The RIGSS Blog

To stimulate analysis, innovation, and forward thinking, and generate new ideas and insight
on subjects that matter in 21st Century Bhutan.
A humble tribute to celebrate learning, leadership and service that His Majesty The King continues to champion.

Launched on 21st February 2021 to commemorate the 41st Birthday of His Majesty The King

DISCLAIMER:
The views and opinions expressed in the articles on the RIGSS Blog are that of the authors and do not represent the views of the institute.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE FOOD, NOT THE MENU

POSTED ON September 01, 2021
Douglas OLoughlin
Faculty, Organization Development and Change Management, RIGSS

Can you imagine going to a restaurant and evaluating the menu but not talking about the food? Neither can I.

Well, it may not exactly be the same, but it seems that people in organisations sometimes talk about the menu and lose track of the food. There is a long list of terms that can be used as the menu, like being Agile or Digital, a Learning or Coaching Organisation, doing Organisation Development (OD), Design Thinking (DT), Change Management, Innovation, or Transformation.  

When these terms are used too loosely and frequently, people can lose track of what they aspire to create, and the focus shifts to the term and can become polarising.

How about an example? I once facilitated a workshop with the senior leaders of an organisation on the concepts and tools of a Learning Organisation (LO), the work of MIT’s Peter Senge. At the check-in most of the directors expressed an intense dislike for “LO” even though they didn’t know much about it. It turned out the CEO had gone to an LO workshop, got excited and came back and kept talking about being a “Learning Organisation”. This turned people off. As the workshop went on the leaders saw how helpful the concepts and tools were for them and their organisation. After the workshop I met with the CEO and he asked if I had any advice for him. I said “Just one thought. You can stop talking about being a Learning Organisation and talk more about what kind of organisation you aspire to be, and how some of the LO ideas and tools can help you all achieve your mission and strategies.”

These days there is a lot of talk about being Agile, but agile practitioners say that being agile is not their end goal, but it is to be agile in service of a larger mission for an organisation or community. The same goes for being digital. There are new terms coming into the world of organisations that could fall into the same trap, like being a Teal Organisation (see “Reinventing Organizations” by Fredric Laloux) or a Deliberately Developmental Organisation (a “DDO”, see “Everyone Culture” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey). 

Most recipes for organisation change require a mix of ingredients, so which are the ideas and tools that can help you achieve your mission and strategies? Remember that whatever terms or tools you are using, they are in service of your aspirations.

The next time you hear someone use a term that describes a tool or method and not an aspiration for the organisation, you can ask if they are describing the menu or the food. Ok, that probably won’t make sense to them, but you can ask what they are hoping to become or to achieve. 

May your meals and your organisation be nourishing and nutritious for each and all, and may your mission be served. 

Douglas OLoughlin, PhD, The Dao of Thriving, Civil Service College

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