Doing Good is Good Business

The Bridge to the Future.. heaven or hell?

Doing Good is good business

How often do you hear these words?

I had an interesting meeting with the sustainability team at Pick n Pay in  Rondebosch, Cape Town.  I listened intently to what they were doing across a broad range of fronts; from making the company compliant with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), to applying sustainability principles, bringing young entrepreneurs and small suppliers into their huge value chains.  And integrating it all together under the new brand, People n Planet.   Like Coles, or Woolworths, or Tesco in the UK, Pick n Pay is a household home name to millions; and they do amazing work, assisting the communities they support.  Pick n Pay employs 52,000 across many African countries. 

The business conditions are tough. In South Africa the unemployment rate has recently hit 27%, an all-time high, with youth most at risk.  The same corrupt political party has, unbelievably,  been returned to power. Mind you, after seeing our own Australian elections, nothing surprises me.  So, President Ramaphosa, the country has high hope for you, after Zumagate and his gangster state. 

Raymond Ackerman, the PnP founder, has a philosophy of ‘Doing Good is good business’. It is a family run business and I have known their current chairman, Gareth Ackerman since 1995. Gareth is as passionate about ‘Doing good is good business’. He suggested I have the meeting with their Sustainability team.

At that meeting, I discussed the work of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and many of its recent initiatives, stressing that the GEN culture is actually opposed to mass consumerism and market capitalism. So what are we doing NOW collaborating with business?  Simple, we have no other option to make changes quickly, other than collaborative effort.  And the maxim of doing good, is good business,. comes into play here.   Many forward thinking businesses are actively concerned about aligning with the SDGs to assure their futures.

New or more of the same harder?

I spoke about ecotourism and that at the UN conference in PNG in June where as part of a panel on sustainable tourism, I would talk about how we want to develop a value chain that is not build around the top brands. In fact the opposite.  GEN Oceania and Asia (GENOA) is putting together a unique value proposition; an ecotourism project,  that so far spans nine countries in Asia and Oceania.

GENOA is united in its desire to give people a beautiful, unforgettable and defining life experience.  We want to expose them to a different way of living, loving and learning. GEN has a beautiful culture that values individuals, the group and the community. It offers deeply memorable ceremonies and experiences, just waiting to be shared and learnt.  It values life experiences over material possession, and understanding of the journeys we all are required to make.

We want to take our guests into these exciting communities. Off the normal tourist path, the big name brands and the tight ecosystems that support them. Like Pick n Pay, we want to develop alternative value chains. Value chains or networks all working towards a resilient and exciting future.  Those who have joined our learning experiences, report it as being transformative.

Our social business model in turn help communities upgrade their own villages (meeting spaces, infrastructure, kitchens, accommodation, gardens), stimulate economic activity (local goods, education, tourism, cultural celebrations) and bring resources to regenerate. (environmental regeneration, food, energy, water security, social networking and cohesion).

But the ecotourism forms part of our larger Ecovillage Transition Programme.  This programme transitions traditional villages towards a sustainable future.  Most of the world still lives in small villages and communities.  We have signed a JV with Tower Insurance in New Zealand to work with communities in Fiji .  Doing good is good for business

With climate change, population growth and diminishing global capacity, sustainability is no longer a nice to have.  And that is why forward thinkers, like the insurance industry and some retailers understand the risks in the future. And take action.

GEN is present in South Africa, I explained.   With so many living in poverty and so many drawn to the city looking for work and a better life,  the call to action is HUGE.  I was gratified by the Pick N Pay team seeing the benefits of stepping into the future together on a different path. But as much as business needs to respond,  GEN who has so much to offer, also needs to organise for  a bigger future. It needs business and business needs it.

Some of the documented and positive outcomes of the Ecovillage Transition Programme is;

  • Eradication of poverty
  • Increased well-being
  • Food, water, energy security
  • Restoration of ecosystems
  • Strengthen social cohesion, systems of governance and management of conflict
  • Building accountable institutions
  • Gender equality
  • Improved education
  • Strengthen local economies and create employment
  • Cross sharing of principals and ideas to enrich both GEN and local communities
  • Sustainable living practices
  • Mitigation and preparation for impacts of climate change 
  • Awareness of and active supporters of the UN SDGs, their importance and relevance  and how these impact and are supported by the communities

Doing good is good business.

Gareth Ackerman

Observations for High Potentials from Career Path Feedback

Read the article below first, then watch this abbreviated Career Path Appreciation feedback given to a high potential. You may want to watch as a refresher (if you have done a MCPA or CPA with me over the years) or are interested in how a practical example of the generic insights shared in this article.

During my career I have been privileged to listen to over one thousand people talk to me in depth about their Working Journey. I have heard how their journeys have unfolded; the wonderful times of flow and those times of stress and hardship. And of course, their hopes for the future.

My interviews have been over a diverse range of individuals, from the illiterate to those in high profile public leadership roles (even a Nobel Prize Winner). Here are some of my observations;

People GROW their Working Journey to fit their LEVEL of comfort.

By and large most people strive to actualise their potential as best they can. That is, until they reach a place where they become ‘comfortable’; a position that is then defended. Being ‘comfortable’ represents the known; where uncertainty becomes ‘manageable’; the known knowns and the known unknowns. ‘Comfortable’ is a complex idea, maybe its when we find balance and harmony in our different Journeys(1), or as Gillian Stamp says, ‘we become whole’. I also suspect it is when someone reaches their point of mature value adding (no further cognitive transitions) or they are adding value in a particular work theme over a long period of time. Balance, mastery and growth of knowledge, skills and experience become important, as is defending that ‘wholeness’ or sense of ‘comfort’

This ‘comfort’, or acceptance of a status quo is part of what I think defines a mid-life crises, although what constitutes mid-life in chronological age can vary considerably, but for most, its between 35 and 55 years of age. Trade-offs across the different Journeys is of course a pre-requisite for ‘comfort’.

For high potentials(2) the situation is usually very different, because they are driven by a deep need to add value (however defined) in increasingly complex ecosystems. This accelerates as they mature. Their level of comfort (and flow) is in almost continual flux for the bulk of their Working Journey. Stability quickly becomes stifling. Many follow unconventional and uncertain career paths, with rapid promotions, successes and sometimes crushing failures in the process.

Almost always, individuals with high capability (potential) find the feedback from this process really meaningful, because it provides a navigational aid to Life.

Why? It gives us predictive dates with destiny, it gives us symptoms of change to be on the alert for, it offers solutions or pathways to consider in our planing, it provides hope for the future and importantly, a light into the darkness of the future.

The process provides a rare insight into the Order that exists beneath everyone’s Journeys and specifically our unique Journey of the Self (1), (i.e. how our capability will unfold) that in turn, dictates the broad pathway of our Working Journey and the challenges we will need to actualise, to find flow. For high potentials, this is gold.

Don’t underestimate the power of your subconscious desires, they can often manifest, in real time, so spend the time being clear on what you actually want. Its a great investment.

The emergence of next steps during a transition period for many have direct connections to their background, experiences and what they value, passionately. Ideas and thoughts acts as attractors for desired opportunities. What was wished for strongly enough, often manifested. People reported clarity, consistency of thoughts and actions did manifested their hopes.

Conversely, if you have no vision, no passion, then what we manifest is a jumble, a confusion and increased uncertainty. The greater the clarity and hunger to achieve it, the clearer and more certain the outcomes.

We are in charge of our own Journeys. Mentors, a good HR function and an effective board can add immense value, but the truth of the matter is; your Working Journey is in your hands. High potentials realise this early on and embrace the fact.

A very useful tool is a journal. Those who adopt the use of making personal notes regularly say it allows for reflection, reminders and in hindsight, come to realise that putting thoughts into words, clarifies thinking. Some talked about defining moments, when they decided to take on risk to follow their passion(3).

Remember risk is the first step, without risk, nothing happens.

risk the ride…

Another observation is options are thin at the top end…life is challenging, especially for truly high potential individuals.

A significant percentage of those with capability to work in the Values Domain(4) tend to end up with work portfolios. For corporate individuals this may translate as finishing stints as CEOs (5) or as executive teams members. The next step is joining boards, as well as lending their support to one or more causes, campaigns and sometimes deferred pursuits (e.g academia, hobbies).

