Re: Forming a Group LO2866
Sun, 17 Sep 1995 13:29:46 -0400

Replying to LO2761 --

A sub-topic in this thread deals with surfacing assumptions within a
group. These are also referred to as rules in one posting.

A very useful technique, which I have used, is a video-based workshop
marketed by Joel Barkers organization through Aurora Pictures. The
workshop is called "The Paradigm Prism" and is focused on surfacing the
rules (or assumptions) which guide our daily behavior. Since behavior is
so closely linked with attitudes and even beliefs, I believe that it is a
reasonable reach to say that all members of a group, when acting in
concert, assume these "common" rules and act according to them. This is
true even if the rules are contrary to our own individual, personally-held
rules of proper conduct. This is why phenomena such as GroupThink occur.

Once these rules are surfaced, the more obvious discrepancies can be seen
and the less obvious discrepancies can be explored in greater depth.

I explain it by an adaptation of Chris Argyris, work:

Values --> Behavior --> Consequences which either match or not

I add into this formula the following:

Values beget Principles which beget Rules (assumptions about how things
should work). Each is a more concrete statement of the previous. We act
according to these rules. Our actions (behavior) yeild results
(consequences) which are either what we intended/wanted or not. Argyris
uses the term "Theory" in place of the terms "principles and rules." I
find these terms (p & r) to be more universally used and understood in the
workplace. That changes the formula to be more like the following:

Values --> (Principles --> Rules) --> Behavior --> Results

Different principles may be based on the same value(s) and, yet, be in
conflict or even opposition with each other. Different rules may be based
on the same or similar principles and, yet, be in conflict or even
directly contradictory.

When we have a discrepancy in results (they're not what we wanted or
planned), this can be traced directly back to the bahavior which preceded
the results. Argyris calls changes in BEHAVIORr to achieve different
results "single loop learning." Changes which focus on the base VALUES
from which the behavior originated are called "double loop learning." I
have found that most group performance/behavior problems can be addressed
via single loop approaches.

Using the modified formula proposed above, I would posit that simply
addressing the behavior is often not sufficient. Rather, the higher
leverage point is to examine the underlying rules which generated the
behavior. Change the rules and you change the behavior. Of course, we can
always focus just on the behavior and let the individual sort out the
rules for themselves. But, as Jim Michmerhuizen says:

Actions speak louder than words . . . but not as clearly.

As always, an example is useful in illustrating the point:

Most people today seem to hold a value that I will state simply as "all
people are equal in the sight of God." If we can, let's state this value
as "EQUALITY OF PEOPLE." The principle which naturally comes out of this
is that "All men (people) are created equal." (Where have I heard that
before?) The most common rule that I have come across that derives from
this principle is "Treat everyone (exactly) the same."

Almost everyone can think of examples where people had extenuating
circumstances and needed to be treated differently. This is a direct
violation of the rule. This different treatment usually leads to problems
for those who feel they MUST live by the rules. Changing behavior to be
strictly in accordance with this rule causes hardship for those with the
extenuating circumstances. The usual result is underground (and sometimes
above-ground) conflict and diminished morale.

By examining the underlying rule and the results of behavior according to
that rule, we can see that the rule is in large part responsible for the
undesired results. When this rule is surfaced, it can be dealt with.
Perhaps a better rule would be

- Treat everyone appropriate to their situation or circumstances.

If this rule is changed and the results are still not as desired, we can
then examine the further underlying principle(s). For example, does
everyone actually accept the principle that all people are created equal?
Or does someone (or some group) actually believe that only all of their
group are created equal? Do they believe that all others are inferior?
Do they believe that some others are superior?

When the value of EQUALITY is present and "universally accepted," possible
permutations of principles can include:

- All people are created equal within their own respective "class."

Resulting rules can include:

- All of "us" (whites, blacks, line workers, women, etc. [pick your
favorite group])
should be treated the same.
- All of "them" (white males, management, etc. [ditto]) are superior and
should be
treated the same within their group, but better than we are.
- All of "those others" (blacks, women, unskilled workers, etc. [ditto])
should be
treated the same within their group and worse than we are.

If these rules are present and operating, you can imagine the mayhem that
can (and frequently does) exist within work groups as the result of
Affirmative Action strategies and the natural increase in the diversity of
the workforce. Combine a group consisting of ethnic, gender, cultural,
age, regional, etc. differences and let THIS set of rules apply and you
will likely have a rebellion.

That's why I think surfacing rules and assumptions is important in
resolving conflict. I think it's also an important step in forming a
cohesive group to begin with.

Clyde Howell
Aiken, SC