November 13, 2009

Breaking the Organization Free of Dysfunction

Recently, I read this amazing poem called "Autobiography in Five Short Chapters" by Portia Nelson (see below).

It's about the learning and healing process. It can apply to individuals as well as organizations.

It's about learning from our mistakes, growing from them and changing accordingly. This is one of the purposes of life.

All too often, we get stuck in a misguided way of thinking, a "bad" behavior, or in the case of an organization--a dysfunctional status quo.

But it is possible to break harmful paradigms and to change for the better.

Dysfunction is as much about habit and accepting the status quo as it is about the challenge of change.

But growing beyond the dysfunction is possible and rewarding.

Here are five lessons for organizational leaders from this poem:

  1. Change is hard
  2. Change is possible
  3. Change is growth
  4. Change is incremental
  5. Change is healthy

And one for "good luck"...We don't change for change's sake, but to literally avoid the pitfalls that can sink us.

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS

By Portia Nelson

I

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost ... I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in the same place but, it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in ... it's a habit. my eyes are open I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.


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