For others who have chosen different paths, the road for the majority seems more rocky and underutilisation becomes a real issue. Like those from the corporate world they manage a patchy portfolio of activities, but finding flow may be more of a struggle then those with a more conventional career ladder.

The evidence is actualisation depends on one’s desire to embrace Life. You MUST live your best life. Below is a summary I put together some years ago based on these interviews.(6)

In closing remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “It is not the years of your life, but the life in your years” that counts. Remember and harken those words from Dylan Thomas poem“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’

————————————————————

Notes:

(1)Gillian Stamp. The Four Journeys.

(2) Definition of High Potential; ‘People with capability to grow cognitively and be in flow with the complexity of the work theme of Strategic Intent and beyond.’

(3) See Adizes, I. (1996) In Search of Prime, especially the sections on infants and go-go for understanding this Risk of setting up your own venture.

(4) Values Domain – Work themes of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Prescience – work levels VI and VII.

(5) By CEO I refer to entrepreneurs, corporate leaders of profit and for purpose. They may be state based, national, multinationals or international.

(6) Sadly , I think this wonderful tool is in danger of vanishing.Why? Models not understood and complex, HR professionals unaware, not quick fix or bling, victim of high priests and poor management over decades; rigorous, expensive and time-consuming training.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the APRA report – a Requisite Failing

APRA, Australia’s prudential regulator, recently released a scathing report on the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.  Coming in the midst of a Royal Commission into the Financial Sector, that has seen many in the financial services industry stumble, after the spotlight has been shone into their internal workings. The Australian Financial Review commenting on this report, said:

“The senior management were highly intelligent and collaborative (1) while the institution itself delivered financial success. By most measures, from return on equity to customer satisfaction it outscored its peers. Yet somehow this complex, but high-performing institution, has found itself the subject of one of the most scathing assessments of a corporation ever compiled.”

I want to dwell on the CBA and this report, as there are some important lessons to be learnt from an organisational design, operating model and leadership perspective. In the mid nineties CBA introduced Requisite Organisation – a meta model for structuring, organising and leading goal directed enterprises.  Requisite (as required by the nature of things) is the name given by Dr Elliott Jaques to a powerful set of models, constructs and practices for creating sustainable, transparent, goal directed (and felt fair) organisations.  This body of work has been supported by sound research and the work of many eminent scholars and public and private leaders.

Requisite has evolved over more then a half century, developing through theoretical changes and best practices usage globally.   That said, application is a different matter, and one needs to consider the culture into which it is being applied. If the principles become perceived as inflexible rules, and the practices and principles the domain of select specialists (when it is aimed at empowering managerial leaders),  the basics of felt fair and transparent leadership quickly become subverted into power politics and personal goals.  This has led to a poor image and damaged reputation, noticeable by publicized failures.  CBA was one of them(2).

In the mid 1990’s CBA introduced Requisite and this was used for a number of years, before being discarded.  I recall being on a plane to New Zealand with a senior executive from CBA who spoke about the autocratic, hierarchical style of management Requisite had created in the bank, while another person, could not bring themselves to mention the name because of the pain it has caused.  In contrast another employee at the time complained how the good work they had been doing had been curtailed, because it was seen as dismantling power fiefdoms.  Whatever the reasons, Requisite was dropped and its legacy was sadly tarnished.

Back to the APRA report and its findings; key issues identified at the CBA were the very issues that Requisite is designed to address. Requisite (or what we in WJ refer to as Requisite Enterprise) is about designing effective structure.  Firstly it needs the working spine – a vertical hierarchy of unique value adding work themes (or levels).  Consider this from APRA –

“Within CBA, the vertical lines of accountability that travel down business lines are generally well understood.”

