Edited Founder Session Presentation Part A
made by Dr. Ichak Adizes at the 29th Annual Adizes Convention Palic, Serbia, July 6, 2007
A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
—John A. Shedd
Esteemed Associates, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It takes time for ideas to develop and mature. For instance, I started writing the book Leading the Leaders about twenty or thirty years ago. I’ve been taking notes on top of notes, reading them and rewriting them until I was finally ready to share them with others in a book.
What I am going to present today is not clear in my mind. It is not well articulated. Maybe twenty years from now (may we live so long), it will have become clear enough to be presented without embarrassment. Nevertheless, I want to share those inarticulate thoughts with you. You are my colleagues; it is through sharing, questioning and challenging one another’s ideas that we learn, we think more clearly, rationally and analytically, and thus jointly advance our ability to manage change without destructive conflict. I thank you in advance for willing to bear with me as I present these random thoughts.
As you all know, I start my lecture on change arguing that change, by definition, creates both problems and opportunities. It creates problems because everything is a system, and all systems are composed of subsystems. When there is change, the subsystems do not change in synchronicity. This lack of synchronicity creates gaps. Those gaps are manifested in what we call problems.
I suggest in that lecture, that all problems – be they medical, emotional, organizational, physical, social, or political – are manifestations of disintegration caused by change. The faster the change, the faster things fall apart, and the graver and more numerous are the problems facing us.
Problems caused by change, however, can be addressed proactively because they can be predicted. They can be predicted because their cause, change, is predictable too. Change has a lifecycle and every stage in the lifecycle has its predictable problems.
Since everything is subject to change, everything has a lifecycle: stars, rocks (those of you who were at the convention in Greenland probably remember that we touched the oldest rock on Earth), trees, and people. Organizations have a lifecycle, too. Now, while everything has a lifecycle, not all entities have the same lifecycle. They have different time spans. Some butterflies have a lifecycle of one day, while a star can “live” for millions of years. The challenge is to manage organizations to become stars instead of butterflies.
You know the lecture. So far nothing new. One day, as I was lecturing somewhere, and as usual repeating over and over that everything has a lifecycle, I remembered a rafting trip I had taken with my thirteen year old son, Sasa, a year or two earlier, down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
We were rafting down the river as the guide was telling us about the age of the colorful rocks we were looking at. Then it occurred to me: Wait. Not all entities have the same lifecycle – and the difference is not just the life span. Rocks and stars cannot choose how old they will be. They age with time, and scientists can tell you the age of a rock or a tree because their life span is predetermined by time. Even animals don’t have a choice. A horse or a dog will have a certain life span, a predictable number of years. They do not have a choice to prolong that life. We humans have a choice. We can have longer or shorter lifespans that our ancestors had. It depends on the choices we make. Furthermore we can impact how long our organization, or this “space ship earth” will “live”. But for that, we have to be conscious.
Now, what is consciousness and how is it different from awareness?
If we are shivering, we are aware that we are cold. We are conscious when we understand the repercussions of being cold, when we really understand what will happen if we do not take cover.
Consciousness is an understanding of the meaning and consequences of our actions. Conscious people do not just react to drives and feelings – like hunger or fatigue – as animals do – or spread their roots in search of water, like trees do. What makes us, people, different from animals or trees is this search for meaning (see Victor Frankl), this need to understand (see Carlos Slutsky and Sara Cobb).
Some organizations are aware of pollution. But in reality they do nothing about it. I suggest that they are only aware of the pollution problem; the repercussions of pollution have not entered their organizational consciousness. The organization is not yet conscious to the point that it will act on what it knows. When we are conscious, we truly, deeply, really understand the repercussions of what we are aware of. Not all conscious peope act though. In order to act we need more than consciousness. We need a conscience.
Note that in the English language the words “consciousness” and “conscience” are similar. The same is true in Serbian (“consciousness” is svest and “conscience” is savest); I wonder whether this is true for other languages, too. Awareness in Hebrew is mudaut, which comes from the root “to know.” To act, one needs more than knowledge. In Hebrew, conscience is matzpun, which has the same root as matzpen, which means a compass, and tzofan, which means code. How about making the following interpretation: conscienceis the compass in life, pointing toward the road to take. If we listen to it, it will bother us till we take action. However, conscience must be decoded. One needs to listen to it and try to interpret what it is telling us; for that we need to be conscious, to understand the repercussions of what we are aware of. It is not easy to be conscious in modern times. That explains to me why the modern world is having increasing problems with conscience. Our values are constantly being challenged by technological changes, and we, as a civilization are increasingly confused in determining what is right and what is wrong. (When does life start or end? Is cloning of people acceptable?) We live in a new jungle. The old jungle of primitive man was very scary; but I suggest that the new jungle is much more dangerous than the primitive one. In today’s jungle it is more difficult to know what is what and who is who. In the primitive jungle, if you saw a lion, you recognized an enemy. Today, we look at a sheep and don’t know if it is truly a sheep, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. For example, the food advertised for us to eat, and the quantities we are served; is this food our friend or our foe? Is it going to feed us or slowly kill us. As I drive down the highway confronted by thousands of billboards, I am conscious of the new jungle. I wonder which of those smiling models is a modern snake trying to seduce me to eat, drink, smoke, and to act and in doing so get me kicked out of the “heaven” of the healthy. What should we be conscious of in this new jungle? What rules should we follow to decode the code and be able to follow the compass of life?
Look at the Adizes change management map. It illustrates that to manage problems, you have to make decisions, for which you need a complementary team. You also have to implement those decisions, and for that you need the common interest of all the parties required for implementation.
Both decision-making and implementation create conflict. A complementary team means, by definition, that there will be style differences in how we process information and how we judge situations. There will be conflicts because we don’t have common interests either. Because of change, common interests do not remain common over time: we, as people, change, and the conditions we live in also change. Thus our interests change and if there was common interest when we started a relationship, we should not take it for granted that it will remain so.
So, conflict is inevitable. The more change there is, the more conflict there will be.
Conflict can be destructive. It can destroy people, marriages, businesses, whole societies. So what are we to do? Should we stop change to avoid destructive conflict? Several political theories and religions try to do that, but without success. To stop all conflicts one must first stop all change. That is utopian. No one can “freeze” the whole world forever.
Is it impossible, then, to stop the progress along the road to destructive conflict? Not at all. We simply must find instead the exit that points toward constructive conflict.
Granted, the road to destructive conflict is easier. (Notice how easy it is to destroy a building versus how time-consuming and costly it is to build it. Notice how difficult it is to build a relationship and how easy it is to destroy it – sometimes in seconds.) You have to make a choice between the easy road toward destructive conflict, or the much more arduous one toward constructive conflict. Depending on the choice we make, we can create more constructive or destructive change We can have longer or shorter lives, as people, as a country or as a civilization. Living in this new jungle, we can choose to accelerate life or to accelerate death. But how will we recognize the exit to constructive conflict? Which way does the compass point? To find out, we must break the code: What should we be conscious of? What understanding must we have in order to lengthen the life of our marriage, our companies or our civilization?
We know from the Adizes map that we should watch for the exit sign that says “MT&R,” and ladies and gentlemen, it appears to me, more and more, that MT&R is the code. MT&R explains the behavior of all systems, not just organizations but also people, marriage, society and even how long life on this planet will exist.
What is MT&R? Mutual Trust and Respect! It is the variable that enables integration. And why is integration so important?
We’ve said that change by definition creates gaps, because not everything changes at the same rate. And those gaps are manifested by problems. Thus it follows that change causes disintegration, and disintegration causes all problems.
