by Dr Graham Little PhD AFNZIM MInstD MNZIC
In the previous article I discussed the notion of 'transparencies' or 'frames', as a fundamental of the underlying causes of why we do what we do. Technically transparencies are aspects of what I call a person's world view (consisting of every conscious thought a person may hold, so collectively it is how they 'see' any and all situations). World views exist in compartments, typically linked closely to situations, and hence the idea of transparencies fits rather well with what actually happens, with the example of seeing very different things about a house depending on whether you held the idea of buying or burgling the house. It is rather like driving a motor car; the 'transparency' in our mind is a sort of wind screen with a heads-up display and the direction we travel depends on what exactly is on the heads-up display. The example of looking at a house to buy or burgle has a heads-up display of 'buy' or 'burgle' and illustrates the power of our thought.
Likely you are thinking not much new in that, so people 'see' according to their point of view. But this treats the issue too lightly, and offers no real psychological targets for managers as regards job performance. The following is the key hypothesis.
People 'see' any situation according to the transparency they use and will act according to that content of that transparency.
We now have a hypothesis based on fundamental insights into how people operate as a species that we can use to develop human performance. Applying the hypothesis to a person at work we can now state that one of the crucial things required is for them to have a very clear 'transparency' of what is expected of them at work and how to go about achieving the results. The OPD strategic human resource system delivers exactly this, and we now have the experience to assert firmly that current 'job descriptions', and 'goal setting' and 'performance management systems', do not deliver any where near adequate detail to achieve the gains in human performance we know are achievable.
Think of the use of visualization in sport, every sports person knows today the importance of 'seeing' the act, seeing for example the golf ball and seeing the stroke and visualizing he ball travelling to where you wish to place it on the green, etc. It is all a little harder than it sounds, but the power and usefulness of this process is not questioned. This goes far beyond 'hit the ball and put in on the green using a five iron'. The written description of the action may include the statement of hitting the ball with the five iron, but the visualization needs more, so the person sees themselves doing exactly the actions needed, which then 'presets' the person to do as required. Visualization does not guarantee results, but it certainly adds to the likelihood of success. If this is an important process for optimizing human performance in sport, do you think business any different? To summarize, and using golf as the example: We have the intent to succeed, we have written summaries of what to do when -such as when to use the five iron - then we enable the person to visualize the actual stroke. The person then has in mind a clear transparency on what to do when, linked to visualizations of them acting out the actual behaviours required.
There is a second important aspect of the use of transparencies; consider a coach, what is the single most crucial thing a coach must have to be effective as a coach? Imagine watching a tennis player that you were going to coach. Now imagine you intended to improve the person's forehand. If you cannot see an excellent forehand, or at least a forehand stroke better that what the person is currently doing - if you do not have a transparency where you can 'see' an excellent forehand - then you are not able to offer the person any advice or guidelines for improvement. In short, to be effective as a coach you must have a transparency where you can 'see' excellence in whatever it is you wish to coach; and this applies in business as much as in sport. Are the rules any different if you seek to coach yourself? I think not. This means that if you are to coach another, or coach yourself, then it is essential you have a transparency whereby you can 'see' excellence and compare to the efforts of another and your own efforts.
We can now redraft our hypothesis as follows.
People 'see' any situation according to the transparency they use and will act according to that content of that transparency. In business this means that each person must be clear on what is expected of them (outputs or key performance indicators - KPIs) and the key actions that best enable the KPIs to be achieved. Also, it is not sufficient for the person to know the written sets of outputs and actions; they need to be able to visualize what to do and to 'see' themselves doing it.
Aligning minds in the business then requires:
1. Aligning outputs and KPIs in each role relative to the strategy.
2. Aligning the actions needed to achieve each KPI.
3. Guiding people to have this structure clear on their transparency related to 'what I do in my job'.
4. Guiding people to visualize themselves doing the actions related to the written description of excellence in their job. In the OPD model this is called 'engagement', people engaging in mind with the actions required to get the job done.
With this we have very clear initial psychological targets for achieving alignment of people relative to the business strategy, their remains key issues in relation to what managers/team leaders need to do to achieve this alignment with each of their team.