07 Jan The Redistribution of Power in Organizations
Ralph H. Kilmann, co-author of the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI)
I offer an experiential exercise to illustrate the system, the people, and the distribution of power in organizations. The exercise has been called “Star Power” or the “Power Lab.” I first experienced it as part of an experiential program conducted by NTL (National Training Laboratories), which was developed by Barry Oshry.
Twenty to fifty participants are divided into three groups: Circles, Squares, and Triangles. Individuals wear name-tags that include the symbol of their group. Each person is given an envelope containing chips of different colors, which each having a different value. There is a round of bargaining (conflict management!) in which each person tries to improve the point total of his chips. At the end of the round, the staff does a tally and announces the point totals of each group (Circles Squares, Triangles). Also at the end of the round, the person with the lowest score in the highest group is transferred to the next lowest group, while the highest scoring person in the other two groups are transferred to the next highest group).
After numerous rounds of individual bargaining, calculating totals, and transferring members, the staff announces the winning group and allows the winning group to now change the rules in any way they want. Usually, that winning group changes the rules to insure that they remain the winners and always at the top…by making THEIR collection of colored chips of much more value than the lesser chips owned by the other two groups.
Beware: Star Power is rigged so that the Squares always win, because of their initial quantity of certain colored chips versus the value of the chips in the envelopes of the Circles and Triangles. And it seems the Squares ALWAYS change the rules (and hence the system) so they stay in control and gain even more resources. This is the consciousness that seems to prevail in the larger system of humanity…for the most part. And this experiment, or rather experiential exercise, has been replicated thousands of times in one workshop after another.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR THOSE PEOPLE IN THE SQUARE GROUP TO REDESIGN THE RULES SO EVERYONE IN EVERY GROUP HAS AN EQUAL CHANCE OF DOING WELL…BASED ON THEIR TALENT AND EFFORT…NOT CONSTRAINED BY THE INPUTS, PROCESSES, TOOLS, RULES, AND SYSTEMS CONTROLLED — DESIGNED — BY THE POWERS-THAT-BE?
For me, and this is only my way of doing things, the eight tracks and my whole system of entering a system, gaining support, diagnosing the barriers and channels to success, and then proceeding with the tracks…is the only way I have discovered of breaking through the old systems DESIGNED AND CREATED BY THE SQUARE GROUPS and having a chance to design new systems (both informal and formal) so that talent and wisdom of ALL people and groups in society can prevail. And for me, it takes about nine months of doing such work (including such exercises of Star Power, discussions of internal and external control, group work on ego and ego attachments, work on courage and compassion) to develop sufficient (not perfect) SOCIAL MOMENTUM that will allow all organizational members to face their systems — and ego demons — and thus have a chance of truly breaking the spell, expanding self-aware consciousness, and enabling people to shape (and share) the systems that largely govern the results.
If someone has a different, let alone a better, way of redesigning society, organizations, communities, and families to produce better results for the ultimate customer (in the broadest sense of that term), I’m all for it! It’s nice and positive and inspiring to believe in individuality, including free choice and the power of a person…but let’s make sure we don’t ignore statistical and systems theory, and different stages of human consciousness, and thus miss the great opportunity to look at the larger pieces of the puzzle that CAN BE addressed under the right conditions and with a deep understanding (including a practical, integrated approach) of what enables people to renew their conditioned and illusive world.
Kilmann Diagnostics offers a series of eleven recorded online courses and nine assessment tools on the four timeless topics: conflict management, change management, consciousness, and transformation. By taking these courses and passing the Final Exams, you can earn your Certification in Conflict and Change Management with the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument (TKI). For the most up-to-date and comprehensive discussion of Dr. Kilmann’s theories and methods, see his 2021 Legacy Book: Creating a Quantum Organization: The Whys & Hows of Implementing Eight Tracks for Long-term success.