Why Balancing is Important

20151104_145251Imagine you are standing in a field that stretches out of sight ahead and behind you. On your left a little ways away is a deep chasm. The same on your right, quite a bit further away. You are walking along quite close to that left edge, not even thinking about falling into that deep chasm and disappearing forever.  The deep chasm on your right is hardly ever considered, it’s too far away.

The deep chasm on the left is a psychological end point, the one on the right is a social construction end point. The world of OD and I think the way we understand life in general walks very close to this left edge, this psychological end point. However, each chasm is eerily similar even though the journey to fall in is very, very different. You really don’t want to fall into either one, since once you do, meaning, our own personal meaning is swallowed up.

As you near the left edge, toward the psychological end point it is you, the individual that is primary, paramount and alone. What does this look like in organizations?:

  • A reliance on individuals that are deemed somehow ‘superior’ to typical individuals – gurus, experts, people with power
  • A reliance and focus on leaders and leadership
  • A belief that we own our individuality
  • A belief that ‘context’ is mostly irrelevant and the individual can overcome, transcend and conquer any context

As we move nearer the edge, the individual, distinct and separate from all else becomes primary, and as you fall off the edge, the individual is ‘determined’, something outside of the individual has determined what they are, what they are to do and what their purpose is. In this chasm nothing matters because the individual is swallowed by the belief they are determined, controlled, manipulated, owned by something superior to themselves.

This, I think is the end point of a psychological perspective on what organizations are and what people are, in those organizations. I think we are walking far closer to this edge, to this chasm than we are the other. What are the consequences of walking close to this edge? Look around you at work or look in the mirror.

  • An almost endless onslaught of messaging that if we do ‘this’ thing, whatever some expert tells us, we will, in essence, be better individuals.
  • A deep sense of guilt or shame that we are not good enough to do those ‘things’ that will make us better.
  • A belief that good leadership is the answer to our challenges and problems.
  • A turning away from accountability and choice at a personal level since that leader is the one that really is accountable.
  • A feeling of powerlessness.
  • A need to protect ourselves, our individual selves from anything that may be seen as detrimental to our individuality.
  • An insistent longing for something ‘better’, if only we could find it.
OUCH!

A little OUCH! this time; there is a need for gentleness I think. For the above are not inevitable consequences, but consequences of a perspective, a perspective that can be challenged, one that needs balancing. When we look closely at almost all mainstream OD work, almost all messages from organizational gurus, almost all writing on leadership you will find some version of the bullet points above. It is this that needs balancing.

As I have noted in earlier posts it is this psychological perspective that is dominant in the OD world at present. The other dominant perspective is structural or systemic. I think this perspective fits very well with the psychological perspective and may be two sides to the same coin.

More on that perspective in a future post. The next post will focus on the right side of that field and what it is like to walk near that edge and what that chasm is like….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response

  1. […] the last post a visual was introduced; a field extending in front and behind you with two chasms on the left and […]

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