Category Archives: People and Systems

Northern Clean: 2017

There was a lot happening at “A Northern Taste of Clean”. This is what I learned:

I build models to feel in control. This means  I sometimes need to stop building models and get into the real world, and this may feel hard.

I’ve found a path, and I’m following it. I don’t know the destination, and that’s fine, since I trust myself to make good decisions where to go next. I also have great friends who help me.

What I do to find new things to learn is different from what I need to do to learn them. I need to develop a machine like process for learning specific things. This will stop me ‘spinning my wheels’ when I should be getting on with things.

My tapping foot is telling me I need to move to have ideas. I work best on the move, or when I am ‘somewhere’. (I did 3hrs reading/writing on the train home…)

I need to know when I’m on the Drama Triangle, were other people are, and understand what I can do.

I build models feel in control, and compensate for my lack of short term memory. I can feel really out of control when I don’t have an understanding of what is going on. (So I should get to places /events early,  have phone numbers / directions sorted, get written timetables.)

Learning and teaching Clean Language and Modelling enables anti-fragility.  Learning to model means you can grow, understand your patterns, be anti-fragile.

You can’t have outcomes faster than the speed of trust.

You may have multiple allegiances or reasons for questioning. Know why you are asking each question.

I make expensive decisions sometimes because for me, the alternative is to do nothing, not to plan how to do things cheaper.

I’ve got power and control, it can be used, and wasted.

I’m a novice at this.

The clean community are lovely. I’m happy to be a part. Thanks to everyone who made Northern Clean possible.

Thanks to David Grove for creating something amazing.

DevOps Metaphors in a Nutshell.

Image from ribbonfarm.com showing Gareth Morgan’s 8 Organisational Metaphors

This is the first DevOps post on make10louder. DevOps is a way to develop and run software that removes organisational boundaries and shares tools and culture.

DevOps is similar to a marketing and sales department working closely with factory operations to make sure the factory can build and deliver what the customer wants.

TL;DR

This post looks at the different types of work in building and running software. I’ll suggest organisational metaphors reveal useful insight into DevOps; removing the boundaries between development and operations, and delivering value to customers. We can work better from understanding all the perspectives these metaphors give us.

Gareth Morgan’s Organisational Metaphors

The organisational metaphors I’m using are from Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organisation. (This book referenced by Microservices Architecture , coachesOpen University MSc courses, and ribbonfarm.com).

There are eight metaphors; Machine, Organism, Brain, Culture, Political System, Psychic Prison, Change and Flux and Instrument of Domination. All the metaphors can be true at the same time. People are likely to favour a dominant metaphor in their understanding of the organisation. This means the organisation will be working in ways they cannot see.

The metaphors that I think Devs Ops uses are:

  • Organisations as Machines
    • with known input they should produce identical output
    • ideally ‘well oiled’
    • People as interchangeable cogs, once trained or certified
    • Input, process, output.
    • reducing variation
    • A leads to B leads to C.
  • Organisations as Brains
    • Who knows what
    • How information spreads
    • Constant learning through feedback, and learning to learn
    • Viable Systems and management cybernetics
  • Organisations as Organisms
    • Adapting to the variety of a changing environment
    • Evolving an organisational DNA
    • Having a survival strategy
    • the best fit with the environment survives
  • Organisations as Cultures
    • The way we do things here
    • Value Systems
    • Norms and Patterns of Behaviour
    • Dominant cultures and sub-cultures

I don’t see DevOps best practices covering:

  • Organisations as Political Systems
  • Organisations as Psychic Prisons
  • Organisations as Instruments of Domination

There are some useful lessons looking at real world problems through these lenses, that I will leave to another post.

Metaphors in a DevOps World

#1 Computers are actually Machines

This is not even metaphorical. Don’t configure computers by hand. Person A should not configure a computer better than person B. Computers are often still treated like they need configuration by a wizard.

DevOps insists we treat computers like machines, configured accurately by other computers by running code.

