Give Me A Place To Stand On And I Will Move The World!

Archimedes

As per Pappus of Alexandria, Archimedes, in reference to his lever and fulcrum is reported to have said, “give me a place to stand on and I will move the world!”. If there ever were a big audacious goal, nothing gets bigger than moving the world! Now, the world in our context needn’t necessarily be the world we live in. As entrepreneurs, engineers, business leaders and companies we all live in our little worlds. More often than not our worlds comprise our organisation combined with the ecosystems upstream and downstream of our organisations.

Going back to the quote, there are four distinctive elements; the mover (Archimedes), a place for him to stand on, a lever, and a fulcrum. Let us look at each of these individually and bring these together at the end, with a few questions for you to think about.

The Mover: In this quote it is Archimedes. In a more general term it is anyone who can make things happen, due to numerous characteristics, including but not limited to technical knowledge, people skills, persuasion, ability to see the bigger picture, resources they control and many more. Every company will have one or more movers, who bring something of value to the company, enabling it to move in the right direction. The movers have the ears of others. The movers make things happen. The movers have the ability to dream of, see, and do things that others simply cannot cope with. This brings us to the first question:

Q1, Are there such movers in your organisation and if so, do you know who they are?

However, simply having movers alone will not help. What they need is a place to stand on.

The Place to Stand On: In our context, the place to stand on not just refers to a physical space, but the level of freedom, authority, control, and responsibility these movers have in your organisation. It is true that when the movers speak, others listen. This happens because the movers make sense, they see the bigger picture and can, with certainty foresee the outcome of various actions, and to a great extent, influence these outcomes. It is like when a Grand Master is playing a game of chess, where they have the ability to see what will happen in a few moves down the line. Now, if the movers are not standing in the right place, i.e. they are not being listened to by top leadership, then it will more than likely result in unfavourable outcomes. More importantly this could lead to disillusionment among the ranks. This brings us to the second question:

Q2. Where do the movers stand in your organisation?

However, simply standing in the right place alone won’t’ help. They need the levers to move things.

Lever: The dictionary defines a lever as a rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to move a heavy or firmly fixed load with one end when pressure is applied to the other. To simplify it further, in this case, the levers are the tools with which you equip your movers, in order to make things happen. This could include resources such as people, time, budget, inventory and technology to name a few. Without the right lever, or the tools, the movers cannot move anything. Going back to the definition, the words ‘a heavy or firmly fixed load’ are of particular importance. When applied in context, these refer to the organisational inertia, which most of us encounter, leading to remarks such as ‘nothing ever gets done on time’ or ‘it takes ages to get things moving’ and so forth. This brings us to the next question:

Q3. What levers do your movers have at their disposal?

However, a lever alone won’t suffice. It needs a fulcrum.

Fulcrum: The dictionary defines a fulcrum as the point against which a lever is placed to get a purchase, or on which it turns or is supported. Let us focus on the last part of the above definition, which is underlined for your benefit. In your organisational context, the fulcrums refer to your culture, processes, and values. Does your organisation have the right cultures and the right values? Do you have processes that enable things to happen as opposed to coming in the way? For example, in an SME manufacturing organisation in the North of England, the standard practice was to wait at a particular manager’s desk to get his signature, no matter how long it took. Now, that’s bad on so many levels, due to a number of reasons. Having the right values, culture and processes involves leading from the top and empowering from the bottom-up. If the top leadership doesn’t see the potential of its people, then something is missing. This brings us to question four:

Q4. Does your organisation have a fulcrum to support the lever?

Now that we’ve looked at the four individual elements, I cannot stress this enough: It is necessary to have all four elements in the organisation. Even if one of these is not available, then nothing will happen. Let’s have a look below:

  1. Mover + Place + Lever – Fulcrum: The mover at the right place using the lever has nothing to support the lever against.
  2. Mover + Place – Lever + Fulcrum: The mover at the right place with a good support system with no resources.
  3. Mover – Place + Lever + Fulcrum: The mover not being taken seriously at the top, but has resources and support elsewhere.
  4. Place + Lever + Fulcrum – Mover: A question of finding the right person.

My question to you today is this: Of the four scenarios listed below, rate them from the worst case to the best case with your reasons why.

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