This paper begins by offering a new term "Process Centered Institution Building" (PCIB) along with a description. It distinguishes itself from the classical managerial problem-solving paradigm by stating that classically in management practice problems are approached analytically in order to arrive at solutions. PCIB alternately looks at the solvers of the problem and the context of the organization. It relies largely on experience based learning methodology for designing interventions.
This paper begins by offering a new term Process Centered Institution Building (PCIB) along with a description. It distinguishes itself from the classical managerial problem-solving paradigm by stating that classically in management practice problems are approached analytically in order to arrive at solutions. PCIB alternately looks at the solvers of the problem and the context of the organization. It relies largely on experience based learning methodology for designing interventions.
The author states that PCIB recognizes the complexity of organizations, uses a hermeneutic approach and aims to modify/change the phenomenology and the identity of the client organization in partnership with the client himself. It begins by seeing the organization as an instrument as well as a community of people, postulating that organizations behave as living entities and that they develop distinct identities. It maps the current narrative of the organization, designs and implements interventions, with a view to arrive at a more desirable narrative for the future.
The paper states the perspectives and values in Section I, goes on to describe in Section II one key conceptual framework, the Su Ji window. Section III illustrates one pattern of the PCIB exercise. Section IV is a statement of the author’s own approach to the practice on such dimensions as the role of the consultant, who is the client and the practical steps.
The paper closes with a brief reflective statement of “why am I in it?”
A client speaks in an article published by the then HR Chief of a client organization in the Aug 02 issue of the Newsletter of the National HRD Network. The article appears here as the appendix. This is as an illustration of a PCIB exercise that completed the first stage.
The central aim of Process Centered Institution Building (PCIB) is to help client organizations change the internal phenomenology of the organization. Issues of internal integration – differentiation as well as external adaptation fall within this ambit. The aim of the change in all these aspects is to arrive at a higher plane of effectiveness as an organization and higher plane of wellness for its community and people. The approach is hermeneutic. It uses various forms of enquiry and learning processes, and addresses issues of leadership, collaboration, conflict, power and authority. The larger goal is to set in place practices that will set the organization as well as the community into a mode of continuous learning and adaptation. A central underlying principle is that human beings are capable of envisioning a better future, and, are capable of looking at themselves and making changes therefrom (1). PCIB aims to mobilize these self-reflexive qualities at an individual plus collective level. It begins by crystallizing the organization’s narrative in the present, and, design and engages with new actions that will create a more desirable narrative of the future. In so doing PCIB addresses issues of vision, perspectives, innovation, creativity and management of change. Necessarily, therefore, it has to begin from the top of the hierarchy.
I call it Process Centered due to its emphasis and focus on processes of action, thought and feeling. The interventions rely mainly on experience based learning aiming to foster a discovery mode. Most often these are structured workshops, coaching sessions, and dialogues that are exploratory, again aiming to foster discovery modes of learning. Psychological tests are often used to foster individual growth, conflict resolution and team building. “Process” here refers to the universe of feelings and behavior. In pursuing the goal of fostering a new lifestyle for the organization as a whole, it creates new fora, arena and a new language. These new spaces and avenues for expression are in the nature of “Institutions”.
PCIB recognizes the organization as a complex system. It has become clear however that the bundles of complex phenomena have their roots in the minds of the members. Our efforts have been to search and locate these roots, to study the patterns inherent therein and explicate them into usable frames such that new action becomes possible for the client systems. Herein lies one of the greatest excitements as well as challenge for the consultant. He has to be in a learning mode all the while fostering learning with the clients.
OD as a field emerged in the early sixties. Our practice builds on the tradition created in the early stages. Much of the practice of OD is rooted in problem solving (2). PCIB seeks to extend the boundaries to an attempt at reconfiguring the very context within which the problems occur in the first place. The approach therefore, is more akin to the application of social psychology as contrasted to the application of management principles.
The actual practice thus calls upon the use of intuitive processes by the consultant and the conceptual or theoretical frames follow as opposed to starting with the theories. The broad frames of contracting, entry, diagnosis, intervention and follow through bear strong resemblances with the traditions established earlier on by Organization Development.
The advent of the industrial era spawned the formation of a kind of organization that was new to human society. This has been accompanied with a parallel stream of concern with increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of utilization of all resources that form the input into the flow that is at the core of organization. This concern with better utilization of resources has crystallized into distinct disciplines. Taylor must be credited with having led the charge with his ways of economizing on motion (2a), effort and time. Soon followed, methods of better utilization of flow lines, production systems and the whole field of industrial engineering. The human relations school fostered the beginnings of better utilization of human resources leading to the emergence of the whole field of organization theory.
The early stages of the industrial era were characterized with the emergence of “formal” organizations. The concern and intent lay in utilization of emergent and available technologies and organizing these as best as possible. The focus was on the means of production. This was only a start. With the evolution of the means of production, the attention was expanded to raising the levels of utilization. Henry Ford’s (2b) work on mass production is the best example. As he paid increasing attention to the task of raising productivity, he ended up saying “I looked for a pair of hands and got a whole human being”.
The central target was to increase productivity rates at least cost. This has been the bedrock value of most schools of thought and praxis. The same goal has driven the field of Organization Development as well. The early stages of OD work led to managing disturbances. This gave rise to methods of conflict management, stress reduction, management of alienation etc. In other words, making the workplace somewhat “safer”. The unstated goal remained located in higher utilization of available resources. Human beings were put in a category somewhat analogous to money and raw materials with the emergence of the phrase Human Resources. Sure enough HR departments ended up being the toxin managers of organizations.
The core underlying value was drawn from the pecuniary interests of the investors. This gave a disproportionate weight to the instrumental aspect of organizations. It is true that organizations have emerged from the need to combine and organize the flow of resources. It is also true that organizations are clearly behaving like communities. The coat of arms that a feudal lord used for his estate and his subjects have been replaced with the company logo, the unwritten feudal contracts that formed traditions, has been replaced with written employment contracts. Codes of conduct and service rules put these in black and white.
The field of OD has built itself upon the same goal. Its distinctive feature is that it addresses the “unintended consequences” inherent to the organization. So its main outcomes have been the generation of theories and practices that “remove” negatives thus freeing the members of the organization to apply themselves with greater effort. Words such as “passion,” “employee engagement” have gained currency and measures have been developed such as employee satisfaction scores, employee engagement scores etc.
