I spent the last week or so digging into the stories of my organization and the stories of individuals within it as part of a culture transformation project with Sea Salt Learning and am finally finding some time to reflect on the experience.

Here is what I am learning:

  • The value in undefined agendas, stories and the space in between.

The value of undefined agendas

Most people know that I am continuously on a quest to let go of perfect so it’s no surprise that undefined agendas, lose plans, and no clear action items send me into a panic.  This is exactly what I was (am facing) when I took on this project. On top of that, I work in a very Type A organization and everyone else expects these things (double panic).

My original assumption was that the process was not yet clearly defined because I didn’t (don’t) yet have a handle on what I am doing. This meant that I don’t know how to force everything in to a pretty work break down structure with a clear picture of what needs to be done by whom and by when.   My excuse to the team was, “I’m just learning, we will figure this our together” – a good excuse but hard for other Type As to grasp when they are just starting to learn about why this is OK.

However, like most assumptions, I was wrong.  It’s not because I’m in the process of learning, it’s because it doesn’t work that way when trying to understand culture, at least in the beginning (well at least that’s what I think at my current level of understanding).  If you force an agenda, plan out all the events/outcomes and dole out action items, you don’t have space for stories.  And the stories, that’s what it’s all about.

The value in stories

I have conversations all the time but I don’t think I have ever really made the space (or time) to sit down and really listen to my co-workers.  We are always so busy trying to get our action items done.  It’s surface level.  We just don’t make time to tell our stories.

What I am learning is that you need to make this time, you need to create this space.  The stories are where you find the patterns, where you find someone’s truth, where you create the shared experience – and that shared experience is what allows you to connect. Without this connection you have no chance of providing the hope you need to transform a culture.  And hope is what makes it all possible.

The value of the space in between

When creating or facing change, I am finding that there is a space between the desire to change and actually taking steps to make that change.  I have always felt a lot of fear and anxiety in this space but what I noticed in myself, and in others, is that there is also hope in this space.  Hope that we can all make the change and hope that it will make things better.

Hope is something to hold on to. It is how you make the leap from the space in between – you let go of the fear, turn towards that glimmer of hope, and trust that art of the possible.