Kategoriarkiv: Organization

Organizing reflection 25

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
It’s not ok to sell, to buy—or to rent—human beings.

Today’s reflection is based on David Ellerman‘s arguments against the rental of human beings at the Abolish Human Rentals website. (The contents of the website are also available as an ebook., which is compiled by Daniel Trusca.) This site examines the standard employment relationship, the human rental, and seeks to promote an understanding of the problems associated with it. The abolition of human rentals is a profound idea, which has revolutionary implications. David Ellerman writes (my emphasis in bold):

Inalienable rights are based on the already broadly held principle of the non-transferability of responsibility for one’s actions. That principle, taken to its logical conclusion, means the rental of humans have no more legitimacy than their sale. The issue is not one of coercion, willfully choosing to be rented, or the treatment and compensation of workers. Humans cannot choose to be rented for the same reason people cannot choose to sell themselves into slavery or sell their vote, regardless of their consent or how much they are paid.

The alternative to human rentals is universal self employment in democratically managed worker owned businesses, or worker cooperatives. Workplace democracy eliminates the alienation of decision making power, and worker ownership means workers appropriate any resulting profits or losses, thus bearing financial responsibility for their actions.

Human rentals involves two key features.

The first aspect is the agreement to follow orders within terms of the rental. … The rented person must obey, or risk being fired.

The second aspect of a human rental is the transfer of responsibility for the actions of the person while at work. The most obvious is the transfer of responsibility for any profit or loss that results from the worker’s actions.

Since the abolition of slavery, humans ownership has been banned. People are no longer allowed to sell their labor by the lifetime. Instead they must rent themselves temporarily for a salary or wage.

The inalienability of personal responsibility is the foundation of the abolitionist argument from which all else follows. … The legal system clearly recognized this principle in the prosecution of crimes. All participants in a crime are held responsible. The law does not excuse a hired criminal because they were following orders.

The inalienability of responsibility for ones actions does not disappear when a crime is not being committed. It holds in all cases where human action is involved. In particular it applies to productive labor. However, the legal system pretends otherwise… It allows financial responsibility for profits or losses resulting from labor to be contractually transferred violating a principle it readily acknowledges in the commission of a crime.

Isolated individuals can rarely overcome a system, organization is necessary. The employment system has demonstrated a remarkable robustness in insuring human rentals remain the dominant form of labor exchange.

Progressive change is inherently a bottom up activity. It involves people getting together to discuss common problems, coming to mutual decisions, and taking action. It requires building trust and relationships, both time consuming activities. …

It is not rugged individualism which solves problems, but cooperation between people which provides the solution. …

Parallel approaches are essential, because they cater to the different assessments and abilities of individual participants. Organizing efforts can and should take place simultaneously on different fronts.

The point is that the best solution is not known. There are promising directions in the current environment, but circumstances change. History can only provide so much of a guide. Creativity and experimentation in the organizing process is a necessity.

In the end education and awareness are necessary but not sufficient, structural change is also needed. The structure of work and the employment system must be fundamentally changed.

There are many steps that can be taken to abolish human rentals. By analogy one can think of appropriate actions if we were seeking to abolish slavery.

Advocacy on this issue carries significant risk and the need for mutual support is essential. Efforts to provide support and build a viable alternative should not be neglected.

Worker Cooperatives are democratically run, worker-owned businesses. They are the alternative to the … alienating employment system, involving collaborative self-employment by groups of individuals.

While technically trivial to implement, the transaction is simple it is unlikely to happen. The primary reason this won’t spontaneously take place is that equity holders are unlikely to be willing sellers at the net asset value. It would be the equivalent of slave owners spontaneously deciding to free their slaves.1

Generative organizing involves people getting together to discuss common problems, coming to mutual decisions, and taking action. It requires building trust and relationships. Creativity and experimentation are necessary.

Notes:
1 David Ellerman, Abolish Human Rentals | Support Worker Cooperatives (accessed 2018-08-18).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 21

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
Today’s reflection is inspired by this and this post by Michelle Holliday (@thrivability).

Michelle writes (my emphasis in bold):

It usually takes more than action to generate and support change. …

We need to reconnect with what matters. We need to rediscover our place in the whole of life. …

Ultimately, what we need is to find the collective will to cultivate life’s ability to thrive … in every sphere of society. …

The outgoing worldview has been dominated by persuasion and even coercion, “driving” and “incentivizing” change.

Cultivating thrivability is not a discrete item on your to-do list; it’s an ongoing life practice…

Everything comes down to our ability to acknowledge and celebrate the precious gift of aliveness, source of our kinship with all existence.

