Does Requisite Organization Really Work Over the Weekend?
I have a question about the role of Requisite Organization and what Chris Argyris calls “Model I behaviours”. Jaques, in Requisite Organization, 2nd Ed., says that his work has led to what he calls his “weekend theory of change”, that if you implement Requisite Organization (RO) policies and structure on Friday night, everyone will change over the weekend from crabby, defensive and counterproductive (what Argyris calls Model I) to happy, productive, cooperative employees.
So here’s my question:
Is there any evidence, even from your experience, that Requisite Organization will solve the Model I problem of defensive coverups that Argyris describes?
Jaques clearly believed that by correcting the structural problem within the organization, you will eliminate these anti-social (or at least counterproductive) behaviours on the part of individuals. Note what he said in his keynote address to the Mid-Winter Conference of the Consulting Psychology Division (XIII) (February 8, 2002):
A CEO and his immediate subordinates were using “group decision making” in order to be democratic. Their work was spoiled by what they complained was the autocratic personality and behavior of the CEO, who always seemed to be trying to control discussions in his direction, because after all, as he put it, the Board held him accountable for the decisions. Special discussion to ”remove the group dynamics” problems, led instead to the important conclusion that you cannot have group decisions in managerial systems, because there must always be an accountable manager in charge. They eliminated group decision making. Their behavior changed overnight, to a supportive two-way collaboration with the CEO to help him to arrive at his best decisions: all so-called autocratic behaviors ceased.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
The second general conclusion is that it does not take a long time to change individual behavior, and to overcome resistance to change, in social institutions. It does require such conditions when we are trying to help individuals overcome difficulties in themselves, as part of individual clinical practices. But social behaviors in social institutions in which individuals find themselves in accountable interactions, are most heavily determined by the institutional policies and practices, and the institutional constraints.
Given what I have called requisite social constraints in our institutions, gross changes in individual behavior can be warmly accepted, and not resisted, and can occur overnight if systematically worked out and well-formulated. I would emphasize: changes in behavior due to a release of constructive behaviors that had been suppressed by anti-requisite systems, not changes in the individuals themselves.
[Elliott Jaques, in his keynote address for the Mid-Winter Conference of the Consulting Psychology Division (XIII), February 8, 2002]
Let’s look at a standard description of the Model I fancy footwork behaviour. Chris Argyris, in Overcoming Organizational Defences, that C-note paperback, discusses an interaction with between a VP and Consultant1. I understood his example (pp. 52-57) to be an older, more experienced VP of the Consulting Firm working with young consultants. The defensive routines he describes in the following manner:
In another episode VP raised another concern. He acknowledged that he was prone to making sweeping statements. He wanted his and others’ statements confronted.
VP: I’m worried that if I agree with something, it may taken as final. Als, it is important for me to be able to say, “Hold on, I think it is more complicated than that,” without suppressing others’ views or being seen as unfair.
CONS 1: I would say that you are being unnecessarily nervous about this case team.
Again, we see the pattern of CONS 1’s holding the VP responsible and psychoanalyzing him (“you are being unnecessarily nervous”) even though he would not want others to psychoanalyze him.
If I use Requisite Organization theory to interpret this interchange, I would say that the VP is more than one Stratum above CONS 1, the subordinate. The other young consultants, CONS 2 and CONS 3, participating in the case team with the VP, might be in the same Mode as the VP and therefore have an understanding of him even though he is more than one Stratum above them. CONS 1 does not share a Mode (final level of information processing complexity) with VP, so he is not getting any context in which to work. The VP is describing “things are more complex up here” which is consistent with Requisite Organization theory, but he is so far up above CONS 1 that he cannot adequately communicate context for CONS 1’s work.
Someone with Requisite Organization experience, give me an answer.
You see, if the answer is “yep, sure does”, then I have to rethink all my current consulting. The best way to have continuous learning is to have a Requisite Organization, and I cannot do anything about that.
Image credit: Week-end Pleasure. © 2010 lilie Mélo (CC BY 2.0)