Keeping an [Organizational] Journal

Many recognize the value of a spiritual journal; keeping a journal is a spiritual practice that is of significant value in reflecting on and interpreting one’s spiritual journey.    I want to consider here the particular value of a journey for sense-making and learning within organizations.  And, in particular, for growth in wisdom – institutional intelligence – when it comes our capacity to understand how organizations work and in particular our effectiveness within organizations.   To consider that our experience within organizations can be a source of continued wisdom and learning such that over the years we see, observe, consider and learn from our observations.  To be a “reflective practitioner” – that is, that our experience of organizations, notably the one of which we are a part and where we are investing our energies, is a source of on-going wisdom and learning.  We reflect intentionally on our experience and there-by learn from the experience and gain some measure of wisdom that can inform our effectiveness.

A spiritual journal will include reference to our relationships, our prayers, our experiences outside of the workplace.  But I am considering here the value of journal entries that make reference to the workplace – the organization where we invest the bulk of our energy.  The danger is that we would go through the ups and downs and challenges of organizations  and not reflect on our experience or learn from it.   My suggestion is that we be intentional with a regular journal entry that identifies themes from our experience of the institution of which we are a part, including the following.

What do you value – points of gratitude and appreciation about the place where you work?  What is going well?  Make it a habit to identify points of encouragement and grace.   We so easily default to complaint; make it a point to see the good, the positive, the reasons why you value working in this place.

Where is there conflict and what does it mean?   What tension arose or difficulty or challenging relationship?   How did you handle it and make sense of it?  What might you do differently if a similar situation arose in the future?   If this is an on-going source of stress, what do you sense is to be your response.  

What task did you do – a project or objective or perhaps an appointment or a hire that (1) went well, or (2) did not go so well.   When we have a role to hire and appoint within the organization, we never get it right 100% of the time. But we should learn from our successes and our mistakes and grow in our capacity to read situations and people better so that we learn how to hire more effectively.   But otherwise, make a note of a project completed or a contribution made that was either very well done or perhaps less than well done.  And consider the implications or potential implications of either.

Where are you being called for patience – for living with a situation or a problem that is likely not going to be resolved or fixed anytime soon.  Perhaps a key administrator has just been appointed for another four year term and this is not something that you would have supported.   But, you have to live with it and make the best of it.   As such, identify in your journal where patience is called for.

And, of course, what is required of you?  What action do you need to take?   Where is there a danger of despair or procrastination or a lack of courage to do what needs to be done?  I once read a guide to journal writing that suggested that each entry also includes “what do I need to do differently?”   And yes, perhaps there is a regular “action item” in your journal.  But it is my experience that what I am called to do – where courage to act is required – comes, as often as not, when I see a thread emerging through multiple journal entries, perhaps over many weeks or even months.   Thus the value, every few months, of going back over one’s journal to see what themes emerge that might not be noticed in the day-to-day.

How often do we make a journal entry?  It does not need to be daily; but, ideally, at least every week to ten days.

Institutional Intelligence is the capacity to work effectively within organizations.