Beautiful Work.

How our Organisation’s Purpose guides what we do.

Structure & Process uses an explicit company purpose statement to guide its work. I recently wrote about encounters for meaningful collaboration – our company purpose until July 2017. I have also written about Purposeful Organisations in which people love to work in February 2015.

Over the years that Structure & Process has existed, our purpose has changed many times. We have moved between “large”, “high”, more abstract goals or visions, and more down-to-earth manifestations of what our company intends to bring into the world.

We are looking for words that inspire and guide us: They tell us what to put attention to and what to work on. They should also be inviting for others to engage with us. We are looking for a quality that “opens” – that invites new conversations about things that matter – and that “closes” – moves to action – at the same time.

Flipchart on 'beautiful work'
The first flipchart on which “beautiful work” appeared – June 2017

We phrase Purpose positively, as an outcome that we want to see in the world: At the same time, we acknowledge the flipside of every positive statement: A sentiment of pain or suffering, something that is “wrong” or less than ideal for us, and calls for improving, fixing, bettering.

Over two Partner Meetings this summer, we changed our company purpose again. It became, short and simple: “Beautiful Work.”

Our current company purpose: “Beautiful Work”

When we started out with Structure & Process in 2012, we noticed that many people around us were dissatisfied with their work: They disliked their work environments, their bosses, their coworkers or their staff. Some questioned the meaning of their work fundamentally, being disillusioned with capitalism and looking for more depth in their work.

Then I noticed that I was not happy myself: I loved my freedom and autonomy as a self-employed person, but missed the deep connectedness and shared meaning that I had experienced living as a Buddhist Monastic.

One of the buildings of Won Kwan Sa International Zen Temple, where I spent two very good years between 2008 and 2010.

I wanted to

  • work together with others, sharing a deep sense of meaning
  • while being fundamentally free to make my own decisions.

I wanted work to be

  • beneficial to all people involved
  • uplifiting to the individuals
  • sustainable to the individuals and the community.

Structure & Process was created to bring this company into reality. It was set up as a place of practise first: to explore and embody our values and principles in our internal and client work, and then to show it to the world and possibly teach what we have discovered.

Following the call of “beautiful work” in our own work

Taking “Beautiful Work” seriously has informed several concrete changes in how we work at Structure & Process:

A healthy Operating Rhythm

A view at Sukhavati Center for Spiritual Care in Bad Saarow, our client and host of our June 2017 Partner Meeting.

I am 36 years old now and have been part of the working population since I was 17. I have been self-employed most of the time. I have travelled much and seen many different companies in many different cultural environments. I have also been a practising Buddhist for over 12 years and spent about 2 years living in a monastery.

One thing I keep on noticing is: Things have their Eigenzeit. Their own rhythms. Discovering and tuning into them is often more helpful than using force trying to speed things up.

No amount of pulling makes the grass grow faster. Rush stresses you out.

“Beautiful Work” tells me to listen into my personal, inner rhythms. To follow them and to see how they converge with my team and clients. To work carefully and well, and not rush.

Having the conversation about our personal rhythms as a company created a pattern which we have captured as our Operating Rhythm: It is the “breath” of our company, our healthy pace for work. It allows for pause, learning and reflection, and balances personal and collaborative time. It makes enough space for client work, and for internal reflection and improvement.

We have also begun cultivating this our client work: Even when designing just a simple coaching session or an individual workshop, there is always space for a good rhythm. Even more so in multi-day workshops or when we plan out  project for a year.

I have been taking more and more naps, even in client offices. My work is better, and so is my health.

Clients find that when working with us, there is no “stress” – at least none that is self-imposed: We sense into the environment and adapt to its natural flow

A place for Aesthetics

The view at Structure & Process Partner Meeting Schönsee, July 2017

“Beautiful” can also relate to the direct physical environment: In busy consulting work, beauty and aesthetics are often sacrificed for speed and short-term efficiency. Care is lost. In the long-term, we find that not only quality suffers: Human beings suffer. Work is not beautiful.

There seems to be something innert to the human condition in that that we enjoy beauty and some of us must create and appreciate beauty in order to be truly happy. In our work, internal and external, we pay attention to our environment: We prepare with care and calm and make beautiful. We adorn the workspace, we place the furniture consciously, we put in the effort that we can to create ideal working conditions and a space that uplifts the spirit.

In our experience, this investment pays off – and we take is as a challenge to make any space we find beautiful.

The Purpose as an Inspiration and a call

The explicit company purpose calls me to assess how I am working: Is this beautiful right now? Am I enjoying what I am doing? Is is providing meaning to me and to others? Is the quality right? Is the pace right? (I typed the first draft of this sitting on a sunny bench in Bürgerpark in Bielefeld. That indeed was beautiful work!)

And when I find something is not inspiring: Is it actually the right thing to do? Or could it be dropped? Is there something I can do to make it beautiful for me?

Bringing “Beautiful Work” into the World

What we do with Structure & Process is:

  • demonstrate, that beautiful work exists, works and makes sense, sustainably, now, fully integrated and successful in a capitalist / industrialist world.
  • advise/consult/teach and show through hands-on collaboration, that beautiful work together with others (clients, supplies and partners) is possible, spontaneously, and in any context.
  • support others to discover beautiful work in their context and build structures that stabilise and evolve our client’s practise.

Please join us for one of our next partner meetings! Invitations go out regularly via our email newsletter.

And if you would like to explore working with us as your coaches, advisors or organisational developers: Exploratory Calls are fun, free, take one hour and give you clarity on next steps in your work.

Be sure to show yourself in the comments here: What is beautiful work for you? We are very much looking forward to hearing from you!

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