The Eleventh Hour



The Eleventh Hour
By Adam Chan

Between 9am to 5 pm, there are a million things to do. How then we prioritize what to do first? Some may treat this frenzy converging priorities as a routine while some are oblivious to them until … With some many items to prioritize, it’s not unusual to experience repeated eleventh hour or fire fighting situations in today’s pace. One can imagine the many priorities we need to juggle in our daily undertakings. Even humans are created with the amazing natural ability to filter information to manageable chunks; one will not be spared of the anxiety created by any last minute situations.

Inadvertently we take mental shortcuts resulting in stereotyping of certain personalities are more likely to procrastinate. However this is not conclusive. Take this analogy for food for thoughts; a flaming butt will easily break into fire when placed among dry leaves and shrubs but if it is placed in a snowfield, the flaming butt will in no time extinguish into an inert butt. I.e. while we can attribute this trait to nativity but the environment surrounding it must offer favorable conditions for it to fully bloom.

While we can graciously view procrastination as innate traits and this perspective will at mostincrease our tolerant and understanding towards this behavior but it still doesn’t eliminate the inconvenience brought by it. No doubt the eleventh hour rush is not encouraged in most organization; this doesn’t mean there are no merits in the eleventh hour rush. Have you heard of the phrase, creativity out of necessity?


A general belief is that the traits are closely tied to the core of an individual; it remains unchangeable for most cases. If changing the core is an uphill task, why not change the surrounding? Certainly by changing the corporate culture and workplace so that procrastination is not conducive seems like a better proposition.

In a tongue and cheek manner, there are three kinds of people in
this world,

– Those who make things happen
– Those who waiting for things to happen
– Those who wondering what is happening

The first one obviously is not one who procrastinates. Not
quite… people who make things happen if they frequently change their minds
unannounced at eleventh hour is no different from the type two and three.
Sometimes, the impact can be greater. What about the other two? Have you come
across people that might fit into the last two types?

The second and third kind seems likely to procrastinate.

From business perspectives, what does it cost to procrastinate?
Take a look at these three facets where business can be adversely affected.

– Loss credibility
– Duplicated use of resources
– Time wastage

Loss of

Eleventh hour work hardly bears quality. At best, it can only be considered as
meeting the minimum mark. Not to mention that it is prone to criticism from
clients. Through sub-standard quality of work, it can leave negative
impressions with the clients. Such impression reflects trust level, commitment
to the task, competency in managing the task or the attitude towards the
engagement. In anyway, all these unfavorable perspectives will surely diminish
the credibility of the service provider. If the clients view the service
provider to have low or no credibility, the business engagement will likely not
develop further. Disgruntled customer simply seeks for alternatives.

of Resources

Can people make sound decisions in the heat of rush? Procurement of supporting
items or services is likely made with incomplete planning or ill-matching
needs. At best, even the right resources are being secured; one may discover
after the rush that they are actually duplicates. Resources can means services,
merchandizes, products and expertise. Such careless management of resources is
common during the eleventh hour.

Pressure (wasting time)

Last minute doesn’t allow procedures or processes to be streamlined, the
mounting pressure results in ill-use of time in pursuing to complete the tasks.

When under pressure, we can find ourselves doing many things but
only to realize how unproductive they have been after we are calmed and
composed to analyze the past events.

The entire team can experience stresses that will likely lead to disagreements during the heat of the tasks. Frequent disagreements strain relationships among the members. When the strain turned into fracture, the team will under perform to the tasks’ requirements.Ultimately, significant amount of time will be wasted because of the presence of such unnecessary pressure.

Just Do It
Inadvertently we will get in eleventh hour situations in our lives. Last minute changes of requests, instructions, etc these are just some unavoidable situations we encountered from time to time. While we cannot avoid last minute situations, we sure can response to them in stride.

In the early sections, I have mentioned that environment can either augment or diminish the tendency to do things at eleventh hour. Let’s start from building habits upon the individual.

At the individual level, one can always develop the habit of prioritizing the many tasks to be carried out. Have a,

– Task list, a.k.a. To DO list

The ability to create a no-nonsense task list will heighten personal situation awareness.  The creator of the list will naturally be more alert to the tasks on the list and this heightened awareness can help in regulating the time and effort allocation to the various tasks. In essence, the tasks will not be forgotten and the right amount of effort can be expended to each task.

It may not mean a lot when an individual is doing this. However if there are sufficient numbers, this mass behavior will take on as the environment characteristics thus it will become self-sustaining.

Induct a group of people to act as the catalyst to develop the anti-procrastination attitude, a.k.a.

– Critical mass.

Leaders are critical in exercising influences on the followers. As long as the leaders are not condoning the eleventh hour attitude, the flaming butt will not burn into fire. It is as important for the leaders to lead by example.

Visibility is the key to shifting or sculpting mindset.

– Reward the behavior, not just the person

Anyone who displays the desired anti-procrastinating habits should be recognized. Giving recognition can be achieved in various means. It can be as simple as giving thanks in-person, writing an email to the deserving person,  a phone call, leaving a text message or formally making public announcement during company events. At best, the person can be rewarded. With the behavior visibly recognized, the desire to procrastinate will be kept at bay.

Last but not least, there are only.

– 24 hours in a day

Prioritizing the tasks doesn’t equate to accomplishing all the tasks in any given day. There is wisdom in relenting and letting go as much as pursuing with tenacity. Prioritizing is not merely a skill, it is a paradigm.

Closing Thoughts
Fighting malaria or dengue is not just how effective the treatment is. In fact, to treat means the damage has been done. We all know how to fight malaria and dengue, don’t we?

It is about keeping the environment to a state where mosquito breeding is no longer conducive. If the company has a culture where procrastination simply cannot flourish, it would not happen, right? Obviously the reality and ideal have discrepancies but it is not the ideal we should be aiming for. Instead we should appreciate the role played by the environment in augmenting or diminishing procrastination. With the desired perspectives, we will be motivated to live right.

Changing the environment may seems something external but it takes internalization before people start making changes to the environment to keep it in alignment to our inner thoughts. Do you think that this same principle can be applied to other parallel situations?

System drives behavior and repeated behavior reinforces beliefs. Whatever we don’t wish to have, never allow it to creep into us discreetly for when it comes to light, it may be too late to reverse the situations.

Let’s minimize procrastination but even if you have been a casualty of it, don’t lose the lesson you have gained through the experience.


Transfer of Learning



Transfer of Learning
By Adam Chan

A sudden silent in the midst of a fluent debrief, follows with a sense of awkwardness among the participants. Head tilting low, glancing on the floor, the atmosphere begins to freeze into silence. For facilitators, nothing can be scarier than this. This setting is not uncommon; the occurrence sometimes leaves facilitators baffled.


After a well structured build-up from inception of the activity until the final stage of the activity, i.e. the transfer of learning hits the wall and all prior efforts seems to be flushed down the drain in a blink. It all goes down hill when the facilitator asked, “How do you apply this at your workplace?”

Achieving success seems inevitable after the excellent build-up but yet … it may not be as simple as it is. In fact it could be the crux of any transfer of learning. Responding positively to the mentioned questions mean getting the participants to commit or to solicit a “buy-in” to a change in behavior which is in reality… not easy. More than often, it is affected by some underlying core assumptions that are governing to cognitive “change switch.”