This gives us to easily replicate systems, and have reassurances that if something is wrong it’s not because the wrong wizard configured them.

We treat monitoring metrics in the same way. Automate and get data on all the things.

#2 Processes are machine-like, but controlled by Brains influenced by Culture, in a complex unknowable future environment.

We design our process to run smoothly and they’re automated where possible. We have a strong culture of doing the right thing when things go wrong and we learn from our mistakes. With double loop learning we also ask ‘is this still the right thing to do?’

#3 People are not Machines

People are a complex combination of all eight metaphors.

In a DevOps people are give time to learn and apply their knowledge safely. They are given the tools they need and trust to know how to best use them without involving centralised experts. We encourage a culture of experimentation, honesty, shared ownership of problems and customer focus. Machines cannot do these things.

#4 The value created by software can be seen as the output of a machine

The output as seen by the customer is the number one priority. Customers don’t care how parts of the value stream are working. They care about the output of the entire system, and internal optimizations can have negative consequences. Systems Thinking 101.

#5 Working Software is a machine, used by People, in a changing environment

Software, like the computers it runs on is literally a complicated machine. Although software may behave in ways we don’t understand, without AI, it’s knowable and predictable. It may still be incredibly complicated, but it’s theoretically understandable in advance if the starting point, context and inputs are known.

Problems arise when people use the software. We can start to understood people using the metaphors of brains, culture, organisms and a healthy dose of biases via psychic prisons.

We should automate as much of the machine part of software as we can, in the knowledge that the needs of the people using it will take all of our attention.

We can’t automate software development, but using Agile methodologies to move bits of functionality from customers heads into predictable code, we’re riding a flux and change metaphor.

DevOps Metaphors in a Nutshell

Computers are machines. Build them with code, don’t craft them by hand.

Processes are designed and improved like machines, but in the knowledge that bad stuff will happen. Culture will help you do the right thing when it does, and brains will help your organisation improve. As an organism you need to adapt to a changing environment. Today’s solutions are tomorrows problems.

People and Teams can learn and adapt, but can also follow anti patterns. All the Organisation Metaphors help here. Metaphors of Political Systems and Psychic Prisons (think Cognitive biases) may also help diagnose issues where you’re following good practice, but things still are not working.

Software works like a machine in a complex environment including people, and all of their metaphorical ways of seeing and acting. Crossing this chasm is the work of developers often aligned to the agile manifesto. The use a dominant metaphor of flux and change, but produce software that has a repeatable output.

Conclusion, and So What?

Organisation metaphors reassure us we’re looking at the right things and show us how we can more fully understand situations.

DevOps is a mixture of theory and sound practical experience. Metaphorical insight can help us.

Clean Scoping and Seeing Systems

instagram.com/bogdandadaOverview

In the post  ‘Listen carefully, it’s the System talking I wrote about Barry Oshry’s Seeing Systems model. This describes the conditions we are in when working with other people, and how we can choose to behave in the relationship. I called these choices balcony or basement behaviours. Barry has an excellent book too.

I recently heard Caitlin Walker describe her method of Clean Scoping at the Metaphorum 2017 conference. This is an approach to understand or scope potential work to see if a Clean Language approach is suitable and is likely to work. The rest of this post discusses how I see these two approaches adding value to each other. I recommend Caitlin’s book ‘From Contempt to Curiosity‘ for more details.


Seeing Systems

In the Seeing Systems model, if we are trying to build a relationship with someone in the CUSTOMER condition, we’d like balcony customers, rather than basement customers. As someone responsible for the overall delivery of whatever a customer needs, we can choose to act as balcony TOPS.  A quick overview is:

Balcony TOP’s want to create a systems that can meet the challenges that they face. They empower people in the system to use their unique knowledge to improve the outcomes.

Balcony CUSTOMER’s engage in the details of what they need, provide feedback on the delivery progress, suitability and timing. Reading a bit more into Barry’s work I feel balcony CUSTOMER’s also see the power they have in using and developing the solution. They are not just asking for the answer provided to them.