Understanding a vertical reporting structure is very different from one that adds value in a unique way. Most vertical structure do not do this and this is validated by APRA’s comments re;

” a federated organisational structure that required but did not have clear roles and responsibilities for issues that spanned business units and a lack of collective and end- to-end accountability (Senior Leadership Oversight chapter)”

In Requisite, intent informs strategy which leads to structure. The complexity of the intent determines the number of work themes.  A quick glance at the graphic on proportion of staff in seniority in the AFR report, shows immediately one level too many.  This increases risk, blurs accountability, creates confusion, builds bureaucracy and results in a non value adding hierarchy.
Once structure and function is clear, role clarity becomes paramount; its what makes work fun, challenging, allows for ‘flow’ and delivers the intent. Coupled with role clarity is the commensurate authority to deliver on accountability and to make decisions.  This is where Requisite excels, it has the tools to do it well, individually or collaboratively. Consider the following from the APRA report:
“In the panel’s view, the focus on empowerment of individuals was not balanced with a corresponding focus on collective accountability”

If the vertical spine represents the skeleton, then the muscles, tendons and organs represent the functions, projects, teams and the systems of work.  They provide the ability to operate cross functionality, allowing coordinated goal directed actions, thus enabling value chains to work effectively.  Understanding how to make cross functionality work is well understood in the Requisite tool-set. Nowadays all organisation’s work cross functionally in flat agile structures, which require more then ever, for clear decision making authority and accountability to be spelt out. This is clearly a major fault at CBA as the APRA report makes clear;

“The Panel’s assessment, however, is that collective accountability across business lines has been poor. As a result, accountability in CBA has been, at best, opaque….The desire to move away from a past combative culture has led to some over-compensation in pursuit of collaboration. The result has been pockets of excessive consultation or consensus- driven activity, leading to slower decision making, lengthier processes and slippage of focus on outcomes. Referred to multiple times particularly by risk function staff, this type of behaviour has been at the expense of constructive challenge and cross-examination across the three lines of defence.”

Doing cross functional work correctly means risk management is build into the process.

Pendulums don’t stop midpoint.  Collaboration is necessary, as is the funding of purpose (via profit in private institutions) and these social memes of culture need to be understood and balanced.  Financial institutions appear by and large according to the Royal Commission of having done an appalling job in this regard.  CBA jumped from the blue and orange memes of culture(3) to those of internal green, (no one want to make a decision, everyone has to be consulted, collaboration on everything, trust in good intentions) while other parts of the business were low orange (unscrupulous profit drive). Healthy blue memes are needed for risk management (clarity around process, decision making rights, structure, accountability etc), while the yellow meme allows for discernment, balance and selecting what works with integrity.

” a cultural ‘mentality of trust’ and ‘over- consulting’, manifested in a lack of constructive challenge throughout the senior management levels and at the Board, and in bureaucracy diluting accountability” (highlighted in the Culture and Leadership chapter – a perfect example of the green meme);

Finally I see that leadership represents both the neural network and the brain, activating structure and function. It creates the culture and drives goal directed work.  Requisite offers an effective language to give meaning, leadership tools and practices that ensure a structure is fit for purpose and inhabited by people in flow. In other words, a healthy organisation.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with the question, what might have been the outcome of this review if CBA had remained requisite? Perhaps by now it would be evolved into Requisite 3.0?  Evidence shows that once embedded, this operating model has supported companies for four or more decades, with regular refreshers and updates.  Like any sustainable operating system.(4)

Notes

(1) Requisite has three integrated strands; structure, leadership and people. Being highly intelligent and collaborative  is no recipe for success, but certainly an essential building block. What is also needed is understanding how to be an effective leader, being competent in the tools of the trade and  clear on what works needs to be done.

(2) Recently, when an executive team in an ASX top 100 was considering introducing Requisite for its 15,000 strong workforce, some of the team members cited the CBA failure as a reason not to do so.  Luckily this view did not prevail and this organisation, three years later, has hit many records, including employee engagement, market perception and share price performance.

(3) Memes are packets of culture, like genes. Memes represent dominant societal values and these are reflected in organisational cultures.  First articulated by Dr Clare Graves and called Spiral Dynamics by Dr Don Beck, they have recently been made popular by Frederick Laloux in this book ‘Teal Organisations’

(4) The fact that the CBA had a Group CEO leadership change during implementation may also have been problematic. Research has shown that for Requisite to deliver long term benefits, it needs to survive the first CEO transition successfully. This happens through culture, systems of work and daily practices.

 

Diving Deeper into Deep Work

Introduction.

Jacki Johnson recommended my business partner, Verena MacLean read a copy of ‘Deep Work[1], a book by Cal Newport.  Having just returned from a three-month sabbatical I snaffled it, intending to skim read, but ended up absorbed.  Cal offers a solid contribution in Part 1.  I enjoyed his fresh approach and perspective, much of what we in the Working Journey and our affiliates[2] have longed believed critical to individual, organisational and societal well-being.

