The dangers of “organizational utopianism”

A major component of organizing is balancing mutual dependencies between people and functions.

The fulfillment of mutual dependencies is the very essence of successful organizing, yet the dependencies which enable organizing always create anxieties. I am fully aware that people skim articles, but the stuff in italics is really important! 😉

There is no way whatsoever to eliminate the inherent anxieties of organizing; they can only be mitigated. Any attempt to “cure these anxieties” is organizational Utopianism.

Political utopianism, be it communism or nationalism, has bred disaster. Bread lines, racial hatred and massive use of force are the direct results of ideologies which purport to have all the answers. (I will avoid discussing the “salvation” promised by religious Utopians.)

In the realm of OD and change management, there is plenty of Utopianism, which expresses itself in stylish one size fits all models, universal truths and so called shared values. Utopian solutions come along with high priests who implement these total solutions.

Organizational utopianism is no less dangerous than political utopianism. Utopian organizational solutions breed cynicism, disengagement, sloganeering (which castrates communication) and exploitation. Total solutions for organizing end in disaster.

Organizing is very complex at the emotional level. There are no quick fixes, none whatsoever. An awareness of the inherent anxiety bred by organizing itself is probably the most important tool in the arsenal of organizational practitioner.

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11 thoughts on “The dangers of “organizational utopianism”

  1. Allon, I am about to tweet you: “An awareness of the inherent anxiety bred by organizing itself is probably the most important tool in the arsenal of organizational practitioner.”

  2. Hi Allon – I’ve always have enjoyed you a ‘realist’. Take any ‘book’ on leadership … they always remind me of ‘creating the gods’ …. maybe its time we view everyone as ‘people’ ….

    … as for your italicized comment: “dependencies which enable organizing always create anxieties” …sounds human to me…

  3. Allon – just curious about your thoughts on ’emergence’ and getting away from ‘the utopia’, fixed models, formulas and ‘the prescriptive expert approach’ and as you say, “quick fixes” of the gurus …

    “An awareness of the inherent anxiety bred by organizing itself is probably the most important tool in the arsenal of organizational practitioner.”

    I agree….

  4. I am going to use your quote
    An awareness of the inherent anxiety bred by organizing itself is probably the most important tool in the arsenal of organizational practitioner. and definitely attribute it to you. thank you for your wisdom.

  5. This is one of your key postings, Allon. Ready-made OD processes and products rarely work. This is even more evident when the OD practitioner, unaware of how s/he is with anxiety, adopts them as a crutch to lean against during his/her moments of anxiety with uncertainty. Hence, awareness starts with self. Without it, the OD practitioner will not be able to understand and deal with the anxieties underlying the task of “organizing”. S/he will not be able to help others become aware of their systemic relationships and where the responsibility dance is taking them for s/he him/herself has never learnt that much in life that seems personal is not. What happens then, is that “mah” anxiety steers the “I” of the consultant and all “Others” in the organizing task to the Side Shows they are all in and rarely move to the Center Ring: whatever the central purpose of “organzing” was about. Result: The “organizing circus” will become never ending as the clowns will move from one Side Show to another.
    Lévis

  6. “There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all in OD” is one of my “slogans”. It may be a piece of why I’m still unemployed…

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