Change the story – the ‘dominant story’ drives everything about human behaviour

It seems like yesterday that I was being interviewed on ABC radio by Jon Faine about nomophobia and how it is deleterious to humanity. However, that radio interview stands out for a whole other reason.

I happened to be interviewed two days following the shocking murder of a young woman running at dusk in a park. We have recently seen a similar event that was equally galling and hideous, not just because of the rape and murder of a young woman, but because we saw the same ‘story’ being played out.

At the time Jon Faine was very ‘fired up’ calling out the ‘story’ which was “she shouldn’t be running in a park when it is dark, she is asking for trouble,” that had started as soon as the news broke. Jon was openly upset with what he called the arrogance of this ‘story’ and used his voice as a public personality to send a message.

His message was that this ‘story called patriarchy’ which has been the supremacist ‘story’ dominating society for thousands of years, had to go. The damage it caused was insurmountable, and it was time for a new story. Sadly at the time, unsurprisingly, no one listened. To clarify, none of the ‘story writers’ – who dominated the collective thinking, attitudes and beliefs listened, why would they jeopardise their utopia.

I also remember having a discussion with my cycling buddies, all wonderful people (and white male as it happens) about my 15-year-old walking home from work at 8 pm when it was dark. She worked 800 mt down the road which was lit up, and my friends were giving me strong advice about how wrong I was ‘letting her walk home.’

At first, perhaps naively, I asked why? “Well something could happen to her, its dark and you never know who is out there (they were referring to males with intents to have their way with her), I wouldn’t let my daughter do that.” I remember it took a couple of weeks at ‘coffee’, over an hour collectively of conversation – for these ‘smart’, people who I would call pillars of society, to see that this attitude and belief was screwed up.

The fact that it took an hour for them even to acknowledge that ‘placing the blame and responsibility on to the female for some male person who thought it was HIS RIGHT to do what he wanted because she was walking alone in the ‘dark’ – was wrong, was deeply disturbing.

Their attitude was at the core of who they were, being born white male (WM). WM’s wrote the story and the rules by default, which benefited WM’s. They also set the categories for everyone other than them. along with writing the rules (rules that suited them) for people in those categories. This extended from who to ‘like and hate’ (strong word but sadly true) to how those people were to be treated.

What was most ‘tense’ or ‘uncomfortable’ for my friends was that they were forced for a few minutes to think about ‘why they would NOT LET THEIR daughters do what they considered a fundamental right – interestingly their sons also had this right. One of them actually ‘came clean’ with me and said: “I know what males are enabled to think and do and that makes me scared for my daughter.”

This story called ‘patriarchy’ is wrong, it doesn’t fit and is so far past its used by date that it is rotten to the core.  Think of that potato that has turned in the cupboard – the smell is putrid when you open the cupboard, you pick up a seemingly normal looking potato, and your finger pierces the skin into rotting flesh – there is nothing quite so hideous!

A graphic description – yes and that is because the ‘story running our society’ is like the rotten potato – it looks normal from the outside, and perhaps that is why it is so ‘resistant’ to being changed. However, on the inside it has disintegrated and moreover, it ‘stinks to high heaven’ – time to put this story into the compost.

One thing we must STOP is the ‘gender war’ – we have had decades and decades of that, and it is has FAILED – monumentally. Patriarchy is the name ascribed to the story and we can not focus the new story on gender. Women are just as tied into this story and their behaviour is also sustaining the story, which is another post to come.

The way to overcome this is to re-write the story. However, to rewrite the story we have to delete the old one, it’s a crappy story, and no one wins. Ironically the biggest losers currently are the WM (let’s add straight in there). This is evidenced by the growing number of extreme right-wing male groups (with very worrying agenda’s), who report ‘being disenfranchised’ – funny thing that.

Good work gentlemen, really helpful contribution to the collective. Move beyond your assumed position of superiority and now defensiveness, and be part of the new story.

