Upper- and Undertow

In order to show effective leadership skills, it is essential that everyone learns to look at the reality in a multiple way. In this respect, it is desirable to have several pairs of glasses available to look at the reality. (‘Who doubts truth, lives up to the truth’- Plato). For this purpose, you can methodically use the Uppertow and Undertow model. The classification categorises roughly and directly the elements that are visible and not (immediately) visible.

In order to manage personal and organisational changes, it is necessary that we create a collective reference framework and one common language. The B/O model is very useful for this (please refer to the aforementioned ‘The Unwritten Rules of the Game; Senge’). We divide the reality into a model of two types of elements to learn together what the meaning of these elements is.

Both the elements in the uppertow and the elements in the undertow play a role in everything we do. Both are present in daily work; thus it is about thinking and-and and not thinking or doing or-or.  An isolated view on the uppertow alone or the undertow alone is not sufficient. If we only look at the daily practice through uppertow glasses, we will see the reality as a machine which needs to be regulated optimally in order to achieve the objectives in an effective and efficient manner. If we only look through undertow glasses at reality, we may be surprised to discover an environment in which it is very pleasant to be, but achieving business objectives becomes dependent on coincidences. We are inclined to look through uppertow glasses at (daily) reality. We talk about realising the strategy, achieving KPI’s or setting up a new organisational structure. At the same time, we get our energy from undertow elements.

In the undertow, we notice that the trust between people or division is smaller, that people are not very happy when at work, that there is a sense of cynicism. A pleasant work environment is often described as an environment in which people work together with a lot of mutual trust, in which people work together in a pleasant way, in which people respect each other’s opinions, in which we are proud of the company, the products and services and each other. Applying undertow elements will help us create this environment.

Therefore, it is about integrating both streams. The reason for an effective analysis of the real situation is often found in the uppertow , as the necessity for change results from not achieving objectives which we discussed in advance. However, it is emphasised that there is just one reality and that it is, therefore, essential to make the connection. The balance between the uppertow and undertow becomes clear as is the way in which changes are effectuated in daily practice. By making improvements in both the uppertow and undertow at the same time, we notice that sustainable results are booked. Not only the processes and systems are improved, but people also enjoy their work more and collaboration strongly improves.

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