Kathryn recently joined The Ready HQ in New York. We sat down to ask her a some questions about her path. Here’s a look at our conversation:
What have you been up to before joining us?
I have been consulting for many years — to all shapes, sizes, and industries. For the last six, I ran my own practice focused on organizational strategy, leadership, communications, culture, and design. By sheer accident, I worked primarily with female founders who were often at critical transition points around growth and change within their companies. Together, we grew startups, pivoted 10 year old business models, re-branded, invested in people and culture strategies, and embraced and aligned visions with operating strategies.
Prior to that, I worked for a boutique communications consulting firm based in D.C. We were qualitative researchers whose expertise was in simplification. We discovered data-driven solutions for federal agencies, large financial institutions, research companies, and healthcare institutions around technical, organizational, leadership, and regulatory communication and organizational issues.
Leading change efforts, growing companies, clarifying and simplifying communication strategies is essentially what I’ve been up to.
How did you find your way to The Ready?
As I was looking for my next adventure, I wanted a boutique home base and the capacity to impact at a larger scale than I was willing/able to take on alone.
When I met this team, I was quite clear that together we’d be able to go on a great adventure together, inspire each other and our collective thinking, design new ways to serve clients, and potentially expand the field. But, there was definitely some frog kissing, doors closing, and windows opening along the way.
What pulls you to organizational design work?
I’m pretty certain at this point this work chooses you! I always joke that in my next life I’m going to come back as a plumber, accountant, or teacher… something very concrete and tangible.
Needless to say, in this one, the work I do is often amorphous. But, I get to solve riddles and am privileged to design solutions for sticky and important challenges that affect a lot of people in important and meaningful ways — the work they do, the money they earn, the services they provide, the solutions they design, the impact they make on people and the planet.
If you are a curious person who enjoys grappling with questions and allowing for bold ideas and innovations to show up out of processes that are laced with ambiguity, randomness, messy-ness, and high levels of discomfort… well, you get a bit hooked. Ironically, the not knowing is the pull.
Why do you do this instead of anything else?
When you practice this work for long enough, it’s no longer something you just do, it becomes who you are and the way you approach most things in life.
Even if I decided to do something else in my day-to-day, I’d still be doing this work in the process. I’m a vehicle at this point! I do also consider the work I do to be some version of “my art” that I put out into the world and my way to be of service.
I’ll know when it’s not time to do this work, in this way anymore, but this last year taught me that time isn’t now. Too many people need the help to get us out of all the big challenges we face as a people, a country, a world, and a collective. We have too much work to do.
What are some of the biggest influences on your thinking?
I am somewhat of a purist, so I still rely on the forefathers in my academic field (applied behavioral sciences). They rarely fail me when I need answers or a container.
I’ve been looking to neuroscience, Eastern philosophies, and quantum physics for a while. Blocks and barriers to change — individual, organizational, (political…) become clearer when we are willing to investigate how our minds work.
We begin to see the expanse of the mind yet the limited way we use it, what brain muscles we flex too much (as a culture and hard-wired in our education system) along with the areas we don’t fire up nearly enough.
Being in this conversation begins a wholly different conversation about transformation. The front brain isn’t going to solve the messes. Our intuitive minds, however, are an entirely other tool. Thirdly, I’m a big fan of reflective practices.
What’s one thing that people are not talking about in regards to how to make organizations better?
Change begins with individuals.
That is leadership theory in four words.
We can talk all day long about changing organizations in the abstract — but it’s all rhetoric until people do the hard work of changing their behaviors, patterns, narratives, perspectives, and habits that keep organizations stuck. Change is a choice; you have to do change. You can’t think your way through change. That is both how simple and how complex it is.
Living systems ( e.g. human systems, immune systems, solar systems, ponds, oceans, etc.) rely on three things to thrive: interdependence, self-organization, and diversity.
Baked into our DNA is the deep knowing that we are all connected at the deepest level, that we have the capability and freedom to do anything we want to do at any moment in time, and the appreciation for variation and difference. Anything short of that just runs up against nature.
We can and do make it more complicated all day long, but it’s not. Just do your personal work — or at a minimum intend it — and by default you are making organizations better… and without the need for a committee meeting!
Want more? Sign up to get our newsletter This Week @ The Ready delivered to your inbox every Saturday. Receive links to our latest articles and perspectives on org design, technology, and the future of work.