Kategoriarkiv: Articles

Enlightened organizing

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. The post is part of my exploration of deeper generative orders for organizing.  Other posts are here.

Organizing assumptions
Organizing is based on many different assumptions and beliefs. A dominating one is the positivist belief in a rationally structured world that can be known and acted on by individuals who are capable of rational action and rational language. Technical rationality has been given a key role as a thought style and mode of inquiry. There are, however, other possible beliefs. One example is Dian Marie Hosking’s enlightened organizing, which is relational rather than rational.

Enlightened organizing
Enlightened organizing is based on openness, light structures, and presence:1

  • Openness – A relational view suggests that dialogue offers an alternative to rational action and fixed structures. In dialogue, the emphasis is on ways of relating that open space for co-emergence and improvisation. Dialogue is an open and curious way of relating characterized by:
    • Listening, questioning, and being present.
    • Suspension of one’s certainties and assumptions.
    • Reflexive attention to the ongoing process.
  • Light structures – The idea is to provide enough, but not too much, structure. Light structuring makes space for being in the now. It invites and supports open and coherent unfolding. Structuring is light when it has multiple and variable forms, rather than some singular and stable hierarchy.
  • Presence – Implicit in openness and light structuring is being present in the now. Nowness, listening, and action are connected. Listening is embodied participation. It’s an aspect of participatory thought. Sensing and being with allows space for action. This is not simply a technique graspable by the rational mind.

1 Dian Marie Hosking, Organizing a Buddhist Way. See Peter Case and Hugo Letiche (editors), Belief and Organization (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012), Chapter 5, pp. 69–89.

Learning to see in the dark

Here is Dahr Jamail’s interview with deep ecologist and systems theorist Joanna Macy on Learning to See in the Dark Amid Catastrophe.

Joanna Macy says:

”[…] you can’t do it alone. The dangers coming down on us now are so humongous that it is really beyond an individual mind all by her/him/itself to take it in. We need to sit together, grab each other and be together as we even take in what is happening, let alone how we respond.

[…] I’m doing this work so that when things fall apart, we will not turn on each other. […] And we don’t have to waste time being scared of each other.

[…] We have to help each other wake up to how we are destroying everything we love […] To discover how much we really love being alive. To give ourselves a taste of what that passion is. To let us fall really in love with our planet, and its beauty, and to see that in ourselves, as well as in each other.

[…] Take stock of your strengths and give thanks for what you have, and for the joys you’ve been given. Because that is the fuel. That love for life can act like grace for you to defend life.”

Value-intelligence as organizing order

Value-intelligence within life is related to my interest in organizing principles. I think it’s an example of a deeper generative order for organizing that is present in anything that’s alive. Here are my other posts on organizing.

Skye Hirst, Co-Founder of The Autognomics Institute (TAI), presents here the idea of a Value-Intelligence present in living organisms. Skye Hirst writes (my emphasis in bold):

”… capacities for value-intelligence are operative throughout all living contexts …”

”… anything … alive … is a dynamic organism, and … functions according to similar organizing principles.”

”… we act from assumptions that are formed through our value lenses …”

”[The Hartman Value Profile] … points to the existence of … organizing principles of value-intelligence within life …”

”[The] … inner intelligence does not control; it liberates and frees living entities to find the most effective acts …”

”… there are organizing principles that allow … for all life to be co-creative, self-organizing …”

Skye Hirst introduced me to the Hartman Value Profile in February 2017. It was amazing to experience how quickly Skye helped me to picture my own inner relational realities. I could understand some of how my own value intelligence has developed. And it was immensely helpful to see where I have my own strengths and blindnesses.

Related post:
Book Review: Freedom to Live


Bob Emiliani on Scientific Management and Toyota Management

Bob Emiliani

Bob Emiliani is a professor of Lean Management. Here is his post on the historical parallels between Scientific Management 100 years ago and Toyota Management today.

People flocked to Scientific Management to become consultants. They would then install something similar in appearance to Scientific Management. Soon an efficiency movement was born, which installed dilutions of Scientific Management.

Similarly people became aware of Toyota’s Production System (TPS) in the 1970s. Interestingly, most studied the technical aspects of TPS, but not the human aspects. Soon a small army of consultants started to sell TPS tools. TPS is seen as a production system. Yet, TPS was Toyota’s management system. In 1988, the term Lean production was introduced. This resulted in a huge army of consultants and the Lean movement was born, which implemented dilutions of TPS.

Business leaders are devoted to finding the latest tools that help them achieve short-term gains. Consultants are more than happy to help, regardless of whether the movement is called Lean, Agile, or something else.

Here are Bob Emiliani’s recent blog posts.



Några tankar om regler

I vilken utsträckning följer vi regler, om vi inte måste? Ett villkor är att det är viktigt på riktigt. Och den som avgör det är du!

Ett exempel är trafikregler. Vissa regler följer vi självmant, t.ex. högerregeln. Det handlar ju ytterst om överlevnad. Andra regler, t.ex. hastighetsbegränsningar, kräver åtgärder i form av vägbulor, hastighetskameror och böter för att säkerställa efterlevnaden. Och, handen på hjärtat, hur många gånger har du ökat farten igen efter hastighetskameran?

