What is the difference between an organization and a CHESS GAME?
The pieces on a chess board have only the rights and powers specified by the rules; all pawns, castles, bishops have exactly the same rights as those of their own kind. Those rules never change. Chess pieces have no personal history or individual emotional baggage, unlike the people who comprise an organization. People have personal goals, needs, and prejudices. They also have memory, experience, past learning. They can gossip, demean others, and steal company goods; they can also take informal leadership to make improvements and cheer up group morale.
People form relationships -- that's the good and bad news.
It makes everything more complicated.
Quote: "I just want to do my job -- but 'people problems' keep getting in the way. Awkward people mess up everything." Small group research shows that more effective work groups need some members who do not focus on "task" alone. Either group leaders must divide their time between attention to task and attention to process facilitation or some group members must act as group process facilitators.
Chess pieces can only follow the directions of the two players, who are all-powerful within the game. Unlike managers, chess players do not have to worry about the loyalty, motivation or private agendas of their chess pieces. Chess pieces have no "baggage" (neither emotional baggage nor the habit of forming mental images, stereotypes and prejudices) and so chess players do not have "people problems". They just "give orders" by moving their pieces.
Players of any game can agree to change the rules (outside of official contests); but pawns, rooks, and even chess queens cannot do that. One player can cheat on the other; but the pieces cannot. In an organization anyone can. That can be considered a "people problem" or, in a learning org. it can be turned into an advantage, harnessing individual initiative towards org. goals.
Although the chess game is not an accurate metaphor for organizational management we still like to use it because we want to think "objectively" and strategically about our org. problems. We use our imaginations to simulate org. situations and we need an experiential metaphor or model.
Competitive team games are often used as model and metaphor for thinking about organizations. Such a model shows collaboration very clearly, especially the individual-team duality and the need for individual members to act in the interests of the team as a whole. Team games also illustrate another key point -- it's not only about "winning". In amateur sports the players want to have a good time too. There can be significant satisfactions in the work and collaboration process, aside from the extrinsic rewards of pay and prizes.
A RE-DESIGNED CHESS GAME
Could we imagine a radically different kind of chess game that would more closely resemble a modern flexible, agile, innovative, learning organization?
What if the chess pieces came to life with the power of deciding when and how to move?
Bishops, pawns, etc. would still move in their traditional patterns for the first trials.
Maybe chaos would ensue for a number of trials but then ...
maybe group leaders would emerge
maybe black and white sides would agree on a new purpose instead of trying to capture the king of the other side.