The Accidental Doctor
Dr Mick Rogers or “the accidental doctor “as he describes himself says
“It’s all about the people, not just process”. Anywhere people are part of the process, they’re the most important part of the process. The soft aspects of people are the tricky stuff, the stuff that you can’t apply a model for, or you can’t work out on the spread. It requires engagement and trust and risk and exposure with people.
This is where story telling matters. Stories are so important because it’s how we relate to each other. “We still create stories that help us explain what’s going on around us. And it’s the engagement in those stories, I think which is important and exceptional “stresses Mick.
Rich discussion can start us thinking and talking differently about what good looks like and what progress look like. Our considerations can rest on how we like to be with the other people in the organisations we find ourselves in.
Accidentally Mick stumbled into being accepted for a doctorate course. “I had a kind of commercial agreement with my company and I had an emotional agreement with my wife to do some more studying for a few years’’.
Dr Mick Rogers story is exceptional. Having left school at 16 years old with a handful of O’levels , he started on the shop floor of organisations. He is now riding high as a doctor in managing change in complex organisational settings. His passion for people and his interest in how people can work well together in organisations has not diminished. His story is an inspiration to us all.
00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseLeads” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula Okonneh. “TesseLeads” is a safe, sensitive, and supportive place and space to share, to hear, and to tell your stories and your experiences. Hearing the dilemmas and challenges of thought leaders may be helpful as you create and shape opportunities and face challenges in your life. Our guest today is Mick Rogers. Mick is on a mission to improve how we work together in the organizations we find ourselves in. He’s also a champion of empowerment and collaboration, and he has successfully initiated and led “OD” change programs that have ranged from involving a handful of people to many thousands of process users. He says the secret of his success is taking care of the particular, Meaning that change will have on those impacted by the change and not just those answering the change. Or as he’s so often heard saying “it’s all about the people, not just process”. But something that’s so fun about Mick is that he’s an empiricist by nature. And his animating question as to just how it is that we end up working where we do in the organizations we find ourselves in, has led him on a journey from being a semi-skilled shop floor worker, through to supervisory and junior management, onto senior manufacturing management roles in Automotive and Aerospace industries. Along the way he tells us he got himself an education. And in 2014 was awarded a PhD in managing change in complex organizational settings from Hertfordshire University Business School Complexity Research Crew. Mick is an amazing, amazing person, and I wanna welcome him to “TesseLeads”. Thank you Mick for coming onto “TesseLeads”.
00:02:25 Mick: I thought I was going to introduced as an emperor pet just then!
00:02:29 Paula: I almost did. I was so amused by accidental PhD. I can’t really thinking about that. That’s why I was stumbling all over my words, everything.
00:02:46 Tesse: Oh dear. Oh my God. Wow. I love being on this show with my cohost, Paula, and Mick welcome. I’m so glad you said yes to coming. And one of the things that intrigued me as I researched your pathway, was this accidentally stumbling on a PhD. How does someone do that? Is that a thing? Please tell me more.
00:03:10 Paula: Yes, please.
00:03:13 Mick: Yeah, well it was by accident. But as Paula introduced, I came from a kind of shop floor environment. I left school at 16 with a handful of O levels and was going to do an apprenticeship. No aspirations of being academic or anything. I still don’t. Which sounds strange considering I got a doctorate. But I really like people, and I found in my work that people were pretty important things to our end and to understand what was happening and what was going on. But I didn’t understand what was happening and what was going on. It all seemed very confusing to me, organizational life. I couldn’t work out for the life of me, people who outside of work were charitable and ran football teams for kids who weren’t their kids and did all sorts of good stuff. And where community and social minded could be really selfish in work, it seemed like very precious about the chair that they sat in. And they wouldn’t move from that chair cause they’d been sat in that chair for 20 years, and their dad sat in that chair as a very kind of crude example. But there seemed to be something that we did to people in organizations that changed them from being the kinda normal loving people that they were outside of organizations. It wasn’t a mission or anything to find out about this, it was just accident all the way. I started working for a company that I’ve gotten well with and they wanted to promote me, so I had some more responsible jobs. And then I left that company and I went to another company and I was kind of successful there. And then all of a sudden I looked around and thought, hang on, everybody who’s working at the same level of me has been to university at some point in time, they have a relevant degree to what we’re doing. And I didn’t. And I kind of thought, well, maybe this is why I don’t understand what’s going on, because I don’t have the education that they have. So I went and tried to fix that, and I did a masters with the Open University, a masters in Manufacturing Management and Technology. This was 20 years ago or something like that. And it still didn’t help. I still didn’t understand what was going on any better to be perfectly honest. I was probably even more confused at the end of it. But it suffice for the time. Anyhow, this animating question of mine as to how we are in the organizations we find ourselves in, wouldn’t go away. So I started reading stuff, and people were good enough to suggest things for me to read, and introduce me to topics I’d not seen before. Stuff like Democratic Management was something I was quite interested in. A guy called Ricardo Semlar who wrote a book called “Maverick” back in the late 90s about his company and how he wanted it to run differently, that’s cool. Any how. So doing all this I bumped into this guy called Dr. Paul Thomas, who used to work at Glamorgan University and had set this thing up called DNA Wales. Which was all about having democratic management practices in Wales. And I got on really well with Paul, really liked his work and invited him into the company I was working at, at the time to talk to some of the management team there about different ways of working. Particularly around what we call “Complex Adaptive Systems”, CAS. So it was about complexity sciences and systems learning in organizations. Anywho. After a little while Paul approached me and said that he was thinking of starting a Masters in leadership and complexity at Glamorgan University, where he was working in the business school, and asked if I would like to do it? Originally, I said, “well, not really”, cause I did a masters not that long ago. But he said, well, you’re doing all this stuff anyhow at work. You’re reading the authors that you would have to read, why not get some recognition for it? So far that’s a fairly good idea. So I had a chat with my boss at work and said, I’d like to do this studying, and he looked at the prospectus and said, yeah, that seems something we’ll support you doing it’s appropriate to your role. Then I’d chat with my wife, and I said, “look, I think I’m about doing some more studying, are you okay with me doing that”? And she said, “yeah okay”. So I had a kind of commercial agreement with my company and I had an emotional agreement with my wife to do some more studying for a few years. And then it all fell flat. For one reason or another Dr. Paul Thomas left Glamorgan University, and they decided not to continue with this masters in complexity of leadership. And I was gutted, I really was. I remember sitting at my computer at my desk in the company I was working at, and just looking out the window and thinking, well, what am I going to do now? And I just oddly typed leadership and complexity into the search engine of our laptop. And up came this program at the University of Hertfordshire. And I just read the prospectus and I thought, wow, that’s exactly what I want to be learning, even more so than what Paul was proposing to do on his leadership. Now the story I tell myself is, I didn’t realize it was a doctorate until I actually went along for the interview. I didn’t even look at the level. It was just, I really wanna do this. I might have twigged a little bit before then. But it was certainly not my intention to be a doctorate or to do PhD. It was just, I was really interested in the topic that they were talking about. So that’s how I claim to be an accidental Doctor.
00:08:07 Tesse: I love it. Paula, I’m just laughing. You know, what are your thoughts on this?
00:08:14 Paula: That is so neat. And that is something that I feel a lot of people probably need to hear. You know, that you can achieve something without actually knowing what you wanted. You know, the route to go about it. Because the accidental PhD thing had me stitches. So how has that impacted your life? I know that Client Centered Consulting and your route to get in there, how has it impacted your life and impacted the life around others?
00:08:46 Mick: Well, I didn’t get a lot of sleep for three years, that’s for sure, while I was studying. I guess it was always a question that we had on the DMan programme. What’s going to change because of having done the PhD. And stuff did change, I don’t think it necessarily changed me completely. But I was more informed on the things that I couldn’t understand before. And now I may be on better understanding of why they were taking place. And therefore the importance of them and the relevance of them. So where there may have been a temptation to dismiss something before, cause it felt a little bit too difficult, or maybe I might not like what I find there. Afterwards it just helped a much richer conversation with the guys and girls that I was working with. Not because I talked to them about maybe some of the authors that I’d been reading, cause some of the stuff is a bit heavy and I’m not maybe suited for casual conversation over a cup of coffee. But it was just being informed about how people are, and this phrase that I use about how we are in the organizations we find ourselves in. Cause for me that’s quite important. I don’t think anybody really ever plans to be working for the company they end up working for. We might have some notion when we leave school about where we’re going to go to. But I think very few of us actually end up in that exact same job. Because things change as we learn and we grow and develop. We find ourselves in organizations as opposed to planning to be there. But the other thing is we find ourselves in organizations. Now this is to say that we’re not independent from the organizations that we’re in. They influence us and we influence them. So we become by part of our experience is what I’m saying, and this is part of the work that we did on the DMan programme. The work of a guy called Hegel and his notion of Inter subjectivity. That there’s no objectivity or subjectivity, but there is Inter subjectivity if we co-create that. So just knowing this kind of stuff, that this is one way of describing how reality works. And that aligned a lot better for me with how I was experiencing people at work and helped me work with them to help them overcome whatever particular challenge they were facing at that point in time.
