Thursday, September 25, 2014


The first systemic disease of organizations we pictured by:

A crotchety manager with a square face and heavy jaws sits crouched in a meeting behind his stack of reports and position papers. Everybody else sits uncomfortably in their own invisible partitions. (Displeasure, tension, mutual distrust.)

How comes such a situation about and what can be done about it?
Why do people box themselves in? To defend themselves against attacks or while they are attacking others. The reason is usually a history of being attacked. Since this situation has formed, it feeds on itself. That can go on indefinitely, unless the whole organization breaks down.
The prime reasons are:
  1. The top people are aggressive and egotistical. For them, subordinates are problems to be controlled and minimized.
  2. The top people feel insecure, because their subordinates are more able or knowledgeable. They should not gang up against the boss, but kept apart. Divide and conquer.
  3. The top people have a cogwheel view on organization and think that if every person will perform well, the whole will perform well too.They specify what is to be done, but not why. Individual functions may be defined well, but the connections are not taken care of. The internal market of information is neglected.
  4. The same but worse: internal competition is used to drive motivation.
This situation is often worsened when the prospects for the organization are dim and the prospects on the labor market as well.
Solutions are difficult and require persistent effort and attention from the top - as well as giving a good example.
  1. Mapping the flows of objects, services, information or money between the different position. Who needs what from whom? Why? How: How often? People are often amazed to discover that what people need of them is different from what they expected. And that people who deliver things to them are misguided about what they are supposed to deliver.
  2. Discussing the map, the differences in expected needs and benefits between the different functions.
  3. Explaining the why of tasks and assignments. Give meaning to each function.
  4. Sharing the strategy, even if the tactics have to remain confidential.
  5. Avoid threats.
  6. Minimize attack and defense in all forms of communication.
Let’s call the process that leads to competitive islands in an organization boxification. Then we may call the efforts to overcome this condition deboxification.

(Since writing this, I found out that CERN at Geneva has a management practice that is the reverse of the situation described here. Consultation, consultation, consultation. And with great results.)

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