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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If the client or organization can plan ahead when introducing the change, can anticipate the length and depth of the downturn, and can provide a buffer for the downturn in the change curve, then there is likely to be an upturn (assuming the idea or process is appropriate and meets an important need). If there is not appropriate planning, then the launch will fail and the old pattern will be re-established – often even more strongly reinforced than it was before. Ironically, by returning to the old pattern, a client or organization is introducing yet another change (the change back to no-change). This will often lead to increased dysfunction and (ironically) an even greater devotion to the old ways of doing things. When we have tried a new golf-stroke and failed, then the old habits are likely to be engaged once again. Similarly, a new way of managing conflict in an organization will be dropped in favor of the old established pattern following a failure to contain the new openness associated with this innovative conflict-management strategy.  The old pattern of conflict-avoidance or conflict-escalation will return “with a vengeance.”

What about variations in organizational patterns? How are they maintained, once triggered by the emergence of diverse expertise, slight difference in the initial (primary) conditions of the organization, and ambivalence regarding the gains to be derived in a secondary manner from the patterns? The key factor in understanding the maintenance of the variations is to be found in the complexity created by those factors that initially created the patterns—and the variations. As they mature and grow larger, organizations become not only increasingly a source of specialization, they also become increasingly complex. They are not just complicated (with many specialized parts), they are complex (with each of these parts begin fully dependent on and interwoven with the other parts).  There is not just one change curve operating—rather there are multiple change curves and each one influences the size and character of each of the other change curves.

Much of the early work on organizational dynamics treated organizations as machines with specific isolated parts that had to be somehow connected and coordinated through a set of managerial processes. Without the coordination function, the organization would fall apart. That is the primary reason why the integrative services (administration, communication, finances, etc.) that I mentioned above tend to occupy an increasingly large proportion of the resources in an organization—often commanding more than 50% of the resources in large and old organizations (including governmental organizations, corporations, religious institutions and health care systems).

We now know that complex systems tend to be self-organizing and that the interlocking subsystems I mentioned above hold the key to organizational integration. While integrative services are still needed –management will not go away—it has become increasingly clear among those who study complex systems that there is highly-influential glue that holds systems together irrespective of the formal integrative functions being offered in the system.  This glue in many ways operates like the gravity (along with the recently identified dark matter) which holds our planet, our solar system, our galaxy and even our entire universe together.

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