Thursday letter, Phil Runkel

[From Dag Forssell (931209 1600)]

Continuous improvement is a never-ending iterative process. The
solicitation letter, addressed to Gary this time, is changed in the first
three paragraphs. Additions to the first two; the third cut. More
likely to attract interest? Greater clarity? We shall send 500 tomorrow
and find out.


Gary Cziko, CSG-L Dictator December 9, 1993
210 Education
University of Illinois
1310 S. 6th Street
Champaign, IL 61820-6990

Dear Mr. Cziko:

Isn't it strange that in our scientific age we are unable to find
consistent, lasting answers for chronic problems in leadership,
management, education and relationships, yet continue to find such
answers in the physical sciences? Perhaps we are not as scientific in
as many areas as we like to think. This failure manifests itself in
business as costly inefficiencies--lack of commitment and motivation,
conflicts, lost sales, destructive stress, absenteeism and turnover.
Management practices depend on individual leaders' understanding of
psychology. If the psychology is inadequate, nothing will work well.
This letter introduces a new way to understand psychology.

To develop a scientifically valid psychology of the future, which will
be able to show us how to find solutions to our chronic problems, we must
first identify what the central phenomenon of psychology is. _Perceptual
Control Theory (PCT)_ suggests that the phenomenon most basic to our
existence is this: _We act in order to affect what we experience._ We
learn to affect experience to make it come closer to what we want it to
be and keep it that way. We _control_ our _perception_ of what happens
to us. Consider why and how you eat, drive your car, argue with your
colleagues, scratch an itch, build your confidence, earn money. Control
is proactive. To study this basic phenomenon is to study everything you
do, every moment of every day.

Contemporary psychologies are based on a version of the scientific method
which can easily be shown to be inadequate to explain this central
phenomenon of our existence.

If you agree that _you act in order to affect what you experience,_ 100%
of the time, you have already grasped the foundation of PCT. As you learn
more, you will quickly see that when you study how people get along
together, it makes a great deal of difference whether you believe that
each person is actively directing his own experiences (or trying to) or
whether each person is responding to stimuli, whether from the outside
or inside.

As a manager, I have tried to understand how and why people behave and
interact, in order to be a better leader. I became aware of PCT several
years ago and have studied it with support from the originator and a
group of researchers who develop and apply it. I have found that it is
clear, provides good direction and leads to mutual respect and
understanding, both at work and at home. I have developed a training
program to teach the theory and show how it can be applied to improve
management practices.

On the back side of this letter, you will find a copy of page 1 and part
of page 2 of an introductory article. We will be pleased to send you a
reprint of the complete article along with a booklet that describes our
training program and suggests ways for you to evaluate these ideas
further, without obligation. Just call or return a copy of this letter
with a note on it.

We would like an opportunity to show you the scientific principles of
perceptual control and how to apply them to improve your organization's
productivity, quality and morale.

   Signed Dag Forssell

I just received a loving letter from Phil Runkel. It is wonderful to
have several such careful and supportive friends. I think netters will
find something of interest, so I have scanned it. Here it is:

5070 Fox Hollow Road
Eugene OR 97405-4008
5 December 1993

Dear Dag and Christine:

Thanks for sending me your booklet dated November 1, 1993. The first
piece in the Booklet has a note saying that it will appear in the
_Engineering Management Journal._ Good. And that it will be the first in
a series! Good! Most of my remarks here will be about that first article.

Your letter arrived when we were in Japan. Then a few other things came
up to delay my reply. Also, before I forget it I want to mention the
autumn issue of _Organizational Dynamics,_ 1993 22(2). I think it can be
very valuable to organizational consultants who can understand it. And
I think anybody who knows about PCT will be able to understand it
readily; the idea of higher standards controlling lower standards is key.
The assumptions in system concepts and principles control what standards
lower down can control. The issue of the journal contains five articles.
I do not think the one by Ulrich and others is worth much. The one by
McGill and Slocum is sound, but it won't add anything to what you already
know. The other three told me something about learning in groups that I
would not have been able to say as well. This bunch of authors, I should
warn you, is using the word "dialogue" in a very special and limited way.
You won't know the details of what they are including and excluding under
that word until you read the article by Schein. Then the remaining two
articles by Kofman & Senge and by Isaacs (the first two in the issue)
tell useful tales about applications.

Now to some comments on "Perceptual Control: A Key Management Insight."
I think the ordering of topics the amount of space given to each the
connections made among them--all that sort of thing is fine. I find the
diagrams easy to read. The one with the hair and the two ears is amusing.
Since this piece will appear in a journal for engineers, I expect that
most of your readers will benefit from the diagrams (I despair of
offering diagrams to social scientists. Most of them use diagrams in
about the same way they use Rorschach blots.)

There is an asterisk in the title of the article. But I see no note at
the bottom of the page. I do see an asterisk on the first page at the
beginning of the heading "Defining perceptual control." Could you
possibly be asking that heading to double as a footnote? See my enclosed
note on asterisks.

At the upper right of page 2 is a paragraph beginning "All behaviors...."
Here you are using "control" in two senses: (1) trying to make things and
people in the environment do what you want them to do and (2) controlling
perceptions. I understand that you want to lead your readers gently to
the idea that all they can hope to control adequately is perception, and
one way to do that is to hook them with their meaning for the word. But
in choosing that tactic, you legitimate their understanding of control.
That will make difficulty for the reader at the middle of the second
column on page 4. There the key idea of controlling perceptions appears
only in a parenthesis! And you give there no warning against hoping to
control the outside world. I think some readers will stumble about there.

On page 2, in the second paragraph of the second column, you say that the
operations Manager "aligned" everyone. But that is Beyond his power. That
way of writing, too I think pushes readers away from the meaning you want
to convey later.

On page 3 in the middle of the second paragraph that begins on that page,
you speak of "this terminology." I think of "terminology" as more than
one word, so it took me a while to find to what you were referring. I was
misled, too, because you did not write of using terms; you wrote "depend
on." Maybe "act as if" would clarify. And then you might write, "the
implication of doing so." Or something like that.

Page 3 the "cause-effect model." The feature of that assumption that you
want to emphasize, I think, is not the fact that it postulates causes and
effects, but that it is linear, not circular. And its distinguishing
feature is not (as you write at the top of the second column) that it can
contain only one cause and only one effect. The linear assumption permits
any number of causes and effects. They are dealt with statistically by
such methods as factor analysis, multiple regression, canonical analysis,
nonmetric scaling etc.

End of second paragraph in the second column on page 3. "... they cannot
offer a complete ... explanation. True. Neither can any other theory. No
explanation is ever complete or ever will be.

Two paragraphs later: "... functional explanations of how people
function" sounds odd.

Same sentence: Deming's rules will be interpreted differently by
different people. It is true that a well-formed theory, one that points
unambiguously to the kind of observations to be made, can help people to
interpret more similarly assertions such as Deming's rules. But no theory
ever enables people's interpretations to be identical. My point is that
PCT gives *more* agreement about such matters not complete agreement.

In the middle of the next paragraph, you can omit the comma after "select
a rule." And some of us would prefer "... such knowledge, just *as*
engineering practice...," not *like.*

Page 6, first sentence: "literal" means by the letter. The dictionary
nearest to my hand says "conforming to the exact or primary meaning." You
do not mean that a human brain contains little rectangles, dotted lines,
and so on, nor that components of the brain are arranged in a rectilinear
array. I think your diagram is a *functional* explanation; it explains
the functions that we think must occur, whatever the actual geometry of
their locations or the actual multitudinous connections of the component

On page 8, you have expressed the core idea of my book better than anyone
has yet done it in one sentence. I have not done it that well. ("When
statistics are appropriate; when models are required." Credit belongs
to Mary Powers. Dag)

Toward the end of the pamphlet, on page 11, you may want to erase
"Continued on back flap" and "Continued from front flap."

On page 13, it is not clear whether what is there is a continuation of
the back cover of the book.

On page 15, under "References," you write of a complete list, and then
in the next sentence, you write, "Entries in this list." It is not clear
whether you are speaking of the list you just mentioned, the complete one
in the file biblio.pct. Maybe it would help to write, "Entries preceded
by an asterisk in the partial list below are available from ...." or "In
the partial list below, entries preceded by an asterisk...." I would put
the asterisk after the entry or use a different symbol, maybe +, =, or

. Or maybe bold type.

Now I turn to your short letter, the one beginning "We are mailing...."
Take the capital letter off "Managers." And take the asterisk off
"Control*." And I would put a hyphen in "enclosed one-page letter." And
strictly speaking, the enclosure is not a reprint, because it has not yet
been printed in the journal.

None of the troubles I have found seems ruinous. But perhaps you will
find two or three of my comments to be useful.

Sincerely yours,


Philip J. Runkel

Best, Dag