Ideas and Insights


Snake oil and culture change

I had the very sobering experience 1 week ago of listening to the CEO of a client organization (large dispersed manufacturer) telling me how he had been approached by a local consulting firm offering to help him and his colleagues create the culture that would see the company through the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

This was a staggering story for two distinct reasons: firstly, any person (let alone a professional consultant) who believes they can define what will be needed and how to engineer culture in a client organization over the next 6 months has truly been smoking something. A quick scan of the two companion newsletter items on responding to catastrophes will quickly explain why this is so.

But there is a second and much deeper concern in the story, one that has been around for the last 20 years or more and one that, unfortunately, will be around when this pandemic is over – the promise the consulting firm implied that they could actually intentionally engineer a desired culture.

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Integrating cultures after a merger

Jill Tideman has prepared a short paper on Integrating cultures after a merger: rising to the challenge.

She explores the challenges organizations face when two or more cultures come together as a result of a merger, especially if the hoped for financial benefits of a merger are to be realized.

Click here to download her paper.

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Motivation: unlocking discretionary effort

“The greatest resource in an organization is not its people, it is the untapped potential of its people”.

So said Richard Bawden. When one can tap into the discretionary effort of a workforce the organization’s performance soars. Some call this motivating others, or tapping into a person’s motivation. The opposite is an apathetic or, even worse, alienated workforce.

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Intangibles matter when designing organizations

When experts talk of the term organization design, they are referring to the operating model and processes, systems, capabilities and structures that underpin and organization and help it to deliver value to its customers and stakeholders, efficiently and effectively. Organization design is both an art and science! Read more…

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The leader as a source of contagious destruction

Much has happened in the last two decades to re-shape our understanding of the effect we have on one another. There was a time when we used to think we were independent, autonomous agents who chose to react (or not) to another’s behavior. Those days are well and truly gone.

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Hades organizations: joyless and in the throes of dying?

From a 2014 Ideas & Insight article,  the Unconscious Organization I commenced a series of articles about organizational archetypes based on the Greek Gods. I have drawn on much of the material in the book I co-wrote with Bernie Neville – Olympus Inc.  We described 16 unconscious patterns of behavior (archetypes) that describe some of the dynamics of organizations, exemplified by the characteristic behavior of 16 Greek gods and goddesses.  It is through an understanding of these patterns in organizational dynamics that we can better understand and influence organizational culture. Read more…

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Bold Herakles: An heroic organizational archetype

The Greek myths are full of heroes, men and women who lived a long time ago and dealt with the gods directly – often, it appears, on equal terms. The most popular of the hero stories were the stories of Herakles the hero who was not only a man but a god.

There are many tales of Herakles. Picture, if you will, a man of great energy and drive, plenty of good will towards people and a tendency to take the most direct path to any goal. He is good-humoured, generous and courageous. On the other hand, compared to other heroes like Odysseus, Perseus and Jason, he is not very clever, nor particularly charming. His lack of subtlety is symbolised in his choice of the club as his preferred weapon. He has a violent temper and an enormous appetite. He is macho man. Read more…

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Athena organizations built on consensus and involvement

Athena eventually emerges in classical times as a goddess of civilization, of household arts and crafts, especially weaving, and of the defence of civilization against those who would destroy it. More than any other god, she represents a point of balance between the male-dominated and autocratic culture of the Greek invaders and the concrete, matri-centric culture of the people they conquered and assimilated. She represents normality, consensus, balance. In political terms she is democracy. Read more…

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Hephaistos organizations: value hard work and craftsmanship

Hephaistos represents the paradoxical relationship that exists between pain and beauty. He as a Greek god, personifies the agonies which people are willing to endure for beauty, the years of boring practice which go into seeking perfect form in any craft, the aching muscles and the calluses, and even the long-term physical injuries, which accompany the pursuit of beauty for the dancer, the athlete, the sculptor and the musician. Read more…

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Strong relationships fundamental to Eros organizations

In the organization dominated by the Eros archetype the ideal emotional climate is positive, supportive, free of risk and the highest value is intimacy. In its purest form the Eros organization has a structure which is entirely horizontal. Notions of hierarchy, or even of authority, have no place in its ideology. Nor have notions of role. It reached its zenith as an organizational form in the Western world in the 1960s. What holds the organization together is the intensity of the relationships between its members. The organization may have a sense of common purpose, may be productive in many ways, may have established ways of going about its work, but these are secondary to the satisfactions of relationship. People think more in terms of their relationships with the people, rather than their responsibility to the organization. Community is an end in itself. Mechanisms of control are absent and freedom is paramount. Read more…

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