For example, the opposite of deep work is ‘shallow work’; which is a product of dysfunctional and ineffective work systems governed by a tyranny posing as collaboration.  In our leadership workshops, which are challenging and require deep work, you can see which teams are dysfunctional by observing their learned behaviours.  As Cal says, the principle of the ‘easiest path’ is on display, manifested in how delegates disengage from the learning process to meet shallow work demands, to appease their leaders and produce busyness. This is dangerous behaviour when amplified company and society wide.

This short article attempts to summarize and amplify the key points of Part I and I do this to reinforce the need that deep work is now more necessary now than at any other time in history.

Key Points from Deep Work;

  • His Deep Work hypothesis is; The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. Consequently, he says, the few who cultivate this skill and make it a core of their working life, will thrive.  Deep Work takes place within the context of a ‘Great Restructuring’ of our economy that sees our technologies racing ahead, while he argues, our organisations and skills are lagging.  As we have heard from many sources we are told to expect up to 40% of our current jobs will disappear, falling victim to automation and AI. Organisation will hire ‘new machines’ rather than ‘new people’.
  • Deep Work is defined as; “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.”[3]    He gives examples of how famous people used to (and do) lock themselves away to work, to focus deeply and avoid the shallow distractions.
  • Shallow Work, defined thus; ‘Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate’[4] He links the growth of shallow work to the age of network tools, the need for constant connectivity, instant messaging and response demand, to social media presence and the distractions of open space offices.  He argues that knowledge workers are forced to replace deep work with increasingly shallow work to satisfy demands and ‘productivity’.
  • He also argues that there is increasing evidence that the shift towards shallow work is not a choice that can be easily reversed, and it is possible he says, that you can permanently reduce your capacity to perform deep work.[5]
  • One of the factors you need for deep work is myelin, the layer of fatty tissue that grows around neurons, which allows cells to work faster and more effectively. The science says that you get better at a skill as you develop more myelin around the relevant neurons.  This he argues, provides the neurological foundation for why deliberate practice work are so important.
  • Deliberate practices are needed to cultivate more quality, undistracted time to focus our attention on adding value. This means being able to focus on difficult work or challenges for long, uninterrupted stretches.  Cal uses the following formulae for productivity; High-quality Work Produced = (time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus).

This ability to focus and produce is constantly undermined by shallow work; e.g. – incoming emails that distract you, web browsing, back to back meetings, moving from one thing to another, your time being managed by others and ongoing interruptions through constant connectivity and a required social media presence. I will add another factor acting against deep work; poorly trained and incompetent managerial leadership practices and ineffective organisational design.  The bottom line; Shallow engagements end up permanently damaging your ability to focus, because sufficient myelin is not produced.

Cal argues (supported with examples and research), that the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work.  He makes the point that not everyone can do deep work and cites examples of some CEOs such as Jack Dorsey who founded Twitter, who does not do deep work, but then gives example of Bill Gates who was a deep work maniac. He points out that to ask a CEO of a huge company to spend four hours thinking deeply about a single problem is a waste of what makes him or her valuable, but rather to hire smart people to think deeply and ask him or her for a final decisionCal also makes the point that there are some parts of the economy where deep work is not valued nor necessary.[6]    

He argues that the big trends in business today are working against people’s ability to perform deep work and many other ideas are being prioritized over the need for employees to do deep work.  I often tell delegates attending our leadership courses to hang a sign outside their cubicle or go home and leave a note which says, ‘Manager Thinking’ or just ‘Thinking’.    It’s part of the job, it’s not some extraneous extra or time out.  True that Agile and scrum project management frees people from attention breaking connectivity, but only to a point and not at the more complex work themes of an enterprise.  The tyranny of busy does not equates with productivity.

Cal looks critically at the internet tools released by for profit companies, funded by investors who want returns and design by twenty-somethings who are often making things up as they go along.  He says we are quick to idolize these digital doodads to signify progress and outliers of a brave new world without any deep work about them or their consequences.  Deep work in contrast is not sexy, is old fashioned and often non-technological, but it is and can be deeply satisfying.

