Information and Insights
Recognizing health and productivity in your organization.
First and always you cultivate an awareness of health (and lack of health) within yourself. You become familiar with how it feels, what it takes and what gets in the way of vitality for you personally. You experience and cultivate flow, movement, integration and steadiness in every dimension of yourself and your life.
Then you observe what that looks like in your environment. You observe the flow of conversation and creative ideas as healthy. You see the emergence of agreement out of the chaos of diverse viewpoints as healthy. You identify the flow of goods, services, problem solving as healthy. You see how certain policies and rules can provide needed stability to get the work done well. You see the organization producing more and better when it is properly aligned and connected.
You also make note of what causes a lack of health. Sometimes controls are imposed without any flow – rules without reasons or relevance. Other times our work environments express flow that has no support, context or direction. Like moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic, our efforts lose meaning and effectiveness and our organizational health is diminished.
Creating the conditions for health and productivity to arise naturally.
Your work as a leader is to remain clear and committed in your vision of health, know the organizational terrain as a system and the meaning of the signposts you come upon, navigate the way and assure that others are oriented and clear as well. Radiate a vision from wherever you are in the system. Continuously recognize, reinforce and release health as you re-orient and navigate throughout the system. Cultivate a broad perspective and build capacity to express health in yourself and others so that all recognize health when it presents itself. Put the right people together in new ways and provide opportunities to discover how healthy operations behave in your organization. Create “containers” and circumstances through which health and productivity can arise naturally. You support organizational health by design and implementing these conditions and circumstances.
Proper structures set the stage and path for growth. Structures at all levels – a working relationship, policies, meeting agendas, a communication message and project plans – that balance stability and flexibility create the conditions where focused and meaningful work can take place; work that frees our creative energy, supports us through uncertainty and is pointed toward our vision. Effective leaders design such structures or containers.
The structure of anything determines how it functions. Any structural design builds in success or failure. We know this. Organization charts and position descriptions dictate reporting and interaction. An organization’s structure that is mismatched with its customers and industry finds it hard to compete. Meetings without an agenda or focus have designed in frustration and have designed out productivity. A confidential and personal interaction is best designed in a circumstance that allows for privacy, time and face-to-face interaction.
There are two primary dynamics to balance in your structural designs in order to express health. One is control, predictability and stability. The other is flow, flexibility, uncertainty and potential. When you design any structure you are either designing in (or out) control or flow. When you create healthy conditions, you are establishing and maintaining stability while encouraging and directing creativity and potential. Control methods set tolerances, boundaries and parameters e.g. time or money. Flow facilitates vital force. When stability and flow are properly balanced, the control function of the structure is a force field that contains, intensifies, and channels change, and the flow function of the structure brings input into the system and unlocks creative energy that allows change to take place. We need both to create and sustain health in our organizations and the people that run them.
A tip sheet for recognizing and releasing health in your workplace:
1. Is there flow?
• Are people talking?
• Is the process flowing?
• Is the data gathered?
2. If there is flow, is it giving or taking energy and vitality?
• If people are talking, are they communicating or simply talking at one another?
• If the process is flowing, is it producing quality product on time and in the right quantities?
• If data is being gathered, is it also being stored in a manner that is accessible and understood?
3. Is there stability and control?
• If the people are talking, are there ground rules and is topic clearly stated?
• If the process is flowing, are there quality specs identified, variance reports and monitors?
• If there is data gathered, stored and shared, are there security measures in place and are data experts to interpret the results for others?
4. Is the stability or control providing support for health or restricting it from occurring?
• If people are talking and there are ground rules and a clearly stated topic, is the topic relevant and purposeful and are the ground rules allow for open and frank discussion?
• If the process is flowing and controls are in place, are the quality specs what the market is asking for and is monitoring data made available for future process improvements?
• If the data is gathered, stored, and accessible with security measures in place, do the right people have access and do the people who have access and interpret it diffuse their learning to the broader organization?
5. Should I contain the energy or release its flow?
• For the people talking, interventions and tools might include new ground rules, clarification of the topic’s relevance, modeling communication, etc.
• For the process flow, interventions might include process mapping, sharing of process variance data, coaching of the monitor, clarification of customer needs, etc.
• For the data, interventions might include security clearance review, interviews with data experts or a knowledge management project.
6. Do I observe a purposeful flow and support for health as a result of my actions?
• The above questions start again.