In the Moment

Being Momenty: No One Works Alone

Erika Bailey

Here at The Moment we have been doing a lot of thinking lately about purpose, and about cultivating a company culture that enables the work we do and the people who do it. As we scan, learn, try, prototype, test, and map what it means to be “Momenty” we are coming across a set of important simple rules that guide how we do things here, and what we want to build for new members of The Moment to join. In this post I want to share one of those simple rules: No one works alone.

(This is a cross-post from our publication on Medium, In The Moment)

Why Simple Rules?

Let me first define what a simple rule is. Glenda Eoyang and her team at the Human Systems Dynamics Institute (HSD) are doing some great work on understanding complexity and developing models and tools to navigate it. The HSD puts it this way: In complex adaptive systems, simple rules provide guidance for ‘decisions’ about how best to adapt to changes in the environment. By using one list of rules as a screening mechanism when approaching decisions and planning, an organization reap multiple benefits.

In complex adaptive systems, simple rules provide guidance for ‘decisions’ about how best to adapt to changes in the environment. By using one list of rules as a screening mechanism when approaching decisions and planning, an organization reap multiple benefits.

Think of it like a set of guidelines that allow enough clarity that users know what is expected, but enough freedom to self-organize and get creative about choices, decisions, and action. Some simple rules can evolve — we notice that they are there and that they help, so we articulate them as rules. Others can be devised and tried out — experience is telling us a certain rule could be helpful in getting us to our purpose, so we articulate it as a rule.

No One Works Alone

At The Moment, one of the simple rules we use that is proving itself increasingly invaluable every day is: No one works alone.

It’s such a simple concept, and not a difficult one to build into structures and work/governance practices. When first articulated here, it reminded me that there are many basic assumptions that pervade business thinking today that hold us back from engaging in such a ‘buddy system’. As business people, we often feel the need to prove ourselves, project glory in our successes, demonstrate our initiative, and show our individual worthiness through struggle and winning.

Putting the No One Works Alone rule into practice is embedding a completely opposite way of thinking. At The Moment, we believe that our work is better when we partner with others; that sharing the glory of successes enables us to evaluate and learn about what works quicker and more effectively; that individual initiative is even more encouraged with a buddy; that help is there when you need it; that buddying-up creates resilience in our work, so our clients can realize greater dreams; that we are just as worthy as contributors as individual stars; that struggle can be helped, and winning will come with great collaborative work.

What about silent and solitary work?

No one works alone does not mean “we must always be physically/virtually together”. Sometimes we need to work physically alone; sometimes our best work comes from that seclusion. You can read more about the need for introverts in particular to work in seclusion in Susan Cain’s powerful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

What does it mean is that no one is alone with a project, initiative, or client? While I may work silently on pieces of work, my team always knows what I’m working on, has had input as part of a collaborative process, and can lean in to support my pieces of the work with confidence and expertise. In short, they have my back and I have theirs. We create a balance of work modes (solitary, collaborative, parallel, etc.) that feed the needs of our work in any moment. We are never alone to keep all the balls in the air, and we are never left to create all the results.

Circles and Buddies

As part of our evolving organizational structure we are organizing work with Circles inspired by principles of the Frederic Laloux’s teal organization by and Brian Robertson’s Holacracy. We’re also avidly following Jacob Morgan’s thinking on the Future of Work to help us figure out the best ways to organize ourselves around meaningful work. We are doing this with great purpose — to catalyze powerful work for ourselves, for our clients, and for a future of people who could work in better ways.

The simple rule ensures that when new projects come up, we create a Circle of people to do and support the work. When small initiatives come up and a circle is overkill, the leader simply asks “who’s my buddy?”. The rule and the practice of living it sends a clear message to everyone we work with that this is how we do things around here.

It just feels right

When it comes right down to it, No One Works Alone is enabling the best of us to surface in our working relationships here at our studio and with our clients. It is a simple rule because it represents so completely who we are as people, and because the work we do is complex and difficult. We have this rule to ensure everyone has what they need, when and where they need it. We have it because in today’s business environment it just feels right to ensure no one is ever really alone.

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