What to do?

There are probably two main themes to the conversations I have with people in organisations – how to deal with complexity, and what to do about staff who are increasingly disengaged. The two are inextricably linked.

As work life becomes faster changing, less stable, more unpredictable, many managers attempt to exercise greater control. They do this by doing more of what they know, what they are comfortable with. More meetings, more communication campaigns, more technology.

But this leaves staff feeling that it's all being done to them. They too can see the increased complexity and unpredictability but they are left feeling that they have less agency, even less control over their own destinies than they had before. As a result they disengage.

The counterintuitive answer to change and complexity is to do less, certainly for managers. It's like the way to deal with a plane spiralling out of control is not to fight the controls but to let go of them and allow the plane to self correct and re-discover its own balance. I often quote Dave Snowden's insight that the way to handle complex environments is with simple rules.

Find these simple rules, deal with those who fail to adhere to them, let staff rediscover their own ability to solve problems, and let the system self-correct.

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