Any method of increasing productivity will get at least a trial. This has bred many quick fire success recipes that at least promise greater efficiencies and effectiveness of organizations. This has made it difficult to answer the question “what is OD, what is not OD,” the boundaries have remained diffused.
A problem is a problem because there exists someone who wants to solve it. The problem exists because somewhere there is a solution to it. For example (3) Client X approached us with a problem stated as “we are working hard but are unable to achieve our targets. We have used all the tools of management practices but the problem is persisting”. So here is a problem and there is a solution. The solution appears elusive to the client in his present context. Management practice with its focus on the manifest and the “rational” strives to find the solution through analyses.
The PCIB approach goes alternately to looking at the context in which the problem arises, and, the solvers of the problem. It aims to discover the problems
of the solvers and the “disconnects” in the context. There is an effort to identify new linkages and connections, ideas and energy that are likely to reconfigure the entire nexus of the problem, the solution, the context and the solvers. A brief diagnostic exercise showed that Client X, an MNC, had never addressed the issue of integrating the diverse cultures represented by diverse nationalities. As such unspoken resentments simmered at all levels leading to withdrawals and alienations. Interventions were designed and as the integration process started taking off the immediate problems began to find solutions.
In so doing PCIB invariably unearths what we call the “actual problem.” The existing problem becomes the immediate need while the “actual problem” becomes the long-term challenge of change. In our example, for Client X the immediate need was to make new moves in the market. The need usually is “action matter”. They have successfully launched two new products. The “actual problem” is invariably located in more fundamental features such as leadership capability, beliefs, culture, vision, structures, and organization identity. The “actual problem” is “mind matter”. In the case of Client X, the long-term issue, the “actual problem” is under discussion and is in the process of being taken up and solved.
Organizations are economic and social instruments. The instrumentality is in the nature of the output of the organizations as well as its impact on society. At the same time, organizations are communities of people. They develop their own cultures with underlying assumptions about the nature of relationships, the “right things to do” and so on. Mainstream management practice tends to overlook this aspect. The instrumental and community aspects of organizations are simultaneous.
Decisions are influenced by both these, not only the instrumental aspect. Relation-ships, power distribution and charisma, at times communal considerations are all major influencing features in decisions made for conducting and facilitating the conduct of business. PCIB directly addresses both the instrumental as well as the community aspects.
Organizations seen from the location of an outsider and as seen from within, display distinctly different views. Outsider here refers to the consultants view, he gains access to internal data. Not being a member of the community and having a time bound contract he can see patterns which, from within are very difficult to recognize. As members enter the organization and get inducted into the prevailing culture, they begin to acquire a construct, a picture of the organization, mainly rooted in their location in the network of relationships and roles. A crude but simple analogy is that of a fish, while inside the water it is not possible for it to “map” the pond, or the ocean it is in. An “organization in the mind” gets crystallized on which depends their role taking process. This picture in the mind, is based on the ongoing experience of the member with his role, colleagues and authority. It is stable at any given point of time, but over time is liable to change. It has cognitive elements as well as significant emotive elements such as commitment, sense of belonging, self esteem, camaraderie or alienation etc. The emotive elements, while stable are capable of change under special conditions. Summed up it is the picture in the mind where the energy of the organization is located. PCIB creates a map combining the insider as well as the outsider perspectives.
Clients initially approach me with a problem. Most often the manifest problem is stated as a lack of “team working”. At the outset I join the client in exploring and assist in managing the problem. A longer term perspective however suggests that that no organization can be problem free. The key goal for a “fit” organisation is to remain one step ahead of its problem sets. In my view “change” consists of a change in the energy levels of the organization rather than making attempts to become free of all problems. Thus the rational as well as the emotive elements both undergo a recalibration in an inclusive participatory process. If this core of the organization changes then the change manifests itself in a wide canvas as new action in the organization. A fitter organization emerges.
We acknowledge that organizations are man made. The behaviour of organizations bear striking parallels with the behavior of individuals. The historical narratives of organizations also bear striking resemblance with the struggles embedded in individual sagas. This leads us to postulate that organizations behave like living entities.
Like individuals, organizations exhibit a struggle for survival, definitely at its earliest stages and at times of crisis even later. Organizations have growth phases, life cycles, get tired and lose energy or rise from the ashes and find new health and robust performance. Certainly organizations carry “moola mantras” in the nature of genetic codes (4) that subtly and surely affects all aspects of their existence and behavior.
In more ways than one, the complex processes of change, both at the individual level as well as at the organizational level bear striking resemblances. In our experience of partnering and helping our clients through change exercises, we have almost invariably found that no one individual has the power to change the culture of the organization. It changes only through leadership from the top fostering processes of participation and consensus. The emergence of the consensus is invariably preceded by a heightening of existing conflictual relationships, interfaces, assumption and dogmas. This is accompanied by admission of failures, bouts of fear and anxiety. The change process begins with reconciliation and admission of past mistakes or lacunae in competencies. The change process is healthy when the path of reconciliation and its preceding accompaniments happen with dignity and without loss of face for all involved.
The analogy of organisational history with individual struggles of “changing myself” is very strong. There is an identical experience of discontent with what is existing/current, there is a vision of what is needed or ought to be in place and the encounter with helplessness to make the change, is nearly identical in the subjective sense with individual struggles. There are forebodings of failure, shame and loss. The conflict is with the self – with diverse pulls, needs values and demands. The conflict is with unavailable or inaccessible resources, the conflict is with voices coming up from the deeper recesses of the consciousness. The change effort succeeds when the individual is finally ready to step in to the whale’s mouth (5) and face up to the possible annihilation he has feared till now. The monsters are all in the mind. A reconciliation between the conflicting forces leads to new vision called enlightenment that then leads to new action. Now the change has succeeded. If on the other hand the internal demons are not confronted and killed, reconciliation is postponed and a new hell opens up. The change succeeds when in the struggle against one’s own inner demons the individual sustains his own dignity and self acceptance, otherwise opens the gates of the hell of guilt and shame and further self disdain.
Organizations in the main treat themselves as instruments of the purpose of the business and the investment in it. In objective fact it is true that organizations are economic and administrative instruments. Organizations are at the same time a community of people.
