What is a Healthy Organisational Culture

What is a Healthy Organisational Culture

The clue is in the word. Organisation. From organ. An arrangement of specialist parts (i.e. heart, liver, kidney) that make a larger whole. The etymology of organisation is from the human body. It's one of many metaphors management research has borrowed. Usually from the natural sciences or technological innovation. To try and explain how organisations work. 

Trendy Metaphors

Looking at the trends, it seems we have not moved too far. The body metaphor persists. Organisations must be lean, agile and flexible. They must carry no flab. An optimised combination of bone, sinews and muscle.  Capable of making the organisation look hot, quick and strong.

They must be able to leap from one opportunity to the other. Never miss a step or stumble.  Land with such ease that complicated manoeuvring looks simple. They must be able to twist themselves into all manner of shapes to adapt to the task at hand.

We're talking Brad Pitt merged with Nadia Comaneci, topped off with a little Zlata.  

Now, it's not to say that these concepts are bad or wrong.  But that they come replete with built-in blind spots and risks. Just like all our other organisational metaphors did. Risks and blind-spots that a further investigation of the metaphor will reveal. For example:

Leanness: Whilst leanness is far healthier than obesity, it carries inherent health risks. A too lean body leads to decreased performance. The increased risk of fractures and illness. The loss of reproductive function, dehydration and starvation. Organs can get damaged, weird growths can occur. You might even die.

Continue reading
566 Hits

Your Identity is Fluid

Your Identity is Fluid

When discussing the misconceptions of identity currently littering much of the organisational tracts on the subject, Kevin Sinclair, an Organisational Coach based in Newcastle, New South Wales, and I recently had a brief online conversation about this article written by the philosopher, Julian Baggini. We agreed that (a) the literature fails dismally to capture the idea of the self being fluid and (b) comically (and perhaps tragically) regards fluidity of self as being emotionally stressful and psychologically harmful rather than a necessary and core element of what it means to be human. 

I've written stuff on the idea of a fluid self previously, but have failed to articulate it with any clarity. I always get caught up in socio-psychological jargon that hinders rather than helps the reader. I think it is an important, perhaps vital, topic for those experiencing the pressures of contemporary organisational life. So, not being able to explain it clearly is hugely frustrating. So what to do? 

Obviously, like any good son, I ask my mother for help!

Continue reading
584 Hits

Handling Organisational Ambiguity and Fluidity

Handling Organisational Ambiguity and Fluidity

That ambiguous and fluid organisational environments are commonplace and challenging is no secret. It's pretty much expected that, to be successful, employees must illustrate how well they can cope with and thrive in such conditions. There is, however, something somewhat paradoxical about how employees are expected to cope. Much current thinking suggests that the successful organisational member should have some core, internal, stable self to draw upon so that the constant external ambiguity doesn't induce harm. Flexibility and agility, despite being metaphors of the human body, are seen as organisational factors, not personal ones. The human at work needs to be consistent, reliable, static, unchanging. Indeed, we seem to have gone so far that we seem to expect that only experienced industry specialists who've spent countless years perfecting a single skillset could be capable of thriving in such fluid conditions. Is this really the case?

Continue reading
587 Hits
0 Comments

How to Spot (and Utilise) the Critically Engaged Employee

How to Spot (and Utilise) the Critically Engaged Employee

Research into change in ambiguous and fluid organisational environments tends to categorise employees' reactions in three-fold tables. To borrow a nicely alliterative framework, they are Bewitched, Bothered or Bewildered. The bewitched are engrossed with the change, throwing themselves into new practice and processes with zeal. The bothered resist the change, cynically disrupting the new in an often forlorn attempt to cling onto the old. The bewildered are portrayed as not really understanding the change, lost in a confusing mist between two worlds and needing a guiding hand to help them step blinking into the shining light of the new way. The response of the average change manager? Embrace the first, lose the second, train the third. Hence, the enduring relationship between change programs and professional development. 

Continue reading
545 Hits
0 Comments

Resilience and Self-Awareness during Culture Change: The Socratic Example

Resilience and Self-Awareness during Culture Change: The Socratic Example

You are reading the blog of the ironic manager website and are hopefully somewhat interested in the relationship between irony and organisational change. Now, it seems to me that you can't talk about irony without mentioning Socrates. I could talk about Socratic irony for hours but (a) you'd stop reading after the first paragraph and (b) it would take me equally as long again to explain the theoretical resonance between irony and organisational change. In short, it would be a waste of time for us both. What I'm going to do instead is use Socrates as an exemplar of two de rigueur psychological qualities of great transformational leaders in uncertain, ambiguous and changing environments; resilience and self-awareness.

Continue reading
618 Hits
0 Comments

A Fit Organisation? Really?

A Fit Organisation? Really?

The clue is in the word. Organisation. From organ. Meaning an arrangement of specialist parts (i.e. heart, liver, kidney) that interact to keep a larger body (you) alive, well and productive. Yes, the etymology of organisation is from the human body, just one example of the many metaphors organisational and management research has borrowed from the natural sciences and technological innovation to try and conceptually explain how organisations work. 

Looking at the trends in current organisational design, it seems we have not moved too far from the original body metaphor. Organisations must be lean, agile and flexible. They must carry no flab, being an optimised combination of bone, sinew and muscle capable at making the organisation look hot (hey, great bod!), quick and strong. They must be able to nimbly leap from one opportunity to the other, never missing a step or stumbling, landing with such ease that their complicating maneuvering looks stunning simple to the outside observer. They must be able to quickly twist themselves into all manner of shapes to adapt to the task at hand. We're talking peak-era, Thelma and Louise shirt-off Brad Pitt merged with Nadia Comaneci, topped off with a little Zlata.  

Continue reading
510 Hits
0 Comments

© 2017 The Ironic Manager. All Rights Reserved.

The Ironic Manager website is owned and managed by Richard Claydon and Richard Badham.