Home Tools Internal Politics The Art of Organizational Coaching: In Search of Patterns and Variations

The Art of Organizational Coaching: In Search of Patterns and Variations

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The other system is called procedural. This system operates when we are engaged in some behavior (or thought process) that is routine in nature. When we have been driving a car for many years, we should not focus on our driving but should instead pay attention to the conditions surrounding the car we are driving (other cars, turns in the road, weather conditions). Our procedural brain will take care of the driving (steering, accelerating, minor braking). Similarly, when we have been golfing for many years, there is no need to focus on the way we are holding our club and when we are reading as adults we concentrate on the concepts being conveyed or story being told, not on the meaning of each individual word.

This procedural system has often been equated with habitual behavior. We have long known that habits are hard to break and we know now that the procedural brain and the habits that this brain maintains are very powerful. In their recent book, Switch,  Chip and Dan Heath describe this procedural system as an elephant that is being controlled (with minimal effect) by the rider (the expository brain). The rider of an elephant can use all of his or her energy in trying to control the elephant, but will often end up exhausted and minimally influential. The elephant will go where it wants to. It seems that the resistance to breaking up habitual behavior is based in large part on the requirement that we move our cortical operations from one system (procedural) to another (expository) – and this is very difficult. We will be deskilled for a period of time (often extended period of time) while we learn a new way of behaving and while we establish new habits that can eventually be turned over to our procedural brain. Thus, inertia in human behavior is based not in some superficial resistance to doing something new, but rather in a much more profound requirement that we shift from one operating system in the brain to a different operating system.

Interlocking Subsystems:  As suggested in the concept of secondary gain, it is often difficult to assess what the impact of a specific pattern is in any system. This unpredictability exists in large part because the subsystems are interlocking. Scott Page distinguishes between complicated systems and complex systems. Complicated systems are those with many parts (subsystems); complex systems are those with not only many parts, but also with parts that are all connected to one another. With these tightly interlocking subsystems in place, it is easy to see why patterns are sustained and why they are resistant to change: the patterns are reinforced by all of the interlocking subsystems in the organization.

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