Sunday, November 9, 2008

Where's the Healing Belief?

[This case study shows one successful example of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)]

Sophie (all identifying details are changed) complained one evening about her disappointment that specialists couldn't operate on her ears to end her stuttering. I perked up, and told her I am a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). I have used NLP to help people heal allergies, performance anxiety, dyslexia, overeating, tobacco addiction, and the inability to experience orgasms. I shared a few stories about my work and offered to trade sessions: her motivational interviewing skills for my NLP skills.

Warning! Don't start that way—my bragging may have incited her, unconsciously, to "knock me down a peg." A better path would have been to direct her to articles on NLP and stuttering for her to evaluate before agreeing to my help.

We agreed to trade four sessions. My sessions with her were difficult. She really believed in the numbers and diagnoses offered her by western medical science. For the third session I came ready with a method to try. She only went through the motions without imagination, intention or investment. She smiled as we finished as if to say, "Is that the best you have?" and admitted that she really hadn't been into it.

Here I paused for a long time. She believed that experts shouldn't have to stop and think (remember that poor start!). I defended my right to think, and kept thinking.

Something very powerful sat behind that smile. She said she felt her problem had a biological cause, meaning that it was permanent and unchanging. Yes, that was the belief. Thus the desire for surgery because that would be a biologically-based intervention.

But, she had already mentioned two counterexamples (instances when the problem didn't occur). I reminded her, "If, as you say, it is biological and something that never changes, then you should stutter all the time. The biology should prevent you from talking fluently to animals or fluently when imitating someone."

Her turn to pause. She admitted that was right. She said I had destroyed the belief structure she had built her whole life around. I apologized for destroying her belief (this time remembering to stay one-down and cautious). That ended the third session. We never had a fourth.

When we crossed paths two months later she spoke fluently. I stood amazed. "I want to thank you. I've gone from about 70% fluent to 90-95% fluent. And I was totally resistant!" she beamed. What made the difference? "When you helped me realize that it wasn't biologically based."

Many people limit their ability to permit a change (that is, healing) because their belief about their suffering only includes a few ways a change process might work. Bringing the client face-to-face to times when the belief does not hold true may be the only key she needs for her transformation.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Everyday Leaner

Anything done more than once can benefit from kiazan-taking a few moment to think about how to eliminate waste. Normally conducted by a group, anyone can look around for ways to streamline their work. For one of my projects I had the task of summarizing five winning proposals in a contest to suggest transforming our health care insurance mess. That's another area full of waste but not a topic for today.

For the first 40 page proposal I tackled I followed these steps:
1) I read through the proposal and made margin notes appropriate to the five sections of my final summary: Executive Summary, Financing, Delivery System, Management and Migrating the System.
2. Went through proposal a second time and typed in what I had found into a computer. Each heading had a page and I moved back and forth in the file to the appropriate page as I moved through the proposal.
3. Edited my document for formatting, spelling, readability, grammar, etc.

This process took 9 hours, an hour more than the 8 hour my client and I had estimated. I felt mentally wiped out.

As I sat in kaizan, I saw that most of my time was spent sorting and placing sentences in the right section. I also noticed I had to work my way through the proposal twice. In a previous project I had discovered the one click paragraph sorting function in modern word processing programs.

What if, I imagined, I dealt with the proposal just once. To do that I had to sit at the computer and enter sentences as I went. And, if I let the computer do the sorting, I just needed to make a table and put a symbol in the first column. So X would show a sentence that would go in the executive summary section, M would later find its way to the management section, and so on.

I could see a need for one more column for a secondary sort (showing if a sentence should be closer to the top of the summary or nearer the bottom). The outer columns served as scaffolding and would ultimately be removed.

My next proposal, just 20 pages, took just under 4 hours using this scheme. Makes sense if the first one took 9 hours and was 40 pages. But it felt much easier and I ended up with my mental juices still flowing. Actually, parts of me disbelieved I'd actually done the work right because it felt so easy.

So the new steps became:
1. Read proposal and type notes and quotes in one long three-column table.
2. Highlight the whole table and sort on the first and third columns. This put it in order by section and within section.
3. Remove first and third columns.
4. Convert from table to text.
5. Continue with editing and finishing steps.

As I type this I can envision a system that eliminates the use of tables. This would be an advancement as then I could compile a summary in any text program or even email and later sort it all using my word processor.

Office tasks are the next frontier for the application of lean concepts. With this project, the first 40 page document took me about 9 hours, the other four, including a 200 page book, took about 4 hours apiece. From a potential total commitment of 45 hours lean thinking shrank my work down to a total of 25 hours, an improvement of almost 45 percent. Looking only the 4 I applied my lean thinking to-my work withered from 36 hours to 16, a savings of 56 percent. And preserving my mental health was a surprising bonus.