Organizations, like individuals, have distinct identities. There is a structure on which the identity rests (6) and a characteristic set of processes through which the identity manifests and plays out. Much as is the case with individual identities, it is possible for organization identities to undergo change by choice. There is a viscosity, so the change exercise is an extended multi event engagement.
All individuals seek higher levels of wellness. As such the old construct of “resistance to change” needs reexamination. I believe that resistance to change arises from unaddressed fears and insufficiency of infrastructure to make the change. My experience suggests that members of organizations are in the main enthusiastic and cooperative in their approach to organizational change if and when it becomes clear to them that in making the change they are likely to benefit as individuals.
The practice of PCIB identifies processes underlying the phenomenology of the organization and addresses them directly within safe boundaries. The organization is helped to develop a narrative of its past and present. Process centered learning exercises then follow that help create a vision and a pathway to design and plant a new narrative for the future. At all stages a hermeneutic approach is employed for diagnosis, confrontation, learning and envisioning.
The phenomenology of the organization will include the leadership processes, the processes of integration and differentiation, the pushes and pulls for achievement, the forces that inhibit or invite voluntary effort, cooperation and team working, levels of conflict, the quality of the ambience. In my practice, I also take into account the organization’s identity and its stage of evolution. In its very act of existence, the organization is making efforts to achieve its goals. In doing so, it develops an organizational culture. Schein (7) defines organizational culture as
...the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration – a pattern of assumptions that have worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems...
To this I will add the dimension of “action” in addition to the “think” and “feel” dimensions he states. The central focus of Process Centered Institution Building (PCIB) is to help the client discover the aspects of the culture that is in fact obstructing the achievement of desired goals. In its slightly advanced form the focus and goal of PCIB is to help the emergence of a new configuration of assumptions, thus a new culture that will be sustainable and better assist the client in the ongoing task of successful continuous adaptation, achievement and internal integration.
As the culture is prodded into transit from its existing steady state, the identity of the organization too begins to shift. The identity is mainly located in its history, business and technology and most palpably in the minds of the people. As the culture begins to change, the identity also reformulates into a new configuration.
Process centered IB uses another analogy and that is that the organization, postulated as a living entity, has a body and a mind-soul. The body is constituted by the task, technology and structure while the mind-soul is constituted by the vision, culture, people and the ambience.
Historically OD has had a greater emphasis on the body of the organization. PCIB addresses both the mind-soul and the body of the organization. Thus in PCIB practice we will examine management decision making and processes with a view to increasing levels of effectiveness. We will also explore and examine the relationship of the manifest managerial acts with the existing assumptions, values and perceptual frames of individuals as well as groups. Necessarily therefore PCIB gives a great deal of significance and value to a relearning process for key individuals of the organization. The underlying value is that self and systems are simultaneous forces. It is not acceptable to put them in an either/or competition but work with them in an “and” metaphor. We do not subscribe to the idea that self and systems are competing forces, but that they are simultaneous. This metaphor of simultaneity spreads into many other domains, people and task, work and life, organization and individual etc.
The practice of PCIB thus focuses on organization change along with creating opportunities for individual learning and growth.
In summary, organization change happens with the emergence of new beginnings in action. Sustaining these new beginnings gives rise to a “changed” organization.
In order to hold these apparently opposing forces in simultaneity it is imperative to be guided by a few values. Over the years the following have crystallized in my awareness.
a) People as well as organizations, in the learning process, need to address issues of emotive as well as cognitive learning simultaneously.
b) Collective and individual self awareness are the cornerstones of the change effort and process. These lead to increasing collective intelligence.
c) Organization change has to be inclusive, participatory and largely consensus driven.
d) Organization change is by choice, not force or violence.
e) Enhancement of the wellness of any part (or individual) at the cost of another part (or individual) is not an acceptable alternative.
f) Enhancement of the organization’s wellness (including goal achievement) must be accompanied by enhancement of wellness of individuals as well.
g) The aim of learning is essentially centered on a confrontation with the reality of action (both intended and unintended) without any shame, guilt or loss of face.
The nature of learning embedded in PCIB consists of cognitive as well as emotive learning. Cognitive learning helps upgrade instrumental action and efficiency. However, organizational change is possible when action patterns also change. Action patterns of individuals are the product of what is in the mind. As such emotions are involved. Learning in PCIB in fact centers on changes in emotions, principally the two emotions fear and anxiety. These are the foundations of defensiveness, procrastination, sabotage, alienation and related behaviors. The degree of change needed is usually not very large, but when all members make even small changes together, the resultant force is significant. The phrase Process Centered in the name PCIB is drawn from this value. It is central to the practice and is derived from the core field of Process Work (1). One end of the process work spectrum deals with personal growth (8), PCIB deals with the other end, i.e. collective growth.
In this context, the process centered-ness is a central distinguishing feature of the practice of PCIB. It scans for the field forces that modulate and arouse emotions. Thus history of patterns of behavior, existential factors of the organizations trajectory and the politics of interpersonal and inter-group dynamics are all relevant dimensions in this work. Learning occurs when conflictual and stress issues are directly addressed. In the process, participants develop greater awareness of themselves as well as others. The learning results in cathartic experiences opening the doors to developing new actions both for the self and the system. As conflictual issues and stress points get ameliorated or reduced in their potency, the openness to receiving, seeking and using cognitive learning increases. These then enhance the instrumentality thus bettering on the performance till then.
The cornerstone of PCIB is the aim of increasing self awareness at both the collective as well as the individual level. We hold this both as aim and as a value. Increase in self-awareness of any living system is accompanied with increase in envisioning, responding and energy. The collective intelligence rises. Thus both, the sensitivity to challenges and reality orientation increase making the organization more responsive and adaptive to changes, both within and from outside its boundaries.
In the same vein as above, we believe that a change in the language, phenomenology and the identity of the client organization can take place if the change process is inclusive of all those that are expected to be party to initiating, implementing and receiving the change. It needs to be participative so that buy in is high and downstream disaffection or unconscious sabotage is minimized. Ensuring this kind of inclusivity raises levels of overt as well as implicit consensus in the change process.
