The Great Chain of Learnings

Brian Pioreck

Below is part of a message that I received today from a former client. I couldn’t help but think of the closing ceremony in Change Shop. Frank only has part of an idea about how much of all of you… and the entire SEM community he is actually feeling gratitude towards. And especially you Jerry. I cannot express how fortunate I feel to have been the recipient of such a message. It goes to the heart of what I have been trying to accomplish with my career. – Brian


Just thought I’d mention that one of the most effective gems of wisdom you’ve imparted to me was…

“Begin with the assumption that the other person is trying to do the best job they can”

With my aggressive personality and critical disposition, this has been a very powerful, thought-provoking angle for me.

Your Friend, Frank

P.S. This is one of many “gems” of yours that has influenced my daily life. I hope that, in the future, I have an equally positive effect on others as you have had on me. Keep up the good work!


A Successful Software Engineering Project

Jim Jarrett, an SEMer

The development of our newly released system has generated a huge amount of learning (and a snicker or tear or two) — at the company and at PSL, Change Shop, and SEM. I’m proud to have been a part of its development, and to have worked with many of you on it — directly as co-workers, and indirectly through the support of this wonderful, Jerry-nurtured network of people. It’s the largest and most complex product I’ve ever worked on, and the largest and most complex project organization I’ve worked in — with the largest and most supportive network of people I’ve ever experienced.

I know I have grown immensely through the experience, and for that I am thankful.

A Framework for Dealing With Ignorance

Ken Brann

Just think about where you were before this new learning. If you’re like me, you were merely going about the business of being a parent/spouse/friend/manager not thinking too much about these things. That state lasted for me until I was hit with a real foreign element: an employee survey of my department indicated that there was a huge communications disconnect between myself and my employees. This happened just before I was removed from that position. Since that time, about 8 years ago, I have started paying attention.

Thanks to Weinberg & Weinberg I was provide with a framework within which to deal with this state of ignorance. Unfortunately, that same framework allowed me to see just how inadequate my understanding has been and how far I need to go. Although that can be depressing, I prefer it to my previous state of ignorance.

I’m No Longer a Nervous Wreck

(A Father of Nine)

I still can’t get over the course it was mind blowing. I am now much more relaxed with people, this has helped me tremendously with my family. They now find that I’m not such a nervous wreck. I have become a much warmer father and husband.

My problem is that, I am now nervous because I’m not nervous and that I now suddenly feel like an old man, being relaxed and not nervous.

Two Key Questions

Jesse Gordon

The two biggest learnings I have been using as a result of CS are two key questions heard repeatedly that week:

1 – How do you feel about that?, and

2 – What would happen if …

I find these remarkably useful in many situations, even remembered to ask them to myself. I’ve felt a bit awkward asking them to others on my team (with whom I have very good working relationships), but I have been trying. Of course, I’m also cognizant that I must be careful when asking those questions. They are starting points to interactions that I must decide I want to be part of. Some of the answers can be surprising and I have to be ready to deal with the responses offered.

In summary, I appreciate the faculty, staff and participants at CS for having provided me with models that have helped me be more effective at home and at work.

In Business Terms

Mary Lavine

Funny thing, once I said I didn’t know how to say “how wonderful I am” in business terms, I found the words. Some of them are….

I came away with a clear understanding of how much I can personally do to facilitate (support and move) a team of peers working together (without being in a specific leadership position), and how explicit coaching and leadership of my teams can enhance their productivity and my own. Also, taking time away from my team re-inforced their independence, which is also a productivity & leadership win for us all, which I want to encourage while I am “in” the office.

I was reminded of some tools to improve our project processes, and learned some new ones. The Temperature Check “meeting agenda” is one I would like to use in an upcoming Millenum Leadership Team meeting, as well as in one of our all-project Townhalls to encourage the two-way communication we want. Being fully present in “difficult” situtations (the ones that “trigger” me, in particular) really improves the outcome, and takes less of my time and energy in the long run. Making direct (face to face) contact, and explicitly asking for what I want to have happen, however “difficult” this seems to me is one of my best (and least-used) tools.

I do agree with Jerry, though, that the “experience of me” post-PSL or post-Change Shop is the real “testimony” of what I’ve learned. I have had a continuing stream of positive feedback, both direct and indirect, since PSL, and expect it to continue…. If nothing else, I am happier than I have been in a long time, and excited about the road ahead.


© Sue Petersen

It happened again. Yesterday.

A normal day. Tired, tense, busy,

I left.

The office followed me, shadowed my thoughts.

Raining Oregon hard, and windy. Storming inside, outside my head.

Five minutes to wipe the stress, to become Mom again.

I drove around the corner, glanced up, poured liquid glory through my heart.

