Mystic Management

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Reflections on Mystic Management . . . Continued   X

Some 225 students and faculty from various disciplines attended the lecture. Phillip opened the discussion of Collaborative Creativity with a bit of reverse psychology stating: "While creativity may be good for the arts, it’s definitely bad for business. I’m sure we agree that the last thing anybody wants is creative assembly line workers for example. I suspect each product would be a little different, a few would work as planned, now and then one would work exceptionally well, and many would fail altogether. This would be all too wishy-washy for achieving effective and efficient resource management. Random excellence is not a sought after commodity. And of course this makes perfect sense. Who’d risk it? Somehow, though, the assembly line mentality has come to define the totality of the workplace making it unbendingly consistent, within specification, controllable, predictable, and uninvitingly inhuman and mechanistic. Machines need not be creative and assembly lines building machines also need not be creative. Then again, that first assembly line was an immensely creative idea, based on the idea of interchangeability of parts, another immensely creative idea. And together those innovations changed the course of industrialization."

To expand on Phillip’s opening comments, this reporter sees Collaborative Creativity, the first tenet of Mystic Management not as resistant to mechanization and robotics, but resistant to the mechanization of the human spirit and the treating of people as robots. Until such time as we totally remove the human element from the workplace, we might want to turn our attention toward dealing with people without breaking them, literally and figuratively. Collaborative Creativity respects the creative genius, the creative spirit and refuses to squash it in the name of consistency or profit or any other after-the-creative-fact notion. And this creativity is collaborative, team-built.

Again in Phillip’s own words. "I’m not suggesting we haven’t accomplished great things as a society. Wasn’t putting three men on the moon and bringing them back a wonderfully creative idea, wasn’t it magnificent? The idea officially took shape with the conception of the Apollo Program and informal discussions around a table in early 1959. The idea officially came to fruition ten years later in the moon landing. Today the stack of paperwork supporting a manned space mission stands taller than a Saturn V Rocket. This is the typical way of organizations. They begin and grow as scattered creative germs and ultimately evolve into carefully documented diseases. It’s the natural order of things to move from simple to complex. One strain of the disease is bureaucracy. We’ve all been exposed and most of us don’t like the symptoms. The vaccine must be formulated from the original germ. In this case bureaucracy must be infected with the germ of an idea, a creative germ. Collaborative Creativity is fueled by the energy flaring out from the human aura as individuals create. To create is to allow passage into the next dimension of doing business. To create is to breathe new life into the going concern."

Upon pressing Phillip and Christian for more detail they shared their view of Collaborative Creativity as a new business ethic. Like Plato on Ethics, the Hansens on Collaborative Creativity would prefer creativity for its own sake, because it is right action. They will, however, in the name of practicality settle for organizations embracing creativity because it will ultimately strengthen the bottom line. Regardless of the motive the pursuit of creativity should become a new dimension of corporate social responsibility.

To close the discussion of Collaborative Creativity, Christian cited the name of his company, Used Water Works, as an example of the collaboratively creative process. The company is in the water recycling business and the implication is that "used water works for mankind." The company name was the outcome of a collaborative/team effort, a brainstorming session involving employees at all levels within the organization. The key is cooperation and the recognition and consideration of all ideas. Collaborative Creativity does not happen in a vacuum.

This reporter is not oblivious to the serious practical objections to the notion of Collaborative Creativity, and for that matter to all of the Mystic tenets. High ideals appear to have high price tags. However, striving for anything less than high ideals would be more expensive in the long run. There is no future and no profit in shortsightedness. The frightening part for some is that allowing creativity demands that one empower others. This brings us to the second principle of Mystic Management, Ego Empowerment.

Ego Empowerment is a bit of an oxymoron. It doesn’t mean expanding one’s own ego, but keeping it in check in order to empower others. Christian opened this section of the lecture with the following statement: "Ego Empowerment is the oxymoron in the new paradigm of collaborative management weltanschauung." It was wonderful. He looked intently at his audience and then at his father who simply shrugged and threw up his hands.

Phillip moved to the front of the stage and pretend-whispered to the audience: "I should have known better than to bring my son to the university. What he’s trying to say is that even though Ego Empowerment is a bit of a contradiction in terms it fits the new model of quality/team management. And ‘weltanschauung,’ well, you’ll have to ask him. Surely in a ‘publish or parish’ environment, poor Christian would perish."

