Mental Models and Change LO29291

From: Jan Lelie (
Date: 10/10/02

Replying to LO29281 --

Hi Lee, reader,

To quote Avril Laverne: "Cool down, 't's all been done before".

The best - as far as I know - is still Chris Argyris' "Strategy, change
and defensive routine". He explanes how mental models - a.k.a. defensive
routine - stifle change, even inside his own consulting organisation.
The problem is that we've all learned that it is important to tell the
truth, except when the truth might hurt. It is a useful, kind, friendly,
understandable model, but it is a wrong model, ;-). However
understandable, it makes people "ease in" or "cover up". To resolve this,
everybody could investigate what it is inside him of her that blocks you
from telling the (a) hurtful truth and try to learn that thsi only tells
you something about yourself. By the way, 90% of all sitcoms are based on
the notion that one should tell the hurtful truth in ways that it won't
hurt. That's why they are so funny. And we all know that life is not -
when you consider life is not a sitcom.

Experiments to measure reactions to change in relation to mental models
will rapidly become Milgram-like experiments: unethical because they'll
hurt people's psyche. It is not that I'm against them, they are being
performed on a daily basis in almost all organisations, but be aware of a
cover-up or a hard confrontation!

Regarding literature, I would advise Smith's and Klein's "Paradoxes of
Group Life". After all, every mental model we use is a way of dealing -
(inclusive or) not-dealing - with a paradox in organizational life.
("It's life, James, but not as we know it!") Managers will have to be
confronted with mental model regarding "authority", "disclosure" and


Jan Lelie
facilitator mind@work wrote:

>I am interested in setting up an experiment that measures how managers
>cope with continuous organizational change. I want to examine how their
>mental models effect their capacity to change and how they react to that
>I'm interested in finding out if anybody is familiar with other
>research/experiments/Journals that specifically measure mental models and
>how they effect managers ability to cope with change. Of course comments
>are also very welcome.


Jan Lelie <>

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