Thinking About What Others Think About

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I am a holistic problem solver and change analyst interested in practical, ethical, and sustainable solutions to intractable strategic challenges. I think of everything as a system of systems. People are systems within the system of a business, and the business a system within the system of a community. I try to understand the relationships and rationales — and, in some cases, realities.

I’m interested in what’s true, regardless of what intuition tells us. I have developed a keen interest in finding out what is real, reasonable, and rational, especially when the outcomes are…


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How a system of 18,000 different districts contributes to policing inequities

Another day, another police shooting or civil asset forfeiture or assault on the elderly or fraud or — something. It seems every day brings new stories of problems in policing and justice in America. In a nation that is increasingly divided and rapidly becoming both deaf and blind to nuance, the emotions and community terror that comes with each passing day — and the us-versus-them arguments that ensue — do nothing to ground our understanding of the structures that block the real change we all hope to see.

To help bridge this gap, let’s examine one of the key structural…


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One Simple Linguistic Trick to Improve Your Communication For The Better

One of the biggest challenges in communication arises when we reflexively try to shield ourselves from the consequences of an opinion. We say something that we believe but passively transfer the responsibility for the thought over to our listener without even thinking about it. We encounter and cause these situations every day, and all because of our linguistic choices. Yes, there is much written regarding the cultural basis and power differentials in communication, but the words we use are still choices. Choices that we make and can change. …


Rethinking the Iceberg of Effort

I think we all want to improve and be better in some way, whether in a job or a sport or just as human beings. To that end, it certainly makes sense to look for clues and inspiration in those who are closer to our goals than ourselves. After all, someone who is more successful than us along some path that fits our preferred definition of success should know something we don’t know or have overcome some obstacle that presently blocks our way. The story our intuitions tell us — that “Success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration!” …


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Let Your Reading Be Your Guide

A recent article by Ayodeji Awosika made some very relevant points that can come about from many of the books one finds in any self-help library, including his own. I don’t have any arguments about the specific points within the selection of books; the article just made me consider the overemphasis of the self-help market as a singularly useful category of advice. …


The blinker, or automotive turn signal, is an excellent analog that we can use to understand our communication habits because it allows us to clearly see how our intent to communicate extends to the real world. Thanks to the simplicity of the device and the rules surrounding it, the moment we intend to send a message to our peers (i.e. the other drivers), we do so, and they receive the message as we mean it, according to the rules of the road. Blinkers filter-out the confounding traits of many other modes of communication (e.g. language, posture, tone, environment, etc.), …


Organizational culture is often an aspirational quality that leaders plan to work on when they have time, attention, resources, or whatever. Culture becomes, at some point, a repository of the hopes and dreams of a high-functioning and internally consistent workforce that lives in its own little compartment of reality, separated from the operational and personnel practices that could make it a reality. Some leaders go so far as to insist that they have this aspirational culture — perhaps a fake-it-until-you-make-it principle is in play — while perpetuating practices that prevent the dream from becoming reality. …


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The Solution to PM vs. OCM

Projects fail a lot, and for many reasons. One completely avoidable reason for failure, however, is the unnecessary distinction between two domains: Project Management (PM) and Organizational Change Management (OCM).

Across the industry, there is a lot of discussion and description regarding whether PM or OCM is more necessary. There is even more building of methodological and philosophical empires and reinforcing of positions, but not much progress with making projects more generally successful. Opinions about the relationship between PM and OCM oscillate between imagining the often-fuzzy distinction as a clear line bisecting the domains and obfuscating any difference by conflating…


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“Measure twice, cut once” as the old saying goes. Add to that a number of attributions from management gurus such as Peter Drucker regarding the value of measurement, and it is clear to see that we are measurement obsessed. Obsessed, I say, in the absolute worst way because we try to ascribe measurements to things that fundamentally should not be measured. That is, we attempt to measure things at a high level that are changed at a very low level — measuring something with many contributing factors, but attributing it to only one or a few — and this tendency…


Scanning position openings and seeing the continuous stream of “…multiple projects with competing priorities…” easily gives the sense that many companies are awash with internal tug-of-war matches that do not have clear resolutions. What happened to alignment and traceability between priorities and activities? What happened to being clear about what an organization is trying to accomplish?

Prioritize Priorities

Priorities that appear to conflict do not need to be managed, they need to be prioritized. In an earlier article, I wrote about ways to deconflict priorities, and that recommendation stands. When organizational priorities appear to be at odds, it means most simply that…

Philip Mann

Assistant Professor of Organization & Management 🔹 I help folks understand their decisions, values, and world. 🔹 Writing to restore clarity and nuance.

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