Organizational Mythologies

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Organizations create mythologies that become part of the culture. They are stories with great impact. But they are still just stories. Blind acceptance of mythologies costs money, morale, and motivation.

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  • Nice layout and way to debunk this embedded organizational myths. I'd love to see a blog post on each one! The ones that particularly stand out for me via my project and org. experience are 3, 4 and 6:

    #3 - Training changes organizations. Organizational Mythology #4 - All projects are created equal.Organizational Mythology #6 - The greatest organizational mythof all: Bad leaders can change.

    Maybe a Skype or phone call is in order soon, Jim.

    Warm regards, ~ Deb
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Organizational Mythologies

  1. 1. Organizational MythologiesRethink the story line; improve organizational performance.Dr. Jim BohnPro/Axios – Minneapolis, MN
  2. 2. Organizations create mythologies thatbecome part of the culture.They are stories with great impact.But they are still just stories.Blind acceptance of mythologies costs money, morale, and motivation.
  3. 3. Which of theseorganizationalmythologies do youbelieve?How do these mythologies impact yourorganization?Organizational Mythology #1Working with people requires "SoftSkills“.Organizational Mythology #2Leaders are made, not born.Organizational Mythology #3Training changes organizations.Organizational Mythology #4All projects are created equal.Organizational Mythology #5Power is bad.Organizational Mythology #6The greatest organizational mythof all: Bad leaders can change.
  4. 4. Organizational Mythology #1Working with people requires “Soft Skills”."The people side of change requires soft skills." Whenever I hear this phrase it is like nails on achalkboard. This idea is a mythology.
  5. 5. Why do people use the term "softskills"? Heres my take: Unlike Accounting which measures numbers, there is no perfect measureof human behavior ... at least, not from a human perspective. There is no perfect method of predicting human behavior ... onlystatistical probabilities (with the exception of parking lot behavior, whichis highly predictable). Thus, what is un-measurable must be „soft‟. Really?
  6. 6. Human beings are complex. When managers, leaders and executives step back for amoment, they realize human emotion, motivation and intuitions arefar more complex than figures, equations and theorems. Albert Einstein reportedly said "I worked in mathematics, becausepeople are too complicated.“ Paul Allaire of Xerox said "The hardest stuff is the soft stuff."
  7. 7. Organizational Mythology #2Leaders are made, not born. While leaders can change over time and become better atleading, I reject the idea that all leaders are made, not born. Some people have “it”. Whether inmusic, art, education, scholarship, research, athletics, you nameit, some people have „it‟. Great leaders have “it”. They instinctively know how to lead.
  8. 8. Assumptions behind the statement“Everyone is a leader”: Lets have everyone believe they can be a great leader ... so noone is left out. The self-esteem movement has taken its toll on common sense ... We are told that we may injure someones feelings by telling them "you dont have theright stuff. A belief that, in the right circumstances, anyone can lead. The prevalence of corporate graffiti designed to build employeeengagement. "We are all leaders."
  9. 9. There are several problems with thenotion that all leaders are made ...Many folks flat out dont want to lead –its scary,takes too much time,and too much effort,and carries too much risk.They would rather complain about the leaders they have thanbecome a target for criticism and rejection.
  10. 10. There are several problems with thenotion that all leaders are made ... Some people who try to lead - - - because they have been told theycould - - -turn out to be miserable failures, seriously impacting manypeople. You’ve seen them. It’s tough on them, those they lead and their organizations. The skill of leading – coordinating multiple competing egos, ensuring achievement of a major goal by influencing people who do not report to you, and taking the heat for things that go wrong, is an ominous responsibility requiring emotional stamina, confidence (notego), and plain old-fashioned skill that all do not have.
  11. 11. Organizational Mythology #3Training changes organizations Where does the mythology arise that training is a solution to everything? There is a perceptual default that classroom settings where informationwas shared is the key to change. The misguided conviction that employees will change theirleadership, management, work habits if they simply attend a seminar. Managerial frustration with a current situation can motivate leaders tosend people to training.
