Visually Compelling Organizational Development
The work by Kevin Desmond was thoughtful and emotionally charged. It is tough to be a leader in general, but the world today makes it even more difficult.
Leadership is something I care deeply about. I strive to be a better leader in the same way that Jascha Heifetz said, “If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.”
It takes practice and clear commitment, but the results aren’t always as beautiful as a heartwarming tune. It may result in tough decisions and failure, but you have to strive on and keep trying.
I have a team and they are geographically dispersed. I care about them as a group and certainly care for them each as individuals. I am lucky and honored to have this amazing team and I have a responsibility to honor them and give them time to learn more about each other, including building their own relationships. Finding time is not always easy, but this was something that I chose to do with the support of my leadership.
The compounding factors in team dynamics and collaboration are always moving. It feels as if we have to hurry to get something going in order to get this snapshot of a moment in time. This is where Kevin was able to come in and get us started.
The answers aren’t always..
Right and wrong aren’t clear concepts as they used to be. Some would argue that they are clear, but what I would say is that perspective and context are key to a shared determination of what is right and wrong. In order to share common perspective or context, we must be able to communicate and share our ideas. Our ideas are born from our knowledge or our perceived knowledge about something. Regardless, we must level set and to do that “level setting” we must compromise. In order to compromise we have to have a willingness to compromise. We have to build trust. Trust is a critical enabler. It is THE critical enabler.
Kevin came down and sat in my office a while back, he looked right at me and told me that I may have to do some things that would make me uncomfortable but I would have to trust the process. We went through some of the ideas and concepts he would use with a clear objective of helping the team baseline or “level set.” He said, “Howie, you realize this is only the beginning, right?”
We set the objectives and goals, built in some time for flexibility and discussion and included some primers for thinking. There was clarity in the thinking and of course what we sought to achieve, but the results were emotionally compelling right from the start. For the sake of privacy and respect for my amazing team, I will only share my personal experience and my personal thoughts as part of a similar thought exercise not directly aligned or reflective of anyone other than my experience.
It is the reason for the Cohen tombstone at the top of this post. If I am to choose a picture of what I want to represent who I am and I am given a controlled group of images, which would I choose?
For the sake of this posting and in practical consideration, I chose a grave stone with my name on it. I would preferred it to have said Howard Cohen, Father, Husband, Brother, Son, Time Traveler, Stunt Car Racer, Lover, Fighter, Good Guy, Bad Guy, Hardworking Guy, and on the bottom “Crack is Wack” because I think I am funny sometimes. I mean to say that I consider my mortality. I consider my life in that I am thankful for it and I am thankful for each day. I think of death as I understand that it is an end or beginning and I don’t know which, but I know that it can come at any time and that I should be true to who I am and love hard, play hard, work hard, but mostly be the best person I can be. Not so easy to pick a picture, but is something that we have to do. Every moment in our lives is like the iPhone video application, you can take movies, but every once in a while you have to push the button and get that single frame snapshot.
The exercise of taking this image and sharing it with you and potentially the whole world is a little embarrassing I suppose and a bit revealing of some of my weakness and maybe strength, butall in all, it is important because it is part of building trust through sharing and revealing who I am. One of my team said “there is the face you show and the face you hold close” the you that you are is a multitude. Of the many, you are a person and what you choose to show or hide consumes energy.
With one act and one question, Kevin started an activity that set a course for myself and my team to share and consider the multitudes in each of us. In my willingness and/or the willingness of the team, we could begin to share start a process of “level setting.”
Measuring the Distance of Knowledge
How do you measure knowledge? How do you measure trust? What was the best team you ever had? Who was the best leader you have ever known? How do you measure success? How do you define success? What if success for you is failure for someone else? Is that always the case? Are you running a race? Is this race with yourself or others? Why do you jump out of airplanes? What would make you better and how would you measure that? How would you be sure that you were better?
