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June 2016

How Dependency Culture Blocks Change in your Organisation

Three years ago I did a blog in which I explained why change was so difficult to effect organisationally, giving four reasons, and citing the great Philip Crosby when he said, "Good ideas and solid concepts have a great deal of difficulty in being understood by those who earn their living by doing it some other way". But the four ideas I briefly covered in that blog, then, gripped my mind and I included them in the new Organisational Motivational Map which is now available for any organisation to use to find out what is really going on at an emotional level within their company. However, the ideas, whilst simple, do require more unpacking and unpicking, and so in that spirit of enquiry I would like now to revisit these ideas and specifically relate them to Motivational Maps.

First, one major block to organisational change is what has been called ‘dependency culture’. We are familiar with this term from psychotherapy and individuals who are dependent and co-dependent; but since organisations are made up of individuals it should not surprise us that they exhibit the same tendencies collectively that individuals do. One aspect of this is that just as individuals in the grip of dependencies do not act in their own self-interest, but in reality harm themselves, so too organisations do the same. So despite the fact that the leadership may bang on about the bottom-line, what they are really doing is making success in the bottom line ever more difficult to achieve - at least in the middle to long-term. Dependency culture is associated with hierarchical management, and is where people depend because they are lacking information, skills, confidence, or power and are deliberately kept that way by management; and if there were one magic bullet or cure for the situation it would be the widespread adoption of the delegation skill. When we think of this issue from a motivational perspective a number of things become clearer.

First, that whereas motivators are in one sense ‘pure’: pure energy that we all have, that drive us to achieve things, yet in dependent or co-dependent people these energies can be mis-directed. Thus, dependency culture is going to be associated most with three relationship motivators, which most wish to resist change and avoid risk: namely, Defender, Friend and Star. In particular here, hierarchical management - often felt to be ‘stable’ (a flipside perhaps to ‘rigid’) is mostly likely to be Defender (security) and Star (recognition) orientated; in this scenario not rocking the boat is crucial as is everyone knowing their place in the scheme of things. And in its outcome of depriving employees of information, skills, confidence, or power, there will also be a concentration of either Expert or Director motivators. To explain that: senior people, who are Expert motivator, will withhold sharing their expertise; and senior people who are Director motivator, will withhold power and responsibility and retain it for themselves. So, these four motivators, rather than the other five - although this is a generalisation not an absolute law - will tend to be present where dependency cultures are revealed, and knowing this provides a way in which Motivational Maps can help breakdown this block.

Here are some ideas from the Maps’ tookit: one, recruitment at senior level is an issue. Stop recruiting more in the same image! Diversity, then? Yes, but not as traditionally understood, although that may be relevant too. But motivational diversity! In particular, if we want the kind of people at senior level who have little time for rigid structures and dependency culture, we need Spirit and Creator motivated people. Two, we need deeper leadership expertise; but the kind of leadership training that is not the old command and control model, or a disguised variant of it, but one that has as central a personal development component, realising that the leader who is not personally developing is not developing leadership. The Maps’ programme has its unique ’4 + 1’ leadership model described in some detail in my book, Mapping Motivation,, which is ideal for this purpose. Third, and finally, and simply as a more tactical approach in the short-term: focus on delegation skills at a senior level. Even if attitudes are not profoundly changed, then if senior staff at least go through some motions of delegating, there will be improvements. In my next installment I’ll consider what to do with Changer Stoppers 2: the Busy-Busy Management style.

Jigsaw cat 5