Discussion forum for members of the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Non-Intercultural Assumptions

I can't think of any particular formula for discovering and dealing with intercultural factors. I think it all comes back to applying what Jaime focssed on in his presentation: recognizing our assumptions, as hard as that is. No, no -- not recognizing our clients' assumptions. We're generally very good at that. We've trained ourselves to be good at that. It's recognizing the assumptions that we are operating on, still, after years of trying to model to others the need to get beyond assumptions.

Two comments stood out especially strongly for me from his talk:
1) That leadership is the capacity to align the organization's (conscious) vision, values, practices and policies with the diverse (unconscious) assumptions of its members. Leadership almost always gets talked about in the opposite direction. But, even we underestimate, time and again, the persistence -- and the rationality -- of employees' resistance to change, to nobly stated vision and values. I don't see this as abdication of responsibility for leadership and/or change; but we have to know and appreciate -- therefore, listen to -- the wisdom on the floor, if we truly expect to see change and growth (that sticks) happen.

2) There are consequences to distinctions, to the different assumptions we operate on. One of the key insights in that statement is the equivalence it implies between distinctions and assumptions. One of the ways we can discover our own assumptions is to look at the distinctions we make in conversation: between managers and employees; between professional and hourly staff; between "those who get it" and those who don't.

Ed Dolan


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