Means and EndsNovember 5, 2009 14 Comments
One of the core models of IISC’s practice (for both our training and consulting work) is something we call the R-P-R Triangle, which basically makes the case that success in collaborative efforts is a multi-dimensional affair, not solely defined by “results” (goal or task accomplished), but also by “process” (the way or spirit in which work is carried out) and “relationship” (the quality of the connections between the people engaged in the work). Our Executive Director, Marianne Hughes, has called this “the spine of collaboration,” suggesting that if we are not thinking in terms of all dimensions, we are not really serious about seeking win-win solutions with others. And indeed experience really proves that these dimensions are intimately linked and dependent upon one another when diverse stakeholders come together to realize a shared vision.
A twist was given to this triangle the other day when a Facilitative Leadership workshop participant said he was struggling, not because he did not find value in this notion of “multiple dimensions of success,” but because of his concern that even in this model, process and relationships might appear to be subservient, or the “so that,” to results. He went on to say that he is part of an organization/community in which relationships are really paramount. They are an end in and of themselves and in a way synonymous with results. How then, do we account for this in this model he wondered.
This question is reminiscent of an ongoing internal conversation about collaboration at IISC and Interaction Associates. Is it a means or an end in and of itself? The same goes for a rigorous dialogue about networks. Are they a route to social change or are they the destination? As is often the case these days, the answer to these questions seems to be a resounding and perplexing, “Yes!” Results are important, and . . . . Simply viewing people, or process for that matter, as means to an end can be problematic, not just in terms of failing to respect others’ humanity (harkening back to Kantian ethics), but also in failing to deeply tap the potential that is ripe for our complexity-ridden times. In this day and age we hear more about, and many experience, the importance of invitation, conversation, hosting, space, trust, and connection, not just as precursors to making something happen, but as being an embodiment of change. And so the challenge becomes holding on to both truths – results matter, and they don’t, or not in the ways that we often imagine.
What do you make of this? How do you strike the balance?