Understanding people and their “caring centers”

Let me start by introducing a model where I will present people as a hierarchy of systems governed by its own laws. Please note, the following DOES NOT PRETEND to be a model of truth but rather a model of understanding).
People as a hierarchy of systems:

Laws governing the hierarchy of people systems:

Law #1 No system can create a second system as sophisticated as itself.
o Corollary: No system can conceive of the sophistication level of its creator.

Law #2 No lower level system can be used to either measure or control a higher level system.
o Addendum: Any attempt to do so will have the opposite effect.

The first law has a special meaning with respect to people because the human is a composite of a hierarchy of systems. The first level system of the humanoid is the spirit, the primary system. The body, second level system is not as sophisticated as the spirit, not even able to comprehend the sophistication of it. The brain, not the physical brain that is part of the body, but the thinking part, the intellect, a third level system is not as sophisticated as the body, let alone the spirit. The thinking brain has a special task, to maintain awareness, “Cogito ergo sum; I think, therefore I am.” No wonder that we nurture the idea that our intellect runs the show. And, indeed it does, but only as a delegate, and when the show it’s running displeases the spirit, or the body for that matter, it gets interrupted, just as the Controller of a company is overridden by the President or Chief Financial Officer on such occasions.

Because we are social creatures, we created a fourth-level system called language and everything else that mankind has created is a fifth level system; e.g. government, law, sciences, et cetera.

This model of understanding says that we can’t build something as sophisticated as we can talk about and we can’t wrap our tongue around as much as we can think about and we can’t even think about the sophistication level of our body, and our spirit is yet more sophisticated and runs the show.

Each of us can relate some life experiences to this model. Maybe you were driving your car and suddenly found yourself skidding to a stop, your foot hard on the brake, before your mind registered the yellow blur of a dog dashing across your path. Maybe you’ve spent some summer day hiking along a railroad track, with nothing better to do than see how far you can walk along, balancing on the rail, and you noticed the more you think about what you’re doing, the sooner you fall off.

The secret to the efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, happiness, power or just over all well-being of this hierarchy of systems called the humanoid, is harmony; harmony between your spirit, your body, your brain and your mouth. We all can recognize people exhibiting this harmony. We say “He speaks from the heart” or “She carries commitments well” or “She’s easy to deal with.” What we are witnessing is the extra energy they have to apply to authentic communication with others. We can also recognize when they don’t have it. They tend to be defensive, evasive, and sometimes unduly suspicious. There is something missing in their communication. Guess what? It’s energy. Their energy of attention is being consumed internally.

Next post: The need for proper use of subjectivity when “managing for energy”.

We are diminishing a lot of individuals’ spirits and losing a lot of productivity

Too many people in today’s working environment are frustrated, unhappy and/or in pain. Another way to put it is that we are diminishing a lot of individual spirits and losing a lot of productivity. Management systems can be and should be modified to enable people to improve their productivity as well as the quality of their working lives.

As individuals we spend our lives jockeying between two parameters, boredom and fear. The human psyche will not allow us to exist for any significant time in either of these conditions. Some people flirt with the fear side because they abhor boredom. Others have learned how to handle the edge of boredom and prefer to keep fear at bay. In any case we all swing from one parameter to the other. At any one time we are pursuing one of two goals, freedom, or security. In the pursuit of security we create systems. We want to take advantage of what we have learned, so we establish disciplines to control ourselves and others such that we have enough consistency to predict performance and/or outcomes. We continue to build such “walls” until we have satiated our desire for security, and we feel trapped, walled in; whereupon we eventually turn around and pursue freedom, knocking down the very walls we built until we find ourselves in the middle of a cold, windy corn field, frightened; and we turn around and start the cycle all over again.

On a macro scale, societies follow a similar cycle with a longer frequency. Our society, today, is pursuing security and getting close to the end of the cycle. The lobbying for collective protectionism is starting to disturb our sense of freedom. The fastest growing industry in North America today is Lawyering! Our management systems are under suspicion of being too cluttered to allow the flexibility required to meet today’s fast changing markets. Our once stable organizations are beginning to look stale and are facing two options, change or crumble. We’re downsizing, rightsizing, merging, breaking up, restructuring, re-engineering, et al.

And bouncing around in the middle of all this shake-up is “our most important asset:” people – spiritually hamstrung at the very time we need them strong. It’s time for a shift in the way we manage this powerful resource. To do this we have to understand people and how their sophisticated caring centers control their respective interest and energy of attention.

Next post: In my next post, I will explore this.

Management in terms of what’s going on – Who Cares?

When we hear the expression “who cares?” we usually think the speaker is saying that he or she certainly doesn’t care and perhaps that we shouldn’t either. If we are in a sensitive mood we may consider that someone is questioning our character. Put all that aside for now because throughout this blog when I refer to caring I’ll be talking about interest, or what Michael, my associate, calls the energy of attention that fuels the authenticity and power of our acts.

What does a manager do? There are only three energy consuming management activities: worrying, dreaming, and being interrupted. We dream about what might or might not happen. The product of this is planning and organizing. If we set ourselves to plan without dreaming, all we can do is make a list and if we haven’t done any dreaming since the last time we made a list, we can use the old list. We worry about what is or is not happening and the product of this is directing and controlling. If we set to direct without worrying, all we can do is call a meeting and if we haven’t done any worrying since the last meeting, then we’re likely to have another useless meeting. We are interrupted by someone whom we have asked to worry and dream about something on our behalf. His or her worrying and dreaming has become combined, at night, and the loneliness of this nightmare has encouraged him or her to get back to us for help. This is called the delegation process.

