Redesign for Capability Not Flatness

In an HBR Blog Network essay by Ron Ashkenas titled “More direct reports make life easier”, the case is made for increasing the span of control so that it becomes “possible to compress the number of hierarchical layers or levels.”  Why do this? Continue reading

Challenging The Chain of Command

If management can control things then management can be effective and efficient in realizing the desired results and sustaining the business. You will find very few who would disagree with this if-then thinking.  This thinking is so common that it is rarely, if ever challenged—until now. Continue reading

What We Know That Ain’t So

The paradigm that emerged in the 17th century set humankind as the conqueror and manipulator of all things for tangible ends. Moreover knowing something meant that it is expressible and explainable in the language of mathematics (i.e. numbers, measurements), as everything that was anything must be quantifiable and quantified if it is to be understood.  Accordingly everything in the universe became an object to be measured and modeled into exact laws of cause-and-effect.  Continue reading

A Real Crisis

The precepts of neoclassical economic theory (a.k.a. capitalism) have permeated almost every aspect of life in American society leading us to create both a materialistic and individualistic focused society.  This has a tremendous influence upon how people understand society and organizations, the problems in society and organizations, and correspondingly the solutions people offer. Continue reading

Cascading Goals

Spend some time in most business organizations—as I have done over the past 35-plus years—and you will likely observe the practice of cascading goals top-to-bottom.  Why?  Because executive teams believe:  a) it is the way to align organizational goals and people’s activity, to implement strategy; b) it is a way to exercise control over what happens in the organization; c) it is the means to holding people accountable and the basis for evaluating people’s performance; and d) it is what other executive teams do. Continue reading

Enact Trust, Our Development Depends On It

Trust connotes many things.  In one sense it speaks to the history we’ve had with other people when we say things like my experience shows he/she can be trusted.  In another it reflects aspirations about one’s self in statements like I trust that I’d do the right thing if faced with that situation.  An in yet another we often hear people say I trust things will workout for the better.

 

Though trust is related to notions of reliability, confidence, belief, faith and hope or expectation underlying these is the role trust plays in human development.  It speaks to our need to counter balance an ever-present characteristic of our world, uncertainty. Consequently trust is the means of bringing a sense of order to an uncertain environment.  Accordingly, when we are in an environment absent of trust, one wherein mistrust abounds, increasingly dis-ease overcomes us.   Why is this so?  Continue reading

Regulation, A Necessity

Each of us as a person is a constituent of society and its governance and economic systems, as well as of the larger system of humankind.  That is to say, we are living systems collectively constituting a deeply interconnected hierarchy of semi-autonomous whole-parts in mutual relation.  Thus our actions and interactions in these systems—as individuals, groups and organizations—are of utmost importance to the viability of these systems.  Continue reading

The Stewardship Imperative

“Thinking systemically also requires several shifts in perception, which lead in turn to different ways to teach and different ways to organize society” –Russell Ackoff

As living beings we each present with a physical body comprised of cells, tissue, organs and organ-systems structurally and functionally organized to support (our) life.  The natural order of things is a hierarchy of constituent entities that are themselves living systems.  So the issue is not whether everything is reducible to individual entities—the atomistic view—or everything is a whole—the holistic view—but rather that neither view is the absolute view.  As Arthur Koestler (The Ghost in The Machine) noted “parts and wholes in a absolute sense do not exist in the domain of life.”  What we have are semi-autonomous systems that are each a part of larger higher order systems.  Koestler called these ‘whole-parts’ holons—wholes that are parts of other wholes—and the hierarchy they constitute a holarchyContinue reading