What’s your Therefore there for?

by Ron Potter

The word therefore has only been used in its current form for around 200 years. It’s a relatively new word in our language.

In the original old English, it meant: for that or by reason of that. Or it could be understood to mean “in consequence of that.”

The question is “What is that?”

We all too often give our reason for something without ever explaining what that reason is based upon.

By reason of that

In consequence of that

One of the practices I find myself talking to corporate teams about is conducting good dialogue. Good dialogue begins with clearly stating the “that” which your argument or conclusions are based upon.

Peter Senge wrote the book The 5th Discipline in 1990. In my experience with corporate clients, it was one of the most impactful books written at the time. Every client I worked with during the late 90’s and early 2000’s was anxious to show me what they were doing with systems thinking (the point of Senge’s book) and re-engineering projects to rethink how they were approaching their work. The book itself was over 400 pages long and my personal notes of highlights were nearly 40 pages. That means I highlighted nearly 10% of all the words written. It was impactful thinking!

One of the basic mental models in the book was Triple Loop Learning. It is most often attributed to Chris Argyris who was a colleague of Senge. In this model, they helped us understand that until we get at the beliefs and assumptions that drive our reasoning we will never actually learn or will always fall short of accomplishing major change efforts. Beliefs and assumptions will always overrule systems, policies, procedures, and processes.

Teams that get good at starting with beliefs and assumptions of each team member find renewed understanding and respect for each other and make great strides accomplishing great things beyond what one individual could accomplish.

In my experience, if you were to watch high performing teams from behind a soundproof glass, you would think they were at each other’s throats. They seem to be aggressively going at each other and getting in each other’s face. But, if you removed the glass and began to hear the discussions, you would be aware that they want to understand each other so deeply that they are aggressively going after the beliefs, assumptions, backgrounds, experiences that support everyone’s starting points when dealing with a difficult issue. By understanding beliefs and assumptions, the team is better at solving problems and reaching a committed solution they all will back and support.

So, what is your therefore there for? If you can’t share what you believe without condemnation, ridicule or repercussions your “therefore” conclusions, suggestions or directions will never be understood or respected. Build great teams that can openly share Beliefs and Assumptions so that “therefore” is understood and respected.

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