Dave: Well, is there an openness to hear opposing viewpoints about the condition of the organization right now?
Friend of Dave’s: No, there really isn’t. In fact, the feeling is pretty much that if you don’t "go along with" the stated direction, you’re disloyal and might want to polish up the resume.
This snippet is a conversation I had with a friend about her organization. It’s not an organization I work with in any way. It was just a friend sharing her feelings of frustration about the culture of her organization–an organization she loves dearly and is committed to with passion. My friend is not a complainer or a "pot-stirrer." On the contrary, she’s bright, talented, and committed to her company.
The Trouble: The senior leaders, in her organization, have fallen into group-think. Group-think is a powerful group dynamic; one that can render a culture ineffective on so many levels. If you want to learn more about the concept of group-think, go here.
Group-think is such a powerful dysfunction because it masquerades as passionate belief in "the one way" that is better than all other ways. Whether that "one way" is an ideology, or a process, or a a cultural value, the message is: if you don’t agree with the "one way" you are not only wrong, but against all that is good and right–all that we stand for.
The worst forms of group-think are a mixture of rigid ideas proposed by authoritarian leaders. When this infects an organization, it creates a culture of fear and punishment–or maybe we could say, fear of being punished for thinking differently than "the one way." Perhaps one of the worst affects of group-think is that it makes organizational discovery all but impossible. Gone is the ability to allow healthy and innovative dialogue to shape the organization.
So, if your organization if trapped in group-think, what can be done to move it to a better place?