External factors that may impact the cultures of organizations as the plague unfolds

It appears that this pandemic is not “one shot and you are dead”. Rather, it’s here for a long time, and even if a silver bullet is found and deployed in the near future (which won’t happen), the shock waves will last for a protracted period.

I have explained in this blog that organizational culture is formulated far more by external forces than by any other factor. True, leadership, idiosyncrasies and  luck all make a difference, yet external factors remain the dominant architects of organizational culture.

In this post, I want to point out a few external factors which will hugely impact organizational culture the longer that this plague lasts.

  • Jobs will become very scarce. Very scare. Like 4 leaf clovers. And that means that it becomes an employers’ world: sans work-life balance; sans perks; sans engagement; sans paid vacation; sans lunch coupons.
  • Choppy choppy is back in season; 3 jobs will become one. Three departments will become two. Six  engineers will become four. And until that happens, organizations will be war zones between people vying to be retained.
  • The roles and functions focused on gender equality and diversity will be totally marginalized and wither away. It’s a world of many people drowning and very few life jackets. If the virus continues to spread, organizations may develop filters for certain types of staff during recruitment, so as to minimize risk and possible quarantine.
  • This is the time for CFO’s, financiers, and risk-aversive folks to shine. Dreams, vision and big ideas will be relegated to the back burner.
  • With massive, rampant, extreme, widespread poverty at the gateway, companies will need to invest in security in a similar way that airlines did after 9/11. That means bogging things down with tremendous regulation and expense, which need to come from another pocket.

 2,958 total views

Share Button

Mr Blackwell’s Latin Classes and our “unseen” passage

Time-1965

Place-Sir Winston Churchill High School,  Ville Saint Laurent, Quebec

At 10.45, we went out to the school yard for morning recess in the -20 weather. Unlike other days during which we played hockey, smoked in a corner, and gossiped about the girls, for example Coral’s hickey, we all appeared shattered by the unseen Latin test that Mr. Blackwell had just given us.

Frank said that he had to guess a lot, but he believes the unseen passage was a description of a battle that took place somewhere in Carthage, and there was a huge use of incendiary bombs. Glen, whose father worked for Air Canada, claimed that the unseen described the act of map making, especially the ways and means of delineating areas not close to a major landmark. Norman said that the piece he translated was about the court of a great emperor of a major naval sea power. I shared my view that a certain military commander was complaining that the chariots his men were using were of poor repair.

Mr. Blackwell was a typical school teacher in the PSBGM, the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. He had recently emigrated from England; he spoke with a very pronounced accent, and he was stern yet calm. True, Blackwell’s accent was much clearer to us than was that of our history teacher, Miss Chesney, who was from Scotland. No one, I mean no one understood Miss Chesney. But we all knew that her first name was Mildred.

By the time recess was over, we were all convinced that Mr. Blackwell had given each of us different unseen passages so that we would not copy from one another. That theory, however, was devastated after we came back from recess.

Mr. Blackwell asked Sharon what the unseen was about. She replied, “it was about the fire department in the City of Nicomedia.” The other brain in our class, Sheila, repeated her answer. Sheila and Sharon were sisters, twin sisters to boot. Then came the final blow. “And what about you, Roberta, what was the “ahticle” about”?  Roberta, class brain number one, who also was a soloist in our choir, chimed in her version about the Nicomedia Fire Department, describing the department in great detail. Or as Mr. Blackwell said, thank you Roberta for describing this ancient fire department in “grey detail”.

Two days later was a Friday, and Blackwell’s Latin class was the last lesson of the week. Just as the bell rang to set us free, Blackwell looked outside and said, “Now look here-what dismal weather awaits us all this weekend. Don’t sit like bumps of a frozen log; go to work on your Latin vocabulary. That’s “appeahs” to me to be a great way to spend a weekend.  Now-out!.”

 1,509 total views,  6 views today

Share Button

The case of Captain Brett Crozier- my take

For several years, I constructed case studies for analysis in the military when I was an Internal OD consultant in the Israeli army. The case of Captain Crozier caught my eye, and I have tried to read everything I can about the goings-on, which have led both to the axing of Captain Crozier and the resignation of the acting secretary of the Navy.

The case of Brett Crozier, captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was axed for bypassing the chain of command by unduly escalating the outbreak of corona on his vessel. The escalation (via email) reached the press and the shit hit the fan.

Did Crozier do the right thing? Should he be reinstated? Is he a bum? Is he a victim? Is it legitimate that the chain of command be bypassed by using the press, albeit inadvertently?

Here is my cut.

