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Create Dangerously: Burning or Building

Are you burning things down or building them up? There is a popular “forest fire” analogy suggesting that things need to burn down to make room for new things to grow. If you burn it down, do you have some growers around to build it up afterward?

In Robert Greenleaf’s essay The Servant as a Leader, he notes that “It’s easy to criticize and analyze what’s not right", but harder to become “an affirmative builder of a better society”.

Greenleaf states that the “danger is in hearing the analyst too much and the artist too little”.

How much do we actually build in our daily work? In my work as an Agile Transformationist, it’s often about ditching the bloated, wasteful processes that are in place. And yes, we do build new ones, but often not enough. Many Agile transformations have burned down the whole value creation process and only rebuilt the delivery teams. That’s why Agile at Scale has become so popular lately because there’s a smoldering pit where your strategy used to connect with execution.

Affirmative Builder. What is an “Affirmative Builder”? To me, this means that you are creating something that has a positive impact on your world. It doesn’t have to be a “thing”, it can be language or a process that leave people better off than they were before and helps them grow.

Process Building Counts. Affirmative building of a process?! Think about processes that you’ve used in the past, have they helped you grow? A process that adds a checklist of forms and approvals is often serving the fears of the person implementing the process. When people are a slave to the process, it’s not serving them. Think about what you can do to build a process that serves its users, helps them do their jobs better, helps them grow.

Create Dangerously. What does it mean to Create Dangerously? Being a builder is not always easy, but the dangerous path is the creative adventure, and the creative adventure is where the unique, authentic value comes out. The safe, easy path is unfulfilling and doesn’t build a better world.

Artist or Analyst. Analysts find flaws and artists build. Greenleaf suggests that analysts are solving problems with what exists, but artists are building something new. Most of us play both roles. Think for a moment about your job. What parts of your job requires you to build? What part of your job requires you to solve problems with existing structures? Can you do more building in order to reduce the problems that need to be solved?

Are you building or burning? Let us know!

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

— Theodore Roosevelt

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