I’m In PERSISTENCE
Coming back to the United States from a month in Europe has my head spinning. Gisela and I were working in Germany, Austria, Italy and Poland, leading our Visual Consulting: Designing & Leading Change workshops with groups of consultants and managers interested in collaboration and change. They were all hyper aware of the confusions swirling in the U.S., and wondering about their own stability. Italy is closing its borders. Merkel in Germany is hanging onto a slender coalition. Young entrepreneurs in Poland know from experience that things can shift. And they were very excited about learning hopeful strategies for change.
“So, what is ours to do?” I ask myself, now back home. It’s clear the polarization and complexity of our current situations (not to mention the Supreme Court square-off) are pushing many into either a zealous supporter or resistance camp. Blaming abounds (see my previous post).
As I re-grounded myself—sweeping decks, going on walks, meditating, hosting brothers and visitors from Australia—it came to me. I’m not in “resistance.” I’m in PERSISTENCE.
THE VIP MODEL
Waaaay back in the 1980’s when Jim Kouzes, Ranny Riley, and I were consulting with Apple Computer to help them develop a Leadership Expedition program to support managers becoming leaders, Jim shared a simple model for leadership called the “VIP model.” It stood for Vision, Involvement, and Persistence. We used it to map the process. I realize now that this change model still reflects my own thinking.
Change starts by awakening to the need to change—often like a vision. Doesn’t our human sense of urgency and anxiousness require imagining things being different and better than they are? Without vision there would be no drive to change.
Then you have to get into the grit of it all. Through all our workshops Gisela and I drew from our new book, Visual Consulting: Designing & Leading Change, published last month by Wiley & Sons. The book puts forward our latest thinking about how to use visualization, dialogue, and change skills for the job of transformation.
We know all too well about the grit part of it, including the act of writing and publishing. I recycled a full one-foot tall stack of versions when I got home.
Yet we also found ourselves appreciating the insights that Process Theory gave us about change: that while it begins and must fundamentally happen in our hearts and minds, it always needs to find expression through the physical plane structures of our bodies and organizations to bring about results. It is in mastering the constraints and contradictions of manifest reality that we move toward something different and transformational. Without the vision there is no patience or energy for this task.
It is persistence that eventually makes the difference. Frameworks such as the Seven Challenges of Change that we introduce in Visual Consulting are metaphorically only conceptual instruments, functioning much like a piano keyboard. The clean, thought-through distinctions are like notes and chords that combine in endless ways, driven by real situations. The models are the keyboards, and the change plans are compositions, best co-created with stakeholders in the client system. As anyone who has experienced change knows, the beginning “compositions” and roadmaps evolve and new events develop.
COLLABORATING ACROSS DIFFERENCES
The Grove and GLEN communities of practice have a vision: that people can learn to collaborate across differences, work together with people from different cultures and organizations, and together co-create responses to the many real challenges we face. We supported the RE-AMP organization bringing together 150 environmental NGOs and 15 foundations in the upper Midwest to tackle global warming pollutants. We’ve experienced faculty and staff at UC Merced coming together and agreeing on an overall vision for doubling in size by 2020. We know that real innovations usually come from webs of companies collectively exploring new possibilities and learning from each other.
BEING “IN PERSISTENCE”
So, what do we do in a culture that seems to be getting more shrill, less thoughtful, and definitely flailing in most areas that relate to policies that might support innovation and collaboration? I think the answer is to just keep at our vision—to be “In Persistence.”
Being In Persistence involves having support. We think the Global Learning & Exchange Network is that kind of vehicle. Being in persistence means having faith in emergent answers. We can’t know when the openings and breaks will come.
Being In Persistence means playing the long game and dis-identifying from the short game of immediate rewards. I don’t think that Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela, Rachel Carson, or the Dalai Lama played the short game. Nor were they in violent resistance. They were in persistence, standing up for what they believed.
That’s the side I’m on—the side of experiencing our collective interdependencies and respecting the value of every living thing. This is how I’m standing up in turbulent times.