The following sections will provide some principles and insights to augment our consistency in executing transfer of learning as well as recognizing those invisible road blocks.

Fixation is common; it creates mind blocks that trap facilitators, it projects situations that are impossible to overcome in their minds. For example, you heard from some experience facilitators said this; “good facilitator will be able to achieve transfer of learning”. Our interpretation to this statement subconsciously decides how we will act when doing transfer of learning.

When we think we are, we become …..

Even as facilitators, we are not immune to unwarranted external influences. Things we heard about what makes good facilitation and what don’t are most common. These external influences can transform into fixations unobtrusively over time. Below are some common ones but there are more.

– Too many program objectives, too little time
– Facilitators are solely responsible for the transfer of learning
– Transfer of learning is a well grounded method, it is to be adhered religiously
– Facilitators must provide critical insights to help solve the participants’ issues
– Transfer of learning is the only indicator for program success
– If my fellow facilitators are doing it, it must be the right way
– Transfer of learning is only done at the end

What matters here is to recognize it is not a mandate to achieve transfer of learning for every activity. Over arousal in debrief kills the participants’ responsiveness to any further debrief questions. There is a saying, “death by debrief …” Discerning facilitators can always detect this tipping point coming thus avoiding this downwards turning point.

Limited Knowledge
Anyone who aspires to become an exemplary facilitator cannot avoid the growing pains of feeling inadequate, especially in terms of knowledge and experiences. The bright side to the growing pains is with each painful experience comes a layer of knowledge and experience gained.

There is no substitution to gaining experiences over time. Knowledge can be acquired easily through reading a book. Courses locally are never lacking, attending some to gain more knowledge is again highly accessible. Not withstanding the abundance of easily accessible knowledge, the basis to an effective facilitation session is in its application of knowledge and experiences.

Any facilitator who is carrying some of the mentioned fixations, liberating the mind would be the first wise thing to do. Let’s switch the way we perceive those fixations mentioned previously. By re-phrasing the fixations into liberating statements can help set you free from it.



Too many program objectives, too little time

Less is more, focus on the objectives that matter

Facilitators are solely responsible for the transfer of learning

Transfer of learning is a shared responsibility

Transfer of learning is a well grounded method, it is to be adhered religiously

There are no 10 commandments to transfer of learning, only general principles

Facilitators must provide critical insights to help solve the participants’ issues

Facilitators are not problem-solvers but process experts

Transfer of learning is the only indicator for program success

There are more indicators that make up a success program than just transfer of learning

If my fellow facilitators are doing it, it must be the right way

They may be doing it, but not in a fixated way

Transfer of learning is only done at the end

Transfer of learning takes place anytime

General Principles
As the program is drawing near to the point of transfer of learning, you may wish to use the following general principles to help you decide what you would do.

  • Use lead-in e.g. tell a story
  • Illuminate the benefits of learning transfer before the transfer takes place
  • Revisit the relevant expectations set by the participants
  • Learning transfer should not execute at the start of the debrief
  • Capture any opportunities that imply permission to make the learning transfer

Application – Specific Junctions and Questions
When the activity has reached the point of learning transfer, the critical success factor lies in the questions used by the facilitator. A common pitfall is asking general questions instead of specific questions. After the activity, it is usual to assume the participants can recall the interesting incidents however this may not be true. We humans have the ability to selectively discern the huge amount of information bombarding us. As long as the participants’ minds are not primed to observe learning junctions during the activities, unlikely they will be able to response actively during debrief. This does not imply that general questions cannot be used rather to be wise in its applications.

As facilitators, we should familiar in identifying the critical learning junctions of the activities we are conducting. E.g. discovering the essence of yellow balls in trolley is one such critical learning junction. To help them in making connections between learning junctions to learning perspectives, facilitators should ask specific questions. Here are some examples,

  • For Trolley; why did your team hesitate to make contact with yellow balls? What are some yellow balls at work? With regards to practices, procedures and policies.
  • For Helium Hula; what are the reasons for keeping the hoop on the index fingers? What are some processes at work that are fixated?
  • For Diamond Maze construction; what are your reactions toward the mid-point switch? How do you response to “work switches”?
  • For Warp Speed; from circular formation to staggered straight line formation, do you call it innovation? What can innovation do for you at work?

The above examples are not exhaustive; the point is asking specific questions that point to those learning junctions. This deliberate effort is likely to augment the transfer of learning when the participants are responsive to the questions.

In conclusion, the myth learning transfer can be tied to personal fixated notions about how it ought to be carried out. With fixations, our potential to discern emerging learning opportunities during the session will be limited. By trying too hard to stick to the “rules” will inadvertently kill the ability to sense and participants’ responses as well. After all, facilitation in our line or work is about sensing the right moments amid the dynamism and volatility in any given session where facilitation is used as the communication vehicle.



The Question of Trust



                                                                                                                       The Question of Trust
                                                                                                                             By Adam Chan

Human instinctively seeks happiness and peace as the ultimately state of mind. An artist must paint and a musician must play, one must do what he aspired to do best in order to develop. It may seem achievable through persistence but we know it well enough, any individual achieving such form of personal mastery is usually supported by those who are connected to the individual. Connection is the bridge for relationships and it acts like adhesive that binds and fuses this connection which is commonly known to us as Trust. This value is of bedrock status, like a cornerstone of a building, it binds people together in all contexts, trust cuts through cultural barriers as well as through space and time. It is not bonded to materials and conditions of the secular world but it demands for commitment like oxygen to humans, at the same time it has no limit to how much we can give. Less we can discern it; trust will evaporate like vapor without a trace and effects. Does the picture of the cute dog communicates trust to you?

Trust is tacit, often we don’t explicitly express it towards other people verbally rather in a combination of gestures and words, timing and environment. That makes it harder to discern but certainly it can be felt. We yearn for it when we don’t feel its presence but when it is abundance we often don’t hold on to it.

Trust in Various Aspects

Trust transcend through culture, races, geography, space and time. Probably, there are various aspects of trust that we are aware of its presence and influence. They are too worthy for us think about especially the relationship of each aspect to another. This tacit relationship is hardly easy to comprehend, sometimes even paradoxical. Over-analyzing may result in overwhelming amount intertwined factors that are beyond our channel capacity. If we are unable to synthesize the bits and pieces of data we have systematically torn apart, it has little or no value to strip it to pieces to start with. We ought to discern trust rather to comprehend it. To know trust, let’s try to us our hearts to feel instead of restricting to our heads.

Trust Oneself (Self-efficacy)

Do we need to trust ourselves? Often we think this is about garnering self-confidence but it is hardly the case. To develop the ability to mobilize oneself to perform an insurmountable feat requires self-efficacy. It is defined as people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Most people would describe it as trusting oneself. Life challenges are inevitable and some will strike fear in our hearts or send chill to our bones. If overwhelmed, one may be paralyzed to an extent in losing the ability to make decisions at critical moments. Essentially we are making decisions daily to move ahead with our lives for time moves ahead regardless our following. Hence the ability to make decision nothing less than critical in our lives.

