Better Rituals

Can’t we all just get along?

We can, if we will find dysfunctional rituals, and then find better ones to replace them with.

[This is a working document– as better rituals are discovered that better serve the parties involved, this page will be modified. Please add your positive suggestions below. I can’t fix every issue, and just like you, I am not perfect yet.]

It doesn’t work to try to simply ban the negative practice, nor the person using it. A better approach is to identify the dysfunctional ritual, and find a replacement that better achieves the positive goals of the previous one. See the blog post on Chickens, that gave this concept its ‘wings.’

Our DFW IT culture has a few dysfunctional “rituals.” The only way we are going to be able to get rid of one is by replacing it with a more functional, positive “ritual.”

Any solution is going to have two basic requirements:

  1. The various parties are going to need to know that they are respected. It’s not about ridicule or contempt for anyone; such personal attacks will only alienate.
  2. They need to know that you want to see them be successful. Two heads are almost always better than one, and reciprocity is a two-way street. We will all reap as we sow, so let’s plan for positive solutions.

The solutions that you and I think we have today, are not perfect yet. It is going to take some dialog. If we will get together, say, monthly, with a one-page agenda, stay humble and open-minded, we will have a process where we can have continuous improvement. These solutions will get better as various stakeholders contribute positive, constructive ideas. We will have established a “change management” ritual.

Don’t bring us problems, bring us solutions. We can’t solve world hunger, climate change, or prevent natural disasters. Be realistic– we have limited abilities to make things happen.

Ritual Number One– If you are a Sales Executive that puts deals together, a common belief is that you have to burn the talent so you can then “control” them. In previous posts, I have already mentioned five or six ways that would be better for both the Controller and the Controllee. No wonder that in over a dozen years, we have no federal employees that have attended our user group meetings. Which is better– a slave under duress, or an intrinsically motivated employee?

Ritual Number Two– If you are a raving fan of a particular software solution, marketing technique, soft drink,… or anything, you might want to represent or work for the product. The standard answer to the question, “Can I be a partner in your organization?” is going to be, “No.” The reason is that the vendor wants raving fans, and they do not want to add expense to their marketing and distribution. The answer is simple– first, define your passion, and secondly, define with them what the concept of “partner” means.

Ritual Number Three– If a stakeholder has issues, find a way to hear them out. If they are unwilling, you might have to smoke them out. Their concern may or may not have merit, and it might be the only way to find out. It is impossible to help him if he won’t communicate with you. If their concern is unwarranted, this will help to calm their fears and pre-empt more strenuous tactics on their part to socially engineer a solution. If you are on the receiving end of such social engineering, you had better speak up, and hear their concern! Keep more frequent contact, and be prepared to take appropriate action. If their concern is out-of-bounds, let the enterprising, yet self-destructive interloper know that they are on your radar, and exactly what the rules and consequences are. Have an Anti-Poaching Clause in your contract with him to protect your IT staff. Help them see that there are much easier, more straight-forward ways to achieve mutual goals. Cultivate his trust.

Ritual Number Four–Hiding behind a corporate logo. In many markets, there is the enterprising sales exec who gets offended at trifles, has draconian demands of his customer, and avoids friendly, helpful conversation with those that can help him achieve his goals. He would prefer hiding in the bushes, and getting the customer’s IT staff fired, as a means of gaining “account control.” He attributes his behavior to that mean, selfish corporation that he hides behind. He is “working at a higher level”— meaning, if you are in a position to help him, you have to take his corp to court, just to have that friendly, helpful conversation. This is a classic Straw Man attack (like good cop-bad cop). “Piercing the corporate veil” applies when a person attempts less-than-legal activity through a corp. If you are on the receiving end, have contract terms that protect your interests. To reduce the stress of all concerned, a better “ritual” for both sides of the table may involve resources like:

Ritual Number Five Adjudicate your work. Plan in advance with your software vendor exactly how you will have your work adjudicated, to help satisfy both your critics and their critics that the work was sufficiently completed.

Ritual Number Six– Divide and Conquer. The manipulative sociopath creates division between two people that work together, and then collects the spoils. Solution: Contract Clauses which specify a fine to the vendor company whose representative uses specific social engineering and other deceptive practices.

Ritual Number Seven–Incrementalism. Over a period of years, a sales exec might refuse to meet with, or even admit that he knows, a particular resource, all the while progressively infringing on their rights, like the proverbial camel putting its nose in the resource’s tent– before long, you are sleeping outside! By hiding behind a corp, he blames his nasty corp for his manipulative action. See:

Let’s find, and implement, better rituals.

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