00:10:58 Tesse: That is really amazing. Mick, what is striking me about you is what a brilliant storyteller you are. And I’m loving it. And I’m looking at Paula, and our viewers will be hearing the vocal, but they won’t see the picture, and Paula’s eyes are full of questions as well. So I’m going to get in there to say, are there any other stories that you’d like to share about your journey? Apart from the accidental PHD, which I think is wonderful and everything else that happened there, and not having sleep for three years. And also the emotional contact with your wife and the contractual one with the employers, I mean that is. But any other stories that you could share?
00:11:41 Mick: Oh, good grief. Well, I guess keeping them kind of relevant to the topic. One thing as we’ve discussed in another podcast. I currently work as a consultant for “Client Center Consulting” and there was a remarkable, once again by accidents for me, alignment if you will, between the stuff that I did on the DMan program, the PhD I did, and the work on “Client Center Consulting”. Now, if you look at the authors, that’s Bill Evans, Peter Cockman, and Pete Reynolds refer to in the book “Consulting For Real People”, which is to require certain consulting. There are very few of them that we would refer to on the DMan program in the Hertfordshire School of Business. So there’s not a big overlap in terms of the sort of academic background if you will. Infact, coincidentally Bill used to work with one of the people who used to be on the faculty, so it’s one of these coincidences. But there was a real strong sense for me when I was on the DMan program, that what they were talking about, what they were explaining was what Bill was exposing. So Bill Evans is the founder of “Client Center Consulting” and the co-author of the book. The stuff that he was talking about, about how to work better with people, we were kind of exploring from an academic position while I was doing the doctoral program. Even though there was no causal link or no obvious link there, it just kind of coincidentally made sense to me in that aspect. The common thing between the two was that we were talking about people. And talking about what, or rather ironically companies tend to call the softer aspects of people, feelings, which are actually the harder things to deal with. So why they call it the soft aspects of people? I have no idea. Cause it’s the tricky stuff, the stuff that you can’t apply a model for, or you can’t work out on the spread. It requires engagement and trust and risk and exposure with people. Otherwise you are just going to be dealing with a fact similarly, not the real person, if you’re not able to connect on that level. So I’ve always had this fascination with people. And that’s kind of made me struggle a little bit in a, in some of the technical environments that I’ve worked in. I remember working a company in the Aerospace industry and we were at a plant somewhere or other. And there was a lot of German people working there and a lot of English people there, and there’d be airplane shuttle flowing in each day, taking people back to their home countries. And I always wait to get on the bus, which took you to the airport and a colleague of mine, a UK guy called Murray. He came up and had a chat with me and he introduced me to his German manager, who was a very tall guy. I know it sounds very stereotypical, but he was a very tall guy, very severe and stern looking. And he walked up to me and Murray introduced me to him and said, this is Mick and this is whatever his boss’s name was. And his boss looked at me and said, he didn’t say anything else other than, he just looked at me and said, and what is your speciality? And I absolutely froze like a rabbit in the headlines. I kind of looked at him and it felt like an eternity, but I finally blurted out ‘people’. In absolute disgust, turned around, walked away in the other direction and never spoke to me again.
00:14:46 Tesse: I’m loving it. I’m loving it.
00:14:49 Mick: But people are just so bloody important. I mean, yes, processes are important. You couldn’t run a large, you know, build airplanes without processes. I can’t imagine how you could do that or anything that’s got some degree of complication to it should be saying. But never forget the things that are built are built by people. And until we have, God forbid, a factory completely, man by robots, there’s still going to be people involved. There’s still be people involved then cause there’s still people programming the robots. There’s still people designing the robots. There’s still shareholders that are, oh I’d like to say there are still humans. But we have algorithms and bots these days bidding on the stock exchange. But as soon, anywhere people are part of the process, they’re the most important part of the process. And that’s where we should be putting more and more focus.
