Dogs are very smart creatures, especially my girl (pictured).
We train them to do some very valuable tasks. Guide Dogs are a great example, and are very valuable to the vision impaired person.
These dogs are so smart that they even learn when they should ignore their masters instruction and use their instincts to achieve the best outcome (like not walking out into traffic even if the master gives that instruction).
This is called “intelligent disobedience“.
The concept has been in use for animal training since 1936, and has emerged as a concept in management thinking – especially in the Project Management field.
Perhaps this skill should also be essential for Risk and BC Managers?
In the management sphere, intelligent disobedience is where the employee , based on their own professional skills and experience, is able to say no to a bad idea or a direction from management or project sponsors.
The opposite of intelligent disobedience is blind conformity.
One of worst aspects of blind conformance is simply following rules – just because it is a rule, even when it makes no sense. Sometimes this is nothing more than a conditioned response – “that is the way we have always done it”.
If you want to shut down an organization you need to do one of two things, either get people to stop working or just get them to follow the rules. This has been a very popular strategy with Trade Unions over the years – either a strike or a work to rule can often achieve a similar outcome – bringing the employer to their knees.
Intelligent disobedience is not about rejecting all authority, it is about being able to say no when it needs to be said. It is about valuing common sense over bureaucracy.
It is about not sugar coating a message, or refusing to speak up about a bad idea – holding back because you know the organization expects you to be ‘collegiate’, where dissent means you are not a team player. Sometimes you need to value the need for progress over keeping harmony.
There are some similar ideals here between entities that encourage intelligent disobedience and those of the High Reliability Orgs – being willing to hear bad news is one. Some form of decentralised decision making is another.
The unfortunate reality is that many BC ‘Managers’ and ‘Risk Managers’ are not really management/executive at all. They just have the word in their job title. Too many lack the political credibility, business experience and interpersonal skills nedeed to negotiate with real Executives. I wrote about these kind of issues and where others are highlighting them in an earlier post about the need for new skill areas in the practice of BCM.
Why does it work for dogs but not in a lot of organizations?
Simple, the dog’s owners are also trained to trust their guide dogs instincts. They had to learn to work as a team.
Fostering an environment that tolerates intelligent disobedience requires empowerment and trust.
Another example of why building resilience is about culture and organizational development, and thinking about things differently.
Are you doing things differently to build resilience?
Or did you just change the job title on your business cards?