PCIB responds to the need to change the phenomenology of the client organization. It holds the value that it will collaborate in the effort if, and only if, the changes it seeks to foster are negotiated and agreed upon. The change in phenomenology of the organization often creates a focus for change in some assumption, or behavior of one or more individuals. PCIB cannot function if the proponents of the change opt to use violence/fear. At every stage where a discontinuous change is called for, an appropriate event will be designed to set the stage for negotiated “new steps”, not coercive ones. I was once approached by a software major to conduct an assessment study in its senior levels in order to assist a “weeding out” process for instance. My response was to ask him to do it openly by conducting appropriate tests of competence and not use PCIB indirectly for such a purpose.
As change is initiated in a PCIB format, conflicting and competing demands for new steps are likely to emerge. For instance, with one client came up the issue of shifting the R&D facilities nearer to the production base. Entrenched positions emerged in the discussion. The CEO, not very assertive by nature was faced with the threat of resignations by both the heads. The client agreed to our proposal to design and conduct another event in which the R&D and Production heads were taken through a conflict resolution exercise. They arrived at an agreement. The needs of the production process were met by designing a structure of the interface with R&D rather than shifting the facility.
PCIB is mounted by the client organization principally with the aim of upgrading the wellness of the organization. The actual arena of actions in PCIB are the formal events, workshops, coaching, exploratory events etc. designed to confront the reality. Relevant issues are chosen in advance with the agreement of all who are involved. As the issues are explored and processed, emotive expressions also begin to surface. The PCIB approach values these expressions. They are used to widen the scope of the explorations. Decisions that need to emerge are then tested to see that the wellness of individuals, as well as the wellness of systems and the organization are simultaneously enhanced. Sacrifice is neither demanded nor imposed. Martyrdom by individuals is not abetted and any Orwellian tendencies of the organization firmly confronted.
PCIB precipitates encounters with the consequences of past actions. Both the intended and unintended consequences become manifest. The actual encounter has to be conducted in a manner that does not create shaming, blaming, guilt arousal or loss of face. If these conditions are met, the subsequent reconciliation becomes a possibility and may crystallize into new action. If the encounter, on the other hand, leaves behind shame or guilt new action is likely to get aborted.
The seed idea of this concept emerged in a personal growth laboratory for five Ivy League professors in the U.S.A., 1999. “Su” is from Sushanta and “Ji” from Jitendra. Jitendra Vir Singh is Saul Steinberg Chair Professor at Wharton School and,co-conceiver of the idea.
PCIB aims to study and help modify where needed, the domains of action, thought and feelings. It, therefore, is at the same time a body of knowledge and a field of praxis. The knowledge is held in the background while the praxis unfolds in the relationship with the client. The knowledge keeps guiding the action, not quite determining it. The client profile as well as the consultant’s profile are the other guiding factors. Together these determine the choices. I now present one of the key frameworks that I use to describe, understand, and probe the client organization. This framework helps diagnose the present and at the same time provide pointers to the solutions. The framework is a “mapping” of the origins of experiences in organizations. They go on to help predict paths of unfolding of phenomena in organizations. I have found it quite equally applicable in understanding the socio psychological context of individuals as well.
The framework begins by taking the position that organizations are a set of rational arrangements of roles, relationships and tasks. It is a complex system. As organizations come into being and start functioning these arrangements exhibit unintended consequences that, from the outside appear inevitable. To the members inside the organization, these unintended consequences become hurdles to action and drain away energy.
The Su Ji window identifies the origin of classes of dysfunctionalities that managers in organizations have to contend with and shows what steps are likely to lead to greater health, better managing these dysfunctionalities, harness the energy latent in the “dysfunctionalities” and create practices that help do all these on an ongoing basis – i.e. build institutions within the organization.
An Organization can be seen as a venue for the unfolding of a variety of actions. It is also an arena inviting/evoking a whole spectrum of thought.
It is possible to say that the range of actions has instrumental action on one end to expressive action at the other. Instrumental actions are those that are undertaken in order to have a desired outcome. In another sense instrumental action is aimed at acquisition of something. Thus examining a proposal for a project is an action that ensures the healthy and effective, profitable application of resources, time money and effort. Preparing the proposal is an instrumental action, in that it puts on paper a set of ideas, intents and means that that are expected to yield a set of desired outcomes. Most role acts are instrumental. Every instrumental action aims to achieve a specific objective.
Action may also arise spontaneously from within an individual or group. This action is manifesting because it does not wish to stay within. It creates pressure to find expression. The desired end state is located inside not outside the being. Thus, catharsis for inatance, is the result of expressing thoughts that had been held back, the end state is release and relief. It leads to an end state within, not aspiring to acquire anything from outside. Expressive action in another light is also an assertion of the identity. “This is the way we are” or, “this is the way I am”. For instance, in the world of fashion the equivalent phrase is “making a statement”. In reality all actions are composed of some instrumental and some expressive elements. Conceptually, therefore, in this model, we are talking of a spectrum with distinguishable poles.
In a similar vein, the spectrum of thought may be seen as a space lying between rational thought at one end and emotional thoughts at the other.
Rational is defined in the dictionary (Webster 1983) as “reasonable action, based on sound reasoning.”. We see rational thought as that which engages with causes, effects, and outcomes. It is in the nature of a calculation, estimation of these three. It aims to maximize the return on any investment, time money or effort. Rational thought tends to be conservative in the sense of respecting relevant boundaries. It can attract the charge of staying within the givens. Rational thought, to an extent values stability and guided, controlled movement. It also aims to retain balance and stability.
The term emotional thought may appear to be a contradiction in terms. However, we are looking at thought as a process in the mind which acquires a form and has the potential of expression. The dictionary defines emotion as “biological and psychological agitation in feeling” (Webster 1983). If we replace the “agitation” with “stirring” or “movement” then our problem with contradiction in terms finds a resolution. Emotional thoughts, then is the body of thoughts, that are related to the “biological or psychological” component of the dictionary meaning. In practical terms applied to the phenomenology of organizations, the emotional thought is the body of thoughts that link up with realistic vulnerabilities, aspirations, dreams, love, hate, fear, alienation and the like.
In the phenomenology of the organization, thought and action are simultaneous. They combine to generate phenomena and experience in the organisation. Each combination displays characteristic features. Here we begin by taking two poles at a time by putting the two ranges in a classical 2 x 2 .
Each quadrant is in the nature of a field with its own features. The field engenders bundles of behaviour, goals and boundaries. The patterns are described below.
The combination of rational thought and instrumental action gives rise to the world of deliveries, deliverables etc. It is the world of expectations, fulfillment or otherwise and consequent fruitfulness or otherwise. The main concern here is with the world of consequences. Management discourse, planning, strategizing belong here.