It is through a sense of place … that we connect with the generative dimension of life most directly.1

Michelle also writes (my emphasis in bold):

Beyond specific techniques or the latest management fads, then, thrivability calls for a conscious commitment to nurturing life. It asks us to recognize the life in our organization—acknowledging that the organization isn’t something we can fully manage and control, but that our role is as stewards and participants, creating fertile conditions for life to flow and thrive across the fullness of the organizational ecosystem and beyond. —

For individual organizations, the lesson seems to be: get on in whatever way you can… Keep moving forward. … Adjust your speed and direction until you find the flow. And you will find it.2

Generative organizing calls for a conscious commitment to creating fertile conditions for life to flow and thrive accross our organizational ecosystems and beyond. It’s about reconnecting with what really matters, acknowledging the precious gift of life itself. It’s about finding and staying in the flow.

Notes:
1 Michelle Holliday, Beyond Best Practices—How to Listen for Generative Threads of Aliveness in Stories of What Works | Medium, 2018-08-13 (accessed 2018-08-14).
2 Michelle Holliday, Lessons from Amsterdam | Medium, 2018-08-14 [first published 2013-10-31] (accessed 2018-08-14).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 20

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
Today’s reflection is a continuation of this and this reflection.

The discussion about Open Space Organizations continues in the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList). I find it most interesting.

Harrison Owen wrote August 11, 2018 (my emphasis in bold):

I think we save lots of time and energy when we are sensitive to what is already present and try to enhance or enable it… as opposed to starting from scratch. … Certainly they [clients] might have formal meetings, issue memos, emails etc – but in the “crunch time” (American for serious talk) they would “huddle up.” Which is just another word for forming a circle. Really effective organizations (High Performing Systems) simply bypass the formal stuff and get right to the circle. We can help them do that.1

Generative organizing bypass “formal stuff” and happens in the “crunch time” when people “huddle up.”

Notes:
1 This is from Harrison Owen’s mail 2018-08-11 21:27 UTC to the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList).

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 19

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
In today’s reflection, I combine thoughts and ideas from Harrison Owen and Rachel Naomi Remen. Rachel’s two books—Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings—are about opening space in our lives. I’m currently reading both of Rachel’s books.

This is also a continuation of this reflection. There’s an ongoing discussion about Open Space Organizations in the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList) which I find interesting.

Harrison Owen wrote August 10, 2018 (my emphasis in bold):

By my reckoning – All organizations are (already) Open Space organizations… they are just doing it very badly. Premise is that self organization has been the operative force with ALL systems for roughly 13.7 billion years. … And to play an old song: Open Space is not a method, technique, procedure – it is simply a remembrance of who and what we really are.1

Rachel Naomi Remen speaks to who and what we already are (my emphasis in bold):

The power to repair the world is already in you.2

Often … we may have ideas about life that keep us from experiencing what we already have.3

In befriending life, we do not make things happen according to our own design. We uncover something that is already happening in us and around us and create conditions that enable it.4

Everything is moving toward its place of wholeness. Befriending life requires that we listen for that potential which is trying to actualize itself over time.5

It is not about mastering life, controlling it or exerting our will over it, no matter how well intentioned our will may be.6

It means listening to life from the place in us that is connected to the wholeness around us. The place in us that is also whole.7

Generative organizing is about uncovering what is already happening in and around us, creating conditions that enable it. It requires listening for the potential which is trying to actualize itself. It means listening to life from the place in us that is whole and connected to the wholeness around us.

Notes:
1 This is from Harrison Owen’s mail 2018-08-10 20:38 UTC to the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList).
2 Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging (Riverhead Books, 2001, Kindle Edition), Loc 323.
3 Ibid., Loc 349.
4 Ibid., Loc 2759.
5 Ibid., Loc 2760.
6 Ibid., Loc 2763.
7 Ibid., Loc 2765.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing reflection 16

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to reflect on subjects occupying my mind. I make no claim to fully believe what I write. Neither do I pretend that others have not already thought or written about the same subject. More often than not, I take up, combine, and add to already existing thoughts and ideas.

What is on my mind?
Today’s reflection is based on Harrison Owen’s mail to the World wide Open Space Technology email list (OSList) yesterday.

Harrison Owen is one of my favorite authors. (Here is my review of his book The Spirit of Leadership. I also write about his book Wave Rider in this retrospective.)

The following is an excerpt from Tales from Open Space. The text is written by Loyd Kepferle and Karen Main. They write (my formatting and emphasis in bold):

One might assume that an organization doing business in an open space mode would accomplish little. That does not seem to be the reality, for Open Space frames the total operation, and internally there is an appropriate alternation between open exploration of new opportunities and pre-determined, structured responses to known situations.  …

The main idea … is that ”People who care most passionately about a problem or opportunity have the RIGHT and the RESPONSIBILITY to do something about it”. This basic idea supersedes all notions of a hierarchical organizational structure …

There are only five constraints on this model of personal empowerment:
1. When a problem or opportunity is to be discussed, there must be wide notification of the meeting time and place so anyone who is interested can attend.
2. Proposed solutions/ideas must be broadcast widely …
3. Proposed solutions cannot be hurtful to anyone else.
4. Proposed solutions should channel our limited resources in such a way as to have maximum impact on achieving our goal.
5. Accomplishing the work for which we were hired takes precedence over our group work. However, if the RIGHT people (those who really care) are involved in any topic, they will find a way to make sure their work is completed and the work of the group is brought to a successful conclusion.

