Leading for Radical Human-Centricity—the people side of change

“Life’s too short to build something nobody wants.”

Mario Kazumichi Sakata, Product Manager at PivotalLabs Tokyo, tells us that human-centered design not only looks for solutions to problems. 

It is the actions and process of finding ‘right’ problems to solve ‘right’ in the first place.

If you are aware of these surroundings every day, she adds, and use them creatively.

You can regain creativity, she highlights, that everyone has—not just product designers, cultivate it, and put it into practice.

“Think of today as a prototype. What would you change?” —Tim Brown (IDEO)

Rock Logic or Water Logic of Thinking

Why has it taken so long until now for this rediscovery of the importance of humanity in business?

Like myself, many of my close colleagues have been within these atmospherics and optics—human-centricity, human design, the people side of change for decades. 

Advocating, educating, mentoring, coaching, and consulting.

Well before now, as did Douglas McGregor in 1960—authoring his conception of Theory Y that helped launch what was then termed the ‘human relations movement.’

Water logic, Edward de Bono, Maltese physician, psychologist, author, inventor, philosopher, and consultant. He tells us—is determined by the conditions and circumstances. 

The shape of the rock, he contrasts, remains the same no matter the terrain.

If you add more water to water, he says. This new water becomes part of the whole.

The behavior of water is well defined. So is the action (behavior) of water logic.

On the other hand, when you add a rock to rock. You simply have two stones.

This addition and absorption of water logic correspond to managing change—in which new fresh strategic pathways for developing sensemaking and human-centricity are absorbed in the whole.

Water Logic Thinking and Behaving

Insights Without Borders (IWB), opened as a startup venture back in 2015, developing innovative intellectual property, approaches, methodologies, processes, techniques, and toolsets well before all this ‘buzz’ out here began ringing in our ears.

And for that matter, everyone else’s now with all this hysteria, herd mentality, and market segmentation plotting going on around “human-centricity, human-centric design, and people side of change management.”

Moreover, I was influenced and taught Douglas McGregor’s theory. I applied along with others like Human Performance Improvement (HPI) and serious performance consulting authored by Geary Rummler, back in the day, when I was at Motorola and other companies.

And yes, even Agile before it WAS called Agile.

I was intimately involved in performance and process improvement consulting and workstreams with Total Quality Management (TQM) and Total Quality Improvement (TQI).

And I was influenced by W. Edwards Deming, Karou Ishikawa, Dr. Genichi Taguchi’s methods (orthogonal arrays), including training by Joseph M. Juran, Phillip B. Crosby at his Institute.

This work served as a counterpoint to authoritarian, control-oriented (command-and-control) quality improvement—optimally as continuous process-driven and countering Theory X assumptions about people.

Regrettably, today, knowledge-driven work systems, mindsets, mental models, and related sensemaking and low-cost business strategies continue to clash over these basic assumptions. 

It’s as if they continue to not learn anything, except to do the same thing over-and-over-again and expect different results.

Rock logic versus water logic of thinking and behaving.

Are people the engine, Douglas McGregor asked, that creates value or a cost to cut whenever possible?

As I have shared countless times in the course of work in mental modeling as a consultant, mentor, or coach.

Leaders and managers handle the money, but the employees or workers are “who” pay the salaries.

Saying Is One Thing—Doing Is Another

Many businesses or organizations have espoused, and unfortunately, are now espousing it—a human-centric vision. But it is not coming true in reality.

Saying you are human-centric is easy. Making your leaders, employees, and workers experience it is not.

It is doing no good to turn this into a New Age syndrome—with everyone out here, entangled in “groupthink.”

Who are envious, or jealous, a win for someone else (look at me; listen to me— “click-bait”) is a loss for you. 

Or their fortune is your misfortune. Or are directing money and resources to serve personal rate card and billing consulting agendas.

These afflictions (enviousness, abilities, or skill sets) make the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t, in this juvenile herd mentality.

It creates silos, excluding broad array nuances of human dynamics in favor of often simplified, unrealistic behavior changes (more of the same behavior management).

Moreover, for the benefit of quick consumption (mindset, mental mapping, sensemaking)—occurring around boardroom tables, leaders and managers, departments like human resources, project management offices, and IT-business alignment.

Psychobabble—psychological jargon

I am seeing—Turn out sounding, often in LinkedIn articles or threads, and elsewhere on social media channels, more like psychobabble.

People who often resort to this kind of language frequently have little or no real training in psychology.

Psychobabble is a heavily reliant language on psychological jargon and expressions (the shallowness behind its proliferation).

This shallowness of psychological jargon and expressions quickly turns into fads.

And, usually means that accuracy and detail are being pushed aside for the sake of a marketing segmentation plot, somewhat questionable sales pitch, as ways to fool naïve prospects.

Oversimplified Ideas or Images

As I have said elsewhere in this series, including written in other articles, I must push back on behalf of bias, for many reasons.

Biases are ill-formed, as I have discovered from years of clinical and business work.

They are often based on both positive and negative widely held but fixated and oversimplified images or ideas of a particular type of thing or person.

They usually are no problems when a person or thing conforms to a widely held but simplified image of the class or type to which they belong: Employers handle the money, but it’s employees who pay the wages.

One’s bias is another’s truth, while another’s truth (reality) is one’s bias.

Focusing on Human-Centricity

Being human-centric has to do with integrating human characteristics like empathyfairnessreciprocitykindness, and compassion into business strategy.

Executives, employees, or workers adopt a human-centric mindset, mental modeling, or sensemaking focus.

  • What can our people in our business or organization accomplish?
  • How does this business or organizational decision affect our people?
  • How can our business or organization create value for the people working in it?

Departure and Balance—people and results

These atmospherics and optics are about leverage and impact. 

Authentic human-centric strategies take people as a point of departure and balance people and results.

Human-centric approaches do not treat people as resources: Trading people for moneyBuying talent instead of developing it.

Human-centric approaches value people’s development and critical wellbeing—no results without people—no people without results. 

We are discovering that few decisions are straightforward in this dynamic and complex world in this COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Never Allow Someone to be Your Priority

Our postmodern era.

Our grand narratives of business, the nature of work, and its meaning to employees or workers, the purpose of employment, climate and culture, diversity, and inclusion are collapsing.

Just as is, Douglas Murray tells us, in his book, The Madness of Crowds, the grand narratives of religion and political ideology. 

In their place, emerging is a crusading desire, he argues, to right perceived wrongs. And a weaponization of identity. 

Both accelerated by the new forms of social and news media.

Narrow sets of interests are now dominating the agenda as society becomes more and more tribal, Douglas Murray shows us—the casualties are mounting.

New culture wars are playing out in our workplaces, universities, schools, and homes in the names of social justice, identity politics, and ‘intentionality.’

  • How will your organization balance effectiveness, tech-centricity, and human capacity?
  • Who is asking these questions today in your organization?
  • Who needs to be asking them in the future?
  • What is serving as employee and workers’ anchor for loyalty—overlapping purposes, the meaning, or the work’s societal contribution?
  • Moreover, how can your employee and workers reflect, communicate, and act upon this clarity?
  • Will we still see different forms of gatekeeping and hierarchical dynamics?
  • How do we ensure constructive sharing?

I am reminded, here, of what Sherlock Holmes once told us, “Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons, with the greatest for the last.”

“Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.” —Mark Twain