When faced with a daunting challenge, we respond in two common ways. Fight or flight. What may influence what we choose has much to do with the level of self-efficacy each person perceives, a.k.a. trusting oneself. The higher the self-efficacy, likely one can manage any daunting challenges with composure. Albert Bandura, a renowned psychologist who practices behavioral science suggested four main sources of self-efficacy. They are;

  • Mastery Experience– any well developed relevant experience will assist the person in having a higher self-efficacy in taking on challenges.
  • Vicarious Experiences– modeling from others, e.g. learning to play an instrument by viewing an expert in action.
  • Social Persuasion(verbal persuasion) – positive encourage or persuasion from people who show care and concern for the person.
  • Physiological State– the current state of mind prior to taking on the challenge.

More readings on the 4 sources can be found at:

Trust others(Skills, Knowledge & Attitude)                       

We often wonder if chickens existed before chicken eggs or vice versa. Nobody could draw a conclusion to this. Perhaps there are things we will never understand totally in the logically sense but we have fully accepted their existence and relevance. For the question of trust, we know very well both its goodness and vulnerability. We then raise question regarding trust and hope to feel for an answer; should I give trust or wait for it to come? This question has uncanny paralleled notions to that of the “Chickens and Eggs” paradox.

When trust is given and reciprocated with no questions asked, the giver can feel powerless yet not stripped or vulnerable, instead the sense of goodness and peace can be felt rising from inside. We can probably recall one or few significant moments when we have unconditionally give our trust. From the physiologically sense, the sensation of this gesture would be best described as a gently progressive swelling of the heart, dilated pupils, sweaty palms and a sudden increase in breathing. You might find this description familiar, especially to married couples, that memorable moment when both exchange vows saying “I do”. Essentially both parties has given each other their commitment unconditionally, two have become one.

The rapid pace in any corporate settings seems to have transformed trust to other forms beyond our recognition thus we find it hard to discern its presence from layers of masks and distractions. In certain ways, trust has been woven into work processes like meetings, delegation of tasks, handling projects, managing peers, etc. Being competent does help to gain a certain degree of trust from others. E.g. delegating tasks in accordance to the level of competency a.k.a. skill and knowledge; trusting the executors’ ability to carry out the tasks with excellence. A caveat to this; such trust is build upon a changeable foundation, i.e. competency. What if technology has overtaken competency or the initial competency has been relegated to outdated rudimentary skills? Will such trust remain? Would the opportunities be delegated again?

Human creations are countable and measurable, these creations brought about convenience and better lifestyle. Ironically, the have not being found enduring. Even the resolute earth’s gravity is not permanent; the notion of light traveling in straight line can be changed too. Beyond earth, gravity ceases to function as a constant. The many sightings from astronomers reported that light can be bent if the gravitation force is strong enough. The theory of relativity suggested a universal connectedness between all items, regardless living or not. Therefore constant is a perception and once relationships are disconnected, being constant has lost its relevance as like gravity on earth remains constant but not beyond it.

Have humans not tried arduously to quantify, gauge, classed, etc. what we have on this planet? A learner driver needs to obtain minimum number ticks on the check boxes during the driving test to obtain a legitimate license. Would the number of ticks mean anything when an accident occurs on the road? Would the driver be acquitted of the responsibility of the accident because of the ticks on the check boxes? How about giving trust to the driver thus concluding that we will trust the driver for repentance and not demanding for tangible accountability? The society is unlikely to accept such judgment. Therefore trust diminishes when conditions flourish.

Skill and knowledge can be measured and re-measured. Are they real and lasting? Perhaps this is a lengthy way to explain why trust will not be enduring when it is build upon these measurable properties or elements.

Can positive attitude help to build trust among people? Certainly it will. We naturally get along with people we find similar or possessing positive attitude towards life in general. With positive attitude, it augments the inter-personal relationships among people thus trust is naturally built. Once again with the absence of positive attitude, trust can be lost, isn’t it?

Perhaps the anecdotes and perspectives mentioned in the previous sections all point to an unthinkable notion; trust is not to be built on any foundation, trust by itself is the foundation, the corner stone, the fundamental, ground zero, the seed etc. it allows us to get connected to our deepest core-self as well as others and the world we are in. Something that is so secured and founding needs no foundation. When we give trust it should come with no conditions; no expectations for it to be reciprocated, for if it is pure it will be reciprocated naturally.
When we build trust upon skill, knowledge and attitude, we are building trust on various sets of comprehensible conditions. If the conditions are met, trust will be granted. Essentially trust is being traded like commodities or shares under such settings. Any trade agreements come with conditions; it is implicit that conditional trust doesn’t last because conditions are not enduring. In a nutshell, conditional trust is trading.

Trust the System & Equipment

We are surrounded by numerous systems created by humans. Inadvertently, we utilize the available systems to enable us to achieve our daily goals, both major and minor ones. In any subset of any established systems, processes are often found in them, guiding, channeling or funneling both material and manpower resources to achieve certain desire outcomes. (goals, revenue targets, etc.)

Technologies have become an integral part of our lives. The “black boxes” have dominated our living rooms, taken top spot as the accessory of choice, our reliance on it only increases and most have little or no idea what goes on in the “black boxes”. Can we trust this box? Perhaps life moves regardless and we all gradually got accustom to these “black boxes” as part of our lives. It wouldn’t work for anyone if we carry doubts all the time, isn’t it? We enjoyed the convenience they brought for us thus we learned helplessly to rely on these boxes to rule our lifestyles. Certainly they have given us a new kind of inconvenience but over time, we gradually learn to accept the imperfections of these “black boxes” as their standing increases in our lives. Perhaps we have subconsciously developed a relationship with these boxes and learned to trust them even most of people have no directly influence over the functionality of the boxes.

Adrenalin junkies go to great length to seek for thrilling activities to fulfill the rush. Sports climbers relied totally on a fall protection system to govern their lives when they immense themselves in this potentially hazardous activity. The same fall protection system is being utilized in cleaning operations of skyscrapers. Users have learned to rely on the fall protection system as they gain proficiency in using the system they have conceived originally. The trust relationship in this aspect is different from the “block boxes” one. Users have acquired proficiency through training before they use the system. Users are directly responsible for the outcome. We can generalize that with higher proficient, greater the trust on the system.
Humans develop procedures in tandem with the needed equipment to make up a system. Users of the system receive training from the developers to build their trust in the procedures and equipment thus the system.

Trust the Environment (Nature or Social Norms)

We exist in the presence of the environment. It can be totally natural or man-made.

Trusting the social norms, we make important decisions base on the influences from the norms. In the work settings, social norms can be viewed as the organization culture and we commonly define organization culture as “the way things are around here”. More than often, “the ways” are not explicit, new comers learn “the ways” along with the other functional competencies. If culture is tacit, how would one be assured to join any given organization especially not knowing if the theory-in-use culture corresponds to the espoused culture?

