A Gray Day – can we Sue?

What SMART change to the control environment is being made?

I am sure we have all read the report. It does not take long. Once the blame game subsides, what has changed or will change now? That is my question.

Whilst SMART objectives are a little cliché these days, they do still serve purpose when seeking visibility of behavioural change, and thereby regaining trust in systemic failure.

SMART move to avoid committed change…

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

Not that much of this report is intended to be anything more than presentation of facts. My concern here is that we have sixty pages that simply gift the tabloid tickertape and headlines a few more inches – but none of that will lead us anywhere meaningfully forward.

This report is a pretty disappointing an output by volume. By quality, the analysis and conclusions are so very weak and devoid on any tangible opportunity to act. And I see nothing coming to challenge that fact.

Painting over the cracks

In the end we are being offered a report that describes a clear dereliction of duty. The greater dereliction here is what is happening beyond this report. The failure to offer SMART actionable change should concern us all.

I present the key wording that foreshadows this coming apathy to change. In essence what this reads is “mistakes were made, but changes are afoot, and you just need to trust us not to do it again“.

All of these quotes are from pages 36 and 37 of the Sue Gray report.

Mistakes were made:

“…attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with the guidance…”

“…failures of leadership and judgement in No. 10 and the Cabinet Office…senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear the responsibility for this culture…”

“…lack of respect and poor treatment of security and clearing staff. This was unacceptable…”

unquantifiable actions taken, thus enabling leadership to once again escape:

“…fragmented and complicated leadership structures in No. 10. I am reassured to see that steps have since been taken to introduce more easily accessible means by which to raise concerns…embed a culture that welcomes…challenge and speaking up…”

“…changes to the organisation and management of Downing Street and the Cabinet Office with the aim of creating clearer lines of leadership and accountability…”

More time being gifted to avoid measurable improvement:

“…I am pleased progress is being made in addressing issues I have raised…”

“…since then guidance has been issued to all Government Departments…”

“…now these need the time and chance to bed in…”

visibility | behaviour | trust

If this is the direction of change, then we will be no closer to increasing visibility and addressing inadequate behaviours (as intent, belief, action). There can be no expectation of increased trust.

In any other context, this would not stand. Yet here, we all seem powerless to intervene. Let’s at least start with asking the better questions. What SMART change to the control environment is being made, to which you (PM) stand personally accountable for?

Change control

…review structures and processes that could make a difference…

Lindsay Hoyle – Speaker of the House

This is a quote from today’s news. In my project world this kind of review is about matching the framework to the range of influence it intends to control. From the world of insuring construction projects I observe this matching of control to need is not done well. In project management academia I think we miss this point when considered holistically. In psychology this assessment of behaviour to aid control is understood in part, but typically only observed in simple settings and in a lab.

Sir Lindsay wrote: “In my opinion, it is time to consider radical action, and review structures and processes that could make a difference…”

“…serious allegations have been made, and we must address them as a matter of urgency. It is imperative we do the right thing by staff and MPs as well.”

BBC “Westminster reform: Lindsay Hoyle and Andrea Leadsom call for urgent changes” 1st May 2022

How control, influence, and intended change interact is what my research is all about. I am researching this in projects of construction. It is what I do in my consulting work. It is how I now orientate my own life.

At its heart, my research is directed toward a simple explanation that enables us all to ask more…

v | b | t

Here are some simple metrics of in applying this to the question of Parliament:

v | b | trust

We are directed toward lost trust. Where there is failed intent, we trust less. Establishing better frameworks for the intended change seems to me the sensible first assumed move to make. It is how to enable the electorate and the stewardship that serves us to regain some shared trust.

v | behaviour | t

We are addressing self-serving behaviour being empowered to serve itself. We are required to challenge innate motivations and compare what is happening to what is required. It instils the accountability of decision-makers and removes the defensive-decision making they hide behind. But more than that it so considers the suitability of their agendas, their capacity and capability, their judgement and the support systems they need. So that leaders can be what they intended to be, as servants to us all; not have what they intended to have, as servants to themselves.

visibility | b | t

We are seeking better visible to us all. An electorate that currently just has visibility of the indifference shown by the power-base. Visibility of deceit, misinformation, and calculations of what needs to said rather than what needs to be done. Legislation passed to protect past error in response to the questions we ask. Repeating evidence of leadership being the opposite of integrity and in not leading by example. What is needed is greater clarity on what is being intended. What vision is being worked towards. And what independent governance from independent source, ensures accountability of all.

Three possible latent origins of failure

Across each of these metrics we appear to have a failing framework of control in government. Beyond the personalities and party colours of the day, it is to our Administration that we should expect permeant control. I see three likely sources of failure that allow the wrong influences to reign:

1. the control of the internal system is failing

2. failure in the policing, the governance, or assurance of appropriate control

3. the clarity of intended change and to whom benefit is the primary goal

Either way the framework needs to have measure of all. Able to have account of all influences redirecting intended change. Thereby protecting the collectively agreed goals and/or the means to adapt such goal to the novelty of new or that which was previously unknown.

