Bring Meaning to Work and Purpose to Spirituality
According to legend, Edward Deming was disappointed by how the Total Quality movement ended up - misunderstood, poorly applied and eventually forgotten. Nowadays, Positive Psychology seems to have taken its place as the New Enlightenment movement. In a way, it's following a natural course of human development: a rebellion against an overly mechanistic interpretation of 'quality' to emphasize the primary importance of the implementer of whatever is meant by 'quality'. I have a feeling though that the pendulum could soon swing too far the other way: narcissism might rear its ugly head under various disguises. That doesn't bode well with the current economic crisis of the developed world, in both US and Western Europe. Entitlement is the most obvious symptom and byproduct of this cultural phenomenon. In order to avoid a hard collision with reality and likely regression back to the 'good old days' of Behaviorism, a broader perspective than personality or character types is in order. To build on and expand the key concepts of happiness (Seligman) and flow (Csikszentmihylyi), I have developed a theory of ‘Total Flow’ to better understand human behavior as a natural phenomena (Total Flow). ‘Total Flow’ doesn't deny the validity of the Positive Psychology nor the inadequacy of traditional Behaviorism. But instead it encompasses both: the internal psychology of the implementer(s) and the external conditions of the enterprise must be met at the same time. Strangely, such common sense purpose is extremely uncommon to come across in reality: folks are most often good at either but rarely both! I wrote a little piece that has been spot lighted at the upcoming Pegasus Conference, the premier event for Systems Thinking in Action (Mindless Actions & Actionless Minds). It contrasts 'mindless actions' (old Behaviorism) with 'actionless minds' (the intellectualism commonly found in elite groups of the developed economies, Positive Psychology tends to attract a fair number of the latter). ‘Total Flow’ insists that both minds and actions deserve their places in real life situations. The key here lies in the way that they are brought together or integrated. Simplistic and mechanical mixes don't work. They must be structured into 'Total Flow' in a natural and synergistic way. As an example of this synergistic integration, I will be presenting some work at the upcoming Pegasus Conference in November that I have done in the past a few years to integrate minds and actions in project management, the profession that I have spent the last decade and more. I named my talk 'Systemic Project Management' to distinguish it from both the traditional 'method only' and the trendy 'soft skills’ talk. The whole thing really comes down to applying the psychology of our 'self' (lower case) to our work (tasks and work flows) and organizations (people and groups) in order to grow ourselves into a more integrated and effective 'Self' (upper case) as a whole. This work has also just been published online in the Journal of Project, Program and Portfolio Management (Systemic Project Management). I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions.