The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Decisions are rational and not sufficient

Some decisions may not seem to be rational. But as a professor of mine wrote in his book the leadership mystique “all human behavior, no matter how irrational it appears, has a rationale.” Whatever that rationale is, for an individual it fits in the way they live their life and a strategic rationality that may not always be visible from the outside.

Within an organization, things will be similar. The clarity of the decision will depend on how clear the initial question is and how much effort is put into determining clear answers. In this process, the answers given will be attempts to remove ignorance along the process. The decision process supports a strategic rationality that is there to serve the organization.

But such a process only works when the context people or organizations are in is one that is understood and known. That is one in which it is possible to come to a clear enough answer that further actions can be based on it.

The way the world has changed, and the way our sense of society’s coherence has been disrupted makes it difficult for people to make sense of it all. The habits people had to make sense of it all don’t work anymore, there is too much that has changed. Such change is the source of the heightened anxiety that people experience around themselves. It limits the decision processes that remain possible.

To regain the ability to make decisions sensemaking needs to happen first. And that is a process that may not always lead to clarity. What sensemaking starts with is reducing confusion. What sensemaking serves is the need to establish contextual rationality. It is a process that will build on vague questions, provide muddy answers and lead to negotiated agreements. It serves the ongoing effort to create order in our awareness of our context. And it mainly is in retrospect that it will make sense. Much of it drives the way experience needs to be made to become able to determine the sense the undertaken experiment had.

Leaders get the chance to support their followers in this sensemaking process. When they fail to take it up, it often results in growing anxiety in their team and a sense of feeling lost.


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