P.S. There was a standout with the recent hideous event from Daniel Andrews where he said- “Stay home. Or don’t. Go out with friends at night. Or don’t. Go about your day exactly as you ­intend, on your terms. Because women don’t need to change their behaviour — men do.” Sadly, some weeks past the event – has the discussion continued? No.

Knock Yourself Out!

businesswoman hitting herself with red boxing gloves

I was on site with a trade’s services customer a few weeks ago and it was full on as always – that seems to be the case with good suppliers. They offer both B2C and B2B services and are moving away from B2C and for good reason as I discovered. The work I do is all based around behaviours and how to optimise the best outcomes for all person to person interactions, regardless of the permutation of the interaction. This firm is brilliant in that they emphatically get this concept and have embedded ‘calm’ into the DNA of how they ‘do things around here’. Interestingly their core service is electrical services and their mission statement is ‘we’re switched on around here’ and they so are. As a result, their business has flourished and the phone runs hot with recommendations.

Back to the story. I was in the admin office, talking with Jo (not real name) the Office Manager, when Phil (not real name) the GM walked through, Jo excused herself and said, “Phil I have just had a Mrs Green on the phone and she is having a fit because we charged her out of hours rates and she claims her call was not out of hours. I’ve emailed you the ‘story’ if you wouldn’t mind getting back to her because she is threatening VCAT”. Phil, without breaking stride, said: “OK I’ll get back to her now”. He turned back to his office and Jo continued her conversation with me.

Mrs Green, it seems called with an emergency (a light switch that had failed) at 5 pm (after hours) and demanded that the electrician come immediately. The protocol with this organisation for any after hour’s calls is to explain to the person that they will incur an out of hours change and if they want to go ahead and have a service person attend they will need to agree to the service charge. Otherwise, the service call will be made within hours of the next day. This was noted in the service schedule.

Mrs Green had agreed, the service call was made, the switch repaired and all was well, seemingly. Mrs Green was sent the invoice which included the after-hours surcharge, and she took umbrage with the surcharge because 5 pm was not out of hours according to her. Trade hours are 7 am to 3.30pm and service calls outside of those hours incur a surcharge which was explained and she had agreed to – the service call simply would not have been made if she had not agreed.

Phil called her straight back and listened to her rant, she was rude, caustic and vitriolic and Phil could not get a word in. However, as part of the behaviour training, I advise people that should a situation such as what was occurring arise, the best way to deal with it is to let the person have their rant. What will happen is that literally the person ranting will run out of air – it is simple physiology – they run out of air and then stop. So on cue, Mrs Green ran out of puff and stopped whereupon Phil began to respond.

He agreed with her that yes VCAT would be a good idea if that made her feel better. Then he added – “there are a few things that I want to bring to your attention; are you aware that the person bringing the dispute to VCAT is responsible for costs? As has been explained we only attend out of hour calls once we have explained the surcharge and the person agrees to pay and gives us the go-ahead to make the service call, which we have in our system and therefore there is no case for us to answer. I will leave that up to you to decide the course of action you would like to take, but remind you that the account is due to go to the debt collectors and it will go away once you have paid”. Once again Mrs Green was speechless and then hung up.

Effectively Mrs Green had knocked herself out – she was being completely irrational and utterly unreasonable and the strategy executed by Phil literally resulted in her knocking herself out. A further outcome was that the account was paid the next week. The motto of the story is when confronted by these types of vitriolic people who go on a rant – let them knock themselves out.


Are you the donkey?

BMD resized 3The Boy, the Man and the Donkey is a very old ‘parable or story’ that was originally written by Æsop in the Sixth century B.C. Aesop’s Fables have been translated far and wide and most every culture had its own version of the story as a means to teach or guide behaviours. The moral of the story is


A MAN and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?” 

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”   

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”     

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of yours—you and your hulking son?”   

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the Donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders.

They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle, the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:

So what does this story mean?

It means that failure to focus on the greater good whereby everyone wins – is fraught with angst, hideous behaviours and a bunch of unhappy and disgruntled people creating dramas to feed their own egos.

Does this happen in your workplace, family or groups of friends?

