Congruence is a concept that describes the human experience of alignment between the internal and external–what is thought and felt (the internal), and what is said and how it is said (the external).
In order to operate congruently in the world, you need to take into account three general factors: self (the internal world), other (the immediate external world of people), and context (the larger external world of things, structures, processes, laws, and cultures).
- Self: You must consider your own needs and capabilities. Suppose you are a manager who doesn’t trust anyone else’s judgment, so you try to attend every technical meeting. Doing this, you’re likely to overload all your available time, and then be unable to do the managerial job, nor to make real technical contributions in any case.
- Other: You must consider the needs and capabilities of other people. For instance, if you are a programmer who refuses to be bothered to write readable code, then testing and maintenance of your code will be a great burden, if not an impossibility.
- Context: You must consider the reality of the context in which you are operating. For instance, if you are a manager who insists on sticking with an old design that no longer has the capacity to handle the task, your project may be doomed no matter how hard everyone works. Or, if you are a manager in a start-up company and spend money as if the company had a billion-dollar cash balance, your organization may be out of business before its software product is ready for market.
Congruence is integrity at the most basic level and thus has immense value to a project and each individual in it. Without integrity, we cannot build trust; without trust, we don’t feel safe; without safety we have a hard time being congruent. Thus, congruence reinforces congruence in a powerful loop which improves the chances of producing a quality product, on time, and within budget.
On the other hand, the same loop causes incongruence to reinforce incongruence. If a project is allowed to ride such a downward spiral, the integrity of information is destroyed. Soon it becomes impossible for anyone to know what is really happening. Such projects invariably fail, and when they fail, they are invariably found to have been keeping two sets of “books.” Their external picture is not congruent with their internal picture, and they die. Or worse yet, live forever–the living dead.