by Rick Brenner
The Infatuated organizational coping pattern displays complete devotion to a particular person, idea, or organization. It remains dedicated in the face of almost any contradictory data, which can lead it to decisions that expose itself to inordinate risk or even to organizational disaster.
This is a portion of an essay on Organizational Coping Patterns — patterns of organizational behavior relative to stressful, challenging situations.
In this pattern, the group is driven by complete devotion to something external to Self. For example, many problem-solving organizations are so enamored of the technologies they employ, that they sometimes forget that they must employ them in the service of actual customers. Infatuated groups are so hopelessly in love with something outside of themselves that they will take unacceptable risks in the hope of preventing perceived harm to the objects of their affections.
It's sometimes difficult to see the Infatuated organization as incongruent, because its dedication to a person or ideal seems so high-minded. Much of what you see and hear in the Infatuated organization seems perfectly wonderful. Often, too, the indicators of infatuation aren't what you see or hear, but what you don't see, and don't hear. For example, if the organization is infatuated with a particular technology, it might not be able to see the limitations of that technology. Of one thing we can be certain, now at the end of the twentieth century: every technology has limitations. An organization that cannot see the limitations of a technology will eventually misapply it — with potentially disastrous consequences. Perhaps you can think of organizations in your own experience that might have exhibited a technology infatuation. One possible candidate that comes to mind is the Atomic Energy Commission of the 1950s.
In project work, infatuation with high-status team members can cause a project team to take on faith the judgments of these team members. If there are errors in these judgments, the project might suffer, especially if these errors are compounded by a delayed acceptance of the fallibility of some especially high-status team members.
How would the emergency project situation unfold in a Infatuated organization? We might hear questions and comments such as:
In the Infatuated stance, two elements are missing — Self and Context. The organization is failing to take into
full account both its Self and the Context. To reintroduce these
elements, ask what-if questions about consequences, to move the
organization to consider issues that emphasize its Self and the
Context. For example, you might wonder "What exactly will
happen if our project doesn't go on line by March 10th? How exactly
will that kill client/server technology at this hospital?"
Ask you questions as if presuming the conjectures that are in
the air. Don't question the conjectures themselves, but do ask
for more information about how exactly they will work. This will
help the organization to consider in detail how they reached
their conclusions, which creates a circumstance that compels
consideration of Self and Context. Top