Threads and Hiccups, I

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were exciting days.  First came news, from my friend who’s been hoping to buy the Current House for several months, that she just might have removed a major roadblock.  Saturday brought more good news on that front, along with some insights about where we might look for the Next Right Place and what, exactly, we might be looking for.

And then, on Saturday afternoon, came a “reminder” email about a training session I “was scheduled” to lead.  Today.  A session that I’d agreed to do, if needed, back in May, but then assumed I wasn’t needed for because no one had ever contacted me again.  That led to some lengthy email conversations and a poor night’s sleep.  So Sunday afternoon and evening were quiet  – other than a loud and recurring case of the hiccups, which had started after dinner on Saturday, reappeared in the middle of the night, and then reappeared again, at least three or four times, Sunday morning, afternoon, and evening.  Yes, they came back – twice – on Sunday night, too, and they’re back again as I finish this post.

Oh, and I bought a book and started reading it.  And, inspired by Debbie’s post, I “bought” another one for free.  Both books are connected, somehow, with what we’ve been talking about recently.  And so are the hiccups.

At first I wasn’t sure how the hiccups connected with the other threads; in fact, I almost didn’t include them … until they started up again, persistently and stubbornly, as I was drafting this post.  Perhaps, I thought, they’re a metaphor for the hiccupy communication about that training session.  It seems there was an “oversight” or “miscommunication” among several Powers That Be, each assuming that the other had been in touch with us small-session presenters.  Hiccups like that are common, though annoying, in large organizations.

Fortunately for everyone, I had no other plans for this morning!  According to the agenda, the participants should accomplish at least five distinct (and unrelated) tasks in the two-hour small-group sessions ; they’ll also be learning about three or four Critically Important Initiatives for two hours in larger-group sessions.  Is the disconnected, hiccupy structure of the day another hiccup connection?

But what about the threads that seemed to be coming together last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday?  What about peeling, the Moving of Cheese, and the crush as metaphor or symbol of the factory-thinking paradigm?  How are those connected with hiccups?

When I was a child, I often got loud hiccups … and I hated them.  Oh, how I hated them!  I thought they brought too much attention to me, made me stand out, at least temporarily, in a factory-world where everyone is “supposed to” fit in.  (Loud as they were, at least from my perspective, I doubt they were that loud … but try explaining that to my angry, frustrated child-self!)  Factory thinking of the scientific management type is all about removing (literal and metaphorical) hiccups, gaining efficiency through standardized processes, and I had learned those lessons well.

Hiccups, literal or metaphorical, peel the factory-notion of just fitting in, at least for a moment.  They move your cheese and reorder your priorities; if you’ve had them for a while, all you want is for them to stop.  Right now.  And when they stubbornly continue, factory-management tools fail miserably.  Yelling and labeling do nothing … unless “scaring them out of  you” works.  Pain-punishment cycles and contingent rewards?  Equally ineffective.  Hiccups, when they start, keep going until they’re done.

And, as my mother used to say, hiccups are “very real.”  You wouldn’t envision your crush having hiccups, since crushes are about a perfect fantasy.  The imperfect but beautiful reality of another person with different opinions, different tastes, and other traits can cause all kinds of inconvenient hiccups for a crush.

There’s no provision for hiccups, whether physical or technological, in the perfect fantasy plan for today’s training session, either.  I’m reminded of a Young Ms. X I once knew, whose perfect fantasy plans for covering everything had no room for students to ask questions about what was covered.  In her perfect fantasy classroom, all students understood everything – but not until they’d experienced her perfect explanations and perfect activities.  And besides, she said, “they should come for tutoring” if they had questions.  That’s what perfect fantasy students do – and they never have hiccups, either.

As factory-teachers, do we have an unstated perfect fantasy classroom like that?  As Powers That Be, do we have  perfect fantasy versions of staff meetings and training sessions?  Is that why those inevitable hiccups and interruptions to the perfect fantasy make us angry?

Responding on Google+ Friday, Brendan noted that

Working on real relationship, getting to know people’s real needs, and learning how to co-create value is definitely harder than using stereotypical lenses.  But, it opens up many more possibilities, and arguably much more joy.  The catch is that it involves a greater level of tangible risk.  (Illusions and crushes have risk, as well, but this risk tends not to be perceived, or is of a simpler “yes or no,” “on or off” variety than the complexity inherent in relationships outside of archetypal and factory-defined roles….)

Part of the challenge inviting people into the idea of joyful learning community is to help make those risks seem (and be!) worth it, relative to the at least apparently easier and more secure process of factory-model and archetypally-defined roles and identities.

What if the inevitable hiccups and interruptions – the ones that factory-paradigms encourage us to hate and eliminate – have an important role to play after all?  What if, when they happen, they give us builders of joyful community the chance to share our work and our worlds, to seize upon those moments of reality and help dispel the perfect fantasy?

What new threads, connections, and hiccups will reveal themselves today?

Published in: on July 15, 2013 at 11:17 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. This caught my attention because hiccups often occur because we live in separate castles – fiefdoms of education in which the rank and file may be chatting across the moats but those who function as the castle keepers often compete rather than collab with each other – and even worse act as if the other castles don’t exist except in times of crisis. As a result, lack of communication leads to problems and conflicts that shouldn’t exist – the rank and file often see what’s coming but have no influence. In the old days, isolation may have had less effect in schools and silos were often intentionally cultivated. Today – the need to work as teams in organizations is not a luxury but a necessity. Turf and fief building steal potential from the people at all levels. We must think of ourselves and act far more like an ecosystem than a castle or factory school hierarchy – if we want to realize what’s needed and possible in edu-communities.

    • Pam, that image of castles along with factories is really powerful! Thank you! And yes, it is time to move beyond both and start building ecosystems together, isn’t it?

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