Challenges and problems as they crop up are dealt with in this domain with little regard to the sentient world although with caution regarding requisite boundaries of ethics, acceptability and norms. In our experience, managements and the leaders in organizations often are confronted with problems that arise from human issues that are not easily amenable to the language and discourse of this quadrant.
The second quadrant “Expressiveness and rational” yields the world of rational issues that are awaiting expression. At any given point of time, the organization, as well as the people in, it have something more to express than has been expressed/arti-culated hitherto. In Indian thought this is recognized as a character of all individuals as well as living systems as an ever present need for “articulating the unarticulated” or, in Sanskrit, AVYAKTA to VYAKTA.
Expressive (action) and emotional (thought) is the core wellspring, the being of the individual. Here lie the personal urges the personal angst and the dynamism of the being. Strictly speaking, this part of the individual is not bound by any extrinsic contract but by whatever psychological contract that evolves/emerges with the organization. At the level of the organisation this space contains the sense of belonging of the members. To that extent, the organization does not have a contractual claim on this part of the employee. To the extent that this part essentially relates to the organization as a community of friends and competitors/adversaries the organization can only create an invitation. “Touch” and “stickiness”, two emerging favorite words relate to this quadrant. Old loyalty based organizations used to link up with this quadrant through inspiration, blackmail or paternalistic largesse. Charismatic leaders in organizations operate by connecting with this quadrant. This is also the quadrant that renews energy in the organization; it is here that hope is located. Fostering, mentoring, integration and out of the box thinking are all seed potentials in this quadrant. Some leaders succeed in inspiring their subordinates because they know how to reach this quadrant without creating threats.
The world of emotions sets the goal for the individual. To begin with these are in the nature of dreams and wishes. The dreams and wishes get modulated by contact with reality and crystallize as aspirations. The wishes give energy and a direction and become shaped into concrete aspirations by the choices that answer “What shall I do” “what shall I become”.
The professional aims and goals created by this quadrant are also gifted with a world of ethics, values and norms that the individual carries with himself, both, the ones that he professes and those that he acts or lives by.
Each quadrant has a clear manifestation as well as an emotive accompaniment. A wide range of emotions occur, in our explorations here we see all emotions as a reality and hold no judgement as in “positive” or “negative”. The emotions can be in the nature of pathos, disgruntlement, conflict and differences, or in the nature of zest, inspiration, commitment, belonging and relatedness,. These, therefore, give rise to functionalities, limitations and dysfunctionalties as well as potentials. These are :
i) Functionalities: It enables deliveries, planning and strategizing, setting of targets, expectations and measurements. It is key to the functioning of the organization. It sets and clarifies role boundaries and expectations.
ii) Limitations & dysfunctionalities: This quadrant gives rise to “organizing” thus necessitating the creation of hierarchies. Its limitation is that it cannot respond to sentient issues with direct ease giving rise to the inevitable experiences of oppression, dryness, abandonment and insensitivity. The degree varies from organization to organization. It gives rise to “glass ceilings” on the organization’s capability. This “glass ceiling” is the main obstacle to change and evolution by choice.
iii) Movement Potential: Movement potential in this quadrant lies at first in cognitive learning of new tools and techniques. These increase efficiencies. Increase of efficiencies however does not break the glass ceiling. That can break when this quadrant is sought to be expanded by recognizing and valuing the other quadrants and synergizing all four.
Activating the other quadrants means for example, creating fora for the voicing of differences and unarticulated ideas for improvement. These ideas are then processed and converted into manifest action leading to improvements. In like manner all the quadrants can be activated to contribute to the existing management discourse. In some ways it implies expanding the vocabulary and changing the current language of the organization. My practice of PCIB can be described by this process of cultivating and synergizing all the four quadrants leading to a language change in the organization.
i) Functionalities: This quadrant contains the current sets of unresolved and latent disagreements, unused ideas and the material for brainstorming. Leaders and managers who are secure in their emotional world tap this potential, insecure bosses apprehend revolt and chaos. Upward flow of communication and ideas is the greatest potential that this quadrant holds.
ii) Limitation and dysfunctional ties: The potentials of this quadrant ordinarily lie unused. The greater the neglect of this quadrant the greater is the sense of alienation, apathy and disgruntlement. Increasing alienation often goes into deliberate or unconscious self defeat. Failures, quality problems and high turnover are the symptoms. Disuse of this quadrant is a sure way to block innovation.
iii) Movement Potential: Unused ideas related to productivity are the smallest or low-end potential of this quadrant. At the high-end of this spectrum lies “out of the box” ideas, views and statements of ground reality which ordinarily are not likely to reach the decision making levels. Creation of safe fora with appropriate structures releases the ideas and makes them amenable to constructive use. The higher the utilization of the potentials of this quadrant the higher the level of organizational capability. The key to this is the availability of the skill to design conduct and transform “feedback” into usable directions for the organization. Some organizations learn how to inculcate this process of tapping upward communication as part of the living process, i.e. make it a part of the culture of the organization.
i) Functionalities: All members of organizations are human beings first and professionals afterwards. The managerial focus on instrumentality and deliveries often masks this existential truth. This quadrant is the core wellspring of energy, application, commitment and wholesomeness. As individuals each human being has his own cross to bear, this is inevitable to human existence. These crosses modulate and shape each individual’s dynamism and how much he is willing to invest in which sector of his life. In organisational life the struggles of the personal saga of each individual is kept separate from the reality yet is a key player in the whole drama.
The demands of work life are not always in consonance with needs of the being. Traditionally this quadrant is held as private both by the organization as well as the individual himself. This is the quadrant where stresses of the personal world accumulate. In essence, this quadrant does not come within the purview of usual business/employment contracts. At the same time, for the individual, this is the most precious quadrant which contains his urges, longings, pains and sorrows. Any up gradation in the level of resolutions of conflicts and stress, releases large amounts of positive energy that get deployed both on the work front as well as in the personal life space.
This is the core wellspring of energy and commitment.
ii) Limitations and Dysfunctionalities: Joseph Campbell in his last interview described the journey of life as a series of achievements and losses. The achievements may contribute to self worth, and élan. The losses and sorrows however, become long lived companions. In the net he says that life is a challenge by way of learning how to come to terms with a series of losses. Inevitably, this quadrant is the storehouse of past hurts, insults and disappointments. As a matter of course the pathos is held in private by individuals. At the same time they modulate and create the stances taken at the work place. The modulation usually has a retarding impact on leadership, management of differences, negotiability and collaboration. The greater the accumulated hurts, anxieties and sorrows the greater the pull for fragmentation, alienation and dispersal. Integration becomes progressively and mysteriously difficult.
iii) Movement Potential: Any reduction in the accumulated stress at the individual level yields high levels of energy. The experience of “liberation” from the stress leads to greater levels of internal calm paving the way for more constructive action for deliverables. There, in fact, is a huge potential reservoir of energy, wellness and collective goodwill that lies in this quadrant. However, this collective goodwill evaporates quickly and turns into skepticism unless the release is accompanied with changes arising from the other quadrants. The other quadrants bring about changes in the relationships, philosophies and systems in the organization. Stress release at the individual level must need be accompanied with changes in systems, practices and where necessary structures too in order to build credibility. Otherwise it is perceived as a manipulative move at worst, or, largesse at best.
i) Functionality: The interaction of emotionality and instrumentality gives rise to the world of professional goals and choices. It is from the world of emotion that the individual creates his approach to making professional (instrumental) choices, career choices and goals of what he wants to achieve in life. Along with this comes his world of professional values, ethics and boundaries. The function of this quadrant is to collectively generate the professional values and guiding principles of the organization and its working and practices.
ii) Limitations and dysfunctional ties: This quadrant tends to acquire a frozenness, it gives rise to the old ironic laugh “it is company policy”. Reviewing and changing these can happen only from the very top in most organizations.
iii) Movement Potential: This quadrant acquires mobility only when quadrants 2 & 3 are enlivened. Unless they are enlivened Quadrant 4 remains immobile. The greatest stress of organizations with changing environments is primarily located here. The changing environment demands not only quantitative but also qualitative change in the deliveries. As such the nature of the prevailing instrumentality needs to be modified. Movement in quadrant 4 thus needs a review of the values, goals and aims of the organizations as well as the right quality of ambience to support such a review without creating threats and conflicts. This implies drawing strength from movement in quadrants 2 & 3. A movement here will create a basic change in the very identity of the organization.
In practice the first quadrant that is opened up is Quadrant two (unarticulated views etc). The first move in this direction happens with the preliminary assessment study. This is followed up in the workshops by asking participants to arrive at collectively agreed upon maps. The workshops usually then take the participants through exploring their own action patterns in the organization as well as an exploration of their own identity patterns. This quickly leads to identifying directions for individual growth and personal stress points. Quadrants three and four are thus opening up. Action plans for individual as well as collective “new beginnings” emerge which bring to life the first cycle of synergizing the four quadrants. The collective action plans help in bringing to Quadrant one inputs from the other three Quadrants. This cycle of integrating inputs from the three quadrants is the group’s first experience in synergizing. As they return and sustain the process higher levels of synergizing begin to take place.
We chose the title word “windows” for this framework on discovering that each quadrant in the 2 x 2 holds immense potentials. Tapping these potentials appears daunting to begin with, from within the organization. However, once opened the windows bring in unexpected and extremely valuable changes.
As the windows open, new latent ideas, information and knowledge become available. These can be processed to create guidelines for new action. As a result new agenda items get added on to the existing task of managing and leading the organization. Engagement, communication and transactions become more “broad banded”. New words creep into the organization and slowly but surely the organization’s language changes. It is important to voice a word of caution here. The process is delicate and can well get derailed since it disturbs old power equations. In my experience the derailments occur if the internal champions experience a sense of loss in any way.
The Johari window models a way for personal growth of individuals, the SuJi window shows a way for the growth of organizations.
Having set the ground with the perspectives, values, assumptions and the conceptual frame, I present in the following a tracking of “how does the exercise unfold?” In this I have put together the patterns of a flow of the actual action in chronological order. This is the pattern that has emerged while working with medium/small sized organizations. Exercises with large organizations naturally are more complex. I have selected the simple pattern for ease of communication. Each step is described and followed with some learning from each step. Different clients reach up to different extents in this unfolding. Most go up to Step 2, the faltering begins to happen in Step 3, usually due to changes in the leadership. The pattern till Step 2 usually are very similar. From Step 3 onwards unique interventions need to be designed and delivered.
The need for change in organization has always been felt. Members within organizations can always identify areas of improvement. Better ways of working, better processes of leadership, improved co-operation and team working, better working conditions and so on. These are intrinsic forces asking for organizational change. The rapid changes in technologies of production, information technology and galloping disparities in wealth have now given great power to the extrinsic forces of organization change. It has brought in a note of war like urgency with significant possibilities of the demise of organization that do not change adequately, as well as hitherto unforeseen possibilities of success and wealth. Changes in technology, structure, systems and procedures, rules etc. are initiated internally. These changes can significantly influence behavior in the organization and bring about organizational change. The character of any given organization however is created by the summation of the minds of the people in it. The minds generate feelings and behavior patterns. Step changes at a collective level in the character of the organization is called a process change. A step change can also trigger off, often in fact does, changes in systems, structure etc. In this paper I shall share with you the perspective that is emerging in my view as an external partner of organizations in making change happen.
The first step is an assessment of the process profile of the organization. What are the patterns of feelings and behavior that characterize its working and living. This exercise brings to light all the feelings that accompany people’s being in the organization. Old hurts, barriers to mobilization and co-operation, frustration, hopes etc. quickly come to the surface. Issues of wastages, barriers to willing co-operation and fear of expression are classical de-energizers.
When the organization members confront these findings it usually gives rise to a sense of hope and liberation in spite of the fact that they are in the nature of “negatives”. The relief comes obviously from the fact that these negatives are now out in the open and thus there is a possibility of change.
What is the learning from the above? An old adage comes to mind: “truth liberates”. Second, the so-called negatives, the pains are like doorways, doorways to the learning that is needed but currently is remaining untapped. Third is the reality that all long standing relationships will accumulate residues in the nature of frustration and obstructions. The table below is a sample list of such de-energizers culled out from the various assessments I have carried out in the recent past. I have also listed out the issues that underlay the de-energizers. In a sense these are a list of symptoms and the underlying process of the organization,. They bear a marked resemblance across various organizations. The intensities vary, somewhere high and somewhere low.
