Depth of relationship vs intent

At the 2017 Organisation Design Forum conference, Edgar Schein (supported by his son, Peter) shared current thoughts on relationship, primarily in the work context.

“Relationship” was defined as the mutual ability to predict behaviour.

Schein then described different levels of relationships (also referenced in Humble Consulting):

  • Level 0: Stranger
  • Level 1: Role-based, transactional
  • Level 2: Shared history
  • Level 3: Close friends; romantic relationship

The idea was that given knowledge work, as opposed to manual work, requires us to bring more of ourselves to the work, this would suggest that effective work relationships should be at higher levels, potentially trending more toward Level 3. NOTE: I should point out that TPS / Lean encourages shifting manual work more toward knowledge work by engaging people with kaizen.

I thought that there was a missing axis here. It is possible for one to have a deeper relationship (aka a better mutual ability to predict behaviour) without positive intent. In other words, I could have a level 3 relationship with an enemy, otherwise known as a nemesis.

So I envisioned something more like this:

Depth of relationship vs Intent