Control is key
Deliberate or otherwise, all organisations are built on an ideology. Rarely thought about and almost never examined, these ideologies, these sets of beliefs - these assumptions - set the foundation for everything, from structure to strategy. The default ideology of the day, rooted in the industrialisation of employment, views organisations as machines that can and need to be controlled in order to succeed.
This worldview favours mechanical consistency and linear logic, over more unpredictable qualities associated with exponential change, human nature, and the natural world. This has consequences for how organisations believe they must operate:
- Externally, the World must, and can, be consistently and successfully manipulated or overcome if the organisation is to succeed, and
- Internally, the people must be reduced to systems and processes, like levers, that management can push and pull to reach a predetermined conclusion at will.
People are not to be trusted
Part of this ideology is a lack of trust in humanity: that people cannot be trusted to excel or to do the right thing if left to their own devices. And, so, they too need controlling. This also has consequences:
- Externally, people represent a primary risk to be managed and competed against
- Internally, people require constant monitoring and motivating if something positive is to be achieved.
The combination of a mechanistic worldview and a low level of trust is a toxic recipe for organisations trying to operate within the system we actually have: one that is complex, fast-changing and highly relationally interdependent.
There is no other way to operate
Lastly, there are the assumptions that prevent people from even seeing these ideologies in the first place. And, if they can’t be seen, there is little chance of organisations stepping out of the status quo and into something more positive. For example:
- One person isn’t enough to make the necessary difference
- More leadership is the answer - change must come from the top
- There is no viable alternative to the status quo
Woven together, these damaging belief systems foster disengaged workplaces that limit creativity, prevent change and slow progression - all things vital to survival and success going forward.
“People sense that the current way we run organizations has been stretched to its limits. We are increasingly disillusioned by organizational life...Could it be that our current worldview limits the way we think about organizations? Could we invent a more powerful, more soulful, more meaningful way to work together, if only we change our belief system?”