Status Magazine Article


Dr. Ed Gurowitz heads CMD (Center for Management Design), a company based in California. He has published articles in clinical psychology and psychobiology, and even published a book on the molecular basis of memory. During the past 22 years Dr. Gurowitz has engaged in consulting to managers in the USA and in various other countries. Last December he visited Israel in con- junction with the preparation of a course for senior managers, to take place in ’93 with his participation, together with the Israeli company COACHING – Training in Business and Organization Inc. Among CMD’s clients are small enterprises, as well as big companies like British Petroleum AT&T and American Ex- press.

“My company earned $ 750,000 as result of my participation in the CMD program and will earn $ 2,000,000 in the near future”. This strange proclamation by one of the company’s clients appears in its publications, next to other testimonials about direct profits of thousands, millions and even hundreds of millions of dollars.

The manager is told to set himself goals that exceed the customary results of his company. On the other hand they must be realistic. Does that not produce a certain amount of stress ?

Most managers have a hard time differentiating between what they think will happen and what they hope will happen. We try to arrive at a reasonable forecast, based on the tendency of the company in the past and in the present. At the next stage you look at the goals to which you are ready to commit yourself. On the one hand we must forget about fanciful expectations. On the other hand it is hardly worth it to invest effort for goals that are very close to achievements to be expected anyway. If we retreat from those two extremes we get to the range in which we operate. Most businessmen are capable of answering the question- “To what goals can you honestly commit yourself, in spite of the fact that you do not as yet know how?

In the USA I like to quote Theodor Herz in that connection and in Israel I quote President Kennedy. Kennedy liked to tell that, the day after his declaration that the USA would put a man on the moon, many people came to h -,in to voice their concerns. “You will not succeed” said the first one, “because you don’t have suitable fuel”. Kennedy forthwith appointed him to the position of responsibility for developing the fuel for the project. The next visitor complained about there not being any suitable metal and was, of course, appointed to handle that subject. The appointments continued that way until the last visitor arrived and flatly said: “It can’t be done.” “That man” Kennedy related “ I appointed to be head of the project”. The man who was able to define why the fuel was unsuitable was in the best position to develop a suitable one. What may appear to you as an impediment to the project will lead you to the solutions- on condition that you are committed to succeed

What is the role of the commitment to succeed?

I will tell you about my experience with a computer company: Two teams are wrestling with the same software problem. One team commits itself to complete the work in eighteen months and the other takes on the commitment to finish it in six months. Let us say that after two months it be- comes clear that the work will take twelve months. The members of the team with the eighteen months commitment will be pleased. They go on vacations and long lunch hours. In the other team, however, you will find some very unhappy people. But if you deny them the opportunity to withdraw from the commitment they made- the challenge to complete the task in six months – they will almost immediately discover new methods and applications for existing technologies. There is a good chance that they will finish the work in less than twelve months. When people stand before impossible situations, without an option for despair, they will perform miracles. In our work we try to create among managers and workers a commitment to grapple with problems that seem unsolvable. This commitment spurs them on to arrive at breakthroughs.

Is not the price you pay a constant frustration of the workers, who are faced by impossible tasks ?

At first, perhaps, yes. But that will not continue very long. There is a myth that people do not want to work, that they want an easy life and that when someone wins the big prize in a lottery he buys himself a yacht and remains on deck, tanning himself, for the rest of his life. But the data on people who did win big prizes show that the majority return to work after a few months. For most people work is the source of self-expression and self-fulfillment. Therefore, if you put them in front of an in- soluble problem they will be frustrated at first- But afterwards they will invest themselves in it, will come late less often, lose fewer working days and even make less use of the rest rooms. They will enjoy a feeling of satisfaction that is not present in routine work. Our first intervention as consultants is to work with the team members on the commitment that they formulate by themselves, so there is no danger of creating a perception among them that they were compelled to commit themselves,

Gurowitz uses the term paradigm a lot. The term, which was coined by Thomas Kuhn in his book “ The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, is defined by the CMD as the foundation don for the subconscious basic assumptions with which man approaches the world. The paradigm thus serves as the unseen filter that shapes the limits of reality. The goal of working with the manager is to bring him, through a change in the paradigm, to true breakthroughs. Seen from the point of view of the new paradigm so claims Gurowitz, achievements that Might have been considered tremendous before are accepted in a matter of fact way.

How does a change in the paradigm of a manager express itself ?

It is likely to express itself in a new idea. When you invent a product, develop it and bring it to market – that is the stage at which you make money. But after you have invested so much money and effort and are tied to the concept that gave birth to the product, it is unlikely that it will lead you to another breakthrough with the same product. Someone else will do it, so it is better for you to enjoy the early profits, to drop this product and to start developing another one. It is understood that not every new invention represents a change in paradigm. Regis McKenna wrote that, in contradiction to accepted theories of marketing, the market does not determine products – quite the opposite.

Take, for instance, Sony’s Walkman. No one said to himself ten years ago: “If only I had a tape player hanging from my belt”. There was no breakthrough in technology in this case but *in the thought itself, which originated from Morita the head of the company. No one outside himself thought that it was a good idea, but his position permitted him to decide on its implementation. If you look at the most successful products of recent years – the fax machine, the cellular phone- you will see that they all created the market and not the other way around. We discovered that the type of thinking that our method teaches people – to break through beyond their present system of concepts – leads to the creation of new products and through them to new markets.

How do you work it to bring people to a change of paradigm and to breakthroughs?

We are working with a combination of preparation and coaching. The preparation lasts four or five days once every few months, or two days every month. But between these meetings a coach is as- signed to every participant, who talks with him at least once every two weeks. The coach is always accessible so the work proceeds at the rate of in- tensity desired by the manager. Without a coach it is impossible to achieve the results we require, in such a short time.

The coaching idea appears in our work at two lev- els: we coach the manager and turn him ‘into a coach of those working for him. The concept of a coach is known particularly from the realm of sports and there it has been thoroughly explored. But it also occurs in acting, in singing and in other areas. Management is a type of coaching. There- fore, you sometimes know what has to be done bin you cannot explain it ‘in words. That puts us be- fore a problem and much may be learned, per- haps, from the way ‘in which sports coaches bring their trainees to achieve results. I will give you an example: Thirty years ago a famous American Football game took place between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. A few seconds before ore the end of the game, the Dallas players gained four points. To win, the Green Bay players had to score a goal. In the film one sees Bart Starr, the Green Bay Packers’ star, approaching his leg- endary coach Vince Lombardi and asking him what to do. The coach looks at him with contempt and turns away. Then he turns around to Starr, says: “Score!” and walks off. That’s all. The game started again, Starr signaled a play, took the ball, executed an entirely different play from the one indicated and went on to win the game. It would be silly to say that the coach gave him the idea. In coaching they don’t teach you anything, they change your way of looking at things. You identify possibilities for action that you did not notice previously. Later on Starr related that he had practiced the maneuver a thousand times but never paid attention to the possibility until that moment. That was a great coach- I don’t know what exactly he did there, but it worked

Can you tell as something about a manager whom you coached ?

I worked with a man who was appointed manager of a copper mine in Arizona. When he accepted the job he was told that the mine had thirty to forty years of exploitation left, but he immediately discovered that only about six years remained. Mining copper is a dirty and frustrating job. Most copper miners in Arizona are simple and uneducated people and it is accepted that they are only there to earn a scant living. So management decided the expected relationship: pay them their wages, don’t let their union get too strong and always tell them exactly what to do. He was advised by management not to disclose the true situation of the mine to the workers. At that stage we started to work together. He called all the mine’s workers together and brought them up to date. If the mine were to close in six years, he said, the whole town built around it would close up. But if all of us worked together, perhaps a way could be found to extend the mine’s life. As a result the workers themselves discovered ways to extend the lifetime of the mine. He established a joint council of workers and managers and got the engineers together with the miners. It turned out that many of the engineers had never talked with the miners before. Wonderful things happened at those meetings. For in- stance: when I visited the mine I saw a big hill of dirt. That was the hill of tailings that had been pulled out of the mine during the past hundred years of its activity. At one of the meetings a miner got up and said: everyone knows that in that hill of dirt there is copper, which is not worth extracting. But that was true a hundred years ago and I bet there are methods today to utilize that material. An expert investigated the subject and it turned out that the required technology exists. Thus, in a minute a mountain of dirt turned into a stratum with ten thousand tons of ore. People suddenly began to notice things that they had not paid attention to, previously. What is interesting is that this particular manager had previously involved himself only in money matters and book keeping. All of a sudden he discovered that he really enjoyed being in the company of miners, to put on a miner’s hat and to go down into the mine and talk to them. That way he discovered his commitment to the men. The moment he discovered that he liked the people it was easy to teach him how to be a coach. All great coaches agree that the most important factor for success is to like the people with whom you are working.


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