Projects | Within Projects

Whether in politics, or in charges of failure by the United Nations or World Health Organisation. Whether we are considering major projects like HS2 or Crossrail. If we are focused on decisions of priority to feed the hungry, or house the homeless, prevent needless bloodshed; or empower the entrepreneur, realign relationships with Europe, intervene in Ukraine, tackle climate change; or ensure our own growth upon a polluted home. Or, if we are addressing our personal purpose and how best to get there. All such intended change requires the appropriate selection of control, and account for all actor interests that may influence this goal for better or worse.

At its core, that is what is being called for here. At its heart, I contend that this is what we are all really asking for.

If I had my time again I’d {insert here}

Finding your project

Finding my project
(beardall.blog)

visibility | behaviour | trust

It took me quite some mental rebuilding before I was able to look this question in the eye. Not a day goes by now that I am not reminded of my answer. My answer from asking the right version of myself. It has become my means of innate motivation, intention, direction, and goal. It is how I have defined my project.

For me this is the visibility I needed. To what I direct my behaviours. What gives me a regained trust in myself. From which I have built critical controls to both enable and protect my project goal. From which I now proceed, mindful of external influence, and internal need.

What does this question mean to you?

Projects | within projects

Mistakes were made…

…scapegoats will be blamed

Is it possible to see through the manoeuvring that is intended to pass on blame? Particularly when distraction is involved. The origin of the scapegoat suggests we have been societally accepting of this idea throughout history. Accountability must be retained in high office. Prime Ministers and NHS Trusts showing us why we need more transparency and power to intervene.

The original “scapegoat”

This quotation is from Karen Armstrong 2014, “Fields of Blood : Religion and the history of violence”

“Every year in ancient Israel the high priest brought two goats into the Jerusalem temple on the Day of Atonement. He sacrificed one to expiate the sins of the community and then laid his hands on the other, transferring all the misdeeds on to its head, and sent the sin-laden animal out of the city, literally placing the blame elsewhere.

In this way, Moses explained “the goat will bear all their faults away with it into the desert place”. In his classic study René Girard argued that the scape goat ritual defused rivalries among groups with the community. In similar way, I believe, modern society has made a scape goat of faith”

Leadership scapegoats

I give leadership a hard time. Occasionally I step back and ask myself if I am in-fact just projecting my own failings onto others. But not today. Today I am in full rant.

I think we have seen several protracted attempts at such deflection in the headlines today. Leaders who may claim to be victim. Political scapegoats. Alternatively, the case can be made that they themselves have been found to be creating distance to invite a future scapegoat in.

Example one, who is preparing whom for the blame here in party-gate, part IX?

Mr Raab said the PM had updated Parliament “to the best of his knowledge and his understanding

BBC article here

Is that really the party line? Surely, there is at no point opportunity for leadership to claim this final defence for withholding information – “I didn’t know” – that is not an excuse when you are in charge.

I have argued before that accountability is immovable from the highest office. In this instance, failure to check equals failure to act. That is failure as the servant of the people you represent. Accountability of the senior decision-maker is really that simple. With rightful blame attached.

But what concerns me here is the potential impact if Boris is seen to be a scapegoated leader, because it offers permission to leave all else unchanged. Boris is a scoundrel, and he must go – but what is stopping the next being just the same? We need change – but the system is as much to blame.

visibility | behaviour | trust

First, another example of the ease with which this can be flagged (if we are so inclined). Back to some basic heuristics to check the situation against.

visibility | b | t

A leader who is unable to present clarity because of a failure to look, is acting with neglect by turning the blind eye, or conveniently choosing not ask. We can see this, so should the governance that keeps their decision-making abilities defined.

v | behaviour | t

This persistent behaviour is self-serving. It enables the personal defence of a child. Except this is not a playground. “I didn’t know”, is responded to simply with, “Well you were expected to. It is your job to know.” We can back this up with clarity of permitted and expected processes in senior role.

v | b | trust

Once a failure to perform is highlighted, so inherent trust is eroded. A little lost trust, or perhaps in totality. Either way, this prompts a change.

Any manager will know this. If you have people responsibilities you will know this. The underperformer is now necessarily more closely managed. In 2022 may be in performance reviews, or perhaps the introduction of a performance improvement plan, disciplinary action, or in extreme situations in termination. This may be necessary for the good of the wider team. It may only be fair to them if lesser performance is managed this way. But we culpable too, at least in part, if the right training, the right resourcing, adequate empowerment and oversight offered, and clarity of internal processes that are regularly checked to ensure they reflect what is needed as critical controls.

Anyone with client responsibilities will know this. Any client relationship can reflect this building or loss of trust. A supply chain partner may have contractual remedy or legal ramification ( particularly if there was no trust but contracts enabled trade). Better trust however is built when closer relationships are being fostered. Better trust that goes both ways.

In all cases increased visibility, or corrective behaviour, are required now that we have less trust.

What should support the assumed trust, is the checking. The processes of assurance that may be line manager, peer review, stage gate approval, which is then further supported by spot checking or audit that is expected is actually coming through. How often do we see a lack of governance, procedure, or level of independent challenge meaning things are missed?

I speak at length about this in construction. This is more than dealing with assumed error, this is also adding value as that extra pair of eyes. “I didn’t know” as a leader is to reflect the failure to be aware. Why trust the leader who clearly does not care? This is the leader who is not serving you.

More scandalous dereliction of leadership

Another headline grabber today. This one a National disgrace that has been known of for years. This is the conclusions of catastrophic failures of management detailed in Ockenden report. Also see here, the BBC summary outlining the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. This is twenty years of negligent leadership, no doubt set against a backdrop of chronic underfunding. Funding however can be no excuse. I am tempted to see this as a twenty year reign of outrageous intimidation and deceit. Worrying in of itself, but it is not standalone to this one Trust – or should we say the antithesis of the word trust.

“The reasons for these failures are clear,” she said. “There were not enough staff, there was a lack of ongoing training, there was a lack of effective investigation and governance at the trust and a culture of not listening to the families involved.”

BBC report dated today {here} quoting the enquiry leader, the remarkable midwife come archetypal bastion of wisdom, Julie Ockenden

This behaviour by this Trust, is absolute failure of the stewardship we demand. Whether they see it coming or not, this must prompt wider change. No leaders gets to say “I didn’t know”, or “I was badly advised”. Not when babies were needlessly dying, and senior people still refused to look, listen, or believe the findings of 8 separate expert opinions, or the bravery and tenacity of the bereaved.

No to delegated accountability

In my opinion, these two very different leadership failures bring us to the same place. Accountability stays at the top, irrespective of whether each and every leader who came and went from this Board of Trustees chose to look. Regardless of whether a PM chose to ask the most basic of questions, and opt to rely upon the defence of “I didn’t know”. And let me be clear, I think Boris did know and does know – but that needs not be debated if we can simply call out the failure in his claims that he at no stage asked.

It is the same with the Board of Trustee. Theirs is the final decision, based upon visibility of any information gap they are prepared to accept. Theirs is the behaviour permitted to turn a blind-eye or to scapegoat staff. Theirs was the opportunity to act and ensure risk, internal control and assurance were functioning as they should. This is the trust we put in them.

I have offered a detailed argument as to why accountability as a concept is best understood if it is deemed only ever upwardly visible {here}. If seniority is permitted to deflect accountability this is when behaviours are free to become distanced from risk, trust can be abused, and visibility intentionally obfuscated. Focus can be distracted toward secrecy, decision parameters hidden, poor leadership rewarded as if good. The solutions are already available, these answers are not new. Existing management theory exists to enable this, with just a modest tweak in making accountability anchored, whilst responsibility moves.

These are the fundamentals of our leaders being our chief-administrators, and being responsible for the control environments that we all rely upon. I sometimes wonder if the administrative realities of leadership are somehow forgotten by some, or perhaps never learnt. There is a reason that the MBA qualification in management has administration attached to the name. There is reason that high office is called the Administrative function. Accountability lives here, whether understood or not.

Let’s get back to managing our leaders – accountability is to blame

We may well have made faith our modern scapegoat, and Armstrong’s arguments in her 2014 book is compelling. I would venture further still. 21st Century political leadership, and indeed invisible and unaccountable leadership in all forms, must be reframed. They are not scapegoats, they are rightly to blame. Failing to acknowledge this is making a scapegoat of us all.

The sucker punch

Hidden malevolent intent

Surprise attacks are effective because they take advantage of situational dissonance, i.e., actions by one party not anticipated by the other. Without offering much detail of events, I attempted to give this some thought across three media events that caught the headlines yesterday.

  • A slap in the face
  • Poison served as peace
  • Safe harbours no more for employment law pirates.
P&Ouch (created via MSWord)

Here I attempt to talk in terms of all three within categorical parameters I am using elsewhere to described project relationships

v | b | t

Hopefully familiar to anyone reading my blogs regularly, these are the interrelationship variables that represent a shared or separate set of interests namely, visibility | behaviour | trust. In the surprise move, we have:

  • One party disguising their intent (visibility | behaviour)
  • The other party perceiving no threat from the first (trust)

Additional factors in play

This gives me cause to revisit other factors in play in assessing threat. These are factors I have identified previously in the context of projects. Each seems to apply equally well here.

Influence – as Action Potential

Think of this as the spectrum of possible behaviours of each of the two or more parties. Typically dynamic, and therefore changeable over time. These are matters such as intent, motivation, belief, by which one party may find reason to choose or feel compelled to direct their energy. In neuroscience this is Action Potential. It is measured at cellular or neuronal level, but perhaps is an apt description between situational actors as well.

Right arena, right rules

In each of the three examples here, we have a definable space, and conventions that apply. The examples here:

  • confines of a spotlight;
  • a banner of truce;
  • legal employment frameworks deemed to be breakable rules.

But if we have the wrong arena in mind, we may have the wrong rules to apply. This highlights the importance of perspective or modal clarity.

What this additionally highlights is a threat to one actors safety, enabled because the wrong arena has been assumed. In these examples:

  • a single safe spotlight becoming a shared stage;
  • a table of negotiators but needing to see a wider arena concealing snipers, poisoners, or media spin:
  • a marketplace as a transport operator but finding safe harbour no more

Control environment

We have the perceived safety of a control environment therefore proved false:

  • A comedian’s sanctuary to say anything without reproach;
  • Rules of combat that may not prevail under a banner of diplomatic truce;
  • Legal rights of employees, legal expectations of ship owner and port authority.

Dynamics of change

To which we can then revisit influence and the appropriateness of control. Perhaps these two factors can be linked as situational awareness. Influence as an observable variable, positively or negatively directional towards self-interest or shared goal. To which the assessment of totality of range of possible behaviours, and appropriateness of controls can then be compared.

v | Behaviour as covert action | t

I need to now extend the range of behaviour. Not only is self-interest vs shared interest now possible. We now have shared interest defaulting to self-interest deteriorating to intentional harm of another. This requires visibility to be intentionally obfuscated and an illusion of trust to be maintained. This means we can have completely the opposite of full information i.e., [-1, 0, +1]

The hidden truth

Together these factors in each arena seem to help explain what was perceived versus what transpired. And how combative aims were concealed. By breaching the perception of trust we have a means to consider a bigger range of action potential as hidden intent.

Accordingly, when there is covert (as opposed to overt) action potential, this is beyond a poorly shared truth. This is concealment, and acting within a lie. Self-serving, self-justifying harm.

Is it too much to suggest in a caveat emptor project world, we occasionally fit this expanded mould?

One more?

And what of today’s headlines? Knock-knock Prime Minister. Plenty of eyes are now looking behind your door.

v | b | t

visibility | behaviour | trust

Someone very kindly asked me about v | b | t today. A chat ensued via DM on LinkedIn. A very welcome challenge or validation of an idea which I am still tentatively exploring.

v | b | t is an experiment of sorts. It introduced itself to me as I was analysing the themes from the PFI projects I was assessing – via my MSc dissertation in project management in early 2020. In categorising my interview data into themes, the three categories that emerged were visibility | behaviour | trust. Collectively they combined to represent whether parties shared one project truth. To which I could then assess whether each project party was directing their influences into the project, or towards themselves.

We often fall short upon this metric, although I am still working through the validity of this idea. It is proving useful in projects of all kinds, in personal development, and assessing the nature of leadership and decision-making sincerity at scale.

For me this is about unlocking ways to assess how cohesive the interests and influences of parties really are. v | b | t is helping me give a first view on whether control environments are suited to the project aims and people involved. I am concluding it’s our relationships and attitudes towards sharing or passing on risk that is our bigger threat, often bigger than the physical or financial risks themselves. Risks that threaten the very project outcome, or intended change.

v | b | t has become a useful heuristic tool for me. It is promoting further research. I’m now doing another MSc, this time in psychology, with an aim to direct my research towards broader human behaviour. The links to projects, as intended change, perhaps then taking this towards a PhD. Scrutiny via academic rigour in these ideas, and a need for validation (or perhaps a hubris) within me.

We are socially motivated as a species. But deeper down we are emotionally directed to look out for ourselves. This conflicting anticipatory distraction is at our core. So can we look at behaviours and consider the inherent trust? Consider if we are sharing a truth, or defending our own.

That is v | b | t : a thumb nail approximation of acting collaboratively.

Let the seller beware

caveat venditor – let the seller beware

There have been some notable u-turns this week and last. U-Turns by institutions normally too big to be easily persuaded to redirect based upon public opinion. We have Mars joining Coco-Cola and McDonalds in creating distance from Russia. We had an apology from Shell for buying cheap Russian oil. We had FIFA and the Olympic committee bending to challenge to their neutrality. At Westminster we have a government in constant repositioning as lack-lustre responses expose inability to sense the mood or recover lost faith.

