Addictive Organizations LO15429

Benjamin B. Compton (
Thu, 16 Oct 1997 18:22:52 -0600

Linda talks about "addictive organizations." I'm not sure about her exact
meaning, but I can say a word or two from experience.

I've heard Senge quote Arie deGues (sp?), defining a team as "people who
need each other to accomplish something," or words to that effect.

I'm uncomfortable with the word "need." There is a difference between
"need" and, let's say, "depend" or "trust" or "rely." A need is something
I believe is often the beginning of an addiction: "I need a drink", says
the alcoholic; for the smoker its "I need a cigarette." We can be addicted
to much more than just physical substances. . .we can become addicted to
thought patterns and behaviors.

At Novell the team I worked in for much of my career became "addicted" to
what I would call the "martyr" mentality. That is the assumption that
everyone around us was incompetent, and that we, the trustworthy few, were
the only ones that could bail the company out. I suppose, if it's
possible, you could say we were a "co-dependent" team.

The result was we continually took on more and more work, extending
ourselves into areas we didn't belong: Marketing, sales, and development.
Of course these other departments really appreciated our help, and since
it didn't cost them anything, they shoved a bunch of work our way. We took
their acceptance of as a sign that they were indeed incomptent and unable
to function without our help.

Soon everyone was working 80 - 90 hour weeks. . .and we all became
miserable. But, "look at us," we would say, "see how much we're doing to
save our company!" The more we shouted this message, the more work we got.
And, soon, we were convinced we were saving the company. . .we had become
addicted. . .

At some point, after we were all drained, we started to say, "You know
what, we're over worked and under paid. We can't keep covering for
marketing, sales, and development. We need to focus on providing technical
service. We want to push these people away." And so we tried. . .and, to
our dismay, these other people had become addicted to us. . .and so they
rejected our rejection. . .and, baam! we had turf wars, hurt feelings,
deep frustrations, and low morale. . .

The team I worked with was all but demolished in the RIFs last summer. .
.and Novell is still functioning without us. . .Our beliefs, which became
the foundation for our addiction, proved, after all, to be nothing but a
myth in our collective mind. . .a myth that cost us all a lot of
unnecessary suffering. . .

Benjamin B. Compton

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>