Grasp the invisible dynamics of the organization
Organizations often have a life of their own, whatever the efforts of their leaders to control it. How can you decode organizational dynamics to better influence them?
“I had the impression I was piloting the Titanic. Everyone saw the iceberg. Yet, we ploughed right into it, unable to change course in time.” This statement by the head of a large organization in difficulty illustrates the distress of those who believe they are pulling the levers in an organization, but often observe that they actually have very little control over its course.
Like a boat adrift with no oars or rudder, a bureaucracy that continues to function with or without a head, a basket of crabs, a sleeping beauty—there is no shortage of metaphors to characterize the organization as an entity in its own right, with a life of its own, independent of the efforts and initiatives taken by its leaders. Although this state of affairs may initially seem worrisome, it can actually be a good thing. Some organizations, for example, are able to react spontaneously to critical events in the environment, take initiatives that surpass the expectations of leaders, and organize themselves to capitalize fully on the skills of all of their members. However, far more frequently, leaders are confronted instead with a powerful collective inertia that makes change nearly impossible, or people who waste their energy on internal squabbles and unproductive power struggles. Indeed, these reactions seem to resist all means of control.
Psychologists and sociologists have made some interesting discoveries—particularly in the field of transactional analysis—which can help leaders and managers better understand and influence the invisible dynamics of their organization.
Indeed, an organization is not simply a collection of undifferentiated people, nor is it a set of individuals “aligned behind a single head.” An organization is composed of sub-groups which interact with their own objectives and their own specific perception of the situation. They struggle with one another for power, negotiate, and enter into transactions, often without even consciously realizing it. It is therefore hardly surprising to note that the organization seems to take on a life of its own in which official decisions struggle for traction.
Deciphering these dynamics is thus a prerequisite to change and improve an organization.
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