Why Businesses Need Mindfulness, Not More Methodology

Running Path

I solve problems for a living, mostly in the technology world, but I have skill in many fields.

Recently a friend asked me to analyze a solar powered swamp cooler prototype that he wanted to invest in. The issue was, it couldn’t cool a closet. I took a look at it and after some minor, and then some major modifications, I used it to cool my 1700 square foot home for the summer, at about the same power input as the original.

I can’t say more about that as it may become a new kind of home cooling device. What I will say is, problem solving requires an open mind, a willingness to see what is there, and most importantly, an interest in seeing what is possible.

As a problem solver I have a unique opportunity to see existing businesses with fresh eyes. Often I am invited into a company to solve one problem or do one job, but find other glaring issues that, if addressed, could save the company a lot of money or even the business itself.

A big buzz word in the technology industry today is Agile. Agile is not computer software. It is a method of working together. Its main premise is that in order to be effective as a team, you have to communicate with each other.

I have worked with many companies that attempt to use Agile methodology. It doesn’t really work. Companies that say that they use Agile and require new workers to know about it have by far the worst internal communication I have ever seen.

A simple question, sent in an instant message to someone that is shown to be “online” can go unanswered for hours. Managers have to request status updates on critical issues in real-time or they don’t get an update at all. Team members ignore each others efforts or in some cases even undermine them to maintain their perceived status. If someone does follow Agile principles by reporting on problems that they are having or work that they are doing to understand their job better, they are then seen as weak or incapable of doing the work.

It seems to the people who work in this environment every day that this is normal. As an outsider in these companies, the issues and problems caused by this lack of basic communication are blatant. Reporting the problems though, even when hired to solve problems, has proven to be professional suicide. You can’t attack this problem head on without risking your own neck.

Agile may work, if it were implemented as designed and if the Agile members actually agreed to the rules. I have never seen that. What I do see is, the problems outlined above are a direct result of lack of self awareness. People compete when they would be better served by cooperation. They do this by default, without even looking at their own beliefs and behavior. “That’s how daddy did it so that’s how it must be done.”

Whether or not competition serves humanity as the prime motivation for doing things is not something I wish to speculate on. But as a problem solver, I know that when people are working together on a goal, things go much better than when they are acting primarily for their own self interest. Within most businesses today, even businesses that claim to use team oriented methodology, there is very little real communication or cooperation. Everyone is in it for their own career, their own personal well-being. They are not acting in the interests of the company or others in it.

Mindfulness is the practice of noticing. Noticing your thoughts, your feelings, sensations in your body, and your reactions to people and circumstances in the world around you. It is doing these things without condemning what you notice.

How can that help?

The personal benefits of a mindfulness practice are well documented, as well as the benefits it brings to companies. But there is more. When you start to notice how you feel about things, you start to make changes to your behavior and your thoughts that promote feeling good. This is a natural occurrence once you start practicing mindfulness. No one has to tell you about it, you just do it. The simple fact is, people want to feel good and most people will make changes to do so.

Something that people find is that, when they are respected and act respectful they feel better than when they are not. When they are honest and talk to their coworkers about what is really going on, they feel better about themselves and better about their projects. With self awareness, people are more likely to talk to their managers about the status of their projects, they are more likely to respond to requests, and they are more likely to value the same behavior in others.

Technology is good these days. If hardware or software is not working, there are solutions out there. Methodologies for working together may help, if everyone involved agrees, and practices it. But without individual self awareness, mindfulness, it is going to be an average company doing an average job no matter how much money or policy you throw at it.

Kelly MacInnis has been working full time in Information Technology as a software engineer and a problem solver for over thirty years. He has done so with no formal education what so ever. For information on how that is possible see this link: http://www.creation-songs.com/education.php.

Comments are closed.