What's in a name? Boss? LO7207

John Woods (jwoods@execpc.com)
Mon, 06 May 1996 06:44:47 -0500

Replying to LO7184 --

Keith Cowan says:

>I have personally learned a great deal from some hard ass managers. I did
>not like the SOBs but I did learn. If we believe in the goal of learning
>orgs we must not limit any avenues that provide learning. The NLP route
>proclaims (thanks Fernando Flores) that you have to create the need before
>true learning occurs (where learning = behaviour change not just
>compliance). I have been dislodged from my "comfort zone" (thanks Judy
>Bardwick) by hard asses a lot more than by those managers I loved.

I'd like to make a few comments here. First, you may learn from hard ass
managers, but what do you learn? How to be hard yourself? That you have
to be on your toes to minimize criticism? How to avoid taking risks that
might cause you to make mistakes? How to make yourself look good even when
others are in trouble? Or maybe you even learned how to be more
productive on occasion. It seems to me that all except the last item are
common when you have a hard ass manager.

If true learning requires discomfort (and I'm not sure it does), what's
the deal with PDCA? It seems to me that the foundation of the learning
organization and TQM is that there are ALWAYS opportunities for
improvement and that if you ever feel comfortable with your situation, you
can be sure that's when things are going to start going wrong. The whole
point of the learning org is to keep you on your toes, but it is also to
remind us that the success of individuals depends on the system working
well--open communication, ready access to information, measuring how well
our processes are operating, practicing teamwork, and knowing what
customers value and giving it to them. If you work in a culture where
being a hard ass is seen as acceptable and what you need to be successful,
you can be pretty sure that (1) management doesn't have a good idea that
their organization is a system and (2) eventually this behavior will catch
up with them as it encourages internal competition, a closing down of
communication, dealing with symptoms rather than causes, and other
behaviors that compromise how the system operates.

My own opinion is that if learning and improvement (i.e., changing your
behavior to operate better) are the heart of the organizational culture,
the hard ass approach wouldn't make a lot of sense. The hard ass
approach, then, is a symptom of an organization that does not have its act
together as far as I am concerned.

Finally, someone commented that sometimes managers who give orders are
necessary and appropriate. I agree with that, but attitude is all. In
such situations, the manager and everyone else realizes that for
coordinated behavior, it requires one person to give "orders" and for
others to listen and perform. Such behavior is not ego-based, however.
It is done is the best interests of the group, with clear acknowledgment
that's the case. Without that understanding and attitude, this approach
can be more destructive than constructive in the long run.

John Woods
Author, Speaker, Consultant


John Woods <jwoods@execpc.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>