Replying to Roy's post and subsequent - including Michael McMaster LO8534
Roy wrote in response to the dilemmas of asking people to learn lists
versus the added value of the concepts - so people may be inspired, etc.
This thread seems consonant with the old story about the 3 bricklayers
working in a churchyard who respond to the question of what they are doing
with three alternative answers - laying these bricks and making $8/hr, or
building this wall professionally with straight edges and strong mortar
joints, or re-creating the beauty of one of the few community spaces we
have left in our town (my reconstruction with its own nuances!)
These three conceptual levels represented by the stories can be explained
in many different ways, through descriptions of instrumentality, ways of
knowing, commnunication styles, etc; etc. Many people (and I have been
known to also) might argue that the "higher" level description of
community value is the most important, the most "inspirational" the most
systemic, the most valuable. One could say that the first bricklayer
learned (and thereby interpets his work) through command and control -
work and I give you dollars; the second learned through lists, i.e. the
specifications and necessary processes for quality, and the third has
learned somehow the actual value of his work beyond himself and the wall.
However, perhaps it is the breadth of understanding, the variability and
openness to different and multiple levels of interpretations that seems to
me to be the most important connection to OL.
Which returns to the lists or concepts question, which also seems similar
to the Kaizen or transformation question also asked recently, which was
answered as both, i.e. the dichotomy gives us little benefit.
I accept Roy's assertion that business cannot wait "one year" for a new
engineer to critique all the systems in the company, and that they have to
come up to speed quickly. However I am critically aware of how we manage
to do both - i.e. how we create and allow for conceptual knowledge to
inspire new workers, and teach them lists and quality processes.
Most of the responses to Roy related to his implied rejection of
experiential knowledge and opened alternative perspectives which I
thoroughly agree with. I wish to add another related dimension, relatively
unstated within the OL literature - that of the critical nature of the Org
socialization process in enabling or uncoupling the potential for creating
new learning at any level.
I suggest that in the rush to gain maximum eff/eff from the new worker
that we are actually using a justification or rationalization to maintain
the status quo. That is that when we say such things - (which I hear all
the time) as "we cannot ALLOW an engineer to spend ONE YEAR criticising
the systems", that we need to reframe this for ourselves into - we must
bring them in in a a way that continuously affirms them in critiquing the
system from multiple angles (micro and macro). We can and must spend some
time ( a week or so at least) helping them build a conceptual
understanding of the org and what its core systems are about - simply
because to do so is a strategic step in doing what we say we need to do -
build a LO that improves its learning capabilities. They need to learn how
to critique, how to learn how to learn in this org, and help everyone else
in this org to do so - because the are all immersed in water that they as
goldfish can no longer see. We only get one chance to bring people into an
org and to allow them the opportunity to use their unique experiences and
variability to (a) contribute their diversity and (b)start in a way that
does not automatically delimit their potential to learn. Bringing new
people onboard is one of the most strategic acts we can make in an
We must change IMHO past practises of bringing new people in in a way that
exerts a social control to "reconstruct" (in the recent literature) people
in the image of the org. To do so is to assure the denial of OL. Org
socialization practises generally serve to reduce anxiety, teach social
costs of deviance, create passiveness, AND often reduce self reported
performance, and reduce INNOVATION. They rarely invigorate the potential
for learning or effectively engage newcomers into informal networks e.g.
engendering the self organization of communities of practice.
To say "we must start with lists so we don't re-invent the wheel with
every individual", is to choose to avoid the inherent difficulties of
Senge's challenge to build shared visions (even if it only happens every
In summary, Roy thanks for adding in the struggles of the business
realities as you experience them - I both deeply agree and empathize at
the level of the struggle we are faced with in both conceptualizing and
implementing OL. Can I also respectfully ask you to consider the
potential for contradiction in your final paragraph when you ask for OL at
a conceptual level yet seem to argue for supressing the processes that
might allow it.
BTW Roy I really liked your vignette about you son/bike/helmet, and I am
still thinking about it, it rings true to some of my own internal
struggles about control/authority and learning. P.S. In my past life as an
Outward Bound instructor I led many groups into high risk contexts - (with
min safety req's).
I'd be happy to provide ref's or further comment on any of the above.
Tony Kortens <email@example.com>
Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <firstname.lastname@example.org> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>