"Now that’s unfair," quipped Christian. "‘Weltanschauung’ gives us a global flavor and, besides, it fits right in. It does after all mean a comprehensive philosophy of the world and mystical contemplation."

"That certainly clears it up. We should have named our ‘new paradigm’ Weltanschauung Management. It seems to me we are having enough trouble with the word ‘Mystic.’ Nonetheless you can be credited with using the words ‘empowerment,’ ‘oxymoron,’ ‘paradigm,’ ‘collaborative,’ and, of course ‘weltanschauung’ all in a single sentence. Very impressive."

"You know, that’s not very ego empowering."

By this time the audience was chuckling and getting the idea. How often are we simply put down because what we’ve come up with seems different, kind of silly? How often on the other hand does someone take the time to help reshape our silliness into something dynamic and powerful? Empowering others is tricky business. As Christian so aptly put it: "You have to be willing to accept, appreciate, reshape, and recreate, and all with no expectation of personal gain."

This reporter recognizes the apple pie sound in this and it is hard to argue against without being perceived as a troll. I think that’s why many CEOs have gone along with empowerment as a part of a quality management strategy only to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat at the thought of actually allowing others to make critical decisions. Often CEOs reassess what they have done and keeping only those parts of quality management that deal with continuous improvement and customer service. They simply revoke empowerment, the employee enhancing part. It’s that proverbial "throwing out the baby with the bath water." Without employee empowerment as the cornerstone there’s nothing new in quality management. Well, that’s not exactly true, there is statistical process control, benchmarking, reengineering, managing the white space, ISO 12000, and the Malcomb Baldridge Award. These are formal things that can be put in the strategic plan to benchmark our progress. Empowerment remains the challenge that company executives simply can’t handle. Empowerment demands something bigger than big business, and so the next Mystic Management Principle, Gentle Generosity, takes shape.

According to Phillip, "Empowerment is something we do; it’s an action verb. Gentle Generosity is something we are; it’s a quality. It’s the quality that allows us to empower and feel comfortable with that decision. It’s freeing up our own insecurities while at the same time going the extra step to encourage others."

Gentle Generosity looks like a very desirable trait. Christian asks the interesting question, "Who would more likely be associated with a Gentle Generosity, Attila the Hun or Winnie the Pooh and if you were President and CEO of a major global conglomerate with whom would you rather be compared? The Hun is a fighter, warrior, and conqueror; Pooh Bear is fat, yellow, and occasionally gets his head stuck in a honey jar. Which image would be most likely to enhance the bottom line and maintain the confidence of your Board of Directors and your stockholders? We’ve all heard and seen that nice people finish last; being liked is unimportant; good executives need to be self-strokers with no need for reinforcement or encouragement from outside themselves. And herein lies the problem: self-stroking causes hierarchical schizophrenia, a disease of organizational position. As one moves up the organization ladder he or she may seek council only from those at a higher organizational level. When one finally reaches the top one may seek advice only from oneself. Hence the adage ‘it’s lonely at the top.’ Oh yes, and here is where the schizophrenia sets in; one is forced to interact with oneself while taking on and responding to all sides of an issue. This clearly demands more than one personality. Hierarchical schizophrenia is the number one killer of Collaborative Creativity and crippler of Ego Empowerment. A Gentle Generosity in spite of its Pooh image is the only known cure."

Listening to Christian convince an audience riddled with management professors and in-progress MBAs that they should give up the warrior image for a Winnie the Pooh one was quite something. It was truly a call to high ideals. Simply put, teamwork and collaboration are not warrior tools, they are the sum and substance of process orientation encompassing not only the ability, but the need, to interact with other individuals at all levels of the organization. Gentle Generosity is part of a win-win strategy and this does positively impact the bottom line and draw confidence from Boards and stockholders. The trait itself, to have Gentle Generosity, moves into the spiritual realm of Mystic Management and foretells of its next principle Karmic Kindness.

