Episode 3 · 1 year ago

#3 Resilience from organisational perspective with James Krantz, Ph.D.


“We are at the start of one of the most important learning experiences those of us interested in organisations will ever have.”

In episode 3, two Jelenas' from JelenaCONSULT welcome James Krantz, Ph.D., who is a leading voice in the areas of organizational change and leadership – and also their supervisor and esteemed senior colleague from the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations.

James Krantz – Jim – works as an organizational consultant and researcher in NYC, where he is the Managing Principal of Worklab. He has also worked as a consultant with the Wharton School’s Center for Applied Research. He has held faculty appointments at Wharton and Yale, and has taught in numerous other settings including INSEAD, McKinsey’s Center Asian Leadership, and Columbia University. In addition, he served as Assistant Director of Wharton’s Leadership Program.

Jim has published widely on organizational performance, the impact of emerging social trends on the challenges of management, and issues of leadership in contemporary organizations.

In this – in so many ways a futurist discussion – he talks about the pandemic as a shared experience and reflects on its future effects on organisations, nature of work, and us as individuals.

Jim points out that, although “we don’t really know what the world is going to look like on the other side of the pandemic, one thing is for sure – the new normal is going to be a lot more automated and a lot more driven by technology.”
As Jim honestly puts it, a lot of talk these days boils down to clichés – agility, flexibility, sustainability – code words that tell little about what companies and people are actually grappling with.

While heroic or the command model of leadership worked before, now we are facing great challenges of leadership. Therefore Jim puts a lot of emphasis on the process sensitivity as an important leadership trait – #processconsulting that both Work Lab and JelenaCONSULT do can help a lot with that!

In this thought-provoking discussion, we also touch upon organisational life – what is under the surface – talking about dependency, grief, but also how polarisation cripples organisations.

We conclude with the need for integration, summed up greatly in the quote from Winnicott: “You can only innovate within a tradition” and with a lot of hope. As Jim puts it – social hope is one of the most important things we have to help us move forward.

 Talking points:

- How to make or adapt strategic plans during covid times and for the period beyond
- What is important for the organisations to build or improve a solid design that will
last them though covid times, and allow them to thrive in the post-covid world
- How polarisation cripples organisation
- Dependency in organisation
- Why trivialization of mission in the mission statement is not helpful
- Money as a motivator
- Meaning at work
- Which new skills leaders should acquire in order to better lead in the post-covid world – why is
process sensitivity so important?
- Handling yourself with your head and handling others with your heart
- Pandemic as a shared global experience
- Social hope

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Welcome to another episode of Yellna Consolt podcast on resilience. Today it's such a pleasure to have Dr James Krant and welcome Jameston. It's so, so nice to have you well, thank you very much, pleasure to be here. It's wonderful to see the two of you and start to do some thinking. Yeah, you know, what did we want to ask Jim Today? Yes, we would want to start with the question how to make and adapt strategic plans during covid times and for the period beyond. So first question and the card one. Yeah, I think it's such an interesting question because the more turbulent the world is, the less reliable our predictions are. As strategic plans involve a prediction about the future, and so I think. I think that more and more companies are recognizing that they can't engage in long range planning, but they that part of the strategy is how to be very adaptive and agile. We don't really know what the world is going to look like on the other side of the pandemic. People talk to talk about going back to normal, but it's it's going to be a different kind of normal, kind of normal. I think we don't really understand yet, although it's one thing for sure that the the new normal is going to be a lot more automated and a lot more driven by technology. Fact, there're many people, including myself, who believe we're just about all the beginning of a huge technological advances and we can already see that, for example, with the with the two virus vaccines. At they had here Johnson and Johnson and a dinner, because they're using this new kind of technology and M RNA, which is this delivery system which has never been used before, but they're being able to manipulate things on the level of on the molecular level, and I think these are the kinds of things were just beginning to see and all kinds of things, genetic genomics, robotics, informatics, nanotechnology, all means that we don't things are going to change a lot, I believe, and the pace it was things have been changing over the last fifty years is going to be much quicker and, as a result, companies have to prepare themselves to be able to adapt to these new conditions, these unforeseen technologies. And you know, I for example, the disruption to the supply chains in in in this last pandemic has taught companies now that they have to create supply chains that are more resilient, that they're they're less dependent on one specific line of transmission. They have to have multiple redundancies so that they can continue to have their supplies one for it even when aspects of that are disrupted. So I think that's a good example of how can companies make those kinds of plans? And of course, the answer today that so many people are giving has, you know, come boils down to a bunch of cliches. Agility, flexibility, sustainability and all those things are true, but they've become code words and they don't really tell as much about what companies and people are actually grappling with. So to me it seems... though the most important, well, I wouldn't say that the most important. It seems to me that if for organization to be highly adaptable and flexible, you have to have people who are capable of functioning in that way and that leadership that supports that. So, for example, something we've talked about in the past is the old he wrote model of leadership or the command model of leadership, where the leaders have the vision or they control things. which was very effective in the last century, has really become counterproductive now, and I think we see companies and organizations that try to have that kind of leadership struggling and will continue to struggle, because today what leadership needs to do is to find a way to engage people in their most creative and passionate way, and that, to me, is the great challenge of leadership. I came across the quote. I don't know who said it, in the quote is leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work. Yeah, I think there's something interesting about that. There's there's a lot of people out there who are cooking these things up, these very important, elegant ways of thinking about things, and also the whole issue of handling oneself with your heart and handling other with your head and handling others with your heart, and that sort of way in which the emotional reality has to be promoted to be very important as well, because it's the emotional realities that enable people to stick together and to work together on complex things. And so, I mean all these things are swirling around. What does it mean to have strategy and be able to create strategy, especially strategy on the outer edges of organizations. I mean, again, it used to be that strategy was created at the center, far away from the outer edges, but now, because things are changing so fast, it's really at the edges of the organization were novelties occurring, changes are occurring, people have to respond quickly, and so it's strategies now made much more on the boundaries of the edge and the organization. I think it's important that you're emphasizing that the design of organization needs to change towards the edges. What do you think needs to change as well, besides that, organizational design itself so that the organizations are more that will last them through the covid crisis and beyond, allow them to try beyond the crisis. Well, you know, we're going to add. We're going to learn a lot about that as the crisis subsize and we're going to see what organizations have been able to survive and which ones haven't, and we're gonna see what it takes for the organizations to adjust to the new normal. I mean, in a way we're really they at the start of one of the most important learning experiences. Those of US interested in organizations will ever have. It's going to be the living laboratory of exactly those questions. Yeah, I think somebody said a long time ago another one of these cliches, which is pretty interesting, which is strategy is culture in the sense that strategy is designed to say what's important, to how you use your resources, and a culture is exactly the manifestation of that question. And I think that, as has been happening for the...