De-energisers in organisations
|helpless resignation, resentment, most members feel powerless
|under achievement (individual)
|low self worth, under valuing
|receiving raw deals, feel exploited, vulnerable “cheated”
“what is in it for me”
|poor team work
|no integrator, poor leadership, leadership not in touch with people’s subjective realities
|no visible hope, fear of disintegration, fear of loss, despondency
|unrecognised hate, anger inadequacy & fear
|insufficient systemic support, technical inadequacy
|lack of entrepreneurial energy, fear of failure, fear of loss
|insufficient upward communication
insufficient systems & infrastructure, resentment
ignorance of capabilities especially of machines & flow lines
what is in it for me
lack of ownership of company’s business targets
insufficient quantity and quality of downward communication
|poor time management
|indecisiveness, disowned inadequacy
role and identity mismatches
“yes buts & no buts”.
authoritarian inside, democratic outside
issues of initiative and responsibility
|dubiousness in exercises of authority
history of patronage and exploitation
unreconciled differences in the top team
The second stage in the change process is an educational one. Starting from the top a series of workshops are conducted which create an opportunity for people to express and share those very aspects which ordinarily are left to the galleries and private conversations. The workshops are in the nature of structured laboratories.
There are views about the organization and its processes. In their ordinary from such views are likely to be highly critical even condemnatory. The skill of the workshop moderator is to help the participants develop a language that goes beyond the evaluative to the underlying process. The establishment of a process oriented language immediately gives rise to the hope that the past problems, intractable as they had seemed may in fact be amenable to change though voluntary effort and co-operation.
The workshops then create an opportunity for the participants to examine their own working styles. Again this examination is done in a process orientation, not in an evaluative one. Interestingly a candid examination or exploration like this helps people see in what way they are unconsciously contributing to the problems in the organization. Ordinarily we tend to see others creating the problem. This equation undergoes a radical shift. With this shift now negotiability reaches a new high. The exploration of individual working styles is enhanced with an opportunity to explore one’s own individual identity stances so that each individual can identify relevant and meaningful goals of personal growth.
The workshops take advantage of the heightened negotiability to generate new commitments in the shape of action plans at two levels, as a member of the organization and, as an individual. These action plans (at the organizational level) are discussed with the immediate superiors in the hierarchy as well as the final approving authority. The action plans and associated dialogues become a significant covenant for cooperative and collectively driven change.
Changes beyond the imagination of the top team are often generated. In fact each level identifies and brings about changes which its higher level could not even have visualized. In the first flush dramatic reduction in wastages comes about.
Organizational thrift, a very good indicator of the health of the organization begins to increase. Creative alternatives to long standing problems are invented by the same set of people.
What is the learning from the above?
a) Voice: The experience of contributing to the assessment, finding legitimate space to voice and be heard on issues and feelings brings a new lease of life to the relationship of the individual with the organization. He feels valued and safer with his own points of view.
b) Valued: When people feel valued they are likely to co-operate willingly. Participating in the workshops is an experience of receiving investment from the organization. “The organization is spending money to give me an opportunity to learn and discover”. The response is immediate and committed. Organizations often code training as a holiday or as an expense rarely as an investment. These workshops create an opportunity for participants to look candidly and professionally at the organization as well as an opportunity to receive professional feedback on themselves and their personal concerns for well being and growth.
c) Many solutions lie within the organization but are not used. This leads to great human waste. Human waste belongs to the sentient world of the organization. The sentient world of the organization is the bedrock of hope and investment, key ingredients to productivity, creativity and success. Human waste, in the nature of powerlessness, hopelessness, unsafety, and frustration normally gets transferred to the material world in the form of material wastage, under-productivity and self-defeats.
d) Two associated hypotheses emerge, one, that co-operation in change produces healthier change as opposed to change by fiat, and two, investments in people probably have the highest rates of return.
The learning for the management, especially the top team usually focuses on recognizing and valuing the sentient world. In ordinary form the sentient world is usually seen narrowly as a world of needs for more money. Thus the sentient world of subordinates is kept at bay creating a barrier, healthy dissent is a casualty. This narrowness of view gets widened by the process shared here, resulting in previously unforeseen resources (in the shape of ideas and solutions) emerging from the subordinates. A similar widening takes place among peers at all levels, most notably the top team. They begin to feel safer with one another even in managing differences.
The second domain of learning for the management is in the nature of recalibration of perceptual frames by which they interpret reality. Relationships thus change and tend to become free of past debris and become more broadbanded.
The description until now has brought to you the beginning of a process of change. To sustain the change a variety of interventions need to be designed which are highly tailor made to suit the needs and can match the profile of the people and the organization.
i) Generating vision: What kind of an organization do you want? What kind of an ambience should it have? What levels of productivity, creativity, and relatedness do you wish or need? Are the directions for exploration and crystallization. In PCIB the term vision has three sectors. One relates to goals and targets as is current in management praxis. The second sector focuses on the question “what kind of an organization should we become?” This includes the question “what should the ambience be like in order to enable the achievement of the goals, what kind of feeling tone, nature of relatedness, creativity, and productivity shall we establish?” The third focus is on “what is the way to get there?”
ii) Self renewal for the top and senior members: A large proportion of senior and top levels executives are at least 35 years of age. By this time, issues of their own identity, issues of stress as well as issues endemic to entering middle age are at hand. Opportunities to review, explore and set new directions can be very rejuvenating and usually generates a new burst of energy and creativity at work.
Up gradation of direct management and problem solving skills. What is actually available in the knowledge bank of the field of management and what is actually in use in organization are two fairly diverse bodies. Transfer of such knowledge on a rapid and large scale is needed and only sometimes actually done.
Having gone through the above stages organizations usually find that the flow of ideas, therefore new solutions and consequently significant changes beginning to happen. Profitability goes up significantly. Some organizations pause at this stage while some press on with the exercise of change and graduate to the next step. I know one organization which sets up process centered workshops for its managerial staff on an annual basis. They review the organization, as an instrument as well as a community and then go on to carry out intensive individual self-reviews using psychological tests. Each workshop generates new action plans that are integrated into the management agenda.
What is the learning from the above?
