Balkanisation. The dis-integration, fragmentation and breakdown of cooperation within e.g. organisations.

I’ve previously both written, and spoken publicly, about alienation in the workplace. Given alienation’s deleterious impact on the effectiveness of organisations everywhere, I don’t see it ceasing to be an issue in my lifetime.

“Modern science is characterized by its ever-increasing specialization, necessitated by the enormous amount of data, the complexity of techniques and of theoretical structures within every field. Thus science is split into innumerable disciplines continually generating new subdisciplines. In consequence, the physicist, the biologist, the psychologist and the social scientist are, so to speak, encapusulated in their private universes, and it is difficult to get word from one cocoon to the other…”

~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General Systems Theory

For those who have experienced the Agile way of being, the benefits of collaboration, co-location, integration of specialists from different domains and different parts of the business are manifest.

The Analytic mindset, founded as it is on the idea of breaking an organisation down into parts, and attempting to manage the parts separately, offers fertile conditions for balkanisation – and the various forms of alienation arising from it.

The Synergistic mindset, by way of contrast, with its emphasis on the whole, significantly reduces the scope for balkanisation, and thus the impact of at least one source of alienation in the organisation.

Why then do we see so few organisations where these issues are even recognised, let alone addressed?

Attempting to address symptoms of organisational dysfunction, like lack of innovation, poor engagement and motivation of staff, or high staff turnover, without understanding the root conditions, seems to me to be a fool’s errand.

– Bob

Further Reading

The Concept of Alienation in Modern Sociology ~ Igor S. Kon
General Systems Theory ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Ackoff’s Fables ~ Russell L Ackoff

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