Objections to Learning Organization LO24105

From: Jan Lelie (janlelie@wxs.nl)
Date: 03/02/00

Replying to LO24084 --

Dear At and fellow Organlearners,

Thank you for your response.

> >The LO to me is a "sollusions": a combination of solutions
> >and illusions and implying soll ("must become") situations.
> >It belongs to the class described by Kurt Vonnegut of "foma",
> >small harmless untruths, like prosperity is just around the
> >corner, the cheese to lure the mice. I'm perfectly willing to
> >trade it in for any other sollusion, as long as i am allowed to
> >travel in your company. We seem to travel in the same way.
> Thank you for your contribution. I have quoted its last paragraph.
> I am wondering how I must interpret this paragraph. If it has been written
> cynically, then it is one of the finest examples of cynicism which I have
> layed my eyes upon.

Equivocality was intended. Even i was wondering what or why i wrote this.
After sending it, it did occur to me that it could be interpreted as being
cynical, dog like, maybe offend people. However, my bark is worse than my
bite, %-D. And i cannot be held responsible for interpretations of my
writing by others.

At the moment of writing however, it was just fun of discovering how these
two concepts - solution illusion - mixed, like oil and vinegar. For me, a
solution, any solution, is an illusion AND illusions are the only
solutions. They are the Mothers of Invention, the fathers of paparadoxes.
Resolving and re-illusioning seems to me all there is to life. We are
traders for salvations, while salving (sollving ;-)) our self is all there
is. And your interpretation is even better than i could imagine:

> ...snip... Little neat "problems", isolated from their context,
> for which little neat "solutions" have to manipulated by applying little
> neat "rules". ... But weave tens of these little neat "problems" together
> in a network and
> place this monstrous network in an actual context of life to see how much
> worth these previous excercises in "sollusions" have. .. -- no better
> example for entropy as a measure of
> chaos. Yet it is from such homogenous solutions that we have to obtain our
> chromatographic distinctions.

I like the way you mix your solutions, but i'm lost on "... obtain our
chromatographic distinctions", what do you mean? Has it something to do
with spectroscopy? With your daughter?


> The worst thing to do with the concept of a LO is to use it as an
> "sollusion" or "foma" for a
> neat little managerial problem. But I cannot agree that the concept of a
> LO itself is a "sollusion". I am extremely thankful to Peter Senge and
> Arie de Geuss for having formalised this powerful concept. ... Thus I am
> pretty sure that it
> is a concept which becomes worthless without a context to operate in.

I agree, certainly, i agree, i've written somewhere that i've been in the
business of LO even before i knew they exists, but that doesn't prevent
others from doing that - making foma - and covering up that they do. Just
apply some left-hand column thinking (see Fieldbook page 246) to what
managers - or consultants - say (explicit) and think (imply) about LO.
Because we agree on what we say but are unaware of what we think, unaware
of our unvoiced concerns. This is not an accusation, it is a matter of
fact, that we utter things, being unaware, unconsiously, of all the
concepts and ideas behind what we say. We need each other to reflect our

Perhaps there lays a solution to the objections to LO: the context of the
LO concept consists of assumptions and misunderstandings. We learn by
making mistakes - a mistake being an assumption proven wrong, a
misunderstanding of a situation. However, this creates tension and tension
must be resolved - usually using an action-reaction. Listen. (I hope this
can be received by every one).

      What was thought (i think) What was said

 We learn by making mistakes but does Me: "Does a LO learn by trial and
 an organisation do so? error?"

 Not while I'm in charge! Things have My director: "Well, of course, in our
 to look good on my resume. organizations making mistakes and
                                       errors is encouraged"

 Visioning is one of the disciplines Me: "So you would allow us a computer
 and a good starting point supported meeting of our department
                                       to create a common vision?"

 I do have a budget for innovative
 solution and it would be a waste not
 to use is. Beside, i think the Vice "Off course"
 President will like such a soft

 Better safe then sorry, he must Me: "And would this mean that we may
 realize that commitment is essential implement the most important
                                       suggestions from this meeting.?"

 Perhaps it will prove to be cost -
 effective, we have to get to our
 target and when they are committed "Off course"
 to their own solutions, the better
 it will be.

 Better to confront it now, he'll Me: "Even when you think that would
 never allow it, i know be a mistake?"

 With the exception of unrealistic
 proposals, he'll know that. And if
 he is so capable the proposals will "Well, who do you take me for?"
 be realistic, within budget. Or

 That way he has to become committed, Me: "Ok, and i expect you to join. I
 no escape use a computer based system and
                                       everybody will be equal"

 I can always go away early or manage "Off course, when my agenda allows
 important business by phone it, please schedule the meeting on
                                       one of my free mornings"

[Host's Note: The HTML version Jan provided for the above table is at

In the end there were three meetings. My director came in late, left
early, did some pep talk, showed a video from corporate HQ, the people
drew up an action plan, including a - i thought - realistic budget. The
plan was turned down, because of budgets restraints. It was implemented a
year later because corporate HQ, without knowing our plan, wanted such
changes. People remained disappointed none the least.

"Do we understand each other?". In the literature i once found that it
takes at least four hours for an individual and a facilitator to lists all
his or hers concerns regarding an organizational problem. So that would
mean that a management team of five persons would need three days to do
such an exercise. Nobody in his right mind would spend so much time and
money. Well, i would, i did... when i was still working with this big
Multi National. But then again, i was fired.

> Senge's articulation in his Fifth Discipline is as good as one can wish
> for. For the rest we need experience -- lots of it so that we each can
> grow self in tacit knowledge so as to recognise what Senge is talking
> about. This is what his Field Book does -- not to tell us more than the
> Fifth Discipline, but to demonstrate the importance of experience.

OK, although for me it lack some aspects of the social psychology or

> Jan, again I am of opinion that the "con" has nothing to do with a LO, but
> with the way in which we think.
> English is not my mother tongue. But I think that it is a rule of the
> English language that the "learning" before "organisation" is not a verb
> any more, but a noun which functions as an adjective (like "learned") by
> qualifying the noun "organisation".

Thank you, i didn't know that.

> In my own mother tongue Afrikaans we would think of it differently as
> "learning-organisation" -- one complex noun made up by two constituent
> nouns. Yet it is still too much of a being with too little becoming in it.

In Dutch it is translated into "lerende organisatie", to me that sound
rather more becoming.

> Should we carefully contemplate it, all predicates of nouns as adjectives
> and verbs as adverbs, whatever their apparent grammatical form, are in
> fact the outcome of processes. In other words, the "learning" as a
> qualification of "organisation" (a BEING) in "learning organisation" is
> the outcome of a process which is nothing else but the BECOMING learning.
> In other words, the concept of "learning organisation" is a BECOMING-BEING
> pair. This is how I personally think of a LO.

I agree. Personally i think that being is becoming, cobeing, and becoming
is being, bebecoming, so the pair will be a bebecoming-cobeing or

> A striking example, but unknown to most fellow learners, of the power of
> "becoming-being" pairs is how they are used in the formalism of Quantum
> Mechanics as "operator-operand" pairs leading to "eigen" values and
> functions.

Last Sunday i watched a guy called Witten explain his (super)string
theory, a new mathematical formalism that incorporates Quantum Theory and
Gravitation in a Dutch TV programm called Of the Beauty and Salvation
("Objection! uses a wrong translation to finish were he started, closing a
string in this way can not be allowed" "Well, not salvation, but comfort,
Your Honour"," I'll allow it none the less"). What i seemed to learn is
that in these new concepts being and becoming is integrated and that the
basis processes are to be and to become. We have no choice but being
becomings. Like pi (3.141529 and some more) has no other choice than
becoming pi. Our minds, he told us, are unable to imagine this realm of
the small, were time and space have lost their meaning. (pun: "well, he
hasn't worked with our firm, that is for sure. Here time and space have
never had any meaning."). And it was Tuesday when i saw on the
BeBeC(oming) 2, how in South Africa, - yes it was - a small ape started to
evolve (ebolbe) into what well may have become man, us, you and me. And
this was only 3 000 000 years ago. From the bush to the LO and superstring
theory in just 3 000 000 years. Just imagine what we'll become in another
3 000 000 years! They (or we) will have a laugh then, about the objections
to a Learning Organization. I can hear them!

Take care and all the best

Jan Lelie

Drs J.C. Lelie CPIM (Jan)
LOGISENS  - Sparring Partner in Logistical Development
Mind@Work - est. 1998 - Group Decision Process Support
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