Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thinking Participants (cont)

The social sciences may mistreat thinking participants (my last post) in their theories, but the reality around us all the time is the avid willingness of thinking participants to take up residence in a single diagram. Many high-powered organizations have come to expect their employees/members to take up the diagrammatic underpinning of the organization as their own. Partly a matter complexity and partly a matter of loyalty, success within an organization often hinges on participant's ability to do that.

In the continuing tell-alls regarding Goldman Sachs, Jacki Zehner writes:

"I witnessed people getting promoted who were not positive 'culture carriers', … I sat and listened to arguments about how commercial people HAD to be promoted despite being poor team players, downright jerks or much more.

I also heard business leaders fight passionately for their people who were amazing positive culture carriers and less strong commercially.…  For both categories of people, there was frequently a fight and the more powerful leaders’ candidate often won.… What made the firm GREAT for so long is that one held the other in check. You need people who are very commercial but they cannot dominate or you risk the outcome that Mr. Smith described."
Two gotcha's present themselves here.
  1. The corporate diagram in its dominance tends to blind the participant to other diagrams. It becomes increasingly difficult to imagine other diagrams, with differently defined inputs, different inferences, and different conclusions all more or less consistent but guided by different purposes and motives. Whether the zealous participant wants to scam a client or help them, he or she will increasingly run the risk of being unable to discern what makes them tick.
  2. A total concentration on playing the game within the diagram results in the participant tending to take the game, the continued existence of the organization and it's diagram, for granted. Prudence dictates the ideal participant keep one eye on the "commercial" aspect of working the diagram for immediate profit and the other on the "cultural" aspect of maintaining the organization and its diagram over time. Yet such a balanced outlook possible? And how long can it last with onus of being "less strong commercially" hanging on it?
From the luxury of being retired, and having been a public employee, I have to say this looks like a Faustian bargain to me.

1 comment:

  1. Nice analysis, Tom! As an employee of the University system I am concerned by the dominance of increasingly hegemonic 'diagrams' there - where as I understand it part of the point of the institution in the old days was to inspect the diagrams of others and put them together into a 'bigger picture'