A powerful truth stands out in a sentence from OD Practitioner, 2006, Vol. 38, No. 3 at 52: “ So much of what occurs in organizations feels personal, but it’s not … it’s systemic.” Your environmental lawyer has been performing poorly, but if you diagnose the causes as personal, then your solutions are to fix, fire, rotate, motivate, review, urge therapy — personal.
If instead you were to consider the systemic pressures on that lawyer – the reorganization underway in the Environmental Safety Group, the SMART goal to resolve three festering Superfund cases, the reporting structure to two Associate General Counsel, the maternity leave the lawyer’s assistant has been on, the location of the lawyer’s cubicle three floors from the rest of the department – the solutions lie less within the hapless lawyer and more within the company and department (See my posts of Sept. 22, 2005 on systems thinking as a discipline; and May 14, 2006 on the Fundamental Attribution Error regarding context.).