When unwritten rules run rampant

When the unwritten rules run rampant, it’s the worker’s fault, they say. ‘The culture around here is bad!’, they hear it every day. But where have the unwritten rules come from? Did they just creep in here, somewhere along the way?

Recruit, train and promote but only in one way. Structures put people in boxes and take their identity away. Cliques are formed with ‘buddies’ for safety and (un)fair play because when the unwritten rules run rampant, cunning games are played.

Micro-managing criticism, the soul is destroyed today. Autonomy to make decisions, I’m afraid that has gone away. Our gifts, our skills, our talents, can we show you them today? You are just a minor in this hierarchy, please put them away.

When the unwritten rules run rampant, it’s the worker’s fault they say. Belittling and undermining, doesn’t that pave the way for those unwritten rules to come out to play? Holding somebody back is the agenda for the day. Controlling every movement, across work lives and play. ‘Be my loyal follower’, there is no other way.

Bone-tired, weary managers, unsupported from above. Stuck in no man’s land where there is no humanity or love. Policies hinder their way forward yet still they get a shove, from the unforgiving, overbearing, hard hand from above.

Staff hold the weight of a dozen people, as complexity comes their way. The result of broken processes, at least one new one a day. They struggle under the crippling weight as corners are cut and protocols fade. Their values are smashed and battered, as profits get in the way. ‘That’s unfair!’, I hear you say.

When workers and managers are tired and can take no more today. Where do you think the unwritten rules come from, when they come out to play?

Part of the ‘spotting patterns’ element of the ‘Creating the Conditions for Change’ approach


Observation as a Critical Element in Creating the Conditions for Change

My Creating the Conditions for Change work started in 2011 when I used the viable system model for my own professional development in an Open University course. It was then that I realised the versatility of the principles and ideas of the model. You don’t have to use it as a model to be followed to give you a ‘perfect’ system. In fact, I don’t believe that works. Situations are too nuanced for that. It takes for you to consider and use multiple approaches, models, methods and concepts to engage with complex situations. I use the ideas and principles more like a framework for understanding. I believe it is important to understand what you might be seeing around you, so that you know what moves you can make next when making change. This is how I use the insights that the model gives me. To observe, to understand and to learn.

In 2019 I launched materials to supplement my Creating the Conditions for Change approach which were specifically to help in the facilitation of my workshops. Both my approach and my ways of working have continued to evolve over the years.

In 2021, I updated my materials to give greater emphasis to ‘observation’. Observational skills are critical in my work. When we become distracted by that which is around around us, it can be easy to lose our observational skills. Real-time observation has been a key element of my workshops and interactions, particularly when supporting those focussing on system change. Skilful observation opens up our insights, our creativity and our opportunities for innovation. It can help us to effectively influence and develop relationships. The relationships that are so very critical to our work.

Observing and being able to decode our observations is a critical (and yet often overlooked) skill. So much so that it is central to my approach. Now supplementing my initial kit are additional materials aimed at ‘spotting patterns’. So far, they are bringing a valuable addition to the way I support those engaging with complex situations. Not only have my materials been complimented widely but also my approach and engagement with those I work alongside.

‘Thank you for doing what you do so well and helping to make my job easier’

‘There was so much praise for your workshops. Not just what you did but for your whole approach and delivery’

If you are a group of around 12-15 people and are interested in finding out more, please get in touch: pauline@systemspractitioner.com

Watch out for my new course being advertised soon.

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