Introductions have changed

Because university is about taking safe risks

This is the introductory video I have just posted within my distant learning shared space with fellow students. Lockdown, distant learning, time zones constraints, all reflecting 21st Century challenges and opportunity to experiment in relative safety. In about a minute we were each asked to introduce your why in psychology.

An introductory experiment

Can two messages be offered together, one per mode of communication?

I took a few risks here. One of early transparency in offering more information than people needed to know. But it seemed contextually relevant – this is a psychology course after all.

The next risk was sailing as close to the boundary of the brief as I dared. Video format was required – but I decided that didn’t mean I had to be in it, just the subject of interest.

The final risk was the experiment. A double up of the content in the time frame. Could I sneak two messages into one. From my first MSc, a module on Visualisation of data introduced us to the work Edward Tufte, one of the stalwarts and pioneers of the craft. My professor taught us to be bold and to present as much as can be understood in the space; Tufte taught me that using two modes for one data representation was a waste. Why therefore feel compelled to use visual and sound mediums to convey the same thing? The answer is of course that the density and comparison offered can become confused, and all can be lost. As this was a brief message, and as I suspect all can listen then watch, or watch and then listen, I could leave it to the user to decide if either or neither message could be followed via watching, or listen, and maybe both.

There are no marks awarded for this presentation. So my only real risk is one of reputation, or confusion, or both. All are retrievable, or perhaps rightly earned, so I dared to be different in a control environment in which I immediately feel safe (per the lessons from sociology via Tracy Brower, that I blogged at length about yesterday and the day before).

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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:

Em-pathetic leadership

Is empathy the first leadership quality to nurture in us all?

In this blog, I argue that both misery and empathy love company. But that does not mean the Company should blindly love more empathy, or assume misery is therein opposed.

This blog is inspired by a response I posted on LinkedIn this weekend. Aimed towards a fabulously thought provoking article advocating more empathy. The premise of which was the celebration of what empathy presents as the most important power tool of leadership.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Tracey Brower, writing for Forbes, is a Sociologist. She writes terrific pieces – this one included. Sociology is one of those many subject areas our future research in projects’ needs to look at more closely. Look no further than the first people to identify the impending global financial crisis for evidence of that. This article, “Empathy Is The Most Important Leadership Skill According To Research”, gives a series of accounts of what better empathy looks like. And what harm a lack of empathy fosters. It makes a compelling case, but does it apply equally to us all?

My worry is not to those who lack empathy. My worry is to those that rely on its niceties too much. Specifically the imbalance possible when leaning too far into – opposed to not far enough toward – an empathetic perspective.

A second worry occurs to me too. What of the accomplished empathiser with less interest in benevolent cause – what separates the motivator from the master manipulator when it is only empathy that we seek to call?

The King and Queen in us all

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

This was another chance to explore a little of the King and/or Queen Archetype theorising of the Jungian psychoanalyst, Robert Moore. A little psychology to compliment the sociology – perhaps the two perspectives offer us a little more.

Our inner relationship and the outside world

My experience of management training, in the big corporates that have invested in my training over the years, is a focus on ensuring each of us was able to both understand our own traits better; and crucially, to then understand how different others under your charge may behave or think. Yet despite these sanguine lessons, our blind spots endure, as witnessed at every honest appraisal thereafter performed. We are all human after all.

Much more recently in my learning, this is where I have found the archetypal outlines of Jungian psychology helpful. I am far from convinced this mode of psychology is the pinnacle of this science in modern times. However, this is modelling that can still help explain our relationship to ourselves – the persona we present to the world, plus the active but hidden part we know, or the repressed part within that we may not be aware of at all. The Archetypal traits in their less welcome forms are outlined below as Tyrannical vs Weakling leaders, and used here as an oversimplified but recognisable range of relationship and traits we may knowingly or unwittingly take out into the world.

Self vs Other as a target of more love

There is upside potential to both self and other focus. I present below what good might come of each, and what Jungians would call the shadow archetype sitting at each pole. Applying to our relationship with ourselves, but perhaps also influencing how we engage with others.

