Balancing Action and Reflection in Organizational Life

Posted by Matthew Thomas

Recently, I’ve found myself linking a number of people to a free Design Group International resource, The Tao of Action-Reflection. (You can get it yourself by clicking on the button below.)

Tao of action-reflection, primer on process

matthew-thomas-2The Tao of Action-Reflection describes the need for balance between doing and thinking in any group enterprise. Many times, organizations with long-term dysfunctions operate more in one of those spaces than the other, and then will periodically switch to the opposite – with disastrous results. Pendulums may be good for clocks, but they are pretty rough on entities trying to get things done.

The two imbalances between action and reflection are often seen as follows:

Shut-rut: often shows up as “Ready-Fire-Aim.” Repeating the same ineffective action without digging in to why it is ineffective, and then responding to the why.

Analysis Paralysis: often shows up as endless discussion that gets nowhere, sometimes punctuated by a shut-rut solution when a real emergency comes up. There is an institutionalized fear of taking action or even just a quiet refusal.

Check out our brief e-book on the topic and see how your group, or enterprise operates and responds. You might just see its way of thinking (or former way of thinking) in the examples. And we’d love to help as you discover how to break free from the old patterns.

Tao of action-reflection, primer on process


Groups behave differently based on where they are in their life cycle. Check out these posts on what happens in an entity's later years:

The Organizational Retirement Mindset and its Implications

Turning the Organizational Retirement Mindset on its Head


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Topics: Organizational Transformation, organizational systems