Leaders work diligently to achieve congruence within a team and organizational culture. Congruence equals better performance. After all, if more members of the team are alike and behave similarly, we can go farther. Although there is truth in congruence, it also can create resistance. Leaders need to unfreeze congruence and disrupt what is comfortable and similar. When incongruence happens, better team performance can scale to a new level.
Congruence matters because it goes to fit. We need a certain alignment between people, process, and technology to facilitate effective change. Without this alignment, team performance would be problematic. Congruence goes to the team and organizational culture. Beyond culture, congruence ensures the processes support the technology, and the technology supports the processes. If incongruence happens between technology and process, then we experience a mess. Similarly, if team members are always at odds, an added mess multiplies.
Before understanding the value of incongruence, we need to know the value of congruence. Plus, as humans, we want more congruence than incongruence. Who wants to disrupt what we work so hard towards each day?
While we work diligently to keep everything in line, we begin to create insurmountable boundaries. If anyone goes across the line, then they are looked at with near disdain. Likewise, if someone suggests a trend or change seems to be coming, others may think the individual is demonstrating angst or is just out-of-line. Worse, someone says “that will never happen.”
Kodak had a lot of congruence. Blockbuster Video did too. GE probably had too much congruence. When congruence is the primary and paramount objective, innovation and performance eventually suffer. Incongruence calls on team members to think diversely, consider new ways of thinking and acting with new concepts.
When to Unfreeze Congruence
Congruence adds value to team performance. An equal value comes from incongruence. Unfortunately, we spend more time on the first and avoid the second. A balance is necessary. The big question then is: When do we introduce incongruence to our teams?
If you watch mostly news, watch sports. If you eat lunch at the same places and same food, try something different. Remember on Seinfeld when George did everything opposite of what he normally would do? Do this! Flip it. Unfreezing congruence starts with personal routines and habits.
If you work in an industry (e.g., healthcare) for two plus years, when have you dug into a new industry (e.g., retail)? Knowing an industry is a good thing, but only understanding one industry can be limiting. Innovation comes from a broader perspective. With a different industry, it is understanding the changes, innovations, roadblocks, and failures. With this information, identify what applies and what does not. What did you learn that you want to emulate or avoid? What new practices do you need to begin within your current work and in your current industry?
When is the last time one of your “values” changed? Values of trust and integrity should always be consistent and present. Congruence of character is essential. However, values of always organizing teams the same way or always approaching a project the same way are harmful. People change. Situations change. If your “values” are not changing, then you are stuck.
I put values in quotation marks because we have confused values with doing the right things in the right ways. If our values or principles have not changed, then we are doing things and believing things that may no longer be valid or have become dogma. We need to understand how our experiences should change us and the ways we do things.
What values have you changed based on your experiences? If you cannot identify one or two, then it is time for incongruence to challenge your beliefs.
No Prescribed Formula for Team Performance
One team performance formula does not fit all teams. One formula does not stay relevant through time. Congruence is nice, but the changing dynamics of marketplaces are not nice. Incongruence is challenging, and the marketplace shows cracks of incongruence if we take the time to notice. We cannot lead with complete incongruence. However, as leaders, we cannot ignore incongruence. We need to fall off our beam of congruence and learn incongruence before getting up on a new path.
Are you ready to gain performance by leading with a concept of incongruence?