Complexity and collaboration – implications for leadership and practice
The contemporary emphasis on collaboration in organisational discourse is counter-cultural. Managerialism depends a lot on metrics which emphasise and scrutinise the individual. It is very rare to find a process of performance appraisal, for example, which takes into account teamwork. Ordinarily staff may be invited to be their ‘best selves’ at work, to make good individual choices, and to align with the values.
The new interest in collaboration might be understood as a movement towards groups, perhaps a reminder to reconsider what we have always known. It is ironic that all the texts which are currently being written linking the importance of collaboration for innovation, say, are offered breathlessly as though this is both a novel and deep insight into the human condition. We have always, and always will collaborate. But collaboration doesn’t just lead to the good – people also collaborate to resist, subvert, and to block. Nor is collaboration the only thing which is going on in a group when people are trying to get things done together. The moment we make conscious the intention to collaborate, then all kinds of other motives and activities may come to the fore, including competition, rivalry and anxiety. Continue reading →
There are just three weeks to go before the end of early bird booking for this year’s Complexity and Management Conference 17th-19th May. As for the last two years we will also be offering a one-day introduction to complex responsive processes on Friday 17th May for anyone interested in the ideas, whether or not you go on to attend the conference.
This year we are expecting a good turn-out, partly because of our speaker Professor Andre Spicer, and partly because the event is a lively and thought-provoking occasion, where we talk about what matters with no particular end in view. Book soon to ensure you secure a place.
The title of this year’s conference, What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life draws attention to the importance of making sense of contemporary organisational life in ways which call into question taken for granted assumptions.
Some of the things we might discuss at the conference, which I suggest are current pathologies of management, are set out below. None of these phenomena is new or unremarked upon and critiqued. Yet they still prevail in organisational life in ways which can lead to unhelpful behaviour in groups. They can distract from more productive ways of working which pay attention to the difficulties of getting things done together in the here and now. Continue reading →
I promised to write up my presentation from the 2015 Complexity and Management Conference, which was entitled Exploring our Experience of Every Day Politics in Organizations. My task was to pull out a few themes which struck me, and to respond to the keynotes of Svend Brinkmann and Patricia Shaw. This post tries to identity common threads, lacunae and opportunities for thinking arising out of what our guests said and links these to reflections on what it might mean to reflect systematically on the politics of everyday life in organisations. Continue reading →
While a number of posts on this blog have been dedicated to calling in to question the claims of contemporary management theory to enable managers to predict the future, there can be no doubt that much of it is dedicated to controlling employees. Or rather, there are always new developments in management theory aimed at increasing organizational efficiency and effectiveness but which have the effect of disorienting employees and keeping them permanently on the hop. Management theory is replete with suggestions for dividing, atomising, reorganising and scrutinising employees whilst denying them time to sit together to make sense of what is going on. In fact, usually they are discouraged from doing so: it is quite common to find people expressing antipathy towards meetings which might turn into ‘talking shops’, or alternatively sense-making opportunities may be described as a ‘luxury’ which the organisation cannot afford. Of course, I am not recommending that people spend more time in meetings simply for the sake of it, but I am always interested when people I am working with tell me that they don’t have the time to think about what’s going on. Continue reading →