02 December 2009

Identity and Organization Change

From the emerging thesis draft:
Among the dominant effects of the Industrial Age were the concentration and importance of capital. As the modern BAH organization emerged amidst the effects of that environment, it is understandable that the Economic-valence relationship became situated as the primary driving force among modern organizations. The modern understanding of organization dynamics according to the instrumental, managerialist discourse has, at its core, a primary concern for economic considerations. On the other hand, the emerging humanist, relational organizational discourse of the 20th century – the line of reasoning that leads to the contemporary UCaPP organization – is arguably based on situating the individual simultaneously in relation to other individuals and in relation to organization as a distinct entity in itself. I suggest, therefore, that in a UCaPP societal environment the dominant driving force shifts from the extrinsic instrumentality of the Economic-valence relationship to the intrinsic relationality of the Identity-valence relationship.

In suggesting this profound shift in conception, I am not denying the ongoing importance of the Economic-valence relationship. The fact remains that many people can be induced to enact certain behaviours (including working at otherwise dehumanizing jobs) through direct financial incentive. Even among anti-capitalists, barter and exchange – non-monetary manifestations of Economic-valence relationships – still remain important forms of interaction. Economic gain, one’s salary, possessions, and other material displays of wealth are often proxy markers for social status and reinforcements of psychological self-worth – all material, external expressions of identity relative to any particular cultural conceptions of social location. Nevertheless, my previous research (Role*: A reconception of role and relationship in the workplace) confirms and extends Herzberg’s conclusion that economic compensation, beyond a certain level, becomes for the most part an issue of hygiene, rather than motivation.

I have argued elsewhere (No Educator Left Behind) that identity – the location of oneself in relation to one’s society at the time – has always been important, and indeed directly defines the role of education in a society. In the contemporary UCaPP world, however, identity being collaboratively constructed in the context of multiple, massively-interconnected networks of social relations takes on an even greater importance: the preservation or enhancement (or both) of identity becomes a critical consideration in effecting organizational change, be it as simple as a rearrangement of an organization chart, or as complex as transitioning from being a BAH organization to enacting a UCaPP organization. As was clearly demonstrated by Aaron in Organization F as it is transitioning to become more BAH, and by many departing individuals of various ranks in Unit 7 as it transitioned to become more UCaPP, a perceived threat to identity, a felt diminishment of Identity-valence relationship, is sufficient reason to seek employment elsewhere. The clich├ęd resistance-to-change is not a resistance to change per se, but rather a resistance to a change in identity. Conversely, it follows that the optimal strategy to effect organizational change of any sort is to first understand and account for the requisite change in Identity-valence, and then facilitate the changes among the other valence relationships.

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