Time to Flow?
Maybe this is a time to flow. Can we open ourselves to the natural flow of life rather than stay stuck in rigid mechanical systems?
Many of today’s businesses still follow the mass-industrial models of the 1940s. It doesn’t matter how much technology we introduce or if we are digital-ready or not when our rules are rooted in a different era. Despite the books, courses and innovation, only few wake up every morning excited to face another work day that fulfill. Overwhelm is not a loving and embracing energy.
The foundation of this approach to management heavily relies on an executive team creating plans and goals. And then communicating them down the pipe as goals and actions to be executed by managers and employees.
Predictability May No Longer Exist
Being part of the team running the global sales planning process for a number of years at Cisco, we expected managers to set goals and forecasts by quarter. Then, managers were responsible for execution and meeting their numbers—it was their goal to identify gaps between their forecasts and outcomes. We also made them create elaborate plans and often, did not give them budgets to execute them.
And on Monday mornings, the teams would report up on how close or far they were from hitting their numbers. But often, while managers were asked for their forecasts, there were also given growth goals from up above.
It was an annual process of assumptions that was founded on certainty and predictability. When a forecast was met, the personal financial benefits were high for the individual. But the level of stress and anxiety was often through the roof. There was no time to flow and let the unexpected emerge.
And when our outer world changes with economic challenges, the need to adapt is key. Assumptions can be made on inventory, for example, that can go two ways depending on market conditions. Often, intentions and goals in a plan do not always transform into reality, especially when things change.
Embracing A Time of Flow
But to create a healthy world, we need to be comfortable with constant change and embrace uncertainty in ways that are not always within our comfort zone.
When we shift from problem-solving to opportunity-creation, we are open to new possibilities that make our assumptions, or the way we plan, outdated and obsolete.
We increasingly live in a world of uncertainty these days. And the truth is that we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Can we surround ourselves with people who ask questions and consistently test our assumptions and intentions? The emerging business reality is about being flexible and being able to flow with a changing and uncertain world. The truth is people are fed up with many of the current constructs we created or inherited.
And it’s not easy because we are so used to solving problems and going through these planning processes.
We are in a world where nothing is guaranteed any more. And it is under continuous formation and development through our ability to explore possibilities.
The emerging business landscape, and life itself, are asking us to be adventurers who are not always here to achieve a known goal. There is less of a best practice to follow and more of a need to be present and be comfortable with improvising in the moment.
A Time to Flow with Improvisation
As a former theatre major, I participated in a great deal of improv, which was unrehearsed and in real time. The more we played, the more we built our skills in embracing uncertainty. And often, we got some laughs as we experimented with live audiences.
Improvising with people helps us become more present with each other, whether it is open communication or stronger trust. It allows us to focus on what is right in front of us rather than what we may do in the future.
When change happens naturally and is in flow, we become more responsive at every step. This is why listening is such an important skill that requires us to become aware of the changing needs of everyone around us.
Some days we need to put down the plan and connect with what is happening so we can respond and adapt as needed.
Conscious leaders understand that communication is foundational. Two-way conversations open the possibility of creating new meaning and making timely decisions that impact everyone.
Is this your time to flow with life?