It is often said that organisations are full of paradoxes. But this refers to contradictions and tensions. It is understood as something that needs to be taken care of. When organisations are looked at as social systems, however, it becomes clear that they are only possible because of paradoxes, and particularly paradoxes of self-reference. Understanding how these paradoxes create and maintain organisations is an important skill for practitioners trying to make sense of what’s going on and improve it. The basic generative organisational paradox is that of decisions. It brings new light not only on decision patterns and dependencies, but also on understanding the nature of objectives, power, and relations with clients.
Here are the recording and slides from my talk at the SCiO open day in London in January 2019.
When I started this blog in 2011, I wanted it to be a place for undistracted reading. The initial theme was not much busier than this one. I didn’t go that far, but you still don’t see categories, tag clouds, and my Twitter feed. Only recently have I added sharing buttons and started putting more images, and because I am keeping it minimal, you might have been reading this blog for some time without knowing about its tagline, as it is simply not visible in the blog. But it’s been there, and when the blog appears in search results, you can see it.
The theme of paradoxes appeared only a few times, for example, in From Distinction to Value and Back and previously in Language and Meta-Language for EA. I haven’t focused on it in a post so far. It was even more difficult to start talking about it to an audience of project managers. First, claiming that projects are produced and full of paradoxes might appear a bit radical. Second, project managers are solution-oriented people, while in paradoxes, there is nothing to solve. There is a problem there, but its solution is a problem itself, the solution of which is the initial problem. Third, talking about paradoxes is one thing, but convincing others that understanding them is useful is another. Continue reading →