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Games People Play Inside Organizations Published: Sunday, January 16, 2005 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

For years, we have worked and tried very hard to show how extra rational and intra-psychic forces strongly influence organizational strategy, structure, decision-making, leadership, and team performance. These forces are not easy to identify or to diagnose and they are even harder to manage. These forces are prevalent and constitute hazardous and persistent causes of dysfunction within all types of organizations.

Neurotic styles, team sharing basic assumptions, transference patterns, resistances, interpersonal relationships entanglements, and position in the career life cycle can all have a dramatic impact on organizational governance and performance. If these factors are not managed properly they can lead to impulsive decision-making, severe moral problems, inadequate leadership, and untenable strategies and structure.

If an organization is going to introduce a different capital budgeting and information system, it should address not only symptoms, but also the root causes that impede high performance. If you want to change the behavior of a particular unit you will have to change some of the behaviors of key actors. A good deal of time must be spent talking with leaders and managers. Attitudes and behaviors must be observed. Mind-sets must be studied. Managerial fantasies become as important as objective realities in reveling the antecedents, process and consequences of specific problems. With confidentiality and delicate craftsmanship sensitive issues should be raised and uncomfortable questions should be asked. These travails are essential to discover the reason for the institutional opportunities for improvements. Without profound knowledge of these reasons, no real and sustainable solution will emerge. Only the symptoms will be addressed and the underlying problems will remain, giving rise in the future to similar symptoms.

Organizational researchers have to provide a supportive environment for clients in order to help them to cope with and assimilate the new insights and to prevent progress from becoming jeopardized by any political plays or realities. There are four stages in analyzing and synthesizing complex organizational, team, or interpersonal problems. First, a simple listing of symptoms and problems should be made from the facts available. Then it is essential to construct a model of the problem by interrelating problems and symptoms in a manner that allows inferences about the underlying root causes of the syndrome. Next, a number of solution alternatives should be generated, compared and discussed. Finally, an implementation plan, they should be compared along a variety of the following criteria: 1. Completeness – establish key symptoms that the proposed solution may not eradicate. List these for each alternative and compare their severity. 2. Side effects – be alert if the proposed alternatives may create new problems in the short or long run. 3. Economy – ponder the real cost of each alternative in terms of social, technical, organizational and economic factors. 4. Depth of solution – check if the alternatives go far enough or if a more superficial solution can work better by creating a new acceptable equilibrium in the organization. 5. Timing – consider if the alternatives can be executed fast enough to be effective, or if its complexity will cause delays that will affect the organization. 6. Political feasibility – establish if the proposal will achieve key support to implement the solution.

It is like Marcus Aurelius said in Meditations: “Always look beneath the surface, never let a thing’s intrinsic quality or worth of escape you.”


Copyright 2005 QBS, Inc.


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