Posts Tagged ‘fire’

Flexible Focus #52: A sense of Significance

by William Reed on May 5, 2011

Urgency vs Importance

Stephen Covey provided the world with a significant dimension of perspective when he proposed the Time Management Grid in his book First Things First (1994), using a 2×2 Matrix juxtaposing Urgency vs Importance. Though it has now become common parlance, it was revolutionary at the time when Covey made this distinction, and plotted it in four Quadrants.

Quadrant 1 is Firefighting, both Urgent and Important. Quadrant 2 is Quality Time, Important but not Urgent. Quadrant 3 is Distraction, Urgent but not Important. Quadrant 4 is Time Wasting, neither Urgent nor Important. To give serious consideration to this matrix is to realize that an unacceptable proportion of your time and life energy is actually being wasted, and that there may be far too little Quality Time in your experience. This insight alone should give you pause, and motivate you to devote more energy to living on the right side of the matrix.

Additional Degrees of Freedom

We have already examined the limitations of the 2×2 Matrix in Flexible Focus #25: Assessing your situation with a Mandala SWOT analysis. A 2×2 Matrix can alert you to an insufficiency, cause you to reevaluate your priorities, or alert you to a missing element in your life. However, life is multi-dimensional, and most things in life do not easily fit into a 2×2 square.

What if you added even just one dimension, and looked at life as a 3×3 matrix, as a Mandala Chart? This alone gives you nine degrees of freedom instead of 4, and if you care to explore it further, the B-style Mandala Chart is 8×8, with 64 degrees of freedom. To anyone who values flexibility and freedom, by any measure 9 degrees of freedom is better than 4, and 64 degrees of freedom is better than 9, unless you prefer simple choices with everything fixed.

Additional freedom brings with it greater appreciation for flow and serendipity, lesser need for control, and a higher tolerance for ambiguity. The important thing is to determine what makes life better, more meaningful, and what serves to answer the bigger question of Why?

In Search of Significance

As shown in the illustration, there are 5 basic questions, which correspond to the five elements of Chinese philosophy, as well as the energy dynamics of our perception: What (Wood, Visual), Who (Fire, Auditory), When (Earth, Kinesthetic), How (Steel, Logical), and Why (Flow, Energetic). There is a sequence here, which is easy to remember if you think that Wood feeds Fire, which burns and returns to Earth, which hardens into Steel, and the whole process Flows.

You see this process at work in companies whenever new ideas are presented. Wood feeds fire, hence the question to ask after What you can do is, Who can help you do it? Unfortunately, many companies respond to new ideas with the cutting edge of steel, How can it be done? How can we afford it? How could it possibly work? Steel cuts wood, and How questions kill ideas as fast as they appear.

Companies and individuals who understand this process move forward and thrive, whereas those who don’t retract, shrink, and shrivel, eventually losing their creative edge. How has its place, but must wait its turn. This is why accountants and engineers should not call all of the shots.

Popular psychology tends to focus just on the first three, Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic, but this is only three of the five dimensions of our consciousness. The 3×3 Mandala has nine squares, adding a degree of subtlety to the five elements. To reach the level of significance, you need to ask quality questions, which are really quite fundamental, but seldom asked in earnest.

So what does a 3×3 Mandala look like, which reaches into the dimension of significance, rather than just urgency vs importance? The 3×3 Mandala of Quality Questions is simplicity itself. In three rows from left to right it reads: HOW TO, WHAT, WHY ME, then HOW, WHY, WHO, then HOW MUCH, WHEN, WHERE. Everything centers on WHY, which is the center and anchor point for your inquiry.

Through a Glass Darkly

Although the Mandala Chart is usually represented as a 3×3 Matrix, a flat board of 9 squares, this is merely a convenience to represent the concept on paper. The Mandala is often represented as a circle, or an all encompassing sphere representing the Universe, and everything contained in it.

In searching for a sense of significance, you might picture the Mandala as a crystal ball in which we can see our future, our present, and our past, albeit in misty or mystical form. The Mandala is a looking glass, and in it we see through a glass darkly, a phrase which originated in the King James Bible, but has been used in film, television, music, and literature, precisely because it reflects our experience. Only by looking deeper can we see more clearly and understand the real significance of our existence.

Performance Procrastination

by Guy Ralfe on May 19, 2010

We have all been in that situation where there is someone that is not pulling their weight, which places a constraint on the group’s overall performance. We often like them as people but not as much their performance, but we humbly tell ourselves things like “rather the devil we know than the devil we don’t” or “it would be too much of a disruption to replace them now”

To share a recent event, we hired a support staff that was pleasant and capable of most of the tasks required of the role but just not able to grasp the importance and flows of the business. What resulted was them performing the tasks they understood and all the things they struggled with were reassumed by those that were performing the tasks before their hire.

From a management perspective, some components of the operation were running smoother as there was a dedicated resource working the admin function; however from an operational perspective we had increased our operational overhead without increasing our service delivery to the clients which was the core objective of the hire.

