I have an increasing impatience with the world and the way the majority of people out there offering 'Leadership advice, direction and qualification' (under a plethora of 'Best-practice' banners) ... fail to see every action taken, and solution suggested, to be in pursuit of a belief which sits at root of the broken economic model we mindlessly accept as valid.
I witness massive inefficiencies and concern (stress) driven into the day-to-day lives of some otherwise very capable people, just because a process and the 'Target setting' / 'budget consuming' / 'Constant Growth' approach to business has become culturally accepted as 'the way we do things around here' at national and political levels. This is done to satisfy the Keynesian Economic model that is now nothing short of a religion (mass belief system by which the majority live, unconsciously considering the model 'good / God').
This is ridiculous in the extreme. 'Stress', caused physically and psychologically by this approach to life, has debilitating effects on individuals and society. The current approach to 'Leadership development and 'Best-practice', fails to recognise any of the issues related to the 'Psychology of belief' in it's current and very limited view. It is common to hear people talk about 'Behaviours', and even 'Behaviour audits', with absolutely no understanding of what sits behind behaviours and therefore no capacity to consider what conditions they are creating as leaders which trigger either positive or negative behaviours and thus no capacity to understand what would constitute and generate 'Change'.
Today, systemic inefficiencies exist in the absence of tacit and intuitive knowledge. Satisfying this model and related 'efficiency measures', we have 'systematically engineered-out' the creation of true 'knowledge through experience' from our approach to 'education' because of this primary belief in 'Constant growth' and 'more for less'. In this case, 'academic certification' is considered to be ample replacement for experience. It is this naive view that sits as 'root-cause' behind the issues we are now seeing in abundance around ethics, virtue, values, engagement and sustainability ... such issues are the by-product of a shallow world-view and they are all issues that can't be 'measured' by the current 'accounting centric' metrics we use.
There is a significant disconnect between process and people
Latest discoveries in Neuroscience now help us understand why the preference for 'qualification' just simply isn't related to 'understanding' in any sense of the word - it allows us to see the massive disconnect between the two terms ... the same science helps us see that the same problem exist's in-principle when it comes to other 'Belief's' ... like our belief in 'Keynesian Economics' and it's ideal of 'Constant Growth' as possible on a finite planet. Here again there are massive disconnects between our current and popularised 'belief' and what is possible in the long term, in reality.
Today's approach to (so-called) 'Best-practice' also has some significant and fundamental flaws at a deeper level. When we consider the impacts of the prevailing 'belief' it forms in the masses. Yet it is this model that all leadership development and training is designed to satisfy, perpetuating the problem with solutions, based on and designed to satisfy the primary belief which is itself the largest catalyst for the problems we're now facing.
In practice this see's people in offices making decisions that are entirely detached from reality, which make no sense to those 'at the coal face' ... as STANDARD practice.
(You only have to have seen one single episode of 'Undercover boss' to understand the depth to which an executive team can be detached from the realities of the conditions their false perceptions of the world, based on numbers, can create).
Such 'leaders' (I use the word begrudgingly), typically hold qualifications from a recognised school / university or a 'system approved' vocational 'qualification' (MBB etc.), with a nicely framed certificate .... but next to no 1st hand experience of doing the job they are designing.
A real and current example. A Graduate manager is given an appointment in a Borough Council. He uses computer simulation models to design 'efficient routes' for refuse collectors (Bin-Men in old money) ... talk to the Bin Men and we find out they are now doing less in more time, forced to work an 8 Hour day, even though they had previously worked out ways of doing it faster, they are now going up-hill in the ice & snow during the School run. This undermines the arrangements they had become accustomed to when it used to be 'Job and Done'. They are also now 'Scored' (you've never seen such a farce of a scoring system) on their 'Attitude' and the council have used this measure as a lever and a threat to reduce their pay-scale (Especially for those nearing retirement who will get a 'final salary related' pension value. They are now, to a man, disengaged and working to rule ... doing 'Overtime', costing the tax payer more to do less, while all the time, the 'Spreadsheets' continue to show the amazing 'efficiencies' that can be achieved when you put the right people with the right qualification in the right management positions!!!!
Huge inefficiency exists in reality, all because a computer and a manager with no experience sat in a remote office and designed the route 'by committee' (with no Bin Men involved) to satisfy 'The Numbers' ... which couldn't 'contextualise' the situation, or account for the negative reactions it would provoke and it didn't recognise the issues around rush hour road safety that 'experience' builds in automatically.
