My intent here is to throw support behind what Jeff, Adrian, et. al., are attempting to accomplish.
I feel a bit guilty because my immediate response to learning about the (prior?) project was to publicly declare that it would have a result that was opposite its purpose. It would be divisive. It would cause untold pain and difficulty. So, with the exception of attempting to get a couple of points removed that I believe were in conflict with scripture – and then only indirectly working with the committee – I stayed as far away as I could. Mea culpa.
This time, I can’t escape having some responsibility. I’m in the good ship Covenant. :- )
The first section will be an overview of things learned developing standards.
The second will present some thoughts about human interactions and culture that make the process more than challenging.
The third will contain a few observations about how these things relate to the current work on the Guide and Standard.
In reviewing the systems created for developing successful standards, the primary focus will be on those things that worked well. In doing so, I acknowledge that these processes were “without God,” in the sense that those participating in the efforts, as a group, had no expectation of celestial assistance. Nevertheless, I believe that there are “truths” that may be of benefit in the current endeavor. If we were all as Moses, on the mount, able to see all things from the beginning to the end, then none of this would apply. We live in a temporal existence. Time moves linearly. Our thinking processes are linear. Our communication is linear. Our learning is linear. So, the suggestion is that those processes, skills, and cultures developed for standards may find some application here. Many things will not be applicable, such as the time required for completion.
Consider this: In Ethernet (IEEE 802.3) there is a requirement that technical motions pass with 75% of members in attendance. During the process, various “factions” would vie to win the hearts of the group. There was a lot at stake. These
Please understand, I did not develop these things. I inherited them. Early on, I resisted the way things were being done. I had a better, more efficient way. This was common among those newly entering the projects, more especially during the early period when it appeared as if chaos had free reign and there was no possibility of closure.
In these various projects, there was an end (aim, goal, desire…) which was so well known and understood that it was rarely, if ever, discussed. Every company depended on the fact that if they built a system according to the standard (specification), it was guaranteed to inter-operate with every other system from every other company built to the same standard. This single idea allowed the most ruthless of competitors to work together amiably and productively.
Every task force meeting began with a slide with the word “R E S P E C T” on it. It was clear to all that while ideas could and should be challenged, the people who offered them should never be demeaned, disparaged, or devalued.
As a consequence, task force members would make strong arguments for and against proposals, but ill feeling was virtually non-existent. These individuals would defend their corporate positions by day,
There were individuals that were selected to lead task forces, sub-task forces, committees, and short-term “ad-hoc” activities. Over-lording by these individuals was not tolerated. So, while there was equality among the membership, there was an expectation that the leaders would hold the groups’ interests in higher regard than their own. During one such meeting, I was removed as chair for using my position (strong man) to argue a particular point. I was spanked (and spanked hard). It was humbling to stand in front of the task force (about 300 people) and have to apologize.
While everyone was “equal,” there was clearly great respect shown to those with greater experience and knowledge, not just of prior standards and technology, but of the process and all things related. For example, I remember one meeting where after several hours of animated discussion in a room of around 200 industry leaders, one highly respected person went to the microphone and said, “A good, B bad” and sat back down. Everyone who had queued up behind him also sat down. We voted. “A” was adopted, unanimously. He had no position. He had no “authority” other than a long history of wise counsel, effective communication, a willingness to help, and respect for others. At another time, one person literally grabbed the microphone and lectured
Culture Is King
I have no idea how many cycles of standards it took before the culture was established. I have no idea how much pain was required before the prior task forces figured it all out. I was a beneficiary. In fact, I would argue that the world at large are beneficiaries of these outstanding individuals. Among these people were many of the most brilliant engineers I have ever known. They were in key positions in major corporations. Many were meek, eager to learn new things, and wise beyond measure. When presented with insurmountable problems, they would find solutions every time. This wasn’t just expected; it was presumed.
These major projects were sophisticated and complex; there was nothing light-weight about them. History has repeatedly shown that
Phase 1: Objectives
The objectives defined the scope of each project. Once
Metaphorically, this is not unlike “getting the question right.” While there is always the
There was an additional context here that may be important for us some time in the future. Each “Study Group” was required to answer a number of requirements prior to being authorized by a higher body to become a formal “Task Force” and begin the official process of creating a standard.
