Early Visions | Bay Area 2020: An Infinite Game | "Organizational Monocultures" and the Three Design Flaws

4. "Organization Monocultures" and Our Three Design Flaws

These design flaws both produce and are reinforced by organizational monocultures:

  1. By defining $uccess narrowly, non-immediate-income-generating functions and activities can be mistaken for weeds even when they are essential for future sustainability.

  2. A control-over-people culture values efficiency, effectiveness, predictability and compliance. Sources of deviation from established patterns are easily labeled as deviants—more weeds.

  3. Monoculture organizations, by definition, have had to be heavily invested in and committed to their philosophy—"the one best way." As they become more and more efficient and entrenched in those patterns, it becomes ever more difficult, and even dangerous to push for change. A natural immune system develops that tends to eliminate "all that is not like itself."
Agricultural monocultures, the single-cropping of land, depletes the soil of its complex, highly evolved organic richness and creates a dependency on polluting chemicals (read "carrot and stick" motivational strategies) in order to continue produce crops.

Our more mechanistic approaches to designing and developing organizations have the unintended consequence of leaching the aliveness and vitality from its employees. This naturally ripples out to the rest of its immediate and extended stakeholder families. Most of us have experienced organizational cultures where this flat lifeless sameness and lack of generative energy is pervasive.

Organization cultures are a natural consequence of how the organization was designed and evolved.

First we shape the structures, then the structures shape us.