Monday, October 28, 2013

As we think, so do we become?

In the last few weeks I have seen many busy hours of toil. They were followed by many hours of restful activity – as in soulful conversations with people from ages 84, old school and college mates  to teen-age children. Witnessed meditative sculptors, handicraft hands, painters, and interacted with writers 
of Indian diaspora of different genres. The tales they hold in their expressions have lessons for me in the way frenzied corporate denizens get about their days at work. Let me share a few reflections.
Anu Kumar, Author

1.       Employees get unrelated development, and employers may not know it. This is an amazing occurrence, when the employee gets to participate in learning events and feels satiated by what is on offer. The employer feels that the arrangement was apt and both go about their businesses without critically reflecting on how they co-designed their experiences. Employers fail to recognise that employees do not challenge their own conditions enough to challenge the relevance of the employer’s offerings in learning and development. At one such organisation, the conundrum was this – the employer felt they did better than they ever did in caring for employee development, whereas the employees felt that the employer’s efforts lacked alignment with business focus areas!
Diaspora in LA

2.       Employers rarely reflect within of what they may be missing in their situation. A consultant’s vantage point is to hear from a myriad voices. While one employee voice was to do with unchecked deceit and overt manipulation of innocent employees, another was to do with short-sightedness of top management in the nature of decisions they made regarding business growth. The folly of assuming omnipotence in turning employee and organisational capability 'on' or 'off'. Authenticity at the workplace is most signaled by those who have control over resources. Yet the vulnerability to face unknowns seems a mirage. In the bargain, unknowns like global warming, mass inequities in wealth sharing and unmindful citizenship rear their ugly forms.

3.       The need to defend status quo needs a healthy challenge from those who want to challenge the status quo. The paradox of defending the indefensible lurks round the corner. The Abilene paradox is a great reminder of human perceptual processes in a group setting. Teams end up committing to outcomes that they do not want. At one organisation, the HR fraternity recognised the signs of their times, but furiously wished to defend what their management wanted to listen to. When the top management listened to consultants they seemed more taken by what they could contribute to larger society than in marshalling the potential of their own employees. Now, why would the consultant be more committed to their clients’ employees than their own management?
Mandakini Mathur of the Devrai Farm, Panchgani 

4.       Whole system is not in the room. The bane of high power-distance cultures is the untended potential of the minions. I have been often met the optimism of an entrepreneur, on whose convictions a possibility in engagement is born. Midwife like facilitation begins almost thereafter, because the entrepreneur’s real difficulty is in getting his team to express themselves more fully to the moments that they see their firm in. Most such organisations have a painful realization that organisational capabilities are group or team orchestrations than about messianic release from constraints.

5.       Rationality makes for superficial defense, reality descends in tears of wisdom. Finally a word about the individual in our times. Schools of influence like Cialdini’s and Hogan’s all remind us that emotionality trumps rationality. Yet, in armors that are put forth as fa├žade, individuals within and outside corporations hold out rationalisations that do not connect with people they try to relate to. In defense of their ‘intellect’ they overstretch generalisations to the extent of mis-reading their situations. When I get proximate enough in calibrating their stances, they recognise their folly, but alas, it may take a lifetime to bring their being to their moments. In avoiding tears, we deny a part of our under-nourished selves. People chase mirages of achievement with such predictability that it may put the solar system’s regularity to shame.

In the noble traditions of Organisation Development (OD), the model of the human being is not just a philosophical alignment with humanism, truth and justice. It is a rapport of congruence and a statement of capability. Like what the Naked Liberal George Menezes shared with me about the origins of Integrity : it is from the word ‘integer’ – the whole. Do we accept the whole person in ourselves? For what greater purpose would people want to avoid becoming who they can fully become?