Clean Scoping

Clean Scoping is part of Caitlin Walkers Clean Language and Systemic Modelling ™ approach, that i feel is a practical way of seeing if the necessary balcony conditions exist. In Caitlins case Clean Scoping is used to decide if she wants to work with the client or not. If we can’t choose our customers then we may try to influence them to behave in a BALCONY way.

Using the two models together allows us to understand what we are trying to do, and have a practical guide to having the conversations.

Caitlin is explicitly trying to create a system that is able to solve the problems it is trying to face. This is done by ensuring she is working at a sufficiently high level in the organisation to make sure the changes stick, ensuring that balcony customer behaviour exists, and transferring the skills to the customer so they are self sufficient.

Customer Behaviour

At my work organisation there is a group interested in how to develop and encourage balcony CUSTOMER behaviour from CUSTOMERs we work with. Catilin looks for this behaviour in potential clients at a high level in the organisation before agreeing to work. Described in her book, ‘From Contempt to Curiosity‘ Caitlin looks to encourage this behaviour – called Quadrant 3 behaviour – at different hierarchical levels of the organisation once there’s buy in. At my work we don’t get to choose our customers.

Using Clean Scoping questions, the organisational behaviour we want to have happen are balcony TOP, Balcony BOTTOM, balcony CUSTOMER.

Clean Scoping Questions

The help achieve this organisational behaviour, Clean Scoping questions would be:

  • And what do we see and hear when <balcony behaviour>?
  • When do you naturally get the <balcony behaviour> you’re hoping to get more of?
  • What is happening at the moment?
  • What is working well?
  • What is not working well?
  • What needs to happen, so what you would like to have happen is automatic?
  • What would need to be true for people to naturally behave like this?
  • What is happening at the moment?
    • Often Uncomfortable patterns are happening. This is often the difference between what we ask of others and what we do ourselves.
    • For example when we behave as a basement TOP with heirarchy, and expect others to behave as balconies. Behaviours are coupled.
    • Acknowledge what is true is true
      • Worldviews and perspectives are important here, and metaphor models can help
    • What would need to be be true for people to naturally behave like this? – People working to their strengths and acknowledging others strengths and contribution.

Biased and basement Behaviour

Behaviour from biases ensure that the patterns from the past continue. These are often confirmation biases that form part of the coupled relations in the Seeing Systems model. The blind reflex response is precisely why the relationships are here, and not in a better place. If we expect or behave with basement behaviour from another, we’ll get it in return – especially if there is organisational hierarchy.

Why and how

This post has covered some of the how questions for the why questions in the previous “It’s the system talking” post. There is a bit more to this…

 

Listen carefully, it’s the System talking.

I’ve been interested in conversations, relationships and working together. How can we relate better at work and home. How is our behaviour affected by those around us, hierarchy, and our willingness to do emotional work – managing feelings and expressions to help a situation progress.

We often react to people  instinctively, pairing our response to their behaviour. Sometimes we choose to break a pattern of conversation, either with empathy for the other persons condition at the time, or to sabotage ourselves and the situation.

Barry Oshry has developed an incredibly useful model to discuss these situations, allowing us to see beyond the people, and to see the system talking. Of course all models are wrong , but some are useful (quote from George Box), and we’ve found Barry’s Seeing Systems model provides brilliant insights. There is a great introduction written by Barry, called Total Power Systems. Ignore the red cover and the words “total” and “power”. It’s not like that.

I worked with colleagues to develop and run workshops, asking ” could you work better with colleagues who had taken this workshop” and ” could you work better with colleagues who have not taken this workshop”. Responses are 100% positive for working better with others who have done the workshop. It seems to resonate.

Barry Oshry’s Seeing Systems Model

Barry’s Model has four conditions that we find ourselves in, in conversations and relationships

  • The conditions change regularly
  • They affect how we behave
  • They affect how others relate to us
  • The conditions are not roles, and do not imply hierarchy
  • But hierarchy is an ever preset overlay

None of the conditions is better or worse. They just are. And they are

  • Topoften overburdened and held accountable
    • Can create a system that thrives, where members are knowledgeable about the system and can use their full potential working in the system
    • When we are TOPS we often sabotage the situation by keeping responsibility to ourselves, away from others including BOTTOMS who can help
  • BottomHard done to
    • Are uniquely placed to see the problems that occur, and to identify and help correct issues
    • When we are BOTTOMS we sabotage the situation when we see problems we hold tops responsible. We don’t feedback suggestions. End of Story.
  • Middle stretched or torn 
    • Able to function as the organisations web, connecting parts and co-coordinating
    • We sabotage ourselves as MIDDLES by connecting primarily with one side or the other to the detriment  the relationship
  • Customerusually righteously screwed
    • Are in the best position to evaluate the delivery process and quality
    • We sabotage ourselves as CUSTOMERS when we hold delivery system solely responsible for delivery. We take no responsibility.

Each condition has two types of behaviour, we’ve called these balcony and basement. Balcony behaviours are positive, appropriate and “Using Yours Powers For Good”. Whereas, basement is the stuff we don’t like in others:  disruptive, argumentative, disengaged.

We move between the conditions often in conversations, and employ balcony or basement responses, usually re-actively without thinking. I’ll give examples later.

We do not act alone

The way we choose to communicate affects how people communicate with us. Hierarchy at work affects this, but we are not our role. Our unthinking reaction – called the “dance of the blind reflex” by Barry, is reinforced by  hierarchy.

  • Anyone who is responsible in a situation is a TOP in interactions
  • Anyone tasked with doing something is a BOTTOM in interactions
  • Negotiating between TOPs and BOTTOMS we are MIDDLES
  • Anyone getting something done for them is in the CUSTOMER condition

We can move between roles in the course of a conversation, meeting or day, often when walking down the corridor between conversations. The model helps us to have empathy for others in their condition. We can choose how to respond. It won’t always be easy or appropriate to respond with balcony response when we choose.


Example Situations

A tidy room.

As a parent you’d like your young child’s room tidying. You’re got hierarchy here. You can approach the conversation a number of ways.

You can tidy the room yourself. Your child is a CUSTOMER. If engaged to be a BALCONY CUSTOMER they could help, and tell you where everything goes, so all the toys are in the right place. You’re kind of both happy, but as a parent you’ve created yourself a job. If they’re not engaged, parental hierarchy may mean they don’t give you feedback, they could just wait until you’re finished, and then constantly ask where things are. If they can’t find anything, it’s your fault. Forever.

At worst, basement TOP behaviour, with hierarchy may have induced BASEMENT customer. At best it created work.

You can ask your child to tidy the room, giving instructions and guidance as the room gets tidier. You’re CUSTOMER/TOP, child is BOTTOM. They ask where things should go, and you’re there to tell them. You tell them what to keep, what to throw away and everything. They may learn after a few times to tidy the way you like it, assuming there is not too much new stuff. If anything changes they expect you to tell then what to do. Years later they may still expect to be told how to tidy their room.

By giving detailed instructions you’ve not created an autonomous system for keeping the room clean. You’ve helped  create a dependent basement BOTTOM behaviour.

As CUSTOMER/TOP you could create a system for keeping the room clean. You could encourage your child to be a BALCONY BOTTOM, by letting them tell you how the room works. What gets used the most, what they don’t like, and letting them work out how to tidy it all up, what to throw away etc. You’d need to check together  that everything looks OK, and check whats thrown out, but this feedback builds a better system, for example they learn they can’t throw out Christmas presents from Dad, no matter how uncool they are.

 


Example Holiday Advice from a Travel Agent

You want to go on holiday. Booking through an all inclusive agent you’re the CUSTOMER. You could walk in and just say “Here’s £1000. We want a family holiday where we’re all happy. Over to you. It better be good, or I’ll give you a terrible online review.” This sounds like basement CUSTOMER behaviour.

