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John Patterson dun did us no favor

Those of you who follow this newsletter must think Bloom has lost it. He uses slang in a title and pulls some obscure name out of a hat. Someone who you have never heard about, but bear with me there is a method to my madness.  

John Patterson was a businessman from the Midwest that found a small manufacturing company in Dayton, OH that he could purchase at a good price. Almost immediately Patterson was confronted with employee complaints, safety issues and resignations of human capital assets. Patterson needed to find some support to resolve the organizational problems. In 1901, Patterson created the first personnel department at an organization called National Cash Register. They became the organizational firemen. And there is the favor that Patterson did us no favor. Let me explain.

We began to see the organizational structure be one of being told this is what we need, get it done. We began to see organizational meetings where a group of executives got together to discuss that problem and each person got to present their side of the issue and a decision was made. Forget if that was the right decision or not. Forget it all aspects of the problem were investigated. Never mind whether all aspects of the issue were understood from all views. Here in lies the problem.

Jump to 2023 and the business world calls for a new modus operandi. It is critical that our meetings shift from an environment of discussion to an environment of dialogue. We will only resolve those critical issues facing today’s organization when we fully function based on three principles:

1. Forget our assumptions.

We can no longer approach our problems with the view the other guy, function, organization does not know what they are talking about. We can no longer operate from the view of “only I can fix it”, because you can’t/

2. Begin to think, act, and behave like a scientist.

Every time we meet to resolve an issue or problem, we need to believe that we are involved in an experiment. If you were in the science lab you would know that to discover the solutions to a hypothesis or a problem, you need to fully explore the conditions around the problem. The business world is not different. As an organization we need to discover all aspects of the problem before us. We need to take into consideration the non-traditional sources of information such as your stakeholders and your frontline human capital assets.

3. Related to the first item, there are no enemies.

The other people in the room are not out to get you. They are not looking to make you look bad. They are your colleagues. You each have one purpose and that is to make your organization better. That will not happen if you concentrate your efforts on how to make yourself better than the next person.

How do we make the transfer from discussion to dialogue? There are some simple strategies that can be followed. Strategy #1: Hire a facilitator.

First get someone, either internally or externally, who is an expert at facilitating dialogue and use their skills, they will know when to cut a conversation off if you are straying back into the old way of doing things.

Strategy #2: Active listening

You want to listen to what is said and what is not said. Compare what you would have said with what was said. Listen for the timing of the words and actions.

Strategy #3: Open mind

Adopt a rule that there is no such thing as a stupid answer. The solution to your problem may come from somewhere out in left field. Remember the Challenger explosion? The solution to the explosion did not come from within NASA, but from the garage workshop of a retired engineer who had no connection to NASA at all.

Strategy #4: Governance

Under no circumstances should the result of the dialogue be management dictate. The solution comes from the work of the team not from the ivory tower corner office. We utilize the power of collaboration to discover the best solution.

Strategy #5: Gain Knowledge

Go to your local bookstore or go to Amazon and order Peter Senge’s three books and read them cover to cover. Starting with the Fifth Discipline and then the companion field book and finishing with the Dance of Change they will change your focus on the world in which you operate. We can no longer afford to operate by rote introduction of solutions but rather each problem presents something new and as a result it offers the opportunity too learn something new. Take the challenge.

About the author: Daniel Bloom knows HR and Change Management. He’s a speaker on transformational HR, a strategic HR consultant and trainer. Looking to ways to enhance your vale to your organization? We now offer virtual fully accredited six-sigma yellow belt certification training. Learn more at