Wahnsinn ist das. Wahnsinn. Heller Wahnsinn!

Wahnsinn ist das. Wahnsinn. Heller Wahnsinn!

VonRundstedt

This is madness. Madness. Sheer madness! That’s what we often think when other people do things we “know” make no sense or are bound to turn out badly.

Predicting the future can be a tricky thing. Particularly predicting the outcome of an action within a Complex Adaptive System such as a Company, or on a smaller scale, something like a software project.

We may “know” what’s going to happen. We may be certain of the future outcome. We may even be “right”, in the sense that we believe any well-informed person would make the same prediction.

It Matters So Much

The thing is, it matters so much to us. And yet not at all to those other people. The mad ones. They see the world differently. They see the issues differently. They choose different actions, different solutions. And they predict different outcomes – at least to the extent they’re conscious of making any predictions. From their perspective, they’re just as “right” as you. Righter, in fact – as their worldview makes so much more sense to them than does yours. So they don’t predict the same outcomes. In fact they generally predict blue skies, halcyon days and cute kittens.

It matters so much to us that we rant and rave about the madness of their actions. Or inactions. Or apparent assumptions and beliefs. I guess you know that feeling of utter frustration – having to stand by, powerless, while the train wreck proceeds unchecked. Of having to do things which you know will result in waste, or worse.

The Double Bind

This kind of situation is what Argyris refers to as a double bind. We feel like we can’t say anything because our perspectives are so far apart, and yet we feel we must say something lest the inevitable disaster proceeds unchecked. Yet we feel we can’t raise that difference of perspectives, either (it being undiscussable).

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Compounded by a failure to call out that failure to communicate. But, looking deeper, there are more profound causes, more fundamental issues at play. Like our consummate blindness to the futility of our trying to coerce others into see things our way. Like our frequent bias for task completion over relationship building.

“…Most important of all, we value task accomplishment over relationship building and either we are not aware of this cultural bias or, worse, don’t care and don’t want to be bothered with it..”

~ Edgar H. Schein

How often have you been in this situation? Did you find a way to resolve the double bind? Would you be willing to contribute to this topic?

More on this next time.

– Bob

 

Further Reading

Discussing the Undiscussable ~ William R. Noonan
Crucial Conversations ~ Kerry Patterson et al.
Humble Enquiry ~ Edgar H. Schein (excerpt)

1 comment
  1. Certainly a valid point Bob, but taking Schein’s quote to the extreme, nothing would get accomplished but everyone would have great relationships with each other. However, the world and (especially) people are messy. Perhaps valuing task accomplishment and relationship building/maintenance equally is the right balance instead of valuing the latter more than the former.

    If you believe the recent press trashing Amazon’s treatment of their workforce, Amazon shouldn’t be successful at all. It seems that they value accomplishment way more than relationships – yet they’re kicking everyone’s ass in retail AND in the cloud (over Microsoft, Google, etc). All it takes is one counter-example to disprove a theory.

    “One of the greatest tragedies of life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts.” – Benjamin Franklin

    By the way, I don’t believe the NYT 100% on Amazon. I’m sure there are pockets of insanity inside of every large company. However I thought the article was overblown for dramatic effect to sell subscriptions.

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