...last twenty years, people have to turn their attention to these cultures. And how do you create the more kind of structures inhibit creativity, what kind of structures foster creativity? But I think one of the great dangers is that people talk about bureaucracies if it's bad, or Stilos as if they're bad. But there's you know what, I don't think we'll ever get away from bureaucracy and styles. I think it's a question of how they're managed and how that's conducted, especially because more and more of this knowledge is so highly specialized that silos are inevitable terms. I'm sorry, you mean in terms of giving structured to the organization. Yeah, for support. Yeah, exactly. I mean I think sometimes people talk about resilience and all the agility, as if the structure will go away or as if sallows will disappear in some sort of Utopian idea, and I think that's pretty unrealistic because as much as we would like would like it, you know, authority relations are some there has to be a way of resolving conflict and there has to be a way. You know, I think one of the greatest inventions in the history, in human history will is the invention of the bureaucratic hierarchy, and the other one is the invention of diplomacy. You know, the bureaucratic hierarchy is the division of Labor, and the Division of Labor is extraordinary aspect of civilization. But with the division of Labor comes some way of some aspect of bureaucracy, because labors divided it up. Then it has to be reintegrated and to do that you have to have things like authority and delegation and all these things that we struggle with, and the character of those things has to change in the twenty one century post Bademic, because the nature of authority is changing. It's much more negotiated and much more bottom up and all these things, but it's it's present and and as long as it's present, those of us are interested in psychodynamic issues will be able to bring an understanding about aspects of authority to work that other people can't bring to work. So, for example, we understand that as long as babies are born helpless and totally dependent on someone else, we know that the dynamics of dependency are going to be present. There's no way to escape them until we escape that basic fact of human existence, which may happen someday with test troops, I don't know. But but as long as these babies are born totally helpless and dependent, we know that that aspect of authority is going to find its way into the dynamics of organizations. And a lot of the more Utopian thinkers, I think, imagine they can do away with the more infantile of the dependent aspects of authority relations, and I think that that big mistake to think that and it leads people to make bad decisions to imagine that somehow that is bad or that can be structured out of existence. So I guess where this is going. is to say I think the new organizations post pandemic. Yes, they're going to be new, but they're not going to be entirely new. There's some things about human can and that will endure and they will have to be brought into these new organizations and and that's where they learning will be how to bring those two things together. I mean,... know, nobody fails because of the lack of analytic tools these days. Nobody fails because the lack of information. People fail because they because they can't get people to work with each other and they people fail because they they create authority relations that are oppressive to people. So the failure really is more and more more comes from the failure of human relationships to be able to use these incredibly powerful analytic tools we have. And so I think more and more attensions is going to go to these kinds of questions and systems, echodnamic thinkers are going to be recognized as and the knowledge of how to bring about cultures and working environments that release creativity and recognize frailty of the human condition and somehow find a way to bring these things together is what will thrive. Yeah, and death manner. What do you think two skills leaders shouldn't acquire in order to better lead in this actually post covid the world? I think well, of course leaders have to have substance skills. I mean, if you're in finance, you have to know about finance and so forth and so on, but I think that the skills to be able to bring about these kinds of environments, sort of the management of what they call an idea chamber, so the ideas can flourish and find their way to creative work and are different kinds of skills than the skills of the more directive command model. I think they are skills that are involved in listening, skills involved recognizing that your the importance of process as opposed to outcomes, recognizing that there is a very deep connection between process and outcome and if you can protect the process, the outcomes will take care of themselves, and so to be focused, instead of to be focused just on outcome measures, understand that the process at if the process has integrity, if the process is set up in the right way, the outcomes will will be what you want. So it has to be a process sensitivity in leaders these days, rather than just sort of paying rewarding people for Kpis or something like that, is to really investing in process, which of course means investing in the capacity of people to work together and creating reflective space or space for people to collaborate. I mean in this twenty one century world, in the postpentiment world, you know, work happens through conversation and in every bit of conversation someone is revealing their own picture of the world and they're making themselves vulnerable and there for this all to work well, there has to be a capacity for people to do that, to be to expose their thinking without risk of humiliation, and for people to be able to negotiate different pictures of the world in a way that is generative rather than conflict oriented, and a way in which creates the space for people to really work together, which is, by the way, one reason I think this zoom world is going to go away. I mean, I know I shouldn't say go away, but I think that office work is going to come back. Not, you know,...

