Shared Mental Models


organisational development change management

. Everyone develops mental models. They are a natural part of human life and a natural consequence of the work experience. When we begin to share our knowledge of know-why and/or know-how with others, organisational learning begins.

. In the early stages of an organisation's existence, individual learning and organisational learning are almost synonymous. As an organisation grows, an effort is required to capture some of the knowledge and learning of individual members in the form of paper and computer files, reports, training manuals, operating procedures, strategic plans, memos, letters, etc. Some of the know-why and know-how in an organisation is retained through such devices. However, even in the most bureaucratic organisations, much more knowledge and learning go unrecorded than are captured. The vast amount of organisational know-why and know-how, accumulated through years of constantly turning wheels of learning and the sharing of mental models, remains a kind of tacit, shadowy, and fragile but necessary collective memory of the community of workers. This accumulated tacit knowledge is both unique to an organisation and critical for its success.

. A good test on tacit knowledge has been developed by Robert Wagner and Robert Sternberg. It can be used to rank staff on occupational success and job performance. The IQ test (intelligence test) is not a good indicator of occupational success and job performance, because it does not pick up effectiveness and common sense, such as effectiveness when working with people. It involves knowing how to manage yourself and others, and how to navigate complicated social situations. An example of this:

" have just been promoted to head of an important department in your organisation. The previous head has been transferred to the equivalent position in a less important department. Your understanding of the reason for the move is that the performance of the department as a whole has been mediocre. There have not been any glaring deficiencies, just a perception that the department has a so-so record than very good..."

Malcolm Gladwell, 2002

Your objective is to improve the department. Results are expected quickly.

Based on the above, rate the quality of the following strategies for succeeding at your new position.

i) always delegate to the most junior person who can be trusted with the task

ii) give your superiors frequent progress reports

iii) announce a major re-organisation of the department that includes getting rid of whomever you believe to be "dead wood"

iv) concentrate more on your people than the tasks to be done

v) make people feel completely responsible for their work

It has been found that good managers select strategies (ii) and (iv); bad managers tend to select strategy (iii)

(sources: Joseph Boyett et al, 1998; Malcolm Gladwell, 2002)

organisational development change management


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