Reading the Mind of the Organization: Connecting the Strategy with the Psychology of the Business

Dr Sandi Mann (University of Central Lancashire, UK)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 May 2000




Mann, S. (2000), "Reading the Mind of the Organization: Connecting the Strategy with the Psychology of the Business", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 168-170.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

My initial scepticism about this text, with its rather vague title, was quickly dissipated within a few chapters of the book. In fact, had the book been titled, “Reading the Culture of the Organization”, I would have embarked on it with a little more enthusiasm since those of us in management seem to be forever seeking the Holy Grail of do‐it‐yourself culture diagnosis. And, this book is indeed about diagnosing culture, a term which Garden uses synonymously with the word “mind”. Culture, mind, climate, whatever the preferred term is – this is the book to help you understand it.

The ten chapters of the book lead the reader through a journey based on three key components of learning to “read” an organization:

  1. 1.

    1 using our innate perceptions (seeing through, rather than just seeing);

  2. 2.

    2 using a psychological perspective; and

  3. 3.

    3 taking account of what Gardner calls the subtle “connections” within organization.

To bring these key components to life (and to aid those of us still not terribly enlightened by the explanations offered thus far), a detailed case study is offered, outlining how the author, a consultant, used the three component approach in “figuring out what happened” in a financial insurance company. While I found the case study interesting and entertaining, it did not leave me with a belief that I could apply the model myself. However, what follows is a lengthy theoretical explanation of a conceptual framework that includes practical checklists and questions in order to enable the reader to more confidently apply theory to practice.

This framework is based on three core areas of “experience” for an organization: inclusion, control and affection. Inclusion refers to the sense that the organization exists within its market‐place and its interactions with customers and clients as well as its corporate identity. Control refers to the organization’s power base, influence and direction. Affection on the other hand is about engaging with others, creating relationships, loyalty, trust and commitment. Reading the mind of the organization, says Gardner, is about being able to understand and diagnose the extent to which these three core areas are developed.

Each of these three core areas is then sub‐divided into two dis‐tinguishing types that organizations can be classified under. For instance, as far as inclusion is concerned, organizations can be either Connoisseur or Populist. Connoisseur organizations are elegant, discreet in terms of logo, have quiet, thoughtful atmospheres, focus on a few things they do well and aim for high quality. Populists, on the other hand, are more brash in their logo and presentation, have bustling atmospheres and believe in variety rather than a few high quality brands. And, just in case the reader is still unsure how to classify the organization they are trying to read, included later on in the book, is a questionnaire to help distinguish the two types.

This approach is repeated for the categories within control and affection so that a unique, innovative and workable diagnosis tool is both explained and provided. Plenty of real‐life case studies and worked examples are used to back up the theory and show how well it works in practice. In fact, one of the highlights of the book for me is the analysis Gardner provides of a print advertisement in which she picks out the words and images that reveal the organization as a Connoisseur or Populist one. Adverts will never quite be the same again!

In summary then, Reading the Mind of the Organization, presents an innovative and exciting way to diagnose the culture of your own or other organizations. It is ideal for management consultants although the somewhat “heavy” text is not really conducive to dipping in and out of; thus, busy managers and those with just a passing interest in organizational culture may find it sits in their briefcase gathering dust. But, for the serious wannabe organi‐zational mind‐readers, this text would be a valuable addition to the bookshelf.

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