Dramaturgical Sociology blows my mind and my views on conventional change mgt

I love this article/chapter! It really does get me thinking about how we approach change today, and how we could be doing it better!

In the attached pdf, Goffman’s “Dramaturgical Sociology” theory is outlined. Goffman uses the metaphor of social life as dramatic ritual to explore social interaction and change. Goffman argues that the self is not an entity that is immutable or separate from its surroundings, but that it arises in the very process of a ‘performance’ – i.e. the self needs context, interplay, and other characters to ‘feed off’ in order to exist! Wow!

Goffman believes that talking about the individual as some sort of autonomous agent is incorrect. Instead, he argues the individual should be thought of always in relationship to a social whole. For Goffman, the fundamental unit of social analysis is not the individual but rather what he refers to as the “team.” He writes, “a teammate is someone whose dramaturgical cooperation is dependent upon in fostering a given definition of the situation”. Teams, then, are responsible for the creation of perceptions of reality in social settings. The crux of his dramaturgical social theory is that the analysis of how teams cooperate to foster particular impressions of reality reveals a complex system of interactions that, in many ways, is like the presentation of a play. If we were to apply this theory in its entirety to existing approaches to business/organisational change, it would radically change the way we undertake change/transformation programs.

To date, I have made one recent attempt at using this theory to define a client’s strategic change objectives and journey by writing a ‘future-paced’ story about the client’s successful transformation. While objectives and a story were created from the approach, more work and detail is required to articulate and embed the ‘play’ into the organisation’s psyche as its anchor for the transformation.  Over the coming weeks I will be seeking to apply the theory in greater detail to support the design of a client’s future state culture and three year ‘blueprint’/roadmap. Keen to hear views.

Career midlife crises point to an absence of purpose in lives of highflying professionals

In an article by Australian School of Business, the topic of career midlife crisis is discussed. It appears that we are now likely to have multiple crises as transitions between different career stages (e.g. learning the ropes, becoming established, making a difference, moving on) become less related to tenure, and more related to the accelerated delivery of organisational outcomes, achievement mindsets, leadership programs that encourage greater self awareness, and changing expectations.

While an interesting article in it’s own right, it lends direct/indirect weight to the following points:

  1. External motivators (money, possessions, external recognition) have limited sustained value in driving staff performance
  2. Being connected to some interest/purpose greater than yourself (your own needs/desires) is a key to personal fulfilment
  3. Taking time to reflect on a regular basis is likely to keep you on the right track
  4. Working with others in community/relationship will drive greater commitment/accountability

One of the challenges with cultural change work in organisations is that fostering greater self awareness can and does lead some nominated talent to select different paths to pursue outside their organisation. I believe this side effect can be mitigated by clearly articulating how an organisation’s vision/mission/strategy is helping address the needs of real customers/service recipients.

You can download a copy of the article at:  http://knowledge.asb.unsw.edu.au/article.cfm?articleid=1344