Upside when in balance

Downside when imbalanced

Self focus

driven, confident, outcome orientated, present to priority and optimisation of tasks

Tyrant King or Queen

arrogant, self obsessed, divisive, elitist, entitled. Arenas of fear, stress, and oppression. Teams of the silent and compliant, offering only good news and hiding the rest.

Other focus

inclusive, people acuity, present to wider team impacts and playing to strengths

Weakling Prince(ss)

indecisive, reactive, naïve, no discipline or boundaries. Lack of vision or singular aim. Team inefficiency, apathy, tolerance of selfish others, and loss of team morale.

Empathy and misery both love a company

We all know what a tyrannical boss looks like. The self confident, self obsessed. me first, leader. Robert Moore presents this as the tyrant within. It need not be the person we typically see, this could be the momentary burst of rage to an otherwise docile soul. Or it maybe the accepted persona that then interacts this way in a leadership role.

Photo by Yan Krukov on

What I present above is that there is an upside to being self orientated. The driven, focused, outcome orientated, energy that gets us through. We may not like it, but we can look back at successful outcomes and at least see what it was intended for.

We all know what the weakling boss looks like. The other-first carer, who is attendee to everyone’s needs. A good friend, but as the bastion of your career, is that any better than the tyrannical boss?

Photo by Noelle Otto on

The committee decision maker, the indecisive ditherer. The more data please, consensus driven, enemy to none – enemy to none except the clarity of what is to be done.

Moore’s trick up his sleeve

An unsuspecting third may lurk here too. The master manipulator, turning empathy into self-serving need. Robert Moore would argue there are other energies in play here. Other inner archetypes taking a lead. Specifically he presents the learning and calculating part of us he calls the Magician.

Photo by cottonbro on

He puts this archetype as opposing the King or Queen. If we have failed to balance this archetype then we have an imbalance of a different type. The needs of this Archetype are less interested in the service of leadership. But learnt empathy offers a means to know how to get more of what it wants.

Regardless of how Jungian we are prepared to relate, my point here is that empathy has more than possible benevolent use. Perhaps we need to think to whom we gift it to. Or how we bring more of those naturally gifted with it, more effectively to the fore.

The uneasy balancing of the two

Accordingly whenever I see a celebration of empathy I am cautious in my cheer. Sure, let’s be better at our knowing how to apply empathy. Especially to those of us who find it necessarily hard. But if empathy comes naturally, do these people so easily get to lead? Do we unwittingly mingle tyrants with sociopaths? Do we encourage benevolent empaths to think more of themselves?

I think we need to give this more attention than simply celebrate a trait. More empathy in the boardroom? Yes please. But perhaps our leadership training needs to bring more empaths towards the self, and less sociopaths above us all. This does not come from just training existing leaders with a retrofitted trait. This comes from careful understanding of the deeper psychology in play. And ensuring our critical control environments can rein in whatever comes our way.

Can projects of mind inform projects of management?

This is another strand of enquiry I am taking back into project thinking. Can the projects of self-improvement and self-development, including our individual developments into leadership, be shown to contribute to the outcomes of the projects this leadership is intended to serve? The modelling of psychology, and neuroscience, and beyond these Jungian ideas that not all agree.

The many and varied focuses on communication and modelling; coordination and collaboration; processes intended to preserve or change; conflict, distract, or renew. How much of this reflects these same organisational and management needs in the bigger projects of cooperation in our everyday lives? How well can one inform the other? And inform the controls and tools to compliment both. Projects | within projects, that define and connect us all.

Subscribe here, if you want to read a little more of this every day. I am currently blogging daily. As I return to university once again, this is part of my attempt to apply learning. And share it as I go. Influence, and be influenced by you.

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:

Fresh faced for freshers’ week

1991 Freshers’ week vs 2021 Freshers’ week

30 years separating these two starts to university. 30 years, a city career, a temporary mortgage, a forever marriage, a pretty reasonable life. One I am rebooting now.


Living on the South Coast. Working my summers as a harbour tours commentator since age 16. A level results confirm the 20 points needed for my conditional offer at my preferred choice University, Cardiff. Maritime Studies, my preferred subject. A pause to the debate of whether my life was, like my father, destined to be at sea. Option B was Economics, Kingston Polytechnic.

Young Enterprise regional winner. A level economics, grade A. Better at business than biology – no change there

Then late September 1991. Freshers’ week. Still looking about 12 years old but evidently able to get served in a bar.

Seemingly more than one…

Days I look back on with some fondness. I found a freedom. I found the pub. Uni is where I met my wife – she must have been looking for a project then. I consult within, and research around, the risks impeding projects now.

Second year, 1992 me, still living as a young one indeed.

Eventually, I even found the lecture theatres and the library. Looking back my 2:2 was probably well deserved, but that was a sting I felt long and buried deep. A dissertation mistake that cost me dear. Living to the brief of my local government client, not the needs of the degree. I did so much wider learning here.


The 2021 me has returned to long hair. Less rebellion, and more compliance with lockdown need. I didn’t need to shave in 1991 – I just don’t bother now. I have grown into my Beardall name.

Never further from maritime influence than now. Never looking more like I have been at sea for 30 years…

No longer young but a modest enterprise still. My consulting work in construction pays the bills. My latter day interest in psychology intent on bringing a little biology back into the complex project space.

Today was a day of turning a house upside down, my parents doing the same to theirs, and a 32 year old document is duly found. And a few old photos.

Nottingham University having conditionally approved my MSc place in Psychology, but insisting I evidence a GCSE grade C in mathematics from 1989. My MSc distinction in Project Management, Finance, and Risk from 2020, a career in risk and insurance due diligence in project finance, none of that an acceptable work-around. Lock-down, remote working, no means to get out. Still no means to register until the GCSE cert is found. A compliance box frantically now ticked.

So how do these two Freshers’ weeks compare? I have no idea, I am not there. I await my instructions for registration. But I was never going near campus this time anyway. Just sat here, quietly getting on with work and research. Delighting in the memories found in some photos of 30 yesteryears.

I do know I availed the sting of my 2:2, with my 2020 MSc. The library I found has claimed me eventually. More so than the sea. Being young was fun. But my third university visit, this one prepares me for a PhD.

Join my journey back to university for a third time.

This blog space will be my place to introduce psychology to projects, risk, and people management. There is a clear research aim here, and this time it is my brief. But I am in no rush. I will be taking time to understand, time to share, time to reconsider much learned in yesteryear.

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:

The enquiring mind

Yesterday, I reflected upon a leader, Lieutenant Colonel Oakland McCulloch (US Army, retired). A man who applies much to what it means to be. How to actively apply one’s learning, and be dutiful to the shared influence and better outcomes that result. It required me to rethink a post from the day before. In the end I saw both perspectives, and found them each to be reflecting upon the same needs in delivering change.

To adequately address my own narrowed perspective I used a practice from another mode of my learning to help me reconcile and reframe my understanding. I found a middle way.

Consider these five factors, as attitudes or modes of any enquiry.

1. Vigilance – awareness, exploration, new insight. Not better understanding of what you know, but new understanding of what you do not. Changed perspective, wider perspectives, and in their differences comes understanding that is new.

2. Sensitivity – to what is being witnessed a dynamic perspective of actions or changing state, not a static unmoving object to covet or reject.

3. Acuity – meaning to separate, differentiate, and observe the moving parts, the layers, the processes of change they represent.

4. Noticing – your own physical reaction, emotion, desire or need. Perhaps also that of the other(s) you are modelling in your mind.

5. Reminding – staying present to the enquiry, remaining vigilant. With a humility that expects to find new meaning from what may otherwise be thought of as known. Acknowledging but not becoming engaged with the distractions – re minding back to the present enquiry.

This is the best way to outline the phenomena of the active engagement of an open mind,. Not that I am finished looking. These are learnings from contemplation, when looking outward. These are learnings from meditation when looking inward. They are skills to learn and to develop. They need not be linked to religious belief from East or West, but they have long traditions in both and can be embraced within whatever suits best.

I now do this everyday. From an increasingly diverse range of accounts of how to apply this meditative practice. And like everything I learn I attempt to apply it. In my daily life, my research, and my work. I am enquiring as to its merit at scale. It is why I have presented it as a means to make enquiry here. I think it becomes a tonic to modal confusion. A means to tease out deeper rooted problems. By applying vigilance to what is assumed to be known, to prospect and see anew.

