Dancing the Tango of change in 2018

Are you ready for 2018?  Are you stepping back into work with a stumble or a spring in your step? 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 Aspire Celebration event and hear great presentations on the complex challenges we face within the public sector such as digital transformation, the 21st century public sector manager, recruitment and retention to top posts. Great to hear such fantastic research, different thinking & actions and recommendations that would make real change happen.

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

Taking a systemic view – mapping and understanding the systems we work in can offer different insights and ways of working. Thinking about your 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.

What’s 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’s unexpected? Whose bumping into who? Who are the dancers?

These human systems and dynamics are at the heart of all our work in enabling change.  The quality of relationships between people and between organisations, the conversations that spark actions.  With many inter related factors and relationships we need to work within the flow and movement of the change as it happens.  To be flexible and comfortable with ambiguity, 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, then it is time to improvise, to create something new.    Understanding your strengths and limits, building trust with your partner, learning to listen and communicate, to continually 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. To develop not only our technical skills but a greater self-awareness and self-knowledge to develop our own ‘ instrumentality’.  The deeper our personal understanding of ourselves the more powerful we are as change agents.  Making purposeful choices of how we use our skills and thoughtful ways to influence others.  Stepping courageously onto that 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 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

Article by Karen Dumain, Programme Lead for Organisational Development, NHS Academy

(find out more about Karen here)

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