Ett annat exempel är EU-regler. I den här debatt-artikeln i Ny Teknik, Nr 38, 2016-09-21, tar Fredrick Federley upp att instiftade lagar inte efterlevs. Han skriver att ”VW-skandalen visar på ett systemfel i EU”. Volkswagenfallet är enligt honom bara ”ett av exemplen på när EU inte sett till att implementera beslutade regler”. Federley har en poäng i att om ”beslut inte genomförs … så spelar det fina beslutsmaskineriet knappt någon roll”.

Källa: Ny Teknik, Nr 38, 2016-09-21, s. 20.

Är det kanske så att systemfelet i EU bygger på ett tankefel — en övertro på lagar och regler? Jag tror att tvångsmedel är nödvändiga ibland, t.ex. när människors liv och hälsa står på spel. Men jag ser också en begränsning i hur mycket man egentligen kan styra med regler. Enligt biologerna Humbero Maturana och Francisco Varela kan man inte kan styra ett levande system, bara störa det. Irrelevanta störningar ignoreras. Tvång leder, förr eller senare, till motreaktioner.

Otto Scharmer on absencing vs. presencing

Otto Scharmer

Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT, Professor at Tsinghua University, and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. Here is his article on the watershed moment we have entered after the American presidential election. Scharmer writes:

”We have entered a watershed moment not only here in America, but also globally. It’s a moment that could help us wake up … or a moment when we could spiral down into chaos … Whether it’s one or the other depends on our capacity to become aware of our collective blind spot.”

”Summing up, the blind spot at issue here concerns the dominant paradigms of thought that have legitimized the economic, political, and [cultural-]spiritual divides  …”

The key takeaway, for me, is that we concsiously have to choose which way to take at this crossroads. The choice is between the cycles of absencing or presencing:

  • ”The cycle of absencing: denying, de-sensing, blaming, and destroying (closing the mind, heart, will).”
  • ”The cycle of presencing: seeing, sensing, crystallizing, and co-creating (opening the mind, heart, will).”

Related post:
Organizing retrospective 16

George Lakoff on Big Lies and Truth

George Lakoff

George Lakoff is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is a longtime researcher in linguistics and cognitive science. Here is an article on American politics, in which he gives advice on how to deal with Big Lies, and how to communicate Truth. George Lakoff writes:

Direct vs. systemic causation
“Direct causation is easy to understand, and appears to be represented in the grammars of all languages … Systematic causation is more complex and is not represented in the grammar of any language.”

Worldviews vs. languages
“Language that fits that worldview activates that worldview, strengthening it, while turning off the other worldview and weakening it.”

Unconscious vs. conscious thought
“… most of thought … is unconscious. Conscious thought is the tip of the iceberg.”

Manipulation of unconscious thought
“… unconscious normal brain mechanisms are manipulated by …

  1. Repetition …
  2. Framing …
  3. Well-known examples …
  4. Grammar …
  5. Conventional metaphorical thought …
  6. … metaphor and metonymy …”

Big Lies
“… Big Lies repeated over and over are being believed …”

“… unconscious thought … shapes conscious thought via unconscious framing and commonplace conceptual metaphors.”

Communicating Truths
“Understanding how people really think can be used to communicate truths, not Big Lies …”

“First, don’t think of an elephant. Remember not to repeat false … claims and then rebut them with … facts. Instead, go positive. Give a truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use … facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition.”

“Second, start with values, not policies and facts and numbers. Say what you believe, but haven’t been saying.”

“Third, keep out of nasty exchanges and attacks. … Calmness and empathy in the face of fury are powerful. … Be prepared. You have to … stand calmly …”

Related post:
Organizing retrospective 16

Wheatley & Kellner-Rogers on the future of organizing

Here is an article from July/August 1996 on The Irresistible Future of Organizing by Margaret J. Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers. They write:

”Organizations-as-machines is a 17th century notion … Three hundred years later, we still serach for ”tools and techniques” …”

”The tension of our times is that we want our organizations to behave as living systems, but we only know how to treat them as machines.”

”It is time to change the way we think about organizations. Organizations are living systems. All living systems have the capacity to self-organize … They organize … themselves … withouut any externally imposed plan or direction.”

”… change is the organizing force … Structures and solutions are temporary. … Leaders emerge from the needs of the moment. … Experimentation is the norm.”

”… self-organization is not a new phenomenon. It has been difficult to observe only because we weren’t interested in observing it.”

”… as we describe organizations as living systms rather than as machines, self-organization becomes a primary concept …”

”Order is the unique ability of living systems to organize …”

”The [living] system organizes itself.”

”Synchronized behavior emerges without orchestrated planning.”

”… the conditions that create organization are … focus … connections … information … and … collective purpose …”

”Organizations assume different forms, but … emerge from … similar conditions. … shared meaning develops. … relationships take form. Information is noticed, interpreted, transformed. ”

”All organizing efforts begins with an intent, a belief that something … is possible …”

”… we create worlds based on the meaning we invest in the information we choose to notice.”

”… we primarily use information that is already in us to make sense of something new.”

”Information from the outside only perturbes a system, it never functions as objective instructions.”