Leadership in the army focuses on getting the job done by following a set of predefined protocols and processes which have been worked out over centuries of warfare.

Military leadership is probably more people focused than any civilian outfit that I know, albeit that armies send soldiers to their death. There is no reason to believe that anyone above Crozier wanted to see the ship become a vessel of death. So it’s not a story of a whistleblower in a cruel and malicious organization who exposes the firms’ evil.

The issue is somewhere else. There is a built in paradox between getting the job done and following a set of predefined protocols and processes. This paradox needs to be constantly managed and re calibrated, because reality (getting the job done) and predefined protocols often clash, because war is full of “unexpecteds”, and many of the plans, processes and protocols have holes in them as the enemy surprises us.

But is Corona a war? It is a very different kind of war. Not the type we were brought up to fight, but a war nonetheless. And a very dangerous one if we don’t have the insight to act as if it is a war. After all, war is not mainly what we plan, but violence that happens.

Military machines and armies have horrendous bureaucracies, because most of the time, they maintain the peace, and just train for war, not wage war. Responsiveness of these bureaucracies is faulty, because the higher up you go, the more people are invested in the status quo. A huge amount of investment at the senior level is made at looking good, not being good.

This having been said, there is no place whatsoever for populism in the making of military decisions. Military decisions cannot be made by voting by smartphone. There is no doubt about that.

So, it’s a matter of balancing the paradox between getting the job done and adhering to the chain of command. There is no text book answer. It is risk management and balancing trade-offs between conflicting priorities. That’s why commanders exist.

So hail to Captain Crozier, an American hero. I salute you.

Afterthought

In the Israeli military, there is an expression “tsalash-tarash -“צל”ש-טר”ש“, which can roughly be translated as “Either a medal of honour or demotion to First Private”.

The expression is used to describe an action involving great risk  which is taken that is judged  only by the result. When the result is success, results trump adherence. This promotes risk taking, a must for the success of military leadership.

 

 2,264 total views,  6 views today

Share Button

Organization Development “after the flood” – What is to be done? And what will become undone?

Certainly at this point, no one knows jack shit about what is in store for organization development if and when the current plague subsides. That reminds me of what  a client  of mine (who dabbled in politics at a senior level) told me..” The public generally does not know two basic things-what will happen, and what actually happened.”.

Nevertheless, in this brief article, I want to suggest a framework for approaching our professions’ continued survival, as well as put out my neck and predict some shattering developments.

Framework

No one has a clue what will happen to organizations/the act of organizing if and when society crawls out of this black hole called corona. It makes no sense to guess if people will work from home or return to the work-place. It makes no sense to predict trends and support possible ways of recovery-unless you get your kicks that way.  What does make sense is to own the fact that no one knows anything. Because that is one of the strengths of OD-coping with ambiguity.

As the new organizational reality and changes are conceived, we will not be in the bedroom. At best,  we will be the midwife. The changes will be foisted upon us by economic reality, political change and changes in belief systems. Organization development will be able to ease this process along, by avoiding any arrogance of trying to re-mold a new order.

My friend Robin Cook wrote me that “no OD practitioner worthy of the title would dare to try to impose his or her solutions”. This is true to some extent, but the values that OD espouses do impose value loaded solutions in a passive aggressive way. Many of our core values will have to change as the world resets. OD is particularly conservative when it comes to examining our own values. Without such a value reset on our part, OD is doomed to irrelevance.

Allon foolishly sticks out his neck

And now I am going to stick out my neck and share with my readers a few of my assumptions, which may all prove to be wrong, no doubt.

  1. Organizations will become like jungles than they already were with supply of jobs much smaller than demand. Salaries will tumble. Management will be more authoritarian and demanding.
  2. CFO’s will call the shots for a very long time.
  3. Many perks and wellness programs will be abandoned; perhaps the slogans will survive.
  4. Political correctness will die. Perhaps it will be massacred. No one will forget where and how the virus started, which communities are ill and which are not. Who prepared and who denied? And the results will be ugly.
  5. Social order will erode big time. The age of repression is at the gates, and this is an ill omen for our profession and its assumptions. If we don’t play our cards right, we are soon to become extinct.
  6. The lower end of OD (training, empowering middle management, chicken shit products which enable change in one day) will be wiped off the map because  many organizations will have no money to waste. Internal OD will be eliminated  The only OD practitioners to be left standing will be the best consultants and the false prophets and magicians, the latter always flourishing in very bad times.

“Of course there is,” Brishen said flatly. It had started badly; it turned worse and hinted at becoming ruinous.”
― Grace Draven, Eidolon

 2,415 total views

Share Button