4x4 vehicle stuck in a mud hole, with a man attaching a winch. (c) Kris Butler. Via 123rf.com.

Management and Practice: You need both

E. Forrest Christian Change, Managing 2 Comments

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing that my client at Big Insurance Group can do to help their IT department go from training to learning, except for Peter Block’s idea of “giving them back their freedom”. When a group is requisitely organized, with “real managers” who have true responsibilities and authorities, it almost doesn’t matter what you do: people will be excited about continuously learning about doing their job even better. Until they need to be promoted.

If the group is organized like BIG’s IT (multi-matrixed, no technical advancement, managers of engineers reporting to the same manager as managers of clerks), there really isn’t anything that you can do that won’t fail miserably except for forcing people through boring training classes. Try shop talks and sooner or later they will be ruined because people who aren’t at that level can’t be denied. Try peer reviews and sooner or later managers will start coming so that they can know “what’s really going on” and the coders will justifiably start CYAing rather than dealing with technical issues openly. Every Best Practice becomes a Worst Practice when you have the wrong people in the wrong places.

I do think that you can do what Peter Block called “take back your freedom”. Block argues that we need to stop taking care of people at work. “What will happen to me if I don’t fall in line on this?” they ask. We should just be honest with him, Block argues: “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.” It’s empowerment in a way. “Do you wake up at 4:30am in a cold sweat? Good for you! You’ve taken back your freedom!” Freedom costs.

I’m not sure that this is entirely a good thing. But I think that being disturbed is a good idea.

Trojan horse enters Troy, manuscript detailOf course, I know of several of us who remembered that we were free and promptly left our jobs. Letting people know that they are responsible for themselves can end up with loyalty down the toliet. However, if everyone who is too competent for their jobs would leave the company, things would be a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone else. Systems wouldn’t stay up, but that’s not my problem.

It would hopefully spur them to change their multi-matrix way to get out of managing their people. They had a big, multiple-month tiger team of their best technical people trying to get at the bottom of their current outages and performance degradation. Of course, no one mentioned that the management practices needed to be changed. Or that bad managers had caused the decisions that led to the technical farce that led to the outages.

You don’t get out of having good management practices when you organize requisitely. You just get the opportunity for them to work.

Image Credit: Truck stuck in mud. © Kris Butler, Licensed via 123rf.com

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

Comments 2

  1. “Do you wake up at 4:30am in a cold sweat? Good for you! You’ve taken back your freedom!” Freedom costs.

    Good lead in to a discussion on the recent Supreme Court decision (some guy v. Nevada) I’ve been having with some folks on another discussion board for graduates of the institution of higher learning we attended. To protect their innocence, I have take the liberty of removing identifying info and given their class year so you can have a rough idea of age. The last guy had some good stuff to say.
    ___________________________
    Now the big IF. The court pointed out that the person had to identify himself. It did not say that the person had to provide identification. As I read the opinion, merely saying “my name in joe smith” meets the criteria. So all the people talking about “papers, please” would be wrong. It would be more like “what’s your name?” I would be very upset if the courts upheld a requirement that citizens produce acceptable identification, because that would, in effect, require citizens to carry ID at all times (or risk being arrested) and that WOULD be a major civil liberties violation. But requiring that someone just give their name? Not a major issue with me. (waiting for the slippery slope arguments to start).

    Class of ‘86

    Ok, since you’re waiting, I won’t disappoint you. I live in XXXXX. I happen to like it here in general, but one thing I don’t like is the methodology of many police. We invited a policeman to our plant to speak to us all on traffic safety. While he was there, he also gave us all some practical advice on how to avoid problems with the local guys. He mentioned that if we should be asked to allow the officer to search our vehicles, we should comply. I asked him why since that was a clear violation of our rights. He said because if you refused, you would be arrested for whatever they could think of (typically something wrong with the car), your car impounded and searched as part of the impoundment process, and you’d have to pay for your car being towed as well as a fee to the impoundment lot. He reasoned that you were better off not having to pay the fees.

    By allowing the Nevada case to stand, the Supreme Court has further opened the leaking flood gates.

    I guess, if we do a statistical study of how people feel about this issue, we’ll probably find that the common thread is trust. People who aren’t concerned trust the “government” to do the right thing. People, like me, who are concerned, trust the “government” to do the wrong thing. Incidentally, I think the founding fathers would be on my side. That’s why they built in all the protections of freedom.

    Thanks, – J
    _____________________________________

    J, the problem there is that the local law enforcement has a methodology that violates the Constitution. Having a policy that promotes a method of conducting what might otherwise be illegal searches is not a reason to miss-interpret the Constitution.

    PS – I also do not like helmet laws, etc. I think there should be a policy that one can ride without helmets, seat belts, etc., but if you are injured and without insurance, then the state will not spend any extra money on medical treatment. Choices have consequences. If you ride a bike without a helmet, you might crack your skull. Your choice.

    Class of ‘76

    I agree with your analysis. However, where ever the limits are set, there will be someone pushing those limits to the max or a little further. That’s why I support the most expansive view of freedoms possible, so that encroachments have the least impact. I fear we will all live to regret this Supreme Court decision.

    I too think the government lacks the authority to tell me to wear a seat belt, etc. I like your solution. Merely change the laws to limit insurance liability in cases where you don’t wear the seat belt, etc. It’s the perfect solution to a real problem for both the insurance companies and people like us.

    Thanks, – J

    _________________________

    J,

    I am a lawyer from XXXXX.

    All soldiers and every citizen should receive more education on the U. S. Constitution and its checks and balances. All citizens should have a greater respect for freedom and the Bill of Rights. Soldiers need to know what they are defending.

    I agree with your comments. In law school I published a paper on the 4th Amendment. Even then individual rights had almost disappeared and the power of the Federal government has grown limitless. There were over 467 exceptions to the protection against unreasonable search. It was clear from the case law that police did whatever they wanted and then went back to their office to look up any applicable exception. I am not a radical or an alarmist, but when you study the original checks and balances of our government in 1789 it was really quite a logical system. The concept of personal freedom was clear and the role of law and government was minimized. There were 3 primary principles:

    (1) The federal government had 5 main powers; the rest of law fell to the states.

    (2) You had the freedom to do anything. The law stopped your conduct when you started to impact the rights of others. The government did not prevent stupidity and did not protect you from yourself.

    (3) You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This was intentional, knowing that such a presumption would tend to let some guilty escape punishment, but we knew it was better to let a few bad people free, than to violate the inalienable rights of the innocent.

    All three principles are destroyed now. The concept of freedom is gone. Our only hope lies in the voters. We still elect our government. However, the education and intelligence of the average voter is low, and those who do understand the original principles, do not vote. Our government is now elected by the media, “sound bites”, and polls. Society appears to be more concerned about “political correctness” than principle. Your story of police arresting people for a “car violation” if they refused to waive their rights is very believable. Society should be enraged.

    Seat belt laws and helmet laws are unconstitutional. If you justify them with the trite argument of increased insurance cost, then you destroy all freedom. Why not control all individual decisions on the same principle of minimizing medical and insurance cost? It is a slippery slope. The better thing is to move away from socialized welfare and embrace individual accountability and community charity.

    When the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a policeman can arrest you for not giving your name, even though you did nothing else wrong, the last hint of freedom and privacy passed to history. We have moved so far from freedom and privacy that we no longer know what it is anymore. Traditionally, Americans recognized that we could stop most crime by locking everyone in their home past 5PM and controlling movement during the day, but that it was better to preserve freedom and suffer crime. We have lost that concept. Thousands of men died in battle for freedom, yet when 3000 people died in a crime (9/11), our own government took away freedom in a stroke of a pen. Freedom is not free. It will cost lives in battle and it will always cost lives in crime. Dead soldiers and crime victims are heroes to freedom.

    I agree that ID on a proper stop is okay. However I think the decision goes beyond that. In Terry v Ohio the police stopped a man who was near a warehouse at 2AM, walking back and forth…..i.e.: suspicious time, place and behavior. It now appears that the police can stop you at any time, without suspicion, and compel disclosure of information (name) that can lead to the discovery of countless private, personal and financial facts…….and if you do not give them your name the police may arrest you and compel the storage of your finger prints.

    Incidentally, the Supreme Court also recently allowed law enforcement to search military finger prints for criminal matches. So much for soldiers’ rights and privacy expectations.

    It is hard to support a government who has moved so far from freedom, but we collectively allowed it to happen. It was even harder to wait for XXXXX to cross into Iraq in his chemical suit the night of March 19, 2003 after hearing a scud missile hit 600 feet way while on his satellite phone. They had all been told that Saddam had ordered artillery rounds with bio/chem., saran and other agents. They were told to expect it in 45 min and that the roads and bridges may be covered in a saran jelly. Here is a bright young man in his prime who has lots of money and ability, yet he chose to be on the front line to Baghdad. I hope those generations restore the freedom that we let slip through our fingers.

    As for me, I shall continue to try and do my part. We are America. We must restore freedom.

    The only other major idea I have had is this…..it should be law that if a Defendant can show that a law is selectively enforced, then that law should be void as unconstitutional. We have far too many laws. Police officers are selectively enforcing the law and they are in effect becoming legislators……destroying the 3 branch government system of checks and balances. We must reach a point of equilibrium where we have just enough police to enforce the proper laws that are set.

    Anyway…..I am sorry for the length. I have enjoyed reading your discussion.

    Best Regards,
    Class of ‘79

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