Day and Night - M.C. Escher – 1938

The foundation of a successful implementation of these strategiesleverage-points] is your own self-mastery, which I will define here as a the sum of these competencies: - your systemic understanding of the (work) system around us - your permanent inquiry of how we can better impact this (work) system - your self-awareness, including the alignment of our actions with what we strive for

So how could you continuously develop your own self mastery? I will not pretend to have some great new answer to this eternal and deep question: highly valuable answers have been proposed from fields like religion, psychology, philosophy, brain research and many others…

What I can share with you is my own experience, both personal and observation of my clients. And give you the sources of my own limited self-mastery: they helped and are helping me to progress it. Could they help you? I just know that these sources helped also some of my clients. But this question belongs to you. I believe you will only know the answer by trying to use these sources: if it helps you progress, the answer is yes, continue and dig further. If it does not help you (any more), the answer in no and you just need to find something else.

Systemic understanding of the (work) system around us.

I was lucky to be exposed to Systems Thinking1 in 1994 during a training organized in Europe by Innovation Associates after they were bought by the consulting company I was working for, Arthur D. Little. Since then I use Systems Thinking as an analysis tool to help me understand the possible relationships and high leverage action points in the complex business systems I am working as a consultant/coach/facilitator. As tools, I use mostly paper and pen, sometimes a simple graphic software and very rarely a simulation tool. Systems Thinking helps me particularly to understand and forecast the crucial importance of “soft” factors (motivation, trust, feedback …) on “hard” business results (revenues and costs) via people related measures (absenteeism, staff turnover, employee surveys changes…). You can also find a good introduction to Systems Thinking here.

How do you see your work system? What intrigues you in this work system?

Even though I benefited greatly from Systems Thinking, all my efforts to educate clients and colleagues to use it themselves for their own challenges did not bring any sizable results. Is it because I have a predisposition for this type of approach as an engineer? Is it because reaping the first benefits requires a sustained practice? A few month after I gave up trying to educate clients and colleagues, I discovered Barry Oshry and his “people in context” systemic framework. The Organization Workshop is now the most powerful tool I use to help groups of managers understand through experience the deep systemic impact of their business context. They become much more aware of how the business system they are immersed into does influence their behaviors - not everybody, not always but with great regularity - leading to collective ineffectiveness.

Permanent inquiry of how we can better impact the work system

I am not going to bore you with the long list of approaches and tools I have studied, tried and used since I began my journey into “the human side of change” in 1994. But there is a red thread through these 20+ years: my insatiable curiosity leading to my stubbornness to continue using/twisting/trying/adapting as long as my instinct tells me “it” could be useful to do so! How many times have my colleagues told me I should stop tweaking, settle on a couple of powerful approaches/tools and then “milk them” for greater economic returns? Again I am lucky to have known for 20 years, sometimes clearly, sometimes confusingly, that this exploration is my path. Even though I went to some dead ends and I moved sometimes at a snail’s pace.

What is your path, related to the work part of your life? What do you desire, clearly or confusingly, to explore now?

Nowadays I am exploring the experiences I could create for my prospects and clients so that they can connect themselves with their own curiosity for “creating work contexts for agile cooperation and human growth”. And when their curiosity is awaken, we explore together how they can concretely change the work context in their part of their organization. My current inspiration sources are: - the Organization Workshop to help them raise their systemic awareness of the impact of their contexts - the book “Reinventing Organizations”2 to create different work contexts they can discover and explore

Self-awareness, including the alignment of our actions with what we strive for

This is the real tricky one. This is the real personal question. There are thousands of good answers: good in the sense that they are effectively helping real human beings raise their self-awareness. So I will just share my main sources, both of Buddhist inspiration, and refrain my desire for proselytism.

I meditate with Vipassana since 2001. This helps me develop 2 key competencies: - becoming more aware of the feelings in/on my body, as they reflect immediately how I am impacted by the world around me - developing my capacity to be less reactive towards these feelings and more proactive towards what I strive for

I also read books about concrete application of Buddhist philosophy on our modern western culture. The book who had the greatest impact on me was written in 1966 by Alan Watts3. The impact is that after reading this book, I stopped my 15 year long quest for the answer to the questions: - Who am I? - Why am I here?

  1. Senge P. & al. (1994). The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. Nicholas Brealey Publishing [return]
  2. Laloux F. (2014). Reinventing Organizations. Nelson Parker [return]
  3. Watts A. (1966). THE BOOK On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Jonathan Cape Ltd [return]