Organizational Dissonance

As a leader you are always seeking to move your organization forward toward the market opportunity that you are seeking. Moving your organization forward means constant change and always keeping ahead of the “jaws of death” that threaten your organization. As you move forward you are continually affecting change and defining where you want to be.

The gap between where you are and where you want to be divided by the time you have to get there is something I think of as organizational dissonance. I’ve found it valuable to name and manage this.

Dissonance is elastic and can be increased or decreased as part of your culture. Faster growing companies tend to need more dissonance, and need to invest in culture to allow that dissonance to stay higher. Said another way, the more organizational dissonance that your organization can handle, the more potential you have to change faster.

Examples of Dissonance

What does too much dissonance sound like? Leadership is “out of touch” and doesn’t understand what is happening in the “real world”. If you pushed these even further you could “snap the band” and lose the confidence of your entire team.

The other side is being too much in the teams work, and getting in their way. In this case you hear “micromanagement” and lack of ability to get things done. Here you may think you are helping your team by being close, but you are not leading toward the market opportunity, and are holding the team back from escaping the jaws of death.

How does culture play here?

Technology companies typically need to grow fast, and they also tend to focus on culture more than the average. Having a robust culture can enable for more organizational dissonance. And with that increased dissonance your organization can “stretch” out further and move faster.

Trust and Integrity in your culture are the two things that will enable this the most. As dissonance in the organization increases, knowing that the leaders operate with high integrity, and having trust amongst all team members, will allow the organization to continue to be very successful amidst all that dissonance.

Everyone Leads

Everyone is affecting change, at whatever the domain that you manage. This isn’t just about manager and leaders, you may be affecting change in the domain that you oversee. You have dissonance to manage as well. Whatever the difference is from where you are today, and where you need to be tomorrow — approximately divided by the time you have to get there is some idea of the dissonance.

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Questions to consider:

  • Is the dissonance in your organization high enough? If it isn’t, are you not trying to change enough or are you giving yourself too much time? Or both?
  • What can you do to increase the organizational capacity for dissonance?
  • Does your organizational structure allow for dissonance to be managed directly? Or does it leak in odd ways outside of clear accountability.
Jamie Thingelstad @jthingelstad

This work by Jamie Thingelstad
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