Culture Software Thoughts Workplaces

It does not have to be this way!

CNBC reported Oct 31, 2022, that Elon Musk has pulled 50 Tesla employees into his Twitter takeover. Tesla employees have been involved in code reviews even though their skills do not overlap with the programming languages and systems Twitter uses. Tesla engineers don’t have experience in designing and operating platforms that are broadly accessible to the public. Python is one of the preferred languages at Tesla, while Twitter programmers use Scala.

Managers at Twitter have instructed employees to work 12-hours per day, seven days a week, because Elon Musk has set so tight deadlines. Employees who do not achieve the deadlines will be fired. There is an atmosphere of fear and distrust. Twitter employees have stopped communicating with each other. Meanwhile, Elon Musk is looking for budgets to slash and people to fire.

Elon Musk: —Failure comes with a big penalty. You’re fired! (YouTube)

Elon Musk doesn’t seem to understand that managing like this comes with a big penalty. Grady Booch writes on Twitter Nov 1, 2022, that watching Elon Musk take over Twitter is like watching a software engineering case study on how to destroy a software-intensive business.

Two tweets by Grady Booch, November 1, 2022.

I don’t understand why Elon Musk is actively destroying the company he bought for $44 billion. Is it because he is totally incompetent, or is it because he simply doesn’t care about the human damage he causes? Maybe it’s both? It does not have to be this way!

Autognomics Books Holacracy Life Organizing Quakers Sociocracy Values Workplaces

My 10 Year Summary: What I Have Learned


1. Introduction
2. Background
3. My Journey
 3.1. The initial years (2012–2015)
 3.2. The middle years (2016–2018)
 3.3. The final years (2019–2022)
4. Conclusions
5. Afterword
6. Acknowledgments
7. Recommended Books

1. Introduction

I started blogging ten years ago today (Sept 26, 2012). At the same time, I started searching for life-giving ways of working. This is a summary of my journey and what I have learned. It is a personal story of what felt right to me at the time and what I am seeing now. I raised three questions. The answer to the third question about deeper order is a topic for a book in itself.

I may perhaps pass a few ideas along to you that you can relate to in your own life. I mostly really want to communicate how deadly our world has become for so many. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Bookshelves with ten years of reading.

During this time, I wrote 1000 blog posts and gathered 40000 quotes and notes. The links in this post provide entry points to further reading. There is a list of recommended books at the end. I have included links to my book reviews when available.

2. Background

I have 39 years of experience, mostly in industrial R&D. I was trained as a physicist. I learned everything that was to learn and I even taught it. I was good at it. I received ABB Corporate Research’s Mission of The Year award in 2010 for my contribution to ABB’s Software Development Improvement Program.

I have explored a lot of ideas over my lifetime. I am still learning. I am even unlearning. My inquiry into life-giving work became more personal than I had anticipated.

3. My Journey

I saw a little girl this morning,
on her way to school.
It could have been me!
And here I am
on my way to work.
Fifty years later!
Does it have to be this way?

3.1. The initial years (2012–2015)

Little did I know at the start of my journey that I would suffer from depression half a year later. It took a couple of months until I could feel the sun in my face and the wind in my hair again. I think I have helped a lot of people in my workplace, but in that workplace I discovered that I was being killed. I was dying and I didn’t know why. I had to find out what I could do differently.

I found sociocracy two months after the start of my journey. I spent two years studying sociocracy in depth and wrote an ebook on sociocracy (in Swedish) together with John Schinnerer. I learned that the early development of Holacracy was influenced by sociocracy. My review of Brian Robertson’s new book on Holacracy got attention on twitter.

The group-centered decision-making in sociocracy is derived from Quaker practices. Michael Sheeran’s Beyond Majority Rule is to some the definitive guide on the Quakers’ decision-making method. I wanted to learn more and visited the Quakers in Stockholm, Sweden.

Kväkargården, Stockholm, Sweden.

I learned that the Quakers (Friends) don’t just seek consent (as in sociocracy), but seek unity (or concord). It’s a subtle but important difference. I noticed how the Friends deliberately slowed down when there were objections. The Swedish Friends call it “framkallningstid” (development time).

I met a British Friend at the Nordic Friends Yearly Meeting 2017 who had experiences of making decisions in meetings with a thousand participants. He said it worked because they were seeking the sense of the Meeting. The method can also be used successfully in a secular context. It would revolutionize our political system.

Michelle Holliday sent me her new book on thrivability. I love her tree metaphor. We need to recognize life itself in our organizations. We need to move from control to letting life thrive. It is all too easy for us to lose sight of the very quality of livingness. There is a place for control, but that doesn’t mean that it is the best way to deal with work and people.

