The superiority of PCT

[From Fred Nickols (2009.02.17.1446 MST)]

Jim Wuwert wonders what things would be like if psychologists thought PCT was superior. I wonder if it really is.

Don't get me wrong, I think PCT is a far superior, more elegant and more personally satisfying explanation of human behavior than anything else out there. (I'm especially fond of the behavioral and cognitive illusions as indictments of other explanations.) However, if all it is is a better "explanation" then it's just another abstract theory (and no amount of modeling, simulation and experimentation will alter that). Only when PCT gives rise to a superior set of methods, tools and techniques for coping with commonplace situations will its conceptual or theoretical superiority become evident.

I can, for example, recast most if not all of what is known about managing and improving human performance in the workplace in light of PCT. But the reaction of many would be a resounding "So?" Why? Because those empirically proven tools and techniques don't change; they're simply arrayed against a different theoretical background.

But I keep looking. I know there's a pony in there somewhere.

···

--
Regards,

Fred Nickols
Managing Partner
Distance Consulting, LLC
nickols@att.net
www.nickols.us

"Assistance at A Distance"

[From Bill Powers (2009.02.17.1534 MST)]

Fred Nickols (2009.02.17.1446 MST) --

I can, for example, recast most if not all of what is known about managing and improving human performance in the workplace in light of PCT. But the reaction of many would be a resounding "So?" Why? Because those empirically proven tools and techniques don't change; they're simply arrayed against a different theoretical background.

Could you give an example of a proven tool or technique for doing this?

Best,

Bill P.

(Gavin Ritz 2009.02.18.11.35NZT)
[From Fred Nickols (2009.02.17.1446 MST)]

The short answer I've been getting so far is, I or others have to find that
elusive method or tool. We have been given the basic structure of the theory
and now we are required to find the method of use. I suppose it a valid
argument. I don't buy it though for one I get along just fine without PCT.

The fact of the matter is I already have tools and methods that are probably
subsets of PCT but I don't need PCT per se to be able to use them.

Don't get me wrong, I think PCT is a far superior, more elegant and more
personally satisfying explanation of human behavior than anything else out
there. (I'm especially fond of the behavioral and cognitive illusions as
indictments of other explanations.) However, if all it is is a better
"explanation" then it's just another abstract theory (and no amount of
modeling, simulation and experimentation will alter that). Only when PCT
gives rise to a superior set of methods, tools and techniques for coping
with commonplace situations will its conceptual or theoretical superiority
become evident.

That's why Elliot Jaques RO Theory has been so successful, it has methods of
use that give the same results over and over again.

I can, for example, recast most if not all of what is known about managing
and improving human performance in the workplace in light of PCT. But the
reaction of many would be a resounding "So?" Why? Because those
empirically proven tools and techniques don't change; they're simply
arrayed against a different theoretical background.

But I keep looking. I know there's a pony in there somewhere.

It's a stallion Fred not a donkey.

Best
Gavin

[From Fred Nickols (2009.02.17.1627 MST)]

[From Bill Powers (2009.02.17.1534 MST)]

>Fred Nickols (2009.02.17.1446 MST) --

>I can, for example, recast most if not all of what is known about
>managing and improving human performance in the workplace in light
>of PCT. But the reaction of many would be a resounding
>"So?" Why? Because those empirically proven tools and techniques
>don't change; they're simply arrayed against a different theoretical
>background.

Could you give an example of a proven tool or technique for doing this?

Well, one example would be the human performance diagnostic originally developed by Geary Rummler and subsequently popularized by Robert Mager and Peter Pipe. It posits a factor known as "task interference" (which we would probably call a "disturbance"). Missing tools, erroneous schedules, faulty components, etc can all prevent a person from carrying out a task to the desired end. In the PCT scheme of things, I think these show up as "disturbances" to control. Another element from this scheme is clarity of expectations (i.e., does the performer know what is expected of him/her?). I've always recast this more along PCT lines in the form of something like "Has the performer adopted the result in question as a goal?" Getting goals from on high down to lower levels of the organization is typically known as "cascading." But, saddling someone with a goal or expectation is a far cry from having them adopt it as a goal of their own. Another factor has to do with whether or not the performer has access to or can be provided with timely, accurate information about the current state of the result in question. Results themselves, or what I call "performance targets" show up in PCT as controlled variables. And so "feedback about results" in workplace parlance translates to perceptions of a CV in PCT.

So, every time I've tried to lay out what is known about managing and improving human performance along PCT lines, I keep giving myself a ho-hum.

Oh well, it's no doubt me, not PCT.

···

--
Regards,

Fred Nickols
Managing Partner
Distance Consulting, LLC
nickols@att.net
www.nickols.us

"Assistance at A Distance"

[From Kenny Kitzke (2009.02.17.1910 EST)]

As a practitioner in using advanced management systems, I have experienced the same kind of “PCT, so what?” response in others as well as in myself (at least initially).

Men have discovered and used levers to successfully move heavy objects that they could not move by themselves by lifting or pushing. They did not need to use physics or mathematical theories to realize there was something good about using levers. They did not need to understand the “theory of levers” to remember they could be helpful to produce better performance and show the method to others or write books about it to earn a wage.

It is not surprising that men discover things that work better in achieving human work goals. It seems to me to be precisely the same regarding the nature of human beings. By study, accident, luck, experiments, etc., psychologists and managers also discover methods that help reduce human trauma such as internal conflicts, anxieties, relational problems working with other people, leading them, etc.

Is it important for them to know why their particular method worked, one time and even some of the time? Perhaps, not. But, if the theory was understood, I can only imagine that it would be a more advantageous situation where any particular conditions necessary for success might be understood.

In the case of learning that a certain shaped airplane wing produces sufficient lift to allow an airplane to fly 60% of the time, I doubt if many of us would want to book an airplane flight. Working more than half the time, even 90% of the time tried, would not cut the mustard. As it seems to turn out occasionally, even a relatively small amount of ice formed on an airplane wing can change its lift and airplane flight probabilities to an unacceptably low level. Without, understanding the basic theory and being able to test its applicability, the usefulness of practical knowledge may be helpful but insufficient.

My sense is that PCT, actually HPCT, has helped explain behavior to such a degree that we can finally understand why certain employees seem to be motivated by what managers do and others are unmotivated or even demotivated by the very same external stimuli. That makes HPCT superior to other explanations or examples of psychology that produce desired results by humans only some of the time.

Even though I have used HPCT to help leaders achieve superior results consistently above those without the theory, I have more recently attempted to teach them why some of these management and leadership methods work only sometimes for some people and not at other times to look for methods which work almost always in specific, verifiable situations.

It has not been easy and progress in seeing the value of the correct theory seems especially difficult with leaders who consistently get superior results without understanding exactly why. This is quite natural in humans as I perceive them to be made/wired.

I hope to get a few converts and bring one to our CSG conference (if I live long enough) to explain to you and me how theory made a difference that is reproducible and superior in being more capable leaders of people.

Until then, I continue to struggle with the answers to your questions.

In a message dated 2/17/2009 5:51:43 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, garritz@XTRA.CO.NZ writes:

···

(Gavin Ritz 2009.02.18.11.35NZT)
[From Fred Nickols (2009.02.17.1446 MST)]

The short answer I’ve been getting so far is, I or others have to find that
elusive method or tool. We have been given the basic structure of the theory
and now we are required to find the method of use. I suppose it a valid
argument. I don’t buy it though for one I get along just fine without PCT.

The fact of the matter is I already have tools and methods that are probably
subsets of PCT but I don’t need PCT per se to be able to use them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think PCT is a far superior, more elegant and more
personally satisfying explanation of human behavior than anything else out
there. (I’m especially fond of the behavioral and cognitive illusions as
indictments of other explanations.) However, if all it is is a better
“explanation” then it’s just another abstract theory (and no amount of
modeling, simulation and experimentation will alter that). Only when PCT
gives rise to a superior set of methods, tools and techniques for coping
with commonplace situations will its conceptual or theoretical superiority
become evident.

That’s why Elliot Jaques RO Theory has been so successful, it has methods of
use that give the same results over and over again.

I can, for example, recast most if not all of what is known about managing
and improving human performance in the workplace in light of PCT. But the
reaction of many would be a resounding “So?” Why? Because those
empirically proven tools and techniques don’t change; they’re simply
arrayed against a different theoretical background.

But I keep looking. I know there’s a pony in there somewhere.

It’s a stallion Fred not a donkey.

Best
Gavin


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