Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Errors in Judgment of Behaviors

There is much conversation on the role of biases in cognition. However, the source of bias and the detection of bias are both in our own selves. Some contemporary errors in judgment are possible, and knowing them better can help us clarify issues for our own benefit. Here are a few.
1.       Need for Recognition Vs Publicity
With the advent of social media, the logical adequacy of online clicks has fuelled an appetite for recognition and mutual admiration. However, the boundary between the netizen’s desire for publicity and the internal need for recognition may go unrecognised. So, you count your chances of finding a producer of bitumen approaching your eyeballs via the net.
2.       Narcissism Vs Self-Assurance
The story of Narcissus is incomplete without its moral. It is about finding our image in the eyes of others. Self-assured people not only accept themselves as they are, they know that they see the world as they are and not as it is. Self-assurance is knowing that independent of oneself, there is no ‘knowing’ of the reality without the self. Narcissists know no reality more than their own selves construct.

3.       Online Followership vs Thought Leadership
There are many ‘followers’ on the online network Twitter in the English reading world. Oprah Winfrey and Amitabh Bachchan  are attractors. However, in contrast, it is Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama that command my respect on the same network. Getting online is no panacea to dealing with our emotional, analytical and spiritual essence. Perhaps, Dersu in Kurosawa’s film may never have needed online followership, and his indigenous wisdom of nature a thought leadership that neon flickers and laborless keyboards seldom grace.
4.       Non-hostile conduct vs ethical conduct
See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil seems a cascade into inaction at times. In rushed inference, it could mean to many that a steady abstinence from interaction could be a safe-mode of non-hostile posture. It is easy to miss the ethical tangle here. Voice is a gift that when used could express anguish, hope and joy among other emotions. Silence does not confirm consent. It does not accrete competence in ethics either.

5.       Respectability vs Necessary Norm
Total cockalorum. A little man with a high opinion of himself, that’s what a cockalorum is. It is a derisive title. In societies where face or honor is a matter of great sensitive value, people seek respectability regardless of the merit of the occasion.  Social norms demanding respect could overdo the substance by which respectability can endear. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dimensions in which Leadership could distinguish itself in our times

I’ve often thought of how the world at work may differ if leadership that transcends authority acts itself through. My list of 4 attributes as below.

1.       Performance: Command and Control is of the industrial factory era. Knowledge workers conceive, design, and deliver work without having to depend on orders from superiors. Performance therefore is intrinsic to the performer. Leaders search within to find their own source of Purpose, Identity and Values. Leadership is a collective act with those who share in the respect they mutually demonstrate for each other’s talents. Performance then is an unknown because it is in the act of creating that delight and the state of flow is achieved.

2.       Team Constitution: Leadership recognizes that teams are composed of complementary strengths, which blend in varying ways for performance to happen. Teams are said to be in place when people recognize each other not merely for their task expertise, but have an understanding of their deeper longing for Mastery. In teams, members support the goal that would be impossible without the mere assembly of people tasked to the goal. There is conscious commitment and unconscious respect for the deep-bone gifts that people seek to express as contribution to the task’s pristine finish. People who constitute teams make contributions that connect ideas of potential – often addressing essential functional value, sustainable material input and aesthetic consumption in experience. Most of all, it will seek to maximize the autonomous needs of its members and not deplete it. 

3.       Goal Setting / Challenge : Goal setting is not the preserve of the one with lung-power and thoracic output. Leadership assumes the co-creation of Goals that the collective team will commit to for its inherent delight of challenge, impact and sheer tug at one’s Mastery.  Goal-Setting is seen as evidence of Purpose, but not its substitute. Goals that inspire are the ones that members on the team would willingly take efforts in, even if it means attempting going outside one’s known areas of comfort, for the collective provides a meaning to the individual that he or she values in one’s own identity.

4.       Community : Leadership that devolves individual hegemony is a leadership of equals. Not only does such leadership impact the community around it, it itself communes in ways that are not competitive or exclusive to the ones taking the decisions. Confrontation is seen as a yearning for surpassing chaos with a relinquishing of control and the embrace of intervening emptiness before the flow of decisions marks inclusive participation. A spirit of peace, disarmament, and impartiality prevails when leadership communes with itself in the group, and presents itself to those seeking membership from the outside.

