- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

The Zeus strategy: de-aggregating the problem

First published back in 2016

Plato told us in his Symposium that humans were originally androgynous, not men or women. They became so powerful that they started to challenge the gods. Not a good idea. Zeus had no option but to ‘do something to humble and distract humanity’. He split the humans into two, man and woman and ‘doomed them to spend their brief mortal existence wandering the world looking for their other half, the half that would make them feel whole and powerful again’.

It looks like a divide and conquer strategy. Nothing new in human history. Entire empires have been built by dividing territories.

In organizational business life, we often see more of an anti-Zeus strategy. When something gets a bit dysfunctional between groups and divisions in a company, leaders tend to put them together, to aggregate them, under the illusion that having all under one new roof, and one VP, will solve the problem. Not a good track record here I am afraid. Many of those people continue with not talking to each other if they can help it.

I wonder whether we’ve gone the wrong way sometimes. The ones who feel the need to control think that aggregation is the key. But that, as I said, may be an illusion. A further de-aggregation may be a better option, although more uncomfortable for top leaders (more split, more reporting, less [illusion of] control).

So, if Division A is dysfunctional in its relationship with Division B, the anti-Zeus strategy would be, as above, to create a new Division C (A+B) under a new leader. In this model, all dysfunctionality is now under one roof, but, unfortunately, often what we we see is a greater dysfunctionality than the one it was before. Zeus, the Management Consultant, would have gone the other way, and split A into A1 and A2, and B into B1 and B2. So four instead of one.

My strong hypothesis is that dysfunctionalities would fade faster here under the Zeus strategy. I can’t prove this. But the experiment would be worth any risk. A great deal of Network Theory would support that strategy.

I vote for Zeus.