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.