The Organisation Shadow-Side Audit

Organisations are not rational. At best, they are peppered with petty office politics. At worst, they are crazy places, where the fog of irrationality is difficult to penetrate. In these organisations, rules and logic take second place to personal prejudices, rivalries and playing 'games'.

Yet what do most managers do when they need to improve the way their organisations are managed? They talk about rational things like injecting more resources and installing computers. They discuss organisation charts, mission statements, list of competencies and tasks. They set up committees and announce new reporting channels. They devise new rules and policies. They publish instructions and procedures.

In fact, most organisational problems almost certainly have more to do with departmental rivalries, personal jealousies, ambition, greed, power struggles, self-interest groups, people not on speaking terms, politics, intimidation and fear. Even sexual attractions, liaisons and favours account for much of what does and doesn't get done 'according to plan'.

Unfortunately, few managers are good at seeing and understanding, let alone managing, this real-life side to work. It is usually beyond the bounds of training, often out of bounds completely. Yet it is the real backcloth for much of what goes on inside organisations.

Learn to understand and manage the shadow-side

Use this audit to learn how to 'read', understand and manage the shadow-side to benefit the organisation as a whole:

  • Understand what the shadow-side is.
  • Learn why the shadow-side matters, and why it is important to gain control over it.
  • Develop more highly tuned antennae that help you see the shadow-side at work.
  • Acquire the analytical skills needed to tease out what is going on at any time.
  • Improve individual managers' skills in managing the shadow-side.
  • Bring benefits to the organisation in everyday performance, especially at times of change.

How the audit works

Whether you complete the audit alone or have a small group or department complete it together (recommended), the audit will help you to detect gaps in current practice, as well as to evaluate how well various policies, processes and programmes are working.

For each of the 9 themes listed below, the audit includes a detailed introduction, a questionnaire (with 20-30 questions) and space to record your thoughts, ideas, conclusions and suggestions. The process of completing the audit is designed to help your organisation think, compare, illuminate, learn, plan and improve.

Finally, there is an extensive guide and questionnaire to help you plan improvement actions.

The audit's themes

  1. Office politics
    Everyone has a negative story to tell about office politics. Yet there is a positive side. How can managers learn to use 'positive politics'?
  2. Trust and relationships
    Trust affects what can and cannot be discussed. It influences what get openly shared and reported, and what gets covered up.
  3. Training and development
    Trainers frequently get caught up in organisation politics and culture problems. How can training do an honest job?
  4. Creativity and innovation
    Creative people exist at the boundary of what's comfortably tolerated by an organisation. They threaten the status quo and challenge the formal system. How can you optimise their potential?
  5. Reward and punishment
    Managers need to align their systems with individuals' real needs and motivations, including greed and status. How can rewards be used honourably to help the business?
  6. Target setting
    Targets are the source of endless political games and diversions from the real business that lies behind the targets. How can targets be used soundly and acceptably?
  7. Management by numbers
    The days of reducing managerial success to numbers is gone. Yet numbers still matter enormously. How can we see numbers clearly for what they are and use them honestly and wisely?
  8. Change management
    The destabilising turmoil of change, or mere threat of it, invokes shadow-side responses from many. How can those who manage change recognise how human nature affects its likelihood of success?
  9. Organisation culture
    Culture determines 'how crazy it is round here' and whether people collaborate or compete. In your organisation does rationality or irrationality prevail?