After more than 4 weeks of training, the employee resigned. We wondered where we were going to find another employee and the loss suddenly felt enormous considering the investment to educate the recruit. Time to start again…

A quick search of produced a resume, a quick call the following day had the interview  and hire conducted before  noon. The following morning the replacement employee began – a mere 48 hrs and a new employee was in training. Within a week the replacement employee is competent at all the required tasks and adding depth to the operation in areas not considered possible with the earlier recruits.

To our clients there is a noticeable improvement, to the operations staff a confidence that the back office will be taken care of and a new capacity to produce has been facilitated – exactly the original objective of the hire.

On the flip side, do not forget that if the employee is not able to perform, they will know it and it will also be producing a stress for them always being behind or not knowing if their position is secure or not.

In these situations it is both beneficial to the organization and the employee  for the employee to be  relocated or replaced. The longer you procrastinate taking action, the more the focus is on the cost incurred as opposed to the cost of lost opportunities and the decision to take action becomes insurmountable.

Be decisive for your organization and your customers  when selecting and assessing performance in a role.

Five Elements of Corporate Governance

by guest on August 25, 2009

rk-iconsGovernance is everywhere.

As we all know, our universe is governed by 5 elements of nature:

1. Land
2. Water
3. Air
4. Fire and
5. Sky

Without these elements, really, there is no life.

The elements of nature bring in different assets to our existence. Our ancestors have acknowledged these and we all know their importance.

Now, what has this got to do with Governance?

[ Note: Governance is the set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that you establish in an enterprise to guide, direct, and control how the organization uses technologies to accomplish business goals.]

Before we answer that question let us see what is one of the major driving forces of this world:

It’s the economy.

Opening up of economy ensures that a countries limitations are overcome through partnership and collaboration. This comes with not only an increase in opportunities and challenges but also an increase in the dependencies on each other. These collaborations, partnerships and the numerous opportunities are tempting desires in a philosophical sense and human minds go to great extent to reap those in all possible ways and means. Any disturbance in these balances stand to impact the lives of thousands of people.

One thing that can guide us from all these imbalances is Governance. Governance could be lethal or soothing based on how it is used leading to the thought that “Governance itself needs to be governed!” One way to think about this is using the “elements of nature” framework outlined above.

Let us look at each of the elements of nature in the context of Governance:

1. Land: Being Grounded.

The mass of the universe is land, which we call Mother Earth that holds all living beings. Without land, there is nowhere for us to live.

Organizations can very much manifest the quality of the land in the following ways:

  • Corporates need to be grounded and look at things as others see them.
  • Only when Corporates are grounded, they fuel other elements of corporate governance
  • Fundamentals of Corporate Governance is about dealing with the ground realities from all the stakeholders perspectives including the employees

2. Water: Being Flexible

We can tell from the past human missions that all manned and unmanned missions to other planets are in search of the most precious resource – Water. Water is essential for us to survive. The attributes of water is such that it takes the shape where it’s contained – a lesson in flexibility! Once it occupies the space, one needs to dive-in to understand what is inside. This is the element which brings in the sense of taste.

Corporate governance should take these basic attributes of water and inculcate these in their organizations thus:

  • Being Adaptive and Flexible
  • Understanding matters deeply than looking at its surface
  • Getting the taste of what is being guided and governed

3. Air: Invisible Presence

Governance is all about not knowing that you are being governed. To me, that’s the highest level of governance; it should be as simple as electricity flowing from the switch, water flowing from the taps. No drama! Just silently going through the motions of doing what it does. Governance needs to be invisible yet exist everywhere like air. It should transmit the sounds of governance to the right levels as to the true attribute of air which transmits sound and it will show its color if something is mixed up.

4. Fire : Destroying Evil

This is the ultimate weapon. Fire absorbs the good and destroys the evil. The only attribute of this element is that, it can be seen, Evil forces that act will always see the fire behind them waiting to destroy them. Another quality of fire is it leaves no trace of what it destroys.

Corporations should have the fire to clear the evil forces that hinders the growth of the Organization. The governance should be structured in a way that it is clearly seen as a lethal weapon to all the destructive forces.

5. Sky – Endless possibilities

Even in utmost turmoil, one thing that holds us together is Hope and the endless possibilities. History shows many instances of this quality. If we observe closely, when you try to reach the sky, it expands itself infinitely. Men have traveled farther to moon only to understand the limitless possibilities that sky brings in. We know we cannot capture it we can only appreciate and acknowledge it.

The rule is very simple – The possibilities are endless. Sky is the limit.


Rajesh Kannan leads the develpment of Odondo. Odondo, an offering from Compassites is a service that helps the Directors and management to listen to real people and feel the pulse of their organization. Odondo’s goal is simple; to facilitate robust communication that feeds into a 360° IT enabled solution. You can follow him on Twitter at @Odondo