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Defensive Reasoning PDF
(15 votes, average 4.07 out of 5)
Written by Ashim Gupta   
Thursday, 30 October 2008 05:41

Defensive Reasoning

Most professionals when asked to find flaws or shortcomings in their work often tend to find reasons external to them. Take an example of a typical lessons learnt session of a project, one would hardly listen to any reason that might indicate something that can be improved in inherent way the project is managed or carried out.  The team would point fingers at customers not putting the requirements properly, some other team not fulfilling their dependencies on time and so on.  In a nutshell, a team would blame their managers for not listening to their concerns or for taking decisions autonomously and not taking the team into confidence. The managers would blame their CEOs for setting high and often unrealistic goals and visions. CEOs would blame the board of directors for putting a lot of pressure and pulling all the strings.

Defensive reasoning leads to slow and definitive non-learning organizations which shuns creative energy, what might have been the very essence of the organization’s existence.  

Some of the main causes of defensive reasoning might be

  • Highly successful students & careers – they have rarely suffered embarrassment and failures. In their heart, they do not know how to cope up with failures. They fail to understand that flaws makes us human and it's natural. Such individuals are more likely to end up as individual contributors than team players or leaders. One can blame it on the education system which emphasis on ‘getting things right’ and ‘avoiding mistakes’, isn’t that how students are graded? Even the popular ranking method of annual appraisal is based on similar tenants.
  • The cultural and social differences between eastern and western civilizations also play an important part. The socio-economic reality of east puts a lot more emphasis on results and achievements rather than free and creative thinking promoted by western education system. This factor becomes more prominent in multi-national organizations where employees are from diverse cultural and educational background.

  • Self esteem and high ideals pressurizes them into behaving consistently and performing effectively.  The professional egotism is perhaps like a cancer in an organization, since at best, it serves only the individual and not the system.
  • Performance evaluations are often perceived to have more weighted on failures, thus making cover-up important part of corporate culture. It also encourages adaptive learning, where individuals or groups adjust their behavior relative to fixed goals, policies or visions. Adaptive learning by definition suppresses any creativity since the goal is to adapt to a system than to think out-of-box. Performing for someone else’s approval is a lot of pressure on any individual and perhaps justifies any defensive reasoning.
  • Senior management is not immune to defensive reasoning but rather one of the sources.  The employees often see their superiors’ taking refuge in defensive reasoning, in various meetings, presentations and press conferences.  Subordinates see them using subjective reasoning, in an effort to make their reports look positive and getting by with all of it. The subordinates silently absorbs these patterns of response as part of the corporate culture and system.  Until the senior management become aware of this and realize it’s counter productiveness,  little can be achieved in terms of developing a good organization.
  • Prevalence of subjective reasoning in the culture – is largely due to lack of any substantial data, a contradiction to objective reasoning which is backed by some statistical facts.  Subjective reasoning is self-serving and impossible to for others to validate or contradict.

 

  Possible remedies to treat defensive reasoning in an organization

  • Consciously avoid obvious cover-ups.
  •  Avoid subjective reasoning, instead collect and provide as much of data and statistics.
  • Have good organization strategies to cope with risks and failures.  Some failures are unavoidable but it’s important to analyze and resolve them quickly, minimizing the damage to the business. This is important since such policies encourages creative thinking and reduces the fear of failure.
Comments (7)
  • Eliezer Ladot
    you have a very enlightening exhaustively researched article
  • yusuf basirat
    i won't mind if the references can be sent to my mail.Thanks
  • yusuf basirat  - reference
    godday ,and thank you for the information.i particularly like the concise
    information been given here but i would appreciate it if references are
    included. Thanks
  • Jeanetta Sholar-Amorin  - My Defensive Reasoning Experience
    I have worked along side many people who have displayed some of the defensive
    reasoning causes listed. The two defensive reasoning causes that stands out
    are:

    1. Highly successful students and careers.

    2. Senior management

    These two causes really hinder an organization from moving forward and it keeps
    the organization from working as a team.
  • Calissta  - Keep writting!
    A very clear and useful explanations ! Thank You ..
  • Kathy Peale  - Reality
    :0 I'm finally beginning to understand why we are having so many disconnects at
    the university. I know facts (legal training) but not the organizational
    development theories behind them. I think this is the only way to bring about
    positive change, getting to the core of an issue and making people aware and
    develop ownership to the overall mission of the university. You've been very
    helpful, but now I need to discern how to effectuate this change. I like being a
    "change agent."
  • Ashim Gupta  - Thank You!
    Feedback like these, reinforces my personal conviction that I am doing something
    right and keeps me going. :D
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