Fred, thanks for your clear response. I am challenging directly the
statement that you make and that is behind much of the problems I
experience in the LO conversations and approaches. (See my same day
post on productivity drops while learning.)
> Organizations don't do anything; people do.
This declaration (there's been no case suggested to indicate an
assertion is being made) is what I'm standing in opposition to. My
opposition, first of all, is pragmatic rather than "truth". I can
argue the case "organisations do" and will do it partially but my
purpose is to create a useful linguistic approach rather than to
demonstrate "the truth".
Let me demonstrate with "team" on the assumption that if
organisations (large groups of people cooperating for productive
purposes) cannot "do", then teams (smaller groups) cannot "do".
Let's take basketball. Who plays basketball - the team or only
individuals? I suggest that only individuals bounce the ball and
shoot it. I maintain, however, that basketball is more than bouncing
balls and shooting baskets. It takes two teams plus more. We can
say, "Yeah, but only individuals actually play" but all we're doing
is choosing to focus at a certain level and make that the only right
And can a team improve? Does the improvement occur only if
individuals get better? I have a serious competitive sports
background and can assert that this is not the case. Team spirit or
will or something can alter dramatically and that can alter the
team's performance dramatically. That "team spirit" is not to be
located in the individuals either. Something in me changed in those
instances but it wasn't my bit of team spirit and each other person's
bit of team spirit.
> said, we can still talk about organizational behavior, organizational
> learning, and even organizational thinking -- as long as we are careful to
> say what we mean and as long as we don't fall into the trap of attributing
> to organizations qualities that only people possess.
I agree that we often fall into the trap of attributing to
organisations things that we shouldn't. My objection, however, isn't
based in fact but in the pragmatically negative effects of
anthropomorphising and then making useless or worse decisions about
theory, approach, action.
> I do not, for
> instance, think of a business organization has having motives, purpose, or
> even a mission. People possess those qualities or attributes and then
> project them onto organizations.
I tend to agree that organisations don't have mission. But then I
tend to think that's not a very useful way to talk about individual
initiative in many cases either. But, in those circumstance when
it's useful to talk about mission - whether organisational or
individual - I recommend it.
> I do not think of an organization as learning in
> the same way I think of human beings as learning.
I don't think they learn in the same way either. I think they learn
differently. The metaphor I use is that the cells, etc of an
individual learning differently than the individual. I look for the
relationship between these two to indicate something about the way
that organisations learn.
-- Michael McMaster Michael@kbddean.demon.co.uk