Re: Postmodernism -- switching epistemes... LO218

Michael McMaster (
Thu, 23 Feb 1995 22:01:13 GMT

In response to my challenge of the meta-narratives of management (and of
the learning organisation dialogues) Mariann says in LO165:
> I worry that whether we praise or blame "management,"
> assume it's totally omnicient or that it's totally corrupt, we
> oversimplify.

I am attacking management practices, not managers. We are all inheritors
of the system. I do not think that managers are exempt nor do I think
that they are responsible for the state of affairs. I have the deepest
regard for managers. In fact, if someone is making managers, management,
or organisations as they exist "wrong", I think that they won't contribute
much to the solutions that we are all searching for - including the most
reactionary, old-fashioned manager.

You have captured an essential of the hierarchical thinking, namely:

> (they are, I think, that only those on top can or should know, and because
> they know, make decisions for all the others - who are assumed not to have
> relevant thoughts or ideas or reactions). Those assumptions are clearly
> inappropriate

The flaw is deeper than the "those on top" syndrome. It includes the
"those that know" syndrome. The idea of the expert being larger than the
intelligence of the whole or of the institution is equally flawed and
equally part of the problem. Kent Palmer has said that engineering will
solve the dichotomy of management/labour (not his words exactly) but its
not so because we'll still be left with something less than the
intelligence of the whole (team, community, organisation, etc). You
demonstrate by your next lines the problem that I'm pointing at:

> ... and especially if trained to examine and interpret it (again, much
> easier to support now than say 100 years ago), can make reasonable
> decisions on the basis of the information. This is the essence of
> "empowering" notions, it seems to me.

I am not, by the way putting down the value of education and development,
and yes, even training, although the idea of the last is rather limited.

I've said more about vision and commitment in response to another of your
contributions to the conversation. I'll say more at some other time about
the source of these being in an older tradition of control and
cause/effect relationship that are not valid. To hint at the shared
vision beyond what I've said elsewhere in this conversation: given that
we can't know the future, and that our shared vision will suppress
individual expressions of it, what will happen as circumstances change the
vision? If the response is that we'll have to re-engage in that kind of
conversation, then how about having the conversations be constantly alive
and not about any particular future. That is, in each of these
conversation, the meaning of "shared vision" seems to disappear and
transform into dialogue for endless possbility. (Which is closer to what
I want to express as an alternative.)

Mike McMaster <>