There are NO CONSTRAINTS on the following:
1. Who can call a meeting.
2. The type of problem or opportunity that is being addressed.
3. The availability of time to have a meeting.
4. Who may attend a meeting.
5. The availability of information necessary for a group to work.

Open Space assumes a consensual process will be observed by the ad hoc groups that form and that all ideas will be considered respectfully by the people in the group.  … The ad hoc group may choose to modify its plans based on feedback.

While we believe this is a good way to develop a truly successful organization, it is an approach to organizational behavior which is fraught with insecurity which, in the short run, may produce fear, anger and frustration. It will take a long time for those of us who have lived in hierarchical and paternalistic organizations to believe we are really empowered.

We … recognize this philosophy is somewhat revolutionary and will be uncomfortable for all of us some of the time. But we also believe people do their best when they are empowered to control the conditions that affect them. We also think that solutions which are imposed on people rather than generated by the people who are affected are doomed to failure.1

In short, open space enables generative organizing. Generative organizing requires open space. The generative organizing ceases as soon as the space closes.

Notes:
1 This is a story about the use of Open Space at The University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health by Loyd Kepferle and Karen Main. See Harrison Owen (Editor), Tales from Open Space (Abbott Publishing, 1995), Chapter VI, pp.39–43. This book (and many other publications) can be downloaded for free from openspaceworld.com.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

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.

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

Bonnitta Roy on an open architecture for self-organization

Bonnitta Roy describes in An Open Architecture for Self-Organization how to ”to distribute management responsibilities into self-organizing teams, without losing strategic performance”. She calls this ”The Open Participatory Organization”, or OPO for short. The governance of an OPO is CriSP, or ”continually regenerating it’s starting position”. This means that the form of the organization ”takes on the shape that best fits the current conditions and contexts”.

The OPO is built on ”locations”, which are occupied by teams. Locations ”co-evolve with the teams and people that occupy them”. The locations are ”performance-objective-value” zones, where:

  • The performance ”is an emergent outcome of the collaborative interaction of its members”.
  • The objectives ”emerge from the role-identities of its members”.
  • The values ”are an emergent outcome of the intentional-motivational states of the members”.

Bonnitta Roy distinguishes between two types of ”performance-objective-value” zones, core and network.

  • All ”key operations of the company” take place in the core zones. The core zones are ”where the value of the company is generated”.
  • All other operations that are ”necessary and sufficient for the company to sustain itself, develop, improve, and thrive” take place in the network zones.  The network zones are ”responsible for the exchange of resources in the organization”. Network zones are delineated into four major classifications: ”Access, Adaptation, Support and Incubation”.

Locations exist at different scales in the organization:

  • Organization, e.g., ”Vision, Mission and Values”.
  • Core & Network Zones, where each zone has a ”performance-objective-value” set that is common to all teams in the zone.
  • Teams, where each team has its own ”performance-objective-value” set.
  • Individuals, where each team member specifies their individual ”performance-objective-value” set.

The OPO distributes ”disciplinary power throught the network through a participatory governance”. Strategic choices are based on ”involved participation with what is actually the case, not on conversations limited to official scripts … and irrelevant abstractions”.

Related post:
Bonnitta Roy on how self-organization happens

Bonnitta Roy on how self-organization happens

Bonnitta Roy writes in How Self-Organization Happens … and why you can trust it on Medium.com that

Self-organization = Intention x Identity x Interaction.

Here is a summary of Bonnitta Roy’s article.

Intention
Values drive all organizational life
. Our thoughts are constantly floating on waves of shifting intention-motivational states, or value-streams. These value-streams create waves of thoughts and actions. There is no way to insulate oneself from these value-streams.

Furthermore, It’s easy to confuse official scripts for the value-streams, which are more precise than the abstractions commonly used to represent organizational life. The value-streams reflect what is most relevant and real. They surface the information needed when making decisions or solving problems.

Identities
Identities emerge from negotiating values
. We constantly size up each other and negotiate our power relations. We naturally fall into our roles, which are identities we assume in order to distribute the physical, cognitive, or psychic energy load required to fulfill our values (needs).

We are beginning to see how to allow for flexible identities and creative role-playing. Over time, a group of people with fixed roles can transform into a real team where roles and identities are in creative interplay, and outcomes are novel and emergent.

