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Organizational alienation


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Human beings design constraints in a system. Then the system creates behavior, and people adjust the system. There are places in this loop, where human unconscious has potentially huge leverage in the long term development. When facing a challenge human mind does its best to cope with the the change by learning and acting. The more threatening the challenge is, the more the unconscious defense mechanisms protect the mind from anxiety. Defensing always has a flavor of self-deceit. It is often difficult to judge how much a certain choice is defensing and how much coping. Learning, by the way, is laborious and threatening, and thus often causes defensing. The talk will shortly present defense mechanisms. Then we will explore four common, significant and painful patterns in organizations, magnified by defensive behavior:

Three conflicting interests
Gaps between Customer and Producers
Competing projects
Overspecialization leading to coordination chaos

I have called the general phenomenon Organizational Alienation. Based on my 15 years in studying and developing large SW organizations, I have chosen three levers that you can pull in everyday decisions to change the direction:

From overspecialization to deep competencies having wide responsibilities
From avoiding conflict to passion to learn
From batching to flow

The most effective arena to create change is teams making decisions, both the front-line and management teams. Every member of the organization can influence.

Published in: Business, Spiritual
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Organizational alienation

  1. 1. Organizational Alienation An experience report of 15 years of developing organizations. Ari Tikka, LESS 2011, 31.10.2011 Alienation? Alienation refers to theseparation of things thatnaturally belong together,or to put antagonismbetween things that areproperly in harmony. -- Karl Marx, influenced byLudwig Feuerbach
  2. 2. Who says? !  Structural dynamics!  Embedded software!  Organizational therapist!  Agile and Lean consultant!  Lifelong interest in the mind!  Intensive Zen meditationAll models are wrong, some are useful. (GPE Box) The natural evolution of an organization
  3. 3. Specialized professional coordinators" Coordination chaos Expensive to coordinate the resources! Slow to manage the portfolio! Waste! Exhaustion!V A L U E! C O S T!
  4. 4. The principles The principles causing Organizational Alienation" "1.  Overspecialization 2.  Batching 3.  Conflict avoidance
  5. 5. Overspecialization" - Idling and bottlenecks Big batches"- hide details, hide reality
  6. 6. Conflict = mismatch !  Mac Thesaurus: “a conflict between his business and domestic life: clash, incompatibility, incongruity, friction; mismatch, variance, difference, divergence, contradiction, inconsistency. ANTONYMS harmony.” !  Often unpleasant… !  The opposite of avoiding conflict? !  Seek conflict? !  Resolve conflicts? ! Beyond conflict? The countermeasures of " Organizational Alienation 1.  Overspecialization 1.  Wide roles" 2.  Batching 2.  Flow 3.  Conflict avoidance 3.  Greed to learn
  7. 7. Relevance? " Why these patterns? !  Verb / doing!  Coverage? !  Space / structure - Overspecialization !  Time / dynamics – Batching !  Consciousness / decision / meta / control / choice / forces / interests / human needs – Conflict avoidance!  Can I influence? How? !  Granularity / holographic principle / pervasiveness / generality !  Enable micro- and macro level interventions The human factor
  8. 8. Consciousness? !  Consciousness is an anticipation device !  Makes decisions on behalf of the whole. !  Passive -> Adaptive -> Anticipative !  Mechanical -> Plant -> Mammal!  Organizational metaphors !  Machine -> conscious by elite !  Organic -> distributed consciousness!  How is Alienation effecting the consciousness? Why groups are central? !  Collective!  Immediate!  Full bandwidth communication !  People always join bigger organizations through subgroups.
  9. 9. Why to choose alienation " – why not connection? !  Culture, values and assumptions of the country and industry !  Efficiency <-> Robustness !  Long term <-> Short term!  Organizational culture and system!  Never underestimate stupidity !  Fear!  Shame / Guilt!  Anxiety The unconscious " decision making!  Coping!  Defensing “The purpose of ego defence mechanisms is to protect the mind/self/ego from anxiety, social sanctions or to provide a refuge from a situation with which one cannot currently cope.”!  Change resistance
  10. 10. Resistance is a perspective Leader’s point of viewIndividual’s point of view Fear, Change Shame, Anxiety Change Individual Defenses" !  Pathological ! Split, Denial !  Immature !  Phantasy, Projection, Acting Out, Procrastination !  Neurotic !  Dissociation, Intellectualization !  Mature !  Humor, Altruism, Concentrating to the essential
  11. 11. Group defenses !  Humans as tribal animals have functional group communication patterns !  Dependency !  Fight-Flight !  Pair forming!  Sometimes the group uses these patterns as defenses and the real task is forgotten The Power of Culture Explicit Realizing" values Truth Basic assumptions
  12. 12. Organizational defenses !  Organizations are designed to produce" waste and error, in order to avoid " embarrassment and threat, " and to cover unacceptable acts. !  It is indiscussable. Indiscussablility is indiscussable. But individuals know. !  Results in skilled incompetence and " organizational depression Chris Argyris: Overcoming Organizational Defenses, " Facilitating Organizational Learning. 1990. The contribution of defenses " to the principles of Alienation" 1.  Overspecialization 1.  Wide roles" 2.  Batching 2.  Flow 3.  Conflict avoidance 3.  Greed to learn
  13. 13. Examples The Gap From firefighter" to change driver!Able and Wide roles! willing people Flow ! Greed to learn! R&D Product management Technology Customer
  14. 14. Overspecialization and batches go together Marketing &" Sites! Program! Consulting! Sales! Customer! End user!Explicit" Handovers"Documentable! Batches! Tacit! Relearning! Is this possible?" Why not? How? Wide roles! Flow ! Consulting! Marketing &" Greed to learn! Sites! Sales! Program! Customer! End user! ! !
  15. 15. Three Conflicting Interests Investor s interest" Capital market Customers " Management" Interest subculture Market Customer" interface" subculture Production/" development" subculture Workers interest" Production realities Overcoming " Wide roles! Alienation Flow ! Overcoming Greed to learn! Defenses ! !Gemba Flow
  16. 16. Summary From Alienation to Connection 1.  Overspecialization 1.  Wide roles and responsibilities !  Knowledge waste !  Deep competencies in dialogue !  Coordination chaos !  Sharing workload and learning2.  Batching 2.  Flow !  Weak feedback !  Immediate and consequential !  Hide details !  Work with and learn from reality3.  Conflict avoidance 3.  Greed to learn !  Ignorance and mistakes !  Wisdom !  Alienation !  Empowerment