Thought I’d share some observations from a wonderful book I just read: Fred Kofman, Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values, Sounds True: Boulder, CO, 2006. [Thanks to Oliver Markley for the recommendation] The author is involved with the Integral movement and the book reflects Integral principles, although it is does not “impose” much Integral on the reader. There is some mention of Integral, but it doesn’t rehash it and gets right to the practical application. Perhaps a particular note of praise is worthy right here: this is a book that is immensely practical while touching on what are often thought of as soft subject: values, in particular how adherence to values is at the heart of building a successful and sustainable organization. It has its inspirational moments, but this is not one of those motivational tomes exhorting one to do the right thing, but provides very practical suggestions that pretty much sell themselves. That is really quite a feat!
I came away with several takeaways that I can immediately integrate into my work, as well as a long set of notes that I’m sure I’ll come back to over the years ahead. For instance, he noted research which found that exceptional managers created a workplace in which employees emphatically answer “yes” when asked the following questions:
- Do I know what is expected of me?
- Do I have the materials and equipment I need?
- Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best?
- In the last week, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
- Does my supervisor seem to care about me as a person?
- Is there someone who encourages my development?
- Do my opinions seem to count?
- Does the mission/purpose make me feel my work is important?
- Are my colleagues committed to doing quality work?
- Do I have a best friend here?
- In the last six months, has someone talked to me about my progress?
- This last year, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?
A great and useful list of diagnostic questions. What I really appreciate is that solutions are tackled in the book. So, if you answer “no” to some or all, you are compelled to read on, and see the author delivers on how to get to “yes.” That is the pattern through. I came away with lots of concrete ideas/suggestions/tools that would help me and my clients work towards “yes.”
I found many of the lessons hit directly home. For instance, he talks about “negligent coordination, [which is] not asking for what you want; expecting the other to read your mind; failing to address your request to a specific person; not defining concrete deliverables; leaving the time undetermined; assuming that because the other didn’t explicitly decline your request, he promised to fulfill it.” Yep, guilty as charged on all counts at one time or another. It’s not just problems, however, as plenty of advice is provided on how we can be more direct about our needs and improve our coordination and communication.
He zeroes in typical organization problems that most of us have probably experienced at some point in our careers. He notes how many organization in “unilateral control mode,” discourage frank discussion of the issues in a variety of ways, and how this can be crazy-making. Thus he provides a series of concrete steps for how to have difficult conversations, based on the integral principles of:
- the “I” (or self) , acting in alignment with our essential values
- the “we” (or relationship), realizing that cooperation stems from solidarity, not self-righteousness;
- the “it” (or task) assuming that each person can provide significant information to the other
There is also a step-by-step guide for personal or inter-personal conflict, tips on productive complaints, and so on. Practical issues are addressed under a a larger perspective or umbrella of adhering to values. That is the unifying concept that ties together the solutions. By acting “consciously,” we will find ourselves being drawn to the solutions offered. What a wonderful concept and what a wonderful book! Andy Hines