Or you could have a list of what your family like, for travel options, activities, temperature, food. You could work with the travel agent to get what you want. This may take more time, but you’ll probably get a better holiday.

From the travel agents perspective, they could behave as a basement TOP, and hold onto responsibility, or build a system that gets people the best holidays.

The travel agent may specialise in holidays for the over 50’s. When a group of young adults come in to book a wild holiday they could hold onto responsibility, and start figuring putting something together from scratch that they’re not familiar with. After all, they’re TOP and responsible. Or they could refer the group next door to the Student Travel Center. If the Student Travel Center refers groups of over 50’s back, then they’ve just created a system to get people the best holidays.

Interestingly, once on holiday, the agent is often a MIDDLE. Customers may complain about the standard of the food and accommodation. Hotels may complain about the lager louts that the travel agency send to the hotel, and the Travel agent is torn between the needs of both. Basement behaviour of reflexively siding with one or the other may not be good long term business sense. Balcony behaviour is a balance.

 


Example of Chief X Officer, working at boardroom level

A CxO is not always a TOP, despite being far up a companies hierarchical structure. For example the part of the organisation the CxO heads will provide service to the rest of the organisation. In meetings with the rest of the organisation, there could be two strategies.

When in meetings responsible for the delivery of their part of the organisation, a CxO would be BOTTOM. They need to deliver, and there is a choice of BALCONY or BASEMENT BOTTOM behaviour, that would have a different strategic outcome.

They can just do as they are told, and hold the next level up to be responsible for the outcome. This behaviour may be induced to be reflexive.

Or they may accept they are in the best place to recognise, diagnose, and get the resources to tackle the issues and work to rectify them using the knowledge and insights they have. If they are allowed. This behaviour is coupled with those in the TOP condition.

The CxO would soon leave the BOTTOM condition when making things happen, but may regularly be MIDDLE or CUSTOMER as well as TOP.


Example of calls to IT Service Desk

IT service desks staff receive calls from CUSTOMERS who often need things fixing. In the initial discussion they are TOPS responsible to the CUSTOMER. They can encourage BALCONY customer behavior where the CUSTOMER helps get their problem fixed, by providing information, feeding back on progress and being involved in the solution where required.

The service desk staff, in the TOP condition can hold responsibility for fixing the issue to themselves, when they need to involve others in the resolution. Involving others may involve moving into the MIDDLE condition to talk to others to get the problematic situation fixed, and be between the CUSTOMER, and the new BOTTOM.

The situation gets interesting if it turns out a 3rd party is involved. After being involved in a complicated problem, isn’t it just great when you can give the lot to someone else and say ‘you just fix this’. We’re in the basement CUSTOMER role here holding the 3rd party to be responsible, end of story. We’d act as MIDDLES between the Service Desk customer and the 3rd party. This is understandable, but maybe not helpful for getting the real customers problems fixed.

Silo Working

The above Service Desk shows an extreme example of Silo working – When we pass things between organisation silos we’re in the CUSTOMER condition, and it’s easy to fall into the basement. It’s often expected to behave as a basement CUSTOMER and hold the delivery system totally responsible. Helping them is not a good use of our limited time.

However we’ve all worked closely with others, times when we’ve temporarily removed barriers and worked together, as balcony CUSTOMERS, working with balcony TOPS, MIDDLES and BOTTOMS. It’s how we get important things done.


This is the goal of Barry Oshrys lifetime work, to help people understand how they relate to each other, and how their reactions can be conscious choices to work in a way that has the potential to induce positive behaviour in the people they are working with.

When we talk to other we should listen carefully, it’s often the system talking.


What can this help us with? When we hear “culture must come from the top”, we can understand “top” to mean hierarchy. ANY of the conditions that people at the hierarchical top of an organisation find themselves in, will be the basis of induced behaviour – effectively setting culture.

