Re: Postmodernism -- switching epistemes... LO278

Mariann Jelinek (
Tue, 28 Feb 1995 09:22:26 -0500

Michael McMaster wrote in LO218:

>The flaw [in contemporary management & organizations] 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.

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.)

IMHO this gets closer to the issue that we're really chewing at: beyond
"hierarchy" (acknowledging as others have noted in this thread that it's
neither good nor bad in itself, although it seems likely to predispose the
higher-ups to arrogance .) the issue is how to adapt and evolve a shared
vision, insuring somehow that it can be self-correcting. That is, despite
the work to create a shared vision (which may make us want to keep it!)
the world turns along, and times change - so visions must, as well. To
restate the issue, "How can we build organizations sufficiently open to
new ideas and inputs to insure their shared vision retains its essential
links to emerging reality?"
Such a learning organization would be pervaded by a sense that any
set of arrangements (rules, procedures, practices, habits, etc.) was a
temporary matter, always requiring revalidation for its continuance. Such
an organization would also embody a sense that all members are responsible
for vigilance as to the shared vision's continued appropriateness. It
could be done . and it wouldn't be easy, for sure. But any organization
that continues to succeed over extended periods of time must have _some_
of this, I think, even if most have not nearly enough.
So as a professor, believing as I do that such organizations and
such reactions are the insurance against changing times, I'm concerned
with how to communicate this view, how to help MBAs see that their
managerial responsibility is for such a process, and how to facilitate
their development of the skills to encourage such risk-taking behavior
(actually noticing that the old vision is getting threadbare, and saying
so). I don't think I will run out of work anytime soon . ;-)


Mariann Jelinek
Richard C. Kraemer Professor of Business
Graduate School of Business,
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23185

Tel. (804) 221-2882 FAX: (804) 229-6135