Know exactly what your problem is…

Before we explore the personal transformation theme, I want to introduce my approach.  On my post on Toyota (here), you may have noticed that I included “12 steps” as a tag.   That’s because I plan to use the 12 Steps — the original steps as laid out in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (aka, the “Big Book) — to frame some of the challenges in personal change.

Commonly, people refer to the first step in recovery as “knowing one has a problem.” Well, that’s a start, but many of us have difficulty admitting exactly what our problem is.  For example, according to the Big Book, the definition of an alcoholic is straightforward:

We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control their drinking.  (Chapter 3, page 30).

Admitting this loss of control is a huge barrier, for if it is a really tough problem, then we likely can’t fully control it. How many of us share the alcoholic’s delusion that control is in reach?  How many times do we try to tweak our circumstances — work more, work less, change companies — instead smashing through that delusion?  Do we see any of our tactics in the litany of methods alcoholics use to try to drink like other people?

Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums… (Chapter 3, page 31)

It’s a start to know you have a problem…

Good to be back from break.  Over the years, I’ve found that the paradox of a really good vacation is that by the end I’m raring to get back home and off to work.

Yesterday, I saw a great WSJ article on the travails of Toyota (here) that shows even great companies stumble — the company is facing its first operating loss in 70 years.  The author highlights recent quality issues and strategic missteps, especially over-expansion of capacity.  Toyota is taking steps to fix these issues, though

[t]he best news for Toyota is that [President Katsuaki] Watanabe seems worried.  As he told the Reuters news agency last February, before the current crisis struck: “I’m constantly trying to drive home the message that long-lasting success is elusive.”

Earlier in the article, Mr. Watanabe laid out the challenge in starker terms: “It’s a kind of emergency that we’ve never experienced before.”  The same challenge lays ahead for me and many of our firms.  We will need to make wrenching personal and organizational changes to survive and thrive. 

To that end, I expect to spend much of 2009 exploring how to prepare ourselves for the needed changes.

PM Quote of the Day — Anonymous

[T]he principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility.

Yup, I did it... amazing huh?  I dont understand it and dont call me if it breaks... but I did it.

Yup, I did it... amazing huh? Sure I don't understand it, but never mind that. Oh, and call my team if something breaks...

Many misunderstand the main purposes of anonymity in 12-step programs — it isn’t just about protecting a member’s reputation.  While medical treatment of alcoholism and addiction is much more accepted than when AA started in 1935, it still carries a stigma in some circles.

As a practical matter, anonymity also protects the 12-step program itself.  It has become a PR cliche to have a failing celeb hit the rehab circuit — there’s even a Celebrity Rehab series — which is great for making people aware such programs exist.  However, such publicity isn’t exactly great evidence for the effectiveness of the 12-steps.

The deeper purpose of anonymity is seen when we look at the quote: the “principle of anonymity” is something of “spiritual significance.”  12-step programs are quite explicit that the reprieve they offer is contingent on the maintenance of one’s spiritual condition… and self-seeking is hardly a marker of good spiritual condition.

Consciously and notoriously breaking anonymity elevates the member over the fellowship or the program.  It is just like a manager claiming credit for something he/she wasn’t truly responsible for.  Also, ego elevation isn’t exactly what most alcoholics or addicts need.  Ultimately, anonymity protects the alcoholic or addict from the “tyranny of self.”

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