Sociocracy and Holacracy are based on cybernetic principles. The way of seeing is the engineer’s. Both use control to run the organization. Sociocracy acknowledges that people are not system components, while Holacracy uses the metaphor of people as sensors acting on behalf of the organization. It is a misconception to view people as autonomous rule-following entities. Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking.

There is a distinction between being autonomic…, and allonomic

—Norm Hirst, Life-itself as organism characteristics – The Autognomics Institute

Norm Hirst makes a very important distinction between machines, which are allonomic, and living organisms, which are autonomic. Organisms come into being and grow into maturity as a whole entity unlike machines that are assembled piece by piece by some other.

Organisms are self-creating, not just self-organizing. Their purpose is not only to fulfill external tasks, but to develop their own life. To be alive is to be able to act. No organism is a machine, let alone an input-output machine (cybernetics).

Comparing an organism to a machine is profoundly misleading…

—Andreas Weber, Biology of Wonder

Andreas Weber emphasizes that it is profoundly misleading to compare an organism to a machine. Machines do not create themselves. They have no own interests. They do not resist being switched off. All organisms experience being alive. They decide, choose, and act according to values. Feeling is the inner experience of meaning. Organisms have to be free out of necessity.

Organism ways will always push to maintain the freedom to be autonomous…

—Skye Hirst, Value Intelligence In All Creative Organisms – The Autognomics Institute

Skye Hirst points out that it is a fundamental principle and an inalienable right for us to be free to act according to our own beinghood. Some people in power try to take it away by imposing overly tight controls. People are living beings, not things to be managed.

It is essential that we have the opportunity to take right and effective actions that are guided by our intrinsic intentions and meanings. This is a prerequisite for a healthy environment where we can learn, adapt, and thrive.

These insights gave me an understanding of my depression. I realized that I couldn’t find effective actions to fully be myself in the workplace. And yet, I was very good at adapting, obeying, and fulfilling expectations.

3.2. The middle years (2016–2018)

My journey took a new turn in 2016 when I started searching between and beyond our traditional ways of organizing work. Many different approaches have been developed over the years. They are often accompanied by a whole industry offering tools, training, consulting, and certification.

David Bohm & F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity, pp. 274–5.

My inquiry was inspired by David Bohm and F. David Peat’s notion of the order between and beyond. I raised three questions in the inquiry:

  1. What existing orders of organizing do we have today?
  2. How are they entwined within each other in ways that are basically incompatible?
  3. What clues to a deeper order can we find in the answers to these questions?

I was never able to answer these questions completely, but they gave a direction to my inquiry:

  1. I made an attempt to answer the first question. The challenge was that the different approaches couldn’t be thought of as being well-defined. Misinformation also became problematic. I discovered quotes that were not accurate, and claims that were not true.
  2. I never answered the second question. As I write this, my working hypothesis is that there is an overcommitment to mechanical order. Many approaches require that people behave as cogs and wheels (or, in the language of cybernetics, as sensors).
  3. Likewise, I never answered the third question. This is a topic for a book in itself. My hypothesis is that in order to sense deeper order we need to pay acute attention to the ways in which we see, think, feel, and act — individually and together. We need to enter into a new way of seeing. We need to examine the edges of our awareness.

Paavo Pylkkänen was a collaborator with David Bohm and is in a great position to comment on David Bohm’s work.

Bohm often used the metaphors of machine and living organisms to illustrate the difference between a mechanical order and a non-mechanical…order…

—Paavo Pylkkänen, Mind, Matter and The Implicate Order, p. 51.

Mechanical order emphasizes external relationships while deeper order draws attention to internal relationships and participation. Bohm thought that it was important to understand the factors which supports communication and coherent action. Changing reality means changing oneself. We always act based on a certain understanding.

You can learn how to let a deeper bodily felt sense come in relation to any specific situation.

—Eugene Gendlin, Focusing, p. vii.

Felt sense is a felt meaning, a bodily understanding. When we become quietly attentive and sensitive we can let our actions be guided by the needs of the situation. Experiencing is always there in the present moment. It is a deeper order in that it is pre-conceptual. Only actual living can grasp living experiencing adequately.

…feeling our needs and having them satisfied is a direct sign of how well we realise (or fail to realise) our aliveness.

—Andreas Weber, Enlivenment, p. 17.

Feeling is directly related to our sense of aliveness. Rational thinking has no way of understanding lived experience. Our ability to think in logical and abstract terms of mechanical order separates us from the world. It is, in fact, our reliance on rational calculation which makes today’s loss of life possible. We need a more qualitative and organic way of understanding. We need to become carefully observant of life itself.

3.3 The final years (2019–2022)

My journey took yet another turn in 2019 when I started painting. I loved it! I discovered that painting moved me into a state of flow, which felt very relaxing, enjoyable, and freeing.

