What to do when you do not understand what is going on in an organization?

At times, OD consultants observe organizational behaviours which appear irrational.

As a matter of fact, at times organizations can appear to be a theatre of the absurd, and you can’t get the plot or get a handle around the absurdity.

I have put together a very short check list of things I look for to make sense of what I see.

1) Things are rarely absurd. There is a plot to decipher. What is the plot?  E.g., it may be that functionally, nothing makes sense, but politically everything makes sense.

2) What do people/the organization GAIN by the perceived dysfunction? It may well be that there is huge gain in what OD diagnostics says is poor functionality. (Perceived gain may also be secondary benefit.)

3) What information is lacking? Often a small piece of information tells the whole story.


And…to illustrate-a small tale.

Larry and his 15 developers were working on 2 medical projects, one near completion and one in its initial stages. Larry’s company was in the pure research stage and fully funded.

Three months before a meeting with investors, work on the project which was near completion dropped off and the project  fell way behind. All developers started working on this new and yet to be defined project. I was flabbergasted.

The reason (as I found out later) was clear. Larry (correctly) assessed that if the investors saw an opportunity to gain back their investment now, all the work heretofore would be boring  productization and the next project would not be funded. So Larry’s  goal was to create a situation where he could continue to “milk” the investors”, leveraging the fact that the project was far from completion!

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