Would You Rather Not Know?
[From the Archive: Originally posted at Amplify.com Dec 5, 2010]
Would You Rather NOT Know About What Makes Organisations More or Less Effective?
I’ve had some folks ask me recently as to the point of knowing this information, given that many developers, staff in general and even middle-managers feel that they have little influence over wider business issues and how the work works, end-to-end, within their organisations.
Correlation or Causation?
Is there a correlation between organisational mindset (how the people within an organisation perceive the world of work) and the effectiveness of that organisation? If so, is it a simple correlation or is mindset in fact a causation of (high, or low) effectiveness?
The Marshall Model
The Marshall Model proposes that this is a causative relationship. That is to say, that the prevailing mindset in an organisation directly dictates the effectiveness of that organisation. And moreover, to realise any significant improvement in effectiveness requires that the organisation changes the way it looks at the world of work (its prevailing mindset).
So, maybe learning what makes organisations effective only leads to distraction, frustration, unhappiness and a kind of learned helplessness?
I suggest this proposition is flawed. And only serves to disempower people and perpetuate organisational homeostasis (aka the status quo).
Further, I believe that developers – and others – that come to understand the cause of organisational effectiveness can do much to help break the log-jam of organisational homeostasis and contribute to “Rightshifting” their organisations.
The “collective mindset” of an organisation may seem like an abstract, nebulous and difficult-to-wrangle animal, but in fact, organisational mindset is little more than an amalgam of the mindsets of the individuals within the organisation, underscored by implicit and explicit policies, with a modicum of history thrown-in.
Collective Mindset is Key
So it seems to me that, with knowledge of the key role that mindset plays in organisational effectiveness – and assuming some degree of positive motivation to change things for the better – everyone within an organisation can help effect positive change. At its simplest, folks can simply begin talking about the subject, with their friends, colleagues, fellow team-members, peers and management.
The Japanese concept of ‘ba’ may have relevance here. Nonaka et al suggest that we take ‘ba’ to mean ‘place’. It is a here-and-now coming together of physical, virtual and mental spaces, which together constitute a shared “context in motion” for tacit knowledge to become explicit. In other words, a concept of a place ‘where shared meaning can emerge’.
This requires little in the way of sanction, support or coordination from the top. A crucible or place (“ba”) for regular dialogue can help, certainly – in due course.
Granted, active support and coordination from the CEO or MD is vital in transforming a vertically-organised, siloed organisation into one where horizontal value-streams are the preferred mode of operation.
But CEOs, MDs and such are more likely to act if they feel that people within their organisations already have a basic grasp of the issues, and a relatively positive disposition towards, and a sense of ownership in, potential changes.