Divisiveness is one of the most negative forces we face, whether it be at the level of individuals or nations. It is paradoxical that there is so much divisiveness in the world today when we have unprecedented technological means for connection. Polarization is increasing, creating an ever greater divide between the haves and have nots and attempts at unification such as the European Union are under increasing pressure. Extreme right wing opinions seem to find more fertile ground. In the worst cases, violence is used to express frustration and widen the gap of difference. The Talmud says: “Anyone who engages in divisiveness transgresses a divine prohibition.”
This blog post is dedicated to the memory of one of the greatest scholars and leaders of the 20th century, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the anniversary of his passing, 8th July 2016. His opinion and advice were constantly sought by world leaders and he worked tirelessly throughout his life to promote peace and unity.
Practical ways to unite people
We are all different from each other and we are all as unique as our fingerprints. Must this difference and uniqueness inevitably lead to disagreement? How can individuals, organizations and communities cater for difference and unity at the same time? It’s beyond the scope of this blog to offer political solutions. However, based on our experience with organizations and the bodies of knowledge of Deming and the Theory of Constraints, we know that there are practical ways to enable people to harness the power of unity while allowing for individuals to be unique persons.
Different people, different tasks
In any organization, individuals are called upon to perform various tasks. When this is done in the context of a traditional hierarchy with functions, the work of the organization is artificially divided up, territories can be created and competition can arise among staff. This creates divisiveness. Everyone in the organization, instead, should be working towards a common goal, the goal of the organization. This is only possible, however, if an organization realizes that it is a system, as Dr. Deming pointed out back in the 1950s. When that realization sinks in, then it becomes possible to map out precisely the flow of work that needs to be performed to allow maximum throughput to be generated. This in turn means that instead of creating artificially fractured roles and job titles, interdependencies can be designed effectively and transparently and it becomes clear which tasks have to be performed when and by whom.
Working systemically, using well designed processes and projects, every individual can be empowered to offer their contribution towards a clearly identified common goal. This is not only an aspiration, it is becoming increasingly necessary as technology and digitalization gain importance in the management of companies. Organizational design will have to increasingly reflect the flow of work that approaches such as Agile and DevOps continuously emphasize.
The higher road
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels…” ~Albert Einstein, N.Y. Times, 1946
Does this mean that everyone magically gets along? Of course not. There will always be differences of opinion, even passionate ones. Working in a systemic organization requires a higher kind of thinking. The way to overcome divisiveness, then, is to move to higher levels in terms of thinking and interacting. This requires tools and practice and it requires leadership to keep attention firmly on the goal. We can thank Dr. Eli Goldratt for providing us with the Theory of Constraints and its full set of Thinking Process Tools to engender and reinforce systemic thinking and conflict resolution. These tools allow intellect and emotions to work in synergy beyond the instinctive, knee-jerk reactions that tense situations can create. This is also what allows truly innovative thinking to take place.
Living in peace is not something we can ever take for granted and it requires constant vigilance and effort. No matter how hard the effort can be it is always so much better than the alternative.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management, founded by Dr. Domenico Lepore. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of the forthcoming ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York. Angela’s new business novel+ website The Human Constraint looks at how Deming and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation.