ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - March 2002


Issue Highlight — Restoration
Peter Block's musing about a home restoration project serves as an excellent metaphor for issues in the cellar of our mind: “In our larger communities, we treat the inner city as a cellar that we do not want to enter....To enter this world, we would have the conversations that we have been avoiding.”

 In This Issue...
Making Change Stick
AQP “Quest for Quality” Chapter Keeps on Going and Going and …
Denta +: A Case Study in Exceptional Customer Experience Your Employees Know More Than You–So Listen!
Contact Center Employee Satisfaction and the Bottom Line
Funky Business and Taming Talent
Upcoming AQP Courses at a Glance...
What’s Up?

Peter Block Column


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    Pageturners        Book Reviews with a Twist

The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters
By Peter Block

For change agents

For everyone who’s content with things as they are or relinquishes accountability to others

Anyone who’s an AQP member and keeps up with News for a Change is familiar with Peter Block as a speaker, author, and provocateur. I greeted his latest book with anticipation and found myself, as usual with Block’s writing, both nodding my head in agreement and shaking it in awe with how he turns business convention on its head.

The book’s interspersed artistic photos of balancing rocks are constant reminders of a key statement: “The goal is to balance a life that works with a life that counts.” The opening page quote, “Transformation comes more from pursuing profound questions than seeking practical answers,” opens the gate to an introspective journey.

We can’t get to what matters and to the “right” answers, by asking the wrong questions.

If you often find yourself thinking that you’re very busy yet not accomplishing anything important, and wondering why your work circles around the same struggles over and over —it’s time to read this book and examine not only your organization’s culture but your personal collusion in this conundrum. A review of “One From Column B” in the November 2001 News for a Change (“Actions That Might Matter”) will give you a glimpse of the nature of Block’s challenge to our habitual questioning. But in The Answer to How is Yes, Block takes us on a journey of discovery and understanding, revealing why questions of “How?” can act to avoid more important questions, such as whether what we are doing is important to us, as opposed to being important to them.” The shift to Yes! questions inspire us, guiding us to act on our ideals, and creating effective organizations. Maybe you’re satisfied with where your questions and answers have taken you; in that case, forget the book and coach the rest of us.

As consultants and facilitators, our role is to challenge groups to be clear about goals, then ask the right questions to guide choices to reach those goals. If the desired culture is for “shared vision” rather than “buy-in,” and “conviction” rather than “convincing,” then rephrasing the How? questions in the way Block suggests will go a long way toward balancing what works with what counts. “Getting the question right may be the most important thing we can do.”

I was most intrigued by Block’s elucidation of social architecture, as applied to organizational culture. In this section, Block defines four archetypal images common to our organizations: the engineer, the economist, the artist, and the architect. As he explains, each represents a strategic stance, a way of thinking, and a way of acting. Our challenge is to integrate the qualities of each into our own strategy for acting on what matters. Block is clear that “social architect” is a role for bosses and employees, and is not a technical specialty attached to a certain role or function. Rather, it is an image, a role for each of us to help create. The social architect is concerned with how people are brought together to get their work done and build organizations they want to inhabit. “The task of the social architect is to design and bring into being organizations that serve both the marketplace and the soul of the people who work within them.” Sound like anything in your job description? Don’t you want it to be?

If we are each to balance what works with what matters, we must each be attentive to the questions and the often paradoxical answers. A final image to hold: As social architects, encouraging others to find their own voice will make us more able to sustain our own.

Reviewed by JoAnn Stoddard:

Book Ratings:

***** = Pick it up today
  **** = Overnight it
*** = Snail mail it
** = At a library?

        * = Never mind

March 2002 News for a Change Homepage

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