Cognitive science and psychology both sit happily here. Scientists like John Vervaeke produce contemporary, helpful insights that connect mindfulness to the study of the mind. The above perspective was first glimpsed from one of his Dharma days. Where he was introducing Metta, or the outward looking contemplative practice – but as had already been informing the Vipassana, or inward looking meditative focus, it sits alongside. There is so much of his material and influence to share, but I’m reading his many references to wider work before I do. Importantly, he says, is to understand what this mindfulness is not. It is not a practice of finding contentment. This is not escape. This is embracing change. Cognitive Science is indicating it is this observational modality that offers the benefits with mindfulness.

This is being mode. This is addressing modal confusion. This is the interconnectivity of layers of time bound intended change. Projects | within projects. From mind to management. Starting with yourself.

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:

Reshuffling our thinking

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:

Francis Bacon saw through it

With a few days yet before I rely upon my academic betters to once more guide my learning, I find myself seeking passages from older text that I doubt my psychology syllabus will stretch to. Here are a few lines from one of the stalwarts of applied learning, Francis Bacon. Like all sciences before it, psychology as a science spawned from Philosophy, these passages a case in point. In reminding myself how the essay was once the command of all thought, this author was one of the best.

Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished…bend nature, as a wand…let not a man trust his victory over his nature, too far, for nature will lay buried a great time, and yet revive, upon occasion or temptation…

they are happy men, whose nature’s sort with their vocations…

whatsoever a man commandeth upon himself, let him set hours for it, but whatsoever is agreeable to his nature, let him take no care for any set times; for his thoughts will fly to it, of themselves; so as the spaces of other business, or studies, will suffice…

A man’s nature, runs either to herb or weeds; therefore let him seasonably water the one; and destroy the other.

Francis Bacon 1561-1626, extracts from his essay “Of nature of men”

Just as our respect for all nature begins with our understanding of its will, so too must we understand ourselves if we are to harness our best and manage our worst. There is stoic resolve here, but also hedonistic understanding. To know yourself is to perhaps find both stoic indifference but to also have a quiet peace if doing what your nature has you do best, with least effort. On those rarefied occasions we are blessed enough to choose.

These sage words also remind me of Jungian shadow, those repressed parts of our psyche that we dare to override but reappear unannounced all the same. Psychological impact of denial of what we are. That we do well not to repress, but to understand, integrate, and respect. Thereby finding means to improve. And then make good nourishment from those unwanted weeds.

These are the projects within each of us. Of which psychology can aid us better intend change, rather than simply react to it. This too will become a place for my evaluation of what connects all projects. Increased visibility as leading to our understanding, enabling us to better address our behaviours, and therein trust ourselves more. The more of ourselves we can acknowledge the more consistent our truth to ourselves. All of which I contend myself with thinking Francis Bacon knew quite some centuries before…

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:

Back to school…

They kept me on tenterhooks but they said yes.

University of Nottingham, Psychology (Conversion) MSc starting in two weeks time. It’s a hobby and a passion, and now a part time remote working MSc.

Some of the best research and highest ranking student experience results in the country. And not an easy place to get into. I am delighted.

More learning. More cross over disciplinary intentions. More application if I can find a way.

I will keep blogging on where psychology and commercial project thinking can find more to connect.

Watch this space…

Fromm having to being

Being more present in our projects

In this article I argue for a means to identify if we are connected to other project actors by being present or simply having a role to play. Being is an active position. Having a passive or self orientated mode.

The concepts of “being vs having” are taken from Erich Fromm (1979) “To have or to be? : a new blue print for mankind” Reprint 1984 Abacus, Sphere Books, London. I also recommend the many YouTube videos hosted by cognitive scientist, John Vervaeke, to learn more about being present. It is insight I have taken into my daily life.

Erich Fromm admits immediately to the ideological endings to this book.  It is in three parts. The first two reflecting his wider psychoanalytic account of selfishness vs altruism, as two basic character orientations.  The third part moving more directly towards his politics, ideology, and societal solutions.  It is the first two parts, specifically the first ninety-four pages of this book, from which I present factors to inform commercial project thinking.