Karmic Kindness is the antithesis of the ‘no pain no gain’ philosophy. Phillip stated it very simply, "What goes around comes around and kindness is the better way. There is a wonderful bumper sticker out there that says Mean People Suck. So do mean managers. Then, of course, there’s the bumper sticker that takes it a step further commit random acts of kindness. Sometimes I think we should stop reading books and simply check out bumper stickers. My contribution to the world of bumper stickers deals with paradigm shifts, shift happens."

My reporter-self compelled me to look up the definitions of both karmic and kindness. ‘Karmic’ from the Hindu or Buddhist refers to the total effect of one’s conduct during the successive phases of his or her existence. Karma has to do with destiny. Then there is kindness. ‘Kind’ takes up almost a whole page in my dictionary. To be kind is to be friendly, generous, warm-hearted in nature, sympathetic, understanding, charitable, humane, considerate, forbearing, tolerant, generous, giving, agreeable, beneficial, and natural. Now there is a powerful word, I had no idea.

Christian and Phillip stood close to each other and spoke in unison: "Karmic Kindness is the soul of the corporation. Each job you hold is a lifetime and each act of kindness in each of those jobs takes you closer to your destiny. And your destiny, whether you choose to attend to it or not, is community building and sustainability, it is equality and oneness with all those around you, it is love." The two men stood focused on their audience and silent for a full three minutes. They said nothing with their voices. The audience rejoiced in the silence and also said nothing with their voices.

It was one of the most intense periods I have ever experienced. I could not fathom how they did it without seeming totally ridiculous. The two men, father and son, standing together proposing love as a principle of management was mesmerizing. There was far more going on than met the eye. I had that same feeling I’d had earlier in the day as I left the restaurant. The lecture hall took on that same other-worldly aura. The sun filtered light through the trees and finally through the tinted glass of the lecture hall windows turned the entire scene a subtle but definite pink. I have struggled for two weeks with how to write this segment without appearing ridiculous myself. The bottom line for me is that I’ve finally concluded that it is unimportant how ridiculous I might seem. What’s important is the message, and I have communicated it the best way I know how. Each of us perceives our reality somewhat differently. And it is in these differences that we find the fifth tenet of Mystic Management, Inclusive Integrity.

Christian took the lead here: "Inclusive Integrity acknowledges differences, it is diversity personified, a celebration diversity, and this celebration is not a natural tendency. In fact it’s quite the opposite. The more like us another is the better we like him or her. It’s the ‘I’m okay, I’m okay’ philosophy. The less difference between you and me the better. This behavior leads to the establishment of exclusive clubs. For example, there are Irish, Catholics, and, of course Irish-Catholics. There are Italians, Americans, and Italian- Americans. Once I even heard about a club of Irish-Catholic-Americans. Let’s see, African-American, Hispanic, and I think it’s Hispanic not from Spain or Puerto Rico or Mexico but only from South America. Then of course there’s Jewish, but if they’re from Israel or New York City, well, they’re different. And there’s Hansen not to be confused with Hanson, son of Hans. This has all the trappings of a market segmentation strategy. We might as well be discussing Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac, or Wrangler, Levis, and Calvin Klein, or maybe even Scott and whatever the quilted one is. We can’t possibly be talking about human beings. Then again, if I’m a Buick and you’re a Buick that’s good. If I’m a Buick and you’re either a Chevrolet or a Cadillac that’s bad. We’re all GM but we look different and we handle differently. The fact that all three can get from San Diego to Seattle via the interstate is irrelevant."

Christian continued without falling through the thin ice as he skating upon and around his audience’s values. He did manage to make his point and concluded by citing the all too common examples of employee performance being evaluated on how closely the job resembled the way the supervisor would do it rather than on whether or not the objectives were met. His closing comment on Inclusive Integrity was: "To accept diversity is not enough and to value it is a great beginning."

The final tenet of Mystic Management is Systems Sensitivity, "This is the synergy and synchronicity of it all. This tenet is the glue, the matrix, the connectedness of one thing to all things. It’s the feedback loop, the reinforcer."

This reporter left the lecture hall at the university with a different impression of what might be possible for corporate America. This reporter left Phillip and Christian Hansen’s talk with a different feeling about business, a distinctly non statistical, untested, and spiritually motivated and hopeful future. Shift happens . . .

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The Mystic Manager - Complete Table of Contents