First posted back in January.
Most of our organizational problems are behavioural.
Structural answers hardly solve behavioural problems. Amalgamating A and B because A and B don’t talk to each other, or have mixed-up overlapping roles, or blame each other, or pass the monkey between them, backwards and forward, and thinking that the new A+B =C will get rid of these dysfunctionalities, is naïve wisdom thinking. A and B may now have a single head, a single home, a single reporting line and a single payroll, and still will blame each other, will pass the monkey and will continue to enjoy a dysfunctional and tribal mixed up of responsibilities.
Most of the dysfunctionalities around communications and roles are behavioural. It’s about what people do or don’t. And this is where the energy has to go.
Also some of those dysfunctionalities between A and B are perpetuated because they are simple survival mechanisms. Pure social anthropology. A and B need some form of rivalry, of tribal relationship and friction, of preservation of identities, and, above all, victimhood. If you took victimhood out of the equation, groups and organizations would fall apart, would not have anybody to blame (OK, that it’s not true, they will find others) and many political positions will melt in the air.
I’d love to create a global movement #youarenotavictim and a sister one #iamnotyourenemy. But this is a conversation for another day.
My advise is keep A and B in their tents as much as you can, and spend your energy defining rules of the game and a few, key non negotiable behaviours. Then watch. ‘We will always tell the truth to each other’, for example, is not nearly as threatening ( and naïve) as ‘I am going to amalgamate you both and then you will speak the truth’.
There is however a caveat to this, an important one. It may well be that the mere existence of a separate A and B is a gross institutional disability in itself. Period. In that case, of course it makes sense to look at the structural problem as well. The keyword is ‘as well’. Because the structural (amalgamating) solution will not get rid of accumulated behavioural problems .
In my experience, for any case of true ‘bad design’, there are dozens of pseudo-structural-problems. And for any case of amalgamation-as-a-solution, there are dozens of missing opportunities to look at the behavioural fabric underneath.