Clarifying the Remit:
We meet with the entire management team. The gentlemen are relaxed and in a good mood. They explain that they would very much like to support their leaders. The organisation is highly dynamic, it employs many young people. The trainees are given responsible jobs. For some it is their first employment after completion of their studies. They all appear ambitious and motivated. The average managers’ age is around thirty years. There is a lack of experience and knowledge, but that can, after all, be changed.
We make our toolbox for meeting management available and, in addition, offer training in presentation and moderation competencies. This offer is accepted.
Course of the Consultation:
Initially we take part in various meetings and sure enough, we can observe that there is not much discipline to be seen. Although there is an agenda, they arrive late, discuss other questions, spontaneously pause, talk over each other. Nevertheless, everyone has fun, they enjoy the exchange and the company of their colleagues.
We decide to commence with three groups of twelve people and then to watch how the meetings progress.
As we expected, it is a great pleasure to work with highly engaged young people. The participants are enthusiastic, actively take part, test themselves, and the marketing department designs a poster displaying meeting rules which fits with the corporate identity. We are very satisfied with the result, and swiftly plan the next appointments.
Nevertheless, we attend meetings once more and are disappointed that hardly any of that, which we have taught, has been taken on board. Only the poster hangs prominently in all rooms. I am frustrated and perplexed. Where have we gone wrong?
Before continuing, I decide to investigate more closely. I seek conversations with the participants. I wish to understand what is happening below the surface. With this in mind, I ask the following questions: What sort of person gets promotion? What do they need to progress up the career ladder? How does one get a good reputation? How does one demonstrate competence? What behaviour is rewarded? When is a person overlooked? How does the boss behave? What does one have to do to be offered a really exciting, prestigious job?
I listen, it becomes clear to me where we have erred. In this company, breaking the rules is rewarded. Those that step out of the mould, are viewed positively. If you appear to have spare time, you are not considered important. If you are not stressed, you are not producing anything meaningful. Interrupting people and pushing oneself forward are seen as signs of motivation and an ability to assert oneself. Working to the rules is for the foot soldiers.
Obviously, conforming and obeying the rules undermines one’s own status and thus I seek a talk with the manager. I have the impression that he and his leadership team are the role models for success. Therefore, they will only be able to change the meetings culture if they, themselves, begin to stick to the rules and use the toolbox to steer their behaviour accordingly.
The manager and I look at each other and start to laugh as these thoughts appear absurd to both of us. This non-conforming to rules is the measure of all things here. We give up the training sessions.
Both, the management team and I are convinced that this firm feeds on chaos. They are certain that their success and dynamism of the company are a result of this approach. Whilst the boss continues to fear that adherence to the rules could lead to the firm becoming authoritarian, it is only in the administrative departments that meeting-management is achievable. In Controlling and Logistics the rules have been established to some extent, but the rest of the crew remain “creative”.
This organisation is like a playing field. It attracts young, fun-loving people with a high requirement for self-effectiveness and self-determination. In the foreground, organisation is desirable to save time. In fact, though, there is a link to be made between untidiness and freedom, autonomy, creativity and status, organisation and boredom, bureaucracy, limitation and listlessness (see the lead processes of psychodynamics, regulation of needs). When in doubt, they make the decision to break the rules. This one-sidedness leads to burn-out and exhaustion, leading to a high level of staff turnover and hardly anyone over the age of forty remains in the firm’s employment. Nevertheless, there has been a conscious decision not to change anything for “creative people”. But every now and again a “bureaucrat” is offered promotion.
Lead Process – Dealing with the Present
The process of organising (=organisation) is decided also by its shape, which must be done on the one hand, by setting clear, binding and general rules, and, on the other hand, by being appropriate and fitting to the current specific situational circumstances. The leading question, which begs an answer is: Should a general rule be utilised or should one make an exception which would be better for the current situation?
If an organisation conformed rigidly to the rules, would it quickly collapse? After all, there will always be situations in which it would be wrong or even fatal to stick to them. At the same time, if one only ever made decisions based on the situation at hand, ignoring the rules, the organisation would be completely overburdened and would tip into chaos (everyone generates their own formula, adjustment processes or order procedures). This breaking of rules is therefore necessary, so that the rules can be helpful! And – rules must define exceptions, in order to preserve their validity.
For this reason, a ‘next to another’ and ‘within another’ develops within formal organisations (described by rules) and informal organisations (experienced in the present). The latter distinguish themselves particularly by contravention of the rules, by-passing routines, relationships that make the forbidden possible, intelligent interpretations of regulations, U-boat projects, and indirect power, all of which make a flexible interaction with the present possible.
In the end, there can be no rules (!) for the contempt of rules or the necessity to have exceptions to them. The lead process dealing with the present therefore consists of this: The organisation makes decisions in the present, keeping an eye on the rules in the background and also being aware of the present circumstances.
In order to protect our clients and customers and to ensure their private sphere, no real names are used in this place and references to organisations and branches are avoided. The cases, however, are genuine and the events are as described.