Mapping the Organizational Psyche: The Deepest Dive

The psyche of an organization is analogous to that of a person, illustrated in the diagram below. Management is like the ego making decisions, connected (or not) to a deeper self that is the reason the organization exists and what calls people to it. If the ego (management) is disconnected from the organizational unconscious—that is, the people who hardly ever are listened to—bad decisions get made. That is why heroic organizations with able leadership make great efforts to dialogue with people of lesser status, particularly those whose input is muted or ignored but who are in a position to see what those in charge are missing. The shadow of the organization is what no one will talk about, sometimes because they are afraid to. If people lose their voices out of fear, because they are censoring to fit in, or because they do not think they matter, the organization can make terrible decisions because important information is not heard and taken seriously.

Often, management processes are defined by the organization’s character, which is similar to a person’s psychological type—introverted (I) or extraverted (E); sensing (S) or intuitive (N); feeling (F) or thinking (T); perceiving (P) or judging (J)—and indeed can change with the type preferences of executive management. These preferences frequently determine the nature of an organization’s processes: Do people mainly talk to one another (E) or send virtual messages (I)? Do they emphasize details (S) or the big picture (N)? Are processes designed primarily to work for the people involved (F) or objectively the most rational and efficient (T)? Does the organization emphasize defined planning processes (J) or opportunities for learning and updating plans as you go (P)?

These processes may or may not align with the archetypes that provide key stakeholders with the motivation to follow them. If the processes and archetypes are seriously out of alignment, morale, and hence productivity, may suffer, and vice versa. For example, if a group is highly motivated by the Ruler archetype, those in it are likely to prefer defined management and planning processes. However, if they are motivated by the Explorer archetype, they may feel hemmed in or even imprisoned by them. That being said, it is important to remember that archetypes and type are quite distinctive from one another, and, therefore, these generalizations do not always hold. For example, someone with a high Explorer profile may like the security of very defined processes when they are in a learning mode and their desire to roam and have adventures is fulfilled elsewhere.

The diagram below illustrates the similarity between an organizational and a human psyche, with the terms used for people inside the circle and lines connecting them with terms used in organizational development.

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For more information about this, check out Mapping the Organizational Psyche.