Thirty seconds, maybe a minute, faded to salmon and quickly to night.

It’s happened before. A rainbow fragment, the flash of daffodil

against mud-brown,

breath of air that burns the lungs…

Something there is that refuses despair,

no matter how strong the current,

how deep the pool.

Last month, in fear, anger, trouble,

every book I touched, every fortune I opened,

every friend’s quick hand,

taught anew how strong the longest bonds,

how fleeting the daily trauma.

Open self to life. The Universe is, was, will be.

What Am I Truly Leading?

Lisa Velazquez

I am a PSL grad…. I have been internalizing and “using” the learnings and experiences of the workshop…

I want to share with you that it helped me get lot of focus in trying to understand my role (or some of my roles in different contexts). As a leader I face myself with the question: what am I trully leading? I find myself constantly being a foreign element… I see the value and beauty of it. However, as much as I enjoy it, it also put me on lot of chaos!

I have talked a lot with Norm (Norm Kerth) and Cope (Jim Copelien) about these things… It took me a lot of energy to accept the “leader” within me… and still I am not sure if I trully have accepted its existence. Sometimes, still I feel that I am not truly accepting an important part of me. This part continues working by intuition… it simply drives me.

I find myself very often in situations of leadership without understanding “why or how did I get there!?” Now I have a better understanding of the why and how.

Other People Are Not Me

Laurie Briggs

I have not yet taken the time to tell you how refreshing PSL was for me. It was a great experience. I have always been interested in psychology, how we become what we are. How we cope in the world, etc.

I came to Colorado expecting to learn to a more effective method for manipulating the world exterior. What I got was an ‘interior lesson’. A microscope on my perceptions and beliefs about ‘reality’. The workshop pulled quite a few things into the open for me.

I feel I have a much better ability to see other viewpoints and value them to an extent that was not really possible without the acceptance for the individual that increased throughout that week of the class and continues to grow!

Funny, how sometimes I had forgotten that other people were not me..carrying my motivations and experiences…my ‘reality’. I am looking forward to learning more….

He’s Not a Blocker, He’s a Human Being

Jim Goughenour

I wanted to share a lesson learned that I applied, surprising myself in the process I’m my company’s “command center” coordinator on site at company X, and Company X is averse to our being there. Their coordinator for all our visits and such is their Sr. V.P. of Finance and Administration, who is behaving like an “obstacle,” and resisting our efforts in a smooth manner that appears as if the cooperation is there when it isn’t.

I had some negotiation sessions with him, and following the last one, I concluded, “This guy is an obstacle that we have to get out of the way to get this job done in the timeframe we have allotted.” And then I began to think of ways to remove him from play.

Then, the memory of Blacky flashed through my mind, and how I had seen him as an obstacle in the exercise, and that we needed to get him out of the way. And then I also remembered the post-simulation debrief when Blacky said he would have done anything for Mary because she saw him and interacted with him in terms of his full humanity. Sooooo, I changed course, and went to visit the Sr. V.P. with the notion to see him in his full humanity.

At first, he was suspicious (I don’t blame him; I would have been suspicious, too). Then, I noticed various personal objects in his office that meant he had a life outside the company and that he had interests besides blocking me. As he and I talked, it became apparent to me that he was not blocking because he was trying to prevent us from doing our work; rather, what appeared to me as blocking was really his apprehensiveness about the whole exercise and what that might mean to him personally.

I engaged him to talk, and I listened on several levels (intake, meaning, significance, response) and tried to understand him. He and I came to know one another, and thereafter, this scheduling process went far more smoothly. Our leader was startled at how X’s Sr. V.P. responded to my requests, yet responded to other’s requests with apparent blocking actions. My leader said to me, “what magic did you work on him to get him to be so responsive to you.” I replied that he is a human being with anxieties and apprehensions about this whole process, and that I got to know him on a person-to-person level, and we developed a trusting of each other. From that point onward, I became the chief negotiator with the Sr. V.P., even though I tried to “counsel” my colleagues what needed to be done to reach the Sr. V.P.. They “didn’t have the time for the touchy feely stuff,” I was told.

Seeing Myself Through Others

Greg Crawford

One of the insights I got from the class started with a short discussion I had with Inga (thanks Inga!) just before we left. She is also an INFP and she pointed out that we lead by developing deep relationships with people. Very true. For me, a week is not enough time to develop a deep enough relationship. Without that I have a hard time finding my niche or being heard in the simulations. I seem to be driven by “passion” and without the deep relationship I need I felt lost or floating.

Another interesting outcome from the class: last week I was told by two different people that I’ve come back from the class much more optimistic and my general attitude is more positive. I didn’t even notice this myself, it took two people to convince me that it was true. I guess a week in the mountains gave me the time to really think about myself and my job. When I got back I had several ideas ready to go and I’m making them happen.

