Imagine you’re on the dance floor of a nightclub (a hazy memory of mine as a parent of a one year old!). You’re trying to see what’s happening on the main stage, how busy the bar is, who else has come to party... but in the fray of sweaty dancers, taller people and flashing lights, you can only see directly around you.
Now let’s take this to a work context.
You want to improve something at work (for me currently, it’s about how we can make customer service a better, more ‘effortless’ process), but with the day-to-day pressures and personal assumptions we all have, it can be hard to see more than the short-term deadlines you’re facing and to be blinded by your own preconceived ideas.
So what do you do?
You get onto the balcony (credit to Heifetz and Laurie for the balcony analogy).
You step away from where you are currently to take a different vantage point.
And suddenly you’re able to see so much more than you were before.
This is what all SameRoom projects do - enable people to take time to step away from the day-to-day to see an issue from a different angle.
And in doing so, you start to see the assumptions you’re making. You have time to talk the situation through with other people. You surface different opinions and diverse thoughts. You see what tactically needs to be done for change to be possible.
So why don’t we do more of this?
The reality is that ‘getting onto the balcony’ seems like an easy thing to do. But it’s incredibly hard to do in practice.
It means you have to avoid being swept up in the day-to-day. You have to actively choose to attend something that can sometimes feel like an additional pressure on top of the other work waiting for you.
But it’s worth it. And here is what I’m noticing is needed in order to stay on the balcony:
We start all our SameRoom meetings with a ‘check in’ - where people share the deadlines they’ve got on their minds, or the worries (personal or work-related) that they’ve brought with them so that we can set them aside. This allows us all to have an understanding of where each of us is and, in expressing what’s going on for us, we are able to put our worries to one side and be more fully present in the meetings.
The staff member who leads the group is really good at reflecting back what we’ve each agreed to do at our meetings and testing how realistic this is alongside what else is going on for us. This is not about playing small and having little vision for where we want this work to go. It’s about ensuring we maintain momentum and are accountable to each other for what we’ve agreed to do.
Our group is quite diverse in representation - from digital to front-line customer service and from the insight team to myself from organisational development. It’s also quite diverse in personality with some optimists, some pragmatists and those who see the big picture or the little details. We all come from different places and so see different things from the balcony. While this means that it might take longer to explore what we can see, it also means that we get a fuller picture of what is going on.
These aren’t all the ways that we stay on the balcony...but they’re a good starting point.
I’d be really interested to know your thoughts about what allows you to get and stay on the balcony.