Latent Culture: A Socio-Psychological Perspective
Latent vs. Manifest Culture
Every organization has a latent (hidden) culture that is distinct from its reported or superficially observed and measured manifest culture. The latent culture is causally significant to organizational performance. Essentially, it consists of the hidden motivational structure of the organization, including both the nature of those governing beliefs that operate beneath the surface of awareness (or beyond the pale of discussability) to shape the perceptions, attitudes, emotions and related actions and behavior in the workplace, and the tacit logic of such beliefs , i.e. the cognitive basis of their formation, confirmation, reinforcement, and justification. Here, at the deeper levels of the collective psyche of the organization, is where both the creative and destructive power of the company exists. In companies that fit the profile presented in Exhibit A, the content of the latent culture becomes the impetus of meta-resistance, which is a negative and often passive-aggressive reaction to management, and the various perceptions, attitudes, and counter-productive reactive mechanisms in the workplace that constitute such meta-resistance. Whether the stimulus of creative or destructive forces, the latent culture of the organization is what is essentially running the show.
Conversely, the manifest culture - the "culture" that is typically assessed, measured and worked with by leaders and consultants - has no causal significance to organizational performance. At one level, the manifest culture is merely how the latent culture manifests itself (or shows up) behaviorally in the workplace. At another level it consists of how top-of-mind values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior are generally or non-specifically reported and interpreted by members of the organization when asked, profiled, or surveyed. At both levels, however, what remains unknown is, again, the underlying and specific nature and logic of the governing motives, beliefs, and related psychosocial dynamics at play within the organization that causally account for manifested attitudes and related actions and behavior, and provide the necessary knowledge needed to contextually lead (or interact) within the organization to effectuate the necessary or desired change in the belief structure from the inside-out.
The distinction between resistance to change and a reaction to management alluded to in the first paragraph above is crucial. In the former, anxiety related to change, and the cognitive basis of such anxiety, is the basis of the resistance. Leaders can do much to facilitate change in such cases by effectively managing transition. In the latter, the problem is not with the specific change per se, or with anxiety related to such change, but with a deeply embedded reaction to management. Consequently the more leaders, including new leaders, try to drive the change, the stronger the reaction and resulting resistance becomes (see case studies in the paper "Meta-Strategy for Organizational Change in a 'Reset' Global Economy"). Because of the sui generis nature of meta-resistance, it might or might not be discernable by management, and is often not distinguishable as such. Moreover, by its very nature, meta-resistance is resistant to both self-awareness and admission; a fact that makes subjective, anecdotal reporting of its existence in response to typical "single-loop" inquiry and the instrument-based profiling and assessment of leaders and the culture very likely problematic at least, if not utterly ineffectual.