How does one learn good judgment? à Experience! AND, how does one gain experience? à Bad judgment. –Anonymous
Process and Content are inseparable.
Consider, Gentle Reader that our Culture is caught up in separating ‘process’ and ‘content.’ What does this mean?
Think about this: Executives seek to improve fragmented policies and strategies without addressing the fragmented and competitive relationships among the managers who formulated them.
Twenty years ago I spent a year working with a senior executive and the twenty managers who reported to him. Our focus was on ‘relationship development.’ The executive had spent months attempting to get his managers to improve what he and they deemed were fragmented policies and strategies without exploring the relationships between and among all of them. Only when they switched their focus to their relationships and addressed their relationships were they able to successfully address the fragmented policies and strategies.
An Understatement: Relationships are crucial. This includes the relationships between and among the human beings and the relationship that involves process and content. Too often people in organizations ignore, or minimize the importance, of both.
Consider: ‘Bad News!’ How often do organizations embrace a ‘culture’ that is fear-full of ‘Bad News’? Many years ago the Board of Directors of a large not-for-profit asked me to work with a CEO who was not able to invite nor embrace ‘Bad News’ [I am now thinking of Roger Smith of GM who, many years ago, told his direct reports that he did not want to hear any bad news and learned about GM losing 20% of their market share to the Japanese via the newspaper. When he confronted his direct reports they reminded him that he was clear: He did not want to hear any bad news from them].
My work with the CEO and his senior leadership team involved exploring their own reactions to hearing about ‘problems’ – especially problems that were brought to them by their direct reports. Over time they were able to surface and acknowledge their own fears and their own defensive responses to them. As they developed more effective ‘acceptance and coping’ skills and capacities they were able to co-create a culture that was more open to and accepting of (actually a ‘seeking out’) ‘Bad News.’
Charles Handy reminds us that reflection plus experience is the learning. My experience is that a ‘Culture’ is more open to learning in this way (reflection-experience) if the people in the ‘Culture’ are able to embrace their ‘fears’ and discern a ‘need’ to learn (think: shift, change, transform, evolve). Many years ago my mentor, Lowell, told me to ‘embrace your fear and as you are holding your fear look behind it and you will discern courage waiting to be called forth.’
This image continues to serve me well and it has also served others well these past 45 years. Lowell’s counsel reinforces the power of imaging. Professional athletes, for example, know well the power of imaging – if you can see it you can do it. This ‘power’ can also serve all of us well – if we have a ‘need’ to develop the discipline.
Too often our idea of learning is not transformational but is more likely to be transactional. In fact, in our Culture, the conventional notion of learning is transactional…
Consider: the more basic and therefore the more potent an assumption the less likely it is to be examined. –R. W. Smith