Now, if disintegration is the cause of all problems, than the antidote to all problems is integration. “Wholeness or illness,” say the psychiatrists. If we are to heal the world, we have to make it a whole, which requires integration, and there can be no integration without Mutual Trust and Respect. Now let us make a jump, a big jump of faith: What is absolute integration?
Mutual Trust and Respect are prerequisite for love. There might be passion, there might be sexual attraction, but there is no love without MT&R. Now let us keep abstracting: What is absolute love? Let me dare to say that for me it is God. Notice: There is no cursing or hate and disrespect in churches and synagogues. And what are the messages from the pulpit? Love. Forgiveness. Mutual Trust and Respect. One of the Ten Commandments says: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” And if you analyze the Ten Commandments, they have one common denominator: they all promote MT&R. Read the Old Testament. How should you treat the ox you use for work? With respect. How should you treat the foreigner, the Ger, who inhabits your city? With respect. And you should always leave a piece of your land unharvested for the poor, so they can have something to eat.
But here is a thought: Although God is one and only – thus absolute integration, absolute love – God is still not alone. Not only God is out there. There is God, and there is the Devil. And may I suggest that both of them, jointly, created the world. We were created in their image: there is a little bit of God in all of us, and there is a little bit of the Devil in all of us. The moon has its white, lit side and its dark side, and all of us have both light and darkness in us, influencing the choices we make.
God is love and forgiveness, and forgiveness and love is what? Integration. Being inspired is being in the spirit, united with higher consciousness. That gives us energy.
And what does the Devil stand for? Hate, revenge, evil – which are all causes or manifestations of disintegration. And that takes away energy, dissipates it. (Did you notice that people that are in love look younger and those that hate older. Did you know that people in healthy relationships have less colds, as reported in the Medical Journals.)
All human beings experience both feelings: love and hate. The question is: whom do we worship with the choices we make? Which of the feelings do we follow?
May I suggest that some religions use the name of God, but worship the Devil. How? Their actions speak loud and clear: They will behead you if you are different, or exile you if you do not share their beliefs. They have no respect or trust for those who are different; in fact they preach revenge, death and destruction to anyone who thinks or acts differently. I am not referring just to some fundamentalist Muslims today. The Catholic Inquisition during the Middle Ages was not much better. There are some political ideologies that act that way too: the Fascists, the Communists. By insisting that we should all be the same, those religions and political ideologies appear to be fostering integration. Ironically, however, they are fostering disintegration. Why? Because we cannot all be the same, no matter how much these extremists use murder, exile and terror to impose their will. They are preaching fusion, not integration, and fusion can never be achieved. Here is the proof: even among themselves, they do not find the absolute sameness they insist upon. They are continually fighting each other because differences are inevitable.
What is needed is not fusion but the integration of differences: constructive diversity. (Notice, however, that not all diversity is constructive. Some political parties use the freedom of choice that constructive diversity offers to destroy diversity. These are the anti-democratic parties that use democracy to get into power; then they abolish democracy. The Nazis did that. The Hammas is doing it now.)
MUTUAL Trust & Respect is the key. I am underlining and capitalizing the word MUTUAL. The anti democratic parties or exclusive religions command but do not grant respect and trust to others who are different. With MT&R – with integration, not fusion of differences – we work together, not in spite of our differences but because of them. We enrich each other with our differences. Thus, we must learn to practice MT&R. We need to understand how to apply MT&R to the individual, family, organizational and even the global level. Why to everything? Because everything is interrelated. You cannot apply MT&R on the personal level and not apply it at the family level; or apply it to the family but not to the organization you work for; or practice it at the organizational level but in a community where mistrust and disrespect are the norm. It will not work as well, because the area where you do not apply MT&R will undermine the area where you do apply it. For instance, you cannot sustain a democratic organization in a dictatorial regime, or a dictatorial organization in a democratic regime. Inevitably one system will undermine and eventually destroy the other. How to do that. I have some ideas. Just ideas.
(Because of the length of this presentation, the rest of the presentation will be covered in the next months Insights – The Editor)