People living in extreme climate habitat have little options to doubt when it comes to food source availability. Eskimos navigate miles on treacherous ice sheet, exposed directly to the onslaught of the extreme weather conditions to locate the very scarce food source around the polar region. Margin for error is extremely slim in such environment. Possessing knowledge of the weather, equipment and wild life is imperatives to staying alive. When facing a life and death situation, an experienced Eskimo can synthesize the knowledge and information, making decision that will mitigate any adverse situations; this is commonly known as experience based judgment.

In Amazon jungle, in the effort to stay alive in the jungle, the survivor gradually learns to trust the vines to take his/her weight whilst climbing from high to low grounds. As the survivor gained knowledge of the environment, bolder judgments can be made, like consuming unusual living things in the jungle. Making bolder judgment may very well come from the familiarity to the environment which correlates to increasing in trust. Don’t we trust someone who we know and get along very well?

In general, any society is governed by policies and laws which form the environment. People who live in the environment bounded by these policies and laws gradually learn to trust these rules or some may be conditioned to “the way things are”. It is clear now that we apply discernment in terms of building and granting trust to people, systems or environment. The way trust is fostered doesn’t go with the “one size fits all” notion.

Trust Faith (Supernatural)

An expression of trust; commonly used in the context of religion and beliefs. Nobody has seen GOD in person and yet people can exhibit such strong and firm belief of His presence and existence. Such belief is also known as “Faith” and believers have learned to sense and discern GOD’s presence. Believers know and firmly acknowledge their relationships with GOD even there are no scientific evidence to prove GOD’s existence. Most importantly, believers don’t require such prove of existence, they simple know GOD is with them, all the time.
We have diverse views on this relationship which give rise to the various denominations in this world. Regardless of what denominations, this form of trust between GOD and man requires no conditions except faith. It would be fair to consider faith as the highest form of trust that men can surrender.

The Logic in Trust?

The ease and difficulty in giving trust lies in the ingrained assumptions held by every individual. Assumptions can either augment or limit the ability of giving trust. We often question what if the given trust is not reciprocated? At worse, it is displaced.

Picture this; at the subway during the morning rush hour, standing at a carriage door was a crowd of commuters waiting for the arriving train. A pair of yellow lines painted on the floor extending outwards from the carriage door denotes the restricted zone to be left vacant for alighting commuters. The crowd automatically forms along both yellow lines but not in the restricted zone; cautiously each commuter strategically positioned themselves to obtain superiority over his or her neighbors, anticipating for the train to arrive in minutes.

The sound of the train wheels rolling on the rails increases in volume, the headlight illuminates the leading rails, the mellow screeching braking tone radiating from wheels, the all too familiar commuter broadcast echo through the entire subway offering kind and gentle reminders to all. Suddenly, at the every last moment just before the train halted, a foot straddles into the restricted zone to gain a strategic positioning advantage over another commuter, this action did not go unnoticed and like the opening of a flood gate, the commuters started shoving and jostling their way through the tiny opening that is designed for just two to three persons and yet the football teams of commuters came converging at the opening, placing no regards on its capacity. The results were a bunch of anger charged, disgusted and disappointed commuters has boarded the train slower than what would have been faster if they simply queue to get in instead.

Why did that happen? Did they not know that queuing is a faster?

The general assumption might be queuing is meant for stupid people and smart people always get there first. Queuing seems too civilize to be adopted in a subway environment. Boarding first matters most in rush hour. If others don’t bother to queue up, why should I? Queuing up is not a culture here. When in Rome, do what the Roman does.

This is linear mindset. In another words, each person is solely responsible for his or her own decisions and actions that are isolated from all others. From a systemic point of view, we can certainly identify the negative reinforcing effects of the mentioned assumptions have on trust (see diagram below). Harboring those thoughts not only limits any possible growth in trust, it breeds distrust among people. Eventually it will be manifested in the behavior among people as illustrated in the rush hour anecdote. Nobody mention the word distrust but their behaviors and actions towards one another speaks volume. Conversely when we perceive and appreciate the positive reinforcing effects of trusting others (even strangers) to queue and collectively all commuters will board the train in a shorter duration thus reducing the stopover time at each station. The eventuality is everyone will arrive to his or her destination faster. Wouldn’t that be desirable?

As Maslow stated, humans are always seeking for peace and happiness. The path of seeking is actually the behaviors and actions extraverted by people rooted to their ingrained assumptions and at the deepest core, our fundamental beliefs. We then question ourselves how can we obtain happiness and peace. Usually we will find it difficult to arrive to an answer. We can’t eliminate weeds by just cutting it; the roots have to be eradicated. By the same token, the wellness of plant growth is determined by the health of the roots. It is probably more accurate and specific to ask which beliefs give us happiness and peace and which would not rather learning an technique to acquire happiness and peace.

Trust and distrust operate by the same reinforcing principle except they are reinforced in opposite directions. Strange but true, the human seems to have inherited an innate mindset of defensiveness that originated from the past where humans are exposed widely to life threatening dangers from predatory animals. This basic survival instinct is not only visible in overt behaviors but it has a definite influence on our mindset. So much so the default setting of our mindset is usually in a cautious mode and it is pervasive until today. If we tend to err on the safe side, would we unconditionally grant our trust to others? Back to the rush hour anecdote, commuters don’t queue not because they don’t know the merits of that; it is plainly a trust issue. If distrusting behaviors are visible even at the most subtle level, it will move the masses into the default mindset easily. However, to manifest trusting behaviors is much tougher as compared to the former. Why is that so? The elaboration of the instinctive defensiveness of humans has probably suggested the reason for the differences.


Trust is not only essential; trust is imperatives to human if we are to remain effective in this society. Loosing the ability to trust is like disconnecting of oneself from others, society, environment and GOD.

As much as we attempt to explain trust from a logical stand point, the eventuality is realizing whatever or however profound the logical explanation may be we would arrive in contradictions. When this happens, logic in trust doesn’t make sense anymore. Even knowing it takes less time when commuters queue to board a bus will not guarantee or encourage the habit of queuing. Invariably, having trust will alter this no queuing behavior and yet this logic fails to drive people to do so. In the end, it is contradiction we feel.

Trust keeps us effective as a person in this society. Trust augments our personal effectiveness so that we can strive in the corporate world. Trust built up by familiarity keeps us alive when we are stranded in the wilderness. Religious faith keep us connected to a divine reference simultaneously freeing us from bondages.

Heart over head, trust over logic


The Delicate Link



The link between two parties is probably the vital artery of the organization and yet it can be as delicate as a strand of hair

One of the unique traits of FOCUS Adventure is the love-hate relationship between facilitators and project managers. The link between the two parties is probably the vital artery of the organization and yet it can be as delicate as a strand of hair.

Invariably, the project managers are made up of female partners and facilitators are male partners. This trend has remained
consistent to FOCUS Adventure for many growing years. This trend will always be unique to FOCUS Adventure and to some external parties; it may be a point of contention. It seems like this arrangement potentially carries the seeds to future conflicts when FOCUS Adventure recruit more partners. However, conflicts are not necessary undesirable. We know that Bruce Tuckman’s team developmental model contains the Storming stage a.k.a. conflicts. This clearly suggests that conflicts are necessary for team development. Just because FOCUS Adventure preaches teambuilding as the core business does not mean conflicts are not present. We will be in self denial to think otherwise. Therefore, FOCUS Adventure views this unique arrangement as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.

What keeps a team intact?

In any performing team, there will be agreements and arguments. As much as we need oxygen to stay alive, this stuff we breathe in also breakdown any elements in the world e.g. rusty irons, moldy bread, decomposition, combustion, etc. it deteriorates our life span gradually and yet we need it as the basic element ingredients to survival. Isn’t this ironic? We can think of As we became familiar with FOCUS
Adventure, we became comfortable. What
comes after the forming stage is storming.

In any organization, it is made up of work units and it is usually organized into generic functions, departments or unique project groups. The nature of such grouping fosters team identity. Inadvertently it also creates underlying assumptions towards each other. These assumptions can be general or specific. The assumptions gave rise to tension among the work units. Tension can mean conflicts among the work units. The healthy tension moves resources to achieve goals whereas the toxic ones will diminish productivity.

What keeps a team intact is therefore not only how frequent they agree but also how competent they handle arguments.


Do project managers hesitate when tagging certain facilitators? At the extreme, some may totally avoid tagging the not preferred facilitator. At the basic level, this is what Faci-Phobia is. It may be good news to the particular facilitator but it is detrimental to the organization.

Commonly, we know that facilitator tagging practice is based on competency. Project managers will usually try to match the clients’ needs to the competency of the facilitator. Just like the Johari Windows, this information is in the open quadrant (to read about Johari Windows, scroll down to the Annex A).

In general, Phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by extreme and irrational fear of simple things or social situations

We may wonder is competency the only condition being considered. Could there be other hidden conditions? In Johari Windows, third quadrant points to the “hidden” space within everyone. It is unlikely that facilitator tagging is based on competency alone. So what is it that makes the project managers hesitate when tagging certain facilitators?

After all, project managers’ performance are measured is by numbers. Huge numbers may not necessary reflect quality but small numbers are by no means desirable too.

What gave them Faci-Phobia?

The obvious reason for hesitating in tagging a particular facilitator is fear. Fear by itself doesn’t make a lot of sense. Let’s build some context around fear; project managers are directly answerable for shoddy programs even if the damage is created by the facilitators. Even we understand the success or failure of a program is a shared responsibility but the project managers face the heat directly whereas the facilitators are buffered from such situations. A shoddy program can mean difficulty in receiving payments from the clients. Reading nasty
complaining emails and being put in the inevitable situation to make responses induces the most potent headache. Setting up a service recovery meeting reluctantly plus gripped by worries the never the welcoming part for anyone. Last but not least, shoddy programs are likely to terminate any future dealings with the affected clients. The above illustrations should adequately elaborate the context of fear herein. Hence, when a project manager hesitated to tag, it is likely due to the mentioned fear. Over time, repeated exposure to the same fear will lead to the infamous Faci-Phobia.

So far, the situations described are due to the direct contacts between clients and facilitators. They are largely connected to the competency of the facilitators. Another important contact point is between the facilitators and project managers. This takes place frequently and it is easy to take it for granted. Occasionally, this contact operates base on some underlying assumptions which often lead to points of contention. Commonly, these are critical pre-program information regarding a particular program. E.g. check-in time, program venue, clients’ special needs, objective emphasis, time coordination, etc. In the event of disputes, facilitators and project managers take reference from a tangible asset; the O.P.T.I.O.N.S form. Does every facilitator read the useful information painstakingly captured by the project managers? This is surely an area where things are being taken granted for. Not making sufficient effort to be informed give opportunities to assumptions to take over, so much so when the assumptions were treated as facts from time to time. Consequently, unwarranted tension sets in and the blaming game begins. This will reinforce development of the Faci-Phobia.

Post programs woes are not uncommon too. There are some routine tasks to perform as part of post program follow up to close the loop. Sometimes clients may make additional requests to be met. Usually when things are not followed up, the project managers will receive “gentle reminders” from the clients. This is where opportunities to augment or diminish facilitators-project managers’ relationships were created. Making the right decision builds whereas taking the easy way destroys. Any facilitator who committed to any task to any project manager but failed in delivering will strain the relationship. This may sound like a motherhood statement but the reality is most people only recognized it as the cause for the strained relationship. In fact the act of not delivering the commitment does little harm to the relationship. What really erases the credibility of any facilitator regardless his experiences and competency is the failure to acknowledge the oversight. The harsh reality is the possibility for the involved facilitator to shift the oversight buck to others. This will make the strain irreversibly; etched deeply in any project manager. Consequently, the Faci-Phobia gets confirmed.


In summary, there are only two states to any interpersonal relationship, i.e. good or bad. Clearly the feeling of good and bad can be felt by the involved parties easily even people don’t verbalize them. What make it bad then? What are some unwanted behaviors that will drive the project managers to the wall? Since the frequent contacts between facilitators and project managers create tensions, it would be worthwhile to identify the trivial yet highly repetitive contacts that offer opportunities for such behaviors to breed. What can the project managers do about it? They can decide to address the unwanted behaviors or avoid the predicament all together.

When we need to make decisions, we can choose the right way or the easy way. Commitment will drive us to the right way but compliance will likely lead to the easy way. Confidence gives right whereas fear makes wrong. At the fundamental level, the facilitator tagging practice is about making decision. Once decided, the outcome will be shifted into the open quadrant of the Johari Windows. However, what goes into the decision is only known to the decision makers and sometimes the decision makers can even be oblivious because our sub conscious mind can profoundly influence the eventual outcome.

Regardless of pre-program preparation, program delivery or post program activities, all these work processes are fundamentally contact points between the facilitators and project managers, this delicate link is valuable as well as vulnerable. With a blink, the credibility of any facilitator can be easily lost. In reality, project managers don’t usually verbalize their preferences when tagging facilitators because it may be too complicated to elaborate to any facilitator without causing misunderstanding. Moreover, with the pace of things in FOCUS Adventure it is never conducive for such conversations to take place during the peak hours. At the end of the day, project managers will instinctively prefer to tag facilitators whom they deem reliable.

What goes into reliability? It is as simple as doing what was promised. Small well-meaning and consistent gestures go a long way in building reliability into the relationship. Exercising sensitivity to each other feelings during the contacts requires no monumental effort. Exhibiting respectful behaviors towards each other is as common as common sense to everyone. Although these are small behavioral efforts but it will give great mileage to the facilitators’ reliability. Most project managers may not demand top notched quality for every
program from the facilitators but they sure don’t expect to be left hanging to dry, all alone. By simply keeping to what was committed, the facilitators will certainly make good deposits into the emotional bank accounts of the project managers. In a nutshell, don’t “fly-aeroplane” the project managers.

Will facilitators develop PM-Phobia too? It is suffice to say that reliability is what facilitators look for in the project managers as well. Assuredly, facilitators will suffer from such phobia too.

Annex A

Johari Window

Johari Windows is a communication model that can be used to improve understanding between individuals within a team or in a group setting. Based on disclosure, selfdisclosure and feedback, the Johari Window can also be used to improve a group’s relationship with other groups.

Developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (the word “Johari” comes from Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham), there are two key ideas behind the tool:

  1. That individuals can build trust between themselves by disclosing information about themselves; and
    2. That they can learn about themselves and come to terms with personal issues with the help of feedback from others.

By explaining the idea of the Johari Window to your team, you can help team members understand the value of self-disclosure, and gently encourage people to give and accept feedback. Done sensitively, this can help people build more-trusting relationships with one another, solve issues and work more effectively as a team.

Concept of Johari Windows

The Johari Window model consists of a foursquare grid. This is shown in the diagram below,

Using the Johari
model, each person is represented by their own four-quadrant, or four-pane,
window. Each of these contains and represents personal information – feelings,
motivation, etc. – about the person, and shows whether the information is known
or not known by themselves or other people.

The 1st quadrant – The
open/free area is where information to known to everyone. It is useful to share
information especially from the learning and developmental point of view.

The 2nd quadrant – The
blind area is like any driver’s blind spot. The subject will not know about it
until there is feedback bringing this blinded information into the open area.

The 3rd quadrant – The
hidden area is only known to the subject but not others. Commonly when people
rise to occasions, making remarkable achievements by exhibiting latent talents
only known to the subject himself.

The 4th quadrant – The
unknown area is any information that is still undiscovered. It can be viewed as

Case Study: Change Management



In June 07, the Information Technology (IT) department of the Singapore Exchange decided to send an invitation to all IT staff; an invitation to stay or go. In the past, they were adopting a “built” model in growing their capability. Moving forward, they have decided to change tack to an “outsourced” model. The change is expected to invoke considerable amount of mental dissonances to the existing IT staff, especially the longer serving ones. To the new joins, the impact is probably light. Communicating such change is never easy and welcoming especially to the receivers. Through multiple prong approaches, the IT head has communicated the hard but necessary message to all 56 staff members and Focus Adventure is honored to have played an integral role in the process.

The program is carefully tailored to convey this hard but necessary message to the IT staff. The program kicked off with a message emphasizing on model switching. Keeping the momentum, they were divided small groups to embark on the challenges ahead of them.

The key thrust of the program is the belief of change is possible. Commencing, the activity helium hula requires the participants to lower the hula hoop given to them from chest height to an inch above the ground and raise to the same starting height. The hula hoop is supported by their index fingers and the supporting fingers are prohibited from losing contact with the hoop. Failing which will lead to restarting. In small groups and each handling one hula hoop, they are asked to set their time targets in completing the task. Setting the mood, the activity helium hula spreads the critical insights of the need to think beyond boundaries and challenge the frozen assumptions. With limiting paradigms, not only personal growth is limited, it may very well be the critical barriers to organization development. These insights will surely augment the notion of change is possible.

Following the Helium Hula, they embarked on the Wheel Watch activity as the catalyst to shifting paradigms. The Wheel Watch is a giant see-saw platform that requires all participants to balance the platform whilst remaining on board. Time target is required to determine the process quality. Initially, their collective conscious will lead them to believe that a balanced platform connotes stability and it means remaining stationary on board i.e. “Don’t Move”. In addition, appointing one or a few persons to be mobile while the rest remains stationary usually become the common assumption to success, however this will create a near impossible situation to overcome. Little they know that by one or a few persons making the effort to compensate will not achieve any significant progress differences. After laboring hard for sometime and with timely intervention from the facilitators, they began to accept the need for shifting their paradigm. Instead of relying on a few persons, they decided to engage everyone in making the needed compensation i.e. “All Move”. To their astonishment, with synchronized, minute and collective leaning movements they achieved the balanced state without all the hard labor utilized earlier. They also realized the importance of sensing the ever-changing environment. The paradigm shift from “Don’t move” notion to that of an “All Move” notion is clearly swinging between two opposing polarities. The crucial tie-back from this paradigm is “Don’t Move” represents the “Built” model whereas “All Move” is the “Outsourced” model.

Climbing the Team Challenge Pyramid (TCP) became the peak experience to sum up the program. The TCP works on a static belay system. In groups of 5 to 6 members, they were connected as they scale towards to pyramid top which is standing at 25m, fitted with 14 challenge elements to overcome. Learning to trust oneself, the team and the safety system is imperative to achieving success. Through investing trust on other members, many have stepped out of their regular context and gained tremendously from it. At the top of the pyramid, each successful climb was greeted with by a sweet zip wire descend back on the ground.


Success Engine (Reinforcing)



There are numerous models and theories that emphasize on the recipe to success. Which one will work? Is it a question of skill, knowledge or attitude? The most common reply is probably a blend of the three. Does that sound like a safe response or is that just a motherhood statement? In theory, if all the contributing factors are observed and practiced, success would be eminent, wouldn’t it? It sounds easy, yet can this be achieved? What is oblivious to most is the fact that we are limited by a cognitive bottleneck. Simply phrased; we are not capable of observing and practicing all these contributing factors at once. So with such a limitation, would success still be eminent?

Perhaps it would make better sense to focus on the key factors that possess stronger links and have the ability to cross augment other factors. When these key factors are achieved, every thing else will fall into place. Now, is that too good to be true? Do you subscribe to the notion of  “Less Is More”? The conventionally cautious mentality of most people will not. Let’s examine the “Success Engine (reinforcing)” model to help us understand the concept of “less is more”

The Model   

The model centers on the word quality and mutual reinforcements. The diagram below shows the four factors that make up the model. The block arrows form a loop in which the factors are related to each other. Every factor is interdependent and they reinforce each other in an infinite loop.

In brief, with quality relationships among team members, it will augment our quality of thinking. When our thinking is of quality, it will lead to quality actions during execution. Without a doubt, quality results will be inevitable. The loop competes when quality results are achieved, the interpersonal relationship gets enhanced.

More than often, we will wish to focus on the four factors to achieve perfection. Yet we forget that perfection is an unattainable illusion. Earlier, the cognitive bottleneck was mentioned; it is the inherent limitation of the human mind. For instance, why are there only 8 digits in our telephone numbers? Technology is not the limiting factor here but research has shown that our memory is only capable of recalling number sets containing 7 – 9 random numbers. With such a limitation, we will not be able to focus on all four factors simultaneously and wouldn’t doing so severely stress our mental capabilities? Some may argue that there are only four factors and it is not too heavy for us to look into all at once. Yet in reality, we have to remember that each factor consists of many sub-factors. Taking just one factor completely into consideration is already quite a feat. So if we can’t focus on all four factors, which one would we place emphasis on?

If we were to rank these factors in the order of importance, guess which one will come out on top? Most commonly: the quality of relationship will.

So how would focusing on relationships bring about cross augmentation to the other three factors?

Abraham Maslow developed a theory for human motivation. In his five-stage Hierarchy of Needs, he illustrates the enduring desire of humans to seek out basic needs like food, shelter, air, etc. progressively all the way to higher order needs like self-esteem, creativity, self-actualization, etc. At the highest stage, the person is self-actualized and is able to perform at his peak.

In his model, after satisfying our basic needs, we seek out affection, love and relationships. Achieving this stage would then propel our whole being into a higher plane of thinking and performing.  Without satisfying this stage of relationships, we face difficulty ascending to the higher stages and stagnation leads to unhappiness and a sense of loss.

The phrase “No man is an island” depicts how we innately seek to build connections with people both intentionally and unintentionally. In order for a family, an organization, a sport team, an expedition team, etc. to succeed in achieving their common goals, fostering quality relationships is crucial. Weak or hostile relationships breed negative energy quietly among team members. These intangible obstacles will then block or inhibit the communication flow in the team. With such frequent destructive communication, the connections between team members soon turn into gaps and the team eventually becomes divided. The progression towards their common goals will be shackled by this malicious negative energy. And at this point, there will no longer be progress to talk about, merely interventions and damage control measures.

Making reference to Bruce Tuckman’s team developmental model, the team shackled by such energy is known to be at the Storming stage. For any upward progression to take place, the team would have to build up their intra-team relationships and set the stage for a norming team to develop. We do this with the idea that Less achieves More, and in this case, focusing on the sole factor of “quality of relationships”. Most people will find it unusual because they will feel insecure to leave things to chances. However, believing in “Less is More” is not leaving things to chances but discovering more accurate and correct approaches. Placing weight on building quality relationships will lead to positive thinking which is an indication of quality thinking. A positive mind will translate to quality actions. Executing quality actions will assuredly achieve quality results. In turn, the quality results will reinforce the belief of building quality actions. The loop continues endlessly …

Supporting Web Links

The following are some web links for more reading:


Success Engine (reinforcing)


Maslow Hierarchy of Needs




Bruce Tuckman’s Team Developmental Stages



WorkLife Balance; Intergration?



Work and Life are likened to be water and oil that will never blend. For the longest time, the Singapore corporate citizens are yearning to achieve balance between Work and Life.

Taking stock, did they achieve the most wanted vision of WorkLife Balance? One may wonder…. It is likely we have mix feelings about it.

Gradually but surely, it is increasingly difficult to claim achievements to WorkLife Balances. The harder one tries, the less he achieves. What actually goes into the notion of WorkLife Balance is probably worth exploring as most people are feeling the point of diminishing return when this issue has been discussed.

WorkLife Balance may start off as the most embraced vision but it seems to fade into the background with things reverting to the past. Whatever the vision is, leadership plays a critical role in turning it to reality. To turn it into reality, this should be a vision that is so attractive for everyone to want to get there. The critical mass i.e. the staff plays an active role in living out the vision otherwise it remains as a vision statement. So what is WorkLife Balance to most people? Does building recreational facilities within company premises means WorkLife Balance?

After a mouthful on WorkLife Balance, what is WorkLife Integration from the same context? The next sections will discuss it in details.

What Singaporeans want?
Extracting from an article in Asiaone Business on worklife balance, this is the summary of a survey conducted by Robert Walters.

In fact, the thing they want most is a flexible work/life balance. A recent survey conducted by global recruitment firm Robert Walters found that 35 per cent of respondents said a flexible work/life balance is the main reason to consider a company ‘a great employer’.

Mark Ellwood, managing director of Robert Walters Singapore, said that the survey is further proof that employees increasingly regard quality of life as their chief objective. ‘People are prepared to work hard but the trade-off is two-fold,’ he said. ‘They want to enjoy the work they do but they don’t want to feel enslaved to their work. Employers need to be wise to this, because with competition for top talent at its most intense, they run the risk of losing out if they don’t meet this increasingly important requirement.

For further reading, go to:

It is crystal clear that Singaporeans are no longer enslaved to their job. Job seekers want to enjoy their work while being rewarded for the work done. We should probably give thanks to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for creating adequate jobs for job seekers to choose from. Having more options may have illuminated this emerging paradigm of work enjoyment over work slavery. Not forgetting other statutory boards like then EDB now sPRING, aSTAR, STB, etc. Surely, these statuary boards have both directly and indirectly stimulated the job creation capability of Singapore; as a result, job seekers are flooded with choices.

Paradigms towards WorkLife Balance
The notion of work enjoyment seems to send a mix signal to the employers. In what way workers can enjoy their work? A notion that supports what the workers want from their jobs could very well be WorkLife Balance, loosely defines as striking a balance between Work and Life.

Exactly what do we think WorkLife Balance is? What ever we think it is, we behave and act in ways that are consistent with the thought (paradigm) we hold. In Singapore, what is the most common WorkLife paradigm? Below is an extract from Zdnetasia, the article articulates the underlying paradigms hold dearly by some job seekers which reflects what Singaporeans have in their minds of WorkLife Balance. Below is a question from a job seeker contemplating of switching job.

Question: I have been a logistics manager for the last nine years, and have a Management degree. As logistics has limited vertical scope, I am planning to switch to either business development or consulting.

My first option is to pursue ERP, but the concerns are:

  1. It will make me restart my career,
  2. I will be “a visiting husband and father”–my understanding is that during initial phase as an ERP consultant, I will have to travel both with my family and alone. If one has a child who is schooling, then it’s difficult to move family as per a project.

3.I am not an engineer.

My second option is to pursue an executive MBA course. This would give me the edge of starting better as far as placements would take me, at better positions and my current experience. But it’s costly. Still, if I take a look at the investment returns, it is very good.  I am confused because ERP is growing and everyone is talking about it? Can you help me to choose the best in terms of current and future monetary and non-monetary perspective?

Career advice from the country manager of JobStreet Singapore:
You will need to examine your mindset, work-life balance, skills and prospects when you are considering a career change. Let’s examine each of the above in relation to your question:

Mindset: You have concluded that logistics has limited vertical scope. In reality, as we progress along our career path, the pinnacle gets sharper and opportunities at the top become less abundant. You will face the same challenge in any other career that you plan to pursue.  The way that many people overcome this is to ensure to be the best in the field. Our experience shows that the best always prevails–they never fall out of the game.

Work-life balance: This is seriously considered as part of today’s career pursuit. In other words, people will not blindly choose a career and neglect their family life. I see that coming across in your question–that is a healthy move. Like all new career moves, we need to spend an extensive amount of time to familiarize ourselves with the new environment and getting into the details of the job. That will expense a huge amount of time/energy and to some point neglecting of your family. Please ensure your family fully supports this new venture.

For further reading, go to:,3800009355,62044137,00.htm

To begin with, the questioner viewed switching job as both an attractive vision, nevertheless as a road block too. This forms a paradox. It is no surprise why he has chosen to seek for external advice. The consultant has illuminated the need to challenge his mindset and his notion of what WorkLife Balance is because paradox provides no solution, only confusion.

From the above article, it suggests that Singaporeans wanted a clear distinction between work and life, which is emphasized by the word balance. When we think of the word balance, we think of equilibrium and equality in distribution.

This paradigm of the word balance has a profound influence on how we view the phrase WorkLife Balance all together. We can easily assume that harmony between work and life to come from careful distribution of time. Is it truly possible to achieve harmony when the work needs are driven by external stimuli that we have absolutely no control over? Could the underlying core assumption of WorkLife Balance for most Singaporeans is,

“no working after 1800hrs and weekends?”

It appears like distribution of time.

Paradoxical Paradigms
In the earlier article, it states;

…. they want most is a flexible work/life balance

The word flexible connotes; capable of being changed, adjust readily to different conditions, making or willing to make concessions.

