September 25, 2017

Archives for July 2013

Interrupting the patterns—once we notice them

Woman making an emphatic pointSometimes it feels like we’re actors in a drama, just showing up on stage and saying our lines.

We’re creatures of habit. We repeat the same patterns over and over, unconsciously for the most part.

That’s also true of our interactions with other people. We go through rituals with them—set patterns with particular individuals. One action leads to a particular kind of response; that in turn results in another action of ours and so on.

The thing is…

It only takes one of us to disrupt the pattern. Almost any change to a step in the sequence will break the mould and probably result in the other person becoming aware of the need to do something different as well. We don’t need to rely on that though because we’re no longer fuelling the fire ourselves.

The first step is to notice there is a structure, and then decide how to take the energy out of it, if it’s a problem. Just saying “you could be right” instead of “I’m not sure about that” might be enough.

In other words, turn left where you usually turn right. After you’ve noticed you have a choice, that is.

Which patterns could you do with interrupting?

(Some may be worth reinforcing, of course, if they lead to useful outcomes.)

Do you notice when you have a choice—when you could take different turning? Or do you roll right on by?

Corporate organisations—more mindful of the human being or less?

Executives listening to a presentationWe seem to live in divergent times…

On the one hand, corporate organisations are becoming more procedural, more numbers-driven, more top-down in their approach. (That’s a generalisation of course, and perhaps not even an accurate one, and there are certainly notable exceptions.)

At the same time, as individuals, we seem to be becoming ever more aware of the need to be more human, more connected, and more mindful of our interdependence.

It seems a rather obvious dichotomy.

And yet…

Many of the large organisations are doing what they do on our behalf, one way or another. (For example, even the head of the Church of England finds to his annoyance that his organisation has an indirect interest in a financial operation he has just come out against.)

Organisational leaders, despite their own personal humanity, seem rather powerless to change the rules.

The holding of formal authority can sometimes be a constraint rather than an opportunity.

What do you think? Are our organisations increasingly divergent from us as human beings? If so, what’s the answer? What is the evolution we need and from where will it be led?

What is the key to balancing organisational effectiveness and efficiency with common humanity?

Or perhaps you think the premise is mistaken and our organisations are doing everything we need them to do.

Being real vs. being consistent

Man thinking, looking upwardWe want people to be consistent. It makes it easier. We know where we stand.

Or do we?

Where we stand might be an illusion, if the other person isn’t being real.

Being genuinely consistent requires us to be certain, but as Richard Bandler said, “Any time you feel absolutely certain of something, that’s a sure sign that you have missed something.”

And we are conflicted beings much of the time, with many opposed considerations to reconcile. Working on those is the journey of a lifetime.

So, certainty tends to be elusive and the best we can do is be real; to be true to ourselves in the moment.

Then at least, others will really know where we stand, even if only for a time.

And when we choose to be real, as it says in the Tao Te Ching, we will

“Take on difficulties while they are still easy; [and]
do great things while they are still small

…and so achieve greatness.”

Which do you choose—to be consistent or to be real? Or do you believe can you be both?

How do you finish the unfinishable?

Depending on our background, certain kinds of tasks are easier to tackle than others because different types of work require different mindsets…

Smaller, more discrete tasks can be worked on until they’re finished. (Good to do the high priority ones first, but remember the low priority ones need to be done sometime.)

Exhausted computer userBigger, more amorphous but still bounded tasks need a time-based approach if we are to stay productive—work from morning until lunchtime and then from lunchtime till evening, for example, with appropriate breaks at intermediate times. Stick to a timing discipline like that, in our own shift system, and we can get through the biggest of labours.

All fairly familiar…

But what about the tasks which never end? Like websites, social media, reading, and so on. How can we best organise ourselves for them?

My experience is that the best way is to decide that between this time and that time, we will work on one of the endless themes, like a website, then in the next time slot, we will switch to another theme, and so on. Keep that pattern up and we make good progress and are freed from the burden of trying to finish the unfinishable.

So three kinds of work organisation then…

Task-based, shift-based and time-slot-based.

Worth thinking about which suits you and the task best.

How do you finish the unfinishable?

What do you gather round to build the team?

Group working on a projectEngineers discussing a drawing always seem to get along well. It’s a great way to strengthen relationships in the team, whether within or between organisations, and often a good activity to suggest to create a conducive atmosphere—to establish the right energy in the room.

That is a frequently observed behaviour of my profession, and I saw it again last week.

There’s something about the ritual of unfolding or unrolling a large drawing of something rather complex and interesting which draws engineers together. It’s what they’re into.

And no doubt…

Something similar is true for other professions. Looking together at work in progress or the completed article or even some kind of sample illustrating a problem all seem to have the effect of building community. And community is what we need for learning and change and growth.

Looking at a model of a new building, for example, draws people together.

How does all this work?

The key is the rapport-building effect of all standing (probably) or sitting looking at the one thing, typically rather closer together physically and mentally than would otherwise be the case, whilst various people in turn speak about what’s in front of us.

Sitting together round a table talking about information on a projection screen achieves a little of the same effect but not nearly so much.


What do you gather round when you want a special effort to build the team?

It’s sometimes worth creating some “props” specifically to make connections amongst people. That’s how board games work after all.

Maybe it’s a game to play with a board too.