”You can never direct a living system, you can only disturb it.” (—Maturana & Varela)

”… every organizing effort … needs to begins by exploring and clarifying the intention and desires of its members.”

”… clarity [about purpose] frees people to contibute in creative and diverse ways.”

”Clear alignment around principles and purposes allows for maximum autonomy.”

”Structures … come and go, but an organization with a coherent center is able to sustain itself …”

”Information lies at the heart of life. Life uses information to organize itself into material form.”

”Information is a difference which makes a difference.” (—Gregory Bateson)

”Information is that which changes us.” (—Stafford Beer)

”Information that flows openly through an organization … is the nutrient of self-organization.”

”Only when information belongs to everyone can people organize rapidly and effectively …”

”When information is available everywhere, different people see different things.”

”… it is information — unplanned, uncontrolled, abundant, superflous — that creates the conditions for the emergence of fast, well-integrated, effective responses.”

”Through relationships, information is created and transformed …”

”The more access people have to one another, the more possibilities there are. Without connections, nothing happens.”

”… people … need to be free to reach anywhere in the organization to accomplisy work.”

”… many of the behaviors we fear in one another dissipate in the presence of good relationships.”

”… self-organization is not new … it just takes different eyes to see it.”

”Self-organization has been going on all the time, but our attention has been diverted to perfecting the controls and mechanisms that we thought were making work happen.”

”The problems we see in organizations are artifacts of much deeper dynamics … If we inquire at this deeper level, if we can inquire into the dynamic heart of organizing, both the problem and the solution will be discovered.”

”If self-organization already exists in organizations — if people are naturally self-organizing — then the challenge … is how to create the conditions that more effectively support this capacity.”

”The path of self-organization can never be known ahead of time. There are no prescribed stages or models.”

”The road is your footsteps, nothing else.” —Machados

”Plans do emerge, but locally, from responses to needs and contingencies.”

”This is not an easy shift, changing one’s model of the way the world organizes.”

Organization is a process of continous organizing.

The limits of automation

Here is an article on Robots Will Replace Doctors, Lawyers, and Other Professionals by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind in Harward Business Review, October 11, 2016.

They ”expect that within decades the traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most, but not all, professionals to be replaced by less-expert people, new types of experts, and high-performing systems.”

They write it’s an empirical position to claim ”that computers are incapable of exercising judgment or being creative or empathetic, and that these capabilities are indispensable in the delivery of professional service.”

Well, maybe not?

Roger Penrose argues strongly in his book Shadows of the Mind that mind cannot be described in any kind of computational or algorithmic terms. If Penrose is right, then matters which requires understanding and other qualities, such as moral judgments, lie — in principle — beyond the capabilities of automation.

Diane Musho Hamilton on exploring truth in all points

dianemushohamiltonHere is an article1 by Diane Musho Hamilton where she comments on the US presidential election 2016. Hamilton writes (my emphasis in bold):

… because [truth] … is fragmented, our interiors feel fragmented. When it becomes so difficult to find the truth, we start to allow crude and reductive discourse to limit our own minds. We let our capacity for complexity be reduced. And we start to become adversarial, … refusing to conduct ourselves with compassion.

In the midst of this wild and aggressive discourse, we have to work even harder to see into what other people are wanting and needing. This is essential—because if we don’t understand more deeply, we aren’t going to be able to affect the process positively, let alone, the outcomes.”

Things get even more disorienting when we confuse limits to behavior with limits to our thinking. We do have to draw boundaries around behaviors that threaten our safety and oppress others, but we don’t have to draw limits around our curiosity or willingness to try on another point of view more deeply.

By bringing our curiosity forward we can increase our creative potential for working with others. Instead of letting ourselves become adversaries (because we all know where that goes), we can choose to humble ourselves and lead with a question: How do we promote change in service of growth and higher levels of understanding?

1 Diane Musho Hamilton, The Truth of Trump—Every Perspective is True and Partial, LinkedIn, 2016-03-30, (accessed 2016-09-21).

Tamsin Woolley-Barker on deep patterns in life

Tamsin Woolley-Barker is an author and evolutionary biologist. She looks for the deep patterns in life. Here is an article1 where Tamsin Woolley-Barke writes:

Organizations can’t keep growing the way we structure them today.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with hierarchies. In fact, nature uses them all the time—to stop change from happening. … Hierarchies are important and useful. But they aren’t the right structures for adapting to change …

Superorganisms … have been networked for a very long time.

Team performance emerges in real-time … Superorganisms break large, complex problems into tiny bites of action, building until tipping points are reached and change is triggered. There are no forecasts, budgets, meetings, or plans. There is no boss. Strategy happens organically, all the time, everywhere, and decisions are frequent, small, and imperfect.

If you want your company to change and grow, nimbly and continuously, … what you need is a living thing.

1 Tamsin Woolley-Barker, Want to build an organization that lasts? Create a superorganism, The Biomimicry Institute, 2016-03-25 (accessed 2016-09-16).

När livet står på spel och tillvaron rubbas

”Jag har arbetat i mer än trettio år och jag är djupt oroad över det som sker … Det finns otaliga exempel på beprövad erfarenhet … som visar på vad som är väsentligt då livet står på spel och tillvaron rubbas. … Det är inte individuella diagnoser … som är det primära. Det väsentliga handlar om … att vara omgiven av andra människor … Om betydelsen av att vara behövd, att ha en plats och att räknas med.”
—Carina Håkansson1

1 Carina Håkansson, Det är något som inte stämmer, Göterbors-Posten 2016-08-31.

Elisabet Sahtouris on living systems

Elisabet Sahtouris asks in this talk (my emphasis in bold):1

Why is it that our culture, which is made up of people who are alive (so presumably we are a living system), knows so little about living systems? […] And yet we pretend to understand life. […] if we as human beings don’t understand ourselves as living systems within larger living systems, on which we’re dependent, we aren’t going to make it in this game. […] we seriously and disastrously disrespected life. What is it that so makes us disrespect each other and all of life?

1 Elisabet Sahtouris, Living Systems, the Internet and the Human Future, talk presented 2000-05-13 at Planetwork, Global Ecology and Information Technology a conference held at the San Francisco Presidio, (accessed 2016-09-01).

David Bohm on ecology, organization, thinking, dialogue, and wholeness

David Bohm on ecology, organization, thinking, dialogue, and wholeness:1

… the ecology in itself is not a problem. It works perfectly well by itself. Its due to us, right?

The earth is one household really, but we are not treating it that way …

… the more you made society big and you had organization, and you had to get to the top, and people on the bottom would suffer. … it’s a mistake.

So the first thing we have to do, in the long run, is to look at our way of thinking …

Now, that means that people have to participate, to make a cooperative effort, to have a dialogue, a real dialogue …

… wholeness is a kind of attitude or approach to the whole of life. It’s a way. If we can have a coherent approach to reality then reality will respond coherently to us.

1 Wholeness: A Coherent Approach to Reality – David Bohm | Creative by Nature (2014-10-01) (accessed 2016-08-20).

Overview of organizing orders

This is a post in my series on organizing  ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The series is inspired by David Bohm’s and F. David Peat’s notion of ”the order between and beyond”.1 I wrote in the 1st post that organizing ”beyond” is a ”deeper order” of organizing which transcends the compromises in ”existing orders”. And I identified a number of questions in the 2nd post which gives a direction to the search for a ”deeper order.” The purpose with this post is to start the exploration.

Let’s see what organizing ”orders”2 we can find. Let’s see how they are entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible. And, finally, let’s also see what other clues to a ”deeper order” we can find. The focus for now is on getting an overview.

What we are interested in, as a first step, is to identify existing ”orders” of organizing. Many different frameworks, approaches and conceptions have been developed over the years. The challenge is that these approaches cannot be thought of as being well-defined organizing ”orders.” However, they all contain leadership/followership and individual/collective decision making in one way or another. The following table shows some examples (unsorted).

