Retrospective 2019-19

This is a look back at what has happened during the week.


Below are this week’s paintings where I explore the use of colors. I have become better at seeing and working with contrasts compared to a month ago.


One from Many
I mentioned last week that I planned to review On Dialogue by David Bohm. Well, I started re-reading Dee Hock‘s One from Many instead. It’s an amazing book! I read the book six years ago. Dee Hock’s insights are more profound than I realized back then.

Dee Hock tries to determine the organizational principles that would emulate the principles that Nature seems to use. Dee Hock believes that what makes an organization effective is a common purpose and shared principles. The purpose is a clear statement what the community hopes to achieve together — that which binds the community together mentally and emotionally. The purpose is not an objective.

Dee Hock writes that there is a place for control. You need, for example, a dust-free environment if you want a perfect silicon chip. But the fact that control is useful for a limited set of purposes doesn’t imply that it is the best way to run an organization. Interestingly, this is contrary to Watts Humphrey’s key assumptions in the CMM, PSP, and TSP, and to Gerard Endenburg’s assumptions in sociocracy. Sociocracy provides a “control machinery”.1


Below are this week’s notes to myself based on my reading of Dee Hock:

  • Organizing is agreeing. Agreeing is organizing.
  • Generative organizing is a continual process, as alive as the people involved.
  • Spontaneous order out of chaos can only happen as long as control is kept on a leash.
  • We need to rethink the very nature of the organizations in which we are enmeshed.
  • Principles educe behavior. Rules compel it.
  • If you don’t value Life itself your organization will, in time, turn toxic.
  • Chaordic software development is agile.


Institutions in the Age of Mindcrafting
Dee Hock’s speech at the Bionomics Annual Conference, in 1994, on Institutions in the Age of Mindcrafting covers topics that also can be found in One from Many. Dee Hock asks what would be the nature, not the structure, of an ideal organization if anything imaginable was possible. He gives examples of the principles that emerged from his work with Visa:

  • It must be equitably owned by all participants.
  • No member should have an intrinsic preferential position.
  • All advantage must result from indiviudal ability and initiative.
  • Power and function musst be distributive to the maximum degree.
  • It must be infinitely yet extremely durable.
  • It must embrace diversity and change.

Dee Hock emphasizes that everything has both intended and unintended consequences. The intended consequences may or may not happen, while the unintended consequences always do. He writes that a clear purpose and principles, give rise to complex, intelligent behavior, while rules and regulations give rise to simple, stupid behavior.

Cardiologist at Karolinska: “I am engaged in civil disobedience at work”
I found an article, Hjärtläkare på Karolinska: ”Jag ägnar mig åt civil olydnad på jobbet” (Dagens Nyheter 2019-05-10) by Lisa Röstlund, on how civil disobedience at work becomes necessary when the organization, in this case the Karolinska University Hospital, is controlled as a machine. Inger Hagerman, who is a cardiologist, says (my translation in italics):

– Det här är en konsultprodukt, och det märks väldigt mycket. … Men det här är inte produkter, patienterna är levande, komplexa människor i en kunskapsorganisation som också är väldigt komplex. Det var för svårt för konsulterna att ta in, tror jag.
– This is a consulting product, and it is very noticeable. … But these are not products, the patients are living, complex people in a knowledge organization that is also very complex. It was too difficult for the consultants to take in, I believe.

– När man pratar med människor i alla delar av vården har alla bra tankar om arbetssätt och förbättringar. Men det fanns ingen som ville lyssna på dem.
– When talking to people in all parts of the care, everyone has good thoughts about working methods and improvements. But there was no one who wanted to listen to them.

– Förut hade vi möten och ronder och diskuterade. Samarbete och konsensus. Nu skickar vi patienter med papper mellan varandra, vilket är fullständigt absurt.
– Previously we had meetings and rounds and discussed. Cooperation and consensus. Now we send patients with paperwork between each other, which is completely absurd.

What if Karolinska had used a chaordic approach instead — or, at least, had listened to the local expertise?

1 Sociocracy provides, in Gerard Endenburg’s own words, the “control machinery” needed for seeking solutions to “literally all problems and conflicts.” See Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making (Eburon, 1998), p. 6.

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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *