Brave New Work, Aaron Dignan

I’ve recently finished reading A Dignan’s Brave New Work. It reminded me of F. Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations and it also reignited my hope. This book is well worth a couple of reads, as I’m positive you’ll find gold nuggets with every additional reading. Here are some of my notes 😊

# The thinking separated from the doing.

This sentence struck a chord. I mean, so many modern roles have thinking separated from the doing, it’s scary, really. And it might explain why people hate and leave the roles that involve this type of work. And it also might explain why folks in some of these roles just don’t care – about how they show up, whether they bring their best self to work or not, whether they show empathy or kindness. And it’s a real shame we have allowed work to dehumanize us and dictate how we show up.

# Bureaucracy is a hidden debt – an organizational debt – that we pay interest on every day. One of the most common sources of organizational debt is the knee-jerk reaction. Every time something goes wrong, we immediately jump to create a constraint that will prevent future mistakes. So, we institute a new role, rule or process.

I’ve noticed this happens more in medium to large organizations than in small ones. The latter ones seem to have more of an ‘improve, adapt, overcome’ mindset, whereas large ones don’t seem to have a space for mistakes or failures to happen

# The question that must be asked is ‘What would we do if we were starting with a blank sheet of paper?’ If the answer is anything else than what we’ve got, we have work to do.

This reminded me of the concept of sunk costs. I think we should ask ourselves this question in other areas of our lives too, not just in the workplace.

# We cannot do the best work of our lives under the auspices of an operating system that presumes our stupidity, our laziness and our untrustworthiness. When it comes to people, in many ways you get what you design for. Evolutionary Organizations know that if you treat people like mercenaries, they will become mercenaries. Treat them like all-stars and they will become all-stars. To be People Positive is to assume and expect the best of everyone.

I feel this idea goes hand in hand with the ‘thinking separated from the doing’ one. Yes, you do get what you design for. So, how do we make people aware of this? How do we build people up for success?

# Randomness and innovation are good friends.

This is music to my ears. Do we even give ourselves the space to think these days, and not fill every nook and cranny of our time with a podcast, a book, some sort of personal development activity and so on? We need to create space for thinking, for reflection, for idleness. Magic tends to happen in these exact moments.

On standards, alignment amongst teams and bringing change:

# The great thing about standards is that they show us a proven way to do something and they are reliable (for the most part). The problem with standards is that they undermine our ability to use our judgement, innovate, and learn. Instead of enforcing standards, think about proven tactics as defaults. Defaults are exactly like standards with one exception: you don’t have to use them. A default says: If you don’t know what you’re doing, do this. If you don’t have time to think, try it our way. But if you’ve achieved some level of mastery in an area and you see a better way, feel free. Let us all know how it goes, because either you’ll generate further proof that our default is sound, or you’ll sow the seeds for a new default that we can all benefit from.

# Concept of ‘loosely coupled but tightly aligned’ suggests that we maximize strategic alignment but minimize dependencies and red tape amongst teams.

# On transparency, apply the concept of ‘information symmetry’ – a condition in which all relevant information is known to all participants.

# Information in change: Increased transparency is critical in the early stages of transforming your OS, because it’s a prerequisite for making sound decisions. One of the most common mistakes is teams taking a swing at empowerment before ensuring transparency. What happens? People make decisions without the benefit of crucial information (about intent, strategy, customers etc), those decisions are subpar, and leadership goes, ‘See! People can’t be trusted to make decisions.’. Avoid this by focusing on sharing early and often. Make it safe. Make it habitual. When shared consciousness is high, everything else gets easier’.

And last, but not least, some useful reminders:

# Gratitude

Taking the time and being grateful and showing appreciation for our teams/ community works wonders. Make sure you practice gratitude on a regular basis <3

# We grow through resistance and discomfort.

# True performance – the kind we ultimately care about – is a team sport.

# In an increasingly complex world, plans are lies committed to paper.

# Resistance is an invitation to talk, listen, and learn.

# No easy answers exist. Just strong opinions loosely held.

# We raise the bar by seeing what is possible.