Working with the split personality of organisations
By Steve Whiddett, ABP Conference Speaker 2013
There are different schools of thought about organisational change. Some propose a linear and logical approach, some argue for a logical and systems oriented approach and some call for a psychological approach. Each of these is then further complicated with different models and theories.
Psychologists can offer the observation that different schools reflect different mind-sets rather than different realities (I’ll not explore the philosophical question of different realities right now, maybe over a beer). Despite understanding that different perspectives are often just distinct rather than right or wrong, each school, including our own, often disregard other schools rather than accept that each might have a perspective that merits some attention.
If we start with the premise that there are different mind-sets then we should at least ask from where these originate and what practical benefit we may take from them. Ok, we might not but I will!
A mind-set is a bias that affects how we perceive what we see. That is to say: different mind-sets contribute to different perceptions of an event or subject. Rather than claim my perception is more valid than another’s, I have been questioning what it is that others see that I do not and vice versa.
My conclusion is that there is more than one school of organisational change because different schools tend to look at and focus on the aspect of organisations that they are most aware of or most knowledgeable about and that include psychologists. Not wearing our psychology blinkers to view organisations is not easy and some seem to find it almost impossible.
Removing the blinkers
Popular perceptions of ‘psychology’ and ‘psychologists’ dissuade many non-psychologists from setting aside their blinkers and taking a look through our blinkers. In my view both lose out as in reality all organisations have two, often conflicting, aspects to their personalities that remain hidden due to one set of blinkers or another. There is the organisation that individuals try to plan and manage rationally as well as the organisation that individuals experience and respond to emotionally.
These different aspects of organisational personality have attracted practitioners with different preferences – some to the rational and some to the emotional. These might be identified as different but they are not separate, each affects the other.
Understanding an organisation's personality
Dealing with any aspect of organisational performance contributes to change. To address a need for change based only on a rational or only on an emotional perspective is to ignore or deny the impact of the other in shaping that need. Ignoring either aspect of an organisation’s personality and its impact on the need means that we cannot be confident that we are dealing with the cause of that need and that we may only be attempting to deal with a symptom of it.
We need a sufficient understanding of an organisation to have confidence that what we propose is necessary and that it will provide a lasting and appropriate solution. If we do not understand both aspects of an organisation’s personality and how they interact, then we do not have that sufficient understanding. The model we use to manage change helps provide that necessary confidence.
About the author
Steve Whiddett, CEO of WHE-UK, is a values-based business psychology consultant who specialises in how organisations operate and perform.
As an auther of fours books for the CIPD, and former Chair of the ABP, Steve is a key contributor to current thinking on motivation, organisational development and change
If you've enjoyed this article and would like to hear more about how his model was used it to achieve ‘more with less’ in the NHS., Steve will be speaking at the 2013 Annual ABP Conference on Thursday 3rd October, Wokefield Park, Reading.
To find out more about the conference and Steve's session click here for more information.