Rules of Engagement

Neural pathwayThey used to say “check your brains at the door” when you come to work – “all we need is your brawn.”  Then it was realised that the intangibles of a person added enormous value.  Now the mantra of organisational change is about “hearts and minds.”  However, we fail to realise that the longest journey in the world is from the head to the heart; it can take a while to traverse it!  Unless a person is emotionally invested in an outcome, the thinking will be disconnected from the doing and there can be no lasting change.  How is the connection made?

Do you remember our conversation about the Machine versus the Living Organism model of a business from:  In the Machine model, managers tell human resources what to do and expect the correct behaviour.  If incorrect, the defect is assumed to be with the human resource (not the manager), so it’s time for reprogramming or replacement.  In the Living Organism model, the wise manager knows how to engage a person into the ethos of the business and this often leads to significant discretionary effort.  Should we consider this as manipulation?  I think not – employees are free agents and they will go to extraordinary lengths to do what they like doing and what ought to be done.

In their quest to “change” a person or a culture, the naïve manager often relies on “pop culture” versions of change programs, tips and tools.  Unless these “versions” are built on that which is proven, they are simply “perversions,” endowed with the trappings of effectiveness, but lacking any real power.  I’d like to share with you an approach which has served me well for many years.  I will credit Verna Allee with this, as I first read about it in her book “The Knowledge Evolution.”  However, her concept is not new, as you will see.Head, heart and hand

The Head, Heart and Hand model entwines the cognitive, emotional and psychomotor or behavioural aspects of a person.  It was evident in ancient cultures and ideologies including traditional Judaism (Believing, Belonging and Behaving), Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) and Christianity (the triune nature of God as one being, three personas – Father, Son and Spirit).  Modern manifestations include the Transformative Learning Model which shows the holistic nature of transformative experience and relates the cognitive domain (head) to critical reflection, the affective domain (heart) to relational knowing and the psychomotor domain (hands) to engagement.  Also, the most successful forms of therapy combine cognitive, emotional and behavioural aspects.

Although the Head, Heart and Hand model oozes with profundity, I’ve found an application which is very simple and have used it to good effect.  Whether for vision casting or strategy deployment, aligning teams or revealing assumptions, people need to answer the following set of questions:

  1. What will people be thinking about (Head)?
  2. How will they feel about it (Heart)?
  3. What will they be doing to make it real (Hand)?

I won’t go into how the questions are posed or the answers are discussed, combined and reflected upon to achieve the final result.  There must be something left in the facilitator’s black-box!  However, the synthesis of these three areas of inquiry yield a three stranded cord that cannot be easily broken.

My former boss and leader of BHP’s famous Global Maintenance Network, LeRoy Dugger summed it up with the following saying: “what you do depends on how you feel about what you think.”  Nice one, LeRoy.

DNAI’ve often reflected on why something so simple makes such a difference.  I think it’s because it so closely mirrors the very nature of humanity.  It’s the difference between organic and inorganic matter; between complexity and complication, design and accident.  The awesome, complex make-up of man renders the whole-person 3D model as far superior to any 2D machine model, in my humble opinion.  It makes you wonder how some of our best and brightest can believe that man’s “origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms[1]” and but a blip on the radar screen of history.



[1] Bertrand Russell (from A Free Man’s Worship, 1903)