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Making innovation work for good. T:@inspirechilli

Monday 12 November 2012

Managing Now

The last few weeks has made writing rather like trying to cross a formula 1 motor racing track; no sooner have you’ve tip toed forward that another news story comes screaming round the bend to knock your head off.  In between the meltdown of BBC mis-management and the onset of the silly season for charity xmas campaigns, I’d like to ‘retreat forwards’ as Roland Barthes once said, and amble a while in the pit-lane.

‘Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow.’ So sounded the clarion call for the dystopian nightmare of Mitt Romney as the world’s most powerful leader.  That was yesterday though, a pile-up on the track avoided as Obama won by being the car least likely to explode.  Somewhere between the ‘Yesterday’ of the Beatles, and Romney’s almost Annie-like threat of  ‘Tomorrow’, we find the real challenge: staying conscious to the moment, being present, creating now, making change happen here, living life in this reality.
People, seize the day!  But no one uses that slogan, not in this (human) race.
Truth is, we rather like the grand narrative of yesterday and tomorrow. One allows us to bask in the power of nostalgia to reshape our history; and the other allows us to dream a future better than where we are now. Both have their positive uses; but both are used too often to negative diversionary effect. We are a humanity that seems incapable of facing up to the fact that we are what we are now – and what we are now, and what we will be tomorrow just like we were yesterday, looking at the state of inequality and ecological decline in the world, is not an image many of us would want to see reflecting in the mirror.  The now that is lost in yesterday and tomorrow needs a stronger and more honest focus in our actions.

Let’s call a new approach that counters these narratives ‘Managing Now’.  The ability to target resources to the need and goals of the moment in a way which keeps the past alive and builds the future.  In other words, our ‘Managing Now’ isn’t the crisis management of a moment without connection to time; it’s the intelligent and authentic management of what is happening, has and will happen.  Exactly not how most organisations and institutions run.

Just think how many strategic, operational, delivery and project plans you have lived through, where the delivery of the perfect future has been packaged up with seemingly little regard to the in-your-face ‘gap’ between  the rhetoric and reality.  Just imagine how many staff are employed to plan for a tomorrow which doesn't come while missing its seeds in the today around them. The logical thinkers will keep building their Stalin-like plans without realising that the plan they obsess over is the problem. There is no plan to solve where we are.  There is no magical plan that can function on its own merit.  We’d like to think that planning is a sophisticated development tool, but truth is, it’s as false as Mitt Romney’s centre-ground rhetoric.  It’s an illusion of complex logic, a car that drives our minds into circles.  It’s a plan asking for another plan to plan a plan by.  

Managing Now thinks more about people, about creating the autonomy and authenticity within us all to make now happen so that tomorrow can change through it.  The art of inner-vation. The responsibility that we are only 'all in it together' if we are conscious and autonomous to create the 'it' we are together in. Without that, the rest, as a modern Hamlet may pronounce, is soundbites, spreadsheets, and tweets.
Which is why we need to stop singing about tomorrow and yesterday. The talent is already in the room, the real race that matters is not the cars but us.  What are we doing to live this? It's all happening, right here. Roll up, roll up...

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