Organizational Tangles: Use a SCARF to untangle them

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Change, Conflict, Self-awareness, Teams | 0 comments

Tangles Prevent Action

I have a client in an  “organizational tangle,” as Dr. Marcia Ruben titles a business challenge with multiple causes, diverse stakeholders, conflicting agendas, and charged emotions.  We’ve been using a the SCARF model of understanding five motivators to find a way to untangle the situation.

SCARF is an acronym for a relatively new model of human needs developed by David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute (where I’m pursuing certification in NeuroLeadership) based on the last ten years of neuroscience.  It is based in part on the research that the brain feels social pain as intensely as physical pain, and we have more memory of our social pain than physical pain.   Research has also shown that our brains are primed to move away from threat or pain and toward reward or pleasure.   So at work, we are motivated to join in or avoid situations based on five domains that our brains have evolved to value for survival purposes.

These five social drivers described by SCARF are

  • S:  status (our social standing compared to others)
  • C:  certainty (our ability to anticipate, predict, and prepare)
  • A:  autonomy (our sense of control)
  • R:  relatedness (our connection to others – be they friend or foe)
  • F:  fairness (our perception of the equity of a situation)

We’re all different so we have individual SCARF profiles.  There is even an initial assessment so you can discover your rating of the five (although the assessment has yet to be validated.)   Click here if you want to try it.  About 46% of the thousands of people taking the assessment have rated Certainty as their dominant domain, so see how you compare.

My client’s role gives him high status in the organization, which can blind him to the impact of his decisions on the status of others in the organization.  Similarly he has a low need for certainty, having lived an entrepreneurial life with a high tolerance for risk and change, so he didn’t foresee how the uncertainty of the change he implemented would impact his staff. Furthermore, since the change was initiated as a top down process, the staff is struggling with a lack of perceived autonomy.

The research on the SCARF model shows that the domains interact and  improvement in one domain can offset another.  My client has made use of this as a strategy.  He’s been spending a lot more time walking around his facility, talking with people, jumping in to help with even mundane tasks such as emptying recycling bins holding town hall lunches – building an increased sense of relatedness and reducing the status differential.  He’s created a temporary team of volunteers from each department to bring forward everyone’s ideas about how to implement the details of the change – building an increased perception of autonomy.  (And it’s the perception, not the actual control, that is what matters to the brain.)

Using the SCARF model is helping him untangle the tangle.  In the future he will be able to use it in planning so that he has less likelihood of finding himself in an organizational tangle in the first place.

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *