[From Fred Nickols (2015.11.04.1012)]
Here you go, Bruce.Â
After all these years you still donâ€™t get it!Â Carrot and stick doesnâ€™t work.Â Truth is it never did.Â It was all an illusion.Â You wanted so badly to believe it worked that you deceived yourself into believing that it did.Â It didnâ€™t.Â What was going on is what has been going on for thousands of years; namely, the folks in charge use carrots and sticks to get the rest of the world to go along with their program, to do what they say and behave in ways they want.Â And so the rest of us have played along for thousands of years, making it look like were going along with the program when in fact we were gaming the system.Â We got what we wanted and we made it look like you were getting what you wanted.Â We adopted protective coloration; we walked, talked, looked and acted like the compliant little patsies you seemed to want.Â Sad to say many of you still do and so many of us continue to game the system, your system.
What you donâ€™t seem to get is that you and the rest of us are whole lot more alike than you want to admit.Â You have purposes; so do we.Â You are a â€œliving control system;â€? so are we.Â We all have goals and we all pursue them.Â Our chief means of doing this is our behavior.Â We all behave in ways that are meant to bring what we see into alignment with what we want to see.Â When you start messing around with my behavior you are interfering with my means for obtaining what I want.Â You probably donâ€™t care about that but know this as well:Â When you interfere with my behavior you are also interfering with the chief means I have at my disposal for delivering what you want me to.Â You need to back off and let me do my job.Â Iâ€™m perfectly willing to bust my buns getting you what you want, providing you pay me a decent amount, support me in doing it, donâ€™t ask me to do something that I believe is illegal, immoral or unethical, and say â€œThanksâ€? when I deliver.
There was a time when you were primarily interested in my overt, observable behavior.Â My working activities consisted of interactions between me and materials; I made things, I produced a product.Â You could see what I was doing and how I was doing it.Â You could even pay an industrial engineer to figure out the best way of doing it and then pay me to do that.Â What you wanted from me was compliance and I gave it to you.Â On occasion, you wanted me to do something stupid.Â Me being me, I shrugged and did what you asked.Â Sorry about that but you wanted compliance and I gave it to you.Â In any case, because you see what I was doing and if it was what you wanted you came to believe that carrots and sticks worked.Â You could see that for yourself – or so you thought.
Now my working activities consist primarily of interactions between me and information and between me and other people.Â You canâ€™t see whatâ€™s going on in my head and, often enough, you canâ€™t tell me what to do.Â I have to figure things out.Â Gone are the good old days of prefigured working activities; now, they have to be configured in response to the circumstances at hand. Â Whether you realize it or not you are no longer paying me to comply with your wishes or dictates or commands; instead, you are (or should be) paying me to produce results of value.Â To do that I require no small amount of discretion regarding the what, how, when and why of my work.Â In a word, I require â€œautonomy.â€?Â I also require support, cooperation, the right tools and help coping with various obstacles and barriers when they crop up.Â I canâ€™t do it alone and neither can you.
Yet, you cling to those carrots and sticks and I find that very puzzling.Â Why?Â Because I know you know they donâ€™t work with you so why do you think they work with me?Â You and I are both human beings.Â You and I are both â€œliving control systems.â€?Â Why do you cling to those carrots and sticks?Â Is facing up to the fact that we are more alike than different too much for you?Â Is it perhaps that you canâ€™t relinquish the illusion of control?Â Or is it perhaps just that youâ€™re a mean S.O.B. who doesnâ€™t care about people?Â I certainly hope not but I have run into one or two of those in my time.Â I will tell you this:Â We can accomplish a whole lot more working together than we can if weâ€™re at odds with one another.Â Think about that.Â Think about what you might be able to achieve if you had an army of committed, dedicated, competent, autonomous employees, all of whom were communicating, cooperating and collaborating in pursuit of goals and objective that all of us valued.Â Nothing could stop us.
If you think this all just an empty rant on the part of a disgruntled worker let me assure you that is not the case.Â I opened with â€œafter all these yearsâ€? which was my way of referring to the shift to knowledge work which knocked carrot and stick approaches into the dustbin of history.Â So let me tell you a little story, a â€œsea storyâ€? from my Navy days, one that took place way, way back in 1957.Â Itâ€™s a story about compliance and Iâ€™ve titled it â€œAye-Aye, Sir.â€?
The year was 1957. The ship was the USS Gregory (DD-802), an old WW II Fletcher-class, 2100-ton destroyer. We were in Subic Bay in the Philippines, taking a break from our assignment of patrolling the Formosa Straits.
