Monday, February 21, 2005

HBS Working Knowledge: Organizations: Surfacing Your Underground Organization

"Then there's another mindset I call the defensive mindset. The idea is that even if you are seeking valid knowledge, you are seeking only that kind of valid knowledge that protects yourself or your organization or your department—it is defensive. From a defensive mindset point of view, truth is a good idea when it isn't threatening or upsetting. If it is, massage it, spin it. But if you massage it and spin it, you're violating the espoused theory of good management. When you spin, you have to cover up the fact that you're spinning. And in order for a cover up to work, it too has to be
covered up."

Margaret Wheatley reminds us that for every measurement, or truth, that we focus on, we leave behind other measures or truths. What if we went back to every measurement we have chosen and looked at the ones we left behind? What story do they tell - do they keep us honest, reflecting the real theory instead of the theories in use? I once asked a quality group how many of them measure conformances. After the laughter, the thought remains...what is the truth about how well we are doing? We are where we are because of all the actions and decisions "we" the organization have made. Therefore, our subsequent actions and decisions can create what we want to be. QED.


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