Promoting PCT -- preface for article collection

<[Bill Leach 941225.0016 EST(EDT)]

[Dag Forssell (941223 2200)]

Comments and corrections solicited.

I like it.

Ideas suggesting that people make each other happy or disappointed, that
stimuli in the environment determine what we do and how we feel, that we
are conditioned by circumstances in our environment, or that we control
our actions, are common in our culture.

I believe that this is one of the most difficult concepts to "overthrow".
I can't imagine that there is a person alive that "has not been 'made'
unhappy by the stimulus of another (or 'made' happy)." Most of us fail
to realize that we ourselves setup the perceptions that allow these
feelings to come about. The "pop-psycholigists" are aware to at least
some extent what the truth is in this matter. It is common for such to
point out that "WE decide to become upset or sad." Of course even though
true, it is not necessarily such a simple matter as conscious decision.
We (usually) have spent years setting up references for perceptions
associated with the actions of others.

It is easy in principle to recognize that stimuli DO NOT CAUSE BEHAVIOUR
(or for that matter feelings) and another matter altogether to learn to
recognize when we are "activating" an "automagic" program as the result
of experiencing a perceptual error.

PCT, of course, helps one to realize that such "automagic" programs are
just that... programs that we have established ourselves and run. Once
one learns, for example, that the "feeling" of anger should trigger an
"analysis" program as opposed to a "reaction" program then one is already
"on the way" to employing an understanding of PCT to one's own life. I
admit that PCT itself is not absolutely necessary to use such an idea but
for at least some of us, it is a firm foundation for why we must try to
reflect upon what we want to control and what others with which we
interact might want to control.

I have been almost continually amazed at how in business, my former
assumptions that others "wanted the same sort of goals" as did I (and
therefore were at "cross purposes" with me) have been wrong. In
business, the control system concepts of PCT help one to recognize that
each individual has their own specific and to a least some extent unique
control loops and references.

In contract negotiations, for example, I have been absolutely amazed at
how many times "bottom line costs" were NOT an issue but rather the
"advisary" was concerned about something for which I almost had no
opinion whatsoever!


[From Dag Forssell (941223 2200)]

In the last few days I have composed a page with a preface and
acknowledgements for my collection of articles and papers called

           Management and Leadership:
        Insight for consistent practice

(Listed in INTROCSG.NET posted 941222).
Comments and corrections solicited.


I remember a trainer saying: "Once a person has understood a new
idea, you can never erase it." In the last few years, I have come
to understand how true this statement is. As with many things,
there are two sides to the coin. On the one hand, it is exciting to
learn a new concept. Your outlook on life changes when you
understand a new way of looking at familiar phenomena. On the other
hand, existing ideas, which were new to a person growing up a long
time ago, stay put and literally defend themselves against new
ideas that come later.

I discovered a new concept that helps me understand myself and
people around me when I read _Behavior: The Control of Perception_
by William T. Powers. I have found it exciting, productive and
satisfying to be able to visualize forces at play in personal
interactions, conflicts and agreements. The principles I learned
are far more detailed, testable and convincing than any of the
ideas of human behavior I had considered before. The idea that our
behavior (actions) controls our perceptions explains how we live
our lives. It explains conflict and cooperation. It shows how we
create stress and what we can do about it. As I explained
experiences to myself using this idea, it made sense to me.
Gradually, the idea became part of my life and being. I find it so
valuable and useful that I want to teach my family, friends and
professional acquaintances.

While the idea is simple and easy to test and demonstrate, it is
very different from the ideas that I grew up with. I now realize
that every person develops or assimilates some explanatory concepts
of human behavior while growing up, and that these concepts can
vary widely. Ideas suggesting that people make each other happy or
disappointed, that stimuli in the environment determine what we do
and how we feel, that we are conditioned by circumstances in our
environment, or that we control our actions, are common in our
culture. The ideas a person learns are woven into a personal web of
understanding. We naturally believe in our personal web, sometimes
disregarding contrary evidence, inconsistencies or how much trouble
we get into. To be accepted, new ideas must fit what we already

This explains why a revolutionary idea is easily rejected or
misunderstood in the present while future generations will learn it
in school and think the idea was always obvious to everyone. The
idea that the purpose of all our actions is to control the state of
our perceptual world may fit well with the understandings some
people have developed. Others may find it difficult because the
idea does not fit with many common ideas in our culture, including
the ones I just mentioned. We control perceptions but not actions.
It may be difficult to realize that it is impossible to control a
perception and at the same time control the action necessary to
achieve that control. We can observe actions, but that does not
necessarily mean that we routinely control them.

Grasping a new idea that conflicts with some of the ideas you
already accept requires a very open mind (a healthy skepticism of
everything) and some effort. There is a threshold effect here. The
idea and the physical model explaining control of perception must
be understood before the usefulness is realized. I expect that once
you understand the idea, you will see how this idea gives you the
capability to reason from first principles in every situation. This
is far more simple and consistent than to seek guidance from
countless (inconsistent) past experiences.

I sincerely hope you find this introduction of perceptual control
theory with applications to management and leadership clear and
relevant. I will appreciate any thoughts or experiences you have
upon reading it.

Several friends have supported me as I developed a training program
and papers to explain PCT and suggest applications.

The seminal insight and writings of William T. (Bill) Powers are
the solid foundation on which my work is based. Bill Powers is a
warm human being who walks his talk, an untiring champion of clear
thinking and a patient teacher. Members of the Control Systems
Group, an association of researchers exploring PCT, have helped me
keep every phrase as correct, clear and unambiguous as possible in
order to avoid misinterpretation and confusion with conventional
thinking. Translating the elegant framework of human understanding
we call PCT into bite size pieces of explanation and direcion for
everyday life has proven a challenge. Ed Ford has traveled this
path before me and has written about how to improve personal
relationships. Applying insight from the first principles of PCT,
Jim Soldani was able to effect lasting improvements in the
performance of a manufacturing plant. I am grateful for permission
to draw upon the work of both Ed and Jim. Based on traditional
research and personal experience, Mike Bosworth has developed and
teaches a non-manipulative sales program called Solution Selling
which fits well with conclusions drawn from PCT. Mike's suggestion
that I develop a program to teach sales managers how to develop and
maintain productive personal relationships with salesmen got me
started on my mission. The first three papers in this book are
reprints of articles published in the Engineering Management
Journal. My editor, Dr. Ted Eschenbach, made many helpful
suggestions for clarification, especially where PCT leads to
conclusions that surprised him.

December, 1994 Dag Forssell

Editorial mission
_Engineering Management Journal_ is the quarterly journal of the
American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM). It is designed
to provide practical, pertinent information that relates to the
management of technology, technical professionals, and technical
organizations. . . .

For information about EMJ and ASEM, contact

P.O. Box 820
Rolla, MO 65401 USA
(314) 341-2101

Best, Dag