they look like this?
Maybe not as many paternity surprises or evil twins but the fundamental story of organisations is gossip. He did that, then we did this, and there was that event…the story is of people. Or rather characters. This is most pronounced when staff talk about Great Leaders, people breathlessly talk about what they’re like or who said what to who, who’s in and who’s out.
People who disdain and look down on “workplace gossip” often indulge in exactly the same thing when considered “workplace politics“.
Who has the power in the boardroom? Is Polly or Fred the person to get the Chief Executive job?
Look at those photos of Soap Opera Weekly above, there is an illusion of constant turbulent change. Affairs! Secret twins! A heartbreaking homecoming! But that’s just normal, the seeming constant noise is the signal. In any soap opera that IS normal. Therefore nothing to talk about.
Who is the best candidate for team leader, Carl, Norah or George? Which type of CRM system are we buying?
Just like you can’t see the actual wave in the sea, only the water that the wave travels through, you can’t directly see the recurring repeatable and predictable dynamics of an organisation, but you can see the expression of them. You can see the that Carl, Norah or George are applying for the team-leader job, but those 3 names are just noise.
The signal is that there is a team-leader job at all, that the thinking is that way inclined. It doesn’t matter who it is.
Is it Deloittes or PWC who are being brought in to do the transformation?
Whether Deloittes or PWC are appointed to do something is irrelevant. That’s the noise. The signal is that the thinking in the organisation is that you bring in consultant companies to do things.
As I’ve said before, a sign I am clearly running out of ideas,
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. [link]
Beneath the major repeatable storylines of appointments and events, there are bigger underlying systemic repeatable patterns. If you focus on the detail of the essentially random looking waves on the surface, you don’t see and therefore can’t address the huge and predictable tides that create them.