• Hermen Lutje Berenbroek

Now our system is broken, what will we build?

Let’s stop holding on to what we had and design the future we need.

In the past few weeks work as we knew it came to a standstill. In this state of utter confusion it is tempting to jump to solutions and hold on to what we had. But the chances are we might never get back to that. Keeping in mind that we weren’t doing so well with our planet in general, this is the time to redefine the way we collaborate and design how we should build the future together.

“For most of us design is invisible. Until it fails”

—Bruce Mau, Massive Change We might not always think of it like that, but the way we worked was once designed. Intentionally or as a result of a long evolutionary process. This design is failing on us today. Without the right structure, processes, and tools, we are cut off. And with schools closed, many feel torn between kids and co-workers. Business leaders look for ways to engage people and provide structure, but in the current reality often lack the tools or knowledge. Mitigation of this situation requires a deeper understanding of many uncertainties. It goes deeper than HOW we work together. This is about WHAT we want to achieve together. To create strategy and a plan, we will need to assess beyond our organisations. Figure out major human needs, and do research to understand how the needs and values in our world are shifting. Rigorously list out key assumptions and how they can be validated. Look for themes to appear. These are our opportunities. Then identify which dimensions of our organisations are impacted by this change. Think beyond people, process and technology. Assess how our organisation's values and culture hold true to the new situation. Involve people at the front lines, in times of crisis they may know more about facts on the ground than the inhabitants of the executive suite. Find ways to identify new emerging behaviours. Look inside our organisations to determine commonly accepted “truths” and push hard to find which ones should be questioned. Investigate what works and what doesn’t. This crisis is more than a risk to mitigate, we are at the start of a new era. We should not go back and hold on to what we had. We should design the future we need. The time is now, the place is here. Let’s get together and move forward with purpose!


3 steps to move forward with purpose


It is a challenge to work efficiently together in the new reality where business goals seem uncertain. The day-to-day effect of this is often expressed painfully during remote team collaboration. Everything seems confusing or stuck in a loop. Next are three (non-exhaustive) steps and frameworks to redefine needs and help you towards action.


1. Observe and catalog


When everything is in motion it is essential to observe and listen. Keep your eyes and ears open for shifting needs and values. Observe not only your managers and team mates, but also people outside your organisation. Capture the things that go well and the things that go wrong. List activities and context that people experience throughout the day. This is an individual exercise, but can be done simultaneously with your team members.



2. Organise and identify


Now we need to establish a better understanding of how your organisation relates to these shifting needs and values in our world. Group your observations to reveal patterns in the circumstances people experience daily. Link these patterns to key drivers within the organisation. These can be positive drivers (inner circle), or drivers we would want to change (outer circle). Be open for new themes to emerge.



3. Assess and decide


At this stage you know new internal and external needs. And you have identified how your organisation relates to these needs. Now you can decide what needs to be done internally to address these new needs. This is what you should START doing. There are also things that might have been useful in the past, but in this new situation have no use, or work even counterproductive. This should STOP. CONTINUE the things you are doing now that work.


Change does not follow a straight path. It is an exploration that requires continuous navigation, and navigation requires adjustments. Keep your eyes open for shifting needs and values in our world. Are you addressing these? Why or why not? Does anything need to change? Rinse and repeat!



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