The challenge is that we are not used to letting go of old identities. This is probably because we have lived our lives inside institutions where role-identities represent authoritarian and disciplinary power. The roles and identities that people would want to perform need to emerge.

Interaction
Trust supports interaction
. Trust cultivate the capacity to be with what is human and natural and real in organizational life. Trust is an outcome of being allowed to show up as we actually are, as we actually feel, with our actual dreams and fears. Trust is all about allowing what is actually happening, rather than what should be or is demanded to be.

We might be able to limit bodily behavior, but we cannot control internal thoughts. We might be able to constrain conversations to official roles and scripts, but we cannot constrain the unofficial conversations people share. We might be able to constrain actions to normative standards by using disciplinary power, but we will never be able to eliminate deviant activities that result from those constraints.

People intuitively know what is relevant in the moment, even if they have trouble communicating it. An honest response of how one feels about a decision often gets deeper to the root solution than a rational argument. The relevant content of what is actually happening need to inform decision-making and responsive action taking.

Related post:
Bonnitta Roy on an open architecture for self-organization

Ralph Stacey on rule-following

Ralph Stacey writes that we have to think of global organizational order as continually emerging in myriad local interactions,1 and that it is highly simplistic to think of human beings as rule-following beings.2 In our acting, we may take account of rules but can hardly be said to blindly follow them.3

The essential and distinctive characteristic of human beings is that we are conscious and self-conscious beings capable of emotion, spontaneity, imagination, fantasy and creative action. We are essentially reflexive and reflective.4 We do not interact blindly according to mechanistic rules, but engage in meaningful communicative interaction with each other.5 We establish power relations between ourselves.6 And we also exercise at least some degree of choice as to how we will respond to the actions of others.7 In addition, we use tools and technologies to accomplish what we choose to do.8

This means that consciousness, self-consciousness, reflection and reflexivity, creativity, imagination and fantasy, communication, meaning, power, choice, evaluation, tool use and sociality should explicitly be brought to any interpretation, as regards human beings.9

Notes:
1 Patricia Shaw and Ralph Stacey (editors), Experiencing Risk, Spontaneity and Improvisation in Organizational Change: Working live, (Routledge, 2006), p. 125.
2 Ibid., p. 126.
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid..
9 Ibid..

Related post:
Ralph Stacey on beliefs

Principles for making organizations work

John Gottman writes about what successful relationships look like and how to strengthen them in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work together with Nan Silver. Below is a summary of Bob Marshall’s adaptation of these principles to organizations:

  1. Enhancing “Love Maps”. Flourishing organizations are familiar with their peoples’ worlds and needs.
  2. Nurture Fondness And Admiration. In flourishing organizations people respect each other and have a general positive view of each other.
  3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead Of Away. Flourishing organizations have more goodwill and positivity stored in their ”emotional bank accounts,” so when rough times hit, their emotional savings cushion conflicts and stressors.
  4. Invite Colleagues To Influence You. Flourishing organizations are places where people consider each other’s perspective and feelings, make decisions together, and search out common ground.
  5. Solve solvable problems. Soften your startup. Make and receive “repair attempts”. Soothe yourself and then each other.  Compromise. It’s important to take each other’s thoughts and feelings into consideration, and to be tolerant of one other’s faults.
  6. Overcome Gridlock. Flourishing organizations believe in the importance of everyone – the organization included – helping each other attend to their needs. Try  to remove the hurt so the problem stops being a source of great pain.
  7. Create Shared Meaning. Flourishing organizations create a community culture that attends to everyone’s needs. In being open to each other’s perspectives and opinions, flourishing organizations naturally thrive.

Taylorism in Druckerian clothes

Gianpiero Petriglieri argues that Technology Is Not Threatening Our Humanity — We Are in the 30 October 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review. Petriglieri writes that while ”technology often augments leaders’ power … it is humanity that keeps power in check”, and that ”we would do well to revisit a fierce debate that shaped one of the most widespread technologies of the last century—management”.

Frederick Taylor had the view that ”the function of managers was to increase efficiency and maximize their enterprises’ returns”, while Peter Drucker had ”a humanistic view of managers’ function in the enterprise”. Petriglieri warns us that once ”all we care about is efficiency, and humanism is reduced to a matter of style, the real threat comes from the smart machines that we have become, not from those we will build”. If ”humanism is a strategy for … instrumental aims” then ”all we are left with is Taylorism in Druckerian clothes”.

Book Review: Team of Teams

Teams of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Stanley McChrystal, with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell, is a book about the restructuring of the Joint Special Operations Task Force from the ground up. The book is built upon the authors ”personal experiences”, together with their ”reviews” of ”published studies” and ”interviews” with ”experts in a wide variety of fields” (p. 5). The authors ”lay out the symptoms”, the ”root causes”, and the ”approaches” that they and others have found effective (p. 5). I think the book contains a useful blend of practical and theoretical knowledge.

Volatililty
The authors describe in detail throughout the book how they restructured the Task Force ”from the ground up on principles of extremely transparent information sharing … and decentralized decision-making authority”. In short, how the Task Force became ”a team of teams” (p. 20). The Task Force was an ”awesome machine”, but it was ”too slow, too static, and too specialized” to deal with its volatile environment (p. 81). Key to the necessary transformation was to understand what made the ”constituent teams adaptable, and how this differed from the structure and culture” of the Task Force at large (p. 92).

Trust & Purpose
The teams in the Task Force are forged ”methodically and deliberately” (p. 94). The purpose of the training is to ”build superteams” (p. 96). The training is all about ”developing trust and the ability to adapt within a small group” (p. 97). This is done because ”teams whose members know one another deeply perform better” (p. 98). Teams which are ”fused by trust and purpose” are much more potent, and ”can improvise a coordinated response to dynamic, real-time developments” (p. 98). ”Team members tackling complex environments must all grasp the team’s situation and overarching purpose” (p. 99). The physical hardship during the training “is a test, not of strength, but of commitment” (p. 99). Furthermore, “failure is always punished” (p. 97). The trainees who make it through the training ”believe in the cause” (p. 100), and are prepared “placing their lives at risk … alongside committed patriots” (p. 100).

Oneness & Adaptivity
The competitive advantage of teams is “their ability to think and act as a seamless unit” (p. 105). This is sometimes called “joint cognition” (p. 105). The point is that “a thorough integration of minds … can unlock far more complex solutions than a set of individual thinkers” (p. 105). Great teams are more like “awesome organisms” than “awesome machines” (p. 120). However, the challenge is that the larger the organization gets, the “harder it is for it to think and act as one” (p. 124). Team dynamics are “powerful but delicate” (p. 127), and teams are “much trickier to build and maintain than we like to think” (p. 127). Accomplishing a true “team of teams” involved “a complete reversal of the conventional approach to information sharing, delineation of roles, decision-making authority, and leadership” (p. 131).

Information Sharing
The transformation of the Task Force “demanded the adoption of extreme transparency” in order to provide “every team with an unobstructed, constantly up-to-date view of the rest of the organization” (p. 163). The critical first step was to share the “information widely” and be generous with “people and resources” (p. 167). The thinking was that the value of the “information and the power that came with it were greater the more it was shared” (p. 167). The “Operations & Intelligence brief” became the “heart muscle of the organism” and the “pulse by which it would live or die” (p. 164). The O&I, as it was commonly called, was a daily meeting “held by the leadership … to integrate everything the command is doing with everything it knows” (p. 164). Over time, the O&I began to “develop its own gravitational pull as more and more groups recognized what the speed and transparency … could offer” (p. 167). Individual and organizational “arrogance manifested itself in subtle ways as people tried to assert or maintain their preeminence”, but “eventually people either produced or faded in importance” (p. 166).

Relationships
Information sharing was just a start. The next step was to strengthen the relationships “among the Task Force’s internal teams”, and between “the Task Force and the partner agencies” (p. 180). Slowly, “personal relationships” and “bonds of trust” grew between the teams (pp. 175—177). “Bonds of trust began to form” and “began to overcome internal competition and barriers to cooperation” (p. 180). The “new architecture” consisted of “extreme participatory transparency” and the “creation of strong internal connectivity across teams” (p. 197). Paradoxically, the “seemingly instantaneous communications … slowed rather than accelerated decision making” (p. 202).

Decision-making
The practice of relaying decision up and down the chain of command is based on “the assumption … that the cost of the delay is less than the cost of the errors produced by removing a supervisor” (p. 209). In reality, “the risks of acting too slowly were higher than the risks of letting competent people make judgment calls” (p. 209). Authority was pushed down “until it made us uncomfortable” (p. 214). On the whole, this initiative “met with tremendous success” (p. 214). “More important, and more surprising, we found that, even as speed increased and we pushed authority further down, the quality of decisions actually went up” (p. 214). One reason for this was that “an individual who makes a decision becomes more invested in its outcome” (p. 215). Another reason was that “leadership simply did not understand what was happening on the ground as thoroughly as the people who were there” (p. 215). “Individuals and teams closest to the problem, armed with unprecedented levels of insights from across the network, offer the best ability to decide and act decisively” (p. 219).

Leadership
The role of the senior leader changed. The role “was no longer that of [a] controlling puppet master, but rather that of an empathetic crafter of culture” (p. 222). The focus shifted to “shaping the ecosystem” (p. 226). “Thinking out loud” and openly admitting “I don’t know” was “accepted, even appreciated” (p. 229). “Asking for opinions and advice showed respect”. The “overall message reinforced by the O&I was that we have a problem that only we can understand and solve” (p. 229). “A leader’s words matter, but actions ultimately do more to reinforce or undermine the implementation of a team of teams” (p. 232).

