Ming the Mechanic:
Know when to do something

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Know when to do something2003-10-03 14:52
picture by Flemming Funch

I'm trying to practice noticing patterns, and writing them down. Here's one.

In circumstances involving multiple humans, where one of the people has a level of influence or authority, and where there is a certain identifiable desirable activity that the other one or more people need to engage in, one of the simple sets of rules that the authority person can operate by are:

If things are happening, don't change anything

If things are not happening, change something.

That is not always as self-evident as it sounds, so it can be useful to spell it out.

It says to not mess with processes that are already doing the right thing. Despite that they might not be doing it the way you had in mind. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And it says that if you aren't getting the desired result, you shouldn't just sit and wait, you need to do something, or change something, so that a different process takes place.

I know this principle from my work as a counselor. There's a certain something that needs to take place with the client who comes in and sits in the other chair. They need to change for the better, they need to become more resourceful, they need to be more able to overcome their problems, they need to be happier, and look positively towards the future, etc. And there are certain components or steps that usually are part of that. They need to be willing to sit still long enough. They need to be able to be a little introspective and actually examine themselves and their thoughts and reactions. They need to be able to come to some realizations. And willing to change their mind and do things in a new way. It is my job as the counselor to make sure they're doing these things. If they already are, I don't have much to do. If they don't, I have to come up with a way of getting them back there. If the client sits down and keeps talking about the weather and last night's TV, then things aren't happening, and I need to come up with a way of switching us into a different track. But if they come in, sit down, and right away start getting into some deep and productive self-examination, which they then come out of with a big realization and a new more useful pattern in life, and a better outlook on the future - hats off to them, and I don't have to change anything. Makes sense?

Or think about a strategy for entertaining a small child, while you're busy with other activities. If she's sitting down happily occupied with something that isn't dangerous to her, great, leave her alone. She's already entertained, so no need to change anything. But if she's suddenly bored and getting in your way, ok, it is time to change things. Which might mean to introduce something new and different. Hey, here's another toy, or, wow, you can draw with these pencils, or how about we go into the other room, or try to tie your shoe laces. Every good mother knows these things of course. It doesn't help to keep saying "don't bother me!" Get creative and bring in another factor that will make the child get interested, entertaining herself. After which you can happily leave her alone for a while. Keep some extra surprises in your bag for the next time the child gets bored, and you can do your job fairly easily.

Said a different way:

Don't keep doing things that aren't working. (even if you think they're the 'right' things to do)

Keep doing things that ARE working. (even if they weren't supposed to be working that way)

Duh! What gets in the way is usually fixed ideas about how things are 'supposed' to be done, and a failure to recognize whether the desirable outcome actually is or isn't taking place.

Here's another way:

If you aren't getting the desired result, DO something, anything.

If you ARE getting the desired result, do nothing. Relax and enjoy it.

and of course, all of this requires that you:

Know what is the desired outcome in the circumstances you're in.

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4 Oct 2003 @ 02:32 by Thomas @ : BPR approach
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" - is that right?
During my studies I wrote a paper on Business Process Re-engineering and I remember the different motivations a company could have to start a BPR process. One of them is the situation where a company is ahead of their competitors and "things aren't broke", but they want to make sure that things don't brake/the competitors wont catch up. If the company completes a succesful BPR process, they can enlarge the distance to the competitors. An analogy is that you are in a car race and you are way in front. In order to make sure that you stay in front you stop and build a wall on the road, so that your competitors will have an even harder time catching up.
The situation where you have to ensure that a child is occupied is difficult to relate to my BPR story, but imagine a situation such as keeping your professional profile attractive to the job market. I am for instance quite safe professionally since I have a lot of experience withing an area where there's work, but the things change and I can't just wait until I loose my job (the child gets bored).
In other words I believe that 'knowing when to do something' is a more complex issue, where the basis/motivation for the patterns must be further defined. Or maybe I just didn't understand your pattern motivation?  

4 Oct 2003 @ 04:03 by waalstraat : Seems to Me Ming
That's what you just did in writing this piece...or am I wrong ? It sounds to me llke something you said (a couple of months ago) that you wanted to focus more on and that you felt you have been neglecting...good for you either way....if or if not it is a good sharing of a learning...blessings  

4 Oct 2003 @ 04:22 by sindy @ : commitment
It made a lot of sense, in counselling you find the innocence (child) in humans, and yes a good mother knows this *wink*.. in the principle of 'don't change', this all comes in our mirror each moment that sometime things just got to flow for it always has a reason for its' surfacing..  

4 Oct 2003 @ 10:14 by ming : Fixing it if it ain't broke
A pattern like this has some limited conditions that it applies to. Indeed, for other sets of conditions, the rule is rather that you need to keep changing, and that you preferably need to change things before it actually is necessary. Even if nothing seems broken at the time. Like, I've at times made the mistake to become complacent in a job, which was well-paid and stable, and I didn't prepare the ground for what I'd do afterwards, and when the job ended, I was caught with my pants down. Of course I could also fit that into this pattern by saying that if I had better identified what I really wanted, and I noticed I was no longer getting it, I'd have known early on when it was time to move on.  

4 Oct 2003 @ 10:54 by waalstraat : The Larger pattern....???
The Mega-pattern of which the above pattern is a meta-pattern is that sooner or later everything changes, so how does one prepare themselves for a world in which nothing ever lasts...now we are talking about what kind of practice or practices prepares one for that...  

4 Oct 2003 @ 11:16 by ming : Change
Everything is changing all the time. Everything is in motion. But we might develop a keen awareness of which moving track we should jump on, and which we'd better avoid. If I want to go to Boston, the train that goes there might be a better choice than the merry-go-round in Santa Monica, that just goes round and round, with new passengers every two minutes.  

4 Oct 2003 @ 12:53 by waalstraat : So what you are saying is
Awareness is very important in dealing with the process universe we inhabit. Of course that seems obvious, but then what kind of practice, and behaviors, increase and enhances awareness rather than obscures it?  

4 Oct 2003 @ 18:08 by istvan : Bernard
My answer to your question is, since you love questions would be:
have you ever seen a monk in the unemployment office?  

5 Oct 2003 @ 01:22 by waalstraat : A Monk in an unemployment office...hmmm
No...but I never heard of Zen dancing before either....Hi Zen...by the way I ask questions because between me and the guys we might come up with some temporary answers to something in this whirling univers....I know I certainly am more sure of my questions than what I temporarily accept as answers to them...Blessings Zen friend....Oh,by the way thanks for the hint if it is a hint, and if not thanks for just being Zen Dancer...  

6 Oct 2003 @ 12:27 by Seb @ : Offtopic
Offtopic Ming but I thought this blog might interest you - [link]  

6 Oct 2003 @ 14:46 by ming : ReadWriteWeb
Ah, yes. Music to my ears. www.readwriteweb.com  

10 Oct 2003 @ 05:57 by istvan : Merry-Go-Round
This comment somehow reminds me of NCN. Am i wrong?

"Everything is changing all the time. Everything is in motion. But we might develop a keen awareness of which moving track we should jump on, and which we'd better avoid. If I want to go to Boston, the train that goes there might be a better choice than the merry-go-round in Santa Monica, that just goes round and round, with new passengers every two minutes."  

10 Oct 2003 @ 09:29 by ming : Trains
I guess it goes well with a metaphor I gave at some earlier point, of NCN being a train station. You're free to jump on any train going somewhere new and interesting, or somewhere known and familiar. And you're free to hang out in the station, taking pictures of yourself in the photo booth, or putting quarters in the merry-go-round.  

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