The willingness to make concessions directly contradicts the notion of no working after 1800hrs and weekends. Professional who are passionate and feel the sense of responsibilities towards their careers will find it difficult to reconcile these two polarized paradigms. It is common for exemplary professionals to make progress in their personal growth relating to their career outside of official working hours. Such professionals hardly demand for compensation from the company. They simply want to do it, not has do it. When passion is the fuel, time distribution will never become inhibition.

Moreover, passion is not time dependent, it drives when it suppose to drive. If WorkLife Balance is contingent upon time distribution, wouldn’t the interaction of passion and the notion of WorkLife Balance create greater polarization?

On the macro level, it may not be whether the society has arrived to WorkLife Balance, rather it is when our paradigms can be shifted about it. Otherwise, pursuing for WorkLife Balance would end up like chasing the end of the rainbow.

Passion, Work and Life
Work and Life; both elements are equally demanding on the time we have. In order to create harmony between the two, merely by time distribution may be inadequate. Just like water and oil, they can never be mixed. Forcing the two to mix will only create frustration and helplessness.

By and large, we do things that will make us feel good about ourselves. When we become really proficient in doing something, we tend to enjoy the doing more. A professional violinist will pursue for personal mastery in playing the instrument until he or she feel as one with the instrument. When both fused as one, it is not possible to describe the violinist without including the instrument. Only passion can provide such energy and sustenance for any individual to achieve such personal mastery.

Whatever we do, passion is the renewable energy and fuel that drives us to go on and on. Regardless as parents, couples or professionals, we find the fitting impetus to sustain ourselves in playing the role we chose to play. The impetus can be interpreted in many ways. E.g. monetary gains, social values, career progression, humanitarian aid, etc are common impetus we have. Underlying all these, only passion can provide the needed sustenance to combat the fatigue brought by time and repetition.

With a doubt, passion is the element to integrate the unmixable work and life. Since avoiding work entirely is not possible, why not passionately integrate it into our lives? The next important question is,

What is WorkLife Integration?
No surprise for the right answer. It is simply whatever that works for you. It emphasizes on freedom and choices, diminishing restrictions and fixations. Although this may sound a little lame but nothing can be further than the truth. It lies in the paradigm we hold towards WorkLife Balance to begin with. To make this work, the next critical challenge is the ability to shift the paradigm from WorkLife Balance to WorkLife Integration.

Firstly, what is WorkLife Integration NOT? This requires clarification, otherwise this fresh idea will face the same paradoxical transformation as that of WorkLife Balance.

– It is not working non-stop
– It is not forgetting to rest
– It is not about increasing promotional chances
– It is not to create a workaholic
– It is not about exploiting labor
– It is not a fixation of rules

WorkLife Integration is a trusting relationship between the staff and organization. It is an exchange of freedom and responsibilities. It is aligning personal vision and the organization’s shared vision.

Passion drives both work and life. Sure there are people you have come across as possessing little or no passion in life. This largely due to the inaccurate paradigm these people hold. They may be holding a well constructed Singapore street map but trying to navigate in Chicago.

The Journey Towards WorkLife Integration
At the core, everyone wish to be able to perform his work at the time it matters most, right? Fundamentally, time is not controlled by us and this would nullify the mentioned wish, right? There are numerous books written on seizing control, managing the 24hours you have, etc. I should share with you at this point of time that I am not a proponent on the “control” paradigm. The simple reason is control will revert us back to fixation subconsciously. That is not what we want to do. While I don’t advocate control, that doesn’t mean we leave things to chance. Instead of living by a time table that most of us have failed to adhere to, let view WorkLife Integration as guiding principles towards blending the seemingly unmixable Work and Life.

Principles of avoidance are common in this world. For example for dieting, most advices prompt the subject to avoid certain food and adhere to certain regimes in order to succeed. We know all to well the chances of making it. Another common principle is illuminating the wrong-doings. This doesn’t encourage the practitioners to do better but reminding them their faults. This isn’t a fine feeling to carry especially when we are trying to climb a hill. Such principles act as laws to expose our imperfections, moreover we set up these laws only to realize we can’t keep up with them. In essence, both principles have failed to liberate the practitioners or subjects. It does little to provide any passion for us to pursue the vision.

Instead, we should create a vision that will pull us towards it. Extracting from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline, the chapter on shared vision;

In the movie Spartacus, an adaptation of the story of a Roman gladiator/slave who led an army of slaves in a uprising in 71 B.C. They defeated the Roman legions twice but were conquered by the general Marcus Crassus after a long siege and battle. Crassus told the thousand army slaves; “You have been slaves, you will be slaves again. But you will be spared from crucifixion if you turn the slave, Spartacus over to me.” After a long pause, Spartacus stood up and claim identity as Spartacus. Another man next to him claimed identity too. Following that, the entire slave army stood up and claim identity as Spartacus.

We could attribute the response to Spartacus’s leadership. However, underlying his ability to inspire lie the shared visions of gaining freedom and not to be enslaved again that were so compelling to everyone, at all cost every slave responded by standing up, a reflection of being pulled towards shared vision.

Rallying everyone’s commitment is imperatives for WorkLife Integration to succeed. Leaders play the critical role in endorsing the principles as the beacons whilst the organization is navigating towards the vision. Setting a clear vision of WorkLife Integration can never be overly emphasized. Using widely accepted vision statements will not only be forgotten but it may even turn into a cliché. Without passion in the statement, there will be no visible actions. Since blending Work and Life is controversial, the vision statement should provide similar edge to keep the passion alive and it must sticks. Consider this; “coming to work late but knocking off early.” Isn’t this a vision to go for, to be attracted to?

Any freshly created vision statement is like the having skeletons, we need to add meat for its completion. It is therefore necessary to form the guiding principles of the mentioned vision statements; this will prevent any mutation in the future. Below are some general principles that will most appropriately describe WorkLife Integration.

– Trust in return for freedom
– Leading and Following by principles
– Focus on where to go, not what to avoid
– More inquiry, less advocacy
– Commitment, not compliance
– Encourage personal mastery in every staff

These are not all there are; the fundamental to living WorkLife Integration is not applying control, setting up fixated boundaries, having thousand of guidelines, non-stop scrutiny, etc. The basis is about freedom to exercise responsibilities that is built on the foundation of trust.

Reflecting It In Work Processes
Having general principles can help to create the excitement for this new vision also the impetus for people to get committed. However it will soon fade away if the visibility of WorkLife Integration is not reflected in the daily work processes and procedures. Therefore, it is important to look into the existing work routines and make necessary adjustments to create the visibility. Here are a few examples,

  • Introduce flexible work hours
  • Team accountability versus individual
  • Organize lifestyle related activities
  • Gazette time for staff development and personal mastery
  • Give recognition to personal mastery achievements

Again the above list is not exhaustive, it is important that personal choice is respected as the basis. Certainly living in the non-ideal world, it is important not to convert personal ideals into expectations. This will send our minds back to stone-age where things are as a matter of fact. As we move with time, the notion of working will inevitably evolve but the guiding principles towards work and life should not change. Let’s live a life with passion and not fixation.