The Arbinger Institute
Imagine walking through a field and discovering that a pesky burr has attached itself to your sock. Feeling it there, you wonder whether to bend down and dig it out or continue walking, knowing full well that if there is one burr, there are plenty more just waiting. Inevitably, you repeat the same routine again and again; press on, tend to the burrs, press on, and tend to the burrs.
Regardless of the path you take through this field the burrs are something that you constantly have to “deal” with. You consider removing your socks and wonder if there might be some clever way to walk that would keep the burrs from sticking in the first place. But all these tactics ignore the most fundamental problem: you are choosing to walk in a field with burrs!
In an organization there are many ways to describe and analyze the constant problems that arise. But is it possible that we are choosing to organize ourselves and operate in a way that inherently invites these very problems? When problems do arise, we must stop and tend to them. When communication is poor, for example, we work on our communication and get some training. When teams are not collaborating and we find ourselves frustratingly siloed, we put together a team-building and collaboration retreat to talk more about working together and trusting one another. When employees are not complying with our standardization of work we either incentivize differently or write more policy. When we are having a hard time promoting front line workers to leadership roles we institute a leadership development program.
No matter the problem, the choice is most always to either tend to them now, or press on until they become so problematic that they require more drastic intervention. What we may not be able to see is how we have organized ourselves to work in a way where we are far more susceptible to these burrs or problems in the first place. If this is the case, then we face a more fundamental choice. We can choose to walk in a different field—a field that allows us to press on without the typical problems we invite and make our teams susceptible to.
So the question to ask ourselves is: what current organizational “burrs” are we having to deal with and in what ways have we invited them?