Keep On Improving

Tim Roder

The best endorsement I was able to give was to say that I would have tried even harder to attend the PSL workshop if I knew then what I know now. The week taken as a whole was a wonderful experience for me. I am still trying to assimilate and internalize my learnings but I am already putting them to practice.

I catch myself listening instead of interrupting (ENTP). I approach a group or meeting by observing and listening. Then I contribute. In short I am acting more now, not reacting. These are/were some of my key weaknesses going into the workshop. As I improve in these areas I believe that my strengths will be even more evident. I will not spend as much time fixing problems that I created and I will be able to focus and help others focus on the real problem, whatever it happens to be.

For me PSL was learning how I can work and live better with others. Something I already considered myself good at. What PSL taught me was that in a short time I can get the tools to be even better, and that improvement never ends..

Being Effective, Not Irritated

Brett Schuchert

Here’s a story relevant to my time just after PSL.

I started a new consulting gig, and during the first week I was working with several people and actively trying to figure out their types. There was one person in particular who would have gotten on my nerves to no end had I not been thinking of different interaction styles.

I was pretty sure I knew his type from the beginning. Now I may be wrong about the type, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. At my level of understanding, the most valuable thing for me was not so much the type or the behaviors but rather the acknowledgement that there are different types of people and different ways in which people interact. So rather than getting quite irritated with this person (as I likely would have done in the past) I took it in stride and tried to respond to him in ways that would make sense to him.

Asking Questions and Keeping Them Informed

Paul Leclerc

As I reflect upon some of the things that I learned (and am still learning) from PSL, I label them as teachable moments. At those moments, we learn something about ourselves, our co-workers, our families or people in general. Not only did I have a lifetime of teachable moments at PSL, they continued during my flight home. Indulge me while I tell you about them….

– On the flight from Albuquerque, I sat next to a flight attendant who was on her “commute” from Colorado to Houston where she is stationed. We got to chatting and I asked lots of questions in response to the things she said. [At PSL, half the problem was not asking questions or asking the wrong ones.] Many of her comments were things like “I have to…”, “People will say/do… if I…”. Most of the time I just asked why she felt that way. Why did she have to…? She had the answers in her but just needed a way to get them out. What can we learn from the people in our lives if we ask the right questions? How can we help the people in our lives by asking the right questions?

– The flight from Houston to Newark was originally scheduled to leave at 3:45. It didn’t leave until almost 10:30. Numerous technical problems with the original plane and with a backup plane delayed the final takeoff. In the process, the ground crew took very little effort in keeping people informed. People had to individually ask what was going on instead of the ground crew telling everyone at once.

In my talks with the flight attendant in the previous flight, she mentioned that the airlines do several things to “distract” fliers. They don’t give out drinks and snacks because people really want them. C’mon, how many of us really look forward to those tiny bags of peanuts? I thought of her words when the ground crew “distracted” us by giving us Customer Care Packs (free phone card, $50 coupon) when the flight was already 3 hours late. They also rolled out drinks and peanuts. All other flights had been booked solid until 9:30 and they always stated that the plane would be ready very soon now so we shouldn’t leave the gate area. All in all, a nightmare of a flight.

What did I learn from this? Keep people informed of the progress of things. Many passengers expressed anger at not knowing what was going on. How many of us have been in similar circumstances at work? As managers, we should remember that it’s frustrating and scary not to know what’s going to happen in the midst of chaos. Don’t distract people with “peanuts and soda.” Give them real things to chew on.

Remembering to Stay Open To Others

by Geoff Flamank

I had an interesting experience yesterday that caused a PSL flashback – we were evaluating some bitmaps associated with one of the wizards in our new tool and I (very quickly) made a decision to reduce some jazzy artwork in favour of getting closure. As I walked back to my office I got this flashback of the fishbowl exercise in which we discussed how our group functioned during the Problem Design phase. During this fishbowl, several people in our group were distressed at how quickly decisions were decided and closed off – this worked for me because I like closure (I am a “J”, you see) but other people needed to chew on things a bit before deciding.

Returning back to work and what happened yesterday on the way back to my office, I realized that I had decided for the whole team and that I needed to backtrack and validate that everyone was OK with this. As it turned out, they all thought that it was the best decision and everything was fine. Still, PSL has that kind of influence on my thinking these days.

The other thing for me is in the way that I now listen with more commitment to my kids. When raising children (or managing people perhaps) we often have a tendency to just hear the noise because we have already made up our minds on how we want to feel about a subject — and whether or not we are interested in it. I’ve found that I feel quite a bit better about myself and I’m sure my kids feel better about Dad’s listening. Now if they would only stop fighting about that #%#5%@# Nintendo game…Virginia Satir where are you!!!