Tommy Lee Crabtree, a Gunnerâ€™s Mate second class (GM2), was working on Mount 53, one of the shipâ€™s five, five-inch gun mounts, trying to repair an as yet unidentified malfunction. I was new on board – a Fire Conntrol Technician (FT) with the rank of seaman (FTSN) – and I was worrking on Tommy Lee, trying to persuade him to invite me to join the armory coffee mess. The armory coffee mess was, in my mind, the most prestigious coffee mess on board the Gregory and I badly wanted an invitation to join. The invitation had to come from Tommy Lee; he was the Gunnerâ€™s Mate in charge of the armory. Short-term, my hopes werenâ€™t high but I was prepared to hang in there for the long haul.
Tommy Lee and I were taking a break, hunkered down on our haunches next to the gun mount, sipping coffee and chatting in a way calculated to help him take my measure, when we spotted our division officer approaching.
Our division officer was a Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) whose last name was Wilson. A bit of a martinet, he had been nicknamed â€œWhip,â€? an appellation borrowed from a star of western movies of the 1940s.
â€œWhat are you two doing?â€? he demanded.
â€œDrinkinâ€™ coffee and shootinâ€™ the breeze,â€? replied Tommy Lee.
â€œWhat are you doing here?â€? Whip asked of me.
As a Fire Control Technician, my work required close coordination with the Gunners Mates so I had a convenient and true cover story. Standing up, I said, â€œI came down to find out when Tommy Lee thinks weâ€™ll be able to include the gun mount in the daily workouts and if he thinks weâ€™ll have to realign it with the rest of the gun battery.â€?
â€œWell,â€? demanded Mr. Wilson, turning to Tommy Lee who was still squatting, â€œwhen will it be fixed?â€?
â€œI dunno. Iâ€™m workinâ€™ on it. Probably sometime today.â€?
â€œThat’s not good enough! Get off your ass and get back to work! I want that gun mount back in working order A.S.A.P.!â€?
Tommy Lee looked up at Mr. Wilson, studying him much the way he might contemplate a cockroach he was thinking about stepping on. Then, rising slowly to his feet, Tommy Lee grinned wickedly and asked, â€œAre you ordering me to fix this here gun mount, Mr. Wilson?â€?
â€œYes, I am,â€? snapped Mr. Wilson.
Shifting his coffee cup to his left hand, Tommy Lee saluted smartly, and said, â€œAyeâ€‘aye, sir. What would you like me to do first?â€?
The reactions played across Mr. Wilson’s face like moving scenery: first puzzlement, then comprehension, followed in quick order by surprise, shock, humiliation and, finally, red-faced, apoplectic anger.
â€œWhipâ€? Wilson had been heisted on his own authoritarian petard by a master of the game. Tommy Lee had done what all those who must submit to authority have been doing for thousands of years, he submitted. He went passive. He asked Mr. Wilson to tell him what to do and he would do it. The problem for Mr. Wilson was that he couldnâ€™t issue the necessary orders. Tommy Lee knew that all along. â€œWhipâ€? Wilson was just now finding that out.
Furious, Mr. Wilson glared at Tommy Lee, then turned and stomped off without a word.
Tommy Lee watched him go, and then turned to me, doubtless feeling expansive as a result of besting Wilson, and said, â€œNick, you can hang your cup in the mess when you’re finished.â€?
Witness to Tommy Lee’s triumph, the potential value of my testimony at future gatherings outside the armory had earned me the invitation I sought. I was in.
So let me ask you:Â Do you get it now?
From: Bruce Nevin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, November 04, 2015 8:28 AM
To: Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet)
Subject: prediction and control of behavior
[Bruce Nevin (2015.11.3.10:36 ET)]
This short paper is instructive. https://goo.gl/DgCvhA (PDF download).
The PCT message is that people are autonomous and that although coercion can influence the internal processes setting references, it has destructive unintended effects that are unpredictable. (NB that this formulation is not the same as saying “it doesn’t work”. Using a hammer to open a window “works”.)
This paper shows why this PCT message is unwelcome, and why funding continues to go preferentially to those who promise prediction and control of behavior.
Strategy and tactics for advancing recognition and acceptance of PCT must take this into account. I can think of several avenues.
Address progressives who oppose policies and activities that these APA psychologists and psychiatrists have supported.
Bring PCT in support of management writings about motivation that say the old stick and carrot don’t work and instead emphasize autonomy, e.g. http://goo.gl/8GBCDu.
Analyze how collectively controlled variables are exploited for manipulative purposes. This would take us into PR, propaganda, peer pressure, the ‘epidemic’ theories for things like teenage suicide and increase in number of mass shootings in schools, and much else currently viewed with carrot/stick glasses.
I’m sure you can think of more. Many people are frightened at current social, economic, and political conditions, and would like to understand how to participate more deliberately and constructively in improving our collective social and economic arrangements. Some proportion of those in positions of great influence are people of good will but impoverished understandings.