Conclusions
The authors emphasize that “there is no such thing as an organizational panacea—the details will always be different for different people, places, and objectives—but” they ”believe that” their ”model provides a good blueprint” (p. 249). I think something really important has to be at stake in order to be able to turn an organization into a team of teams. I also think you need to have true teams in place, and not just teams in name. The way of forging teams described in the book is extreme to say the least. And I think the role of senior leadership can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing if senior leadership really understands—and accepts—the central tenets outlined in the book. It’s a curse if senior leadership doesn’t, because then the team of teams will be turned into a “command of teams”, or just an old-fashioned “command” (p. 129). The book is well worth reading!

S. McChrystal, T. Collins, D. Silverman, & C. Fussell, Team of Teams, p. 129.

Related book review:
The Art of Action by Stephen Bungay

Dee Hock on control

Life is not about control. It’s not about getting. It’s not about having. It’s not about knowing. It’s not even about being. Life is eternal, perpetual becoming, or it is nothing. Becoming is not a thing to be known, commanded, or controlled. It is a magnificent, mysterious odyssey to be experienced.1

… I have long puzzled where mechanistic organizational concepts originated, and why we are so blind to their reality. Their genesis reaches back to Aristotle, Plato, and even beyond. However, it was primarily Newtonian science and Cartesian philosophy that fathered those concepts, giving rise to the machine metaphor. That metaphor has since dominated our thinking, the nature of our organizations, and the structure of industrial society to a degree few fully realize.2

For nearly three centuries we have worked diligently to structure society in accordance with that concept, believing that with ever more reductionist scientific knowledge, ever more specialization, ever more technology, ever more efficiency, ever more linear education, ever more rules and regulations, ever more hierarchal command and control, we could learn to engineer organizations in which we could pull a lever at one place, get a precise result at another, and know with certainty which lever to pull or for which result. Never mind that human beings must be made to behave as cogs and wheels in the process.3

The first and paramount responsibility of anyone who purports to manage is to manage self—one’s own integrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words, and acts. It is a never-ending, difficult, oft-shunned task. The reason is not complicated. It is ignored precisely because it is incredibly more difficult than prescribing and controlling the behavior of others.4

Everyone is a born leader. Who can deny that from the moment of birth they were leading parents, siblings, and companions? Watch a baby cry and the parents jump. We were all leaders until we were sent to school to be commanded, controlled, and taught to do likewise.5

People are not “things” to be manipulated, labeled, boxed, bought and sold. Above all else, they are not “human resources.” We are entire human beings, containing the whole of the evolving universe. We must examine the concept of superior and subordinate with increasing skepticism. We must examine the concept of management and labor with new beliefs. We must examine the concept of leader and follower with new perspectives. Above all else, we must examine the nature of organizations that demand such distinctions with new consciousness.6

Only in a harmonious, oscillating dance of both competition and cooperation can the extremes of control and chaos be avoided and peaceful, constructive societal order be found.7

In organizations of the future, it will be much more important to have a clear sense of purpose and sound principles within which many specific, short-term objectives can be quickly achieved, than a long-range plan with fixed, measurable objectives. Such plans often lead to futile attempts to control events to make them fit the plan, rather than understanding events so as to advance by all means in the desired direction.8

In organizations of the future the centuries-old effort to eliminate judgment and intuition, art if you will, from the conduct of institutions will change. Organizations have too long aped the traditional mechanistic, military model wherein obedience to orders is paramount and individual behavior or independent thinking frowned upon, if not altogether forbidden. In organizations of the future it will be necessary to have people in every position capable of discernment, of making fine judgments and acting sensibly upon them. The industrial age trend toward stultifying, degrading, rote work that gradually reduces people to the compliant, subordinate behavior one expects from a well-trained horse will not continue.9

It extends far beyond a factory worker on an assembly line. Vast white-collar bureaucracies exist everywhere, with mountains of procedures manuals depressing minds, avalanches of directives burying judgment, forests of reports obscuring perception, floods of studies inundating initiative, oceans of committees submerging responsibility and drowning decisions. You know what I mean. You have endlessly suffered through it and, worse yet, may be inflicting it on others. It has created a society of people alienated from their work and from the organizations in which they are enmeshed. Far too much ingenuity, effort, and intelligence go into circumventing the mindless, sticky web of rules and regulations by which people are needlessly bound.10

Notes:
1 Dee Hock, One From Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization, (Berrett-Koehler, 2005), p. 7.
2 Ibid., p. 37.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid., p. 48.
5 Ibid., p. 55.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid., p. 226.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid., p. 227.
10 Ibid.