The addictive behaviour of shallow work is even more dangerous then we suspected.  Spiritual leaders have long argued that we need to still our minds, to stop continuous thinking and to let go our ego and just ‘be’.  Our addictive monkey brain embraces ‘shallow work’ as it feeds our ego, robbing us of the ability ‘to be’, demanding ‘we do’.[7]  This creates ongoing stress, worry, psychosomatic illness and loss of ‘well-being’.

Deep work Cal says is a rare commodity which produces significant value.  Unfortunately, deep work is increasingly rare, and the requisite activity is not valued.  Distraction inducing behaviours are valued and rewarded (instant replies, availability) yet at the same time these values destroying behaviours are difficult to measure and even more difficult to detect.  He calls this the metric black hole.  As knowledge work and complexity increases, it is becoming harder to measure individual (and team?) contributions to a business output.  A study by a French economist showed this to be true, especially the irrational extreme growth in executive salaries[8].  Cal argues that if these behaviours could be shown to be clearly hurting the bottom line, they would not survive. Our own work shows deep work is almost absent in our studies of CEO.  A CEO has their own value to add, and this is not something that can be delegated. Unfortunately, many CEOs are not clear on how they add value and where they should focus their own unique deep work.

The head of the list of distracting behaviours is what he refers to as the culture of connectivity. He provides research examples to show this culture of connectivity and the need for instant responses is a myth in terms of improving productivity or as a demand to client need.[9]   This culture of connectivity hurts employee well-being, destroys deep work and probably does not help the bottom line.  Why then is it so pervasive? He feels the answer lies in the principle of ‘least resistance’ which is in not being clear on the impact of various behaviours to the bottom line, so that we will tend towards behaviours that are easiest in the moment.[10]

It’s here he talks about time management that sees people managing their day from their inbox or having their work managed by others. This makes planning difficult, encourages shallow work and adds to the metric black hole. In our terms people want to earn their keep, but for many knowledge workers they are not clear on what that means.  Cal argues that because of poor leadership people substitute clear goals and clear value adding work for the industrial age proxy, namely being busy.  This is a fractal of Taylorism and he defines it thus; In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back towards and industrial indicator of productivity; doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.[11]

This resonates because it reinforces that not only is clear unique value adding lost or misunderstood, but so is well-being through poorly designed and lead enterprises.  Job ambiguity, role confusion, meetings, lack of metrics and disruptive behaviours thrive in an increasingly complex business landscape.

A Deeper Understanding of Deep Work

While Cal has made a significant contribution to the importance of deep work, his real contribution is in raising this issue and highlighting that it requires urgent attention. I would like to add some amplifying thoughts to his work. First, let us define ‘work’ and what does ‘hard or difficult work’ mean. In our world of Requisite (as required by the nature of things) we define work complexity or ‘hard work’ as;

  • the number of variables operating in a situation, the clarity and precision with which they can be identified, and their rate of change,
  • ‘Work’ we define as; ‘The exercise of judgement and discretion in decision making to produce a specified output within a targeted completion time, with allocated resources and methods and within identified limits.’

There are three spirals in our work.  The first is that of Structure.  Adding Value is a fundamental design principle.  We use a nested hierarchy where each work theme adds a unique value.  Strategy defines structure and therefore the number of work themes required is derived by understanding how value is proposed to be added. Structure is the framework on which muscle is added.  All work is based on dealing with increasing ambiguity and complexity in decision making and therefor the need to exercise appropriate judgement.  The complexity of exercising judgement rises exponentially with the complexity of the work theme.  All the required work themes must be present for organisational coherence and effectiveness.  Now here is what is missed;

Each work theme requires the associated deep work to take place to enable clarity of work and the contribution of each theme and roles to emerge. This ‘deep work’ is essential for each CEO, each executive and every managerial leader; individually and as a team.  This DOES improve the bottom line and it does not happen without commitment to deep work.[12]

Flow.

Cal’s focuses strongly on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Flow[13]  which is a core principle of Requisite[14] teachings.  The basic idea is people are happier at work when they are deeply engaged with some work which they find challenging, interesting and in which they feel valued, are contributing and appropriately rewarded.   He believes the connection between deep work and flow is clear.[15]

Our second spiral focuses directly on the individual and the concept of flow. Our professional work[16] helps people understand their personal growth trajectories and how they prefer to work and value.  We help them understand how this has emerged in the Work Journey to date and how it will evolve in the future.  There is now a significant body of work collected from enterprises globally that describe what, how, when flow is experienced.  And it is the ‘deep work’ as Cal describes it.  People describe it as a ‘golden period’ and remember deep work as tough, rewarding, fun, challenging, ground breaking and recognised as adding value.  We have used the concept of flow for decades, linking it to how an individual will want to add value and how leaders need to create the conditions for his or her team to flourish with people in roles who can deliver at the requisite complexity of their role.[17]

Leadership is our third strand. Cal suggests that craftsmanship, part of deep work, is a link to what was lost in meaning when enlightenment and the autonomous individual which saw the world of sacred, shining things die.  We have been searching for meaning ever since. Cultivating craftsmanship is a requirement of deep work.[18]

Our daily leadership practices require a rigorous commitment to a shared set of common sense managerial leadership practices.  Often sadly it is just too hard for shallow work addicts.   When the context for ‘deep work’ is created by those executives entrusted to do so, the scene is set for ‘flow’.   Shallow work can be limited, while deep work should be part of the managerial leader discussions and expectations. This will change daily behaviors changed from shallow to deep.  Our practice of asking managerial leaders to look at how their work is allocated in the daily cycle is a powerful tool for achieving this.[19]

Our work over the last two years with Australia’s biggest general insurer in a top to bottom intervention that has seen the company turn itself around.  Astute leaders saw the value in deep work and while challenging, some of them made the call.  We had similar results were had with an South Australian organisation[20] with whom we have partnered now for almost a decade.  This is not new, all successful companies practice it in pockets. What we want is to make it the preferred and agreed way to design, operate and lead.

In the Great Restructure many will lose jobs, but others will survive, because of their skills and those capable of doing deep work, will thrive.  To join these winners, he argues the two core abilities are being able to quickly master hard things and secondly, the ability to produce and perform at a high level consistently, both in quality and speed.  These two abilities he argues, depends on you being able to do deep work and if you don’t have this fundamental skill, you are stuffed.

The remaining question which he does not attempt to answer (nor play in that space)  is what do we do about five billion people being marginalized in the Great Restructure?  What about the huge challenges we are facing?  He fails to draw that all important macro link. Of course, we are making progress but it is patchy and uneven and billions are missing out an invite to play in the new Game.  Here’s what you can do; look at the UN Sustainable Development Goals then ask how are you supporting them or even bringing them into your intent?  And closer at home, how many of our political leaders encourage deep work or do any themselves?

We need some real deep work here, I think you would agree!

 

References

[1] Newport, Cal.  Deep Work.  Rules for focused success in a distracted world. Piatkus.  2016

[2] The Working Journey is an Australian based consultancy and operates in association with a global network of affiliates and strategic partners with similar core practices.

[3] Newport, Cal.  Deep Work.  Rules for focused success in a distracted world. Piatkus.  2016. Page 3

[4] Ibid. Page 6

[5] Ibid. Page 7

[6] Ibid. Page 46, 47.

[7] Tolle, Eckhard.  The Power Of Now.  A guide to spiritual enlightenment. 1999. Hodder and Stroughton.  Reissued 2016.

[8] Ibid. Page 55

[9] The caveat is where the function of the work system is to be directly customer facing.

[10] Newport, Cal.  Deep Work.  Rules for focused success in a distracted world. Piatkus.  2016. Page 58.

[11] Ibid. Page 64.

[12] Barton, D, Manyika, J and Williamson, SK., Finally, Evidence That Managing for the Long Term Pays Off.  Harvard Business Review. Feb 2017.

[13] Csikszentmihalyi. M.  Flow:  The Psychology of Optimal Experience.  Harper and Row.  1990.

[14] Requisite Organisation is a body of knowledge formulated by Dr Elliott Jaques and which forms the bedrock of our management approach. His work, plus many others have seen this body of work continue to evolve globally.

[15] Page 87

[16] Primarily through appreciative interviews such as the Modified Career Path Appreciation (MCPA).

