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Artisans and The Art of Recovery
The key to consistency.
There was a line in the commentary of the first (brilliant) match in the Ashes series that really struck me. It concerned the strategic importance of “recovery strategy” in individual and team performance. Different to resilience as a reactive quality, this was about recovery as a pre-emptive strategy. Knowing that working at capacity is an episodic capability that needs to be prepared for because we know if we are going to be called on to work at capacity, it will be time-limited and carries a cost.
But in the “always on”, short-term performance cultures that define much of business and other organisations that are predicated on performance measurement, we prefer to talk resilience, something available “on tap” to mitigate the damage done by overwhelm. Sport understands better, particularly those sports that, like Test Cricket and Endurance sports, only call on resilience when something goes wrong. They plan for periods of recovery in order not to have to call on resilience in anything other than an emergency. Relying on resilience is poor leadership, management and strategy.
Thinking about it took to work by Johann Hari in his brilliant book, “Chasing the Scream”. In a wonderful piece of work, there are three ideas that stand out for me.
The first is that addiction is caused less by the power of the substance we abuse and more by the circumstances which have led us to self-medicate with it.
The second is that the therapeutic power of one addict helping another is without parallel,
And the third is that the opposite of addiction is connection.
These are powerful notions, and it is not too great a stretch to make a connection to the way we encourage people to work. Vainly looking for relief in an environment that deprives people of meaningful purpose and time for emotional connection.
I also connect it to the subject of capacity, which has been a frequent theme on this blog. Quite simply, if we are working flat out, without time for reflection and recovery, we are heading for failure, with the only variables being how soon and how big.
If, for the organisation, we are disposable parts, that is no big problem, just a cost factor. If, however, it is our business or work that is an important part of our identity, the cost is potentially unsustainable.
The enormous amounts being spent on “wellness” and “resilience” in organisations is hardly a signal of a compassionate workplace and more an indication of priorities.
We know that disruption is coming. Relying on resilience is a high-risk strategy. Planning for recovery time at the “expense” of short-term efficiency is what gives us consistent high performance over time, as well as enabling us, and those who work with us, the opportunity to live fulfilling lives mastering something that matters to us.