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Issue 31

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Framework Consulting Inc. 2009: Issue 32

Editorial 2

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Breaking the habit of
inappropriate protest.

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The audio podcast of
this ezine is about 25 Last month's issue of This month is no
minutes long and can be FirstCuts got perhaps the different - it's an attempt to
found at biggest response of any that open up a dialogue. Here in
fwconsulting.podomatic. I have written. the Caribbean, our love of
com. The irony is that I felt workplace protest gets us in
quite unsure of what I was trouble.
writing, and convinced It stands in the way of
myself that I was taking a our progress as a people,
risk that would pay off only and our unwillingness to
in some kind of backlash... give up national rights is
3389 Sheridan Street #434 Well, I was quite wrong! now standing in the way of
Hollywood FL 33021, USA
What I am learning is CARICOM.
PO Box 3109
that no-one cares to read It's becoming more
Kingston 8, Jamaica
the same old stuff, and that difficult for us to blame the
phone: 954-323-2552 even when there is British, French, Spanish,
phone: 876-880-8653 disagreement, it's at least Dutch et al. It's time for us
fax: 509-272-7966 taking place over some fresh to look at ourselves. ideas. For me, this is enough reason to tackle Francis
each new issue.

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Our Propensity to Protest

West Indies cricket recently managers with excellent we could apply to our
hit a new low when the education and experience unique situation?
region’s team lost both the are hired into companies
Test and one-day series to with tremendous fanfare.
the worst team in major Glossy announcements are
international cricket: made in the press, boasting Workplace Protest
Bangladesh. of the prowess of the new
management team. When looking at how our
A few months later, a workers behave and how
similar disaster was barely
averted. A few of Jamaica’s In today’s our managers manage, we
seem to start a few steps
best athletes in the 2009 Caribbean behind the rest of the world.
IAAF Track and Field World There’s simply too much
Championships came close workplace, the evidence pointing to the
to being dropped from the protests and fact that we’re weak on
team for missing a producing results, but
mandatory training camp. quiet sabotage strong in the art of labour
They were included in the haven’t protest.
meet only after the IAAF
president intervened in the stopped. The truth is that the vast
conflict. The athletes went Instead, they majority of our ancestors in
on to win half of the the region were brought
country’s medals exist on a here to work under protest.

Apparently, it doesn’t take
continuum, They continued to protest
as they were taught by
much to end up with the ranging from other slaves and indentured
region’s top talent sitting on
the bench in large numbers,
sullen workers how to follow the
system of servitude that
watching lesser performers disengagement had been set up in their
take their places. to outright new home: the plantation.

What both incidents have in hostility. Both house and field slaves
common is a profound learned how to do their
failure in management. duties while mastering the
art of “appearing” to work
There is much that A few months later, hard while actually doing as
Caribbean executives and however, little is made of little as possible. All learned
managers can learn from the untimely departure of how to intentionally, and
these debacles when it the same top talent from quietly, sabotage the
comes to leading their own these companies.
teams, as the cause of
these problems does not What is it about Caribbean
reside solely in the sports organisations that produces
arena. The fact is, the same such disastrous results? Are
thing happens all the time we any different from other
in companies. companies in the world?
Can we learn something
Here in the Caribbean, top from effective teams that

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system wherever they could. We Caribbean people know went on strike, essentially
how to protest. To our against themselves.
Alex Haley’s television credit, we also know how to
series Roots included a identify injustice. In the case of West Indies
memorable scene in which cricket, our fans in other
Kizzy, a slave, discreetly countries are puzzled by our
spat into her slave owner’s dramatic and unnecessary
cup as she was serving her. fall to the bottom of the Test
On a recent project here in cricket rankings. We seem
Jamaica, a human resource to have beaten ourselves off
manager shared with me his the field by first
belief that this practice was squandering the abundant
still occurring—a finding talent so evident in the
backed up by Kenneth 1980s and 1990s, and then
Carter’s book Why Workers by squabbling away the
Won’t Work: The Worker in a little we have left.
Developing Economy: A
Case Study of Jamaica. In Jamaican athletics, each
In our region, successful side in the recent world
In today’s Caribbean protests brought the end of championships conflict
workplace, the protests and the slave trade, slavery, claims to be wronged by the
quiet sabotage haven’t worker exploitation, and, other. It’s only our amazing
stopped. Instead, they exist ultimately, colonial rule. It success that’s keeping the
on a continuum, ranging was an effective tool when conflict under cover.
from sullen disengagement there was a clear set of
to outright hostility. In rights to be gained in an Our companies are not
different islands, I’ve seen obviously unjust situation. immune from this kind of
Trinis crack jokes at a destruction in executive
manager’s expense, Bajans However, our favourite teams, workplaces,
refuse to speak in meetings, technique fails to be an departments, and divisions.
and Jamaicans threaten effective approach in the Employees at all levels,
managers in open meetings. nuanced and complex regardless of experience or
workplace in which we find education, know how to
The world, on a whole, was ourselves in 2009. Instead identify injustice and are
treated to a small sample of of forcing the powerful to quick to protest. Some of
Caribbean protest when grant concessions, we end the biggest Caribbean
Jamaican athletes in the up shooting ourselves in the companies have executives
2000 Athens Olympics foot. who have joined existing
protested against the trade unions, or even
inclusion of fellow Jamaican This is precisely what started their own, to
Merlene Ottey. The placards, happened in the 1970s, “defend their rights.”
blocked roads, and shouts of when the Manley
“Ottey Out” were too much government in Jamaica This is not a normal
for Olympic officials, who started agricultural occurrence. Bargaining
eventually gave the athletes cooperatives to give unions for executives and
an ultimatum: pack it up or workers greater control of managers are unheard of in
go home. Wisely, the their destinies. the best companies in the
athletes decided to put Unfortunately, the workers world.
away the cardboard and were ill-trained in how to
paint and retire to their operate as a collective—and
dorms. in one case, the workers

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Caribbean-Style Resistance

In today’s workplace, fact that these behaviours
protests take the following can be found at every level, The survey showed that
forms, among others: from the executives on managers perceive workers’
- Arriving late for down to the lowest ranks. priorities incorrectly and
meetings All it takes is a sense that “I assume the worst about the
- Not showing up at work have been wronged” to workers’ motives.
- Playing cards, dominos, start an escalation from hurt
reading, etc. feelings to vengeful action In other words, supervisors
- Complaining to (or inaction.) in 2009 are treating workers
someone who can’t do in some of the same
anything about the issue
- Withholding feedback
Unfortunately, dehumanising ways
have taken place since

when asked “establishing 1492, when Columbus
Staying quiet in public
Not talking to people
one’s rights as arrived in the Caribbean
and began the process of
who “spite me” or “malice a victim” isn’t enslaving and
- Running a personal
exactly a exterminating Tainos and
business from the office corporate best
- Spreading
practice. It’s no surprise that workers
continue to protest as they
- Playing “crab in a Neither is an always have.
barrel” and pulling down
others who try to get ahead
“ability to Unfortunately, “establishing
- Striking protest one’s rights as a victim”
Working to rule
Leaking reports to the
wrongdoing.” isn’t exactly a corporate
best practice. Neither is an
press “ability to protest
- Starting or joining a wrongdoing.”
union However, there is some
evidence that While the courage it takes
I worked for U.S. companies nonsupervisory workers are to protest is admirable, the
for about 10 years before justified in their response. act of protest probably isn’t
starting my own firm, and I the best choice of
know that the above list of As I mentioned in FirstCuts techniques to use in
behaviours can be found in 31, the research from Why everyday conflicts. It
just about any enterprise. Workers Won’t Work separates the self-declared
suggests that new victim from those who are
What’s different here in the supervisors undergo an designated as “oppressors,”
Caribbean is the element of interesting mindset change. and it promotes the
“protest”—the feeling that In a nutshell, upon acquisition of rights and
the above actions are promotion they stop seeing justice to the top of the
justified because there’s a their former colleagues as agenda.
wrong to be corrected, and human beings in need of
the feeling that there’s recognition and How can Caribbean teams
some moral justification at appreciation, and start to and companies teach
the root of these actions. see them as needy themselves a new way to
individuals who will only be cooperate to achieve the
What’s also different is the satisfied with more money. end result?

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Seeing Systems
Executive teams in the cantankerous bicycles, and looked like those in today’s
region can start to develop hordes of darting, weaving Pakistan, there’s been
the skills they need by first motor scooters.” steady improvement over
coming to a collective the years.
awareness that the problem We in the Caribbean can
is real. Our plantation relate. Carpenter also points out
history is important for us to that, as a system, traffic
embrace if we hope to In an Oregonian traffic circles work best when
understand our strengths circle, by contrast, “the drivers act unselfishly. The
and weaknesses in the right-of-way rule is ironclad, Oregon traffic circles work
workplace. and 99.9 percent of drivers so well because each
person is willing to
Once executives realise its temporarily set aside his or
importance, the team can her own agenda and
create practices that help cooperate in assisting the
them see for themselves majority. It’s the very
when they fall into the trap opposite of the “every man
of protesting in order to for himself” situation he
defend personal rights that described in Pakistan.
conflict with the group’s
progress. The other critical insight
from Carpenter’s book is
They can begin to see why that complex
we have great challenges in accomplishments are not
working together for possible without
sustained periods of time to interconnected systems
accomplish big goals. that work together to
follow the rules exactly.” produce the end result. To
This insight is at the heart of illustrate, he gives the
a book I read recently, Work Carpenter concludes: “My example of the U.S. space
the System by Sam guess is that despite the shuttle program. He points
Carpenter. In the book, the Pakistani frenzy, more traffic out that a space shuttle
author compares “traffic flows through the staid launch is “perhaps the most
circles” (or roundabouts) in (Oregonian) traffic circle magnificent display of
Pakistan with those in his than flows through the human system control …
U.S. hometown in Oregon. equal-size (Pakistani) circle. The launch executes, and
It’s also my bet that there tens of thousands of active
Carpenter says, “The driving are fewer accidents in the systems, both on the craft
(in Pakistan) is instinctual (Oregon) traffic circle.” and on the ground, execute
and primal.” His “favorite independently and in
circle is huge with five I think he’s right. concert, each a precision
concentric lanes of traffic, entity unto itself.”
each with vehicles The point he makes is that
careening wildly around the someone in the United Impressive.
potholed pavement. States took the time to
Competing for space are study and understand how However, I’d have my
fragile donkey carts, huge traffic circles work best. And doubts about flying a
ornately decorated trucks, even though the earliest Caribbean-run space
tiny Chinese cars, U.S. traffic circles probably shuttle. It has nothing to do