Since people don’t worry or dream about something they don’t care about, we can combine the two words into one, “caring.” Management then is all about caring and a management system is a system for sharing caring. Further we can say that accountability is the word we use to describe what a person is supposed to be caring about. “Who cares?” then means “Who is the single person who’s energy of attention is focused on worrying and dreaming about this?”

Some years ago, the president of a financial institution called on Michael, my associate, for advice. The presidents’ company was nearing the planned completion date of a major computer systems implementation project and he had become concerned that things may not be going so well. On his way to meet with him Mike already knew the project was in trouble, else he shouldn’t be concerned.

“Who cares, George?” Mike asked. “Who are you holding accountable for it?”

“Well I guess that would be John. He’s the project manager.”

Because he voiced it as a guess Michael suspected that the project accountabilities may not be clear. When people don’t all share the same understanding of who is accountable to whom for what, a project is vulnerable to unresolved problems. Such problems are usually difficult to address and since it is not clear who is accountable, nobody cares enough to confront them, and they fester.

They talked on for some time following the “who cares?” question down the project line as far as George knew it and it was apparent that the project accountability line was not clear and visible. Later, Michael talked with John and a couple of others and confirmed his suspicions. The players didn’t all have the same answers to his “who cares?” questions. In other words it wasn’t commonly understood who’s energy of attention was focused on what. Also they seemed uncomfortable and he could feel their pain.

This situation occurs often in project work, much too frequently to be attributed to ignorance or stupidity on the part of the individuals involved. In fact we see it so often that the first thing we check for in a troubled project is whether the Caring Line is healthy where everyone knows who is accountable to whom for what. The problem has to do with the mismanagement of caring energy and the symptom is always the same, pain. The solution is always the same too: establish or refurbish the Project Caring Line, i.e. the structure and process for dynamically managing the current status of project accountabilities and the trust relationships between them.

Next post: In my nest post – after the Holiday Season – I will suggest that we are diminishing a lot of individual spirits and losing a lot of productivity with our current management systems.

Does management exist and can people be managed?

Think of people as individual bundles of energy under the sole control of an internal mechanism I will call “their caring center”. That doesn’t look like it’s manageable. Well you’re right, it isn’t. Maybe that’s why we haven’t looked at it this way before. One of “Murphy’s laws” states “The first myth of management is that it exists.”, and if we think of management in terms of one individual exercising control over another, it doesn’t exist.

People are not manageable. Anybody who’s married or has children knows this but then again we are encouraged to pretend, aren’t we? Yet we all have experienced and witnessed people being managed well, so managing people does exist. We just have to look at it in terms of influencing people such that they manage themselves in a manner convenient to the job at hand.

People are wondrous and powerful creatures. They are each unique, yet it appears that for business purposes we must treat them as if they are equal. Treating them equally is a worthwhile posture but treating them as if they are all equal is like considering them as dead objects.

Let’s look at how we measure project status. The typical status report is designed to tell us where we are in the project with respect to facts; so we use a lot of arithmetic. We count dollars and days and people and milestones, all dead objects of course because arithmetic is applicable only to dead objects; and we display it all in a form that shows objectively where we are with respect to where we planned to be by now. The thing is though; because we are alive we don’t really care that much about where we’ve been or even where we are. We care about where we are going to be. Our energy of attention is focused on our future. Consequently we end up with a report that nobody wants to write, nobody wants to read and nobody believes anyway, and, more painful, a lonely Project Manager.

Each individual’s caring center is alive and continually directing his/her energy of attention toward personal growth. When the environment doesn’t allow this, the caring center directs his/her energy of attention toward changing it. Failing this the individual is exposed to losing self-respect, and then comes pain. If we wish to use the power of people we have to allow for them to manage harmony between their individual caring centers and their actions; and our management systems for the most part fail to do this.

Better to think energy. Our caring center, more sophisticated than our intellect is continually considering self, others, environment, emotion, intellect, history and prophecy, and regulating both the amount of available energy and the direction in which it is applied. At any one time the direction may vary from helpful to hindering and the amount from zero to abundance. The secret to managing ourselves and others lies in managing this sophisticated energy control center and an effective management process has to allow for this.

One of the problems we have with management is that we don’t know how to talk about it. We use words like planning, organizing, directing, controlling, etc., but the words don’t say anything, they’re not instructive, they don’t tell what’s happening. Experienced managers know how to do these things but when you ask them to talk about it, they don’t speak the same language or even tell the same story. Novices have a difficult time catching on. If they have a post-graduate degree in management, it’s even tougher because they know how to talk about it but they don’t know how to do it. We would be a lot better off if we had a common language that talks about management in terms of what’s going on.

Next post: In my next post, I will do this.

People Management and, why it Matters?

In this blog – drawing from a book I co-authored with Michael Howe of Who Cares Motivational Systems – I intend to deal with matters relating to people from a management perspective.

In my first series of posts, I intend to explore how our management systems are failing to take advantage of the full power of the human being:

  • Does Management exist and can people be managed?  I will share with you what I mean by “People Management” and the advantages to be derived from managing them properly.
  • What management is made of, going beyond the “informative” academic understanding of management (i.e. useful in that it helps you look good during the next cocktail party conversation) towards an “instructive” experiential description of it (useful when you happen to be in deep “doo-doo”).  We call it the power of understanding “Who Cares”?
  • I will discuss the current trend in management, where Human Resources end up being managed on an equal basis with other resources which is counter-productive.  I will advocate for the importance of introducing a measure of subjectivity in your Management Practice if you want to increase your effectiveness managing people.
  • I will discuss the importance of Managing “Shared Values” to help support behaviors conducive to getting the work done, the issues addressed and the objectives properly planned and met.
  • I will talk about “organizational plumbing” being as important as “organizational structuring” if the organization is to properly serve its owners, its clients and its employees; each of whom have their own vested interests ; which are, not surprisingly, in conflict with each other.