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Are we driven by events?

Posted by Steve Read on January 5, 2012

Happy new year everybody.

So, now we’ve left the season to be jolly, and we’ve entered the season of good intentions.  I do find it intriguing how we compartmentalise our lives.  For a while, the gyms will be busier, the healthy cookbooks will be off the shelves and shopping lists will be defined by them.  People will be doing good things around the home, being more tidy, more polite, managing behaviour, and resolutely following resolutions.

But for how long?

The new year trigger for making resolutions and doing these things is great, but not many of us are good at sticking to them long-term.  We associate them with the new year, and by the end of February, the year doesn’t seem so new anymore, so we go back to more familiar ways of working.

We adopt this sort of behaviour pattern at work too.  Appraisals might be the trigger, or the office move, or the signing of a new deal.  In ‘The Fifth Discipline’ Peter Senge calls this the fixation on events. We lose sight of the gradual progression of things, and focus on the obvious events – share price dropping, quarter 4 results, Interest rates etc.  We even use these events to explain things (business is quiet because it is Christmas), and whilst the essence of this might be true, we lose sight of the bigger picture incremental changes that are happening.  For example the quality of our product or service delivery will change over time, especially in relation to our competitors.  If we lose sight of this and focus on each individual transaction, we won’t be able to react appropriately.

Our leadership development strategies need to take this into account. We need to train our people to think strategically and, concurrently, to manage the shorter-term events. And importantly, our managers and leaders need to look at the relationship between the events and the gradual and incremental change that will happen regardless of what we do.

So, heads up. Christmas is over, so is new year. And it doesn’t really matter. Time ticks on…

And now I’ll wait for the emails correcting me on that point.  Clocks tick.  Time is the fourth dimension and space is curved.  I know, I know….

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