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Covert Processes In Organizations

An organization is also, in a way, a Being in itself. Just as a human being at the intra-personal level goes through Conscious as well Unconscious processes, an organization also has covert processes. An OD practitioner is often required to analyze an organization. It is often seen in organizational setup that, in a meeting where several different role holders are having a collective meeting, there is much that is communicated by what remains unsaid than by what is openly communicated. This is when the covert processes are active. The OD practitioner must understand that covert processes are behavioral dynamics below the surface that regularly impact human behaviors in the organization and thus impact the systems and processes through the decision making, thereby impacting the goals of the organization.

An OD practitioner who has contracted with the client system to help effect the organizational change, must understand how these hidden factors impact the change process and do the necessary course correcting interventions aligning people as well as processes to bring about the change successfully. In a way, covert processes in the organizations are far more critical than the overt processes, and if not, acknowledged and worked upon, can significantly impact the intended planned change.

Interestingly, the covert elements mushroom on the bedrock of rationality and logic which forms the backbone of organizational existence. Covert processes breed to growth because rationality and logic cannot explain many human processes that run in an organization. OD practitioners must understand that all dimensions of organizational change do not necessarily follow a rational track. Irrationality is a loud and significant characteristic of many critical processes which cannot be ignored by the OD practitioner.

Excessive rationalization which leads to denial is also seen as another reason why covert processes continue to remain in the organization. As mentioned by Edger Schein and Robert Marshak, Reasons are always seen as overt processes whereas Politics, Inspiration, Emotions, Mindset & Psychodynamics are seen as covert processes. These are “Deeply Ingrained Assumptions, Generalizations or even Pictures or Images” that influence how we understand the world (organization) and how we take action (decision). (Senge, 1990). Chris Argyris mentioned that radical organizational change is possible only when covert processes are unearthed, challenged and amended.

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