Monday, 23 May 2011

Where now Michelangelo?

At the recent EMCC conference, John Campbell from Primeast spoke about the journey “From Competence to Mastery”.  The analogy he used for mastery was the craftsman working a piece of wood or Michelangelo who “saw an angel in the stone and carved to set it free”.

In his supporting paper, co-authored with John Holt & Benita Treanor, competence and mastery are defined thus:

Competence’ is related to the acquisition of skills and carrying out work without mistakes, or without ‘compromising principles’.

Mastery’ is described in artistic terms and a master craftsman would compromise principles for the greater good (“what is needed here right now?”), with an intuitive feel for those things that are inviolate and those that are not.

Unarguable really, but in the workplace we often seem to focus exclusively on the former.  In fact, we usually look at competence through a model, process or measurement to show that anything else would be wrong... 

There are three fundamental perspectives which have stuck with me since:
  1. Labelling & codification does not create best practice.  It creates orthodoxy.
  2. Processes & models can show competence.  By design they can also constrain & exclude.
  3. Mastery has an artistry and intuitive fluency about it.  It goes beyond competence and measurement.

Thinking of Michelangelo again, the mastery that we aspire to involves understanding what is in front of you, the vision of its future and then being able to draw on a range of practised techniques to inform what you do next.  Perhaps more importantly being able to trust your intuition and break some of the rules of those techniques.

Perhaps those unorthodox, rule breaking experts in your organisation are more important than you think.  Perhaps this truly represents great leadership.

So don’t constrain them.  Instead ask “Where now Michangelo?”.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Black & White

Yesterday was my 10year olds first chess congress.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but he was delighted at the prospect and specifically wanted me to join him.  Surprisingly this was not the fear of separation but actually recognition that he’d have my undivided attention for a constant 9 hours!

Having driven the hour or so to the coast, we arrived at a Primary school venue to find a melee of children all very excited to be there, back in school!  Of course they were there for fun but the irony was not lost on any of us.

The congress was superbly organised by a small group of volunteers funding free drinks and snacks with a raffle.  So taxi duties completed and totally captive all I had to do was sit around for 7 hours.

Actually, this proved to be a great opportunity to catch up on work and reading.  Though the reality was that being my Saturday I couldn’t quite summon up enough the same diligence as I would normally... so I also chatted and watched the kids and parents...

Most of the children were obviously keen to play chess but also very relaxed about their performance at the tables.  Some were jubilant but there’s no place for soccer heroics after you've swiftly beaten someone at chess.  In between round the kids played or read or made use of the free snacks!

The day finished and awards given we headed home to find an empty house.  The rest of the family rather than staying at home had gone to an impromptu kids party!

Reflecting on this day of chess, so much of what we expected was different but still enjoyable.  The environment made that happen and there was joy in the unexpected.  Little in this world is black and white even if you think it is.

This is a short but sweet post on my Saturday at a chess congress but I think there are parallels with what we do each day of our week.

So what are you doing to create the environment for the unexpected?  How much does your expectation influence your experience?  Would love to hear your thoughts & experiences!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Waking up with strangers

The chances are that you commute to work.  Many of us will use public transport to make that journey.  For some of us that could be quite a long journey by train each morning, slowly waking up with strangers all around us.

No one is in the mood to engage in conversation with the other commuters around them are they?  It’s just not done.  Instead we politely jostle to create our own space that no one else will invade.  Don’t even think about stretching out your legs under my side of the table.  Get your arm off my arm rest!

Once settled into our little safe haven amongst all these strangers we probably used to read a paper or a book, maybe even snooze.  Now we crack open the black box or the smartphone and hey presto!

Suddenly we enter a world where we’re engaging with a myriad of strangers!  Sending emails to people we work with but probably don’t really know.  Tweeting with other people who we may never meet but building relationships and friendships.  Talking without speaking.

Feels great doesn’t it?  We’re working, learning, sharing, reading – fulfilling some essential needs in a way that we choose.  Forget the boundaries we’ve put around our physical space – come over to my side of the table!

And next to us the person who got on at the last stop has just started snoring quietly.  She’s fast asleep and I don’t mind.  It’s funny the strangers we wake up with.