The door to the closet was a bit open, so he elegantly pushed it slightly with his heel while passing it. A few steps later he stopped, as he noticed that the door had jumped open again. Being determined to fix this problem, he went back and pushed it with both hands, a bit harder this time. Again it jumped open.
His eyes began to show some distress while his mind narrowed in on this problem. Whatever he was heading for was forgotten – now only one thing counted: closing that door! He slammed it, hard, just to see it jumping wide open again.
Now he was furious, tears began emerging in his eyes and he started shouting at the door: “Now will you close!” – the door didn’t listen, and it didn’t close, even though he was now slamming it repeatedly, harder and harder.
Finally, the door broke off and fell down on the floor, revealing that a pile of paper was a bit too wide for the closet, thereby preventing the door from closing. He looked at it with wide open mouth and eyes and left the scene with a still very high pulse and a wish to kill something.
What happened? Why did that man keep trying the same approach that obviously didn’t work? Why didn’t he learn?
Well, it is easy to just claim that he obviously has a bad temper. As a general characteristics. We would expect him to always behave like that and then we feel that no further analysis is needed. But…
I just read an exciting paper by Richard Boyatzis et al., Developing Sustainable Leaders Through Coaching and Compassion. It is not about men who try to close closet doors, but it says something about the effects of stress. One of them being a reduction of the capability to think creatively, to learn. When something is stressing us, we narrow in on that “something”, seeing it as an enemy, on which we must put all our attention. There is no brain capacity left for examining and learning, we are just thinking about how to fight or flight our way out of the problem.
What strikes me here is that this is exactly corresponding to what many organizations do when trying to run projects. Despite the miserable track records of projects using one of the established project management models, they keep believing that they just have to do more of it – that they didn’t do it enough the last time. So they are slamming the door harder.
It is, of course, worth a discussion whether an organization can be stressed or if only the individuals constituting it can be that. But according to my experience, stress is contagious. It easily becomes an inherent part of the organizational culture. Sort of, if you are pushing me, I am pushing someone else, who is pushing someone third – and so on and so forth. And all are additionally pushing back and perhaps also pushing ourselves, as this seems to be the way to behave. And then we all start slamming the doors instead of examining why they do not close normally.
Without learning, no change. It is impossible to make people behave differently if they cannot learn that they must do so. And the leaders, who should teach and tell the people – or better engage and encourage them – they need to be calm and learning as well, or otherwise they cannot themselves understand the concept of not just slamming the door but actually do the analysis.
Without change, no improvement. Obviously, everything that stays the same will not improve. So no Lean, no Six Sigma, no nothing in a stressful environment.
It seems like this is where to start if you want success with change and projects: get rid of the one thing that leads to all problems, get rid of stress.
- Stress may harm memory: study (thehindu.com)
- A new take on stress (easyot.wordpress.com)
- It’s All In The Details – Organizing Your Closet & Accessories (bisous.typepad.com)
- Stress management (keralasocialworker.wordpress.com)
- Stress: The Silent Killer – Are You Ingesting This Poison? (goulddesigninc.wordpress.com)
- Reduce job stress by improving Emotional Intelligence (impactpeoplecoaching.wordpress.com)
- Increasing Stress, Decreasing Empathy: Need Emotional Intelligence (zestnzen.wordpress.com)
- Organisational Happiness (nocrisis.net)
- Organisational consequences of stress: how business suffers (kwhobbes.wordpress.com)