Why Good Work?

Dec 11, 2013

I recently found myself frustrated and slightly adrift from myself in my day job. In fact it was more a day, night and weekends type job. I increasingly came to the perspective that I somehow needed to reclaim me and MY work. I then started to talk to a lot of people and found that I wasn’t the only person struggling with their work and their lives and the demands that modern society place on us. I found a lot of people asking similar questions:

Am I (and/or those around me) turning up for the pay cheque and waiting for the weekend? Can I help them love doing what they are doing and give them a reason to get out of bed in the morning?

Are we as diverse and inclusive as we think we are?

What is my meaning and purpose and how do I connect with that source in my work?

Am I getting the best from the people I work with? Am I giving all of myself?

Could I engage in a more positive way with people and my work and life?

The qualities that future-proof organisations such as flexibility, adaptability, innovation, collaboration and partnership, high levels of trust and ethical behaviour are all rooted in culture not in the mechanics of procedure or regulation. If you want to encourage these qualities, you have to dig deeper and ask different questions.

So I decided to do something DIFFERENT.

I believe people are inherently well meaning and want to enjoy their work and contribute, but often our processes and structures get in the way of that happening. So I started thinking, ‘How can I intervene in this complex system to enable change?’, and Good Work is my attempt at just that.

russian doll

Good Work is a bit like gardening: prepare the ground, nurture the conditions, respect nature’s principles, and things evolve – naturally. This is based on the belief that people and organisations are not cogs in a machine, or pieces on a gameboard, or ‘problems’ to be ‘fixed’. They’re complex, self-organising living things governed by the principles of nature not the laws of mechanics, and they’re quite capable of changing and adjusting their own behaviour, when the conditions are right. This also means traditional approaches to change that rely on a linear process fail as the system and people are unpredictable. When good people find their system stuck and unresponsive, the problem usually isn’t ‘the people’ or ‘the system’ but the approach. A standard ‘methodology’ based approach is at odds with a complex reality and its consequences can be counter-productive and even harmful.

The need for a different approach to the way we do things goes beyond the needs of organisations, because work has wider implications. Everyday choices and decisions echo in other places and other times. Work and society are nested inside one another like Russian nesting dolls so their health and well-being are intimately linked. As a result I believe one of the greatest ways for us to understand and impact our societal sustainability is through the way we convene work.

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