The same mentality also insisted that these same 'Bin Men' had to have NVQ's to prove they could do the job. One Chap in particular has been on the Bins FOR 40YEARS!!!! He had to have a 22 year old graduate come out and take a photograph of him pulling a lever as 'Evidence' he was capable of doing his job .... and the rest of us wonder why the Government keeps finding surreptitious ways of taxing us to cope with rising cost's in the public sector!!!
(The really sad thing is we all KNOW this kind of inefficiency is now built into the very fabric of society at a 'beliefs' level ... dig a little deeper and the inefficiencies our beliefs are driving would create a coronary attack in most, if it didn't create a riot).
Take any pre-determined (guessed) 'Budget / forecast' and a time-line and you'll find the same kind of inefficiencies detaching activity from the reality of the world in practice.
This type of 'pre-approved' approach sees todays 'leaders' make arbitrary decisions totally disconnected from the reality of delivery, with every confidence they are 'right'. The confidence in their decisions comes from the numbers created in spreadsheets, that, without fail, cannot portray context or understanding, pre-requisite for the adult mammalian brain to make-sense of it's multiple inputs from the world.
We have created conditions that consistently circumvent the 'human' capabilities provided by nature, ironically, what is determined to be 'Good', get's applied as the de facto approach, at our own expense.
This level of detachment through 'common belief', see's many very poor decisions made at a distance and 'time-delayed' from the reality of doing the job. This undermines performance, ownership, responsibility, engagement and many other 'Cultural' issues that the same leaders say they wan't to improve with a new 'Culture-change' HR budget. (Replace wording in place of 'Culture change' as applicable).
It's not about throwing more money at another 'latest-fad' training campaign, because the approach to training suffers the same flaws the leaders who are approving them suffer ... they are all designed and created by the beliefs that have evolved within a system that put's the idea that 'constant growth' and 'efficiency' as reported by 'numbers' over 'effectiveness in practice' at it's core.
It is about challenging this 'belief'. The really ironic thing is that this can be done very quickly, getting leaders to wake up and change tact in next to no-time with very little budget (by comparison), removing many of the issues leaders themselves are creating while stuck in this cultural rut.
One of the biggest issues is the way we've created what are considered 'good communications' which, at a neural learning level are of no-use to man nor beast - I use the following to try and highlight this point.
5 Ways to Convince People Change is Good (or at Least Not TOO Bad)
The article which follows, under this title, was posted by PEX Network in the last week or so .....and I'm afraid, I have to say it sums up all that is wrong with the way we approach business, training, change ... well, actually, pretty much everything.
This approach to describing the root-cause issues most businesses face today (and probably always did, where humans have to work together) is following a recently developed convention in respect to what is considered 'communication', it's snappy, makes for easy reading and simplifies a complex subject.
This approach is unfortunately, superficial at best. In 'Dumbing down', rather than improving communications and knowledge transfer (at a level which promotes neural strength rather than diminishing it), we only keep others one step removed from the knowledge they really require to 'sense-make' from various inputs.
Humans are capable of deriving meaning from a multitude of inputs. Getting involved with the complex allows us to 'discover' (Satisfying 'emotional tags' by hitting opiate receptors along the mesolimbic pathway - in turn providing the atomic level input required by our hierarchical temporal memory), providing a depth of understanding and a capacity to cross reference and derive meaning across experience and time.
However, providing the kind of 'Motherhood and apple pie' statements which follow don't help us understand anything in enough depth to make a difference ....
The points that follow in the article are 'Should' statements, which at best succeed only in telling people what they are doing wrong (psychologically, should implies guilt), but they don't allow us to understand enough to identify what a solution looks like - without this depth, they are of no benefit and will effect no change, they are just talking for talking's sake - typical of most meetings and management approaches taken today and culturally unchallenged in a world which only measures the efficiency with which we attend meetings, not the effectiveness of multiple meetings in the first place.
To help highlight what is really required, I've interjected (in the first paragraph only) with what I consider to be missing from such headlines, using a different colour for the points i'm making.
Author: Diana Davis
Posted: 07/25/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | Included in a PEX Network newsletter of the same date.
