My work is helping people who are accustomed to working in a hierarchical way to make room in their repertoire for working in a networked way. They are embedded in a hierarchy but when they want to work on engaging their constituents, they need to shift their thinking – and it’s hard – it takes time and conversation and dialogue because it’s so far away from their experience of what it possible.
I need to say things like “what would happen if we tried it this way.” It’s soo exciting when that ‘aha’ happens like it did today!
We were talking about how to get staff onto the new web-platform. And our introductory buddy system visit (see blog post ) worked well so we had leaders identified who were ready to go.
My clients wanted to go back to planning mode, which is their comfort zone, get teams ready to go into the platform as a group — like the marines – no man left behind – and I said: “what about if we just let the people who are ready start now.” The teams can reflect on and organize themselves after we have some action and facts on the ground in two weeks from now.
A light bulb went off — all of a sudden they did not have to carry their team members on their back into the platform — it was every man and woman for themselves. It was exhilarating.
Also a little scary. But I reassured them the order and structure emerge from the activities of the individuals. Instead of hierarchical control – we have other means of control – like peer pressure, norms, policies, taxonomies, technology structures.
It takes practice and reinforcement to keep the light bulb lit – but I know over time it will become second nature. And then my job is done.
At least until the community moves into another phase of its development.