What makes for leadership in your mind? How would you see rewards and recognition for example? Or Strategy? Do chip in.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Wonderful world? Far from the Louis Amstrong sentiment

The infant, the rescuer, the victim and the courageous,
The exploiter, the politician, the law-enforcer, the lawyer, the community
None can deny the passage of the outrageous,
From our reality, we have no immunity.
Each role, takes a hard stance, standing on a pole,
Pretentious, distant from the timeless soul,
The denial deceives, the conscience shaken;
Character on pittance, as predators awaken.
Beliefs numb decency in action,
Images prolong the pain on our senses,
Truth peels away fraction by fraction
Our barest intent and futile defenses.
The prayerful recede to invoke sanity
The contemplative reduce damage with responsibility
In innocence of child-like refuge
Unhonored love awaits deluge.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fallacy in Service

I caught up with an old friend from college last week. He described it as a ‘super’ meeting. 24 years separated us in time. But the charm and unadulterated camaraderie bridged us in a few moments of recall from years gone by. If at all I felt askance, (and I did for a moment), it was when my visiting card gave away a title he did not know I had earned in the interval. He stopped short of cursing mutual friends who did not connect me to him. He also brewed choicest coffee to spark off the occasion. In about two hours of our meeting, he brought on a herbal infusion from Africa. I knew that by the end of the meeting, he had met his old friend and not the one with the title on the card. Like the blends of forgiving taste from tea-shrubs, flavour and fragrance bond ties of yore.
When you meet with a professional, what binds you in the relationship? Do their titles confound you? Do their qualifications and certifications inspire you? What really does magic in the service experience?

1.       Service is an art form. You will remember the experience for what it did for you when you consumed it. The one who produces the service conjures up a rapport in which such an experience is possible. One caveat however is this – did you enable your provider to serve you with delight?

2.       Service is from the heart. Creative juices, if we might call them that, flow when the emotions are animated in the rapport. The head gets to a sense of flow, when service grows from the heart. Procedure and rules encoded in the head are no guarantee for service. Without emotional presence, service is doomed. Caveat for the customer? How many providers will you discard before you place your trust in one?

3.       Service is for the person in a profession. We often forget that the customer has a professional need that he or she considers practical to a fault. But the customer is also a person, who has a private affair with the profession or practice he or she is in. The delight of being served is in the experience of harmony between the buyer’s personal need and the needs of the organisation he or she represents. Like the need to appear as a pioneer, and the solution that allows that image. Or the need to advance in career, and the sense of organisational control the solution ensures. Caveat here? Do you treat your service provider as a means to an end, or a partner in solutioning?

4.       Remember the caveats, but ignore this fallacy at your peril. The Fallacy of Extension from the Pure Sciences.  Due to the pure sciences, weights, measures, scales and molecular consistency have reference standards. GMT for time. 1 gram (g) = 15.4323583529 grains (gr). All measurements consist of three parts: magnitude, dimensions (units) and uncertainty

However, not all that is observed obey laws of the pure sciences. How would you put a tag for example to a nurse that tends to a soldier’s wounds? Or that of a hospice who upholds the sense of dignity for a dying one? Or a developmental coach or Organisation Development consultants who risk their reputation on you? Caveat here? Certifications are alibis. Accreditation too. What reciprocal risk do you offer to engage and learn the essence of a service relationship from another fellow human?

The social sciences are not for the faint at heart. If your service provider draws from such knowledge, do make allowances for surprises, deviations and lack of precision, especially if you find feelings a messy space to be in.  

In the real world, none of us have it all neatly put together, it's a mirage. In the real world, we could listen and be open to change by what we tune in to. In our world, we are in service recovery mode. We're human. 

We can deny our pains and problems, to appear 'neat' and 'tidy'. But would that help us serve the reality we experience? Service is a way to be in touch with reality. It never occurs without oneself. It gets delightful with more than the self in it. 

Whom have you served today?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Technology and its meaning for HR managers

The Age of Surprise is precipitated by the simultaneity of factors that edge our moments in life. Nuclear war, chemical threats, designer famines and physical terror seem likely enough. Yet, the trigger for these could be in the hands of innocent perpetrators. Each time we query a search engine, we are as a civilisation consuming more energy than we expend on a hand-held device. Time Tech said  in 2011 that “One Google search is equal to turning on a 60W light bulb for 17 seconds.” Would it be then appropriate to say that we pay a price for ignorance when we consume what we do?

In order to survive, even human resource managers use technology. They have large data management needs for storing personnel records. They also have personal needs to store reminders, tasks to do and private computations that serve their social and professional interests. However, when swamped with information that software analyses provide; human judgment is called for. In order to practice judgment, one needs to

1)       be prepared to contextualise one’s decisions, irrespective of traditions, and yet mindful of precedents;
2)       be courageous to test the unknown and yet unwilling to be na├»ve; and
3)       be forthright with candour and yet endear the ones who are impacted.

