Starting a revolution?

In thinking a bit about the Future of Work, one of the issues is where to start.  If we take the implications of the Coherent Organization to heart, we realize that the components include the work teams, the communities of practice (increasingly I think of it as a community of improvement), and the broader network.  But where to begin?

A couple of principles fall into place for me.  The first is the notion of  ‘trojan mice’, e.g. small steps rather than a epic change. That, coupled with the notion of scaling up from the small, leads me to believe that the best place to start is to start small. This follows on the advice about change in general that changes should be strategic and leveraged.

So, a natural place to start small is the team itself.  The goal would be to draw upon a diverse team meeting a real need, but facilitating their tool use. I remember an engagement with a Scandinavian oil company that I was brought in on, where they started out establishing teams for new projects that crossed geographies (and, implicitly, cultures), scaffolded them using collaboration and communication tools, and then released them back to other projects. The goal was to skill up teams and have the team members become viral influences.

Another approach, as there are already likely communities in existence, would be to migrate and facilitate communities online. I recall that the Defense Acquisition University took this approach.  However, I might like to get some project teams going with tools and then migrate out to the communities, where those team members that had participated were familiar with the tools and could be drawn upon by the community.

In fact, after the initial team work, I might facilitate a team not only working together, but working out  loud back to their respective communities.  And while it makes practical sense to be sequential, at some point it might make sense to go parallel, and be having the working out loud from the teams being worked on at the same time as the community development. But for resource reasons, I might make it sequential. Ultimately, you want to be facilitating the communities participating in and outside the organizations, and looking to other communities both inside and outside for inspiration.

The point is to be finding a small way to begin, and maybe take several tries until you work out how to do it well, then start scaling up and out.  You want to build need, awareness, and ability steadily.  It can effect a change in culture too, if the principles that make this work in teams and communities begins to be made aware as well.

And this is not independent of work on going to more performance consulting and performance support in the organization, but instead is a complement.  In previous exercises, different organizations have prioritized different elements, where you begin will be dependent on your context.

So, in the social space, this is my instinct and experience, but welcome hearing alternate viewpoints.


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