French Letters

French Letters

I have on occasion described the benefits of keeping an Agile team from intimate contact with the rest of the organisation as like “wrapping the team in a condom”.

Why would we wish to do this? Surely intimate contact is a good thing? Fnarr.

The answer lies in the idea of organisational cognitive dissonance. This is the feeling of unease, even pain, that comes from an organisation having two conflicting world-views in play (inside its collective consciousness) at the same time.

For example, a successful Agile team within a more traditional organisation. An organisation that we might call “Analytic-minded”.

Keeping the two world-views (Synergistic and Analytic) apart by some artificial barrier,  like a metaphorical condom, can delay both the onset and severity of organisational cognitive dissonance. We can see this idea of separation, too, in the idea of the “skunk-works“, such as at Lockheed Martin.

Sometimes this can buy more time, time to spread the agile adoption beyond the team. Sometimes it’s no more than a coping strategy.

And of course it’s no substitute, in the long term, for a transition of the whole organisation to e.g. synergistic principles.

But it can serve to protect the team and the organisation both, from cross-infection of world-views, and the almost inevitable dissolution that typically follows.

– Bob

  1. Bob,
    Are you talking about reducing an individual’s cognitive dissonance by isolating their team from the surrounding culture? Or are you saying that the organization itself suffers from cognitive dissonance?


    • Hi James,

      Thanks for your question. Isolation can help the individual, but I’m writing here about the cognitive dissonance experienced by the organisation as a whole.

      – Bob

      • Thanks for the clarification. I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything on organisational cognitive dissonance. Do you have anything I could read on it, or is this something that you’ve discovered yourself?


      • Not a new idea, I’m sure. Although not nearly so common as the individual variant. Looks like I might have to write something… 🙂

        – Bob

  2. Cognitive dissonance is an important feature of organisation – it is best dealt with rather than ignored or avoided.

    Thanks for this post. If there is to be conflict a “lubricant” is essential.

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