October 10, 2009

Incongruence

Posted in Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:17 am by lindaslongview

OneEyeI was recently involved in a recruitment dance at a small biotech ready for manufacturing scale-up.  The organization had some very interesting and valuable technology and was looking for someone with mastery in manufacturing scale-up (me).  Initial impressions suggested an excellent match to my skills, interests, and passion.

I talked to the organization a few times over the course of several months.  Although I was in no hurry to find my next full-time professional adventure, I was delighted to be considered for the position and was eager to get traction if there was to be a successful match.  At my last meeting, I met with a recently hired executive that assessed my ability to fit into a start-up culture.  He emphasized and reiterated the urgency of the scale-up effort, suggesting only weeks remained before a crucial deadline.  How would I handle that pressure? I answered his questions truthfully: I am not a miracle worker, but I am extremely competent with a track record of success even under crisis conditions. He thanked me for my time and promised to get back to me by end-of-day and no later than end-of week.  A week came and went and there was no follow-up, so I sent a brief email requesting an update.  What followed was a series of emails trying to set a time for a phone call.  By the third email, it was quite apparent that my candidacy for the position was not a priority.

Although I am confident that I could have helped them technically, I finally realized that I was not a culture fit for their organization because I was frustrated that their actions were incongruent with their wordsHow could they claim excessive urgency for technical scale-up deadlines yet be so delayed in getting back to candidates necessary to meet the deadline? This example, was one of several examples of inconsistency that could be rationalized singly, but together created a sense of pervasiveness.BigHairandChin

This journey got me to thinking deeply about the importance of congruence and consistency.  I began to notice it everywhere.  In fact, I categorize three broad types of incongruence:

  • Harmless/Intentional Incongruence that is part of comedy.  In this context, incongruence works because it is intentionally funny.  An example is the intentional incongruent dialogue and props in the performance of Monty Python’s Spamalot.  Similarly, my accompanying photos are funny because they are incongruent.
  • Annoying/Incomplete Design Incongruence that is an omission of an overall review of the customer experience.  An example is the mixed use of manual and sensor-based equipment in the ladies’ restroom at my local mall.  The toilets flush by sensor, the soap is dispensed by sensor, and the towels are provided by sensor.  However, the water is delivered from the faucet by turning the knob.  I no longer recall how many times I (and others) have felt like an idiot waving my hands under the faucet trying to make the water come out then realizing that I need to turn the handle!  This situation is just an annoying omission, no one really thought about how a customer would experience the facility after several sensors have been presented – we expect sensors for all interactions.
  • Damaging/Short View Incongruence that results from mixed messages.  An example was my opening story.

Congruence is an important long view attribute because it creates predictability, reduces uncertainty, and increases credibility – people know what to expect and how to behave.  My long view advice:ScrambledFace

  • Create priorities and communicate them profusely.
  • Strive for consistency and congruence in your messages (story) and be aware of the potential for misunderstanding.
  • Be intentional with your actions; actions speak louder than words.

BubbleFaceIt was emotionally hard to call and decline the technical opportunity with that small biotech because I had already imagined success on their behalf and I felt invested.  However, because I sell process confidence* (requires congruence), I declined the opportunity.  I wish them a successful future and I will keep looking for the right fit for my next adventure!

*Note:  see my superpower statement at Entrepreneurial Athleticism

Does your story match your actions/behaviors?

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