Organizations Big and Little Rely on Communities for Transformation

My work using communities to lead transformation from the inside out has taken me to large, multi-national organizations that include the World Bank, Shell, NASA, Prudential, Project Management Institute, the American Nurses Association.

I have also implemented and seen this work succeed in mid-size companies, with staff size of around 30 – 100. This includes VISTAtsi, National Institute on Aging, the Peace Corps, the American Public Transportation Association.

No less effective, but different in nature, I have helped communities thrive in places with ten or less employees, like the International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, offices of members of the U.S. Congress, and the Association for Conflict Resolution.

The point is, community is everywhere. It’s not just in large, sprawling organizations, or only in small, informal locations where everyone knows each other. We are social creatures. Any time we come together to make a difference in the world, we find ways to self-organize into groups.

Don’t say, Community doesn’t happen here. We’re too big, too small, too multi-cultural, too mono-cultural, too busy. The fact is, if your people are not working together toward bold and exciting results, community is the first place to look.  How well are your people operating socially? And how can you raise the bar?

Here’s what separates the most effective groups from all the others: a willingness to bring community in the front door. Those organizations that embrace the social, not those that force communities to survive in-between the cracks. Which are you? Is there informal time and space to meet? Can people do so without fear of appearing not to be working?

If community is doing well in your organization, ask yourself how to improve their performance. Can you accelerate time to market for new ideas? Can you do a better job of finding the right people and bringing their expertise and experience to bear on circumstances as they arise? Can you find the best and get them to where they are needed the most? Can you mobilize your supporters and turn them out?  In all these circumstances, a more powerfully functioning community can make the difference.

Seth Kahan helps leaders improve performance. His book, Getting Change Right, will be published in May of this year.


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