Culture can be thought of as a pattern of dilemma resolution within a group, shaping its worldviews and assumptions, upon which the group makes decisions.  Culture dynamics or dramas occurring within cultures, lead to schizogenesis or the polarisation of values. When this occurs teams experience conflict and it severely limits effective decision making.

The more a group favours a value to the exclusion of its opposite, the more this value becomes the unconscious norm. The unconscious norm is then taken on as the acceptable way of thinking and acting, in this group. This is reflected in the term “culture is the way things are around here”.

Take centralised and decentralised decision-making for example. In reverent defence of their preferred position in choosing between these options, groups are inevitably draw into conflict and impasse.  

Few would consider both options as equally important when appropriate and both inappropriate when pushed too far. Little thought is given to the unintended consequences of both when done without moderation.

When all decisions are taken by the centre, it can disempower those in situ, even though its positive intention may have been to instil uniformity or consistency. And when all decisions are decentralised, the united consequences may be that chaos and unpredictability are exacerbated even though the positive intention may have been to empower people on the ground.

The resolution for systemic thinkers is obvious.

Both are required. In fact, both are complimentary and interdependent.

Neither can function without the balancing force of the other.

Managing the polarities between the two seemingly opposing values is the work of these leaders. And the work is never done. It’s not a problem to be solved. It’s a polarity to be managed, day in and day out.

Some of the key polarities organisations and team need to manage include:

  • the individual – and the collective
  • being directive and facilitative,
  • maintaining stability or predictability and being agile or flexible. 

The better an organisation or team manages these polarities, the healthier its culture becomes. The healthier the culture, the healthier the organisation and by cascade, the healthier its leadership practices and team performance.  

Culture in this world, becomes a pattern of dilemma resolution – principally by debunking the dilemma and learning to become comfortable with the ambiguity of both values being appropriate when done in sympathy with other and being hopelessly inadequate when done without  consideration of the balancing force of the  other.