I would hazard a guess that everyone (unless they are a total narcissist) would say yes.

How do we learn from this story?

We apply a filter of the ‘greater good’ with all our judgments and subsequent behaviours, words and actions. We park our own self-importance and ego and increase our tolerance of differences – as long as others behaviours are contributing to the greater good.


I can’t do that…..What will they think?

Why do so many people spend their lives in various states of ‘fear’ about what other people think of them?

For most people, their behaviours and actions are directed and determined by a set of ‘rules’ that are derived from a mixture of societal, religious, cultural, legal or family rules about what to do and how to behave. Sadly people self-adjust their behaviours because they are fearful of the disastrous consequences that WILL result from any deviation from these rules. Even the so-called ‘individuals who ‘do their own thing, still look for feedback and desperately want their ‘tribe’ to like them. Really they are not so independent, rather they vie for position on the ‘I’m an individual ranking’ – the more out there the cooler they are.

The knots people get themselves into, the level of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, unfulfilled goals and dreams because of these rules, is staggering. In fact, as a behaviourist working with people/businesses on modifying their behaviours to achieve their best outcomed day in and day out, most of what I do is around working with people to let go of these rules and stories. The amount of stress, anxiety and ‘depression’ I see with people because they emphatically ‘believe they have no choice’ but to live their lives according to these rules, is alarming.

When people are challenged about their belief in and adherence to these rules, most people believe they have no other option but to ‘follow the rules’. Moreover, they have concocted a whole set of catastrophic consequences that absolutely will occur, just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow if they don’t abide by the rules. There is no rationale, proof or actual evidence for their ‘fixed beliefs’ that these consequences WILL happen, it is the ‘truth’.

Think about a time you did something you didn’t want to do and made you pretty unhappy – but you did it anyway. What is worse is that you then spent the next countless hours, days or longer, justifying and rationalising why you did something you really didn’t want to do.

A further alarming factor is that social media and the need for ‘likes’ has grossly exacerbated this problem. People have literally become ‘like’ junkies which take the whole thing of ‘what will they think of me’, to a new level. Social media, in the beginning, served as somewhat of an antidote to these rules as people felt freer online than they did in ‘real life’, and would post things that they would not ‘normally’ be brave enough to say face to face. However, once the ‘negative’ feedback either real or perceived – ironically according to ‘rules’ – started to kick in and the whole obsession with ‘likes’ was ignited, we now have an added level of complexity to the ‘rules’ that people behave by.

This is particularly prevalent in cultures within businesses, where people behave according to ‘unwritten ground rules’. Behaving according to ‘rules’ at work are often the most stressful as people’s job security and stability is linked to the ‘adherence’ to these rules. However, in most cases, managers and employers are shocked when they learn about the unwritten ground rules within their business.

So how do people let go of the ‘rules’?

The first thing people need to do is challenge why they believe the rules are true? They need to look at what the rule they believe to be true makes them do, and what they want to do – provided it is fair and reasonable. Then they need to look at how big the gap is between ‘the rule behaviour’ and what they want to do. Generally speaking the wider the gap the greater the ‘fear’ and also the more likely it is that the ‘so-called rule’ is a perceived truth rather than actual truth. Then an open, honest and direct conversation is needed with the person/persons who are ‘setting the rule’ to assess whether it is, in fact, the ‘truth’. In all cases involving reasonable people – these rules are unfounded. The cases where it is not, involve narcissists and other unpleasant characters.

When people have done this once they can begin to look at other area’s of their lives where they behave according to ‘rules’ and apply the same process. The key to doing things differently and feeling a whole lot better is open, transparent and honest communication. These ‘rules’ serve to create ‘false stories’ that people live their lives by, because they become whom they think they are, that is another post.

Who are you?