00:15:33 Paula: I see why Client Centered Consulting means so much to you. Because I heard the emphasis is on people, and we need people. And, you know, as you said, even when the factories or organizations go all AI and are run by robots, you still need people to program those robots. You are a storyteller. Are there any other interesting stories you can tell us? I mean, related to what we know about your accidental PhD, that enabled you to have better conversations with the girls or the lads in the environment in which you worked in. Anything else, I mean, you are very fascinating to me.
00:16:12 Tesse: Absolutely agree. Totally, totally agree.
00:16:16 Mick: Oh, I dunno about that so much. There are many things. The reason why I think these things are fascinating to you, and why they tend to be fascinating to other people when I talk to them about it, it’s cause it resonates with them. If these were things that had only ever happened to me, I very much doubt you’d have much interest in it. It probably quite boring actually, cause you couldn’t connect with it. And this is the thing which encourages me to continue both with my research, if you will. And also with the work which build us, is that it connects with people, it resonates with the word that we use on the DMan program. It has meaning outside of the meaning that I bring with it. And other people pick these things up, and they tell me stories as well. They say, well, a similar thing happened to me, or maybe something completely different. But it has a global sense there. And the global sense to me is that we’re all people, and we all like being around other people, and very few people who don’t, and certainly the vast majority of people we bump into on a day to day basis will be like that. We just forget to treat them like that. So much of the time we get too bogged down in trying to explain things in terms of metrics, KPIs, spreadsheet analysis. Got all the million and one things that you’d like to, how we think we should be running organizations. And that’s not to say that they’re not valuable and worthwhile, they are. But they’re not actually what’s going on. What’s actually going on is the sense that the people are making of these routines, these procedures, these value statements, these organizational charts, or all these things. It’s the sense that people make of them in ordinary everyday conversations is what makes companies work. And as soon as we forget about that and think, well it’s actually the processes that’s doing this, then we’re lost. Because then we have a disconnect between what’s really happening and how we describing what’s happening. And that’s the worst thing, because then we start pulling all our time, effort and attention into working on something which is removed from reality. That’s to me why stories are so important because it’s how we relate to each other. It’s how we always have back in ancient times, the Greeks used to talk about gods. This was how they explained the natural phenomenon around us. One of my favorite little stories about that is the fable or myth or whatever you call it about Metis, who’s the Greek God of wisdom, I think, or goddess of wisdom. And how she was very wise, and Zeus was afraid of her and so Zeus being the willy old cap that he was, tricked her into turning into a butterfly and he swallowed her, so that she was no longer a threat. And the way they came up with this, this is why we have butterflies in our stomach. You know, when you’re apprehensive about something or you’ve got a good feeling, that was their explanation of how this came about. We do the same thing today. We create stories which are valid within the cultural context that we’re in. Cause that was valid in the ancient Greece, we might not believe it now. But we still create stories that help us explain what’s going on around us. And it’s the engagement in those stories, I think which is important and exceptional
00:19:17 Tesse: I really love the notion and the application of the stories and the engagement in the stories. And I value your wisdom Mick about a world now where we’re going even into more overdrive to do so many things require so many things in our companies, in our organizations. And actually the World Health Organization, has said the epidemic we’re in and it’s going to get worse is burnout. And it’s actually people feeling overwhelmed with very poor mental health. And given this thing that is in loving people, being relatable and treating people with respect. What are your thoughts with this kind of environment that we are creating, where we are just speeding up and speeding up all the time?
00:20:14 Mick: It’s pernicious, the simple answer to that. It’s not beneficial. It’s pernicious, the word I would use to describe it. But unfortunately there’s no easy way out of it, because we’ve become so accustomed to viewing and thinking about our experiences in this way that letting go of this stuff is difficult. Now the good news is we created it this way so we can create it differently. That’s, don’t have nightmares kids, that’s the good bit about it. But it’s not going to be easy, cause we have to let go of so much that we’ve, particularly in the West, that we’ve come to hold as just normal and natural. Convenience, just something we can no longer afford. The world can no longer afford the convenience that humans have become accustomed to. It’s too expensive. We don’t have the natural resources to do it. We don’t need to do it. We need to think of other ways of doing it. But fundamentally within business, which I think is where the runt started. It comes down to the “C” word ‘competition’.That’s the root of all evil in society at the moment. And we’re all guilty to it, I’m afraid myself included. Anybody who’s got pension, we’re all part of the competitive environment. Cause we’d like to have a good pension when we retire. When we like to have as much money from our investment as we can. And this drives a whole cycle of competition within financial circles, which leads to what seemed to me, to be patently ridiculous scenarios taking place in the stock market with, you know, things like the Bitcoin to use the example, but the digital currencies. That cannot be sensible the way those things are going, and it cannot be beneficial. But we can’t suddenly get out of it and just let go of it, because it’s just an exponential development of everything that’s been going on for the last hundred or so years in commerce and society. Once again, particularly in the West,
00:22:05 Tesse: Paula, over to you. I mean, I’m just kind of like, I love it. Ridiculous situation being created, and we’re creating it, so we can undo what we are creating going forward. That gives me some hope. I don’t know about you Paula, over to you.
