4th March 2019

Dear Sandu,

I had the greater joy, being able to be there for you and help you find the best role to open the possibility to do much more. As the artists understood long before engineers, once created, the artworks come to their own life, independent of the artist’s one. I came to understand recently that in fact we have been working together forever, as we were both working to create the same workmanship, that is above us. The fact that we are seeing each other and speaking with each other on a more frequent or infrequent base helps us to learn more, but also working alone or with others have benefits. But I am glad to see you more often, because as human beings we found a great joy on finding the opportunity to reward each other, including with good food and drinks.

I believe as well that imposture plays a major role at organisational level. Even more than you, I do not see it limited at the managerial level, but I see the same at technical level or in the way in which employees are embracing the values and mission of the organization.  I will differentiate the various types and named them accordingly – managerial imposture, technical imposture, cultural imposture. I totally agree with you that managerial imposture has the potential to dramatically affect the entire organisation and for me it seems to be more important than the technical one.  Meanwhile in the field of software development is quite easy for me to come with the example or architecture mistakes and to convince you that, at least in this field, the technical imposture is as well critically important. About the cultural imposture, I have a hunch that you agree with me in considering it more comparable in terms of impact to the managerial one.

Speaking about somethinh that I saw many times in many organisations that, I wonder if it is not somehow a natural phenomenon. Is the imposture a problem that could be solved by identifying its cause or is it inevitable?

In your hypothetic examples, but based on realities seen by both of us, you described successions of events that lead to imposture. I think that I could remind you of some other examples in which the transfer direction was not from technical competencies towards managerial competencies but from managerial towards cultural. Even with the events that you described, they are in a logical sequence, but I have doubts that are representing necessarily a causal chain as well. The key, you mentioned it yourself is: “you do not have very much time”. I know from my own experience that life runs in real time with no successive movements as in a chess game. Trust, as you described it, seems to be a binary value. I imagine trust as being more of a vague, continuous variable, with a certain distribution between 0 and 1. If you must decide in a limited time frame, you choose from the options you have even if none of them are completely 1. And if I know that I made choices with the value of trust different from 1, then I have doubts that trust is the cause of the problem.

In order to be able to completely understand the process, I asked myself: what is imposture? It means for me to be in a position incompatible with yourself. And that raises the question: how can you know that someone is an impostor? And this question does even have an answer? Maybe the scepticism has a sense not only at philosophical level, but at the organisational level too. The questions are difficult, so I will try to describe my logic argument to be able to learn something from it.

It seems to me that people could not realise by themselves that they are impostors, as Socrates also told us about the people in his cave allegory. People can realise the place where they are only after they kow a reference to report to it. But as well as in the Socrates story, the one who got out of the cave begun to understand, but those that decided to remain inside started to fear the one that got out.

From here the next step, as I learned from Socrates, is dialectics. Maybe imposture is not something constant, but appears in time due to organisational development? And maybe the contradiction between the man and the position is in fact the mechanism that ignites the cycle of development from one organization level to another. This is also a little bit ironic: you are trying to convince me that we must get rid of impostors and I am answering that we must produce more of them and more often. In my opinion both arguments can be true. It is a paradox that could be solved by adding the time dimension, because we can understand that we could not possible have the same person in both situations at the same time.

Inspired by BCG drawing used in marketing, I made a cycle of people’s life in organisations:
2019.03.04_About Change_graph EN
A new employee doesn’t know much but he or she is a hope, with a significant growth rate. The growth rate is not yet a result of their activity as it is a result of the one that picked them for the job. Once the knowledge accumulates, the results start to appear, and he or she becomes a star.  Their maximum capacity may be higher or lower the accumulation rate also differs from an individual to another. If those values are too small for the organisations, both hopes and stars will be replaced and forgotten. Based on Peter’s principle, after some time any star moves to the third quadrant and become an expert. This is a person that knows a lot of things but have no idea where to go to from here. The world will not stop for anyone, so knowledge has an inflation patern and gets old. When all the world is learning fast, the process is similar with monetary market. The expert will become a dinosaur that even if doesn’t forget what he or she knew, has not the same value.

Choosing the names for the four quadrants, I realised that even if I was using the word trust in relation with the people that I chose or kept over the years, this word doesn’t quite describe the reality, but I used it mainly for my inner peace. When one finds a promising new employee, we use the word trust – I’ll put my trust in you – but in fact you are just having hopes regarding him or her because deep within you have doubts and you hope that they will confirm your expectation. If the person that you choose has enough capacity, he or she will become a star and get to the position in which the organisation will invest in order to help him or her reach the maximum potential. You still use the word trust, but in this case is like you said: I have confidence that 1 plus 1 equals 2. When the innovation rate decreases you said that you need to trust because is convenient. You know that is not the same, but it is comfortable to hope that the situation will last for an indefinite period and you will have nothing to do. When it becomes a dinosaur, he or she will become a humanitarian problem. And you said is a trustworthy person as a recognition of previous results and as a form of compassion, even if you will not invest anymore in that person.

I believe that the manager decides based on how he or she estimates the actual knowledge and the evolution for each person. The problem of trust is not in this context an organisational problem but a managerial problem. The manager must have trust in his or her own decisions and his or her ego will help to feel better about those decisions. But the value of the organisation depends on the people knowledge, and this depends on the decisions to assign people to roles. In order to help the organisation, we must help the decision makers to make better decisions. This process includes both a strategy to assess the knowledge capacity and the innovative potential as well as a model for decision making, like a methodology that will control the process using a systemic approach.

How about the impostor? Who is the impostor in the above model? I say that the expert is the impostor. He or she is the one that doesn’t know what to do next. Their situation is comfortable, but inflation is inevitable. Without recognising it, the organisations and decision makers are fighting this phenomenon by hiring new people or by buying companies, with the hope that these strategies will help the organisation to produce new stars. Those actions do not change the problem with the expert, they are only making the things more complicated. There is a positive part to this solution: the offer chances to discover new stars that could develop new domains even wider and interesting than those coverd by the experts. At the same time those actions assure a certain comfortability for the decision makers.

Can we find a better solution? If we want an organisation with an indefinite life span, longer than the lifespan of the people within it, maybe the appearance of new people is the key. Apparently, these methods are relaying on luck thus are not sustainable.  But luck can not be excluded, as a landslide over the headquarte can prove, so what is the role of sustainability in this case? Our mission is not to exlude luck, but to help the organisation to recognise it and use it. So, I think we must invest some time to think of better solutions and to apply them consciously and systematically. I have all the trust that more can be done, and here I am using the word trust with its right meaning, because I have yet no proof.

 

With hope,

Christian

4th January 2019

Dear Christian,

The opportunity of working together again, after many years, made me feel a great joy especially because this time the subject of our common approach was an organisational transformation. A transformation meant to place your company, otherwise stable and solid, on the right market position. Taking into consideration that your company is a product based company, with consistent and innovative intellectual property, deserves, in my opinion, a much stronger position on the market. I don’t see any reason why this should not be possible. And here I feel the need to mention one aspect, in fact the most important – all this discussion took place with the perspective of assuring organisational sustainability.

I want also to thank you for the constant support to write down this experience as well as our numerous and savoury discussions so that the results should be used as a starting point in the analysis of organisational performance, or as an approach to start organisational change by all those in decision making positions that might be inspired by these writings.

All the situations that we have encountered on the path of this initiative for change confirmed, once again, an older hypothesis. It is about the rise of imposture within an organisation. Bearing in mind the circumstances in which this process took place, I believe, the concept has not a pejorative meaning. At least not in the beginning; in this phase, the imposture could be very well a result of conjuncture and not intention.

Let’s take for example the case of a technology outsourcing company, a term also known as lohn or body leasing or labour force leasing. Naturally, for me as well as for you, the IT domain is the most familiar, due to more than 30 years of professional experience (software development, IT systems and solutions development, project management, consultancy in implementing integrated systems, change management)… But you already know these things.

In this case, the business model presumes that the activities that have high added value and generate intellectual property are those run by the client. The results of these activities reach the provider in the form of a solution, business analyzes, functional architecture, technical architecture, development specifications. The level of activities requested from the provider is development – the lowest in terms of value, including its financial component, but also the most convenient. It only requires technical knowledge applied to the environment where the solution is expected to perform. As a result, the recruitment process is focused on identifying and retaining developers with the best competencies related to a specific technology required by clients. A team working for a specific client needs a kind of guidance and so the “team lead” role appears into the equation. Obviously, this role will be taken by the team member with the most solid technological background and competencies, a person with a trusted profile (for good reasons) by the management. This is the place where the fracture appears. The client sees this person as team leader and not as the team’s technical guide. The client vision is, in most of the cases, adopted by the provider itself. And suddenly the technical position of the “team lead” ceases, and becomes a managerial one. But this new position is defined by skills and competencies developed under a totally different type of knowledge. Implicitly, the management transfers the technical trust (proved and owned) to managerial trust (unproved and totally un-owned).

We are in the very moment when imposture may occur. If we are closely following the recruitment process, it is very unlikely, although not impossible, that a team lead recruited for technical knowledge to be a good team leader – his/her passion and long-time investment being in the field of technical knowledge, not managerial one. With the very rare exceptions in which technical competencies are doubled by managerial skills, the solution would logically imply to refuse such a role. But in the beginning, as it is understood by all the parties involved – team leads, managers etc. – the position doesn’t seem to be very hard to fill. And indeed, it is not in the very first moments. And so, implicitly, the imposture is accepted. Another way out is acknowledge the situation, followed by a decision to acquire the needed skills within a certain timeframe.

The symptoms become visible when a hard, complex decision has to be made. Because this is the area where the impact is the highest. Let’s not forget that for sustainability the decision-making processes are the most important ones in any organisation (or community). And the team lead finds himself without the necessary skills to make such decision. What is the team leader going to do? Most likely they will have a very hard time accepting and recognising that they are not capable to make a decision within the limits of his/her competencies. If it is not appropriate, the team leader will have to justify it, to defend it in front of colleagues and management. If their argumentative talent helps, a competency that often can be found with people with excellent technical skills, we are already in the situation of self-accepted imposture – the team leader occupies a position that he/she is not qualified for. Is it therefore still the case to expect quality delivery on long term (which translates in sustainability) when the decisions are made this way?

Here we had an imposture situation induced by the client and accepted by team leader and the management. In the end, the recruitment process followed technical skills for a managerial position.

Let us think of a company developed by an entrepreneur with no prior knowledge regarding organisational management which has found the correct market niche. The organisation is facing the market pressure and a rhythm of accelerated growth. Whom the entrepreneur will trust to take over the decision-making positions? The experience reveals that in most cases they entrust relatives and close friends – people that are familiar. Under the pace of growth there is no time to build up an organisation on more solid, methodological basis. Again, the decision making process falls victim to chance, if in this moment the entrepreneur is not making the move towards a business based organisational model. In this second case the recruitment process was made following obedience criteria, with no focus on managerial skills.

In both cases of imposture the organisational leader had to solve the issue of trust.

Naturally, organisations evolve, situations become more complex… It seems that “Peter’s Principle” is a synthetic and very accurate description of imposture cases, regardless of the way in which the process evolved. But about how a position like this could be kept and what is generating downstream, how it impacts an organization, in another letter.

Waiting with interest for your reply,

Alexandru

12th December 2018

Alexandru Tulai, Vicepreședinte Cluj IT Cluster

Pe data de 2 decembrie 2018, la o zi după sărbătoarea centenarului Unirii, am inițiat un proiect strategic constând într-o serie de articole și evenimente care să constituie cadrul adecvat dezvoltării regiunii noastre, implicit a industriei noastre. Am început acțiunea de ceva vreme și, în această etapă de inițiere, domnul prof. dr. Radu Preda, Președintele Institutului pentru Investigarea Crimelor Comunismului și Memoria Exilului Românesc (IICCMER) a avut generozitatea să-și asume o sarcină foarte dificilă: conturarea primei dezbateri despre “Al doilea secol românesc”.

Prin discursul său dl. Preda ne-a adus în fața unei întrebări esențiale: cum putem fi români în epoca modernă, rămânând cetățeni europeni și cu aspirații pentru o viață mai bună pentru noi, atât ca indivizi cât și ca societate în ansamblu ei. Pentru a răspunde acestei întrebări trebuie să ne fixăm întâi cadrul istoric sau, altfel spus, moștenirea trecutului, astfel încât să ne pregătim corespunzător pentru șansele și provocările viitorului.

Cu alte cuvinte, mai întâi trebuie să trasăm în clar linia identitară a relației cu trecutul: cine suntem, ce facem bine și ce nu facem bine (istoric vorbind), ce putem și ce nu, așa încât clarificând aceasta, să ne putem concentra pe dezvoltarea viitoare pe o bază realistă și nu pe una “mitică”.

Ca să avem un succes împărtășit de cât mai mulți, avem nevoie mai întâi de un proces profund de transformare. O transformare a felului în care ne raportăm la cei din jur, a felului în care ne derulăm viețile personale și cele profesionale, a felului în care interacționăm cu autoritățile, dar și a celui în care facem afaceri sau ne educăm generațiile viitoare. Vă propunem așadar o incursiune în trecut, cu privirea ațintită spre viitor prin care să putem provoca și determina “Schimbarea”. Mai concret, lansăm o platformă de gândire strategică și planificare a unor acțiuni care ne vor aduce mai aproape de dezideratul oricărei comunități din zilele noastre: bunăstare economică și socială, educație, competitivitate și performanță, acces la resurse și șansă de afirmare.

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Schimbarea. Marea problemă, permanent întâlnită în comunități și organizații (fie ele instituții ale statului, ONG-uri sau companii). Ne propunem să discutăm diversele fațete ale acesteia, aspecte întâlnite în practica noastră. Complexitatea gestiunii schimbării, pe de o parte, și nivelul redus al educației și practicii din domeniu, pe de altă parte, ne-au convins să tratăm sistematic acest subiect.

Concret, dorim să venim, astfel, în ajutorul tuturor celor care se confruntă cu aceste situații. Pentru facilitarea lecturii, conținutul este prezentat sub forma corespondenței cu partenerii din practica de business.

În primul material pe care urmează să îl publicăm discutăm una dintre posibilele consecințe, frecvent întâlnite, ale nevoii de încredere, pe care se construiește orice organizație / comunitate. Este vorba despre impostură: cum poate apărea, care este natura ei, mecanismul (defensiv) care o susține și cum poate fi soluționată.

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© Cluj IT Cluster, Decembrie 2018

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