A Different form of Intelligent Disobedience

Sometimes a sound can trigger the needed reaction!

After delivering a conference keynote on Intelligent Disobedience a delegate approached me to share this story…

As a business analyst at a major hospital, he was frustrated by project sponsorship that wasn’t stepping to the plate to establish priorities for critical staff members so the project team could collect appropriate requirements for what was being called a ”priority one” project. After many attempts at communication with various sponsors to try to rectify this, the team decided demonstrative action was needed. Using all three of the fundamental elements of intelligent disobedience – risk, creativity and persistence – they decided to try one more attempt at communicating the need.

The team took a ”crash cart” – yes one of the hospital rolling carts holding a heart monitor and a defibrillator that was recently repaired and needed to be tested. They rolled it into the hospital’s Board of Directors meeting. One of the project team members had the heart sensors hooked up to himself under his dress shirt and the monitor was working; it was beeping in the normal way as his heart beat. (Well, maybe a little faster than normal, because he was a bit nervous!) The project manager briefly described the problem and when it came to describing the impact on the project, they unplugged the sensors from the monitor, sending it ”flat-lining”, with the accompanying long steady beep tone. That noise alone triggered a reaction with the senior medical personnel that were part of the Board of Directors.

Priorities were then laid out for the needed staff members – the project moved forward to a successful completion. intelligent Disobedience saves the day!

When Political correctness is useful

Political Correctness(PC) in the sense that it is regarded as too prescriptive is often seen as stymieing frank debate. Too many rules on how, or what you can or can not say. And it makes it only too easy to harp on a point of language (saying ‘person’ instead of ‘man’ to indicate generic ‘human’), rather than a point of content (i.e. about what the person is, or should be doing).

This is not to say that language is not important, it is. Language is the first way we express our perceptions, and as the saying goes: “perception is reality”. So if the colour of a person is pertaining to race, why not call the race instead of the colour, so ‘Aboriginal’, rather than ‘Black’? This is not being ‘PC’, this is being clear and unambiguous as well as respectful with language.

So Political Correctness fulfils its function much better than it has been given credit for. Language reflects attitudes in culture, be it an organisational culture or in society at large. The use of terms can embed attitudes, thus perpetuating fixed ideas and prevent them from being re-assessed. In this argument ‘fixed embedded terms’ lead to ‘fixed unmovable minds’.

To keep this argument to a corporate environment, a management system that does not contain policies that identify wanted (PC) behaviour, will lead to unwanted (unPC) behaviour.

This then is an argument for PC Corporate Policies, policies that will not only prescribe wanted behaviour, but then model that behaviour by making sure that all relevant processes and procedures are aligned and measured against those policies, with all processes and procedure to be audited against them annually. And from the very tip of the corporate pyramid, to the very bottom. Good examples make for good following.

Contributed by Marjolein Towler