One of the most important events I remember experiencing years ago as part of my MBA was an introductory conversation I had with J. B. Black, Jr., a dean at Wright State University. One of the things I learned from Black was that a most important part of my forthcoming job as a manager was to “make congruent the goals of the organization and the goals of the people who work for you.”
That conversation was no doubt one of the unconscious things that prompted our most recent adventure. As you know, my wife, Carole, and I are writing a book based on the sabbatical we took last year. The sabbatical application began with a worldview as follows:
In 1982, the physicist, Fritjof Capra, noted in The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture (Bantam, 1984) that humanity was in the midst of the kind of breakpoint described by George Land and Beth Jarman in Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today (Leadership 2000 Inc., 1998). At this point—the edge of chaos—breakthrough and break down become equally possible. As people observe terrorism, financial collapse, hunger, disease, global warming, and despotic leadership, many believe that humanity is at that point, and that mankind’s future is significantly dependent on its ability to shift our level of consciousness and behave in different ways.
The sabbatical was a worldwide search for management and leadership that exhibited a higher level of consciousness. The search took us from Costa Rica to South Africa, India, Cambodia, Germany, Serbia, Hungary, the United Kingdom, France, Norway, and Denmark, before returning to North America for interviews in the United States and Canada. Since what we captured was so rich, we continue to struggle with a way to synthesize it into a few themes. Our most recent attempt to capture it in the book title is “The Transformative Workplace: Growing People, Purpose, Prosperity, and Peace.”
The title seems to presuppose that we need to start with people, and further that common wisdom, not so actively practiced, encourages us to start with ourselves. Human growth, development, and consciousness, as I understand it, is not a simple, linear process. It most profoundly happens when we find that our existing world view is no longer working for us. That awareness may come when we bump up against some life event, such as encountering new people, ideas, or environments; a challenge we are unable to address from our current way of thinking or behaving; or experiencing some illness, loss, trauma, or other disturbance in our lives. I believe we tend to miss many of those bumps, and therefore miss the opportunity to grow.
The solution may be simply to pay attention. In these days when the information that comes to us is designed by us and by others to reinforce our existing world views, getting bumped is particularly challenging. We could seek views that make no sense to us, and try to understand them (not necessarily agree, just understand). That might be a good first step toward an internal struggle to embrace a larger world view. That process and viewpoint might help us move toward Dean Black’s advice about purpose.
Our larger world view naturally leads to a larger personal purpose and, I think, naturally to a wider openness to the viewpoints of others. We can begin conversations intended to learn more about the purposes of the people whom we work with and for, remembering that many of those people reside outside our formal organization. We can more deeply explore the purpose of the organization within which we do our jobs. We can find and create the congruencies that Black spoke of.
It seems logical that once those congruencies are found, prosperity naturally comes. I cannot help but observe that my dictionary defines prosperity as the condition or state of flourishing or being successful, especially financially. I notice that the definition is about more than money. It is, first, about the wider concept of flourishing success. If we surprise and delight our customers and ourselves by meeting and exceeding our mutual goals, we make money. Finally, W. Edwards Deming reminds us with the inscription on Japan’s Deming Prize that “The right quality and uniformity are foundations of commerce, prosperity, and peace.” Our sabbatical interviewees continually reminded us that the process both begins and ends with peace.
It is common knowledge that we must not only do things right, but do the right thing. Six Sigma helps us do things right. Having a purpose that meets all our needs helps us do the right thing.
If you want to learn more about our sabbatical travels and our book-in-progress, check out our blog at www.schwinnadventures.blogspot.com. I treasure your comments and questions, as always. You can reach me by commenting below.