Clearly there are two frontiers that need constant pushing if an organization is to remain at the forefront. Items (i) and (ii) clearly point to the emotive worlds of leadership, while item (iii) points to the cognitive and action skills front. It is here that we starkly come across the old adage “an organization is as good as the people in it”. Issues of vision are directly connected to the aspirations and energy that the top management is willing to or capable of mobilizing. This is connected with the levels of hopefulness and the “spirit” prevalent in the top team. These put together also point to the adage “how do you feel in the company (of people) that you keep”. Thus we reach the point of examining the traditions, the sense of pride and the panache of the leadership. Toyabu coins the idea of the “creative minority” of societies.
He proposes that it is the energy levels and the dreams of the creative minority that shapes the destiny of societies. Much in the same vein the learning we are with is that the quality of the leadership teams will determine the destiny of organizations. This is conceptually not new. However, from the point of view of students of organizations and consultants it points to the imperative of making investments in sustaining the quality of the leadership team.
The second, less an emotive issue, is the need to constantly upgrade the organization’s techno managerial skills through appropriate knowledge transfer and training.
The material presented so far has been from the perspective of the consultant.
At the outset it is essential to differentiate Process Consulting and Content Consulting. Content Consulting is as happens in a doctor patient relationship, architect – client relationship or in engineering consultancy. The problem is passed on to the external expert who crafts a solution to be implemented by the client.
The Process Consultant by contrast is a temporary “insider” who for a contracted period walks along with the client to enhance the client’s understanding of his own situation, widen his perspective, and release new action potential. In the process the consultant is an auditor, co-learner, teacher at times and coach and mentor to individuals as well as groups. His role is to hold up a mirror and create new forces of learning to help nucleate new action.
What is the role of the consultant? First and foremost he needs to develop an understanding of the organization as a whole. Both in its instrumental aspects as well as its community aspect.
In his own mind he has to establish the links and causalities between the two. Thus to develop a picture that uses the dictum “anything that is happening is because it is serving a purpose”. He then has to differentiate the phenomenology to sectors of assumptions, beliefs, alignment between various members.
His key skill lies in the ability to surface these links. The surfacing of the links are not in the nature of conclusions but in the nature of hypotheses such that it acts as a trigger for the organization members to become “co-consultants” and arrive at shared diagnosis and assessments. He needs to assist organization members recognize these links. In PCIB he cannot just recognize these and pass them on. He has to create conditions for the members to “discover” these links themselves. In the process the range of the understanding increases, and the consultant must be prepared to modify his understanding as well.
The client is the organization. This is somewhat ambiguous to begin with, since it begs the question what is the organization? I have answered this for myself by settling on the “spirit” of the organization and its members. In actual engagement it amounts to addressing issues of the quality of the organization and organization capability. Of late, I find myself also beginning to wonder to what extent I begin to address issues of the organization’s role in society. As of now I must confess that my actual contribution on this dimension is well below what I would like it to be.
In all my years of practicing, now in its fourth decade, all entries have happened through active invitation from the client to be. Most often those that have “researched” and arrived at the choice of the consultant are those that progress. Most of the rest do not go beyond polite (sometimes not so polite) market place enquiries of what do you do, how much do you charge?
I prefer to make short term step by step contracts. This can vary if the organization is large in which case the work requires many more touch points and thus more time. I firmly believe in going through the formal process of proposal preparation, acceptance and structured billing procedures.
At the very early stage of negotiation, I also have a preference for explicitly identifying the internal anchor and internal champion of the forthcoming process. In some cases the two roles are held by the same person, typically the HR Chief as the anchor and the CEO as the champion. At times, less frequent, the CEO holds both the roles. The advantage with short step by step contracts is that the client builds up credibility without a sense of loss of control. The disadvantage is that often times the first flush of success leads to a degree of complacency and a longer term relationship does not emerge.
The role of the internal champion is a crucial one. Only those relationships fructified into “successful” ones that had an internal champion. A significant part of my investment in client relationship management is in the fostering of the internal champion. This may imply going beyond contractual boundaries and investing in his growth and learning.
The extent to which client organizations sustain the change is mainly dependent on two factors. The first is of course the perceived value he has taken from the exercise so far, the second being the extent to which he has become a “believer” in the process. As a consultant my experience suggests that clients who have been “in a hurry” are the ones that tend to turn complacent with harvesting the low hanging fruit. The more slow paced, deliberate and planned type of clients are the ones who are more likely to plug away persistently in raising organization quality, capability and leadership standards.
My role in helping sustain is to build in follow up clauses in the original contract. However, this strategy has had a less than exciting results with the few most recent client organizations. I have however some clients who have returned to me with requests to help sustain, foster the change processes also. These are all those organizations where a committed internal champion had emerged. With these clients I have had to develop a wide variety of interventions including working on co-assisted personal growth for promoters and their families, developing visioning instruments and workshops based on these plus of course engaging in individual coaching and mentoring.
Elsewhere I have shared the background of my entry into this field of work at a time when Organization Development and Institution Building were relatively, almost completely unknown in the Indian marketplace. Certainly at the beginning I had (what now looks) quixotic dreams of “changing the situation”. An inspiring thought that was gifted to me was “Can I leave the world a little better than I found it?”
Today when I look back, I must say I was driven by a zeal which I cannot say I fully understand. At the same time, I cannot see myself having done anything else with my life. The inner excitement and the challenge to keep fashioning responses to unexpected occurrences have led me forward. It has, as it turns out today, been more a journey inward than anywhere else. It is as if in all my work I have been exploring to understand the world I am in and encountering many identities. In each encounter I discovered something about my identity. I today fully subscribe to a sense of gratitude that my clients have given me opportunities to learn.
Somewhere in a corner of my being lies a conviction that the universe including human beings and human phenomena is a perfectly ordered thing. This idea took birth under hallucination while recovering from an accidental overdose of marijuana, at age 27. Progressively the idea is receiving confirmation as more and more patterns of human existence reveal themselves. Today I believe that there is nothing called a random phenomenon, occurrence or behavior. There is a larger pattern, which if I am open, I am likely to be able to see.
At a more practical level I believe that human collectivities of which formal business organizations are only a subset will necessarily have to go on to recognize the identity and the spirit of the collectivity and arrive at a balance of the nature of instrumentality and community. The amount of focus on the community must need to increase many times over than at present such that organizations by choice become easier members of the ecology rather than remain rooted in a mode of “exploiting technology” and “exploiting opportunities” exclusively.
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