The Congruence Model A Roadmap for Understanding Organizational Performance The critical first step in designing and leading successful large-scale change is to fully understand the dynamics and performance of the enterprise. It’s simply impossible to prescribe the appropriate remedy without first diagnosing the nature and intensity of an organization’s problems. Yet, all too often, senior leaders– particularly those who have just recently assumed their positions or joined a new organization– react precipitously to a presenting set of symptoms. They quickly spot apparent similarities between the new situations they face and problems they’ve solved in the past, and leap to the assumption that what worked before will work again. The imperative to act is understandable but often misguided. Leaders would be well advised to heed the advice of Henry Schacht, who successfully led large-scale change as CEO of both Cummins Engine and Lucent Technologies: Stop, take a deep breath, give yourself some time, and “get the lay of the land” before leaping to assumptions about what should be changed, and how. That’s easier said than done. Without a comprehensive roadmap – a model – for understanding the myriad performance issues at work in today’s complex enterprises, leaders are likely to propose changes that address symptoms, rather than causes. The real issues that underlie an organization’s performance can easily go undetected by managers who view each new, unique set of problems through the well-worn filter of their
past experiences and personal assumptions. Consequently, the “mental model” any leader uses to analyze organizational problems will inevitably influence the design of a solution and, by extension, its ultimate success. Although there are countless organizational models, our purpose here is to describe one particular approach–the congruence model of organizational behavior. We’ve found the congruence model to be particularly useful in helping leaders to understand and analyze their organizations’ performance. This approach has been developed and refined over nearly three decades of academic research and practical application in scores of major companies. It doesn’t provide any pat answers or pre-packaged solutions to the perplexing issues of large-scale change. Instead, it is a useful tool that helps leaders understand the interplay of forces that shape the performance of each organization, and starts them down the path of working with their own people to design and implement solutions to their organization’s unique problems. In this paper, we’ll describe the congruence model and suggest how it can provide a starting point for large-scale change. It has proven to be useful in so many widely varying situations because it meets the test of any successful model: It simplifies what is inherently complicated, reduces the complexity of organizational dynamics to manageable proportions, and helps leaders not only to understand, but also to actually predict, the most important patterns of organizational behavior and performance.
How the Model Developed
The organizational model most of us carry in our head is the age-old pyramid-shaped table of organization that typified institutions as old as the Roman Legions. That model was fine
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THE CONGRUENCE MODEL
back when the pace of institutional change was measured in decades, even centuries. Even through the first half of the 20th century, organizations changed so slowly that their essence could be captured in neat patterns of lines and boxes. But in recent decades, the rapidly accelerating pace of change has made that static model obsolete. The old model merely documented hierarchical arrangements; the new models have to capture the dynamics of fluid...