Organizing Idea Sources Descriptions
Centralization & Decentralization Book:
Ori Brafman, Rod Beckstrom,
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.
The authors compare centralization (spiders) with decentralization (starfishes) and describes how the leadership is different between these organizational setups. I think the title is somewhat misleading since decentralized ”leaderless” organizations do have leaders.
Leadership & Followership Book:
Mark Van Vugt,
Why Some People Lead, Why Others Follow and Why it Matters.
The author lists a number of STOP strategies to overcome the powerful leader: Gossip and ridicule, Public meetings, Replacing leaders, Disobedience or rebellion, Desertion, and Assassination.
Spiral Dynamics Book:
Don Edward Beck, Christopher Cowan,
Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change.
Spiral Dynamics is an evolutionary human development model.
Teal Book:
Frederic Laloux,
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness.
The author describes different organizational paradigms which are identified by the colors Red, Amber, Orange, Green, and Teal. Holacracy is used as an example of Teal. My own impression is that Holacracy is neither Teal, nor Green, but is Orange. My arguments are here.
Cynefin Dave Snowden The Cynefin framework has five domains: Obvious, the relationship between cause and effect is obvious; Complicated, the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis; Complex, the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect; Chaotic, there is no relationship between cause and effect; Disorder, the state of not knowing what type of causality exists.
Chaordic Book:
Dee Hock,
Birth of the Chaordic Age.
A chaordic organization blends characteristics of chaos and order.
Agile The Agile Manifesto The Agile Manifesto is based on twelve principles.
Lean Lean is centered on making obvious what adds value by reducing everything else. The term was coined in 1988. Taiichi Ohno, the man behind the Toyta Production System, unequivocally warned against using any kind of label. See also John Seddon on lean.
Open Space Technology Book:
Owen, Harrison,
A brief user’s guide to Open Space Technology.
OST is an approach to purpose-driven leadership, which is based on five principles and one law: 1) Whoever comes is the right people; 2) Whenever it starts is the right time; 3) Wherever it is, is the right place; 4) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, be prepared to be surprised!; 5) When it’s over, it’s over (within this session). The Law of two feet is descriptive rather than prescriptive.
Theory U Otto Scharmer Theory U has come to be understood 1) as a framework; 2) as a method for leading change; and 3) as a way of being. Leading from the Future as It Emerges: Tapping Our Collective Capacity; Illuminating the Blind Spot; Leadership Capacities. 1) Holding the space of listening; 2) Observing; 3) Sensing; 4) Presencing; 5) Crystalizing; 6) Prototyping; 7) Performing.
Democracy Democracy is government by the people; especially rule of the majority.
Organizational Democracy WorldBlu WorldBlu has put together ten principles of organizational democracy: 1) Purpose & Vision; 2) Transparency; 3) Dialogue + Listening; 4) Fairness + Dignity; 5) Accountability; 6) Individual + Collective; 7) Choice; 8) Integrity; 9) Decentralization; 10) Reflection + Evaluation.
Quaker Decision Making Book:
Michael J. Sheeran,
Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends.
There are a number of factors characteristic of Quaker decision making: Unanimous decisions, no voting; Silent periods at start of meeting and when conflict arises; Moratorium when agreement cannot be reached; Participation by all with ideas on the subject; Learning to listen, not going to meeting with mind made up; Absence of leaders, the clerk steers but does not dominate; Nobody outranks anybody; Factual-focus, emotions kept to a minimum; and Small meetings, typically limited numbers.
Sociocracy Book:
Gerard Endenburg,
Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making.
The ”equivalence” of each individual is very important to the author. Policy decisions are made by consent. All roles are elected by consent. The Operations Leader manages day-to-day operations (most often) autocratically within established policies. The organizational structure is a hierarchy of circles. The circle decides and measures results. The operating idea is cybernetics. Here is my post on ”the way of seeing” in sociocracy.
Holacracy Book:
Brian J. Robertson,
Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy.
The author’s aim is to harness the sensing power of the human consciousness available to the organization. People are sensors for the organization and have a basic responsibility to act as role fillers. Role and soul are separated. The Rep Link, Facilitator, and Secretary are elected roles. The Lead Link is not an elected role. The Lead Link assigns other Roles. Roles have exclusive day-to-day control of Domains. The power is in the process. The organizational structure is a holarchy, a term coined by Arthur Koestler. Here is my comparison between Holacracy and Sociocracy.
Wirearchy E-book:
Jon Husband et al., i.e.,
The Wirearchy Commons,
Wirearchy: Sketches for the Future of Work.
Wirearchy is an emergent organizing principle based on: Knowledge, which is shared freely; Trust, which emerges through transparency and authenticity; Credibility, which is earned through collective intelligence and developed through active questioning of all assumptions; and Value-creation, which is enabled through collaboration and cooperation, including the furthest possible distribution of authority. The term wirearchy was coined by Jon Husband in 1999.
Holonomics Book:
Simon Robinson, Maria Moraes Robinson,
Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter.
The authors place the business within the overall ecosystem of the biosphere. Holonomics is a combination of ‘holos’ (the whole) and economics. Holonomic thinking doesn’t replace mechanistic thinking or systems thinking but expands the thinking. The business is no longer seen as separate from people and nature. A key insight from is that our thinking is an intimate part of our seeing, and vice versa.
Biomimicry Article:
Tamsin Woolley-Barker,
Want to build an organization that lasts? Create a superorganism.
The author proposes that if you want your organization to change and grow, what you need is a living thing. There’s nothing wrong with hierarchies, nature uses them all the time — to stop change from happening. In nature there are no forecasts, budgets, meetings, or plans. There is no boss. Strategy happens organically, all the time, everywhere, and decisions are frequent, small, and imperfect.
The Art of Convening Book:
Craig & Patricia Neal
with Cynthia Wold,
The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations.
Convening is the art of gathering and holding people, in a safe and generative space, for the sake of authentic engagement. Steps are: 1) At the Heart of the Matter; 2) Clarifying Intent; 3) The Invitation; 4) Setting Context; 5) Creating the Container; 6) Hearing All Voices; 7) Essential Conversation; 8) Creation; 9) Commitment to Action.
Orpheus Principles for Collective Leadership Book:
Harvey Seifter & Peter Economy,
Leadership Ensemble: Lessons in Collaboration Management from the World’s Only Conductorless Orchestra
The authors describe the eight core principles used by the Orpheus Conductorless Orchestra to consistently bring out the best in each musician: 1) Put power in the hands of the people doing the work; 2) Encourage individual responsibility; 3) Create clarity of roles; 4) Share and rotate leadership; 5) Foster horizontal teamwork; 6) Learn to listen, learn to talk; 7) Seek consensus (and build creative structures that favor consensus); 8) Dedicate passionately to your mission. Metaphor: The leader as concertmaster (the first among equals).