It felt so good, in fact, that I spent hours painting when I came home from work. While painting, I was totally absorbed in the moment. I was totally involved with all my being in something which felt intrinsically satisfying. I felt creatively alive.

—Jan Höglund, Grevens stig, Ängsö, Sweden.

I continued reading and writing, but not as much as previously.

4. Conclusions

At the beginning of my journey, I discovered that I was being killed. I was dying and I didn’t know why. I knew I had to find out what I could do differently. Ten years later, I have learned how to move towards my own aliveness, towards who I am, towards who I was born to be.

We are not only killing ourselves with our organizations, we are killing our planet and all of nature with our western civilization. Our organizations reflect our values and priorities, our ways of thinking. All aspects of life need to be marked by new priorities, new ways of seeing, new perceptions of what is good.

What we find in other organisms is aliveness: ours, and theirs, and that which is the source of all.

—Andreas Weber, Biopoetics, p. 117.

We can discern what enhances aliveness for the simple reason that we are alive. By experiencing aliveness we are able to evaluate the life-giving potential of any situation. Life is contagious with aliveness. Aliveness is intrinsic to life itself.

Life-giving work is about being in the world with a deep sense of caring. It is about listening, seeing, and acting in harmony with Life. It is through gentle action, living from a deeper place, using our whole intelligence, that we can act in harmony with Life’s deeper order.

Kelvy Bird provides a practical example of how to make the unseen, yet felt, inner life of a social field visible in her work as a scribe and visual facilitator. It’s about staying open, listening deeply, and acting in the right time.

Staying open is a key skill…

—Kelvy Bird, Generative Scribing, p. 53.

We need to step deeply into our lives, staying open to the flow of meaning. It is a key skill and a real challenge. It is far too easy to inadvertently close our minds to what is actually going on. I closed my mind during my depression because I was afraid of feeling deeply. I didn’t think it was safe to feel and to express those feelings honestly.

Listen deeply… Trust that a deeper meaning will arrive…

—Kelvy Bird, Generative Scribing, p. 127.

Instead of imposing order we can inquire into what is seeking new order. We can listen deeply for what wants to unfold in the present moment. We can act in the right time as it unfolds. It is all fluid motion!

We can let our next step of thought come from…experiential feedback, rather than only from the concept.

—Eugene Gendlin, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning, p. xvii.

We can let our thoughts and actions come from our experiencing, rather than from ideas alone. It can lead us to modify our thinking, rather than being confined in it. We can act from a felt sense. This is one of my most important discoveries.

Felt meaning is present whenever actions, observations, and situations occur that have meaning to a person. An individual who is maximally open to his or her experience weighs and balances all the meanings in his or her experience. Change occurs through experiencing.

In summary, I know now that I can choose to stay open and allow myself to feel fully alive. Without natural beauty and a deep connection to the living world, we end up lifeless and depressed. Beauty is felt aliveness. It is also healing.

…help each person reach the deepest place in their own hearts and…help them bring this material out into the open.

—Christoper Alexander, The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth, p. 117.

Going forward, I want to create conditions that will activate and intensify life itself, with my he-art. Ultimately, it is a question of love — for the planet, for other beings, and for myself. To allow myself to be fully alive is to love myself and the world. Love is the inside of aliveness. Honoring our aliveness is also the best way to ensure our long-term survival as a species.

5. Afterword

My journey became more personal than I had anticipated at the start. My focus was initially on finding systemic answers to my question about life-giving work (for example, sociocracy), but I ended up with intrinsic answers (seeing, being, feeling). I had searched for explicate order, but ended up with a focus on implicate order. I had searched for systemic value (rules), but ended up with giving priority to intrinsic value (love). This is also one of my most important discoveries.

Embrace change…
…be present.
Work is…creating.
Create a nurturing…environment.
Love the workers…before the work.
Make time for community…

—Tess Jette, Six pillars of a life giving workplace – The Autognomics Institute

Life-giving work can only happen when all people are free to use their brains and hearts. It can be done in many ways, but it always has to be done wholeheartedly. Stay open, listen deeply, act at the right time, and trust your felt sense! It can be this way!

6. Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the Friends in Sweden for generously sharing their knowledge in group-centered decision-making. It’s one thing to read about it, it’s quite another to experience it! Thank you!

I would also like to give my heartfelt thanks to Skye Hirst, who coached me in the writing of this post. We have had an ongoing dialogue since 2017. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey — both as a coach and as a friend!

Finally, thank you, dear reader, if you have read this far! You can reach me or follow me here.

7. Recommended Books

This is a long list. Authors who have influenced me most are Christopher Alexander, David Bohm, Henri Bortoft, Eugene Gendlin, and Robert Hartman. I have found myself going back to their books again and again. All have something to say about deeper order.

Christopher Alexander’s books hold a special place in my library.

Abram, D., The Spell of the Sensuous
Abram, D., Becoming Animal.
Addleson, M., Beyond Management
Agerbeck, B., The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide
Alexander, C., The Timeless Way of Building
Alexander, C., The Nature of Order: Book 1 – The Phenomenon of Life
Alexander, C., The Nature of Order: Book 2 – The Process of Creating Life
Alexander, C., The Nature of Order: Book 3 – A Vision of a Living World
Alexander, C., The Nature of Order: Book 4 – The Luminous Ground

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Artur, B.W., The Nature of Technology
Atran, S., Talking to the Enemy
Bache, C.M., The Living Classroom
Bache, C.M., Dark Night, Early Dawn
Bache, C.M., LSD and the Mind of the Universe
Baghai, M., & Quigley, J., As One
Baldwin, C., & Linnea, A., The Circle Way
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Banishoeib, F., The Poetry of Leadership
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Bohm, D., The Special Theory of Relativity
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Bohm, D., & Hiley B., The Undivided Universe
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Bornstein, D., How to Change the World
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Bortoft, H., Taking Appearance Seriously (Excellent book review by Simon Robinson)
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Brogan, K., A Mind of Your Own
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Owen, H., The Power of Spirit
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Paul, M., Inner Bonding
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Perls, F., Gestalt Therapy Verbatim
Pink, D.H., A Whole New Mind
Pink, D.H., Drive
Pink, D.H., To Sell is Human
Plotkin, B., Nature and the Human Soul
Plotkin, B., Wild Mind
Plotkin, B., Soulcraft
Polanyi, M., The Tacit Dimension
Pollan, M., How to Change Your Mind
Polyani, M., Personal Knowledge
Poynter, J., The Human Experiment
Prigogine, I., The End of Certainty
Prigogine, I., & Stengers, I., Order Out of Chaos .
Pylkkänen, P., et al., The Search for Meaning
Pylkkänen, P., Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order
Quillien, J., Clever Digs.
Radin, D., Supernormal
Radin, D., The Conscious Universe
Ramquist, L., & Eriksson, M., Integral Management
Ramquist, L., & Eriksson, M., Manöverbarhet
Rawson, W., The Werkplaats [Workshop] Adventure
Reiss, S., Who am I?
Remen, R.N., Kithcen Table Wisdom.
Remen, R.N., My Grandfather’s Blessings.
Reynolds, M., The Garden Awakening
Richards, M.C., Centering.
Richards, M.C., The Crossing Point.
Rico, G., Writing the Natural Way
Rilke, R.M., Letters to a Young Poet
Robinson, K., Out of Our Minds
Robinson, K., The Element
Robinson, K., Finding Your Element
Robinson, S., & Moraes Robinson, M., Holonomics
Robinson, S., & Moraes Robinson, M., Customer Experiences with Soul.
Rodgers, C., Informal Coalitions
Roeper, A., The “I” of the Beholder
Rogers, C., A Way of Being
Rogers, C., Client-Centered Therapy
Rogers, C., On Becoming a Person
Rogers, C., On Personal Power
Rogers, C., & Stevens, B., Person to Person
Rogers, C., Kirschenbaum, H., & Henderson, V.L., The Carl Rogers Reader
Rosen, R., Life Itself
Rosenberg, M.B., Nonviolent Communication
Rosenberg, M.B:, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict
Rosenzweig, P., The Halo Effect
Ross, C., The Leaderless Revolution
Roth, W., The Roots and Future of Management Theory
Rother, M., Toyota Kata
Rough, J., Society’s Breakthrough!
Rozenthuler, S., Life-Changing Conversations
Rovelli, C., Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Russell, J.M., Thrivability
Sadler-Smith, E., The Intuitive Mind
Safina, C., Beyond Words
Sahtouris, E., EarthDance .
Sahtouris, E., Gaia’s Dance.
Sanford, C., The Regenerative Business.
Sanford, M., Waking
Saul, J.R., Voltaire’s Bastards
Scharmer, C.O., Theory U
Scharmer, C.O., & Kaufter, K., Leading from the Emerging Future
Schein, E.H., Humble Inquiry
Schmaltz, D., The Blind Men and the Elephant
Schmidt, M., et al., Understanding Montessori
Schumacher, E.F., A Guide for the Perplexed
Schumacher, E.F., Small is Beautiful
Schumacher, E.F., Good Work
Schwaber, K., & Beedle, M., Agile Software Development with Scrum
Schön, D., The Reflective Practitioner
Seagal, S., & Horne, D., Human Dynamics
Seddon, J., Freedom from Command and Control
Seddon, J., In Pursuit of Quality
Seddon, J., I Want You To Cheat!
Seddon, J., Systems Thinking in the Public Sector
Seddon, J., The Whitehall Effect
Seifter, H. & Economy, P., Leadership Ensemble
Semler, R., Maverick
Semler, R., The Seven-Day Weekend.
Senge, P., The fifth Discipline
Senger, P., The Dance of Change
Senge, P., et al., The Necessary Revolution
Senge, P., Scharmer, C.O., Jaworski, J., & Flowers, B.S., Presence
Sennett, R., The Craftsman
Shaetti, B.F., Ramsey, S.J., & Watanabe, G.C., Personal Leadership
Shaw, P., Changing Conversations in Organizations
Shaw, P., Stacey, R., et al., Experiencing Risk, Spontaneity and Improvisation in Organizational Change
Sheeran, M.J., Beyond Majority Rule
Sheldrake, R., The Science Delusion
Sheldrake, R., A New Science of Life
Sheldrake, R., The Presence of the Past
Sherburne, D.W., A Key to Whithead’s Process and Reality
Siegel, D., Mindsight
Siegel, D., The Developing Mind
Sirolli, E., Hot to Start a Business and Ignite Your Life
Sirota, D., Mischkind, L.A., & Meltzer, M.I., The Enthusiastic Employee
Snowden, D., et al., Cynefin.
Sousanis, N., Unflattening
Stacey, R., Managing Chaos
Stacey, R., Managing the Unknowable
Stacey, R., Complexity and Organizational Reality
Stacey, R., Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics
Stacey, R., Complexity and Group Processes
Stamoliev, R., The Energetics of Voice Dialogue
Stefanovic, I.L., Safeguarding Our Common Future
Stolaroff, M.J., The Secret Chief Revealed
Stone H., & Stone, S., Embracing Our Selves
Stone H., & Stone, S., Embracing Your Inner Critic
Streatfield, P.J., The Paradox of Control in Organizations
Surowiecki, J., The Wisdom of Crowds
Sutton, R., The No Asshole Rule
Sutton, R., Good Boss, Bad Boss
Tarnas, R., The Passion of the Western Mind
Thompson, W.I., Coming Into Being
Tippett, K., Becoming Wise
Tonn, J.C., Mary P. Follet: Creating Democracy, Transforming Management
Turner, T., Belonging.
Ury, W., The Power of a Positive No
Vaill, P.B., Managing as a Performing Art
Vaill, P.B., Learning as a Way of Being
van der Heijden, K., Scenarios
van der Heijden, K., Bradfield, R., Burt, G., Cairns, G., & Wright, G., The Sixth Sense
van der Kolk, B., The Body Keeps the Score
van Vugt, M., & Ahuja, A., Selected
Varela, F.J., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E., The Embodied Mind
Wachterhauser, B.R., Beyond Being
Wahl, D.C., Designing Regenerative Cultures
Wallack, F.B., The Epochal Nature of Process in Whitehead’s Metaphysics
Watts, A., The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.
Watts, A., The Watercourse Way.
Watts, A., Does it Matter.
Watts, A., The Way of Zen.
Weber, A., Matter and Desire.
Weber, A., The Biology of Wonder.
Weber, A., Enlivenment.
Weber, A., Biopoetics.
Weggeman, M., Managing Professionals? Don’t!
Weick, K.E., Sensemaking in Organizations
Weinstock, M., The Architecture of Emergence
Weisbord, M.R., Discovering Common Ground
Weisbord, M.R., Productive Workplaces
Weisbord, M., & Janoff, S., Future Search
Weisbord, M., & Janoff, S., Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!
Weltzel, C., Freedom Rising
Welwood, J., Toward a Psychology of Awakening
Wendt, T., Design for Dasein
Western, S., Coaching and Mentoring
Western, S., Leadership
Whitehead, A.N., Process and Reality (see also Sherburn and Wallack)
Wheatley, M.J., Leadership and the New Science
Wheatley, M.J., Finding Our Way
Wheatley, M.J. Who Do We Choose to Be?.
Wheatley, M.J., So Far From Home
Wheatley, M.J., Turning to One Another
Wheatley, M.J., & Frieze, D., Walk Out Walk On
Wheatley, M.J., & Kellner-Rogers, M., A Simpler Way
Whyte, D., The Heart Aroused .
Whyte, D., The Three Marriages
Williams, B., The Genuine Contact Way
Williams, M., & Penman, D., Mindfulness
Wolff, R., Democracy at Work
Wolff, R., Original Wisdom .
Woolley-Barker, T., Teeming.
Youngs, R., The Puzzle of Non-Western Democracy
Yunkaporta, T., Sand Talk.
Zander, R.S., Pathways to Possibility
Zander, R.S., & Zander, B., The Art of Possibility
Zubizarreta, R., From Conflict to Creative Collaboration
Zimmerman, J., & Coyle, V., The Way of Council
Zweig, C., & Abrams, J., et al., Meeting the Shadow

Update 2022-10-21:
1. Quotes changed to quotes and notes.

Update 2022-10-09:
1. Link added to further reading. 3.2. Correction of grammar.

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.

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

Letters Organizing Thoughts Workplaces

Rúna Bouius on Managing People

Rúna Bouius suggests in a newsletter that we need to replace the term “managing people” with something else.

Rúna writes (Sept 3, 2022) that:

It started with a young leader…contacting me to ask for advice about a workplace dilemma. He explained how he…likes to reach out to subordinates so he can understand where they are coming from and what their needs are. …he wants to create an atmosphere where his people feel appreciated and have a feeling of belonging.

But that kind of leadership is not going down well with some of his senior leaders, who ridicule him and talk down to him… He says his bosses enjoy making others feel less and instilling fear… They are rude, insensitive, and hard on people.

What’s surprising to him is how…people take the abuse and seem to respond positively to the leaders who terrorize them and threaten to fire them. I explained to him that that’s…what people do when their jobs and livelihood are threatened. They can’t afford to lose their jobs, so they try to ignore the abuse and pretend they are fine. But deep down, of course, they are not fine. Anything but…

What we are talking about here is the old command and control management style based on hierarchy and domination (“Power over”) versus the new type of leadership based on partnership, collaboration, and co-creation (“Power to” and “Power with.”)

I agree with Rúna Bouius and think that traditional top-down command and control management is a poor way of organizing work. It is a waste of human energy and creativity. We need to create workplaces where people can thrive.

Rúna asks what other terms we can come up with replacing the term “managing people”? What about organizing, not people, but the work? It’s best done by the people who actually do the work. Hence, my interest in organizing between and beyond.

Related posts (on management):
Does Agile Change Management Thinking?
The management view of agile
Needed changes in the managemeent ecosystem
Book Review: Maslow on Management
W.L. Gore’s management model
Management as stewardship of the living
Management is designed to get compliance
Management & to manage (English-Swedish translations)
How will companies approach the management challenge?
Integral Management
Bob Emiliani on Scientific Management and Toyota Management


Arbetsglädje – så skapar du den

Jag lajvtweetade lunchföreläsningen

Arbetsglädje – så skapar du den
Föreläsare: Elizabeth Kuylenstierna
Arrangör: Sveriges Ingenjörer

den 2020-11-20 kl 12:00–12:45.

