Building better organizations…

13 Mar

Building better organizations with healthier productive people requires insight, and experience.

The sociological perspective is crucial for working in todays multiethnic and multinational business environments. Strategic planning and decision processes should end with objectives and a roadmap of ways to achieve them. The goal of strategic planning; is to increase operational effectiveness overall – holistically -, to eliminate waist, especially when long-term and high-stake activities are involved. When these two elements don’t meet – organisational / industrial psychology and strategy -, we get to see all the good, the bad, and the ugly in human nature….erupt.

Taking some time, and evaluating the usefulness, and application of both, by unpacking them, could bring us to some new insights.

Organisational Psychologists the world over have conducted many studies to determine if there is some psychological pattern to success that can / could help explain how and where strategy becomes significant and viable, and how it connects with people and the organisation through leadership.

Perhaps the oldest tradition in leadership research is the search for critical identifiable leadership traits that could be triggered in others to make all of us great leaders too.

The problem is that most scientific studies just set out to prove their own views, and is therefore done from one perspective only, with one paradigm in mind, and with lots of bias. Traditional psychology pursued positive enforcement as a great discovery in this fashion, and promoting personal and group interaction, through “positive” communication and personal “positive” growth programs. This yielded very little success.  People in general like speaking in the negative…as a result they think that way too.

Then emerged – Organisational Psychology; where they became involved in the management process, looking for indicators that create better networking and collaboration within groups that will render best results consistently.

Then it went on and evolved into Business/ Industrial Psychology; Applied psychology that addresses varied business problems, including employee job satisfaction and performance….with models, and best practice.

Opposed still stood strategist with strategy; who’s research focuses/ed on streamlining of process, structures and systems mainly, through critical analysis and research that is specific to the situation, and evaluating design, to see where they become significant. We have come a long way since; every field has evolved into more.

What we know now is this; typically a manager acts out on his or her own bias (preference), learning and self-styled management style, you are either prone to be;

Strategic or psychological inclined in your approach towards management of people and/ or processes.

  1. The Psychological approach to management; typically sees the process of management as seamless, spontaneous, and informal, somewhat intuitive, non-route, none systematic, preferring a-none confrontational approach to getting work done. Attempting to be hands off, but in touch with people’s feelings and emotional needs. This whole focus revolves around proactive relationship building, team building, and most importantly – motivating and fostering entrustment – I trust you to do your job.

Organisational Psychology – has almost become a sort of behaviour strategy; but seen in a different light; it is seen as thescientific study of employee’s cognitive behaviour and not their practical work expression, the job; the functions they perform in their workplaces, and organizations with the main view to improve their attitudes and perceptions towards performance. This performance effectiveness approach emphasizes leader assessment and development ability. Their approach revolves mainly around building up people with empathy and sympathy, and lots of understanding and training and capacitating to enhance performance. Thus lots of un-coordinated random two-way efforts and communications are observed with interactions taking place at all levels of staff – with open door policy…etc.

Industrial and Organizational Psychologists apply the principles of psychology to work settings. Topics include testing and assessment, motivation and organizational topics, such as dealing with the influence of culture, stress, and personality…

The psychological approach typically starts with profiling their staff; so that they may fit some scientific (book) description of an A, B or C type personality that apparently accurately identifies people’s personality and characteristic traits – for them. The logic behind this is that by defining peoples personality you will be able to treat and understand them better, it is a lot like comparing people’s star signs, as if that will truthfully define and reveal their true personality to us, this then gives them the right to start branding their people; as being emotional or un-emotionally intelligent etc.

It’s all an attempt to bring the raw theory (psychology) and hammer it into the mix of how to manage people effectively with psychology, purely by creating a mental map of how to work with different personality types – people.  They have no real long-term plan/s or strategy, no career path, no threat or swat assessment, everything is people focused; it’s all done in the heat of the moment, none specific focus; everything is done on consensus, on the spur of the minute, and with lots of intuition.

The result is people tend to become complacent, – let it wait. You will hear a lot of “this is not my job”, and I am not happy with this, it’s not fair, taking very little responsibility or interest in their jobs. When confronted, they finger point, and they all have rights too. There is no enforced visible hierarchy, no real discipline or people taking ownership – everyone is just equal – and equally to blame. The effect is when only using just this one method to manage every aspect with, that we find directionless people, lots of infighting, silo politics, and distrust everywhere. Issues never get resolved either…stress just builds up, friction mounts, tension builds as perceptions grow, until it becomes uncontrolled.

If we use only the psychological approach – extensively – then we effectively only mange perception, and nothing else, adopting a total humanistic approach that reflects on people only, and not much else, like their quality of work, or product of their labour.

  1. 2.     Opposed to the traditional strategist; whotypically sees the process of management as rigid, structured, and confirmative to routine, that is further informed by policy and procedures. As well as authoritative, with strict set rules, that is time sensitive, as well as organised. (old school).

By preferring the authoritative approach, with a “do it now and complain later” attitude, managers typically used strategy, that deals with unpredictable situations remarkably well, it could be because they opt to strategise in every situation. However, when things become routine, strategy fades, strategy then becomes a flawed style of managing people, as routine requires familiarity and trust. Where chaos requires leadership and authority. Strategist, being keen observers of human nature, studying habits and routine, then orientates, and decides, and acts…with little emotion or consensus. They get the job done no matter what it takes.

Performance, success, and production, trumps all. (The slave driver). This aspect raffles feathers. They hire and fire as a matter of routine, because they believe in getting the best resources -people for the job. Their people tend to suffer less stress – contrary to perception, but are very resistant to change, and giving inputs, and opinions. They would rather follow and delegate. There is much less instability in their work environment, as people do what they are told, it’s not a democracy. Leaders here spend most of their time developing strategy, structure, policy and procedures, and working alone in solving problems, opposed to using a network of relationships from which they may or may not gain greater general insights.


When in fact the studies now point out that we should be using both methodologies for best results

  • The difference between leaders and managers can be described as leaders being visionaries who inspire people – they are emotionally connected to people to motivate them, and manage their perceptions. They care about cementing and maintaining good relationships, as a vocal management area.
  • Whereas managers claimed to care more about processes, systems, policy, procedures and make use of strategy to guide and direct them. People, and how they feel, is of little consequence, the effort required in the time available is what matters.
  • Strategy deals mainly with the external environment, but is dependent on the internal to work, whilst psychology mainly deals with the internal environment.

Combine the two and get the results consistently; the lack of leadership is most damaging at the level where strategic management becomes paralyze due to indecisiveness, strategy requires decisive actions be taken at coal face level..

All decision making in organizations occurs at two levels: first at the individual and then the collective.

This is perception alignment

With parallel strategic decision making we take the best of both.

A dualistic model may not sound like a novel way to bridge the performance shortfalls, and boost your company’s performance, but add psychology to the mix, and use strategist for their strengths wisely, and you may just be onto something completely new.

 Psychology, is in general seen as the science of mind and how it controls and influences behavior, it also saturates every aspect of business today, and on so many divers levels, it has become indispensible, informing all our dimensions of human interaction and emotional thinking — influencing everything from vision to sales to product and design. The social exchange approach to leadership is perhaps the most popular and pervasive perspective in the literature of business managing.

Business psychology and strategy have become two key attributes of leadership. Every strategy in truth does include forms of psychology, for instance; in order to predict and counter our opponent’s strategies we need to study their behaviour. Since we are dealing with humans, some understanding of psychology gives you the added advantage necessary to be one step ahead of the competition.

Strategy alone cannot be properly formulated without psychological theory and critical strategic assessment to give it strength. The ability to understanding your opponents’ way of thinking and acting becomes a major advantage in executing a successful strategy. Most definitions of leadership in the past only stressed social and interpersonal influence, as key elements of leadership, however, today we now also realise that good organisation and exceptional planning becomes the flipside of that coin.

In summary, the performance and effectiveness approach has promoted much research and development on the attributes linked to leader and organizational success and development. This new direction is called the sociological strategic approach. I am suggesting that the strategic leader must also become a practitioner of organisational psychology, someone who expertly analyse and manage their own and others’ thought processes, as well as their planning and execution. In order to broaden the strategist’s role in this way – by tapping into the sociological approach to strategy. Which is a combination of both psychology and strategy.

Read more on this aspect in my book Strategic Management 

2 Responses to “Building better organizations…”


  1. Index of posts on this blog – Strategic Management « Strategic Management - July 2, 2012

    […] Building better organizations… […]

  2. Fostering proper Command and Control Management and or Leadership styles are impossible without a doctrine. | Strategic Management - March 10, 2013

    […] the actions required, this will also set the levels of trust and commitment to teamwork required. It becomes the premise for building unity, and better business models. (Business […]

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