Journeying

WayFair is a new, experimental organization intended to be something different from a normal consulting company. Whether we manage to achieve this, time will tell. The idea is for us to be a partnership based organisation and to undertake ‘accompaniment’ work.

I think accompaniment can mean many different things. Central to the idea is the notion of journeying, and this is key to all of us who are involved in the start up of WayFair, whether as full time, occasional or interested members. Some kind of journeying is escapist, a rush to escape and a belief that the grass will always be greener over the next hill – or the one thereafter. But our interest is in journeying in its full richness, for individuals and organizations. We talk about accompanying organizations through change processes to help them become more effective, but a critical part of this accompaniment will actually be of individuals, since it is the individual members that make any team or organization thrive; it is their attitude, spirit and cohesion that really make the difference between an organization that is an ordinary run of the mill one, and one that sparks interest and excitement, and is ground breaking and innovative.

I have never heard of nor seen an innovative, challenging organization, in which it’s members are not provided the opportunity to be creative and generative in their work. At the same time, individualism by itself doesn’t cut it; I also have not seen an organization that is truly path breaking that doesn’t possess at least one or two good teams at its core. In fact, it is remarkable at times, how much one good team can change, if it is well authorized and well connected.

Part of the excitement of journeying is that the destination is unclear. We may have one in mind, but we do not know clearly what it will look like. This marks something quite different from conventional strategic planning, or at least what conventional strategic planning used to look like. There is a light but good read by William Duggan called ‘Strategic Intuition’, in which he discusses how the notion of ‘strategy’ entered the English language with the writings of two authors, who both analysed Napoleon, Jomini and von Clausewitz. It is interesting how what Duggan depicts as the two competing ideas that persist to this day around strategy were generated by analyses of the same man. So this tells us another thing too, that on our journeying we will encounter vastly different perspectives; different ways of seeing the world, and somehow we need a compass to see our way through these.

In their accounts of strategy, Jomini was the route marcher – decide your destination, plan your route, sort your logistics, and off you go! Von Clausewitz, by contrast was the opportunist. Not any old opportunist, but one steeped in knowledge of the terrain and the challenges to be faced, and saw the journey as an exploration of opportunity, looking for the right moment, and then seizing it. This is something more profound than ‘carpe diem’, but it captures some of its spirit. And more importantly for all of us involved in the start of this journey, it also encapsulates an idea of personal growth too. Journeying is how we learn and evolve in this life. Not to say that wayfaring as such doesn’t need anchor points and staging posts, and certainly good companions, but it is to say, that really it is everything.