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WorldLine Training

WorldLine Training

Responsibility and Power - a Zero Sum Game?

In every change management programme, the issue of Responsibility crops up... inevitably, because we're talking about people in companies who have important things in their remit, on their job description and arriving at their workstation every day. Some of those struggle to see themselves as Responsible at all, due to their position in the hierarchy. Many confuse Responsibility with Power, causing all kinds of effects in its own right.


There's a very good reason why we have issues with Responsibility - we were taught to have them when we were growing up.


  • "Make your bed and tidy your room or...."

Where was an explanation of benefits in having a clean environment to play and sleep in, or how lovely it is to walk into that nice space you've made for yourself?

  • "Do your homework or....."

Where was the motivation, the support needed to feel confident about tackling the tough questions, or any engendered excitement about a positive outcome of handing in a great piece of work?

  • "If we get a [fluffy cuddly pet you've always wanted] who's going to clean it out/feed it/take it for walks/pay for its upkeep [etc etc etc]...?"

This one speaks for itself... we'll just leave it quietly ruminating.


When we are very young, our brains primarily operate on Theta waves; at this stage of our lives, incoming information is received without question. We don't remember much about our Theta phase as adults, for this very reason. With very little (if any) logical assimilation going on, we only recall tiny pieces of what amounts to a foundational jigsaw on which the rest of our existence is based. As you can see, the picture isn't perhaps as wondrous as it could be...


The word 'always' appears in the third example given above. In formative years, all time is forever. Entropy (and the reality created in tandem with it) lies well beyond our grasp. Our generation had no grounding in the truth about Time, the pointlessness of past-future anxiety, the value of living in the Now to the exclusion of all other moments. So our inherent view of Responsibility follows a logical pattern (to our minds) of being an eternal burden (given the generic conditioning) which in all honesty, we'd rather not have (generally speaking).



In Rock Paper Scissors, there is a hierarchy of power, the winner ordained accordingly. A simple play on shapes of the hand, it's often used in place of 'drawing the short straw' when there are no straws available. Due to the random nature of outcome and equivalent fairness, it's known as a 'zero-sum' game - Wikipedia has this to say about it:

"Rock paper scissors is often used as a fair choosing method between two people, similar to coin flipping, drawing straws, or throwing dice in order to settle a dispute or make an unbiased group decision. Unlike truly random selection methods, however, rock paper scissors can be played with some degree of skill by recognizing and exploiting non-random behavior in opponents."


Let's take these analogous concepts and put them into the workplace environment. We have therein a community of people with an erroneous view of Responsibility and a simultaneous desire for Ascendency. This is where cliques, silos and 'blame culture' come from. Some choose recourse to bullying, coveting information, accusations, even trickery causing others to fail, while others meekly accept their fate and dread coming into work each day. In this kind of environment, competition outweighs creativity 10-squared to the power of 5 - communication breaks down and Engagement has nowhere to go.


As you can see, in real-time this is happening everywhere, every moment of every day. Changing the template, therefore, means creating a different set of circumstances to apply, and this takes a little time. Without magic wands and fairy dust to settle the matter in the real world, we have to work towards outcomes - but first we have to believe in them.


Your working environment is in your hands, if your job description comes with Responsibility attached. There are many people who want 'more responsibility' because in their minds this equals 'more power' but, stuck with that pre-fab approach as described, they don't necessary want, or know how, to step up to the plate such elevation demands of them. Those fighting hard for promotion (i.e. more Power) may not have a clue what to do with the incumbent Responsibility or how to benefit the company from their new position.


When looking for sustainable change-management solutions, it's essential to address this generic bedrock and break it down so that fresh ground can be laid on which to sow the seeds of those results you really want. Telling people how to do things better without giving them this preliminary understanding is simply mirroring the bullet-point examples given above.


You'll find a lot of information in this Post behind the words underlined (a supporting article is linked there). So if having had a chance to take it all in, you want to be assured of cost-effective strategies that viably provide sustainable continuous improvements, talk to someone who understands what you're facing and can help you get your company to where you want it to be.


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