Useful Metaprograms In Business: Options/Procedures

(also known as ‘Reason Filter’ or ‘Motivation Reason’)

Do you look for alternatives and new ways of doing things, or do you prefer to follow the established procedures? Do you prefer to create new things, or maintain existing ones?

This metaprogram is about how you choose to do your work. ‘Options’ people, as the name implies, prefer to keep their options open, sometimes to the point of being reluctant to commit to a decision in case they lose out. ‘Procedures’ people like to have things settled and know where they stand. They like to complete and finish things.

Identifying the Options/Procedures pattern

Generally the modal operators a person uses will give you a lot of their pattern. Options people use modal operators of possibility (“can”, “could”) while Procedures people use a lot of modal operators of necessity (“must”, “should”, “ought”, “needed to”).

A good question to elicit someone’s Options/Procedures pattern is “Why did you choose your current job?” (or house, or car, or whatever context you’re eliciting the pattern for).

The Options person will use a lot of values in their explanation. They will talk about what they chose to do and why it was important to them.

The Procedures person will tell a story about how (rather than why) they came to be where they are. They talk about a sequence of events rather than choices, and don’t mention their values.

Someone on the midpoint of the scale may tell you a story about how they got there, but also include references to the values or reasons why they made the choices they did.

Job role examples

Procedures people like to have instructions to follow and want to do things the right way. So they suit bureaucratic jobs, production environments, procedure-based areas of law like conveyancing, and professions like piloting where safety procedures are important.

Less obviously, sales people need a strong dose of ‘Procedures’ because success in sales is very largely about following tried and tested procedures, again and again. Franchisees need to be Procedures-oriented because franchises are all about following the instructions in the franchise manual.

Options people are reluctant to follow established procedures – deep down they believe there is always a better way of doing things. They get bored before they reach completion.

They are good in roles where creativity is needed – designers and design engineers, management consultants, and entrepreneurs. They would much rather start their own business than buy a franchise.

Some jobs, such as training and teaching, need a balance of Options and Procedures – options to be able to adapt in the moment and come up with creative ways of teaching things, procedures to be able to stick to a successful format or follow statutory procedures where necessary.

Managers also need an Options/Procedures balance to be able to manage staff with either profile.

Influencing and managing

Here are some phrases that people at one end or the other of the Options/Procedures spectrum can relate to or at least feel comfortable with:

Options: improvements, possibilities, choice, reasons why, these are the options, a couple of alternatives

Find ways to allow Options people to exercise their creativity – get them to look at improvements to procedure or create something new.

Procedures: follow the procedure, first… then… and finally…, the right way, do it by the book, n steps to…, process, methodology

Procedures people do well with clear guidelines where they get to complete the process. Procedures are not just step-by-step sequences – they can also incorporate decision points and loop-backs (as in the TOTE model). The Procedures person can cope with this, as long as the directions for what to do in a particular situation are clear.

The impact of this pattern on selling, in brief: Options people are interested in alternatives, possibilities, and why they should buy something; Procedures people are concerned with how to use the product or service, and with going through the right steps to buy it.

How to explore this metaprogram further

  1. Where do you think you are on this spectrum? Mostly Options, mostly Procedures, or somewhere in between?
  2. Think about the people you know well, especially family members and work colleagues. For each, are they more at the Options or Procedures end of this metaprogram’s spectrum, or somewhere in the middle?
  3. If you find you are further out at the Options end of the spectrum than you would like to be (signs would include being reluctant to finish anything, and always trying to find different ways of doing things even when you could save time by following established procedures), consider this question: what options are you denying yourself by not choosing to follow a ‘good enough’ procedure that would free up your energy for other things?
  4. If you find you are further out at the Procedures end of the spectrum than you would like (signs could include being regarded as a ‘plodder’, experiencing unease when a new situation arises where there’s no established procedure to follow, or feeling excessively uncomfortable with ambiguity), try these ways of loosening up your thinking:
    • If there’s an area of your life where the procedure you’ve been following hasn’t served you well, think of three different ways of doing it. Make one of those ways as outrageous or ridiculous as possible.
    • Investigate procedures for creative thinking and becoming more comfortable with ambiguity. Yes, there are right ways to do these things too!

Words That Change MindsThe best book that I’ve found about metaprograms is Shelle Rose Charvet’s Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence, now in its 3rd edition. Highly recommended! And if you really want to go into metaprograms in depth, Shelle has a high-quality LAB® Profile Practitioner online certification course.

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