Fred asks some good questions:
>Here, you've defined what you mean by "organizations" (i.e., "systems of
>people") but it leaves me wondering what you mean by "system."
>To say "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" is consistent with
>a thought gleaned from the gestalt psychologists many years ago but, when
>applied to organizations, it raises at least two fundamental questions:
>What are the "parts" whose sum is less than the whole? And, what is it
>that constitutes the difference between the whole and the sum of the
>parts? I happen to think the difference between the whole and the sum of
>the parts consists of relationships between and among the parts. What are
>>Exploring the mental model that organizations are living organisms
>>seems to be more fruitful.
>More fruitful than what? If you mean that viewing organizations as living
>organisms is more fruitful than not viewing them as living organisms, I
>disagree. Down that path lies a belief in the organizational "mind" and
>the notion that organizations "think," neither of which I accept as true.
>By way of example, consider the text below, snipped from LO3493, in which
>Jack Hirschfeld writes in part:
>>A training/development department of a large organization which is about
>>to embark on a journey of transformation wants to rename itself.
>What is being communicated here? That all members of the department agree
>that the name of their department must be changed? That the head of the
>department believes this is necessary? That a few members have sold the
>head of the department on the idea? That the head of the unit has been
>directed to "get with the program"? I have no idea which of these or any
>of other possibilities is the case. But I am sure of one thing: the
>department doesn't want to do anything.
My first impulse was to respond by trying to elucidate the two mental
models that we are talking about. I got out Margaret Wheatley's
"Leadership and the New Science," and reviewed Chapter 2 - Newtonian
Organizations in a Quantum Age. It's all there and she says it a lot
better than I can. She also makes the statement, "My growing sensibility
of a quantum universe has affected my organizational life in several ways.
... Third, I no longer argue with anyone about what is real." Good point.
So I sat for a minute, wondering about whether or not to reply and how.
For some reason, the following passage from Ishmael (by Daniel Quinn)
popped into my head:
"The gods have played three dirty tricks on the Takers," he began.
"In the first place, they didn't put the world where the Takers thought it
belonged, in the center of the universe. They really hated hearing this,
but they got used to it. Even if man's home was stuck off in the
boondocks, they could still believe he was the central figure in the drama
"The second of the gods' tricks was worse. Since man was the climax
of creation, the creature for whom all the rest was made, they should have
had the decency to produce him in a manner suited to his dignity and
importance--in a separate, special act of creation. Instead they arranged
for him to evolve from the common slime, just like ticks and liver flukes.
The Takers _really_ hated hearing this, but they're beginning to adjust to
it. Even if man evolved from the common slime, it's still his divinely
appointed destiny to rule the world and perhaps even the universe itself.
"But the last of the gods' tricks was the worst of all. Though the
Takers don't know it yet, the gods did not exempt man from the law that
governs the lives of grubs and ticks and shrimps and rabbits and mollusks
and deer and lions and jellyfish. They did not exempt him from this law
any more than they exempted him from the law of gravity, and this is going
to be the bitterest blow of all to the Takers. To the gods' other dirty
tricks, they could adjust. To this one, no adjustment is possible."
I'm still working on the connections and the relationships between the
passage and the thread.
-- Jim Saveland /email@example.com