There is new uncertainty causing false moves and ill-judged decisions by boards, executive function and high political office. In the next few months I think we are going to see many more.

The real power of the consumer is at work here. Namely the ability to make a choice. It is a cause of fear and indecision as old power priorities become incompatible with precious corporate reputation that is hard won and easily lost. When reputation is at risk, this threat brings new priorities to decision-making. Old priorities relegated and recategorised as acceptable collateral damage. Particularly when precious share value (or electoral support) is rushing to the door.

I predict more pressure on institutions is on the way. Based upon the change of attitudes of us, the general public, in face of increased uncertainty. We are becoming more attentive and suspicious of motives. This is infectious. Institutions should expect the seeds of doubt to grow.

v | b | t explaining this increased variance to change

Here are some brief reflections of what I think is going on.

v | b | trust

Reputation is the preservation of trust we the consumer/user have in the seller/provider. Do we trust their values and ethics to align with our own? As individuals we are able to revisit our values and expectations quickly. We are fickle. We are sometimes irrational. Unlike the institution however, we as individuals are each capable of reframing. We may change group affiliations, or sit in more than one camp. Each one of us resetting towards higher norms of human decency when distracted from our more selfish localised cause. This fragile belief or perception (i.e., that others share these higher values) can be quickly eroded. This reassessment can be applied equally to a single entity within an industry, an entire industry, a group, a government, a nation, a whole corner of the globe.

visibility | b | t

In moments of increased uncertainty, it is natural to seek more information. The more profoundly different the circumstances, the more motivated we are to take more time to look. We may have seen leaders turning a blind-eye. Secretly we may have turned a blind-eye to that too. But when those justifications for our disinterest are inconsistent with new threat, we are blind no more.

v | behaviour | t

This is a change to our behaviour. Redirecting peripheral interests towards central attention. Assessing others behaviour with more critical interest. Seeking to know better the attributes and bias of another. This is an increased openness to revisit and change our modelled understanding of how we relate to the other entity. This is reappraisal of action as indications of, or arising from, factors such as attitudes, motivations, beliefs. Ultimately this is the prompt to readjust and make choices anew.

v | b | t – Boristas beware

Dare I dream that in these moments of heightened uncertainty we may all begin asking more probing questions? Trusting less and demanding more?

This is what I see with Shell’s nervous apology this week. We are watching their purchase decisions of cheap Russian oil, and the excuses on Friday did not hold. It would normally not have caught our attention. This is McDonalds and Coca-Cola taking positions on Russia that a week ago would simply not have been entertained. Again, we are now watching and potentially making significant life choices, if another’s actions reflect values we do not hold.

This is also the spin of politics at Westminster. Wavering and spluttering as more pertinent questions are posed. In my house this is now a standing joke of the self-serving. The Boristas in high-office serving us Johnsonian truths daily, now finding life increasingly hard. Their servings shown to be insipid and cold.

Form follows function

Dare I dream this increased uncertainty of what is otherwise taken for granted is going to provoke necessary change in response. The critical controls of decision-efficacy challenged anew, structures of wider governance required to change too. If we all ask more searching questions, we eventually look at the forms serving the functions we expect, and ask if maybe they have to change too.

The bigger question now approaching is what new primary function is now emerging? The functional forms to better reflect these changing wants and needs of the global village. And what forms can retain their use as this unfolds?

The 2020s have not finished with us yet…

Instigating behavioural change

Do we start with behaviour or mind?

My thanks to my friends at Praxis for prompting this blog. I pondered upon this yesterday only because of a Praxis Framework post via LinkedIn yesterday (thanks Adrian). With some ironic confirmation of one argument or the other (you are invited to ponder upon which) I did not even think to blog this answer – I just responded via LinkedIn. It can be inferred that I have fallen out of the habit of daily blogging, so I have been prompted (via intrinsic motivation or external impetus) to respond more fully here.

What was offered is a position outlined by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith:

Start with changing behaviours, not mindsets. It is much easier to ‘act your way into new thinking’ than to ‘think your way into new actions’

Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith (1993) via Praxis website

Followed by an invitation for response by anyone who disagreed. I am not committing to disagreeing, but I did have an alternative acadamic perspecive I wanted to share.

This behaviour not mindset approach is in line with behaviourists sentiment. But it would be quite wrong of me to suggest this 1993 book, or even this quote, are behaviourist inspired. As explained in the Praxis summary this quote is advocating a specific “beginning with behaviour” approach to an underperforming or “pseudo” team. Per this same Praxis post this is also referencing Katzenbach et al and their Team Performance Curve. Accordingly, that is not to say Katzenbach et al are advocating behaviour first for already effective or high performing teams. My argument is that this is with good reason.

Social Psychology considerations

This is a prompt to wider psychological consideration of what, in team context, is influencing behaviour, or indeed what behaviour is influencing toward mindset. I (re)introduce below several theories from social psychology, countering particularly considerations of reward and punishment as go-to behavioural controls (cf. BF Skinner’s operant conditioning e.g., here).

I am going to group a number of principles of cognition together into the term mindset. Some latitude is asked therefore as I introduce various abstract notions of cognition. Concepts such as attitude, motivation, intent, or belief. Precisely the abstract and subjective concepts that behaviourists would argue is the reason cognitive psychology is flawed. But also precisely what is, to developmental psychologists, what children from as young as eighteen months are becoming subjectively aware of when they distinguish their perspective from that of another (cf. Theory of Mind e.g., here).

These comments are an expansion of my response on LinkedIn. I have also crossed referenced a number of blogs I have previously offered in this regard.

Behaviourists beware

Intrinsic Motivation (IM) is easily replaced by external incentive – mindset orientation changing behaviour. [This is in reference to Self Determination Theory – see my blog Motivation vs Coercion]. We want to encourage personal ownership and motivation. Throwing cash at a problem, or forcing compliance, can backfire if well functioning teams are suddenly just driven to a big pay-out (how many times do we have to see that…).

Predicting behaviour may necessarily require consideration of attitude. And attitude may be best established against specifics rather than general conditions. Icek Ajzen and Martin Fishbein considering belief, intentions, and actions and in later work surmising that individual sense of control plays a part (cf. Reasoned Action – see my blog).

Context is key. No single factor is going to change behaviour – and beliefs, intentions, or past events have a place within mindset

The Elaboration Likelihood Model would suggest it is only in situations of peripheral attention that low cognitive engagement thresholds will be applied (e.g., fearful or trusting) – an alternative is heuristics. That being the case it is only in conditions of low cognitive engagement that a team is going to accept behavioural change first – accordingly, unless fear is a 21st century tool of choice you can justify, or as leaders you are offering a high level of trust to an underperforming team, simply attempting behavioural correction is not going to bring the central (and cognitive) attention required.

As to persuasion, one may also need to consider who is saying what to whom before accounting for change in mindset or behaviour. [This is in reference to the work of Carl Hovland and Yale in the 1950s which explained propaganda variables and influenced the advertising tactics we still all buy into today]. Persuasion needs a receptive audience, a convincing message, and the right seller to convey what is being sold.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Leon Festinger 1947) would suggest changing attitude, cognitive reappraisal, or changing behaviour can each apply to resolving two conflicting perspectives (assuming one has a choice). Which of these is changed may be specific to any of the factors described above. [This sits within a wider notion of the Three Motives Ontology – see my blog Motivated Behaviours. Cognitive Dissonance Theory also sits within the paradigm of attitude, persuasion and change].

In summary

It is important to attend to behaviours. It is critical as a leadership role. But have in mind the many moving parts beyond behaviour itself. Being SMART with you team and instilling an intrinsically motivated team ethos requires the winning of both hearts and minds.

Finally, if you have made it this far – that’s motivated behaviour I cannot help but applaud. Thank you. But if you made it here without checking out Praxis, you really should. Here, let me save you some time.

Get used to the stare

When not looking is the problem

When a child tells a fib it is called out. If the denial continues so does the cross-examination. A behaviour unbecoming is observed. An event becomes a doubt. A little trust temporarily lost.

Visibility | behaviour | trust

This is the basic premise of v | b | t. The less trust we have in someone’s behaviour, the more information we wish to see.

Anyone following my blogs will see this used regularly. It helps me evaluate situations, appropriateness of controls, and direct questions at all level of authority when the level of visibility sought is not in keeping with range of possible behaviour and underlying trust.

Grab any headline in the news and give it a go. It’s surprisingly insightful what the imbalances really show. And disappointingly predictable as to where the easiest points of failure repeatedly go.

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:

Qualification vs Experience PART 1

To own or apply knowledge

This is a LinkedIn favourite. Click-bait, guaranteed to provoke reaction. It is an ever-valid discussion to return to. In my consulting discussions the debate of demonstrating qualified staff or experience in role is equally divisive. But I have no doubt, experience counts.

PART 2 of this blog will perhaps revisit some past threads of discussion. For now however, I simply want to demonstrate what I think is really being asked. For me this is simply the difference between having and being.

I have blogged about having vs being before. Links will appear at the bottom of this post. Nothing here is new. Dave Snowden regularly speaks of people relying on form when it is process that counts. John Vervaeke runs regular YouTube dialogue presenting these differences as contributors to the meaning crisis.

From a knowledge perspective we can consider this as the difference between acquired and applied learning. In those terms it perhaps becomes self-evident what the difference between qualification and experience reflects. But I will elaborate for clarity.

This can be explained across the categories of visibility | behaviour | trust (v|b|t).

Qualifications v | b | t

visibility | b | t

High visibility. But only visibility of potential. Measurable as standardised evidence to demonstrate that a core knowledge has been achieved. Employers can advertise expectations in standardised language for all potential candidates to self-select against. It also presents benchmarks to aim toward. At the heart of the visibility is the question “is this particular example of human form able to contribute to our process?” In this regard the qualification presents an attribute – a speculative possibility.

v | behaviour | t

Them and us behaviour. This is having mode. Ownership. To have a degree certificate is to own a qualification. To be Associate or Fellow qualified in a professional capacity is to have achieved a demonstration of learning in your craft. This is to have. This is form. It is a material representation of attaining a learning from an institution. It is something that has been acquired. By the application of personal resources of time and money towards gaining something others have offered you as an exchange. The conclusion of which is a necessary demonstration that this acquisition has been successful. A confirmation is awarded based on a manner of pre-determined examination of your account or recall.

v | b | trust

Them and us, as credibility. Trust is inherently placed in the hands of a third-party. These are institutions of learning, academically or otherwise accredited. It thereby increases distance between candidate and employer; prospective service provider and customer. At scale this is organisational accreditation or licence to operate. But such certifications are also an enabler of the defensive decision-maker. Lowering the necessary skill-base of the assessor; reducing decision parameters; optimising short-lists. This trust is assumed. It is therefore fragile, rigid to the framework it reflects, standardised, and potentially subject to abuse.

Experience v | b | t

visibility | b | t

High visibility. Measurable in years, or reputation, or demonstrable by tangible success. Success measurable by metrics of application not acquisition.

v | behaviour | t

Applied know-how is able to be demonstrated. Learning whilst doing and understanding of contextual application in action and deeds. Contextually relevant is therefore more detailed in explanation and demonstration. It can command more respect simply because it is the being part of the process, not simply representing the potential to be.

v | b | trust

A closer approximation of fit to role is possible. It requires a greater ability to share a trust. A trust can be built based upon shared understanding of process. Abstraction by both parties (e.g. employer and employee) who can better empathise with the other, having better modelling in mind of what the process they share as intentions, requires of the other.

A practical example of having or owning knowledge vs applying it

I conclude with a further example of the limited visibility that owned knowledge represents. This is day 643 of lockdown in Casa Beardall. Undoubtedly now my most intense era of knowledge acquisition. One MSc completed, and another underway. Owned knowledge by qualification. But my owned knowledge is accumulating by another metric – by the volume of literature I have acquired. This last 12 months, the calendar year of 2021, I have spent over £1,000 on books. I have accounted for them all. They are listed in the table below. I can claim to have read them all. I do claim to have read most. But all you can seek as validation is visibility e.g., evidence that I physically own them.

Some of these books have been heavy reading. Some almost impenetrable (Kant or more recently Heidegger). Some of the books are just a guide to others. The point is who is to know if I have read them, let alone understood them. But even if I sit an exam to demonstrate an understanding of them, it has no reflection on whether I can apply them to anything meaningful to you or anything worldly at all.

A book seems to me the perfect metaphor as a simplification of this debate. Anyone can own a book. Have this knowledge to hand. It is a literal form of knowledge. But to apply knowledge is to not have it to hand. It is to have it abstractly available in mind. And thereby find means to apply it to something new.

In the zoom age these displays are everywhere. Bookshelves strategically located behind camera shots. Mine included. The academic class more guilty than most. Other than perhaps politicians.

We can display all, but in the end it is application that counts. And experience is the easiest representation of that.

I will conclude the crassness with the following table. Hubris on show.

Having or Being | Form or Process | Acquired or Applied?

A list of books purchased in 2021. A gratuitous display. That demonstrates more of my commitment to charities vs publishers, than it does to how the content may be applied.

