Categories
Organization Organizing

Dee Hock on forming a chaordic organization

—Dee Hock, Birth of the Chaordic Age

Birth of the Chaordic Age by Dee Hock is one of my favorite books. The Prologue: On the Nature and Creation of Charodic organizations is particularly interesting. A reprint with permission can be found here.

Chaordic organizing is about releasing what people desire in the depth of their being, the passion they have for it, and the integrity they bring to the attempt.1 It requires a radical rethink of organizational purpose and organizing principles.

Hierarchical, command-and-control organizations have grown to dominate our lives over the past four hundred years.2 They devour resources and kill the biosphere, and they demean and alienate the people in them. This means that we seriously have to question the concepts underlying their current structures.3

The current forms of organizing are almost always based on compelled behavior. Dee Hock calls it tyranny, because that is what compelled behavior is.4 It is a kind of violence, no matter of how carefully disguised it may be. The organization of the future need to be based on entirely different dynamics.

Small shifts in deeply held beliefs and values can massively alter societal behavior and results — in fact, may be the only things that ever have.

—Dee Hock 5

Dee Hock writes that forming a chaordic organization is difficult and painful, but also, paradoxically, filled with joy. It involves an intensive search for Purpose, Principles, People, Concept, Structure and Practice.6 It is an evolutionary process, not a linear one.

  • Purpose — It is essential determine with absolute clarity, shared understanding, and deep conviction, the purpose of the organization. From that, all else flow.7
  • Principles — Principles are clear, unambiguous, statements about how the whole and the parts intend to conduct themselves in pursuit of the purpose. They never prescribe, only describe.8
  • People — The number and variety of people (and entities) that are needed to realize the purpose in accordance with the principles are usually much greater than anticipated (compared to current organizing concepts).9
  • Concept — Developing the concept calls the purpose, principles, and people, into question.10 Any concept of relationships between people that can enable them to pursue the purpose, in accordance with their principles, can legally be brought into being. Do not let old concepts emerge in new terminology.11
  • Structure — Structure is the legal embodiment of purpose, principles, people, and concept in a written document.12 It is the contract of rights and obligations between the participants.13
  • Practice — Do not bind the participants to any practice, no matter how desirable it may appear. They have to decide for themselves what practices will best achieve the purpose in accordance with the principles.14

The process is not to command-and-control, but to bring an organization into being which is more in harmony with the human spirit and the natural world.15 Such an organization will inevitably attract people required for its success. With shared purpose and principles, the right people, an effective concept, and proper structure, practice will be highly effective and focused. Human ingenuity and creativity will be released, and purpose will be realized far beyond expectations.16

Notes:
1. Dee Hock, Birth of the Chaordic Age, p. 2.
2. Ibid., p. 5.
3. Ibid., p. 6.
4. Ibid..
5. Ibid., pp. 6–7.
6. Ibid., p. 7.
7. Ibid..
8. Ibid., p. 8.
9. Ibid., p. 9.
10. Ibid., p. 10.
11. Ibid., p. 11.
12. Ibid..
13. Ibid., p.12.
14. Ibid.. Dee Hock’s chaordic approach is the opposite of Watts Humprey’s process approach. Humphrey’s approach is to bind people to practice (defined processes). See my analysis of the CMM, PSP, and TSP.
15. Ibid..
16. Ibid., p. 13.

Update 2022-10-18: Intro and link to reprint added.
Update 2022-10-15: Title changed. Text changed.

Related posts:
Two work perspectives
Analysis of the CMM, PSP, and TSP

Categories
Organization Organizing Phenomenology Workplaces

Henri Bortoft on wholeness in organizations

Simon Robinson inspired me to read Henri Bortoft’s two books The Wholeness of Nature and Taking Appearance Seriously. While reading these books I was struck by the thought that in order to see life in work we need to a dynamic way of seeing.

I am currently re-reading Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson’s book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter. I found an interesting section on Henri Bortoft’s work on organizational wholeness.

