I imagine a workplace where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally.
After witnessing and experiencing so many heartbreaking and unsuccesful organizational change initiatives over my 30 year career, I looked for a better way to transform and improve organizations. But how?
To make it real, I interviewed leading change practitioners and other experts in a series I called 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success. I asked, “What is your best improvement strategy?”
Remarkably, I rarely got an answer about process improvement. People didn’t talk about Agile, CMMI, Lean, Six Sigma or the latest silver-bullet solution. Instead, they talked about something deeper: about trust, reflection, new questions, new leadership, understanding the status quo and much more. People shared fascinating and surprising new strategies and insights with me.
After 50 interviews, I discontinued the 5 Minutes to Process Improvement series because it wasn’t about process improvement. Something else seemed to happen, and I needed time to reflect on it.
In fact, conducting those 50 interviews was so powerful that it triggered my own inner transformation. My mind became noticeably quieter. I became a better listener. I was less reactive to my circumstances. I also realized there was an enormous power in my intentions — and in the questions those intentions led me to ask.
These inner changes allowed me to have a new conversation. As I became less judgmental, more open and a better listener, people seemed to feel freer and safer, and they shared deeper insights with me.
I also knew how rare that was in the workplace. And I recognized that I and so many others felt like aliens at work. On the surface, we may have seemed happy, committed and motivated. But look a little deeper, and there was more unease and dissatisfaction than most of us will admit.
Because of the deep and pervasive need for transformation in most workplaces—along with the changes occurring within me and the kinds of insights people were now eager to share—I came up with a new series of interview questions. With that, the Exploring Forward-Thinking Workplaces interview series was underway, which led to my most recent book, The Future of the Workplace.