Phase 2: Solutions
Once the objectives where set, the team went about attempting to resolve all the technical requirements. This would include choosing between alternative implementations. It would frequently include surveys, simulations, testing and related verifications,
Phase 3: Writing And Approval
There was no attempt to write until everyone had agreed on how it would be done.4
The voting was done with the ability to
Why This Works
There is a presumption that there will be future projects, and everything does not have to be accomplished at one time. This inspires focus.
Once achieving top level consensus (objectives), you never have to go back. Taking time to get the objectives right (no matter how chaotic and frustrating that may be) makes the subsequent steps flow far more efficiently and reduces the overall time and effort.
It allows simultaneous, overlapping projects operating in different phases with defined boundaries and few conflicts (sometimes there were interdependencies, but that is not the same).
The skills required for each phase differ. Distinct phases
allow individual skills to be better exploited.
After completing the overall cycle a couple of times, everyone pretty much knows what needs to be accomplished,
and how much effort and time is required. This helps in the setting of future objectives, tasks, etc.
Everyone trusts the process, and they trust each other. They know it works. They don’t have to obsess about trivia. They know the right things will get worked out at the right time. They can stay focused.
Everyone knows what to expect and are dedicated to work together to make it happen.
If you have ever worked for an R&D company, you are probably aware that not getting the requirements (objectives) right usually means that the development work keeps taking hits as changes keep creeping into the project (e.g., feature creep). If the development work is rushed, generally the manufacturing ends up in an endless loop of changes. There is a presumption, and perhaps even an appearance,
Rules of Order
Standards bodies generally use
Many who don’t know how these rules work together dismiss them as being overly burdensome. Ironically, it is those who understand
Proposals / Motions
Proposals are generally most successful when supported by a significant group of respected members. In short, there is weight in numbers. For any particular topic, there are usually individuals that are “must haves” as co-sponsors. This means a great deal of cooperation and collaboration prior to a meeting. These are more successful yet when those who might be expected to weigh in on different sides of an issue resolve issues in advance and present a unified voice. This requires a great deal of advanced preparation.
Common practice is for a proposal to be introduced, with refinements made between meetings, resolving issues and broadening appeal. The proposal returns as an agenda item at the next meeting with a larger number of supporters. These proposals most generally focus on a single objective. They are simple, concise, and lucid.
Competing proposals often advance. Proposals might end up being combined, dropped, or developed in full until the larger group makes a final decision as to which to support. Infrequently, those that “lose” go home and are not seen again (leaves with a third part…).
The nature of the “common cause” overwhelms descension;
“loss” does not mean failure; and
people is decoupled from respecting ideas.
For example, let’s assume that three
the committee would recognize that the subcommittee has the appropriate expertise, and tell them to go back and do their job, and
the leadership (formal and informal) would assist and guide the subcommittee members with the deliberations.
There are certain characteristics occasionally found in standards efforts
If a company
It is sometimes difficult for a “new guy” to come on board and get audience with those who have more substantial influence. While every attempt is made to be fair, there are some people who are so full of themselves that they can’t get on board with the culture. I’m not attempting to support “engineer” stereotypes, but sometimes…. While the group may be patient and willing to sponsor and assist new members in interacting in a positive way, some simply do not have the personal skills, social skills, and/or maturity to do so. While every attempt is made to separate ideas from people, some are simply so obnoxious as to be insufferable. Mostly, they don’t last. Sometimes they become discontents, if not pariahs. Sometimes -- I’d like to think that I’m one of these -- they learn, adapt, and mature.
Not unlike us, most standards organizations have volunteer armies. Many have companies support these
The Natural Man – The Human Component
Without going into details, Joy and I have spent the majority of the last three years praying to have shown to us our false beliefs and false traditions. While our list is interesting, perhaps more important is a budding understanding of just how pervasive the “natural man” is in our lives. Frankly, it is outright scary. This section is a very brief attempt to assemble a few, key
One of the biggest lies we hold to is that we are rational beings who are fair in our assessments and act with equanimity.
Want to increase a person’s bias? Put them in a biased group. Various studies have shown that an individual injected into a group will invariably increase in bias and become further polarized, regardless of whether their bias aligns with, or is in opposition to, the group. Want to increase a group’s bias? Let a group sharing a common bias socialize together. Call it whatever you like. Gospel Doctrine? Relief Society? I haven’t seen the study yet, but I’m guessing that social media does the same. The implications are huge. You don’t need to study the gospel; just share your feelings and your stories. “Well, I think….”
