The SEEDs of Change

When you're surrounded by people who share the same set of assumptions as you, you start to think that's reality.
Emily Levine.

Where I live, in New Zealand, I’m noticing that in the face of a rising cost of living and doing business, most organisations are under pressure to find more efficiencies and still deliver great outcomes. 

What I’m also noticing is the range of approaches that different organisations are taking to rise to that challenge.

Most organisations are choosing to go down one or more of these routes:

  1. Work faster and harder (do more with what we have)
  2. Cut costs (do more with less)
  3. Restructuring (move the deck chairs around, and then choose option 1 or 2)

Over the weekend, I caught up with a colleague who’s based in Europe and is visiting New Zealand. She observed that leaders of companies in Europe who have faced similar challenges over the past few years are now seriously regretting choosing options 1, 2 or 3. They’ve realised that through choosing and acting on those choices, they’ve wrecked the culture - through burning people out, decreased engagement, or a losing organisational knowledge though layoffs - and it’ll take years to rebuild to where they once were.

Let’s learn from that lesson now.

There is a fourth way. It’s called ‘rethinking’.

Rethinking is all about looking for different ways to achieve the outcomes we want while staying true to our guiding principles and values. It’s about getting creative and asking different questions. Questions that uncover hidden assumptions about how we operate, and that point the way how we could operate differently to achieve the same ends.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with one large public-sector organisation recently, that is, like all New Zealand public-sector agencies, facing increased scrutiny on the value it delivers to the public. Effectiveness and efficiency are core elements of its strategy. Rather than choosing options 1, 2 or 3 from the unpalatable list above, it’s choosing option 4 as a way to execute on that strategy.

The message to staff? Think differently about how you can free up capacity by making the best use of the capabilities and resources we already have. That’s how you can create higher value. It’s not about saving 10% in costs. It’s about finding better and different ways to create value.

In the workshops I’ve been running with their leaders and teams, I’ve been teaching a simple framework to help them act on this message:

  1. See: identify the hidden rules and assumptions that we have about how we do what we do
  2. Examine: example those rules and assumptions and ask “to what degree are these changeable?”
  3. Experiment: choose a few that have a high degree of changeability and run some experiments do see if there are better ways of achieving the outcomes you need
  4. Dial-in: based on the results of the experiments, dial-in (or embed) those new ways into your ways of working.

If you’re eagle-eyed, you’ll have noticed the acronym there: SEED. I like to call this approach the SEEDs of Change :-)

Here’s a simple example of how a team might use this approach in relation to the challenge of freeing up peoples’ time:

A simple process, a handful of good questions, and a willingness to try and learn from a new approach, can make a significant difference.

If the challenge of staying effective in the face of increased pressure is your reality right now and you want to get more creative about how you achieve that, I’m offering workshops for leaders and their teams on this very subject. I’d love to help. Get in touch for a chat.

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