Monday, March 26, 2018

How Do We Fit In?

There are two key elements that we must recognize and understand in order to have our function properly, Interactions and Integration. As a human being we interact with our environment 24-7. Yes, we even interact with our environment while we think we aren’t, like while we’re sleeping. Integration is how we make all that we DO, into all that we want to BE. If our system is not functioning around purpose and intention, then what is it really accomplishing?

Interactions

Very few systems have the luxury of operating in a complete vacuum. Most systems must interact with their environment, other systems, or both. How a system performs and maintains these interactions is crucial to how well any system will operate and survive. Many breakdowns in complex systems of systems will likely begin with an improper interaction between two or more component systems, rather than the complete failure of one or the other. This concept of identifying, and managing, interactions is a crucial element in our individual, and organizational, life and work. How we understand these interactions will be important in two key areas. First understanding interactions will minimize the risk of upsets and failures. Secondly, interactions will help us maintain flexibility and will likely be the source of feedback that is needed to keep our system on track and effective.

Integration

A system is created to produce something useful. In order to do this successfully, a system needs to have tightly integrated parts. This is internal integration. This requires one to know the inputs required, the outputs required, and the interactions for the system and it's parts. A system is usually not independent of other systems. Most systems are interdependent on other systems to function. This is external integration. If our lives are going to function as a whole, both internal and external integration are crucial. Integration is also the result of understanding of the three prior elements we have discussed: Balance, Priorities and Interactions. Get these defined and nailed and natural integration will occur. Like all of the other elements, integration also requires feedback and regular inquiry. Small changes, often imperceptible ones, can lead to major integration problems over time if adjustments are made. All of these elements once achieved, require maintenance. They are not autopilot, or "set and forget" elements. They require feedback and regular review. You must own and maintain these to have the unity you seek.

So how do you how do you determine interactions that are important to you and your life and work? How often to consider key interactions in planning your day, week or life? How often to you consider the integrated nature of your life and work? I would love to hear from the readers in the comments.

A New Model

So if we’re going to live rooted, purposeful lives, we must embrace a foundation of truth. For me this comes from embracing integration of my three primary truths as a basis for all I live and work for. First that there are indeed Moral truths that I should strive to embody. Second, that there are social/political truths that must guide the way I conduct myself in society. An lastly, that I am a Mind, a Body and a Spirit that I must strive to keep integrated and whole. All of this leads us to need a new model to guide our life and work. 

I call this the REPO Model.

R - Reflect
E - Engage
P - Plan
O - Own

A lot of people laugh or scoff at the acronym for repo. The thought that comes to mind is some guys taking your car in the middle the night. Repossession is seen in a negative light, of course no one wants to lose something they “own“, but in this case if you owe the bank money on car did you really own it? The answer is no!

I think the opposite is true. I think repossession is an apt description of what we need to do with our lives and work. We have loaned our life out to a deadbeat world, and we are failing time and again to make the payments. We’re fooled into a tech driven consumerism, or a politically driven need for Utopia, or a modern mobility-driven need for acceptance. What do we really get? Dis-integration. Our tech-driven brains get no rest. Our politically-minded ideas don’t get good outcomes. Our mobility leads to a lack of roots in the community and it taxes, if not destroys, our key relationships.

So the need for a new model is clear. Now let’s discuss what the components mean;

Reflect. We have to take time to reflect on what matters to us, our families, our community, and the legacy we will leave. We have to know in order to commit. We have to spend time in prayer, meditation and solitude to connect to our unique WHY. My pastor Chris Hodges sums it up well when he says if “we lose our why, we’ll lose our way”.

Engage. We have to engage and embrace those around us to live out our WHY. If it is not meaningful enough to lead us to engagement, then it is just selfish and will lead to loneliness and stress. Engaging with others will help us clarify the WHO. Who we are, as well as who is really important to us.

Plan. Without a plan, everything we glean in the first two Stages will be a wish, not a purpose. The old saying goes “ failing to plan is planning to fail”, and the only real way to fail is not to do anything. Our plans will clarify the WHAT and the HOW.

Own. We have to take responsibility for ourselves and our family. We have to stare down the abyss of resistance and potential failure and move forward.
 
This Model is not sequential, or linear. It is also not Rational, especially in today’s world. As we reflect, we may change how we engage. As we engage we may change our plans. As we plan, we may find new ways to engage. As we own our actions and our purpose, we may reflect on new plans. This Model is built to embrace the mixed-scanning mental Model approach we discussed in an earlier post {LINK}. In our next posts we’ll talk about how we put the REPO Model in action to repossess our lives and renew out hearts and minds. As the apostle Paul wrote over 2,000 years ago, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Why Do We Work?

Priorities are the reflection of the key "whys" in our life. If we are going to achieve a systematic, unified work and life flow, priorities are not optional. They must be set AND reviewed regularly. They are dynamic, not static factors, therefore they require feedback. Only you can determine what regular means in your life and work. Simon Sinek in his viral TEDx talk, gave a succinct discussion of why getting to YOUR Why is important and powerful.

