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Pablo Picasso was painting Gertrude Stein’s portrait. 

Gertrude said, “I don’t look like that.” 

Picasso replied, “You will.”

– Cited by James Baldwin in a 1984 Paris Review interview.


Whoa!  Ouch!

How about Pablo; painting it like he will see it!

And, judging by her reaction, Gertrude didn’t think it was a pretty picture …

*     *     *     *     *

There’s one or two OD/change management lessons here.

Yeppir …

First off, how the organization performs in the future may hardly resemble how the organization is performing today…

Time — aging — will have its way.  Things will change.

Without the critical development of structure, process, culture, and talent, time — and change — will wreak havoc.  Capabilities will erode.  New capabilities will be needed.

What is needed is an artist’s rendition of that future picture; and it’s needed now

Luckily, there actually are people in organizations that have that prophetic artistic vision.  They are scattered throughout; they do their day jobs in plain sight, with diverse titles, and responsibilities, working from the top, bottom, and middle of the organization chart …

All they need is a blank canvass, and the opportunity.

And a healthy dose of courage.

For, like Gertrude, leaders will likely not like what they paint.

“We don’t look like that” they will say, with some indignation.  Because the portrait of the organization’s future is, well, not pretty.

“But we will …” is the sometimes timid, sometimes frustrated, sometimes exasperated response.

*     *     *     *     *

I remember a long time ago running into a particularly striking list of critical leadership attributes.  The first one was “see reality.”  I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that at the time.

Now, I’m not quite sure there is any better gift to leaders than a projection of what will happen over time and through change.

1.  The people with the special ability to project need to paint the picture like they see it.  Like it will be.

2.  And the leaders need to see it; really see it; and start making plans …

If not … not pretty.

For real.

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