  • Arbetsglädje innefattar relationer och meningsfullhet.
  • Arbetsglädje handlar om kittet mellan oss människor
  • Arbetsglädje handlar om energi, lust, positiv anda, fungerande relationer, att få utvecklas, att lära sig, problemlösning tillsammans
    • Men ovisshet är ett utmanande element när det gäller arbetsglädje
    • En del kan vi påverka, en del kan vi inte påverka
    • Det gäller att inte trampa vatten och fokusera på fel saker
  • Klargör uppdraget (t.ex. för mötet)
    • Ofta har man inte uppdraget tydligt (för organisationen, arbetsgruppen, etc.)
    • Arbetsglädje är att jobba på riktigt med dessa frågor
  • Definiera målet (när vi är klara, vad ska hänt?)
    • Ofta definieras målen i siffror, men man kan lägga till mål som har att göra med upplevelser
    • Den upplevda arbetsglädjen handlar om en känsla
    • Vad är den upplevda känslan man vill åt?
    • Nästa generation har helt andra krav på det mellanmänskliga
    • Det är viktigt att alla förstår riktningen tillsammans
  • Klargör varför
    • Vad är syftet med det vi ska göra?
    • Vad är skälet till verksamheten?
    • På vilket är sätt är just ditt arbete meningsfullt? Vem har glädje av det? Hur påminner du dig själv?
    • Påminn dig själv om syftet, om uppdraget, ha koll på målet, veta för vem skull. På vilket sätt är det meningsfullt?
  • Arbetet behöver delas in i vad-frågor?
    • Det är det vanliga
  • Arbetet behöver också delas upp i hur-frågor?
    • Hur pratar vi med varandra? Ber vi om feedback? Lyssnar vi överhuvudtaget? Vilka förväntningar har vi på varandra? Hur gör vi när det uppstår konflikter? Hur hanterar vi krissituationer? Hur hanterar vi med olikheter?
    • Hur får vi våra olika egenskaper att fungera tillsammans?
    • Viktigast av allt är relationerna. Så länge vi inte är robotar behöver vi prioritera detta. Hur gör vi varandra bättre? Hur spenderar vi vår tid ihop?
    • Hur tar vi hand om våra relationer? Att känna gläde och energi tillsammans med dom man arbetar med.
    • Elizabeth räknar upp flera exempel på hur ta hand om våra relationer… (en utmaning inte minst under pandemin)
    • Det handlar om att vårda sina relationer till arbetskamrater. Det gäller att strukturera upp så att det blir balans. Man kan ha kontakt på olika sätt.
    • Elizabeth jämför virtuella och fysiska möten.
  • Nu besvaras frågor i chatten…
  • Fråga: Hur ska man hantera kollegor som inte vill visa sig (t.ex. på Teams eller Zoom)?
    • Varför ska vi inte se varandra? Vi fångar upp en massa saker genom att se varandra.
    • Hur gör alla som är synskadade? Det visar sig att de kommunicerar mycket tydligare.
    • Man ska komma överens hur man ska ha det. Och så gör man så.
  • Många frågor kring mötesstruktur…
    • Man måste acceptera olikheter.
    • Ställ frågor och var intresserad (döm inte)
    • Hjälps åt i arbetsgruppen. Vi jobbar tillsammans för ett övergripande varför, ett gemensamt uppdrag.
  • Fråga: Hur gör man om man blir utfrusen?
    • Långt svar…
    • Hämta stöd från någon som du har förtroende för.
    • Det är oftast bäst att få föra sin egen talan.
    • Avslöja, avslöja, avslöja…
    • Då brukar beteenden förändras.
    • Ta det direkt!
  • Nu om framtiden…
    • Vi är utrustade för att hantera stress, press, kriser, förändringar, snabba bud…
    • Vi behöver varandra, vi behöver fungera tillsammans i flocken. Det är därför relationer viktigt. Det är enormt viktigt att människor blir inkluderade!
    • Det handlar om vart vi är på väg.
    • På vilket sätt vill du utvecklas?
    • Förverkliga din drömmar…
    • Var är du på väg i ditt liv? Vad är din mening?
    • Viktigt att ta ut en riktning och röra sig i den riktningen…
  • Det kommer in mycket frågor…
  • Fråga: Hur gör man om man tappar koncentrationen?
    • Säg det! Ge feedback.
    • Mycket handlar om att våga säga: Vad vill du? Jag vill det här!
  • Omfamna olikheter och människors olika styrkor.
  • Som chef behöver du vara intresserad av människor.
  • En ledares uppgift är att se till så att alla får utrymme.
  • Slut
Books Coaching Life Motivation Thoughts Workplaces

My story

In one of our conversations, Skye Hirst said:

—I think there is an outline that I am hearing from you that I would like you to hear. Write this down…

My journey started as a little boy in Africa. I liked to draw. I loved to be in the forest with the trees. I have been on a lifetime journey to reconnect to that little boy that got lost, who got left some place.
I have taken enormous steps of accomplishment. The world has rewarded me with a good job, with money to support my family. I think I have helped a lot of people in my workplace, but in that workplace I discovered that I was being killed. I was dying, and I didn’t know why.
I knew I had to find out what I could do differently. I had reached the end. I had hit the wall. I could not continue. I had to go into finding out where that little boy was, but I didn’t know that when I started the journey.
I am going to tell you about that journey. I may be able to pass a few ideas along to you that you can relate to in your own life, but mostly I really want to communicate how deadly our world of workplace has become for so many people—and that it doesn’t have to be that way.”

—How you weave that is up to you. That is your story, and your passion. The beauty of this story is that you get to bring in your paintings.

—There is a very important phrase that I want you to start with somewhere…

I want to show you my little Jan and the quiet joy that I have discovered.

Thank you, Skye!

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.

Retrospectives Thinking Thoughts Workplaces

Retrospektiv 2019-12

Detta är en återblick på veckan.

Arbetsplatser som möjliggör tänkande

Under veckan har jag läst Clever Digs: How Workspaces Can Enable Thought av Jenny Quillien, som under sex års tid arbetade tillsammans med Christopher Alexander. Jenny Quillien skriver (min översättning):

När det gäller platser för arbete, känner de flesta av oss en brist; det finns ett obehag, en kvardröjande hunger efter något bättre…

Jenny Quillien identifierar ett antal arkitektuella mönster (patterns) som lämnar mig med fler frågor än svar. Det är en sak att identifiera ett antal mönster, en helt annan att kombinera dem på ett djupgående sätt?

Språket och vårt tänkande

I förordet till David Bohms bok On Creativity hittar jag några intressanta tankar om hur språket påverkar vårt tänkande. Leroy Little Bear, som är svartfotsindian, skriver (min översättning):

Ett språk leder den som talar det längs en särskild väg av tänkande.

Det är ganska svårt för en engelsktalande att uppskatta det faktum att ett språk som svarfotsindianernas helt och hållet handlar om handling.

Engelska leder dess talare att tänka i termer av dikotomier (motsatspar): bra och dåligt, helgon och syndare, dag och natt, svart och vitt, och så vidare.

Svartfotsindianernas språk leder inte talaren ner i dessa vattentäta kategorier.

Dagens fråga

Under veckan har jag börjat tweeta dagens fråga (#QuestionOfTheDay). Hittills har jag hunnit med att ställa följande frågor:

Vad skiljer kreativa processer, hos människor och i universum i stort, från sådana som enbart är mekaniska?

Vad är relationen mellan fantasi, rationalitet och intelligens? Vad är intelligensens natur?

Vilka är våra underliggande antaganden?

Underliggande antagande

Den sista frågan (ovan) kommer från ett samtal med Skye Hirst för två år sedan. Vi kom fram till att det finns ett behov av att klargöra underliggande antaganden, i relation till livet självt, så att människor kan dra sina egna slutsatser, i sina egna liv, utifrån sina egna erfarenheter.

Prioritet 1: Klargör underliggande antaganden så att människor kan dra sina egna slutsatser, i sina egna liv, utifrån sina egna erfarenheter.

Antaganden är ofta sanna inom givna ramar, men inte nödvändigtvis när man går utanför dessa. Ett exempel: Antaganden som gäller för maskiner gäller inte för människor!

Språket skapar vår verklighet

I våra organisationer skapar språket vår verklighet, och det språket har sitt ursprung i den industriella revolutionen. Vi är fortfarande informerade av ett språkbruk som var relevant i en värld som fanns för 300 år sedan. Rationell logik bestående av olika kontroll- och mätsystem är den verklighet vi rör oss i.

Om chefer inte ser till att prestationsmålen uppfylls, vad ska de då göra? Det är svårt att lyfta blicken och se större perspektiv när mätning och prestationsmål får all uppmärksamhet. När det enda vi fokuserar på är det ‘tekniska’ är det svårt att hitta en djupare mening bakom det vi säger och gör.

Organizing Reflections Workplaces

Organizing reflection 35

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’m currently reading Peter B. Vaill’s book Learning as a Way of Being. Waill introduces seven qualities, or modes, of learning as a way of being:1

Self-directed learning
Creative learning
Expressive learning
Feeling learning
On-line learning
Continual learning
Reflexive learning

These modes overlap and interrelate in countless ways.2

Similarly, generative organizing is self-directed, creative, continual, and reflexive. It’s about expressing our felt sense for a situation. It’s to discover in the real time of the situation how to act effectively.3

Institutional learning is the antithesis of learning as a way of being. Likewise, institutional organizing is the antithesis of generative organizing.

1 Peter B. Vaill, Learning as a Way of Being: Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water (Jossey Bass Business and Management Series, 1996), p. 56.
2 Ibid., pp. 86–86.
3 Ibid., p. 155.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

Organizing Workplaces

Patterns related to work

This is a post in my organizing “between and beyond” series. Other posts are here.

The following are patterns related to work in Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language:

  • Scattered Work: The artificial separation of houses and work creates intolerable rifts in people’s inner lives. This separation reinforces the idea that work is a toil.
    Therefore, prohibit large concentrations or work without family life around them, and prohibit large concentrations of family life, without workplaces around them.1
  • Work Community: If you spend eight hours of your day at work, and eight hours at home, there is no reason why your workplace should be any less of a community than your home. People believe they are less alive when they are working than when they are at home. Why shall we not create a world in which our work is as much part of life, as much alive, as anything we do at home with our family and friends?
    Therefore, build or encourage the formation of work communities. The total work community should have no more than 10 or 20 workplaces in it.2
  • Self-Governing Workshops and Offices: No one enjoys his work if he is a cog in a machine. A person enjoys the work when he or she understands the whole and is responsible for the quality of the whole. Work is a form of living, with its own intrinsic rewards. Any way of organizing which treats work instrumentally, as a means only to other ends, is inhuman. People cannot find satisfaction in work unless it is performed at a human scale and in a setting where they have a say. We believe that small self-governing groups are not only more efficient, but also the only possible source of job satisfaction.
    Therefore, encourage the formation of self-governing workshops and offices fo 5 to 20 workers. Make each group autonomous. Where the work is complicated and requires larger organizations, several of these groups can federate and cooperate.3

Here is an analysis of Christopher Alexander’s pattern language in architecture.

1 Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, with Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, and Shlomo Angel, A Pattern Language (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 51–57.
2 Ibid., p. 222–226.
3 Ibid., p. 398–403.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts