Saturday, 27 July 2013

Processing people?


I guess its possible to turn just about any form of human interaction into a process or to describe it in process terms? After all, all a process is is an effort to deconstruct and make sense of a complex set of interacting variables and put them in some sort of order so they can be replicated. It’s reductionist - I doubt anyone would deny that - my interest today though is in reconstruction.

This morning Kate and I spent some time Skyping from on opposite sides of the planet. Our focus was to provide support to one another, to share understanding and to enhance completely separate coaching and team development journeys each is on. 

The coaching and organisational development books probably say what we found in considerably fancier ways. Forgive us if what comes next is nothing new. These felt like precious discoveries this morning. 
Process or paradigm descriptions proliferate in social care. Many have had significant impact in changing the lives of people in receipt of support and that has to be a good thing. Right? Agreed. Nothing to argue with there.

We have both spent part of our working life dedicated to teaching process - deconstructing “the way” to do something and then reconstructing it so others can learn, emulate and reproduce or in other words “do it”. Coaching, person centred planning, strengths based supervision, solution focussed team meetings.... blah blah blah.... all offer some such examples.

Once process is taught  and understood there are people who seem to really “get it”. They breath life into it and there’s something fundamentally awesome in their delivery and impact. Everyone can see it. No-one can name it. Others just “do it”.   Watching them work is like looking at a body without life. It’s profoundly uncomfortable.
Whatever it is that one person can do that the other can’t  it is superordinate and grappling an understanding of it seems urgent. Let me tell you why.
There’s not one of the processes listed above that are not in someway configured to alleviate human discomfort, confusion or bring relief to real life situation. Connect with people in any of these processes and fairly quickly you bump up against some kind of pain. A considerable amount of it comes from human interaction, other people or the lack of them in someone’s life and thoughts. 
That’s a scary life truism. It is pretty terrifying in the context of human services. What else are we about? Who’d know that knowing we are in the people business we’d be so tuned out to the internal life of our people and the dynamics that go between them.  Who’d have guessed that we’d spend so much time teaching process without really understanding the “life the body needs to make it live”.
We have decided to start to write, to start to put words around the “life” and not the process, to think about whether it’s possible to deconstruct that instead of process. We want to try to find names for it, ways to share it and ways to come to understand and apply it better in human services. Why? Because human services need humanity to be what they set out to be.  

Our human service system will be eternally indebted to some incredible process thinkers for their contribution to improving the lives of people we serve and those who work beside us. It’s time to take it up a notch now. If we are in the people business isn't it obvious? I can’t believe I have missed it with this level of clarity until now. If we are in the people business surely it’s time to explore and understand the nature of people?

This thinking belongs to no-one and everyone. It’s ours and its yours. This isn’t a two person thought piece. We need as much help as we can get. Share your thoughts. Everyone of those is precious too.

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