It turns out that language has a crucial role in the way our frames for decisions inform our judgment. Let us consider the word ‘technology’ for example. Wikipedia quotes “The word technology refers to the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function.” And to think that Sony's Walkman and Apple's Mac or the Tata's Nano are the only marks of technology!

Further it states “The human species' use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools. The prehistorical discovery of the ability to control fire increased the available sources of food and the invention of the wheel helped humans in travelling in and controlling their environment. Recent technological developments, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to interact freely on a global scale.

Hence, when a Human Resource Manager refers to the word ‘technology’ today, it is not surprising, that he / she may like to

1)       contextualise for economic impact, especially when the self is reduced to a denominator, where the numerator is revenue or profit,
2)       resign to rather than test the unknown oneself, for complexity has outpaced singular capacity to deal with variety
3)       bind others through technique, systems and craft than endear with one’s heart, as the toll on emotional energy is upped by the incessant demands of financial value-chains.

So does it help get some perspective of our species per se? It does. Few of us are willing to recognise that evidence points to the use of technology in human society as long back as 54,000 years ago! While the Mu civilisation did not reach as high a technology, supposedly, as other later civilizations, it is, nevertheless, said to have attained some advanced technology, particularly in the building of long-lasting megalithic buildings that were able to withstand earthquakes. However, it was the science of government that is said to have been Mu's greatest achievement. What can be said of our Human Resource Management systems in organisations today?

In the annals of time, some contemporary scholarly adjustments from a Euro-centric view of history to a more integrated one commence not earlier than 700 AD. (Arnold Pacey, Technology and World Civilization (MIT Press, 1991)).  While history itself will judge us on how HR managers use technology, I simply loved a case study posted on the city of Ur in Sumer.  The main idea in the case is that science and technology helped raise productivity, farm produce and the rise of civilization. Undoubtedly, we are in a different context. While current civilizations share some aspects in common with ancient ones, the level of specialization in our society has galloped without respite.

While People Process Capability measurements have popularized the word ‘ institutionalization’ – its inherent meaning is short of integration in organisations that assess themselves for maturity.  An institution could be considered as a long-lasting pattern of organization in a community. Complex institutions, such as government, religion, and the economy, are another characteristic of civilization.

In our times, when the short-term memories of people are heightened on an hourly basis, the moot question for me is this “What model of human being do we hold when we manage human resources?” That will surely influence technologies that enable or accompany HR managers. Let us for purposes of this reading, restrict ourselves to assessment technologies.  Says Alexander Panesh of Moscow’s Technical Univeristy “Assessment technology is a logical scheme of stage_by_stage and complex usage of all the existing approaches to HR assessment. Thus, in this form the best result can be reached. However, under these circumstances it is not always possible to follow an ideal scheme in practice.” Thus human judgment goes in tandem with choice of assessment technologies.

I would refer to a wise set of judgment criteria as laid out by Dr. Daniel Harrison as below

1.       Job Specificity : How controlled is the play of technology? Is it based on workplace performance theory, where success is heightened when the role holder enjoys performance? Besides, does the technology also predict performance success with related characteristics such as fit with supervisor, work environment preferences, task preferences, life-interests, beyond just personality aspects that indicate behaviour preferences? Context matters.
2.       Number of job related factors : Does the technology explain all known aspects of behaviour or just a handful of factors? Does the technology indicate criticality of factors to success on the job? Test the unknown too.
3.       Lie-detection : Does the technology contain measures of respondent consistency that screen out socially desirable responses? Does it indicate which factors are less reliable in the measurement? 
4.       Simplicity and Amenability : Does the tool ease up the process of assessment, than to make additional demands on the assessor? Can it involve the assessee only to the extent required and no more to produce reliable and accurate outcomes?
5.       Measurement Scale : Does the technology use scaling techniques that are at once amenable to comparison to a norm for the specified job as also for self-reflection and development? E.g. Is it merely a bipolar scale as opposed to an integration of paradox behaviours? Endear the assessee to success on the job.

Thus as we can see, just from the above scenario for technology in human resource assessments, the technology for discernment and judgment amongst HR practitioners need parallel development. The craft, art and use of science in HR practices may never be ideal, merely because we deal with phenomena of people who have volition beyond mere biological presence.

I am reminded more than ever that learning may come in the way of learning in our times. For evolution in human resource practices, we need to pay dynamic attention to the model of the human being at work. Maturity after all, is a marking against an ideal. If civilisation is developing, will it be because of human resources, or will it be in spite of them? Just as we need to be conscious in our use of energy on a google search, so should we be parsimonious in talent search. 

Technology is not just out there in disembodied virtual reality in the Age of Surprise, but within us as interactive human beings ourselves. Do we need to strike conversation on such? Comments and views welcome.