Assumptions at work

Models of organisation 2

In my previous blog I suggested that we are guided more than we may realise by the mental model we have about how our organisation works.  We deal with reality by conceptualising it, by creating a framework for interpreting and managing it: we do this in our organisations as we do with life in general.  I invited you to consider what your model might be and whether it is hindering or helping you.

The problem that immediately arises is that our models are usually held largely unconsciously and reveal themselves as the assumptions we implicitly make about how things should be done.  These assumptions may become more apparent (and thus, open to challenge) if we see how they manifest themselves in practice.  So I thought I would offer some sample solutions to the two common organisational problems I mentioned in the last blog but did not discuss further.  Perhaps some will ring bells with you. Continue reading

Models of organisation

How do the assumptions we make limit or help us?

Organisations differ in many ways, but most organisations, in most sectors, have similar problems.  Some common examples follow:

Managers spend a large amount of time doing work that those who report to them should be doing – and no-one has any time to think and plan

Parts of the organisation operate in ‘silos’ and act in a way that actively creates problems for, even sabotages, other parts of the organisation

Despite a lot of effort, team-building sessions and perfectly amicable relationships senior teams find it extremely difficult to work constructively and productively together

Each of these problems could be addressed by taking particular actions to fix them.  But they may also raise a more fundamental question, that of how we think about the organisation. Continue reading

Reform and Renewal in the C of E

Some suggestions

The Church of England has recently published five reports outlining what it plans to do to respond to the reality of serious and prolonged numerical decline in attendance, under the overall title of Reform and Renewal.  I am both encouraged and relieved that the Church has recognised the need to take urgent and serious action to counter five and a half decades of sustained reduction in the number of people attending Church.  Continue reading

The Green report: business knows best?

Is it better to run an organisation well, or badly?  Is it better to think and plan or hope for the best?  Is it better to help leaders lead better, or simply leave them to it?

I’m assuming these questions have self-evident answers: it is better to lead an organisation well, think and plan and help leaders get better.  But how can these things be achieved?  Does business know best? Continue reading

Nasty case of pathological autopoiesis?

Have you got one?!

It’s a posh term but it describes something we see in organisations from businesses to the Church – and it can be fatal! Autopoiesis refers to the ability that organisms have to reproduce themselves. This is a good thing (without it we wouldn’t be here!) – but if it gets out of control (becomes pathological) it can have the paradoxical effect of destroying life. E.g. cancer.

The term has a special meaning in the world of organisations and, posh as it may be, it refers to a phenomenon we see a lot. Organisations start with a clear sense of having a purpose in the world, whether it is to make widgets or end poverty. Over time, however, the organisation takes on a life of its own to the point where it becomes mostly interested in itself. If you’ve ever spent hours on the phone trying to get some sense out of customer service you will have experienced this. The organisation tells us and tells itself it is there to serve the customer but actually it is interested in itself, its systems, its convenience. Its computer says no.  Continue reading

Sustainable change: 10 killer questions

It is hard to create large scale sustainable change in organisations.  You are up against ingrained cultural habits and assumptions, internal political interests and a lot of anxiety – and that’s before you think about the threats and opportunities beyond the organisation itself and the technical challenges involved.  If you are going to do it, you’ve got to give it your best shot.

Continue reading

My ideal client

Today I accidentally rang my best client at 2.30 in the morning local time.  Oops. The response?  She laughed groggily, I laughed and apologised, said I’d go, but she insisted on spending 20 minutes talking about the issues I’d rung her to discuss.  I do not suggest that I have any expectation that my clients should welcome such calls, but the incident is, nonetheless, revealing.  It made me think about the relationships I aim to build with my clients and the qualities I look for in them. Continue reading

Church: organisation or Body of Christ

In the Church Times last week Martyn Percy criticised the Church’s use of ‘secular models of organisation” under the headline ‘It’s not an organisation, it’s the Body of Christ’. (See: http://goo.gl/EznDGa for the original article – you may need to be a subscriber to read it in full)  Here is my response, which may or may not also appear in the letters column of the Church Times!

The first thing is to say that if the use of organisational thinking indeed results in the intrusion of a rootless commercialism, over-simplification of complex ideas, an instrumental culture of objectives and results or a tendency to bureaucracy then I don’t want it either. I share the concern that there is already too much bureaucracy: this, to me, is an example of how the Church is adept at borrowing the less appropriate and attractive features of the secular world! The Church can feel over-administered and under-powered as a result. This can be remedied partly by a renewal in spiritual practice and in theology – but also by a richer understanding of the learning that is around about organisations. Continue reading

Clergy pay the price for Church uncertainty

“The difficulties facing the Church create heavy daily burdens and dilemmas for those whose task it is to lead the Church.  There is a cost associated with the confusion and uncertainty that exists.  Continue reading