Etikettarkiv: Organization

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).

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 that

Self-organization = Intention x Identity x Interaction.

Here is a summary of Bonnitta Roy’s article.

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 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.

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

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.

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).

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).

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).

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).

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

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.

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

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

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
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology
How to apply sociocracy as an individual?

Self-organization is the real operating system

Here are quotes of Daniel Mezick from an email to the World wide Open Space Technology email list March 20, 2015. (My emphasis in bold.)

Harrison you once said recently:

The real operating system is self-organization, Daniel. Everything else is an app. Open Space included!”

I’ve just recently integrated this idea more fully into my thinking. I must admit it has taken ”some time.”

That said, my current belief is: most organizations are at a very low level of development and can use/typically need the ”app” of Open Space…and/or the ”app” of Scrum… and/or the ”app” of Sociocracy, what have you.

I think [facilitation] does fit nicely as a kind of component or ”widget” in each ”app” (facilitation being part of OST, Scrum, Kanban) …all of which run on the real OS of self-organization.

So these are all self-org ”apps.” The ”f” word does after all has the connotation of: ”making it easy.”

Daniel Mezick continues writing the following in an email March 22, 2015.

My current belief is that self-organization is what actually scales, not some app. Not some ”framework.” Now, if folks are compelled to ”do it the way I say”, or ”do this framework like I tell you…” … does positive self-organization happen again?

Because… truth be told, I do not see how any kind of Agile stuff can scale FOR REAL without creating the fertile conditions for self-organization to go enterprise-wide. Thousands of people. Isn’t self-organization what ACTUALLY scales?

Because…well…. I have simply never seen it done any other way.

I’ve never seen it done by forcing stuff on people without their consent, without invitation. And I’ve never seen it done with inviting the folks affected to express what they think and feel about ”the solution we are using”…

I think Harrison Owen and Daniel Mezick are right. The follow-up question then is: What can we do to enable and sustain company-wide self-organization? My search continues…

Related posts:
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

Emergence is simply what life does

Here are quotes of Harrison Owen on the World wide Open Space Technology email list March 7, 2015. (My highlights in bold.)

Emergence is simply what life does – it just pops up randomly and never follows a plan, or certainly not any plan we might have made. The shift from ‘self organization’ to ‘emergence’ is, I suspect, a lightly veiled effort to sugar coat the reality that Emergence (self organization) is the manager/executive’s worst nightmare.”

”…unless it were to turn out that our organizations were actually part of life. Life, of course is incredibly complicated with many unknowns, but it does seem that we have learned a few things. For example, living creatures really don’t do very well when locked in a box. They may survive, but in very reduced terms. Life always seems better with some basic fundamentals, such as fresh air to breath, space to move about in, interesting and diverse experiences and challenges, mountains to climb, and unknown hills to peer over. Always strange, always new, always a challenge, and never quite what we might expect. You could say Life is emergent.”

Most interestingly – Given the basics, living creatures naturally display amazing creativity, agile adaptation to new opportunities and changing environments, and are constantly in communication with their fellows and other creatures. Along the way, they create complex and elegant structures, manage such conflicts as they have in ways that create minimal damage and maximum gain, and they have been doing all this for a long, long time. However, deprived of such fundamentals, life turns nasty real quick.”

An odd thought does arise. It would seem that most everything we do in the name of organizational effectiveness is antithetical to what Life requires. Should our organizations be part of life it would then follow that such ills as we experience (loss of agility, creativity, leadership, etc) are actually self inflicted wounds. Doubtless our various attempts to aid the wounded through our multiple programs, interventions and tools, are commendable, but truthfully we are only dealing with problems we have created. It might make a lot more sense to just stop shooting ourselves in the foot (and elsewhere).”

For a next step, we might just open up some space for life to breath. Won’t solve everything, but it could be a good place to start. And we might just find that the Enemy (Emergence) is our friend…”

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

How will companies approach the management challenge?

Here is a visionary tweet by Kenneth Mikkelsen on how companies in the future will approach the management challenge. The businesses will:

  • Have a higher purpose beyond making profit
  • Hire people who are passionate about this higher purpose
  • See all shareholders as equally important
  • Cultivate long-term relationships with suppliers
  • Have open doors and be transparent with information
  • Encourage decision-making and autonomy all the way down
  • Pay well, provide excellent benefits and be generous with training/development
  • Volunteer services to the community
  • Narrow the gap in pay

Pre-conditions for self-organization

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

”The essential pre-conditions for self-organization are:

  • A Real business issue (something that people really care about).
  • High levels of complexity such that no single person or group has a prayer of figuring it out.
  • High levels of diversity in terms of people and points of view.
  • Lots of passion and conflict.
  • A decision time of yesterday (urgency).

Given these five conditions, self-organization just seems to happen … unless … and this may be the point of the problem … it is arbitrarily constrained … which usually means that somebody already has the plan/program/design and they are just looking for buy-in or (worst case) they are simply trying to sugar coat the pill, and make it seem like the folks are creating something, when in fact the cake is already baked.”

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