Related posts:
Dee Hock in his own words
Dee Hock on rules
Agile software development in the 1970s

Chris Corrigan on self-organization

Here are quotes of Chris Corrigan from an email to the World wide Open Space Technology email list September 1, 2015. (My highlights in bold.)

Self organization works by a combination of attractors and boundaries.  Attractors are things that draw components of a system towards themselves (gravity wells, a pile of money left on the ground, an invitation).  Boundaries (or constraints) are barriers that constrain the elements in a system (an atmosphere, the edges of an island, the number of syllables in a haiku)

Working together, attractors and boundaries define order where otherwise there is chaos. We can be intentional about some of these, but not all of them. Within complex systems, attractors and constraints create the conditions to enable emergence.  What emerges isn’t always desirable and is never predictable, but it has the property of being new and different from any of the individual elements within the system.

Related posts:
Harrison Owen on control
What if control is inappropriate?
Pre-conditions for self-organization
Self-organization is the real operating system
Emergence is simply what life does
Empowerment is a red herring
Pre-conditions for self-organization
What if the organization is a living system?
Facilitating an Open Space
How to enable and sustain self-organization
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology

Harrison Owen on control

Here are quotes of Harrison Owen from an email to the World wide Open Space Technology email list August 30, 2015. (My highlights in bold.)

It has taken me a lifetime of living. But. I have learned two things, or maybe better, come to two conclusions. 1) All Systems are open. 2) All systems are self organizing.

All Systems are Open is a complicated way of saying that everything is connected, including all the things that aren’t really a “thing,” which we don’t even know about. The net result is an infinite complexity which is completely unthinkable. And what you can’t think, you surely can’t control. So much for THAT vain hope.

All Systems are self Organizing — I know of no way of actually proving this one, but it does seem a natural concomitant of the first conclusion. If you find yourself in an infinitely complex and interconnected environment, where nobody is, or can be, in control, such systems as are there, must have pretty well gotten themselves together all by themselves. … the systems around us, including those we think we organized, have a source other than our selves.

Life under the conditions described above (Open, Self Organizing Systems) can seem a little peculiar to some people, but it is not so much irrational as different. Certain “strange” things always seem to happen. For example, Whoever comes are the right people, whatever happens is the only thing that could have, wherever it happens is the right place, whenever it happens is the right time, and when it is over it is over. Always works out that way, so I’ve found.

… the truth of the matter is that doing less always seems to accomplish a great deal more. That said, there is one thing that we really have to do. Follow the Law of Two Feet! Strange sort of law which says – If ever you find yourself in a situation in which you are neither learning or contributing, you must move your two feet until you find yourself a new place where you can do the one, the other, or preferably, both. In a few words: Follow your passion and take responsibility for it.

Related posts:
What if control is inappropriate?
Pre-conditions for self-organization
Self-organization is the real operating system
Emergence is simply what life does
Empowerment is a red herring
Pre-conditions for self-organization
What if the organization is a living system?
Facilitating an Open Space
How to enable and sustain self-organization
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology

What if control is inappropriate?

My conclusion after having read Brian Robertson’s new book on Holacracy and Gerard Endenburg’s first book on Sociocracy is that neither Holacracy nor Sociocracy replace Command & Control (C&C). Both use C&C within limits.

This triggered feedback from Holacracy people that the Lead Link Role doesn’t manage day-to-day work and doesn’t manage others, but that there is definitely control in Holacracy. All Roles ”have the authority to control and regulate” their own Domains (Holacracy Constitution v4.1, 1.4 Authority Over Domains). There is definitely control in Sociocracy too.

My follow-up question is: What if control in itself is inappropriate?

Here is an interesting article on The ”Command and Control” Military Gets Agile by Daniel Mezick, which contains references to writers within the military who challenge control themselves. Key points are that complex situations cannot be controlled, and control is in fact an emergent property, not an option to be selected. Here are a few quotes:

The word “control” is inappropriate … because it sends the wrong message. It implies that complex situations can be controlled, with the implication that there is the possibility of an engineering type solution. … But this is a dangerous oversimplification. The best that one can do is to create a set of conditions that improves the probability that a desirable (rather than an undesirable) outcome will occur and to change the conditions when what is expected is not occurring. Control is in fact an emergent property, not an option to be selected. … The argument that … commanders in the military or… management in industry do not have control creates cognitive dissonance. Nevertheless, this is undoubtedly the case. The widespread belief that we have control is merely an illusion, and a dangerous one at that. The literature on complex adaptive systems explains why the notion of control as a verb is misguided.1

…any Complex Adaptive System…cannot be controlled or ruled: a CAS will simply find ways of working around the rules if the context in which it formed remains viable. … The basis of these … systems of working … are based upon very simple trusts — not rules …
Essentially, the tension is … between trusts and rules.
2

Attempts to control complex systems … tend to be pointless at best or destructive at worst.3

And here are quotes from some non-military references:

For life, where freedom of choice in acting exists, control and prediction is impossible, attempts to control are destructive to life and lead to chaos. If we examine the causes of our failing institutions, it is easy to show that attempts to control them, violating normal processes of life, makes them fail.4

We talk and write about leaders and managers being in control of organizations. In the reality of our experience, however, no one can control the interplay of intentions, because they cannot control what everyone else in every other organization is choosing and doing. Consequently, no one can choose or be in control of what happens.5

For nearly three centuries we have worked diligently to structure society in accordance with that concept, believing that with ever more reductionist scientific knowledge, ever more specialization, ever more technology, ever more efficiency, ever more linear education, ever more rules and regulations, ever more hierarchal command and control, we could learn to engineer organizations in which we could pull a lever at one place, get a precise result at another, and know with certainty which lever to pull or for which result. Never mind that human beings must be made to behave as cogs and wheels in the process.6

Notes:
1 David S. Alberts, The International C2 Journal | Vol 1, No 1, 2007, pp. 15—16.
2 Simon Reay Atkinson & James Moffat, The Agile Organization: From Informal Networks to Complex Effects and Agility, pp. 5—6, 7.
3 Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, (Penguin, 2015), p. 68.
4 Norm Hirst, Towards a Science of Life as Creative Organisms, (Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, vol. 4, nos. 1-2, 2008), p. 93.
5 Ralph Stacey, Dialogic Organization Development: The Theory and Practice of Transformational Change / Gervase R. Bushe & Robert J. Marshak, editors, (Berett-Koehler, 2015), p. 153.
6 Dee Hock, One From Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization, (Berrett-Koehler, 2005), p. 37

Related posts:
The big misconception in sociocracy
Dee Hock on control
Harrison Owen on control
Fritz Perls on control
The phenomenology of sociocracy
Traditional vs. Sociocratic vs. Holacratic Command & Control
Holacracy vs. Sociocracy
Book Review: Holacracy by Brian Robertson
Book Review: Sociocracy by Gerard Endenburg
The phenomenology of sociocracy
Machines are allonomic, living organisms are autonomic
Autognomics: Radical Self-Knowing
Self-organization is the real operating system
Emergence is simply what life does
Empowerment is a red herring
Pre-conditions for self-organization
What if the organization is a living system?
Carl Rogers on person-centered leadership

Metaphor: An organization as a tree

Daniel Mezick posted my Holacracy book review on Facebook . . .

. . . and Michelle Holliday replied with the following metaphor of an organization as a tree.

Here’s an excerpt of Michelle’s reply (my emphasis in bold) :

If we think of an organization as a tree, the roots can represent the people who work there. The leaves, branches and fruit can represent their unifying purpose – their ”fruit” or offering out into the world, their relationship with customers and community. The roots and leaves are where life enters the system (nutrients from the ground in the case of roots, sun and photosynthesis for the leaves). The connective and supportive trunk represents the infrastructure of processes, rules, practices.

… most of the trunk of a tree is dead. There’s just a thin layer of living tissue called the cambium right under the bark where life flows from roots to leaves and from leaves to roots. So the trunk is dead, but it’s necessary to raise up the leaves to the light and life of the sun and to bring that life down to the roots.

The machine view of organizations tells us that the infrastructure (the trunk) IS the organization, and employees and customers are external to it. It puts people in service of the non-living infrastructure, rather than the other way around. And that leads inevitably to lifeless bureaucracy. … with people filling life-less roles in emotion-less service of the rules and process. The rules and processes are useful, but let’s keep them in their proper place – in support of the life in the system.

— Michelle Holliday

I love Michelle’s metaphor!

Soul of Business

NicAskewBusinessSoul
The causes of much of what happens in our lives lie far deeper than we imagine. The Soul Biographies by Nic Askew look beneath the surface of our lives, work and society at an unusual depth. And in doing so, the films open our eyes wide to what people and organizations might become.

Pre-conditions for self-organization

The following is a quote from The Power of Spirit: How Organizations Transform by Harrison Owen (p. 42).

”The essential preconditions for self-organization, according to [Stuart] Kauffman, are the following:

  1. A nutrient-rich, relatively protected environment
  2. A high level of diversity and potential complexity in terms of the elements present
  3. A drive for improvement
  4. Sparse pre-existing connections between the various elements
  5. It is all (the whole mess) at the edge of chaos

I should note that nowhere does Kauffman outline the necessary preconditions precisely as I have, but I believe I have caught the essence.”

Relates posts:
Self-organization is the real operating system
Pre-conditions for self-organization (self-organization in human systems)
How to enable and sustain self-organization
Creative forces of self-organization
Self-organization is not anarchy or dictatorship
Let’s take self-organization seriously
Emergence and self-organization
Emergence is simply what life does
Self-management
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology
How to apply sociocracy as an individual?