Just an aside on ‘reading people’ – we can all read people – it is perhaps the most important innate skill we have because the most ‘dangerous thing’ to us is actually other people. It has been a while since I saw a ‘threatening animal, bird or inspect’ wandering about, Hitchcock’s The Birds was fantasy – I believe. Most people are completely unaware of this ability in ‘normal’ situations, however, there is a growing group who have become excessively sensitive to perceived criticism or negative sentiments toward them, which I would hazard a guess was the case with a lot of people in the train carriage. This is not conscious awareness, but rather unconscious ‘distrust’ and it is determined by people’s default mood (negative) rather than truth in most cases.

I feel that the modern day interpretation of quiet desperation is more about dissatisfaction and a sense of being on a treadmill of ever-escalating empty promises that wear people down. I sensed in the train on that Monday morning when the weather had turned cold, that for many it was going to be a long winter. The morning and evening commute would increasingly be taken in the dark and the absence of sunshine and daylight is well known to decrease people moods. This ever-escalating treadmill of empty promises has been borne out of technology decimating ‘time’. Ironically if people could re-learn to savour experiences and interactions with people and slow things down a bit, the difference it would make would be phenomenal. But many people have resigned themselves to ‘this is the way it is’, and take this on as their story. They fully own their “I have no choice but to stay on the treadmill because this is the way it is”.

It doesn’t have to be this way and the reason that the collective sentiment in the train carriage was so easy to read, was because of emotional contagion. Emotional contagion is well understood and it is what drives the popularity of ‘stuff’ and big corporations understand and use it to promote their products/services with great success. It took an effort to stand apart from the collective ‘feeling’ in the train carriage, however, I am well practised in deliberately not sliding down a slippery negative emotional slope. It starts with learning to be consciously aware, which is much easier said than done when so many people are ‘asleep’ (unaware) for want of a better word. Once you learn to pay attention and notice the prevailing sentiments/moods – you can then consciously choose to feel differently. Being wired for sound (as at least half the carriage was) does not work to immune people from the collective mood, as it only serves as a temporary, thinly veiled distraction. What happens when you increase your awareness and notice what is around you – is that you step into the present. The present is all there is, there is no past – it has gone, and there is no future – it’s not here yet.

The irony is that most people have no clue how to be ‘present’ despite the popularity of mindfulness etc. Actually being able to ‘be present at all times’ is extremely difficult. Vigilant awareness is the only thing you need, and once you have mastered it you will realise that you are not the ‘prevailing sentiment of resignation’ on a Monday morning – you have a choiceYou can choose exactly who you are and how you are going to feel. Who are you going to be? Choose the one thing that actually matters, how you feel, you are not the story of this is the way it is – you are in control of writing your own story.

Human watching – fascinating albeit scary

Our cycling group were sitting outside on the footpath of our regular haunt, tucking into coffee and breakfast this past Saturday morning as is the norm. This is a central location from where we all reside and one of the more salubrious suburbs in town. A lively discussion was being had regarding misleading media headlines and how manipulative and provocative the media was when ‘reporting’ a particular vehement view under the guise of objectivity. This lively discussion was interrupted by ‘a stream of colourful abuse’ and we turned around to see a male person hanging out of his stationary car hurling abuse at the car in front. “come on get out of your car you f….b….gutless f….. p…..” the other driver responded with the finger gesture which served to wind the abuse hurler up even more.

We saw that the boom gates were down for a train and that this situation could get messy. The cafe was packed with families and there were a group of elderly people walking along the street. Silence descended and the trepidation was palpable, given the abuse being hurled was far louder than the clanging railway warning bells. Thankfully neither of the perpetrators alighted their vehicles, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when the booms raised and the bells stopped. That was not the end of it, as the first car driven by Mr. Middle Finger proceeded, he did a massive ‘burnout’ filling the air with putrid black smoke which blew over us, rather than who we assumed was the intended target, Mr. Get Out of Your F….. Car behind.

We were dumbstruck as was everyone else, what on earth was the point of all that? Human’s and their behaviours are increasingly unfathomable, as these types of incidents which are increasing cannot be explained in any rational way. What could possibly be that important to promote such a tirade of vitriol? The reality is there is not one iota of rational thinking involved with these incidents. It is pure out of control animal rage, self-control is out the window as is any capacity to see the consequences. These situations cause the survival instinct to kick in with those witnessing it, all of us on the footpath and in the cafe, and for good reason.

