A must-read new book
introducing an alternative metaphor for organization change

Beth Fisher-Yoshida, Columbia University and board member of CMMi, reviews a must-read new book by Rik Spann (another board member) and Simon Martin. She says that the authors “ have given a gift to the world” in their innovative and thoughtful book that takes a fresh approach to the workings of organizations.

Rik Spann and Simon Martin have given a gift to the world. They have put together an innovative and thoughtful book that takes a fresh look at the life and workings of organizations. The authors are musicians, organizational consultants, and thought leaders who use metaphors and music as a way to deconstruct the inner workings of organizations and the roles people play within them. Reading this book, while taking their advice and listening to the carefully curated playlist, turned my seemingly complacent understanding of how organizations work, on its head.

Each chapter has a selected song to listen to in preparation for or while actually reading. I listened purely because I wanted to experience what they had in store on multiple levels so I could be in the zone of what they were trying to simulate. They created a multi-sensory experience including a variety of metaphors that painted pictures with their words. They used provocative quotes that stimulate and challenge your assumptions.

Through this sensory experience their book was also deeply grounded in providing theoretical perspectives winding throughout the book, bringing coherence in some locations and deeper dives in others. Each chapter provided a rich resource of options of where to explore further. And each chapter was filled with real-life examples of musical performers, philosophers, and actual real-life people from organizations and the issues and concerns they faced.

Rik and Simon look at the components we use to deconstruct the complexity of organizations in their own unique way. For example, the chapter on organizational dynamics is encapsulated in the chapter on rhythm, including a section on designing for breaks in the rhythm, which we all know is bound to happen. Might as well get ahead of it and design it so that it becomes a part of the fabric of the organization. It is a clever move and one we can relate to in thinking about the rhythm of the organizations we work in and what happens when that rhythm is broken or not synchronous through all departments.

There are Working in Practice sections at the end of four chapters. Chapter Eight on Tone, labels one of the practice sections “congruence in tone.” They go on to illustrate an organizational scenario in which there were grumblings about the day-to-day work life with a decline in engagement. Rik and Simon worked with this organization so that they realized the tone of the ambition of the organization and what they were striving for was incongruent with the tone of what was happening within the organization. Through the musical metaphor of achieving congruence in tone, they were able to work with the organization so they had better alignment between the what of their ambition and how they achieved it. There is a useful Appendix with a listing of all of the Working in Practice examples that take you through five practices for each of melody, harmony, rhythm, and tone.

Each chapter ends with a goal, or perhaps an aspiration. For example, the chapter on melody ends with the section “toward polyvocality” and the chapter on harmony ends with a section on “toward harmonic savvy.” They use their metaphors to the fullest. It was a sensory explosion reading this book, visualizing their metaphors and grooving to the recommended tunes.

This book will be extremely helpful to those responsible for guiding organizations to function better, to create better quality work environments, and for those who are in leadership roles and ultimately held accountable. It is a fresh take on an often written about and explored topic that continues to baffle and confound us, especially when we think we have done all that we could do. There is a rich list of references at the end of the book for you to explore any of the many topics, further. And the other highlight about this book is that because it is a WorldShare book, it is absolutely free for you and available to download from https://www.taosinstitute.net/product/re-sounding-introducing-an-alternative-metaphor-for-organization-change.

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