Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pitfalls of Organizational Thinking

Foreseeing the pitfalls created by organizational thinking:

Any large organization will eventually pollute any good idea. It's true - we've all seen it time and again. And it's not because of malice or malevolence. We like to think organizations operate on a strategic scale - the big picture. The truth is, organizations are operating in response to a multitude of little pictures - one for every member. That amount of compromise, of splitting the difference, of horse-trading to get anything moving forward leads to an end product that rarely bears a resemblance to the original concept. If you think about how government seems to work, or the military, or corporate management, you'll see what I mean. So how does anything get accomplished? Working groups, tiger teams - environments protected from the larger organization just to get things done, to get projects off the ground. This is a good approach, and it's followed by organizations large and small. But there's a built-in danger. The organization will often view the special team, and their work, with suspicion and resistance.

Why?


Organizations are entities - corporations, for example, are treated in many ways like people from a legal standpoint. Like a person, self-preservation and by extension maintenance of the status quo are basic reactions to any change in the environment an organization exists in. Innovation can easily be perceived as a threat - because it's a change to the status quo. If you suggest a change to workflow, standards, or processes, the organization will often push back. You will likely find yourself pushing back when a change comes toward your own working routine - quite naturally. And change is not always good, and it isn't always (or usually) easy to tell. The trick is to keep yourself from expecting an organization to readily embrace whatever change you may be trying to bring - that expectation will frustrate you and quite possibly sour you on both the task and the organization itself. With that, it's also necessary to ask yourself whether your initial (and natural) resistance to a change coming toward you is really a gut instinct that you see a disaster looming.

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