Contexting #2 – La folie dans…

Adding contexting plot

In one of the many times I have mentioned contexting on this blog, it was accompanied by a lot of practical examples – stretching from onboarding to when managers lose control of their teams, a team has to be re-built from scratch, or when an outside perspective on dynamics can be gained by knowing the current context. Tracking the context by following the information around can be a costly initiative. It resembles a kids game of football – you can kick the ball and watch where it goes, then race to it, but as players get more adept, you start trying the control the flow through having dedicated players for each position. Translated into organizational terms, knowing who is playing can give you an estimate of how the game will look like from a tactical and strategical point of view.

Of course, with time the game itself gets more complex players will get additional depth to their roles. Strategies evolve and the requirements for maintaining flexibility of the team structure will impose a certain way of working, often conflicting with the way of least possible friction. Some teams and tasks may get so specialized that the only way for these teams to perform the tasks is to try and completely minimize the touch points with other teams, thus simplifying their work flow. This would also compromise information flow. In this case the way towards a more interactive and cross-skilled team would go through focusing on the information and the team members at the same time.

Responses to your contexting

I already mentioned non-conformers and why they may play a crucial role in organizational agility and development. They, however, represent an alternative to the most common responses to contexting and the varying possible responses of people within the organization. This brings us back to who the players are – one way to classify them is to measure their skills, personality, but you can also go the other way around: by classifying their response to your current context and contexting practices.

Using a backwards approach in parallel to the conventional classification tools would give you a floating measure of what you have as a team resource. A lot of companies assess on the entry point and then leave it to people-managers to track progress and mark the next possible development field. Only a few companies track progress on more than self-assessment or degree-based feedback systems. In doing so we can see not how contexting is changed, but how the involved parties have progressed or regressed. I mean this according to Kelman’s attitude changes (1961).

Also mentioned by Kets de Vries, the model proposes several stages of permanence in conforming behavior:

  • Compliance – aimed solely at maximizing gains while avoiding penalty
  • Identification – conforming progressively as to achieve a self-defining point of the relationship with a socially strong influencer
  • Internalization – the connection between both parties consumes one of them in the way that one internalizes the values and even goes of the other. Once achieved, separation becomes almost impossible, and all credibility and ability are derived from serving these internalized values. It is a dangerous stage, at which overall changes are not to be expected.

Which one of these degrees will serve your organization the best is probably irrelevant, as it is near impossible to have all members of the organization at the same “frequency”. When it comes to smaller teams, I guess it would be best to have all 4 types of relationship to the core – the three from Kelman, plus non-conformers. Why? Because team dynamics would mean that not everybody is the same, or has the same response to stimuli from the environment. At which stage are you now?


Photo by ingeniarius’


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