THOUGHTS ON POLITICS & HIERARCHY
Updated: Oct 28, 2018
For the record the full title was: "Politics & Hierarchy: How We Create It & How to Stop."
The talk was expertly presented by @kkirk (Katherine Kirk) and explored some interesting thinking around the subject topics. She began by outlining a version of the dark triad that articulates the negative results of politics and hierarchy.
A sentiment that I found hard to disagree with.
Next up, how we create politics. Something I have never really sat down and thought about but always bemoaned! @KKirk proposed these three reasons:
She then suggested the following as how we create hierarchy:
Now my notes and memory fail me around these points, but looking at them now I can only assume that it is around how we reward ambition and competition with status.
We then delved into the domain of the effects of politics and hierarchy which effectively boiled down to continual fighting for self interest at the cost of the realising the bigger picture goal and our relationships with each other.
This manifest in two assumptions.
Assumption 1: I am the centre of the universe
This view means that delivery is only hampered by such conflicting interactions. The actions of individuals within teams are motivated and focused on aggrandising the self over sharing and enriching the team's work quality.
With this focus on the self comes a sense of loneliness in which people start looking for "helpers" in achieving their personal agendas, which leads to empire building and the next assumption.
Assumption 2: Us vs Them
Through this dichotomy, individuals are able to manipulate others to adopt the their agenda as their own . This then allows the "Us" to simplify big problems as look into solving issues that affect them directly without consideration of what how those solutions affect the wider world.
Of course, while this tends to lead to selfish short term gains, greater issues and conflicts soon emerge further down the road. Further eroding communication and focus of the bigger picture's goal.
All of this is ingrained into much of our workplace culture and people may not even be aware they are even doing it. But it is a vicious cycle which results in that dark triad outlined at the beginning.
Ms Kirk then introduced me to The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Cyber Physical Systems) or Industry 4.0 - another subject for my further reading list.
"INTERDEPENDENCY AND COLLABORATION IS NOW ESSENTIAL - IT IS NO LONGER UP FOR DEBATE"
This flashed up on a slide and reaffirmed what I have been saying ever since I was introduced to agile. In order to be agile and react to deliver the most value at any given time an organisation needs to be able to work in unison towards delivering the company's goal. To do that all department's and teams agendas must be aligned to serve achieving that goal rather than individual conflicting agendas. - Here endeth the sermon
Industry 4.0 demands FASTER - MORE - NOW - YESTERDAY! Given the current behaviours in place of politics and hierarchy, these demands generates stress and fatigue. This exacerbates the insular actions (reducing ones "sphere of caring" to simplify complex company cultural/structural issues) in order for people to survive!
These behaviours are OUTDATED! These demands do not reward these behaviours and new approaches are needed to meet these demands.
Ms Kirk proposes that a different reaction to the core assumptions will bring positive change.
I am REALLY simplifying her excellent points here, but I was so absorbed my note are awful!
When focusing on "I am the centre of the universe" -> Consider one person's effect (positive and negative) when they join a team/department/company
When focusing on "Us vs Them" -> Consider how importance is contextual and fluctuates. That we are a valued part of something bigger. Having a wider common cause increases overall satisfaction.
Agreeing we all have value and each play important parts in success is more effective and easier than fighting each other to prove we have more value than each other.
"We all bring value to an interdependent ecosystem"
This change in approach is something that will have to be undertaken diligently, persistently and consistently over time in order to change people's habits and a company's culture
And that is all I wrote and can remember. A whistle stop tour of some very thought provoking ideas. While it could be argued that she was preaching to the choir, I think it is important for Agilists who want to take on this kind of change to honestly reflect on their own motivations and the practices they my project onto their teams!
I will leave you with a quote from Bertrand Russell (that I did not read on a Guinness Extra Cold beer mat)
The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.
Be seeing you!