“If you want to make enemies, try to change something,” once said former US President Woodrow Wilson. Anyone who has ever been involved in process improvement would probably agree with Wilson’s statement. Change in an organization doesn’t come easy – you have to work against habits (What is a 'habit'? A neural network formed through life experience (Neurogenesis), linked closely to our defence mechanisms, our reactions to given situations are confirmed as right [good], because they've proven to be a reaction which has kept us safe historically, a 'habit' can be emotional and physical, i.e. reacting defensively to anyone who challenges our capacity to be right in our opinions - this is a subject that could take pages to cover ... but you get the point .... if we can't define a 'Habit', haw can we understand how to change it ... psychologically, emotionally, defensively, physically et cetera) - and behaviours (What is a 'Behaviour'? It is the manifest action of all our neural and psychological responses to any given situation, relative to and determined by our fundamental beliefs in what is right / wrong / good / bad and our 'Mood' (often linked to our levels of confidence) at any one particular time, physiological and emotional effects can impact our self-worth and relative levels of confidence which will alter out reactions .. i.e. our behaviours .... changing a 'behaviour' requires a change at this level, often in respect to self-worth / stress / confidence etc.) that have formed over a long period of time…and that involves people.
But it doesn’t have to be that difficult (Are we talking difficult or complex? It isn't necessarily that 'difficult' depending on the level of knowledge one has around the formation of 'human factors', but it is most certainly complex - more complex than 5 headlines can hope to demonstrate to a point they are of any use to anyone at all - especially leaders who have a lifetime of experience which confirms them as 'Right' .... they even have a certificate and a salary to prove it!!!). Here are five ideas to get people buy into change:
#1: Communicate a compelling need for change
If people understand (What is 'Understanding'? Hierarchical temporal memory helps us understand 'sense-making' but without knowing about this level of cross-referencing capability in the brain, the word 'understanding' loses it's capacity to infer meaning and understanding in this sentence ... language and the loose use of it is also a major issue and problem in relation to leadership and change at psychological levels) what the problem is (the operative word at the beginning of this sentence is 'IF' ... people do NOT understand what the problem is, because the current definition is necessarily created by the cultural boundary and belief in Keynesian economics, until we look outside of this self-inflicted boundary, we have no capability to understand what the problem is) and why they can’t continue the way they’ve always done it, (Being told by someone that 'we have to change' is not a sufficient 'Why' for 'why they can't continue' .... to see a change in a person, they have to change what they 'beleive' to be the reality of the situation, and what they consider to be 'Good / bad / right / wrong' ... change is therefore a 'beliefs' issue, where we define and use the word 'Belief' consciously and mean by it, the neural net created through experience - i.e. neurogenesis ... where this neural net is generated / altered relative to experience [imprinting / neuro-plasticity], a 'New' belief will only be encouraged to 'Stick', if we understand the time-scales related to exposure to Physical, Emotional and Social changes which effect said belief) the vast majority of people will accept the need for change. Some people call this process creating the “burning platform” (which is the use of a fear based defence mechanism and if not 'true' leads us into all sorts of issues in entirely new psychological territory including trust, leading by example etc.) One of the most famous examples of this was Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop’s “burning platform” memo published last year (see it here). In it he talked about the enormous changes taking place in the industry and the challenges (both external and internal) that the company faced and established a compelling case to the need to change.
Like Elop, translate the problems and the potential benefits (benefits are not 'rewards', benefits, linked to business issues of innovation, engagement, sustainability etc. are also not the obvious things one might expect people to define as benefits in this current economic belief system ... more money, less time or a training course are nothing compared to a constancy of purpose, congruence in emotions provoked by 'Blame' (also a big issue to understand in detail) from 'The System' (Imagined Targets) and the Leaders attitudes / aggression ... generated by his / her own 'Fear of Failure / Fear of Rejection' if the numbers, imagined in the detached office, are not attained etc., all of this combined leads toward or away from, a sense of comfort and confidence (as long as comfort isn't the catalyst for conditions which breed complacency) and issues of 'Self-worth' ... yet most people are so trapped in the current approach to life within the system, they couldn't identify 'benefit' at these levels if they tried ... this is the reason why 'responsibility' in leaders MUST be developed at these depth's ... leaders are already responsible for so many more 'HUman Factors' (Which impact society and culture) than they imagine while fixated on only the bottom line, but this is what they are trained to focus on, often undermining the profit making capabilities of people at a deeper level in their pre-determined beliefs and focus on what the 'System' defines as 'Good' - i.e. Profit ... from 'Growth' ... which cannot continue indefinitely) of change into a language that your audience understands (That's the ticket! Dumb this down to 'Sell it' as well, this