Pay Attention to Your Surroundings – Scanning Your Environment


We live in a busy, go, go, go world. We are bombarded with messages from social media, from emails binging our phones. There is a need to constantly answer and provide immediate satisfaction to our cravings of the NOW generation. Our brains are being hard-wired to see and process stimuli at a pace that humankind has never seen before. This is causing employee burn-out, lack of employee engagement, and a recent phenomenon, the quiet quitting experience. So, what can be done? How can we turn back the clock to a more relaxed time? I am sorry to say but as a society we cannot stop progress. The need for speed, quicker automation, faster response times, and more now, now, now, will continue to increase. The good news is though, we can monitor ourselves and provide guidance to our clients on techniques and frameworks to help with burn-out and low engagement. 

One exercise I take my university change management students through is an organizational culture observation exercise. The goal with this exercise is to view and report on organizational artifacts that are normally missed. The setting that I recommend is a local establishment or grocery store. What my students do is they sit on a bench or somewhere within the organization and just watch people. Yes, people watch. I have them take a notebook and record what they are seeing. What are the artifacts and espoused values that are being displayed?  

Artifacts might be:

  • Cleanliness of the Organization
  • Employee Dress
  • Communication Patterns between employees
  • How employees interact with clients, guests, or shoppers
  • How bright is the light?
  • Are there many people present or customers?

Espoused Values might be:

  • Employees smiling or frowning
  • Happy to be at work
  • Pride in the organization
  • Do they seem to follow standard protocol based on the type of organization?
  • Are employees or managers on their cell phones?

This exercise is not to get anyone in trouble but a simple act of slowing down and observing situations we take for granted daily or just see, process, and store away with little thought.  

Though this exercise is geared specifically for university students studying organizational change and organizational culture, there is a lot of value in just slowing down. The reflection that I get from my students is that they never realized how much they miss. Think about what we miss in our own organizations? Taking the time to just see your surroundings or by taking 5 or 10 minutes to reflect on the day is a great exercise that can be used within a team dynamic or just for self. From a leader’s point of view, we can observe behaviors, engagement concerns, and unhappy clients or employees. From a self-perspective viewpoint, we can observe burnout and work to avoid it, or we can talk with someone about it. Wherever you are, you need to stop and pay attention to your surroundings otherwise, you might miss something of extreme importance. 

Even those who are already in the workforce can benefit from slowing down and reflecting. You can learn more about how this may help you and how to be more effective at change management through OD certifications at the Institute of Organization Development. (IOD)


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