Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Authistic Organization

In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell tells a lot of stories about how too much or too litttle information and stress can hamper the human capability to make good decisions and cause the brain to enter an authistic mode. A lot of information gets down prioritized by our brains to prevent overload and the more stressful the situation is the more our brains filter out to keep our focus on what's most imortant. People involved in gun fights tell stories about not hearing the gun shots and seeing things in slow motion as their brain goes into overdrive to promote survival. In a stressed team you can observe the same symptoms. The more stress the team experience the less they will communicate and as the information flow decreases the quality of their decisions will decrease as well - the team goes authistic.
Being an Agile coach in large organisations in this time of financial crisis I see the same symptoms in managers. As the stress of financial survival increases a common reaction is to increase control and increased control most of the time means that someone has to measure more stuff and create reports based on those metrics. And all this leads to is an authistic organisation with loss of decision power as the result. A typical symptom of this is that meetings doesn't end in time and no real decisions are made.
The only sensible solution to this would be to provide the organisation with clear goals and make sure that everyone knows whats at stake - their jobs - and trust people to do what's best in every given situation.

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