Alex Chiri's Blog

Stuck in a model

People working in a futuristic office

From the title, it almost sounds like this post is about some kind of virtual reality. I assure you it's not. It's an (potentially forced) attempt at a parallel between couples vs employees and companies.

The more I know you, the less I listen to you

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“While couples get better at reading each other's minds in the first months and years of a relationship, the longer they stay together, the worse they become at understanding each other.” - Conflicted, by Ian Leslie

Does that happen with individuals and the companies they work for after a longer time? They create this model of the company in their mind and they stop being receptive as change happens around them?

It almost sounds like people get confirmation bias the more they work in a company, looking for the signs that confirm that the company is the same as they got to know over the years. Until it’s too late, either because the company has changed so much that it becomes unrecognisable or the employee leaves.

Change and the model

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But do companies actually change? Or are there companies that don’t change?

I would say all companies change in some ways. It’s impossible not to. Either as a response to the external conditions surrounding them or simply because people come and go. People tend to have an impact on their work and the higher the rank, the higher the potential impact (negative or positive).

Companies with an influential CEO tend to follow their CEOs whims as long as they are in charge. Some things might change, but some things stay the same.

Also, change in companies can be localised. For the same reasons, external factors and different people working there.

Where am I going to with this rant? I think that in the same way it happens between couples that have known each other for a long time, the more we work in a company, the less we might become receptive to what happens in the company. We might obsess over the bad things or be hypnotised by the perceived good things. Either way, it’s good to stop and reflect on our assumptions. Is the model we have in our head about the company still accurate? Do we even realise what ingrained opinions we have about our employer or workplace?

Organisational change

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I have always thought about the companies that want to bring internal change and they hire external consultants for that. The general reason is that in order to bring change they need expertise that is lacking internally, but also because they need an impartial and fresh view. This made sense at a first glance, but at the same time it didn’t. Wouldn't someone who knows the company best be the perfect match to bring change? How could a stranger know what is best for this particular company?

I guess it is the same way as in therapy (I assume, since I've never been to one). There are therapists who prescribe you things without knowing much about you and there are therapists who are merely helping you dig inside you and have a look at your internal "models". I believe that the latter have better chances for success. A company, as an individual, cannot change if there isn't a will at all levels. An external party helping to bring change should facilitate this internal exploration of assumptions. An external cannot change a company, not in a meaningful way, they can only facilitate opportunities for the employees of the company to bring change themselves.

The internal mental models we build over time about our loved ones or our companies help us communicate effectively, but they seem to also make us not see when the models are not accurate anymore. Change is hard anyway, but it gets even harder when done towards unrealistic models.