Summary purpose of this series:
Organizations eventually come to rest in a local equilibrium which reduces the organization's effectiveness and adaptability.
Summary purpose of this entry:
The purpose of this entry is to establish the existence of local equilibriums which introduce deviations from an ends-driven organization (an organization whose primary focus is a particular purpose) to transform it into a means-driven organization (an organization whose primary focus is the means to achieve its purpose, rather than the purpose itself).
Subsuming Purpose, Part 1
Imagine you run a charity, and you have two star employees; one shares your goals without any emphasis on a means, the other believes in the cause but believes firmly in fundraising as the best means to that end. Both contribute to your charity, but the fundraiser does more good overall. The fundraiser enables your organization. Who do you set as your successor?
Who will your successor choose as their successor?
The person who believes in the purpose will choose the best person for achieving that purpose. The person who believes in a specific means to achieve that ends will choose the best person for those means. The means will subsume the ends. A person who values specific means, say, fundraising, is more likely to promote fellow fundraisers; he values their contributions more. Specialists, and in particular the lines of thinking which lead to specialization, create rigidity in the organization.
Suppose that you choose the fundraiser. The fundraiser, by dint of having chosen to specialize in fundraising, probably believes that fundraising is more important than the alternative means of supporting the organization: he will probably choose to promote other effective fundraisers over their alternatives.
And now people who don't agree that fundraising will start protesting, seeing their charity becoming increasingly subverted; fundraising is rewarded over the charitable purpose of the organization. They will leave, or protest; if their protests aren't heeded, for example because fundraisers who believe in fundraising do already run the company, they may be marginalized. Such individuals may be selected out, either self-selectively, or by explicit opposition by management to introducing people who are likely to cause trouble for them in the future.
In the example above, I made one particular assumption: That somebody who possesses some choice-driven characteristic X (competency at fundraising in the example) is more likely to believe that X is important, and will favor X over alternative characteristics. It's not necessary that this is always the case; a generalist may also possess some characteristic X. It's only necessary that p(XY) > p(X!Y), where X is possession of characteristic X, and Y is belief that X is an important characteristic to have (belief that fundraising is the most valuable pursuit for the charitable organization in the example).
Any preference, once established, which follows a tendency such that p(XY) > p(X!Y) will concrete itself into the organization once given a foothold; those who are selected based on X will also have, on average, a preference for X. They will select individuals with X.
The danger of organization specialization, as opposed to individual specialization, arises when that preference extends to preference; when, given two people X, those who have a preference for X (those who have characteristic Y) are preferred over those who do not. This is the point at which selecting people for X and Y becomes a runaway process, a process which may subsume the original purpose of the organization.
When those who do not have a preference for X begin to believe that X has already overtaken the original purpose of the organization, the meaningful possibilities are that they will either fight it or leave. If they simply leave, they harden the preference for X; there are fewer individuals in the organization who oppose Y. If they fight it and win, they've won for a day; an equilibrium has not yet been reached. If they fight it and lose, they establish a preference for preference; people who disagree with the orthodoxy of X begin to be seen as potential conflict creators in the organization, and just as problematically, revealing the preference for X may alter the decisions of those who might enter the organization otherwise; a non-Y individual may choose another organization which better suits their preferences.
Every Cause Wants to be a Cult. Every belief wants to be an orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is a stable equilibrium, the pit surrounding the gently sloped hill of idea diversity.