Inevitably some of my colleagues are manically busy (most of them in fact) and I was emailing one to say that I hoped their business (‘biz-ee-ness’) was productive when it occurred to me that that was spelt exactly the same way as business (‘biz-ness’). And one of the things that I have noticed now I am spending more time working for myself is that biz-ee-ness is a culture specific to biz-ness – or at least the culture of proving that you are busy all the time is specific to business.
I am relishing the time to think, to research, to post (well I am, even if you aren’t relishing reading them!) and to choose what I work on. I am also realising just how much of what I used to spend my time on was so unproductive. Multiple meetings to discuss what things needed to look like or how they were going to work – which in reality were more about making all those involved feel that they had contributed. Why? Wouldn’t it be more productive for each to contribute something different to the agenda rather than all contributing to the one item?
I am not disparaging my colleagues here – this is not unique to them or the organisation I worked for. It is the way business has productionalised things. We think by introducing hierarchy and project management we have professionalised the process – but in reality we seem to have created an industry – and one where success is not measured by the outcome of whatever the project is for but whether the gantt charts, project plans, action minutes and issues log are up to date. There are people (fortunately not too many) who believe that theirs is the most important job on the project when what they actually do is ring round and chivvy. What happened to trust? What happened to autonomy and initiative? And what happened to just get on and do?
In all of this there is a set of underlying assumptions that what we need to do is a) predictable and plannable in advance, b) unchanged by events as the project moves forward unless something unfortunate (a difficult client, an unforeseen hiccup, a piece of data missing) happens and c) subject to a single, right solution. And increasingly I am just not sure about that . . . . in a VUCA world, there are often multiple options – some better today, some better tomorrow, some better for particular cultures or personalities. And where there is volatility, there will be events which are unforeseen – no one’s fault, no-one missed anything just a genuine shift. Complexity means emergent events and properties – you need to foster the ones that are helpful and constrain those that aren’t – neither particularly easy to plot on the gantt chart in weeks 5 and 6 when you don’t even yet know what the emergent properties are let alone when or how they might manifest.
And then I worry that innovation is increasing the biz-ee-ness in biz-ness. We don’t really seem to consider that innovation in how we work might deliver the best value of all – no, we are more concerned with a new product or even a new business model. So we need to work out how to handle all of that alongside the rest of the day job – find some time to put your idea into the ‘Idea of the month’ scheme or build on someone else’s bright thinking.
And yes, I get that I am lucky and yes, I do have periods when I suffer from biz-ee-ness. But that makes the opportunity to think, to gain insights and to experiment to see what happens all the more valuable.- and raises these interesting questions!