The Circle Way Book:
Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea,
The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair.
In circle, ancient ways of distributing leadership and responsibility are remembered. Leading from every chair means calling on the capacity for leadership from everyone in the circle. Everyone is accountable to everyone else as peers, and to the intention of the circle.
The Three Principles The Three Principles are defined as: Mind—The energy and intelligence of all life; Consciousness—The gift of awareness; Thought—The creative agent we use to direct us through life.
Voice Dialogue Books:
Hal & Sidra Stone.
The energetics of relationship enables people to work directly with the interpersonal and intrapsychic life.
Thrivability Book:
Michelle Holliday,
The Age of Thrivability: Vital Perspectives and Practices for a Better World.
The author presents the core patterns of living systems in a variety of contexts. The point is that the underlying conditions for living systems to thrive are the same conditions needed for an organization to thrive. The following four basic patterns are universally present across organizations and communities: 1) Divergent Parts (Individual People); 2) Patterns of Relationship (Connective Infrastructure); 3) Convergent Wholeness (Shared Identity & Purpose); and 4) Self-integration.
The Art of Action Book:
Stephen Bungay,
The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results.
The author defines principles which enable organizations to realize their goals in complex, uncertain, and changing environments. Summary of arguments: We have limited knowledge and independent wills; We should not plan beyond the circumstances we can foresee; We should strive to make choices about what is most important to achieve; We need to make sure others understand what we are trying to achieve and why, to explain what we are doing and check back with others, to have necessary resources, to take independent decisions and actions, to adapt our actions according to our best judgment.
Living Attentively Book:
Emma Kidd,
First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively.
The author encourages us to fully notice life by paying acute attention to the ways in which we see, think and act, every day. At the root of everything we create is the mind that created it, including the organizations in which we work and the societies in which we live.
ISO 9000 ISO The ISO 9000 quality management systems help organizations ensure that they meet customers/stakeholder needs and related product requirements. At least, that’s the claim. ISO 9000 includes eight management principles upon which the family of standards is based.
CMMI CMMI Institute CMMI is a process improvement training and appraisal program. CMMI has three maturity levels for processes: Initial, Managed and Defined.
PSP/TSP Watts Humphrey The PSP/TSP was created by Watts Humphrey to apply the underlying principles of the CMM. I used to be an authorized PSP trainer and a certified TSP coach and will write a separate post about my experiences.
Living Structure Christopher Alexander Christopher Alexander says that there is something we objectively can call ‘living structure.’  My hypothesis is that there is a ‘living structure’ in organizations as well. I have written about it here and need to explore this further. Here is my review of Christopher Alexander’s book The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth: A Struggle Between Two World-Systems.
Viable Systems Model Book:
Stafford Beer,
Brain of the Firm.
The Viable System Model is a model of the organizational structure of any autonomous system capable of producing itself. One of the prime features of systems that survive is that they are adaptable.
Systems View of Life Book:
Fritjof Capra, Pier Luigi Luisi,
The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision.
The authors integrate ideas, models, and theories underlying the systems view of life into a single coherent framework. Key concepts such as autopoiesis, dissipative structures, social networks, and a systemic understanding of evolution are examined. The implications for health care, management, and global crises are also discussed.
Governing Common Pool Resources Book:
Elinor Ostrom,
Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action.
Common pool problems are sometimes solved by voluntary organizations rather than by a coercive state. The author provides empirical data to explore conditions under which common pool resource problems have been satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily solved.
 Process View of Organization Book:
Tor Hernes,
A Process Theory of Organization.
The author draws upon process thinking in a number of areas and hows how actors operate in an on-going present in which they draw upon their past and project their past as ambitions for the future. A key construct of the book is that of events, which provide force, movement, and continuity to organizational life. The author assumes process is constitutive of the world.
Conversations in Organizations Book:
Patricia Shaw,
Changing Conversations in Organizations: A Complexity Approach to Change.
The author invites us to stay in the movement of communicating, learning and organizing. The assumption is that conversation itself is the key process through which forms of organizing are dynamically sustained and changed.
Conversations for Action Book:
Fernando Flores,
Maria Flores Letelier (Editor),
Conversations for Action and Collected Essays: Instilling a Culture of Commitment in Working Relationships
The essays offer a framework for developing more effective, productive relationships in any context where a person must coordinate with others to make something happen and to create something of value. Commitments are made and spaces are opened up when people engage in conversations.
Play Peter Gray Play is self-chosen and self-directed; intrinsically motivated — means are more valued than ends; guided by mental rules, but the rules leave room for creativity, imaginative; conducted in an alert, active, but relatively non-stressed frame of mind; identified in nonhuman animals.
Integral Management Book:
Lasse Ramquist,
Mats Eriksson,
Integral Management.
The authors describe hwo to make a company come together as one team. It can only happen by mobilizing the brains and hearts of each and every person within the company.
OpenSpace Agility Book:
Daniel Mezick,
Deborah Pontes,
Harold Shinsato,
Louise Kold-Taylor,
Mark Sheffield,
The OpenSpace Agility Handbook
OpenSpace Agility (OSA) incorporates invitation, Open Space Technology, game mechanics, storytelling, and more. OSA can be used together with other framworks and practices.
Organize for Complexity Book:
Niels Pflaeging,
Organize for Complexity: How to get life back into work to build the high-performance organization.
This is a book about complexity and work. The author provides an introduction to the theory and practice of organizational high performance.
Future Fit Book:
Giles Hutchins,
Future Fit.
Future Fit is a response to the inter-related challenges which face our enteprises. The book is full of insights and examples.
Open Participatory Organizations Bonnitta Roy Bonnitta Roy proposes this manifesto for open participatory organizations: 1) Access over reciprocity; 2) Participation over commitment and consistency; 3) Reputation over social proof; 4) Legitimacy over authority; 5) Connectivity over liking; 6) Abundance over scarcity.
To be continued…