Various studies, as touched on in the article, show that some of the most animated people in a discussion (this is being kind) are the least knowledgeable and least prepared to make an unbiased assessment.
The bottom line is that we are all biased, with those who think they are not, perhaps being the most biased of all. While researchers are beginning to identify ways to mitigate bias, it seems that the single most important way is to be able to identify its existence. It is easy to see it in others, but what about ourselves (see “Mirrors” below)? I can’t underscore how important this is. If our biases
Survival of the Fittest
Is it in our DNA to want to be king of the hill? It seems as though there is no end of methods to prove our superiority in a social environment. We speak louder. We use sophisticated language. We cite authorities. We drop names. We get angry. We threaten. We play one-up-man-ship. We roll our eyes, smirk, ridicule. We flaunt our wealth, our strength, our pretty face. On and on it goes. In all of these things we attempt to elevate ourselves rather than others. It is about us winning, which appears to pretty much be the opposite of being one. Is this the way we are “programmed,” or is this cultural, or is it someone exploiting our weaknesses, or….? All of the above?
I have always loved this scripture (emphasis mine):
Romans 2:1–2, CEV.
Some of you accuse others of doing wrong. But there is no excuse for what you do.
Romans 2:1–2, KJV
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for
Feel like someone else has it all wrong? Well, just maybe you are being shown what your weakness is.
You’ll be surprised just how often, when you hear people criticize or complain about others, that the root issues they expose are issues they personify. We seem to be blind to our own foibles. Personally, this has proven to be true far more often than not. It still amazes me how prideful so many people are, how quick they are to believe fables, how slow to study in detail, etc. Yep. THAT IS THE POINT! It is humbling when you start to pay attention.
Consensus vs Strong Man
The natural inclination is to presume that there is something fundamentally wrong with a strong man. Well, I would argue that Christ, as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, is the quintessential strong man. In making this statement, I recognize that I may be shifting the definition of the words away from their cultural, pejorative intent.
Classes teaching “circumstantial leadership” often open with the fire in the theater example, where it is pretty obvious that calling a meeting to brainstorm, build esprit de corps, etc., is ridiculous. What is needed is a “strong man” to assertively get everyone out. Frequently, these classes also teach that when this style of management is used in excess, which doesn’t have to be very often, it has been proven to damage creativity and morale.
I wish there were more pages to explore this concept. In the end, it is important in the current context to identify what is fundamentally most important. Is it to get something done and get it done fast? Is it to identify and nourish futures leaders? Is it to help us learn that we are nothing without the Lord? Is it to teach us why God has chosen leaders so often in history? Is it to force us to depend on Him, directly, as the ultimate strong man? Is it so we can learn skills that can only be learned when there is no strong man present (maybe, not even Him) so that we won’t develop into “command[ed]… compelled… slothful and not… wise [servants]?”
Spheres of Influence
“Positive and negative spheres of influence” are interpreted and applied in many ways, including: international relations7, corporate responsibility8, interpersonal relations, and more. There are numerous problems, not the least of which is who decides what is positive and what is negative. Here, the only objective is to look at the interaction between these spheres of influence and consensus.
Generally, we believe that consensus is a good thing, and it is
Had the Bay of Pigs adventure been successful, that critical meeting, rather than being understood in the context of a “negative sphere of influence,” would now, most likely, be understood as a “positive sphere of influence.”
The risk of such a situation, where there is unanimous agreement for a wrong decision, may be especially great among a group of individuals raised to be passive-aggressive (this citation is particularly interesting to read).10
The point of all of this is to underscore that much of what you thought you know about human motivations, interactions, and culture itself may well be fundamentally and inexorably wrong. There is so much more that might be included. That is the sandbox in which we are playing. By mutually understanding these things, perhaps we can better avoid the traps. In the end, without external light and truth we are unlikely to succeed, where success is defined not by us – in point of fact, based on everything above, it cannot be – but by someone far more intelligent than are we.
Observations and possible application
I believe that we have a good start of figuring out how to move forward in a positive way. I support the effort.
Frankly, like many, I’m not sure that the specifics of the activity matter nearly so much as what we should be learning and how we should be growing together. We have no manual. We are making this up as we go, hopefully with a Celestial Champion.
