Autumn in the City

Despite bustling with people, the city is often not life-giving. The simplest act of walking to the office from the train station can be jarring – masses to one side and to the other, to the front and to the back – bumping and jostling, without common courtesy, space invaders. You’re too slow, get out of my way.

This morning I made an effort to transcend this daily occurrence. At a point in my walk, I stood away from the crowd, picked up this autumnal leaf, took a deep breath in… out… lifted it to the city skyline, and in that moment felt a sense of peace and life. Snap, snap, snap. Alas, all too soon… time to join the throng again.

This post was inspired by a conversation with my colleague Denice Van Der Putten, soon to be Lloyd!


71M+Ou8rssL._SL1500_A thing is not a thing until we call it a thing. The thing then becomes a thing but only in the context of how we’ve learnt to see things. Does that mean there is nothing before a thing is called a thing? Are there such things as pre-existing things? In my thinking yes, but these things are, only what they are, because of what we think they are.

Here’s a tweet from my former tutor, Ken Gergen on this very thing, “One cannot describe something for what it is, because there is no ‘thing’ before the act of describing. Why not describe in hopes of what something can become?”

If I had a hammer

I believe that the obsession with mechanistic/scientific approaches to measuring outcomes and evaluating goals has led to the ubiquity of highly regulated, technocratic organisational cultures. I have no doubt that most people don’t thrive in such cultures. Even task orientated leaders with low EQ know this. So, what do they do? They pour money and effort into culture change initiatives – very often using mechanistic, pseudo-scientific interventions, not surprising if this is the only grammar we know. If we get it right, we are said to have ‘nailed it!’. Well, if we only speak ‘hammer’, we will see all our problems as nails. [A Senior Executive once said to me “I know I have a high IQ and low EQ. My IQ tells me that to achieve success, I need to be relational, so I schedule this into my project plans.”]

Meg is right. That’s not how it works. Productivity and outcomes cannot be evaluated and measured without also inquiring into, arguably the most essential variable in productivity, the quality of relationships.

Human beings are intrinsically relational. We thrive when relationships are good and whither in the face of toxic relationships. Great relationships beget cooperation, kindness, support and camaraderie. It is this culture of mutuality that is more likely to lead to sustainable productivity. Evaluation points to what needs to be done. Valuation is how we do it.

The social construction of age and ageing…

These two dogs, Panda and Cassidy are about 11 years old. That makes them 60 in people years. Tried as I did, I couldn’t help thinking, talking and treating them as puppies. Found myself reflecting afterwards, what does this say about the social construction of age and ageing, and the consequences on our thoughts, actions and interactions?




Participation without meaningful engagement is futile


Some thoughts about participation that emerged in conversation with Chris Blantern – a very wise person.

Some leaders treat participation as an end-in-itself – a box to be ticked in the proverbial good leader manual. Arguably, how conversations happen is more important.

Depending on prevailing organisational culture, meetings can be discursive rather than action orientated; or, it can be action-orientated without being discursive. Frustration with either pattern can generate adversarial forms of talk, which could, in turn beget active or passive resistance.

There is a skill/art to facilitating/hosting conversations that generate genuine engagement. However, there is only so much a facilitator can do at each event or meeting. Organisational actors need to be attentive (listening), appreciative (thinking the best of others), curious and inquiring. For many these skills do not come naturally, they have to be learned and practiced. Attending to developing this culture should be the raison d’etre of organisation development practitioners.

group of people reading book sitting on chair
Photo by Helena Lopes on