I have had this question, or rather, more specifically ‘can I make a difference’, ringing around in my head for some weeks now; largely I suspect prompted by the calling of the general election which as I write this is but two days away. Alongside this I have also been working on a staff engagement issue for a client which centres on the employee’s sense of not being a real part of the organisation; just people doing a job. Quite poignantly mid-sentence we have just observed a one minute silence on my train in memory of the victims of the recent terror attacks. We are told by our government leaders that enough is enough and it’s time to take a stand; make a difference. The question though is how and who?
Deep inside all, most, of us is a sense of wanting to be part of something, wanting to influence things and to know that we are valued and our life and service counts for something. Even those who disagree with that statement probably only do so because they have given up on a dream, or never been encouraged, to become anyone significant; however, we each may define that. How and where do any of us find this?
Going back to the election I live in one of the ‘safest’ seats in the country and my individual vote is unlikely to significantly change anything; however, if me and about twenty thousand others all decided not to bother then would we be happy with the outcome; I doubt it. The moral for me then is that even when we don’t think the action we take is particularly relevant or will change anything it is part of a set of compound actions that just might; or at the very least might stop an outcome we don’t want.
Compound actions are something that interest me from a work perspective and especially working in a whole systems way with clients on improvement projects and especially continuous improvement. Very often it is the one additional idea from the person who has previously never spoken out that can make a difference. Improvement is about thinking through, based on good fact and data, what change can result in an improvement (not just change), testing out the theory and then moving on to the next stage. Intelligent use of the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) improvement methodology can make big differences through a series of smaller steps; rather than thinking we must achieve the ultimate transformation in one big move.
My encouragement; you can make a difference and so can I. Don’t wait until you think you have enough in you to become the next superhero; start now, today with what you have in you. Have that conversation you didn’t think would count, send the email, make the phone call, write the blog or plan the novel. If you lead a business, maybe think about how your organisation can be more inclusive, more empowering, more listening. All of us can learn more about managing and being the difference. Enjoy the journey!