Home Concepts Organizational Theory Leadership in the Midst of Complexity, Uncertainty, Turbulence—and Contradiction

Leadership in the Midst of Complexity, Uncertainty, Turbulence—and Contradiction

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Our leaf floats into the stagnant pool and remains there. It eventually sinks and joins with other rotting leaves to form a richly nutritious bio-mass for the living organisms of the stream. The quiet pools represent yet another form of order in the turbulent stream. Nothing changes. Everything eventually sinks, rots and contributes to the ongoing revitalization of the bio-system.

The quiet pool is represented in the organization by those subsystems that never change or change very slowly. These are the subsystems that provide what Talcott Parsons (1955) calls the latent pattern maintenance functions of the organization. They preserve the continuity of the organization, while other subsystems are rapidly changing. These subsystems include the rituals, ceremonies, norms, values, and narratives of the organization—the deeply embedded and often invisible (latent) patterns of behavior in the organization (to which I turn in a later chapter).

The quiet pool is also represented in the formal bureaucratic processes of the organization: those rules and regulations that are slow to change and that seem to have a life of their own. They are reinforced even when no longer appropriate and are followed even when no longer formally in force. These are the bureaucratic ways represented in the phrase, “that’s the way we have always done it around here.” We might also include those people and departments who represent the old ways of doing things in the organization. Sometimes called the “remnant,” Everett Rodgers (2003) identifies these people as the “recalcitrant” of an organization who forever struggle against change and innovation.

This quiet pool may at first seem to represent a deficit in an organization and a source of resistance and consternation for those seeking to improve and adapt the organization for a changing world. We must recognize, however, that a quiet pool is the primary source of nutrition for the stream—and that in a comparable manner the quiet pool in an organization is the primary source of its distinctive character, traditions and culture.

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