I have a model for that

It’s a brilliant world we live in where people are so concerned with learning about how best to be around others that they take the time, consideration and effort to put together a model which is easy for others to understand. Everything around us has a model we can refer to in some meaningful way.

Want to go to war? Enlist in the armed forces, practise some exercises, learn a drill, learn how to take orders, rise through the ranks, lead entire teams, direct them, follow a pre-defined strategy. Want to start a new business? Go to your bank to take out a loan, learn about profit and loss, learn about marketing, learn about getting private investments, pick up the Dummies guide, it’s all been done before.

Yesterday I was training a group of managers on Management Essentials and covered topics like coaching, feedback, delegation, performance management, setting objectives, and setting expectations. Each and every one of those has a model that you can refer back to and give you an idea about what to do and how to do it well. I’ve learned though, that the models don’t actually mean much. They’re just an easy way for people to quickly understand how to relate to a certain topic.

The STAR model for example in giving feedback – Situation, Task, Action, Result, is equally used in coaching interviewees on how to respond to competency based interview questions. With a bit of free thinking you could also use it as an alternative to the GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) model for coaching. There will forever be models available to enable us to be better at what we do. It’s the way we work, there’s no escaping it. In every part of your daily life, there will be a model you are using, being subject to, or inventing yourself.

There’s nothing wrong with that, we just have to pull our heads out of the sand for a while and have a look around us. That model on developing a competency framework, is it right for us? That model on using social media in the workplace, does it fit the way we work? Did you see the business model Bob Is Great used for going out to market? Can we adapt it for our own needs? We’ve got so used to the blind leading the blind, that we’ve stopped creating and innovating for ourselves.

To be fair, there is a maturation process in there somewhere too. You can only be confident about pushing boundaries and creating new ways of doing things if you’ve already been exposed to what’s there already. Very few of us have the capacity and or capability to take something new and develop a model never before seen. It takes time, effort, and dedication.

There’s no real nugget to today’s post, just my thoughts on models, and how we use them.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

8 thoughts on “I have a model for that”

  1. Sukh – I think you are wrong! There is a real nugget and I’d even say a universal truth….

    Models (& processes) can be useful and illustrative but by their nature their are limiting. The danger is of becoming blinded by the model and not observing what is going on around you, especially with you team. This I think is the learning you are sharing and it is a nugget!

  2. Whilst I recognised models and knew how to use them I very rarely did until @robjones_tring helped me out with my thinking around a strategy piece.

    It wasn’t that I wasn’t thinking correctly. I was. I just needed the models to validate my thinking for myself. It helped me visualise the issues and the roadmap (for want of a better word) to the solutions.

    More importantly, it helped me explain my thinking in context when working with others.

    So you can blame him if I ever grab a whiteboard marker and draw out the Boston Consulting Group Matrix πŸ˜‰

    1. Brilliant example of how you can use models for different purposes. In a different vein, because of my role (quite like Mr Jones) models are part and parcel of my being. And being able to pluck one out that suits purpose is often the tricky part! Glad he was able to give you a frame of reference that you needed to validate your thinking.

  3. I think I’m with David, Sukh. The problem with models is that they crystalize decent thinking into a nice neat process. I sigh and run when someone mentions ‘Good to Great’, not because it’s wrong but because slavishly following it is never right. I’ve written about the Bhuddist idea of ‘beginner’s mind’ here: http://www.west-consulting.com/people-matters/2011/02/cavalier-or-zen/ – the expert has one way, the open minded is free to find their own way. Models should liberate but they end up constraining. Marcus Buckingham is worth a read too: http://www.amazon.co.uk/First-Break-Rules-Marcus-Buckingham/dp/1416502661

    1. Hi Kevin, and such a good point. Any models we use should be about freeing thinking and enabling better ideas, but we can get too fixated on following what the model says for fear of making a wrong step. As I said in my reply earlier to you, a part of me thinks that the facilitator may play a part in this too. Are they aware of what the group is doing with the tool, and can they help them see that there are other considerations to bear in mind? Or is it that groups are too keen to just follow the ‘way it’s done’?

  4. Models, Processes, Best Practices – these are “tools” that are both necessary and useful. Even if a model does nothing more than provide “….an easy way for people to quickly understand how to relate to a certain topic”, then I think it’s worth including/using. Having something that explains a topic in a clear, consistent fashion has to be a good thing. Likewise, processes such as performance or project management provide a consistent starting point.

    As you and others have said, it’s how and when these tools are used/applied that make all the difference – and can sometimes de-value them.

    I agree, asking questions to determine fit, usefulness, and adaptability are vital but often we dive straight in with the ready made solution. In this day and age of doing more with less and the push sometimes to find “quick (and low-cost) wins” it’s easy to see how this happens.

    I encountered this mentality during the last project I worked on. I was asked to include and implement a process that had been deemed as a “best practice” in one part of the organisation. The reasons for wanting to use this “best practice” were because it already existed, hence no development cost/time required, and because we could show as a project team that we were using a “best practice” and thus we would get kudos for doing so and not “re-inventing the wheel”. Little thought had been given to whether this approach would actually move us towards OUR goals. There seemed to be a reluctance to create a “best practice” of our own and be the innovators. I am sure that this comes down to what you say in closing, the team lacked time and were unable to put in the effort and dedication required to do this.

    Great post! πŸ™‚

    1. What a brilliant response Sarah, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. Your point about them being a great starting point is the view that should be promoted by facilitators of the tools and users of the tools. They can enable such good thinking and produce excellent results, sadly I have only seen this happen with those who really understand the opportunities as well as the limitations of each model used.

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