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with our individual talent, words, what makes the barrel—when the final
because we’re as smart as Pakistani traffic circles so demand for wages pushed
any set of people in the dangerous is not one or two the company’s
world. What I don’t trust is people but a systematic management over the
our ability to manage way in which people think, edge. That damage is still
complex systems that and therefore drive. being felt today in the
require in-depth cooperation minds of Trinidadian
between thousands of Our Caribbean teams in executives who are wary of
experts. companies, sports, and investing in Jamaica
politics are staffed with knowing what happened to
I can only imagine that our some of the most brilliant their countrymen.
propensity for protest would minds and talent in the Furthermore, Jamaica has
once again be an world. Our skills are highly been importing all of its
obstruction. sought after and can be glass from overseas since
found at the top of that company’s failure.
Fortunately, Work the governments, organisations,
System offers a way of and companies all around The frame of mind seems to
thinking about solutions. the world as well as at the be this: “my rights” come
Carpenter points out that to forefront of several fields of first, and “protesting” is my
make a business successful, endeavour. primary tool to accomplish
someone must be able to that goal.
see the subsystems that Obviously, there’s
need to work together to something to celebrate: our The problem that I’ve seen
make it function. When any systems for promoting in regional companies and
single subsystem isn’t individual talent work quite teams is that their priorities
working, then the entire well. are muddled. Our weakness
system fails, much in the leads us to carry on our
way that two space shuttles protests for too long, well
failed in midflight. after they’ve lost their
usefulness, to the point
When executives aren’t able where they become
to see subsystems, they destructive.
tend to think that problems
are personal, that they In the best corporate teams
emanate from individuals. I’ve worked with, both
Someone is quickly made within and outside the
into a scapegoat, and then However, what prevents our region, I’ve observed a key
blamed and pilloried until executive teams from piece of knowledge: they
the person eventually working together is one know when to stop pointing
leaves the organisation or subsystem that they might out differences, and when
disappears into the need to focus on. to start distinguishing
woodwork. points of similarity.
Many Trinidadian
This is unfortunate, businessmen, for example, In other words, team
especially when the failure are still guided by the members can see the
of Caribbean organisations closure of West Indies Glass signals that tell them when
to work together for the Ltd. in 2000. The Trinidadian it’s time to change gears
common good cannot be company operating in and drive towards
isolated to a few individuals. Jamaica suffered a strike for consensus. It’s as if they
better wages that only led realise that it’s time to give
Instead, to use Carpenter’s to no wages at all; the up defending their personal
language, the problem lies company pulled out of rights in favour of the
in the system. In other Jamaica—lock, stock, and team’s success.

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This is not to say that they optimistic. frank conversations—and
become doormats for those the right kind of training
who would exploit them. There are proven methods interventions. Once an
Instead, it’s a matter of for training groups to notice executive team can identify
responsibility. Teams that specific destructive the subsystem that’s not
work well assume behaviours, and a working, they can
ownership for the end Caribbean executive team determine how best to fix it
result, realising that the can be taught how to notice on an ongoing basis.
only way to get there is to when it’s time to set aside
place the team’s goals at their rights in order to With the right exposure, I
the top of the priority list. achieve greater goals. They believe that even the West
can also be taught how to Indies cricket team and the
In high-performing teams, end a personal protest in leadership of Jamaican
the team’s goals come first, order to add their energy to athletics can get past the
and the tools used to the forward motion that self-inflicted wounds we see
accomplish the goal are everyone wants. today and bring us out of
varied, depending on the the rut in which we find
circumstances and the To use the approach ourselves year after year.
phase in which the team advocated by Work the FC
finds itself. They’re able to System, it’s as simple as
move between one figuring out which system P.S. A story from the
approach and the other, isn’t working, and then Jamaica Gleaner entitled
avoiding the common focusing on steadily "No Justice for Jollie" came
problem of “having a improving it. out after I wrote this
hammer and seeing every month's issue but it's a
problem as a collection of In our case, what’s missing perfect example of our
nails.” is the level of awareness of "Propensity to Protest."
At the same time, I’m the problem that leads to

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