04 December 2016

The Credibility Trap - These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends

"These violent delights have violent ends.
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder..."

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Credibility Trap:   a condition that can afflict any organization in which self-interest, internal focus, and reliance on a self-appointed 'authority' of its top leadership grows to a point that precludes addressing certain chronic problems and points of failure that are impacting its organizational objectives.

An inner core of leaders comes to view their own interests and personal places in the power structure as superior to all other considerations.  The key factor is when they develop an increasing reliance on authority and the control of organizational resources, rather than on performance and improvement as measured by external outcomes.

Stated differently, a credibility trap is what can happen overtime when an organization fails from the top down.  Rather than being caught by the many checks and balances of management, the failure becomes self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing— institutionalized and systemic.   It becomes ingrained into the 'DNA' of an organization's management in terms of style and priorities.

The core power structure becomes increasingly rigid, and meaningful change is viewed as undesirable, and even dangerous.  However they may mask this reluctance to change by imposing largely counterproductive change on those below them with a proliferation of rules and organizational restructurings that are cosmetic rather than substantial.

The focus becomes process rather than production.

Ironically, as personal power and reward increases, a sense of personal responsibility and accountability diminishes.  Therein we see the recent phenomenon of highly paid and powerful executives who, when their organization fails, blithely testify that they had no idea what was going on beneath their very noses.

Insiders begin to dictate an accepted view of things that is added to the rite of admittance into the power elite, along with certain forms of language and norms of behaviour.  Any contrary evidence that is presented is ignored, and legitimate criticism even from within its own ranks is dismissed, ridiculed, and aggressively suppressed.

The increasingly debilitated leadership relies on the close, almost over-deliberate control of money and internal resources.   Since they will not admit their own failures or shortcomings, they come to blame external factors and their own subordinates and suppliers.

If this tendency continues, this management myopia can become so profound that it eventually precludes even acknowledging that any problems exist, even in the face of a series of very public failures.  This is the threshold of the credibility trap.

When the organization has gone beyond the point of effective internal reform and renewal, a 'hard stop' is often imposed by exterior forces, in a lack of resources and attention from beyond ithe leaderships direct organizational control.    And then change will finally come in reform or a forced reorganization.

"People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason. But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right."

John Kenneth Galbraith

Related: Pelosi: 'I Don't Think People Want a New Direction'