Different Worldviews, part 2

In the first part of this article, I stated that the concept of worldviews isn’t anything new although it’s subject to this analysis – however, I think it’s useful to tap into as new insigths are often “right there in front of you” and especially in places not under usual scrutiny. Then I proceeded with constructive aspects of disagreements like development opportunities – and also the challenges and even organizational and economic problems stemming from there. At last I encouraged to talk about things in order to avoid problems. And you’re right: a pretty facile solution and obviously there’s more to it. Below I’ll try to flesh it out, give examples and wrap up with a call for cogitation.

Really.. “Just” talk about it?

I’m not proposing that all problems can be solved just by having a meeting once in a while or remember to tell people if they do something annoying (or that agencies delivering internal communication solutions or providing communication materials in the form of plans, QA’s, etc. are not necessary (!)) – that’s just gullible. Things can get more problematic with too much talk, so decisions and actions have to follow. Elvis expressed it well: “A little less conversation, a little more action”. However, you shouldn’t neglect the power of verbalization – it adds a layer of insight and understanding when you put thoughts into words and to hear others do the same. “Just” talk isn’t enough – but understanding communication gets you a long way.

The verbalization can be conducted in a variety of forms in the internal communication, depending on seriousness, professionalism as well as economical and temporal resources: from the occasional ad-hoc meeting when a conflict is evolving, the usual monday morning meeting, over the planned and formalized series of meetings with specific content and agendas, to the big, proactive workshop with the purpose of mapping out different views – but honestly I have never heard about the latter (please let me know if you have or do it in your organization!).

Of course I’m not recommending the first, reactive approach with “the occasional ad-hoc meeting when a conflict is evolving” but advocate for a more proactive way of adressing possible issues – but even the slightest effort is better than not doing anything. Some (not all!) organizations (the leaders and managers) “turn the blind eye” and think “our employees are professionals and don’t let personal issues influence their work – they’re grown ups and can handle that by themselves.” Nothing could be further from the truth – disagreements and personal issues are human (no matter the age) and cannot be seperated from business (or any other situation).

A recent study (Danish article) with a psychological outlook confirms this.

This responsibility is on part of internal communication departments and department line managers (often in a beneficial collaboration with an adviser) – for line managers this is an intricate matter that I will get back to in a later article called Line and middle management – paradoxes, challenges and communication.

Common everyday examples exhibiting different worldviews

By virtue of my academic and professional interest, a very present example for me are the cases of (disappearing) leadership and communication in organizations.
Leadership and the associated communication, and specifically the lack of it, is (one of) the most (hotly) debated organizational topics – at least by (non-executive) employees who talk (gossip) about it around the lunch table, complain about it to their friends and family, or keep it to themselves, potentially causing irreparable problems (1st article).

Workplace problems or dissatisfaction often stem from situations involving some kind of communicative aspect – and manifest themselves in a variety of ways: top management might launched a new strategy (which came as a big surprise) that impacts your work and now you don’t know how it will affect you (and you don’t get any further information); your immediate manager took a decision influencing the department routines but somehow forgot to tell you – and now he/she expect it to be done right from the first day; your immediate manager is never around, and you don’t have a connection with him/her that invites to speaking freely about your issues (and as written, keeping things down isn’t desirable); the work environment is horrible and have developed into that over the past two years – and the leaders haven’t interfered.

As mentioned in the first part of this article, the first time I encountered the different worldviews in an academic matter was during research, investigating trauma leadership at two of the four Level 1 trauma centers in Denmark. Although I’ll dedicate a full article to this project later, one of our key findings was that understandings of what is supposed to happen in the trauma setting is different from (medical) specialization to specialization (even from person to person) – as was the expectations of each specialization as to what was expected of them from other specializations. Confused? Then imagine when it is not written down like here or verbalized otherwise: everyone gets confused and annoyed in the workplace. For our research, it significantly influences the work and productivity of the trauma personnel and the function as a whole. More to come!

However, the frustration is not only on part of the subordinates. Line and middle managers are often finding themselves in quite a dilemma, being close to the ones carrying out the work and their reality while acting on behalf of top management – more on this in the future article I referred to in the end of last section.

As I noted above (have done so before and will continue to do so), the challenges in leadership and communication are rather common – however, resolving these is not customary. The solution is local and dependent on the leader, employees and context (as I wrote before) – and adds to the challenge for line managers (future article mentioned above).

What should leadership be and how should a leader “communicate”? This depends on more factors as I write above, but in order to tailor your approach accordingly, relations and connections in organizations and workplaces are important. I write more about this in my articles and on StormConnect‘s website, www.stormconnect.dk.

Why all that communicative perspective?

Many people think that communication is “just” words – and why should they think any differently? Communication is much more – everything we say and do and by extension how it makes people feel. The ignorance is not unjustified at all – there are SO many things we don’t know due to limited cognitive capacity or lack of focus, education or interest. You might wonder: “What is he talking about with worldviews and discussions” or “why this extensive breakdown and analysis” – this simply has to do with my educational background as well as professional work and interest – I’ll get back to this in a later article raising the question “Do we care too much?

Think (carefully) about your need for advisory

In part 1 of this article, I told you I would ask for a favor: please think about your need for advisory regarding the work with worldviews – really! Generally, (some) decision makers should think more before deciding and executing. Organizations need to perform, the responsibility lies in the hands of superiors and today’s markets require organizations to be loosely coupled, agile and act swiftly internally as well as externally. Hence, my call for more cogitation shouldn’t be an excuse for indesicion or plodding. However, it’s something that I strongly urge to do – more on this in a future article.

I have in an earlier post pointed to need for consultancy regarding leadership in organizations – and in many cases that need is striking. It’s often a driver for development – organizationally as well as economically.

“Well, that’s just sales trick!”, you might say – and of course you could argue that. It would’t be credible to deny it. But I want you to think about it for a moment:

1. Demand/supply is one of the most fundamental economic concepts, and if there wasn’t a demand for external consultants, I guess they wouldn’t exist.

2. Just like it would gullible to believe that every organizational clash could be avoided by talking with each other (see the above), it’s naive to think that you have all the answers yourself. Even if you really did (knew everything), it’s always healthy to get a second opinion and another perspective on the challenge at hand. Pride doesn’t help you and could in the worst case damaging. Habitual thinking is a widespread problem!

Remember: Habitual thinking is not only a problem within your organization. Things also become routinzed for the agency you’ve used for years and the advisory you get from an actor working only within your industry. It could make them an industry specialist and cause comprehensive insight in your challenges. But do yourself the favor to assess it regularly: it’s not a given: Habitual thinking is a widespread problem!

Academics have supplied theoretical frames for illumination of this: a.o. Granovetterwith his concept of embeddedness that captures the idea that individuals’ actions are dependent on their social relations – tellling us that organizations (or rather, the people in them) keep doing what they have always done without considering if it could be done better or smarter, due to bounded rationality as Williamson pointed out. As an explanation to this, Luhmann‘s well known systems theory shows us how social systems, like organizations, are closed and self-referential and hence have a hard time changing. Now the theoretical toolbox is open, DiMaggio & Powell refer to the isomorphism amongst organizations stemming from this lack of contemplation and imagination, resulting in similar operational approaches – a similarity that Meyer & Rowan calls organizational myths.

The gist of this is two-folded: Seek help instead of (trying to) handle challenges on your own (or necessarily only with the usual advisors), and stand out from the crowd by not doing as everyone else: with the same organizational setup as everyone else, similar results will follow and you’ll have a hard time differentiate your business or offering.

3. It isn’t to convince you to use StormConnect, per se – but to consider. If you need assistance, the market is inflating with consultants within this sphere – take your pick.

You have undoubtedly experienced problems due to your own worldview not corresponding with that of either a subordinate, equated or senior colleague – please share it here or send a message (under confidentiality of course). Thanks.


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