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Home Education Career Why is soft so hard? (Part 2)

Why is soft so hard? (Part 2)

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Management experts report that one of the biggest obstacles to sustaining organizational change and transformation is the reluctance of senior managers to shift their attitudes, ways of being and patterns of behavior - thereby leading to the continuation of the very culture that needs to be changed. Or as Peter Senge and Fred Koffman write,” Herein, lies a core leadership paradox: Action is critical, but the action we need can spring only from a reflective territory that includes not only cognition but body, emotions and spirit as well.” (The Heart of Learning Organizations, 1993, www.SOL-NE.com)

The subjective world offers a way to explore what is essential for success in the objective world of results, performance, systems, processes, etc. We must recognize that each world is qualitatively different and valid, has a different set of principles and rules. Each demands a different kind of participation, development and skills. They are all interrelated and interdependent.

Take Nepal as a case:

In Nepal, the largest investment has been in the lower right hand corner of SYSTEMS (primarily in infrastructures). Yet donors and the government continue to admit that the low rate of success is largely because of the outmoded attitudes, management systems, and styles of leadership, poor accountability and commitment in Nepali institutions. However, in reality, they continue to pour investments in the lower right hand quadrant of the hard, visible quadrant.

In recent years, more and more projects are being funded to address the subjective worlds - with a large dose of ideas and methods from objective world. The classic case is of donor agencies insisting on the exclusive application of the logical framework analysis - also known as ZOPP - as made famous by GIZ and other agencies. In this logical framework, there is no recognition/inclusion of the subjective worlds. The worlds of intention and culture, it is assumed, will develop and change by themselves as long as investments are made in the objective world.

Or take another pattern: individuals are send to donor countries at huge costs for degree programs or short term study tours without addressing the subjective worlds of attitudes, ways of being and the organizational culture and values in which they have to operate. Or for that matter, the majority of training programs in Nepal do not see the necessity of helping participants embody the concepts and ideas into their ways of doing and being – which require a different approach altogether. No wonder most training courses are considered to be so ineffective.

The recent attention on capacity development, institutional capacity, governance, and rights based approach demand an integrated approach. Unfortunately, Western agencies and their counterparts in the South continue to rely almost exclusively on the lower right hand - on infrastructures, systems, polices, laws, economic growth, money, new institutions, etc. While the rhetoric of aid/development is that they are in the business of social change and development which includes the world of subjectivity, the actual investments continue to be made in the lower right half - the world of structures.

Clearly, institutions such as the World Bank, UN system and bilateral agencies are subjective-adverse and objective-addicted. In the case of Nepal, fifty years of investing billions of dollars by aid agencies and by Nepali government has clearly revealed that by ignoring the subjective world of INTENTION AND CULTURE has resulted in minimal impact on Nepal. (Also refer to Jagir Culture and Chakari, Karma and Ke Garne by Ravi Pradhan).

If we can recognize and remove the blinders that lead us to believe that world is like a machine, and objectivity is the only reality, we can inquire into the role of the subjective world of meaning, wholeness, emotions, love, compassion, altruism, commitment, and ethics.


Ravi Pradhan is the founder of Karuna Management and has over two decades of experience as an international consultant and trainer in management and organizational effectiveness. His current focus is on change management and leadership as well as on introducing mindfulness based emotional intelligence. He lives in Nepal and  Vietnam where he is working on a similar mission.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 19 April 2015 11:02 )  

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