In this sense culture does come from the top. HOWEVER, if we apply Barry’s model to itself we find that if someone in the TOP condition and top in the hierarchy sets a direction, and “has the answer” then they may induce the basement BOTTOM behaviour of “I’ll just do what you say – and you’re responsible for the results.”

Any cultural change ideas, applied from the top/TOP down in a basement way are not likely to produce the desired change.

This induced behaviour has echos in the Theory X / Theory Y management styles. Barry Oshry’s work shows how we may induce Theory X behaviour reflexively when we may be wanting to develop relationships and create systems that utilise the resources and intelligence of the people in the system.

Coffee and Thinking Hits

espresso_coffee2_imgI’ve had this idea for a business. I like different sorts of coffee and get a different effect from the caffeine with them. I can drink some types and be awake for hours, others I get an amazing hit that can be gone quickly. I assume this is something to do with chemistry of how the caffeine works . I’d need a business partner with a clue about this to make a coffee menu for my cafe, based on the effect you want the coffee to have.

I could sell coffee related to the activity you’re planning to do, like an ‘All Nighter Latte’, ‘Totally Wired to “Dad Nap” Espresso’ or ‘Hours Gym Class boost’. I’d just need to store and  roast the coffee beans and make the coffee in the right way to get the effect just right.

If you’re starting a cafe, you can have this idea, just let me have a few “Dad Naps” to say thanks.

Get what you want

We are what we eat, and we’re a little bit of what we drink, and we should maybe know a bit more about the effects of what we’re drinking. It’s the same with ideas. Sometimes we know what effect we want new ideas to have, to affect our mood or challenge us. Sometimes we don’t realise what we’re affected by.

We may be seeking reassurances that things will be OK, or that things are someone else’s fault. Validation for our point of view, and a prediction of a rosy future. Or an inevitable mess. Whatever makes us happy, or fuels or anger.

The is no shortage of people telling us how it’s gonna be, and moving so fast they never stop to face how wrong they were. Newspapers and politicians deal in future certainties, and explaining past complexity. It’s not surprising when that is what people are searching for. It’s what they crave, and it shouldn’t surprise us that it’s given to them.

The menu for this kind of thought contains ‘Blame someone else’, ‘You’re right to be worried’ and ‘Tell me everything is going to be OK.’.

If our current politicians and newspapers didn’t supply certainty, blame, hate and reassurances then politicians and newspapers that did would take their place. It’s how our system functions. The purpose is what it does, and we’re biased to want what often turns out to be bad for us.

What sort of thinking would you like?

So what sort of thinking is on the menu today? How did we get here? Who are we? What do we look like to other people? Are we making the same mistakes again? Why do people totally disagree with us? Could they also be right? What if we are all wrong?

Unlike coffee, we may need to create a demand for this sort of inquiry, and maybe soften the emotional hit it triggers. I can make you a coffee for that.

 

Strengths and Clean Language Workshop write up #2

14066249_515711648626681_8301159928151854476_oWe have a regular group sessions at the University of Nottingham,  in the calendar as ‘Strengths Workshop’. We bring topics and situations to discuss using Clifton Strengths Finder, Clean Language metaphor modelling and Non Violent Communication. We also cover the Viable Systems Model, eastern and western philosophy, cognitive biases, complex adaptive systems and other bits of experience and knowledge we have.  

Tuesday 6th September 2016. Mike, DavidVH, DavidR and Eleonora.

To start today I offer a connection I’ve made that looks like a practical use of philosophy. I show the School of Life Wittgenstein Video, that summarises his work as wanting to help us use language more effectively. There is an especially interesting bit about the ‘games we play with language’.

Wittgenstein examples

When a parent says to a frightened child everything will be OK they can’t know that, they are not playing the “Rational prediction from available facts game”, they are playing the  “words as an instrument of comfort and security game”

“If ones partner says you never help me you are so unreliable” they are not playing a “stating the facts” game, so respond how you got some vegetables yesterday, and put petrol in the car may not work. They are playing the help and reassurance game.

A similar example from Marshall B. Rosenberg’s NVC book would highlight the judgement in the “you never help me” statement, look at the facts and emotions, and then try to understand the needs – again help and reassurance.

Wittgenstein’s (and Marshall’s too maybe) point is that all types of misunderstands occur when we misunderstand which kind of game someone is Involved in.

Rosenberg’s NVC book seems to have lots of examples of the author understanding the games people are playing, and systematically putting the understanding into  ‘observable facts’ feelings, and needs .

In the group David asks about the goal of Non Violent Communication? Is it to avoid issues by doing all the mental work to understand someone who is perhaps not being clear? Will this just encourage bad communication?

We’re unsure that doing the mental heavy lifting for people may foster bad patterns, with people not needing to explain themselves, when they get what they need by triggering the other person to do the work of understanding.

We divert to work and home issues – and suggest a few areas where NVC and clean questions would be helpful.

An example from a recent holiday offered for discussion:

Family on holiday

Mum : I’m feeling a bit peckish.

Dad : OK (Thinking: that’s not really hungry, right)

30 mins later…

Mum: I’m really hungry and the café doesn’t look very good.

Dad: OK. There’s that place down the road we saw yesterday. That’s nearby.

Get to restaurant 10 minutes later, and 20 people just got there in front of us……

Child: It’s Ok, just 20 mins walk to town, we’ll get something there.

Mum : I’m not walking into town. I’ve already walked for over an hour before you were all up.

Dad: We could get the bus if that’s too far.

Mum: You know I hate buses. You didn’t listen to me! You’re all shits……

We asked “what is the game that Mum is playing”. It’s maybe the ‘I’m hungry now, but I don’t want to have to tell you all we need to eat now. But that’s what I’d like. Then ‘did you not hear me the first time’, then – “I’ve told you 2 times already”.

In the group there we discussed  a lot of different cultural and family differences to food. These included

  • not ever saying you’re hungry in certain company (and taking lots of snacks to eat when visiting)
  • “kids always finish what you’re given” / “kids only eating what they choose” in two groups of the same family, with tension and crying at mealtimes when they meet.
  • hangovers from childhood about not always saying you’re hungry  – especially passed down from grandparents who lived though WW2 in Poland and Mainland Europe.

What would a ‘language games’ / NVC analysis say. Can we break down ‘Mum is saying she’s peckish. To say that, she’s hungry enough to mention going for food, but we know she doesn’t ever like to suggest eating, so she’s saying she needs to eat really soon.

We also discussed the sterility of NVC communication. How it’s normal and healthy to be angry, vent a bit and be passionate sometimes. How cathartic it can be, and how suffocating NVC can be.

Misunderstanding Needs at Work

If we put the food conversation into a work perspective, we’re often asked – ”

  • can you squeeze this work in
  • no rush, whenever
  • when you get time

Is this the same as ‘I’m a bit peckish”, and is there a similar short amount of time from “can you just do this work, no rush” to the business version of “You’re all shits!”. Much laughing in the group, a nerve was hit.

So there were a few threads coming together in this workshop.

  • How should we react when we need to do the “mental work” of understanding?
  • Can we use clean questions if we don’t know the person enough to understand the language game they are playing?

Sometimes, just understand peoples needs 

In the food discussion, a immediate  response to “I’m peckish” of “OK, lets get something to eat” – cutting out the unnecessary NVC –  would have been best. No need to explain that you have unpacked their communication.

The passionate response to “you shits” perhaps, “yeah, well you ate the last Weetabix and didn’t pack me enough underwear” may not work so well. If you’re on holiday with someone, do the mental work.

At work though, do you want to set up unhelpful patterns? Would you like people to say what they mean and understand when communication is not working? It sounds a bit odd but “what sort of moment is the moment you want me to do this work in?” is a clean question you may want to ask, or at least have an answer to.

