Ignore the cards, let’s revisit the games we play

Reshuffling the deck

How influential should a leader wish to be?  And how influential should we want them to be?  In positions of administration and mandated service, how much latitude should they even expect to have?

For those of us reliant upon the BBC for our daily news feed, we are being treated to a moment to consider this again.  Boris Johnson moving a few chairs around at the top table of government.  The media offering us plenty of opinion on character, and on motivations.  A little less light on intended change to direction of travel, and how this impacts the affairs of state.

Link here to the BBC report I read as I write this.  Opening line reads

“this is a mad way to run the country”

quotes Laura Kuenssberg of an unnamed member of government.

I am unclear whether this is directed at this reshuffle, this government, or our political system per se.  Hats to fit all heads, I think.

We all deal these cards

Not that these hats are worn any differently beyond our political leaders.  This reflects the reality of daily life for us all.  There is truth revealed here as to each of us in our basic having mode of possession, not the being mode of active participation.  Being present in authority would be to have only the service of those you lead in mind – rather than to covet the trappings of power as to reflect a more personal criteria of having gained a symbol of success. 

No one suit makes a deck

My despair at the political class has no ideology attached.  I’ll happily call foul on either side when the rhetoric is louder than the dialogue. I have been unconvinced of the absolute truth of the individual vs the collective, or the size and role of state, or if meritocracy, utilitarianism, capitalism, or socialism divides our ownerships best.  All reflect boundaries, winners and losers, belief not fact, incomplete judgement, false promises, and a necessary subterfuge of one flavour of human project of ownership against another.  I turned to philosophy only to find it presenting bigger words for the same opinions.   My despair is at the predictability of it all.  The lessons we simply have no way to learn.  That the politics of nation simply reflect the culture of the people, or that the people have simply become immune to the politics that have long since forgotten who they are meant to serve.

But we should be slower to tut and roll our eyes.  Or nail our colours to a mast.  I see nothing here beyond what we each do; in every decision we make.  This is self-interest doing what it does best, taking care of the first conscious being that counts.

We are all Jokers and Knaves

Laura Kuennssberg may delight in that opening quote from the nameless source.  Personally, I think it could be reframed to any company, any family, any industry, political movement, sports team, charity, or international agency you would wish to frame.  We serve ourselves.  Then we see what we can do for the rest.  It is no way to run anything, but it is a way to personally survive.

Aces high and low

Here is the project connection.  We make much of the necessary leadership to ensure a project is organised into the right framework of delivery.  Why is it only ever the leadership that is our focus, and not the infrastructure of the project as a whole?  What is it about our projects that demands so much of the leader and so little of ourselves?  Or more correctly, why is it that I hear so often of the disconnect between the two?  Secretly, we all know why.  But no one dares say it out loud.  We all know how low we can go. That we are fallible. That we are capable of great harm in our selfish moments of greatest charm.  Being seen to do the right thing.  Being focused upon the very exacting standards of behaviour society demands, or our authority have sought fit to define.  We all tick that box when it’s a question of blame.

Avoiding the 52 card pick-up

Let me cut to the solution, rather than add to the rolled eyes. The solution begins at home. Each of us can revert to this notion of being mode, not simply having. We can then look around and ask if others are doing the same. From daily life, this becomes more informed. It provides a little more influence. Generates societal reframing and better questions to ask. It also directs those who ask questions on our behalf. The likes of Laura Kuenssberg to ask the questions of others that she is asking of herself, that we are all asking of ourselves. The better questions become more enlightening because we are more enlightened to our own fallibility. It prompts more fundamental questions. What is motivating this change? Is this action enabling a bigger change to become real or is it enacting something we simply wish to have, or that we wish to keep.

This becomes a way to ask these more fundamental questions at all scales. It is addressing different levels of decision-making against the same basic metrics of motivation. It includes the leaders we have chosen to be our servants. Or selecting from those volunteering themselves to take up such an unenviable role. We get to see if they are simply seeking to have. Or is this selfless service of us all, and the shared intended change toward what we all wish to become. This is a line of questioning that can be put to any scale of authority. But it is necessarily uncomfortable. Which is why it is the line of questioning that must start with your authority over yourself. Are you becoming more, and adding value? Or just seeking to have more, own more, and add value only to yourself?