00:22:20 Paula: I’m just thinking about, as he said, that “C” word is a driving force, competition. I wanna do better than you. I wanna have more than you. I wanna feel better than you.
00:22:31 Mick: Absolutely. I want more listeners than you. I want more likes than you. It’s become, how we’ve become to value ourselves in modern society. And it’s, like I said, it’s pernicious, because there’s no way out of this other than accepting to lose. Within the current vernacular, okay, but I just need to position that very carefully. When we’re talking about zero sum games, which is the competition environment, the only way out of it is to lose. And that’s not a favorable thing, you know, no one’s going to vote for that. Unfortunately, you know, very few people are going to vote for that. So we need some different way of looking at how it is that we engage with each other and how we live together. And the other C word is the savior’s compassion. That is the thing for me that is required, and the thing which also gives me hope. Cause as I’ve spoken about already, for me, that’s a natural innate part of being human, that we need others more than they need us. And it’s not compassionate to get better yourself or make yourself easier. It’s more, I might be going off on a tangent here, but it’s more the kind Buddhist notion of compassion. Which is the layman’s compassion of being in Buddhism. It’s a recognition that we’re all body sappers just on different stages of the journey.
00:23:52 Paula: On different stages of the journey. As we come to an end. Where can our listeners find you? I mean, you are fascinating and I know you definitely must be online. But can you share that with our listeners?
00:24:05 Mick: Yes, it’s nascent at the moment, but this is going to be It for me to get back and finish it. I have a website on a Facebook page called “The Art Of Compassionate Management”, which is a place where I’m encouraging people to come and talk about nothing in particular, but everything in general. But different ways of understanding how we can work with each other from what is the traditional management, dogma. This notions of systems understanding and leadership being ensconced in that as well. That as a lady you can stand outside of the system. You can work out what the labels are that needs to be pulled and everything will be hunky dory. Just doesn’t work that way. So it’s not a place where you’ll find any answers I’m afraid. But I’m hoping it’s a place where you’ll find rich discussion, about how we can start thinking and talking differently about what good looks like, I guess really. About what progress looks like. And about how we’d like to be with the other people in the organizations we find ourselves in.
00:25:07 Paula: I love it. I love it. I love everything that you stand for. The world needs more of this. People centered, client centered, compassion, you know? Yeah. It’s not perfect, but at least if we continue the conversation, after a while it becomes like the norm, you know. Things change by people talking about it and sometimes arguing. But awareness.
00:25:31 Mick: And it is changing the world one conversation at a time.
00:25:34 Paula: One conversation at a time. I love that. I love that. So we are going to wrap this up. And again, I’m really impressed by everything I heard from Dr. Mick Rogers. And to our listeners, just as you’ve heard that, we believe that your precious stories and your lives matter. So please share them with us. You are encouraged, supported, and nurtured because you’re never alone. And for our listeners, we ask that you head over to “Google Podcast”, “Apple podcast”, “Spotify”, or anywhere else that you listen to podcasts and follow us, and also click subscribe. And if you found what you just heard on “TesseLeads” helpful, please let us know in your reviews. If you have any questions or topics you’ll like us to cover, send us a note. And if you’d like to be a guest on our show, “TesseLeads”, please head over to our website, which is “www.tesseakpeki.com/tesseleads” to apply. Thank you Mick, you certainly certainly have intrigued me as I know you have intrigued our listeners. Tesse.
00:26:51 Tesse: I’m just amazed and in awe of what becomes possible, you listen to people like Dr. You know, Mick and compassion and care and what that does. So very hopeful, extremely helpful. Mick, thanks so much for sharing and caring.
00:27:07 Mick: Oh, thank you very much for inviting me on the program.
00:27:09 Paula: Absolutely.