Humble Inquiry – The gentle art of asking instead of telling, by Edgar H. Schein

Most of us have an inclination to want to express ourselves, to be seen, to be heard, i.e., to be noticed and to matter, and to be understood. Some could even be accused of liking the sound of their own voice. So why should we bother with this humble inquiry then? “Humble inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” P2. Unless one lives alone and doesn’t need to interact with and is not dependent on anyone, then there isn’t a lot of need for humble inquiry. However, as Schein points out, we live in “an increasingly complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse world,” P1, where cultures arise wherever people gather, e.g., in national, regional, social, work, professional, and even familial congregations. We can choose to ignore cultural diversity, we can even ostracise, or worse, those who don’t fit in. But not only are these approaches ignorant, immoral, they are also impractical and short-sighted in our increasingly “complex and interdependent” world. A quick foray into culture is necessary to establish a common meaning: “we can think of culture as the accumulated shared learning of a given group, covering behavioral, emotional, and cognitive elements of the group members’ total psychological functioning. For such shared learning to occur, there must be a history of shared experience that, in turn, implies some stability of membership in the group. Given such stability and a shared history, the human need for stability, consistency, and meaning will cause the various shared elements to form into patterns that eventually can be called a culture.” P17 Organizational Culture and Leadership. This leads to a definition of culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.” P17 Organizational Culture and Leadership. Or, put less eloquently and more bluntly, culture can be considered “the way we do things around here,” where ‘do things’ can be substituted with see, interpret, think, believe, behave, etc. The book was set within and describes aspects of culture in the USA, and...

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What Really Works – the 4+2 formula for sustained business success

Authors: William Joyce, Nitin Nohira, Bruce Robertson Published 2003 Synopsis Based on a scientific study of businesses over a 10 year period, this book presents the 4 primary and the 4 secondary management practices that every successful business must excel at, to become a Winner. With the secondary management practices, businesses need only excel at 2, hence the 4 + 2 in the title. The title of the book begs the question, hasn’t this all been done before, such as with the books In Search Of Excellence and Good To Great? Well yes, so called ‘scientific’ studies of businesses have been conducted before, but what distinguishes this book from the likes of the two just mentioned is that the authors of What Really Works studied the management practices of a wide range of companies, both successful and unsuccessful. In this manner they were able to find the management practices that truly separated the successful from the failures, and consequently were able to distinguish correlated from causal management practices. Refreshingly, the authors don’t claim that their book is a panacea for “predicting, achieving, and sustaining superior performance.” They merely claim that following the 4+2 formula “stacks the odds heavily in favour of success.” Primary Management Practices Strategy: Devise and Maintain a Cleary Stated, Focused Strategy Make sure your strategy is clearly communicated to and understood by your employees, customers, partners, and investors, i.e., all your stakeholders. Execution: Develop and Maintain Flawless Operational Execution Consistently meet the expectations of your customers by delivering your value proposition. Culture: Develop and Maintain a Performance-Oriented Culture Reward and motivate your best performers; deal effectively with the rest. Remember the bad apple metaphor. Structure: Build and Maintain a Fast, Flexible, Flat Organisation Build a structure that reduces bureaucracy and simplifies work, think simpler and faster, think Agile. Secondary Management Practices (pick any 2) Talent: Hold on to Talented Employees and Find More Being able to grow your own stars from within is an important indicator of the depth and quality of talent within an organisation. Leadership: Keep Leaders and Directors Committed to the Business Make sure that leaders and directors truly understand the business and are committed to its success; having skin in the game can help in this regard. Innovation: Make Innovations That are Industry Transforming Innovations are important, but what is more important are innovations that anticipate rather than react to disruptive events...

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Accuracy vs. Precision

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Quote: Knowledge that ain’t so

The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.   Mark Twain

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Quote: You can know

Richard Feynman

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Quote: Bigger and more complex

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction. Albert Einstein

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Quote: Simplification

Do not be alarmed by simplification, complexity is often a device for claiming sophistication,  or for evading simple truths. John Kenneth Galbraith

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A world beyond BOKs?

Reading again the great work from Kailash Awati, aka K, and following his inevitable cascade of links (I love them really, but my brain is too small), I came across a link to this site. The heretics! is there really a world beyond the Bodies Of Knowledge (BOK) such as PMI’s PMBOK? Well yes there is actually, especially since the abstractions espoused in BOKs and PMBOK in particular don’t exist. We need to stop apologising for not being able to adhere to idealised abstractions on this uncooperative...

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Quote: Education of the individual

Instead of a national curriculum for education, what is really needed is an individual curriculum for every child. Charles Handy   … and with current technology we could achieve this.

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Quote: The most important task of a leader

“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.” ― Jeffrey Pfeffer

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