This is a sketch I drew on one of my kitty's not so good days (and for you dog lovers, yes, I have a dog too!). But I drew this because it reminds me of what stuckness looks like. Kinda lame right? But we've all been there.
We can even become addicted to stuckness - what psychologists call "learned helplessness". I suspect you won't count yourself in this category simply because if you are reading this, you are by definition, not acting helplessly. You are reaching out! But action alone isn't getting unstuck. Even the most heroic can be stuck in action if they are unwilling to unlearn or alter unhelpful assumptions undergirding those actions.
Consider the following "willingness statement":
"Sure, we‘ve got loads of time for this in-depth work. In fact, we’re jazzed to do it in a way that honors a much more deliberative pace that leads to mutual understanding, aligned to new purpose, action, and collaborative support. We cant‘t wait to relax and roll up our sleeves and get into into this over these next months of self discovery!" - No Client Ever
Adding to this quote from my friend Ben Bratt, I can also say with certainty, that only in the rarest cases do teams and communities tap into the real challenges and solutions that last over the long haul in lieu of the bandaid fixes that don't. Most projects and programs don't even last beyond the work of the original "hero" who led the "revolution" because there is no substantive energy and effort beyond that of the charismatic leader.
Yet there is an economical way forward, and no, it doesn’t require staying after work or falling behind in your day job to get this done.
To get started, and depending on what “cone” challenge brings you here today, you should begin by considering seriously what you are looking for and what you are willing to give to find it. And as you ponder this question, I'd like to suggest you frame your thinking in terms of how much of what kind of energy you'd be willing to expend. And to help, let me offer a notion of just two types of energies you might think about - Breakout Energy and Sustainment Energy - each requiring different kinds of efforts but both are needed for all change.
Let's first consider Breakout Energy. At root, what you are breaking out from is a story - specifically, your story. This is the professional or personal narrative that brought you here today. It is your identity and all identities are bred out of the feelings we have about our fitness regimes (what makes us survive and thrive). Much of this is unconscious and the amount of emotional energy you've placed in creating this identity exactly sums to the total of your entire life experiences. One can easily see, then, how this story you bring to this effort affects every part of your relation to this moment of change.
Breakout Energy gives you the ability to see beyond your current narrative, but it won't be easy. To help illustrate whether your identity will allow you to even consider breaking out of your current story, scan each of these questions below and for each, ask yourself, "does this one push me away or attract me towards what's important to me?" I'll meet you on the other side of this exercise below!
• Are you willing to try experiencing what being a close knit improv jazz ensemble feels like instead of a bureaucratic marching band - at least in part of your organization?
• Are you willing to playfully try being an uncommon heretic instead of a common homo-organizaticus?
• Are you willing to radically experiment with an ego-less reality/truth seeking process again in at least part of your organization?
• Are you and your teams willing to unlearn some mental models and replace them with new ones, at least as an experiment?
• Are you willing to rediscover a new value hypothesis in order to find your next wise value proposition?
• Are you then willing to journey map your futures to where your whole organizational being says "yes" again!?
One of my favorite quotes about what it takes "to get there" comes from the historian Yuval Noah Harari in his 21 Lessons for the 21st Century when he admits that most teams and leaders are always on the run, but then adds "...if you want to go deeply into any subject...you need to experiment with unproductive paths, explore dead ends, make space for doubts and boredom, and allow little seeds of insight to slowly grow and blossom. If you cannot afford to waste time, you will never find the truth." If you can’t take this to heart literally, maybe just let the insight soak in a bit and see what emerges that would be right for you.
Now let's consider Sustainment Energy. As stated earlier, rarely do projects, programs, or even movements achieve lifespans beyond that of the original "hero" leader who starts it all. What all of these efforts need, and are usually missing is, Sustainment Energy. That can only come from culture - the same energy source that birthed the hero now needs to birth a thousand heroes to keep it all going. Long-term vs. short-term energy has many names depending on what science or poetry you prefer, but you get the gist. This is hard stuff.
To sum it up, my philosophy of client work is - are you willing? If so, I would be honored to help guide you and your teams in this generative process. After all, we don't want to stay like my kitty forever.