** I just started working for Booz Allen and was working on the floor of US Joint Forces Command Integration Directorate. An old Marine was running part of the military architecture shop, he was a contractor himself but commanded the equivalent of a cell. In other words, he had his team on lock down and he was no joke. He called me over to speak with him, looked at me in the eyes (sorta scary) and said “son, what’s your CV?” I really didn’t know what the heck he was asking me so I just stood there looking at him. He said, “ok, were you in the service?” I said “yes sir, I was a Damage Controlman.” He looked around for a moment and literally stood himself taller almost as if I were to shrink down and he asked “How the hell does a DCMan get here?” My answer..
“Well sir, I went(s) to college” In fact, by that time I had a Masters but it isn’t like you carry it around like a patch on your arm or anything.
We are judged by what we do or what we have done and that is in the realm of someones idea about us in which they (think) they know and/or make assumptions about us. Even if there is a measure that exists or criteria, these are still open for discussion. I went to school but maybe the school I went to wasn’t the top school in the nation. What if I had the best teacher in the nation in one of the lower tiered schools? Would there be a measure or some condition or factoid that would illuminate that as a fact? The answer is of course “no.” The point is that we have to measure what we can, and define success as we can but in order to do this we have to be clear about it in the scope of our activities and relative to a moment in time.
Throwing the fastest pitch consistently over time matters only if these measured factors produce the result that you threw that same pitch during a game and as a result won!
Kevin helped illuminate these points through a series of activities and discussions. He talked about measures and what they mean’t and the importance of using them. He also spoke of the context in which they apply.
The Human Resource to Knowledge Connection
I enjoy the thinking that Knowledge Management and Human Resources is tied at the hip and they are their own combination of many things that add up to one. The idea that we have to be able to have a person in a mode to listen or receive, and a person in a mode to transmit. The active listener actually listening and not thinking to rebuke or over take the conversation. It is the primary condition in communication. The condition to be ready to listen, learn, read, pay attention and think about what someone else has said or is saying. If you are reading this right now, you are allowing me the honor of sharing with you and I thank you for that. It is the precondition for knowledge sharing and knowledge management. It is also a condition provide though an act of respect. It may very well be that after you read what I have written that you lose or gain respect for me but under this condition at this very moment, you are providing me a channel in which I can communicate with you. This is where the organizational development begins but the preconditions and factors must allow for it. Just as if you are growing something in a garden, you need the environment, conditions, and factors to all come into play. Human factors, human engagement and understanding of cognitive, physical and social conditions, are the preconditions for our knowledge connection.
I am writing about this because I believe that OD doesn’t get enough recognition. The words say “Organizational Development” but what it really means is “Factors, conditions and practices, to make people better.” As a result of helping people, the organization will naturally become better and that results in a domino effect that spreads in multiple directions. Why? Because kind acts matter.
If you want the details of how to make all this stuff work, you could reach out to my friends Kevin Desmond or Tom Tiberia as they are actually the experts. I am just sharing the results. What were the results anyways?
I walked away with a to-do list of things that I need to work on. I also have a list of team goals aligned to my organization and organizational goals tied to myself as an individual. I have a lot of questions that went unanswered but that is good because I never thought to ask some of these questions and I didn’t know how important they were. I have ideas on measures that matter and I have homework for myself and my team.
Adam Grant Author of Give and Take recently said in a post “We love asking successful people for their secrets. But often, they’re not even aware of what they do differently from others.
Next time you want to learn from someone, instead of asking directly, go to that person’s collaborators. They have the clearest window into unique habits.”
What I had a chance to do here and what Kevin and Tom gave me was a window into my actions through the lens of others. I can see a glimpse and take action on keeping my strengths strong and working on my legs.. <– that was a joke, you ever see those guys that just lift with their upper bodies? They look top heavy.. I think you can look that way intellectually or emotionally as well if you don’t round out your work out.
As usual.. questions comments, complaints..