David Burkus is a very dangerous man …
In Myths of Creativity, he punctured my long-held beliefs about creativity, including those which I had cherished because they absolved me of all responsibility for being creative. I could no longer simply relax and say “I’m not the creative type,” even though it made life much easier for me.
Well, once again, Burkus is disturbing my sense of comfortableness with the aptly named Under New Management. This time, he is really out for blood … the tired blood of old management and leadership practices, which we intuitively understand to be less than effective, but have allowed to continue long after their usefulness (if it once existed) has passed.
To understand how disruptive Burkus’s new book is, it simply has to hover near or at the top of your “Must Read” list. The book is provocative and unsettling to those of us who shrink from the challenge of dislodging some very well-entrenched processes in many large systems.
As you read specific chapters which attack long-standing business practices, such as “Ditch Performance Appraisals,” “Pay People to Quit,” or my personal favorite “Fire The Managers,” I imagine you will start nodding your head in agreement with his clear-eyed and fresh perspectives…
… but that’s not the point of this post.
When we consider engaging in the type of systemic change that David Burkus espouses and think about joyfully dismantling What Was in order to create What Should Be, we have to consider a hard truth:
We just may be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution …
While many of us have spent decades either secretly or openly advocating for these type of changes, we do so while envisioning ourselves as the freedom fighters on the barricades, rather than the robotic police lined up, armed, and ready to repress the rebellion.
Three quick questions for us all to consider at this point, all based on the assumption that the changes in Under New Management are generally valid and desired:
Why haven’t we already done all this?
If we are honest, most of these changes are long-overdue and well-known to us. So we have to consider the reasons for not having made the leap years ago. Security, fear of the unknown, lack of support … many reasons exist for why we have not done what we needed to do in the past.
Knowing why we have not changed prepares us TO change.
How have I personally helped maintain the status quo, rather than support needed changes?
Beyond knowing, we usually act in ways that either actively or tacitly support the status quo. If we are to change and help others change, we have to identify these situations and make different choices.
When we change our choices, we change the outcomes.
What do I need to do now to change this?
Burkus gives some good general directions on how to effect this magnitude of change, but we still need to drill down the personal level and consider our own changes, in order to support and create the larger changes.
Before we can change a system, we have to change ourselves.
Change can be good and change can be needed, but we have to prepare ourselves to choose our change role wisely. Real change requires more preparation than thinking about and answering a few questions in a blog post. However, you probably have already had some experience doing this.