Maybe to be continued, we seemed to cover practical uses of philosophy, NVC and Clean Language quite well this week.

 

 

 

 

Strengths and Clean Language Workshop write up #1

We have a regular group sessions at the University of Nottingham,  in the calendar as ‘Strengths Workshop’. We bring topics and situations to discuss using Clifton Strengths Finder, Clean Language metaphor modelling and Non Violent Communication. We also cover the Viable Systems Model, eastern and western philosophy, cognitive biases, complex adaptive systems and other bits of experience and knowledge we have.  

 

Tuesday 30th August  – Just Mike DavidVH and DavidR, Bank Holiday week.

Notes compiled afterwards from memory.

Start with no agenda as usual, so this is messy and emergent, even if you were there…..

We start taking about new hobbies, no handed rock climbing, longboard skating, and get into talking about being happy about not knowing the future. And we’re off.

Is being happy with not knowing based on strengths / personality and worldview? What does the cognitive dissonance feel like to someone who is not happy with complexity and needs to reduce the situation to knowable? Is it possible for right wing Americans to realise an issue “may be more complicated”, or can they only reduce the dissonance when presented with a solution. There are no longer any small c conservatives it seems? On the right there are simple solutions that are received by people looking for solutions, either because of strengths, upbringing or whatever. It makes their brains happy.

 

What is required to, for example like Boris  Johnson  post Brexit – “it is the governments idea to have a plan – not ours”. Assuming that he is consistent, what does his life experience, his patterns, his understanding and his strengths need to be to not have dissonance? Is this perspective any less correct because we find it had to understand? Knowing this, how would you have dialogue with him?

 

Reductionism is the spherical cow – how fast will a cow roll downhill if you push it? Assuming gravity and friction to be constant, and a constant gradient, and a spherical cow we can do the maths! Maths and science are given respect that ” it’s more complicated than that” is not. But the things we do to make the maths work loses the complexity.

Clean questions?

Started with “When you cope with complexity it looks like what?”

then “So when you deal with complexity, you are like what?”

Initial metaphors about complexity being like the TV sales area in John Lewis – lots of tvs on different channels, some you can’t see, some you may not know exist. Seeing all the information from “24hr news channels” to “Lion King” and needing to understand it all. – but a description of complexity – and how we need to talk about how to act.

David:

Dealing with complexity is like having a beginner mind – and not being an expert. Being open to what happens.

It’s like a globe, and understanding parts of the globe that stick out. Taking those bits and understanding them.

There are some more questions and answers but we don’t go very deep into clean language questions today.

We then discuss two cases of dealing with complexity.

1) Donald Trump – George Lackoff describes a patriarchal figure – able to talk problems and reduce the complexity and provide simple solutions to people who are used to patterns of patriarchy, and/or have strengths that require them to have an analysis & plan, to be in control. Complexity is dealt with by reduction, and many people are disenfranchised.

 

2) Do I have agency? Why worry if I cannot change things? Is dealing with complexity inherently good or are there times when it is best to try not to ‘deal with it?’

 

Examples with Musicians – grade trained musicians often require sheet music to perform. Non grade trained often don’t and can improvise. DavidR plays in a brass band, and recently ended a piece on notes A F G. These are notes that apparently should not work, but do because of the context and build up.

But sheet music reduces the variety/complexity of what you could play. Even so, getting a tune to end on a A F G is hard.

Improvisation is dealing with complexity within the available option, by using what musical niches you know. If you only know AC/DC then any improvisation is going to sound like them. Knowing theory allows you to improvise more, and improvisation is reacting “ooda loop” style to other people.

The more you know, and the better you will be confident to play less. Just a single note fully in context, that may sound wrong out of context could be the ultimate goal. The A-F-G improvised.

Like the complexity metaphor, it’s like having a lot of personal “expert minds” (like musical styles you can play, and knowledge of theory) but engaging beginners mind, and being open to understanding and emergence.