How to run a birthday party AND a business

Jack's 3rd birthday party - the chaos that isOne of the well known analogies used by Dave Snowden to how knowledge management works well within companies/organisations/communities is the "Child's Birthday Party".

He recommends They did not respect or sit still for the devotional sacrifice as the 'definitive' reworking of that analogy (original here in a PDF).

In a nutshell:
... we have a birthday party strategy. The goal is for everyone to have a safe and enjoyable time. We have specific and measurable objectives we want to accomplish. We have identified the key milestones from now until the party. We have a timeline to follow, including a tabletop exercise. We are assuming a three-hour operational phase followed by a two-hour recovery. That evening, we will conduct a hot wash to identify any lessons learned to build into next year’s birthday party planning.


Socrates: It did not go well?
Glaucon: Let me count the ways. It rained for most of the day. More children and parents attended than we planned for. Some of the people arrived hours before we were ready. They brought food, gifts, and animals and changed our careful arrangements into utter chaos. Some of the animals went into my study and scattered my projects everywhere. Organizing the children was like trying to get puppies to march. They did not respect or ...


... make boundaries, create attractors, stabilize the patterns we desired and disrupt the patterns that threatened danger and harm.

Whilst we would like to think we can control outcomes using projects, task lists, review sessions and many many Word documents we know deep in our souls that they don't give the best result, a result that includes a satisfying outcome for all those involved and not just the 'stakeholders' ("those holding lumps of meat" as a colleague recently called them).

We could be forced into pipelines using officially sanctioned behaviours and language but I suspect we would all rise up and storm the HR/PMO pods within weeks. Or we would simply slag off the company and leave.

Of course the alternative is harder. It involves people (and not tasks, outcomes and budgets - which are factors but not the only ones). People are hard to control - as Jim Morrison would have it, "People are strange when you're a stranger" - if you don't know the people, their quirks, their likes, their dislikes then it's bloody hard. Getting to know people takes time and effort which isn't instantly rewarded and therefore justifiable in a 'time is money' organisation.

It also takes acting/thinking from the emotional side of our beings as well as the intellectual (where the "ToDo" list is held). It's both the centre path and collaboration between these two facets of our selves.

This is hard for a middle-manager who sees themselves as a 'cog in the corporate wheel' to do, the environment/culture "provided" doesn't allow for such 'fluffy thinking'. Of course the concepts don't have to be sold as 'fluffy' and the language used to talk around how this might be a way of working is key to being able to progress such an approach.

Also - it's hard, but then again most leadership is.
But so worth it for your 'self' and for those that are affected by your behaviours. I ask you to think passed the project deadlines (false as they generally are), think more on what people really want, how you can "influence" it (make boundaries, create attractors, stabilize the patterns we desired and disrupt the patterns that threatened danger and harm) and letting them get to it. As we've recently heard from Creating Passionate Users:
... support people in doing what they're trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way


Popular articles

Make Your Public Event Calendar Usable To All

Signs Of Old

The Difference Between One Million And One Billion

W. C. Fields quotes

Venues Long Gone