When analyzing the approaches in the table above, the notion of ”information”3 becomes important. And ”misinformation”4 becomes particularly problematic! As an example, Taiichi Ohno, the man behind the Toyota Production System unequivocally warned against using any kind of label on grounds that people then would view it as a ready-made package.5 He counseled, never codify method, because it is the thinking that is the key. This means that the label Lean, in itself, is misinformation. And the same is true for Agile, which has become an arena for consultants and vendors. Another example of misinformation is Holacracy’s use of the term holarchy,6 a term coined by Arthur Koestler.7 Holacracy is said to abolish the hierarchy, while a holarchy, according to Koestler, is a hierarchy. Identifying misinformation is very time consuming but necessary. Furthermore, an approach may not only generate ”misinformation,” but might also be misinformed, which is why ”active questioning of all assumptions including our own” is important.8

Another step in the analysis is to identify how the various approaches are entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible. An example is how Holacracy is entwined with Sociocracy.9 Another example is the incompatibility between value and method in Sociocracy. There is a strong emphasis on ”equivalence” in Sociocracy,10 while the ”equivalence” at the same time is limited to decision-making on ”operating limits” only.11 A third example is the incompatibility between Holacracy, where the power is in the process,12 and Agile, which values individuals and interactions over processes and tools.13

A third step in the analysis is to look at the history of the approaches to understand how the thinking has evolved. This can be particularly valuable and revealing. An example is Sociocracy, which not only is influenced by cybernetics,14 but also by how Quakers make unanimous decisions.15 Another example is Holacracy’s patent application from 2007,16 which gives insight into the historical development of Holacracy and its relation to Sociocracy. The patent application was subsequently abandoned. Sociocracy is prior art. These are just a few examples. Again, the focus is on getting an overview. The analysis will require considerable time and creative energy.

Here is the next post in the series. Here are all posts.

1 David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity (Routledge, 2010-09-01, first published 1987-10-01), p. 275.
2 The notion of ”order” is from David Bohm and F. David Peat. Bohm and Peat explore the meanings and implications of ”order”. They try to deepen and extend the understanding, rather than making a definition or exhaustive analysis. Ibid., p. 98.
3 Bohm and Peat introduce the notion of ”active information,” which is important in explaining generative orders. Ibid., p. 80.
4 Bohm and Peat view ”misinformation” as ”pollution”. Ibid., p. 249.
5 John Seddon, Freedom from Command & Control (Vanguard Consulting Ltd., 2nd ed. 2005), p. 149.
6 The type of structure used for organizations in Holacracy is not a traditional hierarchy, but a ”holarchy.” See Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015), p. 38.
7 Arthur Koestler defined a holon as a node in a hierarchic tree which behaves partly as wholes or wholly as parts, and a holarchy as a hierarchy of holons. See Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine, (Last Century Media, 1982, first published 1967), pp. 48, 103, 348.
8 Jon Husband et al., The Wirearchy Commons, Wirearchy: Sketches for the Future of Work pp. 5–6.
9 See my comparison of Holacracy vs. Sociocracy.
10 Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making, (Eburon, 1998), pp. 44, 49, 143, 167.
11 Ibid., p. 23.
12 Brian Robertson emphasizes that ”rules and processes reign supreme” in Holacracy. See Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015), p. 21.
13 Agile values ”Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. See the Agile Manifesto.
14 The engineering perspective is strong in Sociocracy. The way of seeing is the engineer’s. The operating idea is cybernetics. I have written about it here.
15 Michael J. Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless decisions in the Religious Society of Friends.
16 See Brian Robertson’s patent application Pub. No. US2009/006113 A1. The patent application was filed in 2007, became public in 2009, and was subsequently abandoned.

Revision history:

Date Comments
2016-07-29 First draft published.
2016-07-30 Table updated. Information section added.
2016-07-31 Table updated (additions). Sections updated and titles changed. Notes added.
2016-08-01 Table updated (additions). Taiichi Ohno’s name added. Minor changes in the text.
2016-08-06 Table updated (additions). Notes updated.
2016-08-07 Table updated (addition).
2016-10-03 Table updated (addition).
2016-10-21 Table updated (additions).
2016-11-01 Table updated (additions).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Bioteams obliterate permission structures

Here is a post by Doug Kirkpatrick where he reviews Ken Thompson’s book Bioteams: High Performance Teams Based on Natures Most Successful Designs. Thompson notes that bioteams obliterate permission structures, which are so common in traditional organizations. Accountability is instead a natural consequence of the transparency and reliance on reputation in bioteaming.

Is sociocracy agile?

Decision Making Systems Matter is an interesting article by Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, and Hendrik Esser, with Anders Ivarsson as additional contributor. The article is funded by the Agile Alliance and is a Supporting Agile Adoption publication. The authors describe how combining ”Agile with ideas from Sociocracy provides … a way to create alignment between Agile ecosystems and the business needs of strong leadership and a clear hierarchy”.1 The article gives excellent insights into sociocracy and is well worth reading! Pieter van der Meché has over 20 years of experience in sociocracy.2

Pictures from the article (from left to right): Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, and Hendrik Esser.

