25 Houses, 25 Lawn Mowers

In 1993, Burkard Sievers wrote a book entitled Work, Death, and Life Itself that hardly anyone other than his family read. More of us should have read it. We’d have a better understanding of the world today and slightly less anxiety.

As an organizational development professor, he has made it his business to understand how organizations work. Here’s what he had to say about motivation. “Motivation is a surrogate for meaning: motivation only became an issue when meaning was lost from the work place. This is the result of the splitting and fragmentation inherent in the way work is organized. Therefore, motivation is not a discovery: it is an invention.”


These days, fragmentation and loss of meaning in work and community lie close to the heart of many of the world’s social disruptions. Said another way, we have come unraveled. We are less humanly connected; many of us do not know our neighbors. All the motivation in the world will not be enough to weave us back together. It will take effort and craft.

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, has started a movement he calls Weave: The Social Fabric Project. I encourage you to follow the link and listen to Brooks describe the work of Weave in his own words. Brooks is working to mobilize people and communities through shared experiences and service of others.


Mobilizing is an essential leadership craft for people leading social change interventions. This significant work is a core activity required to build a movement. Most of us are not so good at this work because we lack some awareness and capacity to bring people along and enroll them in our movements. But we can learn it.

In the neighborhood I grew up in (old-fashion story coming), everyone knew everyone. Any adult could ‘parent’ any knucklehead kid who was doing something stupid. We shared everything from food to tools. Not everyone in my neighborhood could afford a gas-powered lawnmower, so we shared the few there were with those who needed them. We were woven together.

Today I live on a cul-de-sac of 25 houses and we have 25 lawnmowers. I know about half my neighbors by name. I need to get to weaving.

Share this post with your connections

Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin