National shame – but it will happen again

It could have been worse

If England had won the European Cup Final in 2020, people may well have died. So says the findings of the Baroness Louise Casey report into the events surrounding England fans shameful scenes around Wembley stadium last year.  BBC article here. What a sentiment that is. Conclusions based upon “up to 6,000 people planning to storm the stadium at full-time to celebrate as the gates opened”.

The report suggests there were preparation failures. Failure to plan for “foreseeable risk”. Indications that additional strain on resources from Covid19 related issues played a role. But ultimately concluding that a large number of people’s behaviours were fuelled via externally sourced chemicals (alcohol and cocaine I assume), not internally generated excitement for an event. No great surprise there, perhaps. At least not to anyone who has visibility of what normal is deemed to be for many revellers in 21st Century Britain.

The report’s recommendations are mainly behaviourally focused:

  • Empowering authorities to act more strongly
  • “a sea-change in attitudes towards supporter behaviours”
  • Better communication between agencies
  • increased awareness of the unique challenges of such major events

My own view on these recommendations is they represent a misunderstanding of social psychology. They also mistake unpredictability of behaviours and the possibility of control. In this mis-placed behavioural assessment, I think we just invite rhetoric without real change. Much as other reports into other incidents fall into this same trap.

Three of these recommendations are based upon the temporal interface between prior planning and real-time adaptability. Visibility of a plan is best supported by the shared nature of its creation. This is communication in advance, the sharing of expected range of possible outcomes, and the collaborative nature of what is to be implemented. The empowerment element here then offers a change to the constraints, or better awareness of what they are, and what the systems of control are thereby intended to manage.

But none of these measures are relevant unless the planning is backed up by training and practical empowerments at ground level in real time. This is what the High Reliability Organisation (HRO) reflects. Increased visibility of the bigger picture based upon clarity of goals, clarity of roles and responsibility, and empowerment of those closest to the situation to act. It is also empowerment to act whilst accountability remains at the senior positions that have overseen the development of both plan and the control environment that contain all. Itself an expectation on leadership to serve, be authoritative rather than just have authority, and a shared understanding that pushing upwards rather than demanding more downwards, requires more understanding of layers of leadership intent on serving, not being served.

The “sea-change of attitude” of fans is a nonsense. It is a wishful remark with no actionable end. The only attitude that can be managed is the attitude of authority to be more cohesive, collaborative, and accountable for the functionality of control. I am all for addressing wider changes of attitude. But this is a societal level aim, and cannot possibly be targeted simply in the name of an event.

Projects of control to support change

These same sentiments can be examined at other scales. I look at the Grenfell aftermath with the same concerns for what is now being challenged. I look at the sad, sad, story of Arthur Labingo-Hughes. Sitting alongside a ridiculous fiasco of failed safety controls behind Alec Baldwin’s “it just went off in my hand, guv” defence.

We can always find someone or something to blame. But for me we keep coming back to a failure of control. A failure to adequately contain, and the permission of authority to look away. Not because of the event, but because of the manner of constraint, empowerment, colloquial interest, and evasion of accountability by those not motivated to think beyond themselves.

Every single one of us fails this test each time we look to an individual entity to shoulder the blame. If we are serious about a “sea-change of attitude” that puts us all in the frame.

I think we should be expecting more challenge to the infrastructure of control, when it is shown to have failed. Otherwise, what trust should we have that controls are now better placed to adapt. We should be asking “what is now different” so that it will be better contained, when it inevitably happens again…

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:

visibility | b | t

Law abiding citizenship

Do a bit, see a bit more. Seek a bit more, see much more. This is a brief blog, highlighting sources of information we may wish to explore.

Many more blogsites have come to my attention since I began blogging. Here are two of note.