Simon and Maria writes:

It was Bohm’s interest in the hologram that would inspire Henri’s work on the wholeness in organisations.1

This led Henri and a few other researchers to begin to contemplate the perceptions in a holographic manner, and not via that of the General Systems Theory, a methodology which Henri described as leading to concepts of ‘counterfeit wholeness’, an incorrect perception of what exactly the whole organisation is.2

In saying that the whole organisation ‘comes to presence’ in each person, we begin to realise that the concept of the whole organisation cannot be written down… It is not an object as we normally think of them…3

In a hologram, neither the whole nor the parts dominate each other. You cannot analyse a hologram in either a bottom-up or a top-down matter. …you also need to consider another aspect of the hologram, which is the ability to be broken up into parts, but still remain whole.4

With systems theory, you take a step back in order to see the whole, whereas for Henri, you can gain an intuition or feeling of the whole by going into the parts…5

Intuitions and feelings about the organisation cannot easily be expressed in language, but we need to avoid getting stuck in only an analytic, verbal and logical mode of thinking. Our experience of life as it is lived in our organizations requires a dynamic way of seeing.

Notes:
1. Henri Bortoft, Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, p. 51.
2. Ibid..
3. Ibid., p. 52.
4. Ibid..
5. Ibid., p. 53.

Related posts:
Book Review: Holonomics
Book Review: First Steps to Seeing
Henri Bortoft on human organizations and relationships
Henri Bortoft’s Schumacher Lectures 2009
Henri Bortoft on seeing life itself
The very quality of livingness
BELONGING together vs. belonging TOGETHER
Henri Bortoft on taking the ‘appearance’ seriously
The ‘totalitarian’ tendency of systems theory
Organizational metamorphosis

Categories
Creativity Life Organization Organizing People Thinking Thoughts Values

New orders reflect new values

The world crumbles. New orders are emerging.
Conditions are getting worse and worse.
There is less and less to hold on to.
There are fewer givens to assume.
How to live? What to do? How to organize?

The world is falling apart.
Fear deepens as necessary orders are lost.
Events force rapid reassessment of everything,
    events of such scope that no one can escape.
Everyone is forced into the melting pot of survival.
Life as we know it is shattered.

As survivors find each other, new orders begin to form.
New social institutions spring into being,
    reflecting new values, and new ways of thinking.
Every aspect of life is marked by new priorites,
    and new perceptions of what is good.
The new orders reflect new states of awareness,
    and elicit still deeper levels of self-awareness.
Creativity flourishes and aliveness is expressed in new ways.
Categories
Organization Organizing Software Thoughts Workplaces

Two work perspectives

Watts Humphrey and Dee Hock are two pioneers, in different areas, and in different ways. They also have two very different ways of seeing work.

Watts Humphrey: Work is, or has to be, repeatable

Watts Humphrey provides his view on process improvement in Three Process Perspectives: Organizations, Teams, and People (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Annals of Software Engineering 14, 2002). Humprey describes in this paper his work with process assessments in IBM and the development of the CMM, PSP, and TSP.

The first group Humphrey assessed was one of IBM’s semiconductor facilities. It used process measurements to identify quality problems and cut manufacturing costs by over 50%.

With silicon chips, you have to control the process in order to consistently improve the yield and reduce costs. This means that you need to examine every defect, identify its cause, and then change the process to eliminate the cause. This, in turn, requires precise process measurements, and a defined and stable (repeatable) process.

Watts Humphrey’s view is that a similar approach is necessary in software engineering, and developed the CMM, PSP and TSP. Here is my analysis of all three (long post).

Dee Hock: Work is a blend of chaos and order (chaordic)

Dee Hock challenges our habitual ways of seeing work in his book One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005). Hock describes the chaordic processes present in our organizations and the use of chaordic concepts in organizational development.

Dee Hock’s view is that there is a place for process control—you need a dust-free environment if you want a perfect silicon chip—but that it by no means implies that control is the best way to deal with work. Watts Humphrey had another view and focused on process control in software development.

Watts Humphrey is called the “father of software quality.” Dee Hock was actually a pioneer in software development too. Here is his own story of the chaordic (agile) development of VISA’s first electronic authorization system in the early 1970s. Dee Hock threw out IBM, but that’s another story.

Update 2022-09-14
Clarification added that Watts Humphrey focused on process control in software development.

Categories
Books Organization Organizing Phenomenology Thoughts

Henri Bortoft on human organizations and relationships

Introduction
Henri Bortoft is the author The Wholeness of Nature and Taking Appearance Seriously. I am particularly interested in the ‘dynamic way of seeing’ which is explained at length by Henri Bortoft. Taking the ‘appearance’ seriously is necessary if we want to see ‘life’ in nature and in work.

Henri Bortoft mentions in Taking Appearance Seriously that there was a growing interest in the late 1960s and early 1970s in management education and organizational development.1 Here is a paper by Henri Bortoft from 1971 on counterfeit and authentic wholes.2

Human organizations
Henri Bortoft writes the following about human organizations:3

…we find that behind the current notion of organization, what could be called the ‘managerial view’… This says that an organization consists of a set of personnel (which is a nice way of saying people reduced to the status of things) who can be assigned to a set of roles to operate on a set of resources to perform a set of tasks. … It is just this axiomatic approach which is embalmed in the systems approach to formal organization theory, and which has thoroughly infested management throughout contemporary organizations.

…we can see immediately that the current managerial approach constitutes an attempt to stand outside of the organization, to take an overview of it as an object for observation and manipulation… So the manager’s task comes to be seen as one of applying technique from outside, the effect of which is to stop others from participating authentically in their own situation, so that they have to proceed as if they were outside of their own work.

Human organizations fail because those involved do not understand… Where they do not visibly appear to fail it is because they are held together externally by forces, fears and pressures—in other words, by violence. What is needed is the development of a sensitivity… In this way they can have made known to them the genuine needs of their situation, not the counterfeits which arise…at the top, nor…from outside. But this approach is so different to the axiomatic approach to management that it is at first unthinkable to those concerned with techniques for solving problems.

Human relationships
Henri Bortoft also discusses human relationships:4

It is when we begin to consider human relationships in terms of the wholesome encounter that we realize the tragic limitation of our lives together.

The encounter between two persons is very often only external; each looks upon the other as an object, as a thing among things. Each is outside of the other, separated from the other as an object to be known and manipulated. … We develop counterfeit relationships as an attempt to bring us together by overcoming separation. But…separation is preserved and we ensure that we remain outside of one another.

An authentic relationship with another person begins with the turning around into the whole. … We cease from trying to grasp hold of the other person, to know him as an object, to work him out or to make him do things. We begin to let the other person be, becoming sensitive to him as a presence… If this happens we enter directly into an encounter with the whole person…

Conclusions
Today’s organizations are as infested by the ‘managerial view’ as they were 50 years ago. And authentic encounters — where we meet each other as whole human beings — are as rare now as then. More often than not we are instead immersed in our thoughts about each other.

Notes:
1 Henri Bortoft, Taking Appearance Seriously: The Dynamic Way of Seeing in Goethe and European Thought (Floris Books, 2012), p. 11.
2 Henri Bortoft, The Whole: Counterfeit and Authentic (Systematics Vol. 9. No. 2, 1971).
3 Ibid., pp. 23–24.
4 Ibid., pp. 23–26.

Update 2022-09-18: Link added to the notes. Related post added.

Related post:
Henri Bortoft on wholeness in organizations
Henri Bortoft’s Schumacher Lectures 2009
Henri Bortoft on seeing life itself
The very quality of livingness
BELONGING together vs. belonging TOGETHER
Henri Bortoft on taking the ‘appearance’ seriously
The ‘totalitarian’ tendency of systems theory
Organizational metamorphosis

Categories
Cooperation Creativity Decisions Democracy Organization Organizing People Power Reflections

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

Categories
Articles Inspiration Life Organization Organizing Reflections Values

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

Categories
Organization Organizing Reflections

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

Categories
Inspiration Life Organization Organizing Reflections

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

Categories
Collaboration Communication Leadership Organization Organizing Reflections

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