Simplistic systems are focused on a very limited set of functions. Typically these systems operate in a closed-loop fashion. Inputs come in, get processed in some limited fashion to create an output and then either complete or repeat. There is little or no feedback, and no adaptability. More complex systems incorporate open-loop control, feedback and a myriad of processes based on inputs and/or outputs, with the ability to change or modify processes. Complex systems will establish priorities based on various parameters, either inputs, output, or process related. These priorities will help a system function efficiently and effectively based on it's real-time environment. Our lives are very complex systems, that operate in a complex system of systems called life. Understanding priorities in light of the intended functionality of a system are essential to creating a stable, effective system.

When we set out to create a life that is focused and balanced, priorities will be one of the filters we can use to focus on what is important. Priorities, to be effective, need to be derived from our values and focused on the vision for where we want to go. Having a clear sense of value-driven priorities will help us systematically shape the course of our goals and actions, and will help us clarify how we integrate the various facets of our lives into a whole.

One technique this especially useful in systematically determining a fundamental Why is the Five Why’s. Originally codified by Toyota in the 1950’s as a structured problem solving technique to determine the root cause of manufacturing and design problems, it guides critical thinking to get to the source. As any parent of a three year old knows, it’s been around for eons. So begin with the first why for your life and work that comes to mind. Then ask why that is important. Continue this three more times and you are likely to get to your unifying Cause. Get to this and a battle is won, and the weapon to win the war is now in your hands.

Once we have the WHY (or WHYS), we need to know how we fit them into our system. Next time we’ll discuss the key elements needed to get our system functioning around our WHY(S).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Who Do We Work For?

In the last post, we introduced the concept of systems-based self-mangement. I believe a systematic approach to self-management revolves around three key parameters;

Balance
Priorities
Interactions
Integration

In this post we're going to explore balance in more detail. In review, we said previously that balance can be described as;

Every well operating system is balanced. If any system, whether mechanical, electrical, celestial, etc. is unbalanced, it is also typically unstable. Unstable systems typically lead to failure. This failure can be gradual erosion in performance, a sudden breakdown or even a catastrophic event. Many systems that become unstable will not actually fail based on the instability, but they become more sensitive to other upsets, and when these occur, they fail as a result. Understanding the key parameters that keep a system balanced is an important.

I think when we look at this from our own complex system perspective, our life and work, we can most simply frame it as a question: Who Do We Work For? Simple question indeed, but the answers can go very deep and complex quickly. What constitutes balance in our own system will be a deeply personal answer that will depend on many different factors. The two most basic factors that will affect balance will be importance and timing.

Covey, in his outstanding tome First Things First, described the concept of importance and urgency. By understanding things that must be accomplished in the context of a quadrant of combined urgency and importance, we can balance our systematic approach to accomplishing our intended outcomes. It is essential to always keep the WHO in mind when we establish our intended outcomes. If we intend to serve a limited WHO, then we are more likely to be unbalanced. This imbalance will then likely throw off our sense of both urgency and importance. Ultimately this will lead to breakdowns by either an internal lack of satisfaction, or a significant failure in the other two major parameters; Priorities and Interactions. More on those in the next couple of posts.


So, Who do You work for? Do you have a clear sense of how your intended outcomes serve those who are important? Does your sense of importance and urgency align with your Whos? I look forward to comments.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Self-Management

Over the next few posts we're going to broach the subject of self-management. This is going to take us into the realm of beginning to make conscious, systematic decision about our life and work. Self-management is not so much about the decisions themselves, as it is about the parameters and priorities that we'll use to guide those.

Balance

Every well operating system is balanced. Look up balance in the dictionary and many definitions and uses can be found. One I particularly like is; The power or means to decide. If our system is balanced, we maintain the opportunity to decide. If any system, whether mechanical, electrical, celestial, etc. is unbalanced, it is also typically unstable. Unstable systems typically lead to failure. This failure can be gradual erosion in performance, a sudden breakdown or even a catastrophic event. Many systems that become unstable will not actually fail based on the instability, but they become more sensitive to other upsets, and when these occur, they fail as a result. Understanding the key parameters that keep a system balanced is an important factor in performance.

Priorities

Simplistic systems are focused on a very limited set of functions. Typically these systems operate in a closed-loop fashion. Inputs come in, get processed in some limited fashion to create an output and then either complete or repeat. There is little or no feedback, and no adaptability. More complex systems incorporate open-loop control, feedback and a myriad of processes based on inputs and/or outputs, with the ability to change or modify processes. Complex systems will establish priorities based on various parameters, either inputs, output,or process related. These priorities will help a system function efficiently and effectively based on it's real-time environment. Our lives are very complex systems, that operate in a complex system of systems called life. Understanding priorities in light of the intended functionality of a system are essential to creating a stable, effective system.

Interaction

Very few systems have the luxury of operating in a complete vacuum. Most systems must interact with their environment, other systems, or both. How a system performs and maintains these interactions is crucial to how well any system will operate and survive. Many breakdowns in complex systems of systems will likely begin with an improper interaction between two or more component systems, rather than the complete failure of one or the other. This concept of identifying, and managing, interactions is a crucial element in our individual, and organizational, life and work.


I'd like to hear your feedback on these three critical systems elements of self-management. Have you mastered any of these in your own life and work? Do you see these in your daily lives? Would mastery of any or all of these help your life and work?