Increased visibility by looking more

visibility | b | t

Reliance on media feed seems our collective default. However, blogsites with specific interests and specialism are everywhere. It seems to me a more effective means to see more of what needs to be seen. One less filter between the subjective viewer and the objective reality they are trying to see.

v | behaviour | t

But of course there is new bias to reflect upon. It becomes more demanding of the viewer to seek out these better questions. Be more present to the issues. More vigilant to the need to seek out more. Not be overwhelmed by the task of finding the sources that the media headlines do not.

v | b | trust

This then becomes a new form of trust. There is necessary need to trust yourself. To have honed your own ability to seek answers to new questions. To self-determine the validity of the source. Take more care in the degree of trust in the source.

Being present

I have explained this in the language of enquiry I now use. Directing my interest in intended change – as a project. The sources we accept, are our own projects of information gathering. Something we are pre-programmed to do. Something we are minded to make efficient and easy. But not always therefore with necessary interest in what is truly true.

Hope is at hand

The good will of the masses is what I think sits near at hand. The doing actions of those motivated by truth. Their version of truth, but still a better truth, a more visible truth, than what media commercialism has become. I am grateful for finally finding some new windows to look through.

What is immediately apparent is just how much we do not see. What is not reported. What is not of interest to the filters. This is said with no grudge. It is just a commercial reality of life. This is not conspiracy, this is behaviour. Giving us what we want, or what is easy to see. As consumers this is our vague trust. Our happy distance from the real. I see little merit in blaming the media moguls, when it is we the public who can at any moment dictate a different tone. Dictate what it is we intend to see.

Own your enquiry

Blog-sites are everywhere. They just need to be unearthed. Then assessed for quality, bias, and reliability. But if you have the time, or the inclination, there is more than social media click-bait, derived from headline grabbing media feed, waiting for you.

I am learning this only now. Maybe you can learn this too – without having to become a blogger just to take in this view. I began this blog by highlighting two blogsites of note, to get you on your way. The upholding of law is a place where hidden behaviours are exposed. Where trust is questioned. Tested. Sought to be proved. And if so inclined, visible to us all.

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:

Take a pill and chill

IMAGE SOURCE. MERCK, via BBC

Is this the end, for SARS-CoV-2?

If this pill is as effective as widely claimed, the potential for Covid19 to be confined to the history books may be close at hand. The speed of advancement of the medical science behind this progress is a marvel to behold. Even compared to vaccination this new weapon being dispatched to the front line is game changing. It destroys the virus from within its host. Destroyed to the core of it’s replicating genes.

A moment of hope that we can soon turn all attention back to the bigger challenges in hand. The next test more fundamental. But if this first is overcome, we must be living with hope of future breakthroughs more profound than even micro-biology at its best…

…we have advanced our understanding of both the behaviour and the control of viral threats. Next is reappraising the behaviours of us all, and what we need to turn new attentions toward. Next is regards our collective selves, the system of systems upon which we live, and the frameworks of our own forward-focused control.

  • BBC article here (reporter Jim Reed)
  • Dr. John Campbell here

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:

Leading is control

Being a leader, not having the badge

Who else needs to know?

Leadership is made, not purchased, not born.  Yesterday I posted a challenge as to why we only look at the leader and not the controls.  Today, I wear the other shoe, and seek to show them as a pair.  I happened upon a book someone else was reading last weekend.  I made a comment on LinkedIn, and I was soon in discussion directly with its author.  Surprised as I was with the one to one access, it is completely in keeping with the man.  Communication is all, he says.  Oak McCulloch, a military leader, living up to both title and first name.

His book “Your Leadership Legacy : becoming the leader you were meant to be”, was, courtesy of very polite prompt, ordered on the Tuesday – Oak’s influence and follow up both said and seen here too.  The book arrived on the Thursday afternoon.  It was read in a few hours there and then.  Another brief discussion accommodated as I concluded this learning project.  His words and influence are now sitting between my last blog and this.

Understanding the concepts of what it takes to be a leader is not that difficult. Actually doing the things required of leaders, day in and day out, is another story. Thus, the dichotomy … It’s Not About You; It’s All About You

Oakland McCulloch, in summarising the key sentiment of his book

Leadership or controls?

His view is that leadership is all.  I have just blogged that we need to take a closer look at the controls, and not just the leadership.  Yet, I think we both agree.

Outcomes are steered home or put to the rocks by the clarity of vision, purpose, and execution.  The first thing this leader did in each assignment he was set, was check what this vision was intending to be.  Next was to check that the control framework was fit for the changes required.  The control framework that enables the visibility, the behaviours, and the trust to be aligned.  All this within the wider framework of the wider control environment within which he served.

Without a leadership interest in the controls, I conclude we are being presented with neither.

Objectives and Guideposts – building trust

There is reference to Oak’s constant journaling of what leadership is.  Journaling that he began from his first cadet days.  I really like that.  It immediately adds an authenticity to the read.  There are quotes from other leaders throughout this book, as a positive reinforcement.  They fit perfectly to the first-hand experience and anecdotes.  Each seems to have been a message lived by, not retrospectively sought.  The book therefore reads as by someone who has lived a life in leadership, reflecting upon its duty, but also diligently seeking more knowledge from others.  The mentors.  The experiences.  The sage words written and passed on.  But also recording the pithy sentiments, learned meaning that transformed something more within. Kept accessible to reflect upon and re-apply.  That is the dedication to becoming the bastion of the role, not just the title it bestows.

This is the essence of the being mode.  Aiming to be more, and not just owning knowledge but seeking it out to apply it.  The being leader, leading by example.

v | b | t

He further enshrines the necessity of teaching and being taught.  The terms used here I equate to the visibility | behaviour | trust categories I am advocating elsewhere. To delegate by increments of trust, that are backed up by the clarity of what is expected and enabling the recipient to feel empowered to do so with their own flare.  Compare that to how we in construction delegate in contract.  Low trust, defensive scopes of service intended to have ambiguity to wiggle around our own lack of clarity of prioritised goal, and a tendency to over burden method and dictate behaviours via reporting but ignore the necessary checking and presence to help or intervene. What lessons does each attitude reflect and teach here?

The relevance to projects, and of psychology

I am reminded of the work of Jungian psychologists like Robert Moore or Jean Bolen, in explaining the necessary maturity required to be the balanced leader.  Frameworks of personal development can be built from these theories.  In Jungian Archetype language leadership is the King or Queen archetype.  Moore argues this inner part is in everyone, but that it is the last to develop fully, and only if other key parts have matured first.  Only then can the tyrannical petulance and demands of the spoilt child be avoided, or the weakling child be countered along with its passive aggressive apathy.

Moore suggests many never advance beyond this stage because to advance means to find balance to many conflicting but necessary needs.  Our instincts and need to train, the warrior preparedness for fight or flight.  Our caring and nurturing side, as reflecting our ability to love.  Our need to develop ideas and tools to explain and do more, and be less beholden to chance, as our means to teach, mentor, study, discover, and learn anew.

It is this hard-won inner balance within each of these archetypes; the balance between each of their competing desires; that we then take all our delicately balanced parts into the outer world.  It is here we attempt to keep our own balance, and account for the imbalance of others toward shared objectives, shared obstacles, as intended changes to what is otherwise just chance.  These are all projects | within projects.  But they all start with you.

Father figures

I will admit a bias in my enjoyment of this book. One known to any who know me at all.  My father was a military leader.  The Royal Navy has a history of its own heroes to boast, as do I.  He had to learn all these lessons of leadership from a standing start.  Both through experience and later found academics. From his first CSEs at 30 years old, to an MA in Military Strategy in his mid-forties.  Working his way up from the most junior rating at 16, to then retire a Commander.  A rare story indeed.

There is much in this book I no doubt reflect upon as strengths acknowledged in my own first leader.  A tall shadow from which to emerge without some reflective doubt. It is only later in life that I was able to acknowledge my unfinished business with developing my inner King.

From mind to management

With that in mind I will conclude with a final psychological observation.  It is with an open mind we should look to understand what leadership is intending each of us to be.  Personality and trait theory would argue there is no single flavour of a better way to be.  It is therefore our first duty to know ourselves.  Our weakness’, our strengths, and our blind spots to both.  As with all learning it is then the application that counts. Reading of how others did something well is not a text book to learn by heart.  It is a glimpse at what it meant to them, to be.  Blindly following another’s formulae is, by its very nature, not to understand what it is to lead.  To be, is to apply ourselves to better ends.

Be your own mind

I recommend this read.  It is a perspective worth seeing.  Reflecting upon behaviours worth applying.  Presented from an authority and institution of some trust.  It has the clarity of word Oak tells us Napoleon always sought.  At around 50,000 words it is a decent single sitting meal.  One of those I think Francis Bacon would have offered to be slowly chewed and digested.

Your Leadership Legacy : becoming the leader you were meant to be” by Oakland McCulloch.

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:

Self understanding

The illusion of coordination

I want to introduce you to Michael Gazzaniga. The man who showed us how the left and right sides of the brain can become separated, and have conflicting demands of one person. My own interest here is more a demonstration of how brain function can reflect our projects.

Contemporary brain sciences are closing in on a mystery. Edging toward the possibility of the illusion of singular control, and singular truth. Even the most nihilistic among us will struggle to accept our limited ability to choose. So says Michael Gazzaniga in his 2012 book, “who’s in charge : free will and the science of the brain”, (cf Chapter 4 ff). In the proceeding chapter he introduces the interpreter part of our left brain. A function that retrospectively takes credit for automatous actions. Gives them justification. Backfilling explanation that we offer to external enquiry when no such conscious intervention really occurred. We even have a part of the brain that is active in recalibrating time lines in recall to help us in this justification. At a very fundamental level, we lie to ourselves to give meaning to actions, of which we had little control.

In his 2019 book “the consciousness instinct” Gazzaniga presents a compelling case for just how uncentralised this brain interaction is. Most interestingly is the suggestion that as our life experience grows, we add more modules to neurological stacks (each with its own operating procedure or rules) and so the complexity grows. No module is interacting with another, other than in the output of the last, and offering an output to the next. These countless numbers of stacks then competing against each other. Each demanding attention with signals to the conscious part of us. The most successful contributing stacks become more relied upon, as more positive experience, and increase in regularity of use, thereby rewarded and invested in further. Redundancies are just a by-part of the whole. “What wires together, fires together” he cites from mantras born from Donald Hebb (ibid pp62). Offered by Gazzaniga as one more death nail amongst many to psychological behaviourism which others, like Noam Chomsky’s preprogrammed brain theory of symbolism and language, have further hammered home.

The latter part of this 2019 book is perhaps the most mind bending (pun intended). He reflects on pp193, of Pattee’s quantum and classical layers and size factor of enzymes that enable 1D and 3D connections – suggesting the mind-body problem sits at this same interface of the physics of relativity vs quantum theory. On pp196 he has notion of complimentarity still being resisted but that from herein is life. As order and chaos. Physical and arbitrary. Probabilistic symbolic measurement and material physical laws. Increasingly ordered and increasingly complexed over time. That this tension also has external account, pp209 Rebecca Sax, MIT – there is a part of the right brain that is specialised at anticipating the intentions of another person.

In my opinion, what this is explaining is our understanding of change. The intentional actions of change. Which we as human beings have become more able and sophisticated at managing. Although to what extent we are truly free to choose is debated at length in both books.

The data complexity management at a fundamental life perspective pp219, also suggests challenge between perspectives. To show how long life has been doing this he offers time perspectives in terms of evolutionary timelines of millions of years ago (mya). As bottom-up thinking ~550 mya, competing with top-down ~350 mya. This is presented as data control advantages which offer complexification needing new modules to find new ways. By pp222, he presents bubbles emerging that are selected by a control level that is built into the complexification of modular structure. The chosen output from one modular structure, picked because it represents new rules that offered the best result based upon prior experience. Replaced or upgraded when better protocols or rules offer better results still.

Who reads even the broad sentiment of this build up, and cannot see a comparison to the organisational challenges in projects we externalise every day?

My next psychology focused blog will introduce communication decisions, as cost-benefit decisions of the brain.

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: