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René Van Someren

EMOP as a leadership/followership guide: #3 / 5 - Depth

Take an outsider's view, have specific points of interest looked at and be open to new ideas.

Who would know more about an organization than those who lead it? So why would they need someone from the outside to take a look at their organization? What is the use of a regular organizational check-up anyway?

Even when we have no tooth ache or symptoms of illness, some of us still consult our dentist or medical doctor respectively for a regular check-up. When our car seems to be running perfectly, we still get it serviced regularly. This is no different for organisations.

Routine check-ups are good for your health, your teeth, your car and for your organisation.

Regular organizational check-ups allow you to see what goes on below the surface and how that develops over time.

Involving someone from the outside in those check-ups can have many advantages, for instance:

  • Frame of reference: As you become more familiar with an organization, your frame of reference increasingly corresponds with the boundaries of that organization. The extent to which you notice or relate to events and developments outside that frame gradually decreases.

  • Familiarity heuristic: More and more, you base your judgements and decisions on what you are familiar with, without considering alternatives. (“This is how we always have done things, so it must still be good.”)

  • Myopia: Someone from the outside may immediately notice what remains unseen by those who are standing right in front of it. In part, this is due to a form of myopia, or nearsightedness: being caught up in day-to-day events, you tend to see what is right in front of you, without seeing the whole picture.

  • Perceptual blindness or inattentional blindness: Often, one can see things, without really noticing them. Organization members, including leaders, may miss relevant changes that take place in their organization just because those changes did not grab their attention.

  • Availability heuristic: When diagnosing problems or thinking of solutions, we tend to select thoughts that are most readily available in our mind. This may prevent us from actually understanding certain problems or by coming up with available solutions that may be obvious to others.

  • Every man to his trade: If an outsider is good at giving your organization a regular check-up, then embrace that, for that may help you do what you are good at.

  • Observer bias: You may see things quite differently than an outsider does. Treasure this.

    Being open to new views and ideas can let some fresh air into your organization, help you gain new perspective on things and drag you out of a rut that you may not even know you are in.

    When you consult your medical doctor or car mechanic for a routine check-up, you may mention seemingly minor discomfort or suspected defects that did not seem urgent enough to consult the expert earlier. Apart from the routine check-up, the expert can take a closer look at the points of interest that you mentioned. This is also the same with a routine organizational check-up.

    During a routine check-up, you can also have specific points of interest looked at.

    Our standard 5-D organisational scans can easily be adapted and extended to also look in more detail at specific organisational aspects. Depending on how specific the symptoms are, we can look in-depth at a smaller or wider organisational area.

    Combining such examination with a routine scan also allows us to examine if the specific issues may be caused by other organisational aspects, or that those issues may somehow latently have affected other organisational aspects. Detecting this on time may prevent serious future organisational problems.

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