When people are out of control their ‘physical strength increases’ and this situation which could easily have spilled out on to the road and become really ugly. Had this occurred, most of us on the footpath would have retreated somewhere ‘out of the danger zone’. A few bold males may have stepped in to ‘calm them down’, but given the level of lack of control they would most likely have also retreated, or moved to protect the vulnerable.

The whole situation was quite surreal and played out over about 4 minutes, where ironically the perpetrators were completely out of control, yet the witnesses were on high alert and in complete control. A further irony is that both groups the ‘road ragers’, and the witnesses, were both operating from polar opposites ends of ‘animal or survival’ instinctual behaviours. There was little if any ‘rational’ thinking going on with either group. The ‘road ragers’ were in fight response mode, and the witnesses were in flight response mode.

This situation was a classic example of Busy Brain Syndrome at play, where access to rational thinking with the ‘road ragers’ was completely absent. It was Saturday morning, virtually no traffic and a relatively quite road, what could possibly have precipitated such a reaction. The answer is probably nothing. BBS causes the stress response to become locked on and therefore people ‘react’ rather than stop and think, which is why we are seeing an alarming increase in these sorts of incidents.

The situation put a dampener on everyone’s Saturday morning, and it could have been much worse had they actually got out of their cars. These behaviours detract from the greater good and serve to make people more distrusting of ‘others’ as there is no rhyme or reason for such behaviours.



Why is it TRUE?

I was in a meeting last week running through a demo of our behaviour change tracking software and was asked where my notebook wall-paper image was from. Its Ethiopia, the Simien Mountains located in the East African Rift, a truly stunning place. I was then asked about the caption on the image.

As a behaviouralist and researcher pretty much everything I do with work, involves assisting businesses with understanding, improving, changing or modifying people behaviours in some way or other. I believe it is up to me to practice what I preach, hence the caption as background on all my devices. Continuing on from my previous post about taking control of our attitudes, this caption is a very powerful tool in being able to actually do so.

We know that in excessive of 60% of everything we do each day is an automatic habit, and that as life gets busier more things are being ‘pushed’ to habits, because Busy Brain Syndrome continues to relentlessly erode our brain bandwidth. Whilst we intellectually understand that we do have control over our attitudes, most of time (90%) we actually have no conscious cognizance of our attitudes and prevailing beliefs. We put ourselves in DRIVE and off we go.

Our underlying attitudes and beliefs determine the way we see the world, and the way we react to ‘every‘ situation and person we come across – period.

The reality is that for the majority of people, these underlying attitudes and beliefs are not even their own. They have been acquired through family, school, friends, work, media, literature, culture and a whole host of other influences. If we examine disagreements from simple things such as attending a family function to global conflicts, what underpins each side of these disagreements is a belief or attitude that is emphatically ‘true’ for each side.

Negotiators skills lie in breaking down these concrete ‘truths’ that people hold to various extents, so that a new perspective or ‘truth’ can be applied by each party to resolve the conflict or disagreement. The caption above facilitates ‘being’ your own negotiator at all times. through being mindful of what ‘your’ truths are in any given situation.

I find that the most challenging aspect of this process is to actually be mindful or aware, of how we think and behave in any situation. Are we actually being ‘open minded’, objective, really listening and understanding the countless situations we find ourselves in from day to day? Or are we in DRIVE and operating on what we subconsciously believe to be TRUE?

Breaking a habit is hard because of the nature of habits – they are unconscious. The fact that I have this caption on my device (s) wall paper/background means I am subliminally programming myself over and over to be aware and pay attention with all interactions with people, and situations I find myself in. In effect, this causes me to stop and think rather than ‘just reacting’.

By not ‘assuming’ anything to be true, means that you can truly have an open mind. This is not to say that we don’t have preferences and preferred experiences, we do. However when we ask the question why is this true?’ we are much more likely to open our minds, rather than unintentionally, blindly reacting to people and things with closed minds.