Cards on the table

I am not offering opinion on the politics. But I will present an observation of the motivations I see. This reshuffle seems clearly motivated by a desire to have something self-serving. A more amenable cabinet. A distraction of attention towards less difficult media questions. But deeper than that is an equally cynical having mode to flag. That could be said of any reshuffle. What is it about any reshuffle that leaves each head on a block so “nauseous and clammy” as the BBC report here? Why was each and every position under threat, each so unclear of their own safety, to be denied opportunity to be more tomorrow than they were yesterday? Why is this discomfort even news?

The nausea begins with a lack of transparency by the decision-making.  The clammy hands coming from the lack of clear method of selection criteria and impetus for each change.  The hand holding the axe could have been asked directly, what is intended by the change?  What is this intended to facilitate, to become?  Asking that why more than once cuts a little closer to deeper truth.

Of those with the clammy hands, looking up fearfully upon the axe, the same can then be asked of them. What intended change did you have in mind that is now denied? What does your fear reveal of underlying having or being modes?

Watch the dealer, be aware the potential slight of hand, based upon the trust

In both cases, is this just raw and naked ambition to progress?  Not because of desire or interest in a specific area of government, or leading a cabinet of the best able to perform the roles – but just having a senior role at all or having a cabinet that is less of a threat to the power that is had.  Or, in my v | b | t language.  Little is visible, behaviour is necessarily self-serving, and trust is a flavouring to be applied sparingly by all.

Anyone know a project like that…? We all do it, or at least see it and do nothing to intervene.

Control the game, not the cards

Accordingly, the critical control framework is where I look to first.  To support such a precarious environment, we need a robustness.  A 21st Century robustness that befits the holding of such precious a cargo as the affairs of state should demand.  Who in government ever knows how central government or local government frameworks of control work before their appointed role?  How long does that take to learn each time we have a major change?  How overwhelmed must each willing volunteer be when that first red box is opened upon a new desk?  How isolated from the daily lives of all those public servants they oversee must that necessarily reflect?

But why is it always such a surprise?  Why is this infrastructure of administration not known by people before they know they need to know?  Or have any clarity on the control framework that is also suppose to support them to do a most difficult task. What support do they have that offers them a means to make the right decisions, not just the safe ones. As they begin their temporary time at the wheel, how do they know when to stick or twist? 

Learning the game, before playing the game

How much has any of this really changed in the modern era of government?  Beyond the axes of austerity aimed at Excel spreadsheets in secret darkened rooms.  Where is the control framework that these leaders become accountable for whilst in position, but also dependent upon and able to be assessed against as the process of intended changes they and their government are overseeing. The framework to hold the processes, that become action towards the promises made.  Their five years of intended change.

Playing the cards you are dealt

There is much to be critical of here.  But if we are to move past defensive decision-making behaviours by those at the top, we need to afford them the same protections to do their job, as the protection we demand they give to us.  It is not charisma and charm but ability in clearly defined parameters of administration we should want to see.  My view therefore is let’s not just replace one career politician with another and hope for a different result.  Let’s revisit the framework of the departments each leader temporarily sits and determine if they are protecting the processes they are designed to house.  Present a clarity of assurance of decision-making that this framework then supports.  Consider the capability of the people against the same framework of control, with a clarity of role and responsibility.  Claim back the clarity of accountability of these leadership roles.  Hold them responsible to this performance and give them the power to make necessary changes to the frameworks that better make this so.  And let’s require all politicians to have demonstrable knowledge of how these processes apply.  So that we can be the first to vote in those already trained in the most rudimentary tasks that are the being mode of the titles they all covet and wish to have.

Card games to play at home

These are no different a set of parameters I am presenting in projects of any scale.  Understanding the intended change.  Operating this change by the best framework it requires.  Assessed across visibility | behaviour | trust.  Starting with the projects of mind.  Equally applicable to projects of state.

I therefore repeat the first challenge.  This is firstly to be aimed at ourselves.  Psychological safety cuts both ways.  As does the assessment of visibility | behaviour | trust we demand.  Start with these questions of ourselves, and those we and our press then choose to ask.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here: