KNOW THYSELF: The First Step in Organizational Change

Know thyself, organization change, assessment, strategic planning, leadership

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

-Margaret Wheatley

Have you ever had the conversation with a spouse or friend about where to go out to eat? “I don’t care, wherever” is the worst four words you can hear when planning a night out. If no one cares or puts forth an option, you can spend lots of time volleying back and forth with “I don’t care, wherever. I’m open to anything. I don’t’ know what I want.” One night my husband and I gave up going out entirely and made a frozen pizza one evening because we were so frustrated with our inability to pick a restaurant. It was even a rare date night without kids. That’s just plain sad.

A similar phenomenon exists for organizations as they prepare to move into any kind of change. Someone has to be hungry enough to start the conversation about what we are doing next. The organization needs to discover and name:

  • what it cares about,
  • what it does well,
  • what its passionate about
  • what impact it desires to make
  • what dreams it has for the future

When these driving forces are identified, they act as a motor to move the organization with focus and energy. It is like someone finally said, let’s do Chinese food tonight- its a huge relief that there is an idea and energy to point the way. At least it starts the conversation, that can be the hardest part.

Most of the time, we assume everyone in our organization agrees on the important parts of our work together: the mission, values, purpose, vision, etc. The truth is, often we have not done the hard work to discover and name those foundational things. Over time, we’ve forgetten what these essential core commitments are. We operate on assumptions that we all know, agree, and are using them to make decisions, when we really don’t. Unfortunately, when we run on those assumptions it steals energy and unity from the organization. We don’t know ourselves and we are stuck.

When faced with a time in our history when things are changing in epic proportions, on grand scales and faster timeframes, we need to take good care of our organizations and prepare them for the future. This includes knowing yourself as an organization. From that starting spot it is easier to talk together about how and where you want to move in the future.

The first step in change is knowing yourself as an organization. Locate where you are now so you can see where you want to move. If you don’t have any idea of who and where you are, that lack of organizational self-awareness is a stumbling block when it comes to being healthy and ready for what is coming next.

We are committed to walking with organizations in self-awareness through assessment, large scale conversation, leadership development and strategic planning. We know it can be hard to know thyself, so we are here to help.

I vote for burgers tonight.