We are people, not machines

August 14, 2023 at 1:00 PM |
Posted by: Katie Miller
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Dr. Margaret Wheatley, organizational effectiveness expert, poet, biologist, author, and historian reminds changemakers of a fact which we should not need to be reminded: we are people, not machines.

In our change efforts we often treat them as top-down – a leader or leadership team develops a vision, then executes a phased strategy for implementing the vision. The hard part is the human part. People have opinions, reactions, form alliances, sabotage, some people leave and new people join, disasters happen, extenuating circumstances consistently thwart plans.

In fact, “implementation science” may be an oxymoron! People are organic creatures and not robots. Implementing plans within biological systems is not a guarantee and does not go according to plan. 

The comparison below incorporates idea from two of Dr. Wheatley’s books in particular: Finding Our Way and Who Do We Choose to Be? Machines thrive in sequence and predictability, there are quantitative data to generate and analyze, and right and wrong answers. In nature, you see change happening through the introduction of new elements; errors don’t exist, only emerging results through a process of discovery.

Do these resonate with you? How might you adjust your current change efforts to mirror a more natural, organic process?

Machines Nature
Top-down, director No bosses
Get it right the 1st time Tinkers, tests
Error in sequence = death Error while playing = information, discovery
Executing plans Open to surprises
Compliance Trust
Directives Disturbance, conditions to flourish
Stability = sameness, rigidity Stability = diversity and change
Analytics (What's wrong?) Possibilities (What's possible?)
Competition Symbiotic agreements
Survival of the fittest Co-evoloution
Individual heros Interdependencies
Training Shared purpose
Research the "right" answer Discover what works
Control Self-organization
  Spirit, will, passion, compassion