The key insights I present here are from Chapter II, “having and being in daily life” pp37 to pp54.  Fromm offers eight examples of having vs being. They each reflect how we are united or divided by perspectives on truth.

One: Having learning vs being a learner

(see next)

Two: Having mechanical vs being logical, in what is remembered

Fromm separates learning and remembering, but both offer context of attitude towards recall.  His examples are: the student attending lectures to learn the syllabus to pass exams: compared to, the learner who reads around the subject beforehand, engages with the lecture for more perspective, and takes all of this away to build upon more knowledge as the subject evolves.  Fromm also references Freudian free association to demonstrate what the being mode of remembering is.  This is application, not simply having recall.

Three: Conversation vs dialogue

To converse is to exchange perspectives.  It is presenting what was prepared or already known.  The second, is to be part of a process of shared enquiry towards a truth (pp42)

Four: Judgement of bias vs Information as fact

pp43-44 he contrasts forming a judgement vs acquiring knowledge.  The former is the means to receive information with the context and content choices of the messenger.  The second offers lines of thought that we accept.

Five: Having authority vs being an authority 

pp45-47 he distinguishes modes of authority.  One is rational and reflecting a competence, service, and one intended to help others to grow.  The other irrational, requiring subjugation; symbols of authority, propaganda, and cliché; intent on destroying means of critical judgement and increase dependency… “lose their capacity to trust their eyes and judgement”.

Six: Having knowledge or being open to better

Having knowledge is to own truth.  To know is to strive critically and actively in order to approach truth ever more closely, pp47

Seven: Faith in a thing vs faith in a process

We can have faith in an authority figure, an institution, an idea.  We can have faith in our ability to assess a situation by its range of possible outcomes.  The first is a submission, the second is an attitude derived from experience (pp49-51)

Eight: To have love vs to be loving

To have love is possessive, to be loving is an action.  Fromm focuses here on the early action based demonstrative love prior to the commitment by the other which then becomes more an attitude of shared ownership (pp51-54)

Applying this to projects

How much distance divides your project actors?

Across each of these eight categories of having vs being, there is a divide being identified.  This distance is a useful metaphor to consider project relationships.  As relationships move further into a having mode, so they further separate.  For example, in examining faith (pp47) Fromm distinguishes faith in an external object vs faith of being inside a process.  It is this distance that serves my application of these same concepts back into projects.

Division or separation? A project within a project

In this regard there is a point where this division becomes an interface where interests fully diverge.  Being part of a process changes completely into just playing a part.  I am proposing that this division, this separation into identifiable parts, becomes a separately definable project.  The one project now becomes two.

The having relationship is a more divided relationship.  Conversely, the more project actors are in being relationships, as outlined in the eight categories above, the closer they are.  By extremes therefore, they can become one entity, or at least a close approximation to it.  Or, they can be fully separated, and have have competing agendas or be in open in conflict.

The separation now leaves each project with its own being mode. Two being modes, now joined but via a having mode.  Both may intend to cooperate with the other, but not at the expense of their own project.  Returning to the example of faith, each is now an external object vs the shared faith of being inside a process.  If they are required to compete, a point arises as necessitating a win:lose result (in economics, a zero-sum game).

One final extreme can also now be considered.  Projects that are intent on causing harm to another.  Projects of espionage, counter-measure, or deceit.

Next steps

With this distance identified, and this having vs being modality contextualised, I will next bring several project concepts across this same modal perspective.  Three positions will be explored as follows:

  1. High Reliability Organisations in a project setting.  How distance is closed, and project actors become part of a process
  2. I will address a confused position I believe to exist when RACI type models are applied in complex multi-modal situations
  3. I will consider the evolving nature of a project and how “having modes” can become “being modes”, or vice versa.

Book reference.  Erich Fromm (1979) “To have or to be? : a new blue print for mankind” Reprint 1984 Abacus, Sphere Books, London

The cognitive scientist John Vervaeke has devoted many hours on YouTube sharing his wisdom.  Differentiating having and being, and flagging key books to read.  Including this one…

If you have made it this far, thank you.  Please comment, share, and subscribe.  This is a live and evolving enquiry.  This website and the Beardall.Blog are intended to prompt the being mode into a project. Aiming to help projects be more.  They are all projects | within projects.

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: