Well, last week I promised to add Biblical principles for organizational development as our Wednesday blog theme. Who knew we would see a melt down in Baltimore? So I dedicate today’s blog to Baltimore.
I thank Peter Senge for the concept of “creative tension”. Let’s see what it has to do with Baltimore this week. Let me show you what creative tension is.
This is not my best artwork, but it is straight off my workshop flip chart . All healthy people and organizations maintain a forward creative tension. They have a vision of their future and the hope, faith, and belief in their ability to be successful. That pull has to be strong enough to overcome the backward pull from past experiences and memories that cause them to fear their own failure or unworthiness that will keep them from their hopes and visions.
If the vision is weak, the frustration leads to anger that is at first paralyzing, so that no forward progress happens. The feeling of being stuck or disempowered takes over.
If this continues the backward pull increases with increasing daily experience with failure. Eventually this anger erupts in many ways. For individuals it may erupt in bursts of uncharacteristic violence. In a community, if a lot of citizens experience this frustration continually, the community is a prime target for riots and being stirred to rioting by those who incite them for fun.
This is what we have seen in Baltimore in the last days. The large number of disenfranchised and fearful citizens, mostly youth, were incited to riot and the results were tragic for individuals, businesses, and the police and Mayor.
Today is calmer, thanks to the good people and grown-ups in the community with the courage to step up and do the right things. The big question is how solid is this calm? Is it really a new calm, or merely a respite before a new and possibly worse storm. Another good question is how many other communities are in a similar state of unstable calm and need to join Baltimore in citizen-engaged continuous improvement action teamwork. Such a situation requires immediate action to reestablish forward creative tension. It’s the only answer to the backward pull of destruction.
Many have commented in the last few days wondering why these people haven’t learned from past riots how destructive this is to their community. Let’s first recognize that for 95% of the rioters it is not an analytical time, but a highly emotional time. If the community does not create a continuous improvement momentum for it’s citizens, frustration will pull people backward again and riots will happen again.
So where to go from here?
There is nothing more powerful for healthy individuals, a companies, or a communities than a positive upliftting shared vision. And “shared” means shared engagement and involvement that leads to a wide spread sense of ownership pulling people forward in their shared belief in their future success. When this positive tipping point is achieved, constructive momentum takes on a life of it’s own.
The citizens have many grievances in Baltimore. This will pull the community backward again if those grievances don’t get a fair hearing and treatment in an overall continuous improvement process.
The first thing to do is to start a credible and trust worthy community-wide team building process including all strata of citizens to work together to create the new vision. The team should have enough authority represented that they can believe that improvement actions will follow. It also needs to be led by someone who is in it for the long haul and not quit when things get tough, because they will.
Such a cross-functional team should include citizens of all ages and interests, business owners, government workers, police, educators, spiritual leaders. Resist the temptation to get all postive folks. This is a partner making process. It is an opportunity to enlist some of those who have felt the most disenfranchised!But all must be committed to participate as though they are on the same team.
The temporary vision is that everyone will roll up their sleeves together and work as partners to make the community continuously improve in ways that are most important to all. But the team, once formed will create the actually vision and signs of success from which real actions will flow. Then they begin planning, steering, and monitoring, and celebrating the success milestones as they are achieved.
The excitement and good will that will come from a credible process like this, will begin to reestablish the forward pull of creative tension to a future everyone owns and believes in.
Without vision, the people abandon restraint,
but those who obey the Law are happy. Proverbs 29:18
Next Wednesday – How to create a Team Vision.