Monday, December 31, 2007

A Proposed Model for Bringing an Organization to Its Goals

I propose the metaphor of a motor dingy:
You have the head of the person sitting in the boat, with his/her sights on the desired destination.
You have the motor, under the water, powerfully (and blindly) propelling the boat forward.
You have the hand on the motor's handle, directing the motor so as to align it with the head's vision.

These three can be three different people or groups, but they don't have to be. You do need them all to get where you want to be, though.

A few interesting observations enabled by this metaphor (I'll try not to take it beyond its relevance):

  • The head will do the best job if it's on board the boat. You can have someone at your destination waving a flag saying "this is where you want to be", but if you want your vision of this destination to direct the boat you need to be looking from where the boat is at right now.
  • The hand also directs the power at which the motor is running. Since fuel costs money (and since human motors get tired), it's important to align the strain on the motor with the urgency perceived by the head.
  • If you want the boat to turn right you need to turn the motor to the left (since it is located at the back of the boat). This is very important to remember if you're stirring a boat but has absolutely no relevance to the metaphor I'm making about stirring an organization :->

How Do You See the World?

The following will hopefully grow, with time, to be a collection of questions that can help you understand your view of the world, and compare it with the views of those near you:
  1. Assume that luckiness is a property that varies between different people, but is constant over the entire course of each person's life. Also assume that it only affects the small things in life (missing/catching the bus, beginner's luck in a friendly game, etc. Not landing a good job or meeting your life partner). Would you say your luckiness is above or below average? How close are you to the average?
  2. Would you rather have Justice or Mercy? (In your decisions? In the decisions that affect you? In the world?)
  3. Suppose you are under the impression it's Saturday afternoon, and suddenly you realise that it's actually Sunday - the work week just grew 24 hours closer. How does that make you feel?

Elucidation of questions
answer them before you read this
  1. People who tend to see the glass as half full will rate their luckiness as above average (glass half empty = below average). Smart asses will say that everybody is exactly average, but that's because they refuse to answer under the first assumption. (If you're a smart ass, try answering based on your subjective experience of this world, not on your reasoned analysis of it)
  2. I'm not sure exactly what this reflects of one's world view. My take on it is that a people-person would prefer mercy, while a systems-person would prefer justice. You can have your own take, but I find this a very interesting question.
  3. This one is actually pretty self-explanatory. I used to feel terrible when that happened to me. I was very pleasantly surprised a few weekends ago to find that it no longer bothers me at all - I like my job :-)