The tide had washed ashore hundreds of starfish. They would soon die of exposure. Chris was tossing the starfish, one at a time, back into the ocean, in a slow, meditative movement.
“Why do you bother?” her friend asked, overwhelmed by the sheer number of starfish dying. “It won’t make any difference.”
Chris stopped for a moment, looking at the starfish in her hand. She replied, “It will to this one.”
[Author unknown, but greatly appreciated! If you or anyone you know has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as appropriate.]
In my OD work, I am predominantly concerned with building the capability of organizations to execute their strategic plans. This almost always has me wading into structure, policies, processes … speaking of integration, of alignment…
It’s all about the complexity of the system.
I admit: I need to be reminded that it is also about the simplicity of caring.
Structures, processes and the like don’t say “thank you.” They don’t express an affirming empathy for a customer’s exasperation. They don’t put aside everything when an associate needs someone to listen.
Ultimately, it isn’t the system that performs. It only enables.
People perform. And people who care, make a difference!
Not rocket science, I know… but, for leaders — and organizational consultants (ahem) — it is important not to lose this perspective.
And aren’t we all — regardless of our roles — leaders? So when, in the daily ebb and flow of working, we see others needing a hand, and if while helping we wonder if we’re really making a difference; don’t we have the opportunity to answer much like Chris tells her friend in the story as she’s about to save the starfish in her hand —
“It will, to this one.”