In the following clip from the film Crash (2004) two employees negotiate strategy.
Over the past couple of months I have come across Gervase Bushe’s Clear Leadership method being promoted by a number of OD practitioners and institutions, so I thought it would be worth spending a blog post discussing the ideas that he puts forward and to offer a critique from the perspective of complex responsive processes of relating. By inquiring into this set of methods I am interested to know if there is anything genuinely knew in what is on offer.
Clear Leadership – the basics
Clear Leadership is a set of tools, techniques and practices which promise to change the culture in organisations. They help turn organisations away from management methods more suitable for outdated notions of command and control management, which do not promote collaboration, and into flattened organisations where genuine partnership and collaboration are possible. A student interested in learning to exercise clear leadership can do so in a four day course, and the methods can then be cascaded throughout their organization.
What are the basic premises of Clear Leadership? Firstly, Bushe argues that it is not possible to create organisations where genuine partnership and collaboration can take place without changing the leadership culture. Secondly, changing the culture means clearing away the ‘organizational mush’, by which Bushe means the inevitable miscommunications and misinformation that is generated in any organisation by people making up stories about each other which are not true, and thus creating distrust. They do this because they are frightened to say what they are really thinking about each other, or they do so unskillfully by making judgements and putting others off. He adduces research to claim that four out of five conflicts in organizations are due to people making things up about each other: ‘people need to be able to get conflict out in the open, uncover the real level of alignment or lack thereof, get clear about what everyone really thinks, feels and wants, and clear out the mush.’  Continue reading
Conference theme: Exploring our experience of everyday politics in organisations
How do we negotiate degrees of freedom with each other in what we can increasingly experience as regimes of disciplinary power in organisational life? How do grand schemes for whole-organisation transformation play out in every day relationships between people?
This conference will invite participants to discuss and reflect upon the every day politics of getting things done together, noticing the negotiations, compromises and improvisations which are necessary to take the next step.
Between now and then we will be posting further reflections on the topic on this the Complexity and Management blog.
The key note speakers this year are Svend Brinkmann, who is Professor in general psychology and qualitative methods as well as Co-director of the Center for Qualitative Studies, and Professor Patricia Shaw, co-founder of the Doctor of Management programme at UH and currently working at Schumacher College. Here is Svend’s profile page at Aalborg university http://personprofil.aau.dk/117579?lang=en and here is Patricia Shaw’s at Schumacher College: http://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/teachers/patricia-shaw .
The conference will be informal and highly participative, as in previous years. The conference fee includes accommodation and food and will be held at Roffey Park Institute in the UK: http://www.roffeypark.com
The booking page on the university website will be set up in the New Year.
A more detailed agenda will follow, but the conference begins with a drinks reception @7pm on Friday 5th June and ends after lunch Sunday 7th June 2015.
Participants wishing to set up a particular themed discussion in a working group during the conference should contact Chris Mowles: email@example.com
While a number of posts on this blog have been dedicated to calling in to question the claims of contemporary management theory to enable managers to predict the future, there can be no doubt that much of it is dedicated to controlling employees. Or rather, there are always new developments in management theory aimed at increasing organizational efficiency and effectiveness but which have the effect of disorienting employees and keeping them permanently on the hop. Management theory is replete with suggestions for dividing, atomising, reorganising and scrutinising employees whilst denying them time to sit together to make sense of what is going on. In fact, usually they are discouraged from doing so: it is quite common to find people expressing antipathy towards meetings which might turn into ‘talking shops’, or alternatively sense-making opportunities may be described as a ‘luxury’ which the organisation cannot afford. Of course, I am not recommending that people spend more time in meetings simply for the sake of it, but I am always interested when people I am working with tell me that they don’t have the time to think about what’s going on. Continue reading