The assumptions in the article are 1) that ”a clear hierarchy and strong leadership” are required to achieve ”speed and control (coordination)” and 2) that ”policies … ensure alignment”.3 My question is whether ”strong hierarchical leadership and strong participatory [policy] decision making”4 contributes to agility? It’s possible, of course, that agreements on policies — which are defined as ”general agreements on the what, when, how and who”5 — can increase the speed. But a strong focus on policies can also become rigid. It’s as if sociocracy, for the sake of control, values policies and following a plan — the ”what, when, how, and who” — over responding to change.6

While a sociocratic organization certainly values individuals and interactions, it’s also policy-driven, which easily leads to a focus on process-discipline.7 Sociocratic leadership is furthermore ”conductor-like”.8 The idea is that you as the leader should coordinate (control) your team like ”a conductor of an orchestra”.9 It’s self-evident that you as a strong hierarchical leader value control over participation. What if the team can coordinate itself? (Here is an example of collaborative leadership in a conductorless orchestra.) And what if the challenge isn’t primarily to ensure ”alignment throughout the hierarchy”10 but to nurture collaboration throughout the organization?11

So, is sociocracy agile? I’d say no. It depends, of course, on what you mean by agile. My impression is that sociocracy values policies and control over people and collaboration. While there is value in the latter, sociocracy values the first more.12And, yes, decision making systems matter! But why limit participatory decision making to policy decisions only?13 It’s as if sociocracy doesn’t take the full consequences of participatory decision making.

1 Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, Hendrik Esser, and Anders Ivarsson (contributor), Decision Making Systems Matter (The Agile Alliance, 2016), p. 1 (accessed 2016-07-20).
2 Ibid., p. 14.
3 Ibid., p. 7.
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid..
6 Agile values ”responding to change over following a plan”. See the Agile Manifesto. There are similarities between sociocratic policies (what, when, how and who) and plans.
7 Agile also values ”Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. See the Agile Manifesto. The focus on policies easily leads to a focus on process-discipline, i.e., define the policies and processes (albeit in a participatory way!) and make sure people follow them.
8 Pieter van der Meché, Jens Coldewey, Hendrik Esser, and Anders Ivarsson (contributor), Decision Making Systems Matter (The Agile Alliance, 2016), p. 8 (accessed 2016-07-20).
9 Ibid..
10 Ibid., p. 10.
11 It’s an Agile principle that business people and development teams must work together daily. See the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto.
12 This is a paraphrase of the Agile Manifesto. The crucial question here is which values are given precedence over others.
13 Elections of people to roles and responsibilities are allocations of resources and thus policy decisions. See The three principles in Sociocracy, Wikipedia (accessed 2016-08-02).

2016-07-24: Pictures of authors added. Questions added. Text and notes updated.
2016-07-26: Questions updated. Text updated. Related post added.
2016-08-01: Middle section split into two parts.
2016-08-02: Note added. Minor changes in the text.

Related posts:
Principles for collaborative leadership
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Jaron Lanier on cybernetic totalism

Jaron Lanier writes in One-Half of a Manifesto that the dogma he objects to ”is composed of a set of interlocking beliefs and doesn’t have a generally accepted overarching name as yet, though I sometimes call it ”cybernetic totalism.” It has the potential to transform human experience more powerfully than any prior ideology, religion, or political system ever has, partly because it can be so pleasing to the mind, at least initially, but mostly because it gets a free ride on the overwhelmingly powerful technologies that happen to be created by people who are, to a large degree, true believers.” These are the interlocking beliefs of ”cybernetic totalism”:

  1. Cybernetic patterns of information provide the ultimate and best way to understand reality.
  2. People are no more than cybernetic patterns.
  3. Subjective experience either doesn’t exist, or is unimportant.
  4. Darwinian like evolution is believed to be the singular, superior description of all creativity and culture.
  5. Qualitative as well as quantitative aspects of information systems are expected to be inexorably accelerated by Moore’s law.
  6. Biology and physics will merge with computer science. When that happens it will be either impossible or something very different to be a human. If that happens, the ideology of cybernetic totalists could cause suffering for millions of people.

Cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems

Here is how Elisabet Sahtouris defines ecosophy and why she thinks that cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems:

… I give the word ‘ecosophy’ (oikos + sophia = oikosophia) the meaning it would have had in ancient Greece, had it come into use there:

Ecosophy: wisely run household of human affairs
or, even more simply:
Wise Society 1

Cybernetics is an advanced form of mechanism, but it is still [a] mechanism, which I consider a poor metaphor for any living system – a metaphor missing the system’s very essence.

… elites have learned to control society by deliberately working to construct society itself as machinery, and teach people that it is machinery… That does not mean that psyche, society and nature are machinery!

… it is not possible from my perspective to promote an ecosophy in terms of cybernetic mechanics.

… Mechanism and organism are created and function by completely different kinds of logic. 2

1 Elisabet Sathouris, Ecosophy: Nature’s Guide to a Better World, Kosmos Journal, Summer 2014 (accessed 26 April 2016).
2 Ibid..

Related post:
Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking