2 reasons why I think Relational Practice should be central to Organisation Development
I love the phrase “The map is not the territory.” This phrase helpfully points out that strategic plans, operating statements, vision statements, benchmarks, corporate scorecards and the myriad of other planning tools are merely maps (a representation/aspiration of the real). And, that things don’t just miraculously happen because we have a good map. It takes people to make things happen. The quality of what gets done depends on the quality of the relationships. That’s the territory.
A friend of mine once explained it like this…
“It’s like going to the restaurant, and having been impressed by the menu, you proceed to eat the menu!” The menu is the map. The actual food you get, depends on the relational episodes leading to you being served. The chef might have been sick and someone less able had to step in. S/he may be preoccupied with bad news. S/he may have just been told that s/he was being let go. S/he may be planning to set up their own restaurant nearby. The employees may not be on speaking terms because of an argument. Something you said may have caused offence, etc.
An example from last year springs to mind:
“A XXX employee was caught on video and arrested for spitting in two cups of iced tea. The customers returned them because they weren’t sweet enough; he spat in them before giving them back. I don’t know if the customers drank the tea or not, but the article does say that they removed the lids and saw phlegm.”
A far cry from the restaurant’s Mission Statement:
“XXXX’s vision is to be the world’s best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.”
The map is not the territory. The territory is the quality of relationships. Without this, a map is useless.
Great work only gets done through great interaction (relational practice).
If you believe in the stats, it would seem that the breakdown of families due to failed relationships has reached epidemic proportions in the West. If this is the case, it may be reasonable to assume that people bring their deficit patterns of relating into the work place, resulting in dysfunctional relationships at work too.
These are two reasons why I think that organisations should get involved in helping employees learn, develop and maintain healthy and productive ways of relating.
At the heart of this endeavour is helping people learn to have generative conversations. Conversations that:
- Create and maintain trusting relationships
- Generate productive patterns of behaviour
- Motivate and inspire each other to good works
- Promote appreciation/celebration of difference
- Enable identifying and resolving conflict as a norm
- Provide conversational tools for finding common ground
- Promote generosity and grace
- Create and maintain healthy relational boundaries
- Encourage the giving and receiving of feedback
- Distinguish been authority and authorianism
- Produce collaboration and participation