£paidTitleRef#
£1,172.01Total 
£803.70Subtotal from Oxfam 
£36.84The goalamazon
£29.99Historical Sociology and World Historyo51****
£27.07What is ancient philosophy?amazon
£24.99Language and Social Relationso50****
£21.95Fool’s Goldamazon
£21.38Becoming humanamazon
£20.00Jungian psychoanalysis: Working in the Spirit of Carl Jungo38****
£20.00Conjectures and Refutations by Karl Poppero51****
£20.00William James and the transatlantic conversationo44****
£19.99Social Psychology — 8th Editiono65****
£19.99Psychology and Alchemyo38****
£19.99History of Western Philosophy – Bertrand Russello51****
£19.99what causes human behaviour – stars, selves or contingencies?o61****
£19.33Essays of Francis Baconamazon
£16.48Karl Jaspers : The origin and goal of historyamazon
£15.99Kants Critique of Practical Reasono46****
£15.00Representing and Interveningo51****
£15.00Short History Of The Communist Party Of The Soviet Uniono44****
£15.00ETHIC of Benedict de Spinoza: Demonstrated in Geometrical Ordero44****
£14.99Principles of Brain Dynamics Global State Interactionso38****
£14.99Summa Theologica – Volume 17: Psychology of Human Actso33****
£14.99Existentialism and Humanismo33****
£14.99Leibniz: Nature and Freedomo51****
£14.99The Psychology of Politicso61****
£14.99The human use of human beingso61****
£14.99The Philosophy of David Humeo45****
£14.99The Freud Jung Letterso50****
£14.99Kant’s Critique of pure reason; translated by Norman Kemp Smitho45****
£14.99Will Hutton – Them and Us – Signed First Editiono44****
£14.99Newman on the Psychology of Faith in the Individual [1928]o44****
£14.99An Introduction to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: Second Editiono44****
£14.99Joseph Campell’s selected letters 1927-1987amazon
£14.50Josepeh Campbell’s hero with a thousand facesamazon
£14.02Joseph Campbell’s pathways to blissamazon
£13.99Being and timeo44****
£13.66Your Leadership Legacy : becoming the leader you were meant to beamazon
£13.62Tales from two sides of the brainamazon
£12.99Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambitiono46****
£12.991177 BCE : the year civisation collapsedamazon
£12.95Explaining the Braino44****
£12.15Bandit Capitalism : Carillionamazon
£12.00Complex/Archetype/Symbol in the Psychology of C.G. Jungo33****
£11.99Imitatio Christio46****
£11.98The goal of philosophyamazon
£11.94Flowamazon
£11.63The conciousness instinctamazon
£10.99Freedom and beliefo38****
£10.99The Essential James Hillman: A blue fireo44****
£10.00The Problems of Philosophyo33****
£10.00The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionismo51****
£10.00Statistics for psychologyo44****
£10.00Vygotsky’s Psychologyo44****
£9.99Analyzing Social Science Datao65****
£9.99Ego & Archetypeo38****
£9.99Coleridge’s Works – Aids to Reflection – published in 1890o51****
£8.99Buddhismwithout belief : a contemporary guide to awakeningamazon
£8.96Applying AI to Project Managementamazon
£8.75How the Project Management Office can use AI to imporve the bottom lineamazon
£8.44Gods in Everyman : a new psychology of man’s lives and lovesamazon
£8.15Risk Savvyamazon
£8.00The structure of scientific revolutionso46****
£8.00Routledge philosophy guidebook to Kant and the Critique of pure reasono44****
£7.99The Story of Civilization. Rousseau and Revolution 10. The Protestant Northo46****
£7.99Chomsky’s Reflection on Languageo46****
£7.99The Conscious Mind In Search of a Fundamental Theoryo38****
£7.99The Poetical Works of Shelleyo45****
£7.99The desert fathers :sayings of the early christian monksamazon
£7.78Who’s in Charge?amazon
£7.50Mind and cosmoso51****
£7.49The Vision of Judgment and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Cantos III & IVo51****
£7.49Existential Analysis 11.2,12.1 & 13.1o50****
£7.19The Human Side of Managing Technological Innovationo46****
£7.01Mindfulnessamazon
£7.00Time – Rhythm and Reposeo38****
£7.00The House at Pooh Cornero33****
£7.00Radical prioritieso44****
£7.00Mapping The Mindo44****
£6.99Linkedo65****
£6.99Foundations of Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometryo46****
£6.99The Neurotic Personality of Our Timeo46****
£6.99An Essay concerning Human Understandingo45****
£6.99Early Christian writing : the apostellic fathersamazon
£6.71Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophyamazon
£5.99The Shakespeare Classics: The Taming Of A Shrewo33****
£5.99Critique of the Power of Judgment (2008)o51****
£5.97Critical chainamazon
£5.00Mapping the Mindo51****
£4.99Social Psychology: A Study of Human Interaction (1965)o65****
£4.99Two treatises of governmento46****
£4.99Rousseau’s Political Writingso45****
£4.99An enquiry concerning human understandingo45****
£4.99Freedom Evolves, Daniel C. Dennett, Penguin Paperbacko44****
£4.99Workplace counsellingo44****
£4.84Plato : The Republicamazon
£4.79Aquinaso46****
£3.99Understanding the Self-Ego Relationship in Clinical Practiceo51****
£3.99Mind Watching: Why We Behave the Way We Doo61****
£3.99The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and the Mindo45****
£3.99The village effecto44****
£3.00Oscar Wildeo45****
£2.99Real Confidenceo44****
£2.99The emerald tablet of Hermesamazon
£2.49The Science of Passionate Interests: … Tarde’s Economic Anthropologyo51****
£2.49The measure of all thingso51****

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: