Enterprise Transformation

A Pragmatic Approach Using POET


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The Stanford Prison Experiment

This infamous experiment studied the psychological effects a prison setting could have on behaviour. In 1971, a mock prison was constructed in the basement of the psychology building of Stanford University and 24 male students were randomly selected to play the role of either a prisoner or prison guard for two weeks. The students adapted to their roles a little too well, becoming aggressive to the point of inflicting psychological torture. Even psychology professor Philip Zimbardo, who acted as superintendent of the experiment, proved susceptible to its effects by allowing the abuse to continue. The study was called off after only six days due to its intensity, but it proved that situations could provoke certain behaviours, in spite of an individual’s natural tendencies.


Although outlawed in every Enterprise, bullying is still rife within Enterprises worldwide.

Bullying in this context relates to the abuse of power over rational thinking.

It is also related to forcing people to do things or work in ways that they know to be wrong or inefficient. This usually goes hand in hand with blaming the same individuals for the problems that arise.

Hiding Information / Problems

This behaviour usually occurs at management levels and prevents bad news from being transported up the food chain.

It is usually the troops on the ground that can sense things going wrong first. This is usually the first sign that a project is going wrong in some way. What can happen is that these messages can get diluted the further up the food chain they go and sometimes don’t make the leap at all.

Management can feel threatened as they may not understand what the troops are telling them. Management can also feel that reporting bad news to their superiors will reflect badly on them as they are ultimately Accountable for the work carried out by the people who report to them. Having started to hide or not communicate things, it can be difficult if not impossible to then begin reporting as things get progressively worse for fear of being asked “Why didn’t you report this three months ago when it first started going wrong?” a phrase that I am sure many of us have heard over the years.

 “The physics definition of power is 'The ability to do work'; many social definitions of power are more like 'The ability to avoid work'. Therein lie many practical problems…”

- Tom Graves


Questions to ponder...

Do people in your Enterprise abuse power?

Can you think of examples where this has happened in the past?

Who were they? What was the impact? Why do you think they acted in this way?

What needs to change to reduce the likelihood of it happening in the future?

Who needs to drive that change?

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