Dancing the Tango of change in 2018

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Karen Dumain, national programme lead on organisational development, talks about the importance of change for the year ahead.

How is 2018 going so far? Are you stepping into work with a stumble or a spring in your step? Are you ready to take to the dance floor and embrace the opportunities and challenges for the year ahead?

Back in December I had the privilege to be part of the Local Government Association’s Aspire Leadership programme celebration event and to hear great presentations on the complex challenges we face within the public sector: digital transformation, the 21st century public sector manager, and recruitment and retention to top posts. It was great to hear such fantastic research, and see how different thinking, action and recommendations can make a real difference.

At the heart of these presentations, and our many public sector challenges, is the intricate and complex dance of change that is here to stay in 2018 and beyond. How can we boldly step up and take to this dance floor with skill, determination, ambition and grace?

Taking a systemic view; where we map and understand the systems we work in, can offer different insights and ways of working. Thinking about the system you work in and the changes happening there. In complex systems, change results from the interplay of many diverse and inter related factors. Gaining insight into which elements are important and understanding how they interact to see the whole picture is key.

What is the view from the balcony down to your own dance floor? What music are you dancing to? As you watch the movement on the dance floor, what patterns are being created? What is unexpected? Who is bumping into who? Who are the dancers?

Human systems and dynamics are at the heart of all our work in enabling change. The quality of relationships between people and between organisations are the conversations that spark actions. With so many inter related factors and relationships we need to work within the flow and movement of the change as it happens. We need a shared vision and intention and a broad framework of how to do this, but we also need to be comfortable with ambiguity and be collaborative and flexible in our approach.

Which brings me back to the passion, fire and skill of dancing the Tango. Taking lessons to dance the Tango you soon realise that after learning some basic steps, it is time to improvise, to create something new. You understand your strengths and limits, building trust with your partner by learning to listen and communicate to continually co-develop your technique. To dance the Tango well there’s a non-hierarchical relationship between the two dancers where communication, co-operation, understanding, intuition and versatility are key.

For me there’s valuable lessons to learn from dancing the Tango:

  • Develop not only our technical skills but a greater self-awareness and self-knowledge to build our own ‘ instrumentality’.
  • The deeper our personal understanding of ourselves, the more powerful we are as change agents.
  • Make purposeful choices of how we use our skills and thoughtful ways to influence others.
  • Step courageously onto the dance floor to lead, influence, guide and enable change.

So, thinking boldly of the year ahead what would your dance be? What steps do you need to take to be the best that you can be and make the most difference?

And remember, you won’t be dancing alone.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” Margaret Mead

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