Joom will always be more alive and part of our lives and it was before, but I think so much as lost mmm in the absence of what they call the water cooler or the informal conversation or the the I. The thinking that comes from the unexpected interactions, and I think that we're going to see a lot more going back to physical spaces. In fact, you know, Google and facebook and Amazon have bought this during this period, millions of square feet of office space in New York, because I think they know that too, because good ideas come from conversation. Yeah, you is not facilitate conversation if its tail takes other things. I mean, we have this, but doesn't really facilitate communication like being together. So so I think leaders are going to have to figure that out. How To, you know, in these big, global, dispersed enterprises, how to find ways for people to talk to one another and how to create the conditions in which conversation is supported and exposure and learning from experience. I mean, I think again, learning from experiences is crucial in a rapidly changing world. repudiationing urm and learning from experience requires feeling safe to make mistakes and requires a certain kind of psychological safety to be able to expose ones what one doesn't know. And these environments that are just reward performative expertise will not do well. Sounds like a good new approach for leaders to tackle the old issues and I'm glad that you mentioned while you were talking about resilience as well, that some things need to be still, we need to hold on to them, some structures, old structures, but then again find some new things to build on. You know, the the the great psychoanalyst, winner cart pointed out that you can only innovate in a tradition, in the tradition. Yes, such a lot of such a lot of think this is a way of thinking about the old and the new and we need each other, that the older, the tradition, the new or the innovators. But today we see there's a lot of splitting between the new and the old or well in many different realms of our civic world. And and it's too bad, because we need each other to be able to make progress, the new and the old and the and so again, this is worth some more the psychodynamic group, dynamic issues come alive and where I think we can really make a contribution. I see this a lot up and around identity politics, to you know, and the polarization and the splitting is going to Crippo organizations because we really have to depend on each other to work. And I think you know again the issue of dependency and this very early aspect of our experience and the anxieties we have around dependency, in the vulnerability and all of that is becoming more and more important to manage as as people have to learn through exposure and through collaboration and through conversation and through working together. So, yeah, I think the think those of us can help people think about their their dependency on one another to be able to work creatively is kind... be very, very important. Yes, it seems that the pandemic kind of emphasize this depending on one another. That's we always had. I mean it's pretty huge. Yes, yes, I think there's a way in which I remember when I was in college, I read an article at the about the Great Depression that said that during the Great Depression people loved each other more because they had to rely on each other more. And I think there's something about that in the pain them. And two, I mean we've had the shared global experience, which is very rare, and we've been traumatized and we share grief across the whole world and we've lost many precious things, people and our routines and our rituals and all kinds of things that through which we find meaning and all kinds of things that help us contain anxiety our socialized organizational roles and so and as the pandemic recedes, we're going to have to figure out how to reanimate our social lives and reanimate and and I think the question you're raising is what we do it with kind of a wisdom comes from where we've been? I don't know, I think I hope so. I mean I hope people will rediscover the meaning of their citizenship, because we've seen how much we rely on each other. But I wish I were more optimistic. We need to see that bill do. Yes, and what did think in what they would leaders strength, resilance, capacity, both for themselves and, of course, for their team. I think it's also very important to say about it. You know, that's such a good prey, I mean, such an important question. And I think it comes back to these conversations about how do you build an organization where people feel fully engaged with the purpose, where people are not just there for transactional, you know, reasons, or but people care about it, because when people care about what, then they're much more able to be adaptive and flexible. And and so it's again it's the old cliche about how do you what's the difference between someone who's caring. Are you caring a fifty pound rock on your back or are you building a cathedral? which are you doing? And leaders somehow help people recognize that they're building a cathedral, that there's meaning and what they do. And I think also that means this sort of time back into signmon's work, which is so important, about recognizing the meaning and how what you're doing fits into a larger social purpose which I think is very much out of this tavistock tradition you know we have. There's this the two views of organizations. One is of the enterprise, one is the organization, which is the task system, the roles and technologies and structures and procedures and so forth, but the other side of the institution, of the other side of the enterprise, is the institution, and the institution is what it means on behalf of society. Are New Educational Institution or Military Institution, Commercial Institution? These are where the meaning, the social...

