What Got You Here Won't Get You There

Apparently doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. I think that applies to 'doing more of the same thing' as well. I've been on the road over the last week working with a few different Councils who all share a key challenge: they are experiencing change, and need to change in response.

The easy answer to this is to look at resources - we need more to do more, right? Except that change isn't quite as simple as that. It's not just more of the same - it's new stuff. And if our goal is to rise to the occasion and reap positive benefits from that change, we need to change too. Which means doing things differently.

I've been self employed for over four years now, and over the last year have implemented some big change in the way I run things. Early this year, I hit the ceiling of exhaustion. I'd come a long way and accumulated a lot of growth - personally, commercially and professionally - but this was it, capacity wise.

The answer to progressing my practice was not simply to work more hours or hire more versions of me (I tried both of those) - but to work differently. This led to a change in my project base - more facilitation, speaking and coaching and less consulting - and in my operations - taking on a practice manager to handle my administrative work, freeing me up to focus on refining my IP and delivering more effectively. 

In  the leadership classic What Got You Here Won't Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith talks about the difference between the success that happens because of our behaviour, and success that happens in spite of it.

“One of the greatest mistakes of successful people is the assumption, “I behave this way, and I achieve results. Therefore, I must be achieving results because I behave this way.” This belief is sometimes true, but not across the board. That’s where superstition kicks in. It creates the core fallacy necessitating this book, the reason that “what got us here won’t get us there.” I’m talking about the difference between success that happens because of our behavior and the success that comes in spite of our behavior. Almost everyone I meet is successful because of doing a lot of things right, and almost everyone I meet is successful in spite of some behavior that defies common sense.”  - Marshall Goldsmith

Smart people and organisations tend to know what to do - they need to know what to stop. Simply piling on the workload weakens and burns out leaders and organisations, particularly when there is no clear vision of what change and success looks like at the other side.

To understand the capacity of an organisation to respond to change, it's important to take the whole picture into account. Addressing resource issues without first looking at strategy ('the why') and operations ('the how') is a bit like pouring water into a sieve. In my case, it would have been taking on more staff while still doing my own admin and spending my time behind a screen when I add the most value in front of a group.

Marshall Goldsmith says that "giving yourself a purpose adds clarity to all actions and decisions that follow" and I could not agree more. When it comes to responding to change, defining a clear strategy makes all the decisions that flow next (operations, resources) miles easier. 

How To...  Get There

  • Understand the change you are grappling with

  • Set clear priorities for future improvement

  • Identify what needs to change in your operations and resources to make change happen

  • Try writing a 'to stop' list instead of a 'to do' list!