Hamilton, MA (PressExposure) October 19, 2011 -- An innocent reference to a team's counterparts on the West Coast as "them" reveals a subtle, but potentially significant distinction between team members that doesn't really exist. Singularity Group, Inc., a management consulting firm, has identified how and why "Them and Us" can lead to the unraveling of team cohesion, effectiveness and collaboration.
In the latest in a series of White Papers, Singularity Group outlines how human nature underlies the need to create an identity through groups. However, that distinction can also sow the seeds of dysfunction.
"We've just completed several client engagements where the 'Them-Us' phenomenon has played a significant role in causing corporate problems," said Michael D. Maginn, Singularity Group Managing Director. "In fact, in one company, members of different teams actually acknowledged their intention to 'defeat' other teams! All of this despite a very clear corporation strategy for building collaboration and cooperation."
When viewed in this light, the Them-and-Us phenomenon becomes a key player in corporate change and organizational climate. Singularity Group suggests it is the hidden molecule that comprises the various forms of resistance to change that we have all experienced. Robert Kegan, in Immunity to Change, would call Them and Us a "hidden commitment" to big assumptions that help us maintain the status quo and remain impervious to change.
What does this mean for leaders who struggle with strategically turning their businesses into "Cultures of Excellence" or who promote "Integrity, Cooperation, Compassion, Creativity" and the like? Apparently, expectation setting from the highest level, explaining business plans and rationale, describing benefits-the usual armamentarium of change management-can only go so far. The Them-Us phenomenon needs to be part of the strategic equation.
The short paper provides some stimulating and provocative guidelines for smashing corporate silos, emphasizing the need for leadership to demand unity in the organization. Singularity Group looks forward to comments and questions on this ubiquitous topic that undermines so much corporate conflict.