It is usually easy to predict within organizational settings the ramifications of our actions. Hopefully, these ramifications will be positive but there are situations in which we can predict with high reliability that they will have undesirable ramifications. The negative aspect is what I would like to discuss.
Those who are at the top of an organization or at the top of a silo within an organization have a different view of personal agendas and/or organizational political realities than everyone else, especially those serving in lower levels in the hierarchy. Herbert Simon, a psychologist and a Nobel award winner in economics (there does not exist a Nobel prize in psychology, and behavioral economics is the closest discipline to psychology), conducted a study with a colleague back in 1958 that demonstrated a symptom of this limitation in perspective.
He asked vice-presidents of a large company, representing the various line organizations such as manufacturing, research and development, engineering, product development, marketing, and sales, to solve a hypothetical company-wide problem as if they were the president of the company. Each vice-president came up with a solution but each solution was narrowly framed by the capabilities and limitations of the silo they headed as vice-presidents. They were not able to assume the perspective of the person at the top of the organization, their immediate superior.
Whatever level one is in the hierarchy, there is always someone at a more senior level, either within the organization they belong, or a superior organization where the more senior person exits. In either case, whether internal or externally spanning across boundaries, gaining the perspective of the more senior level person and/or organization is hard to do without direct knowledge.
There will always be differences in beliefs, assumptions, and actions between people at different hierarchical levels. The closer one gets to the center of power, at the highest levels of governance even more so, the more dramatic the differences. These differences will always happen, for no other reason than each subordinate and superior lives and works in separate worlds.
The trick is not to necessarily flatten the organization, which would presumably create a common ground, rather, the trick is what to do when these differences are recognized, whether first recognized by the superior or the subordinate. Once recognized, the difference in worldview has to be surfaced by engaging in dialogue and/or reflection. By so doing, either the superior and/or subordinate can sort out the differences by accessing the perspective of the other. Then, one can evaluate what contemplated action is politically acceptable given the circumstances, and calculate the risk if unacceptable politically.
If an evaluation of differences is not clarified, the differences will persist, and the organizational consequences will be unpredictable and, most likely, unproductive and embarrassing. Regardless of the challenges in doing so, not recognizing and accessing the perspective of the senior level person or organization will guarantee organizational chaos is introduced into the system. Adding chaos can be liberating or constraining, depending on the situation.
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