Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Jul 2021

Slowness of Competence

One of the challenges found when involved in transforming organizations is this analysis of the friction, or speed, which comes with changing behaviors and perceptions. Often, this can be perceived as remarkable because of the lack of speed activated, the immense depths of structures, or even an admission towards entropy (ignorance?). Nevertheless, ‘competence’ is a challenge one must bear record and determine success or not-quite-as-successful. Otherwise, what passes as competence when change agents are present, merely shows as a memory of what shouldn’t be not long after they have left.

Change agents, when they are analyzing the friction that new behavior or perception cause, can often be their worst enemy. How? Because the speed and adaptability that makes this change agent appropriate for the task, also puts them ahead and behind the group that they are in charge of fostering towards that behavior or perception. Those folks who have been around long enough will realize that they are both ahead and behind at the same time; and have to navigate communicating while also not thinking for their customer.

On the other hand, change agents are also adept at recognizing the immense depth of workflows and structures that prevent actualized change from being recognized. This ability to perceive the depth and width of structures is another challenge for this change agent. Not so much because they speak with depth and accuracy, but they need to realize a means to curtail that depth and accuracy in order to steward change in a language best received by their client.

Lastly, this change agent has to be honest with what is being told to them. For many organizations and teams, they often evangelize change, innovation, or modernization. But, when you get down to the nuts and bolts of who they are, they will often admit that their success is due to accident, or to ignorance or two some kind of uncontrollable luck. This should not discourage the change agent. In fact, this should encourage them that they are indeed competent enough to follow thru with the desired activities. How they do this… a bit of self-awareness, a bit of self-marketing, and other items outside of the frame of the client-customer. Only, then can they find just the right tonality with which to engage not only the journey at hand, but have something left to record the lessons for the next moment.

To these points, competence it’s a slow burn. It’s very quick to be described, very quick to recognize the lack of it. But, to become the thing that happens after the change agent has left (“the person who puts down the gravel after the change agent has cut the road“), is to become hewn and sharpened for other journeys, other environments. Slowly. Deliberately. Intentionally.