This is most liberating as the problem with ‘truths’ is that people tend to become boiling mad when ‘someone or something’ transgresses’ their truth, and the media is littered with such stories on a daily basis. I would hazard a guess that the majority of ‘behavioural issues’ within organisations also have ‘concrete’ individual truths’ at their core.

There is a place for ‘truth and beliefs’ however, if we actually paid more attention to how much these ‘truths’ drive our behaviours, and behave with integrity and respect at all times, then we would all get along a bit better.

The One thing that really matters with each New Year

surrealistic picture of an apple reflecting in the mirror

New Year is an extraordinary time – it is almost like we all get permission slips to be authentic, open and full of hope, and we take to that hope with what seems like more vigor each year.

What usually happens next is an acceleration back down the slippery slope to mediocrity, thoughts of “I really wanted things to be different this year” and feelings of inadequacy as we humans are hard task masters upon ourselves.

So what is the ONE thing that matters – I could peddle out a usual ‘clique’ like be nicer to others and blah blah blah. But that stuff doesn’t even get to go in one ear and out the other any more. As much as we like to think it does – it doesn’t. If if did then life would be different.

What matters is that you have full control over your attitudes. Hope is not a productive attitude as too often it is associated with passivity. When Barack Obama became president there was much rejoicing, now things will change as we have a black, liberal, caring man as president of the US. And the potential was absolutely there for real change however, what happened was this.

The populace treated his presidency like attending a glorious show that was acclaimed to be one of the greatest shows to come to town. They took their seats and became passive spectators – over to you Barack. They took on the attitude of hope and with it passivity – its up to you to change things for us. How could one man effectively change anything when the populace checkout from getting involved and doing their bit, both in deed and attitude. As it transpired, it was not long before Barack was condemned for not doing enough, of ’empty promises’ the populace were outraged.

When you examine your attitude this New Year, dig deep to see what is really going on. Do you believe that you can achieve those desires that naturally flood in with a New Year and that lovely sense of a ‘tabula rasa’? Are you really committed to succeeding with those changes you dream about? Or is your underlying attitude that of a passivist – why bother it won’t happen, because it has always failed in the past.

The insidious thing is that this underlying attitude which drives passivity, has become a habit for most people. No one intends to fail or give up on the ideas that are alive and real at this time, the hope that things are going to be better this year. But the insidious nature and resistence of habits means it won’t be long before people are back to the grind and feeling despondent. Then comes the justification for the ‘failure’ and cynicism is more deeply embedded.

Changing attitudes is incredibly difficult and it takes a huge effort to change an attitude. If there is any time of the year when success with changing attitudes is optimal, it is now as the possibility of actually succeeding is given a massive shot in the arm. So the only thing that does matter this New Year is the effort you put into minding and managing your attitudes. Your attitudes translate directly to your experience of life

We’re let down by our back-end

If I had a $ for each time I heard that statement my wealth would rival the US President elect. What is the back-end? In a word, the important part of your business offering – delivery and the support service that go with it. Sales and marketing being held up as more important than delivery is way past its used by date. Yet old patterns, paradigms and beliefs are difficult to shift despite the overwhelming evidence and even catastrophic fallout to the contrary. I would hazard a guess that most ‘re-structures, cost-cutting and re-processing initiatives are driven by ‘back-end’ problems.

Our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world has compounded these back-end problems inordinately. If we were to really analyse the ‘actual problem’ we would find that communication or lack there of is the major contributing factor. For example, how much call centre time is consumed by customers complaining about ‘not getting what they were promised’, or a problem not being resolved despite assurances that it would be? Again I would hazard a guess this would consume the bulk of call centre ‘minutes’. Lets face it customers do not call to say ‘hey you’ve done a great job and I am happy’.

