IMPENETRATIUM - the 20th Century Organisational Disease

“As depressive disorders are a major cause of work disability and account for a considerable proportion of the disease burden, more attention should be paid to psychosocial factors at work.” - Dr. Marjo Sinokki

Impenetratium is the heaviest and most dangerous element known to mankind.
Man-made, not occurring in nature, it is invariably found coating mechanistic hierarchical bureaucracies - its sole purpose appears to be to slow down communications, disrupt generative relationships and weigh heavily on the spirits of individuals. It is the cause of depressive disorders, reduced capability, lowered productivity, disengagement, disempowerment, sick building syndrome and other workplace ills.

Invisible, tasteless, odourless, but none the less, incredibly dense, Impenetratium can only be detected by the side-effects it has on other objects and people. Impenetratium adversely effects all aspects of corporate life from systems, structures and strategy to the behaviours of employees and the culture of the workplace.

Impenetratium is particularly rife in those organisations which micromanage rather than lead. Impenetratium is the source of situational learnt helplessness (a form institutionalised depression) where people infected find their minds slowed and their spirits lowered due to thoughtlessly repeated (often unconscious) acts by management and the organisation which promote a negative, pessimistic belief-models in employees.

Impenetratium is also characterised by a disabling culture, negative emotions (such as fear, anxiety, low trust, selfishness, power, ego, resistance, conflict), low self-esteem, inability to change, risk aversion, high turn-over and low productivity and performance.

Impenetratium effects team moral and interdepartmental interactions. Communication and trust are lowered in its presence due to its high viscosity and large dielectric constant.

Impenetratium an alternative view:

Impenetratium is a toxic waste, a by-product of the traditional closed system organisation which becomes dangerous when no mechanisms exist for its removal or dispersion. Healthy organisations are open complex adaptive systems, which interact in equilibrium with their internal and external environments (market place, suppliers, clients etc). They maintain order not by control but by relationships and positive exchanges with society and the world. Just as a human gets sick if it can't eliminate toxic waste products, so does the Organisation. The secret is to keep renewing, keep an open system, keep evolving, learning, shifting the Impenetratium, keep alive, keep passionate, keep the attitude and the energy.

Impenetratium is a form of entropy created naturally by complex adaptive systems (us, teams, and organisations) as they go about their daily work. It is not to be feared unless you are a closed-system. The closed organisation stops listening to what the market tells it, what its customers say, what it's employees are telling it. It believes it is a power unto itself and micro-controls internally to maintain order (because randomness grows in closed systems - order is a property of open systems). Toxic Impenetratium gathers and pools because it cannot be eliminated. The corporate body and all within it get sick, the toxins increase, people and processes become lethargic, they loose energy, motivation and eventually the will to live.

Leadership is an essential part of the cure for Impemetratium. They do what it takes to keep the Impenetratium moving out of the system and into the universe. They are clearing centers - relationship nodes - which allow the Impenetratium to pass through and out. They go searching (consciously) for corners where Impenetratium may be building up and clear it out (silo's gone bad). They create turbulence, because turbulence is a vacuum cleaner, a whirlpool to move the Impenetratium out. They keep changing so Impenetratium doesn't rest, aggregate on surfaces, clog the arteries like cholesterol. Leaders encourage the personal growth and constructive, positive, playful, creative environments and cultures which are the hallmark of healthy open living systems.

Clearly Impemetratium doesn't exist, but we are all familiar with its effects on individuals, workteams and organisations. We see the signs daily, we know where it has been.

If you have any personal stories of Impentratium which you are willing to share, please contact me.