“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu
Making sense is about finding clarity so you can move forward with confidence. Max DePree says “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” (The last is to say thank you if you’re wondering.) When you know where you ARE, you are better positioned to decide where you want to go NEXT. Like your GPS, it works on the endpoint in relation to your current position. As people we work hard to know what our current reality is, to then understand it, and then look for the viable options moving forward.
There is no doubt the Coronavirus pandemic has globally affected everything. Yet it is important to see how one can still be really effective. In other words, how to work out fast what reality is like and to make quick adjustments where needed. I belive there are four areas to explore.
- To be clear about how you understand your purpose, past, present and future.
- To measure how engaged you are in the current situation.
- To assess your capability to deliver on change if that is the required strategy.
- To select the most effective development process and pathway to take.
Understanding, engagement, capability and development – four parts of defining reality. Four stages of making sense. Getting clear on what is really going on is critical to begin this ‘new normal’ journey. Making sense comes from asking ‘what is working’ and ‘what is not working’. This provides you with the ability to see the leverage and pain points side by side. And usually, we go through both those experiences, much of it at the same time. I call this the ‘sweet spot‘.
Karl Weick is known as the father of sensemaking and his work has been used by thought leaders globally. Chapter Two of Sensemaking in Organisations contains what is perhaps Weick’s most cited sentence, the recipe for sensemaking: “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?”
The seven ideas of sensemaking are:
- Sensemaking is a matter of identity: it is who we understand ourselves to be in relation to the world around us.
- Sensemaking is retrospective: we shape experience into meaningful patterns according to our memory of experience.
- How and what becomes sensible depends on our socialisation: where we grew up in the world, how we were taught to be in the world, where we are located now in the world, the people with whom we are currently interacting.
- It is a continuous flow; it is ongoing because our interactions with the world and our understandings of the world are constantly changing. You might also think of sensemaking as perpetually emergent meaning and awareness.
- Sensemaking builds on extracted cues that we apprehend from sense and perception. Cognition is the meaningful internal embellishment of these cues. We articulate these embellishments through speaking and writing.
- Sensemaking is less a matter of accuracy and completeness than plausibility and sufficiency. We simply have neither the perceptual nor cognitive resources to know everything exhaustively, so we have to move forward as best as we can. Plausibility and sufficiency enable action-in-context.
So making sense of your current reality is about knowing who you are, where you are and having the most realistic assessment of how it’s going. Good, bad, or ugly, you must “face the brutal facts yet remain optimistic.” (Attribution: Jim Collins) As you lean into the process hold to the following five convictions that will serve your learning and accelerate your growth.
- Be proactive. Go first with curiosity and vulnerability.
- Be humble. We know you’re not perfect and we don’t expect you to be.
- Be calm. Feedback is telling you to do more of something or less of something, it isn’t failure.
- Be responsive. Find the specific things you can leverage and change right now. Do them first.
- Be active. Implement any changes as soon as possible. Leverage your mentor and your network.
When you have clarity on where you are, you can define your future with confidence.
Sensemaking seems to make sense, doesn’t it? I know it is difficult to even dream of the future at present, but we have the right tools to be better. As always, hope you and yours are safe. Let’s build a positive reality together.