Operating as if the elimination of uncertainty is possible, plausible, and desirable is what drives the cancer of “enclosure” at the heart of organisational or institutional practice.
Enclosure is the accelerative and intensifying process in play when good situations go bad and when bad situations get worse. When left unchallenged, enclosure spreads, it deepens, and it corrodes the core cultural supports of your organisation, among them productivity, employee engagement, creativity, and trust. When this happens, it is “business as usual” that makes the unhelpful difference.
The assertion of control, the quest for perfection, the correction of error, the drive for efficiency, the targeting of enemies, the defeat of competitors, the solving of problems, the silencing and eradication of opposition and resistance, the assertion of unquestionable truth, the desire for purity, an insistence on sameness, a lack of acceptance or respect for women in the workplace … all of these and more can be versions of the elimination of uncertainty in practice.
Following the principles of Hummingbird’s Cultural Climate Framework, an enclosing cultural climate comes with what I call the Organisational Enclosure Triad – an environment saturated with the elimination of uncertainty ethos tends also to be characterized by chronic heightened intensity, and by chronic heightened directivity. While there are many more features of enclosing cultural climates, these are the primary drivers of unhelpful change within an organisational culture. These features, more than any others, are what will most affect the relational climate of the organisation.
One the difficulties within professional environments is that the three elements of the organisational enclosure triad are frequently to be found in the heart of workaday orthodoxies in accepted economic, political, administrative, and legal practice. The logics of the triad are embedded within the language, habits, norms, and rules of much standard, recommended, and even “best” practice. The challenge isn’t eliminating the presence of these elements, but in minimising their impact within the workplace.
It is important to note that while the “elimination” of uncertainty is to be avoided, the reduction of uncertainty is to be welcomed. Similarly, while chronic heightened intensity is to be avoided, occasional intensity at appropriate times is to be welcomed. And while chronic heightened directivity could lead to all sorts of problems, occasional directive strategic interventions might sometimes be very appropriate. It’s about avoiding the extremes of elimination, intensity, and directivity without throwing out the baby with the bath water.