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Sonja Blignaut


Episode 040 The Myth Of The Dysfunctional System

In this episode, Angie and Haley ask past guests—Benjamin Taylor, Angela Montgomery, Oleg Konovalov, and Sonja Blignaut—to share their thoughts on a quote by Jeff Lawrence. His quote states, “There is no such thing as a dysfunctional organization, because every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it gets.”

Show Notes

Quotes from this episode:

“You have to appreciate why something [a system] is the way it is and how it’s’ learning to do that. And, you have to value what it’s creating and achieving.” - Benjamin Taylor

“If you’re looking at a system and you know what’s wrong, take a deep breath, wait, and see what happens next; see what you learn before you act and I think you might go a lot further.” - Benjamin Taylor

“We can say that an organization is dysfunctional when it works in a way that is not consistent with the goal it is supposed to pursue, so lack of clarity and understanding of the goal could easily produce dysfunctional organizational behavior which means behavior that is not consistent with that goal.” - Angela Montgomery

“What could be perceived as dysfunctional toward a stated goal can actual be extremely functional for a non verbalized one.” - Angela Montgomery

“Many organizations tend to lose their sharply defined goals or directions by rushing into something irrelevant, so wrongly set goals are making them dysfunctional. As a result, they are losing their core functions and abilities. I call this ‘goal perplexity’.” - Oleg Konovalov

“[This quote] perfectly describes how stuck we are in a mechanistic metaphor. We describe a system or a culture as being broken or needing fixing, as if it’s a machine.” - Sonja Blignaut

“We tend to think about self organization as just a positive thing, so we talk about self organizing teams in the agile space, for example. Complex systems or human systems are always self organizing, they may just not be organized in a way that we think is the way that it should be. This is something that we see as dysfunction, but it is something that is serving part of that system.” - Sonja Blignaut


Resources from this episode:

"Dysfunctional Organization: Definition and Cure" by Angela Montgomery

“Techniques to Match Our Values” by Marvin Weisbord



Episode 039 Company Culture: An Emergent And Evolving Phenomenon

In this episode, Angie interviews Sonja Blignaut who is a narrative practitioner, change catalyst, and founder of a niche consultancy called More Beyond. Sonja shares how using a complexity thinking approach to study and influence company culture can help leaders avoid best practice recipes and reach positive organizational change.

Show Notes 

Quotes from this episode:

“The moment we think we know the answer, or even the question, we close down our options to explore and we can no longer find the things that we didn’t know to look for.” - Sonja Blignaut

“Keep a couple of pet mavericks around.” - Dave Snowden

“Hold your plans and outcomes very lightly. Focus on having a clear direction a purpose but not alignment to a specific goal.”- Sonja Blignaut

“In complexity, context is everything, there are no recipes. You really need to understand what the emergent contextual ideas are, and not just come in and apply your best practice recipes.” - Sonja Blignaut

“I believe that culture emerges. It’s not a thing, but an emergent property of a complex adaptive system.” - Sonja Blignaut

“We all have meaning-making skills and we do that through narratives.” - Sonja Blignaut

“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” - Mark Twain

“Always assume a posture of curiousity or not knowing. Be curious. Question assumptions.” - Sonja Blignaut

“Realize, that in complexity, diversity really matters. So, I surround myself with people who have radically different perspective than I do.” - Sonja Blignaut

“Think anew and act anew.” - Abraham Lincoln


Resources from this episode:

"A Leader's Framework for Decision Making" by Dave Snowden