is naive in the extreme, people can 'sense' when other people are not being genuine and when they are being manipulated ... here is where we have an opportunity to explore the infinite capacity for people to pick up on the most subtle of changes in another's approach, if someone is not genuine, authentic, caring, concerned, other people will know and DO know that 'companies' display 'NONE' of these characteristics (Like Bin-Men and County COuncils - you don't have to have a degree to work out that someone in an office is screwing you for their own benefit) .. in the absence of 'authenticity', doubt, scepticism, cynicism etc. creep in, raise stress levels and undermine performance, often through increased sickness and attrition rates, be the claims of illness real or perceived as part of the individuals defence mechanism .... this is the depth at which we have to consider how we are 'BEING' ... not only what we are 'DOING') . If they’re financial types, make sure you speak the language of finance. If they’re marketers, speak the language of marketing. Understand what really matters to your audience and try to place the challenge into a larger context so that people can see how what they’re doing has impact beyond their individual business unit. (IF they are Humans, with feelings, senses, emotions ... try to treat them with the care compassion and concern you'd respond to well yourself ... if you are the type who would respond to a strict, 'rules and regulations' approach, then try to understand the deeper reasons behind this (psychological profile), if you'd respond to a softer approach, understand this and realise the one thing that might work for you might not work for others ... realise that to truly understand another human being, we have to have a high quality 'relationship' with them, and that a 'relationship' is NOT something that can be facilitated through technology ... and that the current beliefs in what is 'efficient' destroys, let alone detracts, from our organisational capacity to develop genuine 'Relationships' between people, as we're all living too fast and are too stressed to hit the numbers a computer says are 'Right' based on another, often detached humans 'best-guess'. Be genuine and authentically you ... don't change your approach to suit others, understand that your belief in a budget or a forecast or any other 'Made-up' number is probably the biggest cause of the issues you claim you want to improve as a leader ... challenge 'Root cause' issues of 'Belief' ... if you don't you won't change a damn thing!
I could continue to pull each of the following statements apart at this level, to help highlight what is missed in this simplistic form of what we loosely call 'Communication', but I think the point has been made ....
If you'd like to develop your leadership and Executive teams at a depth that doesn't just accept the superficiality of the modern approach (as continues below) then call me, e-mail me or se the contact page on this site, I'd love to help you make your organisation (or political party) a place that can think for itself and add some real value to life on this finite planet.
07793276015 / firstname.lastname@example.org
#2: Get people involved in proposing and making changes
One of the worst things you can do is make people feel like change is being done to them. You want to bring people along with you so that they believe in the change. Get them involved in coming up with new ideas and solutions. Let them air their concerns. It might take a little longer in the beginning and the answer might not be any different than what you would have come up with in the first place – but you’ll be a lot further ahead in terms of realizing the vision than you would have been.
#3: Be prepared to adapt your own plans based on feedback
Unless you fancy yourself a visionary like the late Steve Jobs – and let’s face it, few of us are – chances are that your ideas and solutions could be enhanced by seeking input from a variety of sources. It’s especially critical to get feedback from those closest to the work - managers may have fancy offices and job titles but chances are your frontline workers will have the best understanding of the real problems and impact of any change. Make sure you understand their feedback and don’t be afraid to adapt your plans based on new information.
#4: Commit to the change yourself in action and not just words
Making change happen within organizations is essentially about replacing old habits with new ones. And think of how difficult it can be to adopt a new diet or how easy it is to backslide on your new exercise regime. Changing individual behaviours within an organization is really no different. As a leader within your organization you need to “walk the walk” yourself and make sure that you demonstrate the importance of the change. If you don’t, you can’t expect others to.
#5: Expect it to take time
Have you ever been on autopilot and found yourself driving somewhere or walking somewhere just because it’s your normal routine rather than because it’s where you were going? We can often find ourselves doing things that we didn’t intend to because the pattern of behaviour is so engrained.
Even small changes can take time to filter through and be truly adopted. People forget or it feels like too much effort so they circumvent the change. There’s a good reason “control” is part of Six Sigma’s DMAIC cycle! Don’t abandon change just because it’s taking longer than expected - it will just be added to the scrap heap of corporate initiatives and make it even harder for people to believe in change next time it comes around.
And finally, if there’s one constant, it’s this: just when you get it right and everyone’s used to the new way of working…it will be time to change again!
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Perhaps the most worrying thing is this is the approach being promoted as 'Best Practice' globally by the machine that is incapable and / or unwilling to challenge it's own beliefs.