The Dance of Organizational Development: Leading with Purpose and Precision

Audie Penn, Vice President, Business Development and Service Delivery

What exactly is development?  The root of the word develop, to unwrap, converges on a specific point.  For example, when I unwrap something, a gift for example, I find something specific.  A gift, if it is thoughtful, has meaning and importance.  The added benefit of unwrapping a gift is the association of the gift to the sender.  Now I have a permanent association of the gift and the giver, but the value of the item, if it is a good gift, still has significance to me.  I needed and wanted it.

The idea of general development gives me pause.  General development is like an unwanted gift that has no value to the recipient.  Why do I need this?  Do you notice something that I don’t?  Is this something you think I need in my work?  Are you disappointed in my performance?  What is it that I am missing? 

To avoid creating this spiral of negative thinking and worry, we must be precise in our development work. Development has a purpose, but we must be cautious with the idea of purpose.  A shared purpose is best; one that you and I both agree is necessary and desired (need and want from above).  If one suggests it is needed, but the other does not want it, the spiral is downward and lands in coercion.  However, if there is agreement and desire, the upward spiral has unending value.  What we learn in development creates its own forward momentum, and a continuous surfacing of opportunities and one learning leads to another and another and another.  This really is the fundamental power of continuous improvement or operational excellence. 

The dance between function and relation can be beautiful if the lead knows the dance.  Like the elegance of a dance partnership, the lead guides the partner to opportunity and watching the partner drift into intuitive interpretation of movement and purpose can be mesmerizing to those observing and can immerse the dancers into flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explores the 8 ideas of flow:

  1. Complete concentration on the task
  2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback
  3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down)
  4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding
  5. Effortlessness and ease
  6. There is a balance between challenge and skills
  7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination
  8. There is a feeling of control over the task

There is also a relationship between flow and innovation.  When we slip into a flow state, we can easily see relationships within our work that were impossible to notice when not in that state.  When the development process is working, and what we are learning we are also loving, the dance begins, the state of flow has opportunity to exist, and the innovations come more naturally.  As a leader, it is my responsibility to create these environments to release the potential of my team members and create a community in which everyone can flourish more fully.  When communities flourish together, immeasurable value is created.

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