QWLC uses an ordinary Venn Diagram to illustrate a ProZone (Productivity Zone). The Venn Diagram is simply a circle - everything inside the circle represents the mathematical equivalent of the number "1" - all there is to something. In our case, all there is to a person, a definable group, or an organization. Everything outside the circle represents everything else. As we equate the Venn to a system, everything inside the circle represents the system, and everything outside the circle represents the environment within which the system exists.
In Figure 1, the circle may represent you, a single individual. It could also be used to represent your family, or your organization. The point is that the Venn can be used to represent a whole "anything."
From a living systems standpoint, nothing can stand alone. Everything is connected in some way to those influences in its environment. It is only recently that science has come to believe that the "nothingness" between parts of a system is actually one or more "fields" that have an influence on parts of the system as surely as those parts that are more recognizable and definable. For our purposes, that means that everything has an influence on everything else. The popular theory suggests that the flap of a butterfly wing in East Africa influences the breeding of a hurricane that ravages the coast of North America. From this perspective the theory remains elusive but is easier to grasp.
The Venn in Figure 2 can effectively represent the relationship between two individuals
or between two otherwise defined entities - two groups, for example, or one individual
to a group. This Venn describes that there are some known commonalties between the
two entities, yet there are still some areas that are not known to the other. To
be even more practical, there are some things that each person has in common, and
there are some things that each person does not know about the other. The common
(overlapping) area is by our definition a Prozone.
Our treatment of the Venn thus far and our creation of the ProZone is ready to take a giant leap from theory to practical concerns. In reality, we are not alone in our lives. We are interactive creatures. So much so that without interaction we may even die. The need to interact is so strong that people will interact in a dysfunctional relationship rather than suffer the possibility that they could be worse off with less or even no interaction at all.
We refer to the overlap between people in a relationship as a ProZone. When parts of the ProZone turn to "rules of behavior that allow the relationship to be successful" then culture has entered into the ProZone. The ProZone is only a common area of knowledge, experience, or exposure that may or may not result in a set of rules that the parties will follow. But we do know that the presence of a ProZone is dominant in the formation or reformation of culture.
The next Venn offers a typical configuration. Three people in a relationship connected by a conduit. If these are people, the person in the middle holds a position of extreme power and responsibility as the sole transmitter of information between the two "outer" people. Each of the "outer" people in this relationship can only know things about each other that are conveyed through the person in the middle.
Being in the middle is often a difficult place to be. It is the source of many frustrations and resentments. Being in the middle may be easier then being on the "outer" fringes of this relationship. At least being in the middle affords unfiltered information and less restricted access.
As with Figure 2, this Venn can be horizontal (as depicted - representing peer relationships) or vertical - reflecting a hierarchical relationship. Whenever "authority" enters the relationship, everyone involved has a new dynamic to consider. When authority is sensed in relationships both the individual in authority and the person without it think and behave differently than they would if the relationship were peer-to-peer. The introduction of authority causes people to remember previous experiences and conditions to which they have been exposed (even though not directly involved) as they make judgements about their current situation. To some degree every person with authority suffers from every other person's experience (real or imagined) with other authority figures. Often these influences have been more negative than positive. Relationships with those in authority have also been characterized by plenty of one-on-one time (Figure 2), or sequential information exchanges (Figure 3).
People are not only in dyadic relationships (two people) they are in multiple relationships on a more-or-less continuous basis. Figure 4 represents three people in a systemic relationship rather than two or three in a sequential relationship. The most important learning from examining this Venn is the exponential nature of ProZones and culture expansion. Figure 2 included two people and one ProZone/Culture. Figure 3 jumped to three people but added only one additional ProZone/Culture. Now that we have three people in a systemic rather than sequential arrangement, the number of ProZones/Cultures has grown to ten!
This creates an enormous complexity that befuddles most members in complex organizations. Figure 4 explains the flow of information through a potentially dysfunctional chain similar to Figure 3, by avoiding the common area, that can end with potentially irresolvable resentment. Embedded in the same figure is the solution - deliberately fill the most common ProZone and intentionally collaborate to develop the rules (culture) that are in the best interest of all concerned. It is this same principle that makes the Internet so valuable. Common information is always available to everyone with access.
Finally, we are all "carriers" of the information we obtain through ProZone creation. Remove the overlap with everyone we come in contact with during the day and we're left with Figure 1. Figure 1 now contains a new "everything" with which to contend. We assimilate, interpret, amend, restructure, and create a new "us" with each encounter. At some point we will stop shifting and harden the interpretations from one encounter and apply our hardened interpretations to the next. We'll create habits that serve us well and become rigid in ways that serve us poorly. Because we're human we'll follow the same pattern of learning and applying what we learn to success as we define our own success.
Understanding the implications of ProZone activity allows us all to take advantage of every encounter to learn anew. The bond we have formed with our old thoughts doesn't have to prevail. We are in full charge of what we become. Creating common areas of understanding, speaking our thoughts so others have access to them is an essential ingredient of creating higher levels capacity. Asking the tough questions that allow answers to take a rightful place in the arena of common knowledge strikes at the heart of what might become resentment and develops our sense of mutual and reciprocal priority. Mistrust fades. Alignment strengthens. Our individuality reinforces our unity.
Copyright 2004 Leadagement Technologies, Inc. (757) 591-0807 - www.ltodi.com - H - August 2004