Organizing reflection 24

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?
I am currently reading Managing as a Performing Art by Peter B. Vaill. Peter writes that he has found the following statement by Chester Barnard to be “worthy of continual rereading and reflection”.1 He goes so far as to say that “there is no statement in the entire leadership and management literature that more neatly captures” what he is interested in.2 Chester Barnard writes (my emphasis in bold):

The executive functions … have no separate concrete existence. They are parts or aspects of a process of organization as a whole. …

The means utilized are to a considerable extent concrete acts logically determined; but the essential aspect of the process is the sensing of the organization as a whole and the total situation relevant to it. It transcends the capacity of merely intellectual methods, and the techniques of discriminating the factors of the situation. …

It is a matter of art rather than science, and is aesthetic rather than logical, For this reason it is recognized rather than described and is known by its effects rather than by analysis.3

In the eighty years since Chester Barnard wrote these lines, not much has happened to alter his conclusion: we know it when we see it. It is a felt experience.

The essential aspect of generative organizing is the sensing of the whole organization and the total situation. It’s a felt experiencing which transcends logical analysis.

1 Peter B. Vaill, Managing as a Performing Art (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991, First published 1989), p.99.
2 Ibid., p.100.
3 Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (Harvard University Press, 1938), p.235

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. He shares his reading, book reviews, and learning on his personal blog.

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