Kategoriarkiv: Power

What is healthy power?

The Healthy Power Alliance writes in its Healthy Power Manifesto that:

Healthy Power is the ability to do work over time
in a way that is good for all the people and systems involved:
the ecosystems, the human communities, the customers, the workers, the investors, the leaders,
all of us.
Healthy Power is circular, not linear or flat.
Healthy Power is fluid, not frozen.
Healthy Power is consensual, not coercive.1

The Healthy Power Alliance also writes that there are numerous models of Healthy Power:

The beautiful thing, the profoundly inspiring thing, is that if you want to make the power you live by into Healthy Power, you do not have to invent it yourself. You have years, decades, in some cases centuries of experience to draw on. If you want to bring Healthy Power to your workplace, community, or family, the options are numerous.2

Among the models, or gold standards, mentioned in the manifesto is Holacracy. It’s worth noting that Healthy Power is process power in Holacracy. Holacracy really doesn’t care how people feel as long as the process is honored. And Holacracy keeps human values out of the organizational space. This means, in my view, that the gold standards may not be so golden after all. I think we have to discover, and protect, Healthy Power ourselves. The beautiful thing is that we have millennia of experience to draw on. Healthy Power sees life’s intrinsic value. Unhealthy power doesn’t.

1 The Healthy Power Alliance, The Healthy Power Manifesto, the short version, official until July 1st 2016. (Accessed May 15 2016)
2 The Healthy Power Alliance, The Healthy Power Manifesto, the FULL version, official until July 1st 2016. (Accessed May 15 2016)

Carol Black on the wildness of children

Carol Black writes the following in On the Wildness of Children (my emphasis in bold):

When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. … But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust.

The same people who do not see themselves as “above” nature but as within it, tend not to see themselves as “above” children but alongside them. They see no hard line between work and play, between teacher and student, between learning and life. It is a possibility worth considering that this is more than coincidence.

The underlying belief that somebody always has to be in charge is stubbornly persistent, woven into our thinking at a very deep level. There always has to be a subject and an object, a master and a slave. We have forgotten how to live and let live.

Control is always so seductive, at least to the ”developed” (”civilized”) mind. It seems so satisfying, so efficient, so effective, so potent. In the short run, in some ways, it is. But it creates a thousand kinds of blowback, from depressed rebellious children to storms surging over our coastlines to guns and bombs exploding in cities around the world.

— Carol Black1

1 Carol Black, On The Wildness of Children, April 2016. (Accessed 24 April 2016)

There is another way

Here’s an excerpt (my emphasis in bold) from Russel Means’s most famous speech in 1980.1 There’s something deeper than just a rejection of Marxism from this radical. He has an entirely different worldview compared to all ”isms”:

“… Newton … “revolutionized” physics and the so-called natural sciences Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these “thinkers” took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into code, an abstraction. … Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!

The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. … it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. … In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy the planet. …

There is another way.It is the way that knows that humans do not have the right to degrade Mother Earth, that there are forces beyond anything the European mind has conceived, that humans must be in harmony with all relations or the relations will eventually eliminate the disharmony. … There is no need for a revolutionary theory to bring this about; it’s beyond human control.

All European tradition, Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of all things. Mother Earth has been abused, the powers have been abused, and this cannot go on forever. No theory can alter that simple fact. Mother Earth will retaliate, the whole environment will retaliate, … That’s revolution. …

What I’m putting out here is … a cultural proposition. … To cling to capitalism and Marxism and all other “isms” is simply to remain within European culture. … As a fact, this constitutes a choice. … retain your sense of reality.

1 Revolution and Amrican Indians: “Marxism is as Alien to My Clture as Capitalism”, 17 October 2010. (Accessed 5 April 2016)

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

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

Makt är att vara med och dela kunskap och information

Jan-Erik Sebestyén skriver i ett mail till Agile Swedens maillista 2015-10-07 10:25:26 att:

Ett grundproblem är makt hamnar hos individer i dagens system. Det gör att kunskap och information blir makt, något som gör flödet av kunskap och information segt. Det vill vi ha är detsamma som i alla demokratiska system: att makt är att vara med och dela kunskap och information. … Flytta makt från individ till arenor (stå-upp-möten) där information och kunskap delas. Människor skapar tillsammans ”sensemaking” av komplexa problem.

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.

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

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

Empowerment is a red herring

The following is a quote from Harrison Owen on the World wide Open Space Technology email list October 14, 2014.

”I know we talk a lot about empowerment, but I have come to the conclusion that it is really a red herring, and most painfully so in those situations where you actually try to do it. Sounds odd, I guess, but think about it. If I empower you … you are in my power. And the more I try to empower you the worse it gets.

Real empowerment … is not an act that we (or somebody) do, but an acknowledgement of a pre-existing condition … you are powerful. Of course I might encourage you a bit to be as powerful as you are, but it is not something I can give you. You must claim it for yourself. Strange as it may seem, I find the notion of “empowerment” to be just the opposite of that fundament of effective working relationships (or any relationship) RESPECT.”

Related posts:
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

Three faces of power

I am convinced that we need to change existing power structures in order to achieve organizational democracy. An example are the struggles we see with scaling agile software development to the whole organization. This is ultimately a question of changing the power distribution.

Kenneth E. Boulding defines the three faces of power as:

  1. Threat Power – “Do something I want or I’ll do something you don’t want
  2. Exchange Power – “Give me something I want and I’ll give you something you want
  3. Integrative Power – “I’m going to do what I believe is right, something authentic, and we will end up closer

Domination Structures

I have recently read Speak Peace in a World of Conflict: What You Say Next Will Change Your World by Marshall Rosenberg. Marschall defines a domination system as a system in which a few people control many people to their own advantage. In domination systems people are trained to think in ways that support the system. This requires:

  1. Suppression of self
    It means you deny your own feelings and needs.
  2. Moralistic judgments
    These are judgments which implies right or wrong. We judge for example other persons, and even ourselves, as wrong or bad. This includes insults, put downs, labels, name calling, and criticism.
  3. Bureaucractic language
    It is a language which denies choice. It uses words like ”should” and ”have to”.
  4. Deserve thinking
    This is a thinking which leads to demands and coercion.


Let’s take self-organization seriously

We are in the middle of December and the days are short up here in the northern part of Europe, but it’s not only a dark time of the year. I have recently encountered musings about the darkness in the world in the books I have read.

Margaret Wheatley writes for example in her new book So Far from Home that oppositional politics cannot deal intelligently with today’s complex problems and that the already powerful will remain in power. Her call is an invitation to a warriorship for the human spirit. She invites us to fight for more life-affirming values and practices.

Another example is Otto Scharmer who writes in his bok on Theory U that our global system will probably hit the wall within the next ten years if current trends and developments continue (the book was published in 2009). This is why he focuses his time and energy on creating living examples that embody new forms of cross-institutional collaboration and innovation. He continues by saying that the pressure on front-line practitioners right now is enormous and keeps increasing. People feel trapped and don’t know how to change it or how to get out. The situation is serious!

Personally, I think we really need to take emergence and self-organization seriously. The challenges are so big and complex that we need to act intelligently and wisely together. However, self-organization doesn’t self-organize. We consciously need to setup conditions such that self-organization can happen. Dynamic governance (aka sociocracy), which is about consenting to a deeper democracy, is one very interesting and practical approach. Large group methods provide other and complementary examples, all of which can be combined in new and creative ways.

It’s time to take action – together!