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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What about secondary gain (the third source of both patterns and variation)? We find that this is a substantial source of variations primarily because secondary gains often yield a secondary cost that is just as important as the gain. If members of an organization can dismiss their own accountability by pointing to the pattern of chaos and incompetence in the organization, then it is just as likely that they will find this chaos and incompetence to be very stressful and even toxic. In many ways, the secondary gains operate like Faust’s compact with the Devil. The downside is considerable, especially after it becomes evident that the patterns are well-entrenched and the secondary gains are well-known (if never discussed). We begin at this point to see some slight variations in the established pattern as members of the organization seek to renegotiate their Faustian compact. They find that life in the organization is a little bit more tolerable if they do take some responsibility for their actions. If nothing else, the variations are likely to become more prevalent when the organization reaches a crisis state and when the secondary gains seem to dwindle away. This crisis state will often be generated by organizational growth, by the need for a major change in the organization, or by the transfer of leadership in the organization. The established patterns don’t go away, but there will be more variations in the patterns as members of the organization attempt to deal with the growth, change or shift in leadership.

Given this pull toward variations in a basic pattern, we have to ask about the factors that enable the pattern to remain in place. How does the center hold when there are these powerful sources of variation and even the threat of organizational disintegration (if the variations become too powerful and determine too many of the dynamics operating in the organization)? I turn now to the factors that maintain the pattern in the face of these variations.

Investigation of Patterns and Variations: Maintenance

Many hypotheses can be posed to account for the maintenance of organizational patterns, but these three can provide a starting point for the coach and client. What about the factors that tend to maintain a pattern?

Inertia and the Procedural Brain: I have just mentioned the secondary gains derived from a pattern. I can also mention the shear inertia to be found in the lives of clients and organizations. Change in behavior is never easy, especially if the behavior is strongly established in a repetitive act. We know now that there are two different systems operating in our brains. One system is called expository or declarative. This is the system that addresses new information and that requires new behaviors in response to this new information. This is the system that leads to learning and experimentation. Our expository brains are operating when we are reading a book, learning how to drive a golf ball or learning how to drive a car.

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