Wendell L Franch and Cecil H. Bell, Jr, Organisation Development: Behavioral Science Interventions for Organisational Improvement, 2nd Ed., © 1978
This is a familiar image from the past. But how well have we tackled it here at the MIX on the way to re-visioning management? As we continue to develop our stories and hacks that revolutiionize our systems and designs, including those for problem-solving, engagement, power, and pay, we may have left out the one most important aspect of an innovative approach -- which is understanding and managing human incongruency. Every system, every person has blind spots, and this is nowhere more destructive to creativity, adaptation and resilience than in the incongruency of leadership behavior. Here are a few examples from my own experience:
- The CEO who says he would like "to open up communications in the management team" but becomes angry and abruptly ends the effort when members of his senior team suggest that his own behavior (blowing up at managers publicly) is part of the reason people don't speak up.
- The senior VP of a research organization that says she wants to encourage more cross-disciplinary collaborations, but does not engage people in a discussion of this topic because she does not see herself as "very good with this people stuff."
- The manager who wants to guide a team that in her words, "feels more like a community of practice than a work unit" but who becomes so emotional about human relationships that she drives people away from her own vision.
- The IT Vice President who wants his department's management team to operate as a self-leading group and believes so thoroughly that the end of the day "the best idea will win through debate" that members' conflicting ideologies (including his own) that block all decisions in the group. As a result the reputation of the department suffers and eventually, because of the team's inaction on critical organizational imperatives, he is replaced.
- Incongruence is a source of break-through learning in blind spot areas -- by definition hard to learn from because they threaten personal identity and/or organizational brand and reputation.
- Incongruence is not something a person or an organization can ever fully "overcome." There will always be some level of incongruence as new layers of understanding reveal themselves and new challenges emerge.
- Incongruence exists on a personal level that is connected to the organization and vice versa -- the problem is not "out there" with others; it is "in here" with self and organization together.
- A leader or leadership group asks for information about personal and organizational incongruence directly.
- This is initiated and continued voluntarily over a long period of time.
- The leader or leaders specifically search out the coupling of individual and organization behaviors.
- People help each other get past their defensiveness rather than exacerbate it.
- As a community, people help each other grow and mature in what they are learning about themselves and their enterprise community.
- Interpersonal: Reduce stress by talking with others about incongruences you've discovered. What do they make of them? What can they add in terms of interpretation and reassurance?
- Physical/Kinesthetic: Run, golf, bike, weight lift, dance your way out of the stress that comes from gaining disconfirming data.
- Linguistic: Write free-form in a journal about what you are learning. Write a story about it and then check your story for insights that challenge an older way of being. Read books about leadership growth and learning, such as Peter Koestenbaum's seminal Leadership: the inner side of greatness.
- Logical/Analytical: Look for the direct benefits of gaining data that doesn't just reinforce earlier self-concepts and protect yourself from the truth. Remind yourself of the value of busting personal, not just organizational paradigms. Learn to see perceptual data (how people feel or see things) as meaningful clues to deeper, more fundamental forms of psychological and social knowledge.
- Visual/Spatial: Use artistic or architectural forms to depict core incongruencies, such as fractured images and buildings that will topple. Then interpret these forms by asking, "What have I actually drawn?" "What does this mean to me?" "To our organization?"
- Intrapersonal: Meditate to relieve the stress of information about which you might otherwise feel emotional. And also meditate on the incongruent data. Sit with it, cultivating both detachment and learning.
- Naturalistic: Walk in the natural world to regain your sense of equilibrium. Consider the source of incongruence nature itself. Where do you find disruption true in nature -- a flood, a fire, an earthquake -- what is the process and result?
- Musical: Spend time singing, writing, or listening to music in order to relax. What emotions does the incongruity provoke? How can that be represented in musical form? How do "these notes" resolve?