Obstacles to True Consensus – Summary
[Tl;Dr: Major improvements in the effectiveness of any organisation go begging, because the skills and experience for reaching the necessary True Consensus are almost always absent.]
This is the final post in my recent mini-series about obstacles to True Consensus.
The Big Picture
Let’s step back and try to take in the big picture for a moment.
I most often label this big picture “Organisational Effectiveness”. You might prefer to call it “improving the bottom-line”, “productivity”, or simply “success”.
Why does this big picture matter to me? Because of the impact ineffective organisations have on the people who work in them, on the people who depend on their products and services, and on society as a whole.
I’m a software engineer at heart. I have so many times worked with software engineers and other folks wanting to make a difference in the world, and being unable to do so because of the ineffectiveness of the organisations within which they work. Sooner or later, these folks simply give up on their dreams and “check out” (remaining employed but disengaged) or quit. Having been in the same boat myself on any number of occasions, I feel like I can relate. And, BTW, that’s why I now serve organisations in the role of Organisational Psychotherapist, actually doing things – albeit non-software engineering things – to “make a difference”.
I’m a customer of these organisations, too. We all are. Not out of choice, let me add. I have in mind the various organs of state, in which we have no say regarding the shoddy services and lame products they foist on us. Not that most private corporations are much better.
How do ineffective organisations impact society? Apart from the waste of public money (many are in the public sector) that could be put to better use elsewhere, the sheer number of ineffective organisations lead us all to believe that ineffectiveness is normal and unavoidable. We seem to have lost the belief that we can ever expect to see things become better.
The Key to Improved Effectiveness
It’s pretty much accepted that the ability to transcend paradigms (an organisation’s beliefs, assumptions and rules about work) is the greatest lever to improve effectiveness. And by effectiveness, I mean reducing or eliminating things that should not have been done but nevertheless were done. See my recent post: Reliability and Effectiveness for details and objective measures of this.
In other words, the prevailing paradigm, or mindset or memeplex governing an organisation determines its effectiveness. And so, it’s obvious that to improve effectiveness, we must “shift” this paradigm. This is where most organisations falter and fail. They have no experience or capability in achieving a True Consensus. Such a thing looks like an impossibility.
In case you’re wondering if there’s any relevance to tech companies and their employees and customers: All flavours of Agile are essentially forms of local optima. Local optima, in that Agile initiatives are almost always limited to one silo (the “development” or “IT” silo) in the organisation. Most people in organisations doing software development are obliged to place their faith in systems of local optima. This is because the prospect of building a True Consensus across the whole organisation seems so daunting, so impossible, so contrary to prevailing behaviours, as to never receive serious consideration or discussion. And so, systemic ineffectiveness is locked in.
A “True Consensus” is when ALL top managers agree on the exact SAME action plan, with each and every top manager regarding his or her components of the joint action plan as his or her own baby.
Whether in a single organisation, or society as a whole, True Consensus is a prerequisite for concerted action to make things better, to make things more effective. On the path towards effective organisations, progress will only come about if the top teams, and eventually their whole organisations, can agree on their core problems and find coherent, holistic ways forward, together. True Consensus is the necessary prerequisite for Rightshifting any organisation.
This mini-series and its precursors has described one path to arrive at such a True Consensus, including describing the obstacles we can expect to encounter along the way, and ways of overcoming those obstacles.
In brief, the described path consists of repeatedly practicing, as a group and emergent leadership team, these steps:
- understanding the core conflict in a problem by discovering the inherent flawed assumption
- agreeing on a direction for a solution
- elaborating that direction into a full (holistic, company-wide) solution or plan of action
- agreeing on how to implement that full solution
- enacting the implementation
You can find more details in the posts of this mini-series:
Obstacles to True Consensus – Summary (this post)
and in the four posts prior to the mini-series itself:
And you can find even more in-depth elaboration of these ideas in e.g. Goldratt’s audiobook “Beyond The Goal”.