Congratulations, the work you’ve been doing is done. Your quarterly report is submitted. Your product is in customers hands. You’ve finished a year of teaching eighth graders. Your patient has left your care recovered. Your book is published. Whatever it is you do, at some point you complete your work and get ready for the next phase, cycle, or period of doing–redwork. Before we jump back into the doing work, we need to pause and reflect on the work we’ve complete. We shift from redwork into bluework. This is an important break in the redwork where we inject reflection and improvement.
When we want to improve work, we first need to admit it could be done better.
Improvement comes from egoless scrutiny of past actions, and deep reflective thinking about what could be better-it is the core purpose of bluework, which is meant to improve redwork.
In order to reflect on our work, to think about it in a way that invites scrutiny of past actions, we detach our ego from our work. You did the work, but you are not the work. When ego protection is our default, we defend our work. We make excuses on why or how things did not go according to plan, how it’s not our fault. This is the prove mindset of the ego – to prove your worth, to prove your abilities, to prove your relevance, and to prove what you know. In short, to prove you are “good.” These are the ego protecting behaviors of the “be good” self.
To get better, to allow our work to get better, we need the Improve Play.
Simply asking people to participate in the Improve Play creates a conflict. During this play, we discuss what should be done differently next time. To improve we need to admit it could be done better. We replace “I did good enough” ego statement and instead say “I did work hard on that, but I also know I could do somethings different that would make it better.”
Improve is a specific play as well as the objective of the redwork – bluework operating system. Improve pits the “get better” self against the “be good” self. The desire of the “be good” self to defend itself will crowd out efforts to get better. In order to open ourselves for improvement we need to tame the fears of the “be good” self. This may sound like a tall order but it’s a easy as exchanging one sentence with another. We call this “act your way to new thinking” instead of trying to think your way to new actions.
Replace the language of the “be good” self to the the language of the “get better” self:
From “I didn’t do anything wrong” to “How could I have done this better?”
From “We did the best we could” to “What could we do differently?”
From “We’ve always done it that way” to “What does this look like from your perspective?”
Improvement happens through collaboration and completes a chunk, slice, phase, or cycle of “work.” The output of the improve play is the next hypothesis to test and launches us into the next phase of redwork with the added improvements. Improve also sets us up to commitment–commit from within.
Improve is about reflecting on what we’ve done and making it one better. In our office we say “Can you plus one this for me?” This language signals “I need help” or “I’m looking for new perspective/fresh eyes,” and even “I’m looking for feedback on what I’ve done so far.” Every time we use this language we are invoking the “get better” self.
For more “say this, not that” examples of Don’t be good, get better, download our free handout.
To learn more, watch this Nudge – Leadership Nudge® 300 – The “Get Better” Self