The root cause of these communication problems as we discussed in my last post, is ‘silo’s’. Sales by comparison to delivery in a VUCA world is relatively straight forward (if we discount the madness of decision by committee that has drawn out the sales process to triple or quadruple the time it took a few short years ago – that is another post). Delivery, on the other hand has seen radical increases in complexity as customer ‘choices’ expand, which seems to be the way most businesses deal with a customer driven market place. A hangover from ‘delighting’ your customers? The margin for error has increased exponentially, without the effect of silo’s and poor communication. If we think about how efficiency works – removal of variation is seen as paramount, yet increased customer choice and demands has increased variation and thereby reduces efficiency by default as there is so much more that can go wrong.

Many organisation’s are still ‘sales driven’ which is a further factor exacerbating the complexity of delivery. The tendency to ‘over-promise’ to get the sale over the line in our time of overly drawn out sales processes and timelines, is on the increase. Whilst these ‘over-promises’ maybe considered unworthy of mentioning or even overlooked – the fallout at the ‘back-end’ can be catastrophic. So whilst an organisation may have the best systems and technology to support their ‘sales and delivery’ functions – these systems are only as good as the ‘information and data’ that is input to the system. Even self-service systems are not immune from user input errors. Again these issue’s exist before the ‘layer of silo’s and the resulting communication gaps are accounted for.

How do we begin to resolve this? Once again we find that silo’s and lack of communication are a product of a VUCA world, which has caused a pandemic of Busy Brain Syndrome. BBS has severely eroded peoples ability to pay attention and stay focused. It is the cause of ‘so called avoidance behaviours’ – the sales people ‘omitting’ information for example – as these avoidance behaviours are ‘brain driven’ rather than intentional. I am certain we have all been in a position (many times a day) where we forget what we were doing, or what we told someone or what information we passed on – “I’m sure I told you” – only to find that we didn’t. How mortified to we feel when we realise – usually due to some minor or major disaster at the back-end – that we didn’t pass on the information, or complete the task. Well not everyone feels mortified – some don’t seem to care – but that is yet another post.

Silo’s – decimate efficienycy

I was at a family function over the weekend and chatting to my cousin who is a free-lance writer and editor. She was recently asked to do a job for a large government department that was in her words, an extraordinary experience.

The job was essentially a consulting role on how to write a workbook linked to a theoretical text to enable self-learning. The department (within the larger department) was one of more than 20 departments all doing the same thing within their ‘subject matter expertise’. Upon being briefed about the job and establishing time lines and agreeing costs, she went away and began to research the task. When she realised that most of the other ‘departments’ had already written many ‘workbooks’ and that collectively there was an abundance of expertise in the organisation, she called her sponsor and asked why they were not seeking to save time and money by utilising existing people and expertise?

The response from her sponsor was “haven’t you heard of silo’s? thats how things work around here”,

This is not an isolated case and unfortunately ‘silo’s, disparate groups and lack of cohesion are on the increase within organisations – even small organisations. Why?

Busyness or more aptly overwhelm and overload which leads to avoidance behaviours, are on the rise both within organisations and more generally. People have become adept at rationalising and justifying why they avoid things, and why so often they fail to take the most efficient pathway with performing tasks. This is primarily because the more efficient pathway will more often than not involve collaborating with other people, as was the case with my cousins experience. So why is this so challenging?

Sadly it is because a further fallout of busyness and overload is decision paralysis. This leads people to think ‘if I involve ‘x’ from another department that means the time frame to get this thing done will blow out because they will prioritise all of ‘their demanding tasks first’. And so it goes around. Silo’s have not become pandemic due to intentions of people to isolate themselves into their ‘own manageable department’ – far from it. Ask anyone and they will lament the existence of silo’s, yet at the same time uphold them.

What is the solution? A radical overhaul of internal communications within businesses with a return of power to team leaders. Additionally, visibility of what is transpiring within teams with operational managers who are responsible for efficiency of the collective teams output in meeting business objectives. Such a system means information is collected by teams from the customer interface, fed upstream by team leaders and then directions for responses fed back down from operational leaders who have visibility across all teams thereby creating a feedback loop.Such a system by default removes silo’s and moreover removes the reason they exist.

Moreover such communications systems also exist yet ironically silo’s are stalling their widespread use.