How We’re Different
Seeing organization as an ongoing process, not a thing.
Organization is the complex social process of everyday human interaction. That’s it. We’ve said it. Now we can confine the term “complexity” – and our thoughts on what this means for organizational theory and practice – to the outer reaches of the site. If you’re interested in understanding and exploring these in more depth, please use the Blog, Publications, and Theory links.
It’s the dynamics that are complex, not the explanation!
We are particularly pleased with this comment from a senior OD practitioner and complexity specialist, who said:
“You seem to be able to talk about complexity without talking about complexity.”
And we strive to remain faithful to this principle when working with our clients.
We believe that the failure to take seriously the complex social dynamics of organization (oops, said it again!) is the ‘missing ingredient’ from conventional management thinking and practice, But we don’t think it is helpful to ram this language down managers’ throats (so to speak!) in our consulting practice. Instead, whether talking to CEOs or first-line supervisors, we use language that reflects their everyday lived experience.
Our dos and don’ts
And so …
… We don’t talk about complexity (unless managers are really interested in it). As an abstract concept, it can be more confusing than enlightening to use the term in day-to-day management practice.
… We definitely don’t talk about “complexity science”. We don’t believe that this bears any direct relationship to organizational (i.e. human) dynamics – other than by way of analogy.
… We do draw attention to the myth of certainty, predictability, and control that governs (and too often disfigures) conventional management thinking and practice. And we contrast this with what managers recognise as the real-world ‘wiggliness’ of all aspects of organization in which people are involved.
… We do help managers to surface and ‘unpack’ their own understanding of the hidden, messy, and informal dynamics of everyday organizational life, and show that it’s in the midst of this that people make sense of the world and decide how they will act. They get it! And they get it because they (we!) all do it too!
… We do draw attention to the essentially conversational nature of this sense-making-cum-action-taking process. Managers soon recognise that this is self-organizing (even in a so-called “command and control” regime), and thatwhatever emerges from it, emerges.
… We do point out that, since everyone is continuously participating in this process, overall ‘outcomes’ (business performance, organizational change, etc.) necessarily emerge from the widespread interplay of these many, local interactions.
… We do, of course, help managers to understand the implications of all of this for their own day-to-day leadership practice, organizational change, and business performance.
And, in particular,
… We do, emphasize the need for managers to take their own experience seriously.