Meta programs

Options Procedures Filter

Michael Hall in his book “Figuring out People: Reading People using Meta Programs” calls the options procedures filter “Operational Style”. Shelle Rose Charvet calls it “Motivation Reason”.

A person can organize tasks, situations and even life in one of two ways – options or procedures. They can search for and use options – what are all the different ways I can do this? Or, they can look for the procedure – the one right way. Each lives in a very different world.

It is useful to consider the options procedures filters as skills. Being able to design a procedure and then carry it out it is an effective way to operate. How much of your life do you give to routines? Where on the scale would you sit?

options procedures scale

Options end of the Options Procedures Filter

Someone using options will search for opportunities and possibilities. They see life in terms of multiple choices and can find it stressful to reduce their options. It has overlaps with the Perceiver orientation (Judging Perceiving Meta program).

They are skilled at generating alternative ways of doing something and creating new procedures. They usually shop without a list, and can wander through the isles looking at the range of interesting foods or applications

They like to design and create things. They enjoy starting new things (but not necessarily finishing them). They are the innovators and improvers. They are rule benders and breakers. They don’t do this from malice, but to increase their choices. If they have a square peg, they will try to alter or improve it so it fits in the round, oblong and star shaped hole.

When asked the question “Why did you choose X?” they will give you reasons why and their criteria. For instance, “Why did you choose your current house?”… “I wanted to be close to the school, have a backyard for the kids and 4 bedrooms”


They will usually struggle to follow a procedure, even if they have created it. There are times when it is necessary to do things step by step. Anything related to safety or quality control needs the ability to follow a sequence.

They will endlessly try to improve things even when they work well. They seem never to have heard the expression “If it’s not broken don’t fix it” Change for the sake of change can be expensive and time consuming.

People at the extremes of the scale can buy a functioning profitable business and run it into the ground trying to improve things.

Doing things the same way day in day out bores them silly especially if combined with the difference or mismatching Relationship Filter. They can be disruptive in a procedure rich environment.

They can find deciding on one course of action difficult because it eliminates their other options. They can be commitment phobic.

Procedures end of the options procedures filter

Procedures are useful. Many of us have negative associations to the idea of procedures. Some may think of them as uncreative, rigid and mindless. A habit is a type of procedure that is the brains way of conserving energy.

By finding the most economical way to do something and then making it automatic, it almost takes care of itself. Just as we all have habits, we all have routines for some things.

Procedures people want to do tasks the right way. They are the “answer at the back of the book” type. They search for the one right solution, thinking there is always a perfect method. They like to finish what they start.

Imagine spending a day without basic operating procedures. Having to think consciously of a good way to get out of bed, get dressed for the day, get breakfast and even walk. It would be like the story of the centipede that got himself tangled up when asked which leg he moved first.

Safety and security needs procedures. As does certain types of sales. Shelle Rose Charvet in her book “Words that Change Minds” quotes research that suggests telemarketers with a procedures pattern sell three times more than options people do. Options people find it almost impossible to follow a sales script.

Anything linear needs the ability to do procedures – giving or following street directions for instance.

An extreme procedures person might shop at a set time and go with a list. They would have a sequence they followed for the actual shopping.


While skilled at following procedures, they have difficulty generating their own and can be at a loss when they don’t have the guidance of a process. They need the steps. They like books with titles like “5 steps to success” and “9 steps to becoming more flexible.”

Because a procedure is linear (think a tape rather than an MP3), they can become stressed or disoriented if they are interrupted in the middle of a procedure or prevented from completing one.

While they might not think of it this way, they don’t really have choice. There is one right way and that is that.

When asked “Why did you choose X?” they will tell you the story of how it came to be, (sort of the inevitability of the solution) rather than actually answering the why question. For instance, “We had sold our old house and had 1 month to find something new. We also had a fixed budget. We went to 7 different agents and the time was passing. In the end we had to get this one”

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