How PSL Affected Me and My Daughter

by a Mother

After PSL, I’m still essentially the same person, but in many ways more observant, more reflective, and more patient- things I had never been before. The things I learned in PSL (and my interactions with CS and SEM grads) have been invaluable for my work.

But, even more importantly, have given me more ways to talk to my kids and husband. The changes in my relationship with Betty (my 9-year old), because I think those are most telling.

When Betty turned 7 (second grade), she started getting more responsibility from school- reading 10 minutes per day, *some* homework, maybe 30 minutes per week, etc. She still needed a lot of sleep (close to an hour more than “normal” per night- she’s always been a great sleeper), so there was a lot of pressure on us as a family to get her home, get her homework done, and get her bathed and to bed.

Betty’s internally driven- she wants to excel at everything. We worked hard to build her self-esteem for the first few years, primarily because it drove me crazy to have her velcro’d to me, and partly because we realized the way she would unvelcro was that she would have to believe in herself.

Yolanda is 4 years younger than Betty, and is very different. Yolanda has the same kind of self-confidence as I do (:-))), and is incredibly physically competent. She doesn’t need quite as much sleep as her sister, and lots of things seem to come to her easier than to Betty. I can’t tell if it’s ability or attitude. I don’t know how much of an issue Yolanda is, I don’t think much, but thought you should know there are 4 of us, with a younger child ready to pounce on any available (or non-available) Mommy-time.

So, at the start of second grade, Betty started to get anxious about getting everything done she needed to get done. At the same time, she sort of “found” TV. She had watched PBS, but now that she was in school, the lure of commercial TV was too strong, and we had to start limiting the amount of TV she watched.

So, we get to the point where she’s complaining about everything she has to do, and I keep telling her what differently to do. (I admit it!!) Of course, I made about as much of a dent as talking to a wall. In fact, Betty frequently doesn’t hear what I have to say. (That’s getting better now.)

After I went to PSL, I started thinking about the interaction model. I’m not convinced what type Betty is, but she seems like an ISTJ to me. I started thinking about how the different types intake, think, and react, and decided that telling and yelling hadn’t done much good in the previous 6 months, so maybe it was time to try something else. I didn’t actually look up in notes how the model works, but decided to observe us (how she and I communicated) for a while. I managed to observe for almost a week (it was camp time, so there was no realy time crunch).

I found these things:

– she literally didn’t hear me. I’d been yelling and telling for so long, she just tuned me out. I had to change how I talked to her.

– she needed to be part of the problem solution development- she needed to own it (duh). I had been so busy being the “good parent” that I wasn’t succeeding at being the parent she needed me to be.

So, I talked to her. I told her I wasn’t happy about yelling at her all the time, did she like it when I yelled at her? She said no, she really didn’t like it. I asked her for help- I would try very hard not to yell, and not to tell her what to do, that I would focus on outcomes. I got her agreement on some basic parameters: she could only wear clean clothes, no TV on school days, no more than 1.5 hours per day on the weekend, TV during dinner only when one parent was not home for dinner, and probably a few more things I’ve now forgotten.

She came up with her schedule of what to do when, starting in the summer, and really focusing on it when school started. We agreed on how to shop for clothes, what priority things would be, etc. We stay focused on results, not on how she gets there.

We haven’t done much yelling since she started 3rd grade (she’s in 4th grade now), and we’re working hard on *both* being comfortable with what she wants to do. I taught her how to ride a 2-wheeler with handbrakes and gears, and we had fun doing it!

Just the other night, Betty told me she loved me. I wasn’t tucking her in, she just said it to me out of the blue. That said more to me than anything else. I figure if I keep working on this, her adolescence may be easier.

PSL taught me the power of observation, and just stopping. It’s the start for me of applying the other things I learned. Before PSL, I was convinced that action, even wrong action, was appropriate. I now know there is an alternative between inaction and direct action- that observing, reflecting, and thinking are actions too, and can lead to a better option. (I may have learned this on my own, but PSL really jump-started me. After all, for 40 years, I’d succeeded by doing the direct *thing*, not taking time to observe and reflect.)

So, I’ve certainly used what I learned in PSL at work. If I can *live* my advice, then I become more valuable to my clients. But, I really become more valuable to myself by making what happens at home *work*. Mark and I are constantly trying to figure out how to make our family life work with two ambitious full-time working parents. So anything I learn to make the family time more enjoyable and valuable is worth it.

Thinking about what people need from me vs. what I want to give them is different. I’d started thinking about this before PSL but PSL really gave me the tools to realize that I had to be the one (sometimes, not all the time) to intake, think, and react in a way that the other person could understand.