American Co-Founder and Co-Director of Future Search Network, Professor of Organizational Dynamics at University of Pennsylvania
During a decade of teaching future search to people around the world, I heard a theme repeated time and again. How can anybody be sure the plans people make are actually carried out? How can we build in enduring, constructive norms and processes?
I believe that ?getting everybody improving whole systems? remains a worthwhile and elusive purpose if you care about worthy workplaces. Embedded in this prescription are values of ongoing inquiry and widening inclusion. The hard part, in a world of infinite choices, is finding techniques equal to our values.?
I have pondered that question for many years. I doubt that anybody can ?build in? a technical insurance policy for ongoing success that trumps people?s willingness to keep revisiting worthy goals and to stay connected with each other. The key leadership policy I advocate is involving those who do the work in planning the work. The best methods for doing that tend to be simple.
What happened afterwards? What could I learn about turbulence, transformation, stability, follow-up and continuity by seeking out clients I?d known years back and tracing the lives of organizations I once had sought to make more productive? With 20/20 hindsight and 15 to 30 years of emotional distance could I discern patterns now that weren?t apparent then? Productive Workplaces Revisited is the result. This work contains nearly all the text of the first edition plus 100 pages of new material.?
Why then lust after high-performing work systems through increasingly complicated programs? As I pondered that question, I began wondering what had happened to the organizations whose case studies form the core of this book. For nearly 30 years I had been involved in strategic reorganizations intended to create and maintain productive workplaces.
You can sail this sea of possibility to uncharted new worlds. You also can drown in it. I can tell you with the confidence born of 40 years of chasing rainbows to the far horizon that you will not be able to absorb, let alone use, the proliferating workplace change library. Let go the attractive myth that you will one day learn to choose from the myriad exactly the right process each time.?
“Sustainable change” is an oxymoron. We build organizational cultures for today only, not for the ages. What I have learned about learning organizations is that every generation needs to learn all over again for itself. Therefore, you have to make today’s meeting an example of the future you desire. Seize the day, and do your best. The future, friends, never comes. It’s already here. But you knew that already!
Teamwork is the quintessential contradiction of a society grounded in individual achievement.
The 'preferred future' - an image of aspiration - [is] a powerful guidance mechanism… When people plan present actions by working backward from what is really desired, they develop energy, enthusiasm, optimism and high commitment.