[17] Olivier, A.  The Magic of Stress.  Originally published by Australian Human Resources Institute but available here online and Shepard, K (ed) et al.  A. Organization Design, Levels of Work and Human Capability. An Executive Guide. 2007.  See Olivier, A,. Chapter 2 . Individual Capability and Our Working Journey.

[18] I do urge interested readers to read the book because I have only covered key points of his understanding of ‘deep work’ and highlighted that which is relevance to our work.

[19] Work is broken up into two major areas of where we spend our time; our Unique Value Adds and People.

The mind once enlightened, cannot again become dark

During our lifetime we may be fortunate enough to receive lenses that provide deep understandings of how things work. Those insights provide models of continuous learning that inform, nourish and sustain us. As a Noble Peace Prize winner said, “It felt like god had revealed a small part of how the universe worked’ adding he was not a religious man.

The point is what has been seen cannot be unseen.  Such meta understandings help us on our pathway towards enlightenment.  Of course, humility and openness are key ingredients to ensure ongoing learning, otherwise we run the risk of becoming dogmatic zealots.

The meta model of understanding human capability, work and the evolution of human value systems were such lenses. What a fantastic journey that has proven to be –  it led me to interview and analyse the most interesting people, and allowed me to assist many and diverse enterprises.  These lenses have stood me instead over multiple decades.

I also know that those lenses have been shared when I hear others encouraging their teams saying these lenses will alter their worldview and help their careers.  Mark Milliner, Ian Stone and Jacki Johnson were the most recent. Thank you for the affirmation in understanding.  Now as Billy Boyd says, I must bid you farewell and in closing I would like to offer you the following insights;

  • Work is a treadmill, but with different and exciting carrots on offer. Fast, fun and challenging.  Our work journey is driven by our deep need to actualize.

    Our need to be of value is enduring.

  • Work can be very satisfying, but while our capability is the driver, our current mode of transport is an old outdated dinosaur called capitalism. There are no free rides, and no one is exempt from travel. It is not a felt fair system and is a value detractor. As Muhammad Yunus says, future business will need a social license to operate.
  • A consultant is a role with accountability and no authority.
  • Work that detracts from planetary, regional and local sustainability cannot be tolerated or supported.  Irreversible damage is caused by companies and governments that have lost their ability to regulate for the common good of all -we need right work.
  • Consulting has allowed me to travel and work in many different and exotic places.
  • As a road warrior I have been equipped with the latest tools of the trade as they evolved… but the problem is my e-wastage mound grows. Full value chain accountability is needed.
  • Consulting has given me time to lead a personally rich lifestyle and get to know my kids – a real blessing… there was a financial sacrifice, but it was worth it.

    “My partner (also a consultant) and I agreed that one parent would always be fully present for the kids (we now have three beautiful adults).  We took it in turns.”

  • It has allowed me to write and publish two books, the third an adventure which sits on the cusp of the new journey and provides a segue to the new future.
  • The right mentors come when the pupil is ready for them.  Gillian Stamp, Don Beck, Malcolm Hollick, Robin Mills – thank you for believing in me.
  • It has led me to renounce the “short-termism” of the free market system, especially greed.

     The word ENOUGH does not exist in business vocabulary.  There can never be ENOUGH!

  • I have lost faith in accountability. I see too many overwhelmed, overpaid and incompetent leaders escaping censure.
  • I am grateful to all my clients who believe in us and were willing to experiment with us.
  • Relationships are frail and need constant tending, trusting and sometimes clear tasking.
  • Look after your networks, friends and family.  Also members of the same family are often not born under the same roof.
  • Thank you to my current team, I am privileged to work with Adam Thompson, Tim Levett, Verena MacLean, Bruce Whitby, Samantha MacDonald, Tanya Brockmeier, Amanda Johnson , Brent Sheridan and Sam Wilkinson.
  • In retrospect, although it did not feel like it at the time, I have learnt more when I have failed or been in conflict.
  • My corporate consulting journey has driven my need to understand other ways we could better organise, for fairer and more just outcomes for all, not just a select few.

 The transition beckons.

I have seen a different world, running on a different operating system and that is now my Call to Adventure. What is seen, cannot be unseen.

Aluta Continua!!