I have no idea if the above concepts and ideas can be of any real benefit to this work. Nevertheless, based on the assumption that some may benefit, I have a few admittedly leading questions.
There are a number of very high-level questions that are important, but I wish to avoid them, such as: what are the rules for participation?
What is it that brings us together (and drives us to set aside our personal desires for the benefit of the group and/or the work)?
If we don’t know and agree on this, can success be anything other than either accidental or by divine intervention? I have no less than seven answers to this question. I prefer one over the rest, but I will not offer it here. I’m more interested in the group coming to a unity of purpose than I am of pushing an agenda.
Much work has already taken place, so to say that this should be done before anything else would be ridiculous. Nevertheless, if we can’t answer this question, do we really know what we are doing and why we are doing it?
Are there criteria by which a project (any project) is to be judged? Meaning, are there a set of specific measures which reflect the common cause and can be used to guide any and all projects undertaken and ensure that the projects reflect the greater good?
What is the purpose of the current project? What measure is to be used to select what is within the scope of this project, and what should be specifically excluded?
Scope is easy. It is about “right-sizing” the project. It must be big enough to have value, and small enough to be manageable with the given resources (e.g., skills, time). In the current case, there is a much greater possibility to taking on too much (especially if there are short term completion dates imposed). This underscores yet again the advantage of allowing for additional projects. To further emphasize this point, I placed many questions about doctrine and principles in the “Objectives” section, below.). It is intentional that there are far more than any single project should attempt to resolve.
Note, these criteria should not be the same as the “common cause,” above. Neither should they be in conflict.
These represent only those of higher priority. These are in no specific order.
Do we understand the assignment?
What is meant by “principle?”
Should the Articles of Faith be included?
Potential areas of modification and/or elaboration:
What laws and ordinances are essential for salvation?
Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost?
Enduring to the end?
Called of God… by those in authority?
What is “church?”
Book of Mormon as far as it is translated correctly?
Doctrine and Covenants as far as it remains pure?
of Great Price?
Which definition of “Zion?”
Do we include important principles from the Lectures on Faith?
Knowing character of God?
Knowing our course conforms to God’s will?
Difference between prophecy, revelation, and inspiration?
Payment of tithing?
Non-monetary care for the poor?
Unrighteous monetary systems?
Baptisms for the dead?
Sealing of children to parents?
Sealing of husband to wife?
Coming to know Christ (and Father) in mortality?
Administration of angels?
Old Testament Law & Law of Moses?
Graven images (other idols)?
What did Christ mean quoting Malachi in 3 Nephi?11
Altar / steps?
Calendar (holy days, feasts…)
Prayer / Fasting?
Teaching (especially children)?
…and so very much more….
Now, lest you think this is merely a laundry list of things, let me take one seemingly innocuous item—prayer—and
Pray in His name [appropriately, He doesn’t demonstrate this in His prayers, but it clearly wants to be in this list.]
I don’t write this to upbraid anyone, but I do note that this has been a difficult transition for me. I was never taught to pray this way, and even now it is very easy to revert back to praying in the LDS
This drives back to the prior points about common cause, criteria, objectives, etc. Why would anything about prayer even be mentioned? Maybe because there are criteria to correct false doctrines, beliefs, and/or traditions? Maybe because there is a criterion to highlight distinctions with other faiths? Maybe because the cultural norms we wish to tacitly adopt/retain/ignore are the very things preventing us from moving forward?
There is more from standards methods that should probably be explored, but I’m guessing that only 1 in 100 who opened this even read to this point. So, enough.
Summary and recommendations
There is within the current work a variety of the above concepts (both positive and negative) being demonstrated. It seems that taking the effort to understand these in a specific context might help to keep the larger group from either continuously looping or succeeding through exhaustion (meaning scaring off, wearing down, or otherwise winning by being in the lead boat), or forcing the Lord to intervene in the strongest sense of the word.
Some of the ideas put forward
Thus far, I have seen no attempt (that I remember) to identify the common motivation of the participants. While you ponder this last point, no, I don’t think, “…because the Lord commanded it” is an adequate answer. What are your motivations for participation (or not)? Consider also what you think others might offer. Most especially, what would be the motivations of those who abandoned the process from the beginning due to – dare I say it – us; should they not also be part of the “one?”