Not long ago, a colleague described her four-year-old Blackberry as “ancient”. In organizations, campaigns and projects come one after another and often overlap. There are changes in structure, technology, policies, and personnel, plus new demands from the environment. Leaders and managers are expected to produce results and people. It seems there’s hardly time to run from one meeting to the next, let alone reflect.
In times of swirling change, reflection can be the difference between blind reaction and purposeful action. Especially for organizations seeking to change the status quo, reflection is essential to ensuring that means and ends are aligned, otherwise we risk recreating the same system and dynamics we exist to challenge. For example, what good is it to claim to be for empowerment yet only tell people what to do? How true is a democratic process, whether in an organization or country, if the process weighs against informed participation?
Today’s challenges require new ways of seeing, thinking, and doing. Yesterday’s solutions won’t automatically apply. Reflection is the gateway to innovation, for individuals and organizations. Individuals, in leadership positions or not, benefit from the self-development that reflection supports. The ability to provide new ideas, devise new approaches, and work effectively with others improves with contemplative space. Practically, this means examining the contributions you make and are best suited to make. It means looking at values and the ways you manifest them. Reflection is an unflinching look at reality, without blame or judgment. Options include journal writing, meditation, and work with a trusted partner who will help you think and, thereby, see yourself and your situation anew.
I find daily reflection useful, even 10-20 minutes can show me the next better move. Weekly, monthly, seasonally, or yearly—each interval reveals the bigger picture. Like the view from an aircraft, different time frames provide different altitudes for viewing your life and work.
Organizations often suffer from a dearth of collective reflection, which is the key to maximizing the contributions of team members and building strategic effectiveness. We need the magic that happens when people develop approaches because they were together. That magic can be cultivated through ongoing reflection practices.
During and at the end of meetings, projects, or campaigns, ask:
- What happened?
- What were the intended and actual changes or results?
- Why did those changes or results happen? Be exhaustive in the exploration.
- What assumptions did you carry that influenced your decisions?
- What am I learning about myself? Others? The team? The work?
- What are we learning about each other and how we work together?
- How can we improve our working together?