...meaning, comes from. The task system insist how you order the Nice, how you do it? Yeah, how you how you accomplish a mission, but the issues of mission and values and purpose reside in the area of the institution and I don't know if it will be useful to people listening to this, but for those people are interested in beyond, you know, he was very clear that the basic assumption right belongs at the level of the institution, and so it's these different institutions which give different organizations their emotional texture. So I think in a more technocratic world and in the more in the world of the past, which was less turbulent and less so forth, organizations could more emphasize the technocratic aspect of or the organizational part could be emphasized more in the institutional part became less important portant. But that is changing now and I think people's connection to the institutional meaning what they're doing becomes more and more important, and that's what leaders have to help people discover and connect with. And of course, that's to be able to do that, leaders to have to be connected to that and and need to be passionate about the meaning of it. So I guess that's I guess that's what I would say about what would you say, because some of the leaders tend to insist on the vision and sometimes it's not really what you're saying, it's not really mean. Yeah, times the vision is just not enough. Yeah, well, the other's vision is one of those words. That's it. And Yeah, and you know, there's a lot of phony missions out there, you know, made up mission that are really I'm going to say something now that it would be considered politically incorrect here. I don't know about there. The here were very activated around these things, but I had a teacher a long time ago said that the relationship of the mission to the mission statement is like the relationship of the rain to the rain dance. And there are many, many mission statements that are like the rain dance. They're not actually connected to the mission themselves, but their statements designed to put a gloss on things or their designed just we need a mission statement, but they're not deep, meaningful things. And you know, I think that again, the organizations that have these sort of made up or clever missions are we're going to be the premier soap maker in the world or whatever, are they're not going to do as well, you know, as people who are pure and cancer let's say, are feeding the world or whatever. These, you know, missions are the lad whatever the analogies to building the Cathedral. I mean I believe in many, many organizations. That mission does exist. IME They've even in finance, where I I really have never liked working on Wall Street because because of the culture of those places. But I think they've lost their way and I think the creation of capital marks is capital marks is an important part of the building civilization and advancement of of our of our capabilities. But people lose track of that. And you know, I don't know if you remember, I'm sure we talked about this in one of the seminars. Bit You know, are you in school? Are you there to get good grades or you there to get an education? That's...

...the difference between a mission statement and a mission and I think in Wall Street one of the things that's so unpleasant to work with them is that they're so often focused on the graves and not the education, so to speak. I think more and more leaders need to help people reorient themselves to the true mission and purpose as opposed to the artificial ones. You know, it's like people say that the point of business is to make a profit. No, profit is how you measure what you do. What you do is differ. And when people say that our goal is to make a profit or purpose of businesses to make prodit. I know that they're out of touch and that there as a result, they're not going to be as good, resilient, adaptive, creative, connected in passion, and employees may be much more robotic, much more less, less capable of collaboration and taking risk, all this stuff we've been talking glad that you mentioned this. What happens in under organizations, under the surface, on or, if you will, beyond what you read in the mission yes, I think it's really important. Yeah, I think it's really important for the Organi. USATIONS, and for the leaders alike to start tackling things and trying to grasp what is below, what is, yeah, expected and what is on the surface. Yes, yes, I think there's so much trivialization of things like mission statements and and you know, you check the box. Yeah, we have to mention I mean, for instance, is an example. This is something that I discovered and I most of the people in my field do it differently. You know, they want to have an annual retreat. Okay, first we have to talk about the mission statement. My view is no, we should talk about the mission statement at the end, after people have had a chance to grapple and get in touch with issues and, you know, think about things more deeply, that the mission is something that's is discovered, not just created. Your mission, you know. And so these are the things that I think will become more and more important to really discover what, what part we play in the overall society. What is our contribution, you know, and that's what motivates people. It's very clear that money is not an effective motivator. Money has a lot to do with the careers that people choose and it has a lot to do with when people change a job. They sometimes change jobs for more money. But in terms of motivation, it's proven has money as zero effect on I mean, if you were paid twice as much tom you'd worked about as hard as you work. You wouldn't work twice as hard if you have paid. You know, nobody does. And so the people imagine that money motivates people when in fact it's a terrible in equity in money. Devote motivates people, but you can't motivate people with money. To motivate people with meaning and connection, maybe it's easier to deal with the money as a steam bold. Then we did those emotions and connection and there maybe absolutely and I think this brings us back to the point about needing to look under the surface and needing to help people see. Those are defensive ways of going about and the defenses are there because because of the anxiety involved when you start to talk about meaning and personal connection, and so it's often the defense as well. Will just, you...

...know, give him an answer, whatever it is you know. So, yeah, I think that's where we're heading into a world where, you know what, I think a lot of the younger generation, the generation maybe after you, are much more tuned into to this kind of thing. If if things don't have meaning to them, we're doing and feel they're growing, or they don't feel they're expanding, they won't play the game. And there's all older people. Managers were very frustrated with that. But I think it's a good thing. I think it's a good thing because it's going to force organizations to really confront this issue about what is the meaning of being here and are we really taking taking seriously people's need for growth and connection and and so I think it's a good thing. Yes, because it puts people first. Yes, who would be yes, without people, there would be no organizations. Up to me. Yeah, well, that's true. Now, I mean back in the old days, you know, but I think nowadays, and increasing in the future, technology is going to take care of so many of the routine things that people will be left to do the things that have meaning in them and that are require creativity and they require things that computers can't do and and digitization can't do, and those things are, like you're saying, there's too much more human centered things. You know, people. I think Nowadays Fountain Pins are much more are very popular and I think it's it's a kind of reaction to the it's a kind of holding on to the idea of craft because so much is being automated and I think that's certainly going to go more and more and more. I mean in, I think it's fifteen or twenty of our states in the United States, the most the biggest job category is driver, car truck driver. That's going to go away. You know, all the stuff is going to automated and and what's going to be left over is the things that really require huge humanity and I think organizations need to get ready and leadership needs to figure out what is going to activate and energize and enable people to bring that to their work. I think there's just one step in between, during automatization that people, a lot of people, well, I mean it's people who have to do the jobs for the AI. So I think a lot of them have a automated jobs and I think a lot of them are losing me, at least with some clients who are working in these industries, like a yes, yes, well, I think this is one set before we go get to this yes, human centered. Well, I agree. I mean I think we're embarking on a very traumatic period of transition. Very traumatic and as important is the transition of a grier into industrial. We're now in the transition from industrial to information and that's going to take fifty or a hundred years, just like the transition to industry. I mean, I'm you and I are not going to see what the system, social systems look like on the other side of this. Maybe our children will, but it's going to take a long time and it's going to be bloody. It's going to be bloody and it's going to be just like the transition to industrialism was. And I think part of what we're seeing is the institutions...

...that were built up around the industrial model are losing their legitimacy. People don't believe in them anymore, and I think they don't believe in them anymore because they're organized around the industrial model and people are entering a different world and so and we all know about how much these institutions and stability and symbol systems and so worth contain anxiety and those sort of is the old ones go away before the new ones are establishers, going to be a lot of anxiety. A lot of anxiety means a lot of nasty things. So I think part of our Java is to help organizations think about this transition, think about the challenges involved in it, because there's going to be a lot of loss, a lot of loss. Even the question of how people are going to get money the information age. You know, we now are very accustomed to having money to change for our work. Well, there's going to have they have two different way of getting people money in the information age and that's going to be a very difficult conversation to the have. So anyway, I think that's what we're looking at in this transition to different kinds of organizations in different kinds of leadership. But for the moment, you know, I think we have some ways of thinking about entering into this world, even though we don't know what it's going to look like. Yeah, I think that thank you for everything that you said today because, even though maybe doesn't look like that, but to me you this discussion brought hope for future and for everything, because usually people to any kind of a change, they resist the change. They like start up well and everything. But actually I see this change big potential, especially in bringing to focus people connection emotions that you know. So I see all the time. I just hear the WHO the big potential about that. The of course, the change is is very brought rings and ex idea about how to deal with did. But still, at the end it's very it's very hopeful and I think also for a Zelience it's important what you also mentioned, I think, the words of the beginning about learning and how this is all and the integration of the new things into our old ways. So I think it's also a hopeful thing. Well, I agree with both of you and I think it's really important to notice the difference between hope and optimism. Optimism is, you know, the belief that things will work out no matter what you do. Hope is the idea that if you you can engage with things in such a way that will become better and it's about belief that people can do things together. It's not about assuming the outcome will be right. So yes, I think it's hopeful and I think social hope is one of the most important things we have to help this move forward. Definitely, I think this is a perfect end to our conversation today with so hopeful idea. Yes, thank you so much to do well. Thank you. It's such a pleasure and the two of you are both asking such important and thought provoking questions. I really appreciate the opportunity and good luck with it and I hope to see it. I hope you see here the podcast in the future. Thank you so much.

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