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The external audit and the figures showed XYZ management that the introduction of a new corporate culture and standardisation would work, however the dynamic factors surrounding the decision proved otherwise. Attempts to change corporate culture without carrying the people along could prove disastrous. A reason for this is because people at the top make decisions and take actions that affect others but what they cannot do is programme the responses those others will make. Change is inevitable because humans, organisations and cultures are not static. However, change that seeks to satisfy management’s ambition using people that purport to see the future will ultimately fail. A concept from the Greek mythology could be used to explain where XYZ went wrong.

Apollo and Dionysus are sons of Zeus, Apollo is the sun god of dreams, order and rationality while Dionysus is the god of wine, ecstasy, rebellion, intoxication and irrationality.The tip of the iceberg (Apollonian) is the seat of rationality and this is the comfort zone of management where the figures predicted the success of the strategic change. However, the tip of the iceberg is only superficial. Below the iceberg (Dionysian) is the psychological part where the power, politics, chaos and conflict reside. This part is the organisational shadow and management is often uncomfortable with it and would rather deny its existence. What happens therefore is that while organisations and management erect a persona of respectability, rationality and efficiency, the shadow will portray a somewhat different reality.


Tip of the Iceberg

Shadows of individuals within an organisation could be their lust for power, greed and narcissistic tendencies etc. All these collectively become the organisational shadow of rationality and masculinity where numbers are more important than people and management becomes willing to do anything due to lack of conscience. Acknowledging the depth of the iceberg would enable an organisation deal with its shadow and know itself. It involves looking at order and disorder at the same time by adopting the feminine side of the organisation.

At maturity stage of an organisation, change is paramount because of the dwindling resources and new coalitions might emerge which will change structures and resource allocation. This means organisations will gain competitive advantage through being innovative and adapting to disruptions both within its structure and also outside. The capacity to learn from outside the organisation is crucial because organisations do not exist in isolation but in a competitive environment. At this stage also, the organisation has to be able to identify and deal with the collective shadows in its competitive environment.

There is a Greek mythology about Icarus, who made wings out of feathers and beeswax to escape an island. He was so absorbed in his success that he failed to heed the warning not to fly close to the sun and when he did, the beeswax melted and he fell to his death. The paradox coined the Icarus paradox has been used to describe the phenomenon of successful businesses whose success led to their downfall. Overconfidence or a kind of arrogance would ultimately lead to corporate failure. A key to effective strategic management therefore is flexibility and right
configuration bearing in mind the Icarus paradox. The big picture must be seen in strategy formulation and implementation and the process must be a collective learning process and the more people involved in the strategic process, the greater the success.


Categories: Organisational Dynamics

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