Translating Peace Processes into the Workplace

Convener: John Perkins, 91690
Dates: March 18 &shyp; March 21, 1996.
Location: Dayton, Ohio
Learners: Lainey Docque and Jacqueline Haessly

1998 John Perkins

Rationale: Has intra-company hostility become the accepted norm in America? What can we do when CEO's, in the name of profitability and "competing in the global marketplace" wound their own organizations with chaotic cuts in staff or ill-fated mergers?
The inspiration for this peer day was Lainey Docque's concerns for bringing peace processes into her organization which has just experienced merging with and then "divorcing" another hospital. This peer day will include all learners attending the Team Spirit Facilitator Certification Training conducted by Barry Heermann with additional meeting times during breaks and meals.
My Intended Learning Outcomes: Organizations generate conflict from: the tension between hierarchy and participation; the competition for status, funds and resources; and by over stressing performance function at the expense of the support function of teams and groups. I will have an chance to explore how the peace processes I am aware of might be introduced into the daily practices of organizations. I am constantly aware of this need and this peer day will have immediate relevance to my program and professional life.

Provoking Peace. Jackie was kind enough to lend Lainey and myself the book with her article in it. We discussed Jackie's ideas over meals during our Team Spirit training.

Jackie exudes peacefulness, sincerity and caring. That is her message-the rest are details. I believe this holds one clue to the solution to how to bring peace processes into the workplace. We must learn to attend to two domains: one is ourselves and other is our actions.

I recall when I went to volunteer for the Peace March in New York which ultimately attracted one million marchers. When I walked into the office I immediately felt a contrast between the group of workers on my left and those to my right. To the left were the American organizers and volunteers. On my right were the Buddhist monks who had come to participate in the march. If I had to, I know I could provoke the American organizers to violence because deep down enough of them reserved the right to be violent in the "right" circumstances. I also know, if they had to, the monks could provoke me to peacefulness!

De Bono (p. 73) provides an interesting example of how provocation can work. He had been asked to consult with Goodwill Industries. Goodwill wanted more donated goods so their stores would have more to sell. "Then came what I call a 'provocation.' If people were not willing to give more, then why not go and take it?" Once they got past the feeling that this was burglary, they came up with the concept of a "clearing out service" which would visit people's homes and help them clear out the junk they had accumulated. Goodwill would, of course, keep and resell anything with value.
Bringing it back to the subject of the peer day, can peace processes be provoked? For fun, I will play with this idea. Many organizations conduct audits of their financial or client records. Sometimes these are internal audits, and at other times they are conducted by qualified outsiders.
Jackie shared her worksheet for "creating a company culture with soul." This Company Soul Quotient uses the 10 concepts she presents in her article: contemplation, care, compassion, concern, creativity, cooperation, celebration, connection, community and commitment. It includes a simple five-point rating scale.

This Soul Quotient would be a good place for a company to begin the never-ending conversation about its commitment to spiritual values. Even for a manager or consultant, working alone, this quotient might prove useful for diagnosing a situation and deciding on a course of action to improve the spiritual atmosphere in a company.

As we finished discussing Jackie's article and worksheet, Lainey appeared no closer to answering her question than when we began. Lainey is fully read in her field and quite knowledgeable of what the marketplace of interventions currently can offer her. This reinforces to me that the answer will be found inside of her.

I suggested to her that perhaps the time for research had closed, and her task now was to prepare a goal and strategy for herself and do it because ultimately it will be her actions, and the soul of herself expressed through her actions, which would make the difference.

Small Wins. Three weeks after the peer day I think I can improve my answer to Lainey. It has four words: Go for small wins.

Karl Weick explores this concept and why it works in his article, "Small Wins: Redefining the Scale of Social Problems." It is a wonderful article which demonstrates interdisciplinary interpretation at its best-research and examples from a variety of fields is brought together to make a strong case for a new way of framing the task of making social and institutional change. It brings the research out of the laboratory and back into the streets.
What makes going for small wins an appealing strategy?


Once the gap between ability and demand begins to narrow, it becomes crucial that people see how their abilities can unequivocally exceed demands in order to remove some uncertainty. This assurance of success is precisely what people begin to feel when they define their situation as one of working for a small win. When a large problem is broken down into a series of small wins three things happen. First, the importance of any single win is reduced in the sense that the costs of failure are small and the rewards of success considerable. Second, the size of the demand itself is reduced. And third, existing skills are perceived as sufficient to deal with the modest demands that will be confronted.

The potential attractiveness of a small win is that it operates simultaneously on importance, demands and resources and defines situations away from the "close calls" where higher uncertainty and higher stress reduce problem-solving performance. Small wins induce a degree of certainty that allows greater access to the very resources that can insure more positive outcomes. (p. 46)

Let's return again to our main question: how can we bring peacemaking processes into organizations? Clearly, the question as phrased takes on too much and thus inhibits action. Smaller, winnable, questions might be: How can I personally model peacemaking processes in at least three meetings over the next two months? Can I use these experiences to identify at least two allies and supporters for peacemaking? Can I learn from my experiences which words and approaches have some acceptance in this organization, and which do not?

With these new set of questions I would ready to go forth and go for my own personal, private and small wins. Am I ready for action? YES. As Weick concluded,

...it seems useful to consider the possibility that social problems seldom get solved because people define these problems in ways that overwhelm their ability to do anything about them. Changing the scale of a problem can change the quality of resources that are directed at it. Calling a situation a mere problem that necessitates a small win moderates arousal, improves diagnosis, preserves gains, and encourages innovation. Calling a situation a serious problem that necessitates a larger win may be when the problem starts. (p. 48)

References

de Bono, Edward. (1992). Surpetition: Creating Value Monopolies when Everyone Else is Merely Competing. New York: HarperCollins.

Haessly, Jacqueline. (1994). Soul Work: Soul Quotient Worksheet #1.

Haessly, Jacqueline. (1995). Soul Work: A Corporate Challenge. In Rediscovering the Soul of Business: A Renaissance of Values. San Francisco: New Leaders Press, 245-257.

Heermann, Barry. (1996). The Team Spirit Facilitator/Consultant Guide: Facilitating Team Spirit in Teams and Organizations. Dayton, OH: Expanded Learning Institute.

Weick, Karl E. (1984). Small Wins: Redefining the Scale of Social Problems. American Psychologist, 39(1):40-49.

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