It takes only three mechanisms to build a fundament for sustainable development – personal and organizational. Following these basic principles is introducing to us a basis for continuous improvements.
Understanding – only those things we think we understand, we can have an opinion on. It helps us to challenge a status and build a vision of the things, which might come. It does not really matter if we create an understanding for things affecting ourselves or others. It is more important that we can share the understanding, as it enables us to reflect on feedback.
Feedback – as we want to settle our understanding, we are dependent on open feedback. Challenges provide the certainty that the current understanding works in a given context. It allows to adapt it based on different views. Feedback leads to more robust understanding. As feedback requires an open exchange, it helps us to build trust in our own capabilities and the capabilities of others.
Trust – when we decide to keep moving on continuously, we must agree that we cannot have everything under control all the time. It thereby requires a good portion of trust to keep improving – trust in the capabilities of others, but also trust in our own capabilities and believes. In a trustful relation we are able to build up a common understanding on new aspects.
With understanding, feedback, and trust we have discovered a set of mechanisms leading into each other. They are forming a closed loop of continuous improvement.
Even though our motor is running on ist own if we consider the basic mechanics, we cannot assume that our motor will run smoothly all the time. When our motor starts stuttering, we need to take the right measures to keep it going. Fortunately there are carriers, which help us to keep going.
Consent – when we start to do hard to come up with a common understanding, we sometimes need to agree to a consent. Instead of looking for a complete understanding, we restrain ourselves to the obstacles we want to keep away. When we move on to the feedback, we can catch up on the understanding again.
Realization – experiments or examples can be a driver for realization, when we do hard to transfer understanding into feedback. Sometimes an experience helps us to have a better grasp of the ideas behind the understanding. A description of what we can see or what we feel is an indirect form of feedback. It can help to come to the point via that carrier.
Acceptance – we cannot expect that feedback is always positive. It sometimes is hard to build trust from a negative experience. Thereby feedback always must be constructive. By then we need to accept that things might vary from our understanding. Acceptance of other opinions or alternative ways forward will help us to pertain trust and gives us the chance to challenge our own understanding.
Consent, realization, and acceptance are tools which help us to continue improving, even when we have a temporary miss on one of the mechanisms.
While the mechanism are very basic, there is a reasonable explanation for them to work under any circumstances: exactly these simple mechanisms will keep away all obstacles, which will prevent improvements otherwise.
Obligation – whenever we lack understanding, there is a risk that we make it an obligation. A gap will be filled with something, which will stop us from moving on. As we cannot provide or collect feedback on obligations, we get stuck.
Excuse – instead of looking for open feedback, we tend to come up with a rectification of our understanding. But an excuse will form an counterpart against the acceptance of feedback. While trust follows up on constructive feedback, the disregard of feedback is another reason for getting stuck.
Challenge – we tend to move on from feedback too fast by replacing trust by challenge. As we think we understand what something means, we prefer to make it a challenge to get a proof. Reflecting on it and narrowing down implications is left open. This does not help to gain new understanding from trust, but leaves us rectifying the current understanding. We get trapped as we need to make use of excuses as soon as a challenge fails, while it is likely that we would have required further understanding for being able to cope with it. As we do not get to an improvement of the understanding anymore, we are stuck.
When we give room to obligations, excuses, and challenges, it is very likely that we get stuck with our improvements. To come around these risks we have to adhere to the mechanisms and make use of the carriers to move on, while keeping the obstacles out.
Postface – confidence is the fuel of our motor. While a running motor is producing confidence, it becomes a perpetual motion machine. A decent running motor is what we understand from being in the flow.