中道 Chudo – the Middle Way

I came across this term recently whilst reading ‘Zen 24/7’ by Philip Sudo. It is a term used both in martial arts and meditation and it struck me as something that also applies to Business Analysis. Having recently attended the European BA Conference it resonated on a couple of fronts.
Conflict and crisis management.
This is something a BA does on a regular basis and there were a couple of presentations on this topic over the course of the conference. Over the course of my career I have met some BAs who are very assertive and some BAs who are very passive. There is a time for both of these behaviours but I personally believe the BA should cultivate the Middle Way, i.e. strike a balance between the two and occupy the space in between. The Middle Way is not a passive place nor is it an aggressive place. It is a mindset that allows freedom and flexibility without taking sides or getting attached to anything; a mind-set that is free from the burden of expertise and one that is free from the burden of having to lead from the front. Using this mindset a BA can dis-passionately engage in conflict resolution; they have no agenda beyond finding the way to an effective outcome for the parties involved. The BA can have the freedom to pause when directly challenged and avoid being drawn into an emotionally charged engagement; instead they can consider and discuss what is best for the group or the long term objective of the greater community rather than focus on personal battles. This may frustrate the more short-term aggressive team members but ultimately it will have the best results. In terms of crisis management (and let’s be honest, most assignments will have at least one dark moment) the Middle Way thinker avoids the headlong and instinctive rush to do something, normally conceived through hasty thinking and executed in a state of panic. The Middle Way thinker takes a moment to stop, examine the situation, gather information, propose a plan and then act as they are not caught in a Pavlovian reaction to the crisis and swept along with the crowd.
Leadership
A Middle Way Leader is strategic not tactical, persuasive not cajoling or apologetic and is present rather than focused. One of my favourite expressions is that we BAs lead from the middle; a phrase recently amplified by Sir Clive Woodward at the BA Conference. We are not at the front of the charge, nor are we simply passive followers. Our natural position is in the centre, quietly influencing for the right outcome. I recently heard the expression “A good BA Is one who is never noticed” and there is a lot of truth in this statement; it reminds me of the martial arts aphorism “Hear the wind; listen to the water”. In his book “the Way of the Living Sword” Yagyu Munenori makes the following observation about this mindset. “Hear the wind; listen to the water means to remain calm and serene outwardly even when a fierce fighting spirit is raging within. Wind is completely silent. Sound only comes when the wind strikes other objects. The wind in the sky is silent. When the wind comes against trees or bamboo it then makes a loud violent sound. Likewise, water falling from the sky makes no sound until it strikes things below and then it can sound thunderous. Be like the wind and water, completely calm and silent to the observer yet precisely poised beneath. You should appear peaceful and unconcerned on the surface even as you are primed to react correctly underneath”. Personally I think this is a great mental construct for a BA to adopt as it applies to many of the activities and situations that a BA will face during their working day. I’m not going to spell out all the scenarios for you though as you need to think it out for yourself….!
Well-being
In my experience Middle Way thinking greatly benefits personal well-being as being over-assertive or too passive can both be quite stressful. Keeping a dispassionate view reduces emotional investment and effort and allows you time to consider all the options in a calm, positive way. This can only be a good thing!
Flexibility
If you keep to the Middle Way you do not need to be expert or reliant on any particular method or technique as you can select those which seem appropriate for the situation. It is all to easy to become over-reliant on one approach, which becomes problematic if that approach doesn’t work or is unavailable. In effect you really need to have the attitude of ‘the method of no method’. I will let Yagyu Munenori have the last word on this topic………. “If you have attained mastery of swordlessness, you will never lack for a sword”.
So there you are Dear Reader, my thoughts on The Middle Way. Hopefully you’ve found them useful even though you don’t often associate martial arts with Business Analysis………. Well to be honest, I do!!

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One thought on “中道 Chudo – the Middle Way

  1. Pingback: “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…” Part 2 | The Samurai Business Analyst

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