  12. 12. What do we observe in our own trainingexperiences? We often gain awareness of a perceived gap in knowledge. We may be energized to try something new after we attend aworkshop. Many of the three ring binders of material (or online workshops) wereviewed gathered dust over time. It takes effort far beyond the classroom to integrate new knowledgeinto the DNA of an organization.
  13. 13. Organizational Mythology #4All projects are created equal. Here are some reasons why projects continue to be funded even if they are failing: TEACHERS PET PROJECTS: Its someones pet project ... typically a high level executive. HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL PROJECTS: So much money has been spent to get it off the groundthat people are reluctant to shut it down. "Maybe if we just add a few more people." “YOU TOOK YOUR EYES OFF THE BALL” PROJECTS: In some circumstances, people arentpaying attention to the project at all. HAMSTER WHEEL PROJECTS: BAU (Business as usual) prevents people from seeing the forestfor the trees. DONT BRING ME BAD NEWS PROJECTS: Someone cant (or wont) believe it is failing and willnot accept failure. [Gene Krantz persona ... but this isnt Apollo 13].
  14. 14. Organizational Mythology #5Power is bad. Mention the word POWER, and most folks run for the hills. It can conjure up terrible images of despots, tyrants andmegalomaniacal leaders who are mad with the stuff. Theres no doubt about that ... history is replete with people whohave become crazed by their desires to rule the world.
  15. 15. But hold on for a minute. Quite often, themany suffer because of the reputations ofa few. Consider this:Power provides energy to inspireathletes, researchers, students, philanthropists, theologians, architects, and brilliant musicians. For many, power is the source of determination in the face ofloss, discipline in the face of struggle and downright grit to stay thecourse.
  16. 16. Power is the motive force behind thegood and the bad. Power in itself is neutral, but in the hands of leaders who are drivenby the wrong motives, power can be destructive. Yet organizations cannot exist without power. Heres why: No matter how large they may be, organizations have limitedresources. Organizations cannot be all things to all people. Thats where the influence of power comes to bear.
  17. 17. Why is power necessary in organizations? “If everyone agrees on what to do and how to do it, there is noneed to exercise power to attempt to influence others” (Pfeffer). But rare is the organization where everyone agrees on everything!
  18. 18. Why is power necessary in organizations? If an organization is to have an identity, it must be focused on a goal. This is the power of design. If an organization is to accomplish something, it requires some kind of structure todirect the energy flow. This is the power of decision. If an organization is to work together, it requires some kind of laws or policies toguide those who want to effectively participate and to eliminate those who donot want to cooperate. This is the power of discipline.
  19. 19. The use of power. Ultimately, the way a leader uses power becomes obvious as the years go by. Good leaders become known for inclusion. Dictatorial leaders become known for their dreaded ways. While the latter may "get things done," over time organizations seek leaders whobuild, rather than destroy, organizational power among the many.
  20. 20. Organizational Mythology #6The greatest organizational myth of all:Bad leaders can change.While inexperience may be an initial cause for ineffectiveleadership, over time bad leaders are what they are: badleaders.Narcissistic leaders rarely change without a dramatic loss.Research shows „one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.‟These leaders can do serious damage in organizations.Attempts at rehabilitation of their ways is very likely to fail.No amount oftraining, coaching, counseling, cajoling, incentives orpsychological appraisal will change a bad leader.
  21. 21. Which of theseorganizationalmythologies do youbelieve?How do these mythologies impact yourorganization?Organizational Mythology #1Working with people requires "SoftSkills“.Organizational Mythology #2Leaders are made, not born.Organizational Mythology #3Training changes organizations.Organizational Mythology #4All projects are created equal.Organizational Mythology #5Power is bad.Organizational Mythology #6The greatest organizational mythof all: Bad leaders can change.
  22. 22. Check out the Rapid Diagnostic @www.ProAxios.cominfo@proaxios.com651-302-1574Minneapolis, MN, USAWe offer plainspoken guidancefor those who do the work.

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