Domestic goat smile, Crimea, 2009. By George Chernilevsky. Public Domain

Hogan’s Law of Consistency & Law of Conformity

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Maybe Kevin Hogan has summed the real reason that people don’t adopt the ideas of requisite organization / stratified systems theory. We know that people will hear the ideas, acknowledge that they represent an underlying reality and even admit that if they were adopted many of their complaints would be addressed.

And then they say “No way am I going to organize that way!”

Machiavelli told us that anyone who wants to bring about a new order of things is pretty much screwed because (1) the people in power now aren’t going to be happy about changing and (2) everyone else isn’t going to back a dark horse and end up ticking off the people who will end up staying in power. It’s actually remarkable that anything changes at all.

Hogan, in a book from 1999, sums up the situation pretty well:

Recall that the law of consistency says, “When an individual announces in writing or verbally [sic] a position on any issue or point of view, he will strongly tend to defend that belief regardless of its accuracy even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

Take, for instance, the example of the man who always buys a certain brand of car. He says it’s the best and professes this profusely to anyone who buys another type of car. When he’s shown in writing that the maintenance and repair record of that car is much worse than other cars of similar size and cost, he will most likely find some reason to dismiss the information and continue believing that his car is still the best.

(Or perhaps we should just cite Kuhn.)

Almost everyone in business and organizational consulting has already put a lot of their reputation behind things that frankly are absurd. As Peter Block pointed out years ago, we don’t do stupid things like pay out bonuses for “extra effort” because they make sense or work, but simply out of faith. We say that something is true, so it must be.

They sell you the new clothes and you go prancing about totally naked, my dear business emperor.

But there’s another side to all this, and once again (most surprisingly) Hogan does a pretty good job of hitting it just right:

The law of conformity says, “Most people tend to agree to proposals, products or services that will be perceived as acceptable by the majority of his peer group.”

So, if you are a show salesman and you are pushing a new running shoe to a teen who wants Reeboks and nothing else because all her friends have Reeboks, you will not be able to sell her the new shoe. Even if the new shoe will last a year longer, stay cleaner, be more comfortable, and be better for the feet, ou will have a hard time changing her mind. It is this point that, regardless of whether you know that your idea, product, or service will help your prospect, you must let it go. Even though you would be creating a WIN/WIN situation., it would not be perceived in that manner by the other person.

[Hogan, Kevin (2004), The Psychology of Persuasion How to Persuade Others to Your Way of Thinking, Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, pp. 70.]

People who think that business leaders and even investors aren’t simply sheep ignore over a hundred years of stock market history, much less ancient things like Tulip Mania. Conformity ranks high in high ranks because no one can really judge their work. They have long time horizons until their decisions come home to roost, so to speak.

And of course as my old man told me when I was interning as an engineer, “no one ever got fired for hiring IBM.”

Or, in the low-oxygen rarified air of the C-suite, McKinsey.

People who advocate Requisite Organization (especially) with its endless system of nonsensical acronyms are simply fighting an uphill battle. It makes so much more sense to simply use some of the principles rather than insist on the whole system.

Then again, no one ever got promoted simply because he was making money for the company. Being too successful is a good way to get fired. And sued afterwards.

Domestic goat smile, Crimea, 2009. By George Chernilevsky. Public Domain

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