Five Waves of Organizational Structures LO26552

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 04/20/01

Replying to LO26508 --

Dear Organlearners

Richard Karash < > writes in reply to what

Teresa Budler asked:

>>I am a first year M Comm student at the RAU in South Africa.
>>We are currently discussion the movement of an organisation
>>from a second wave organisation (hierarchical) through the third
>>wave (network organisation) to a fourth wave organisation
>>(matrix organisation), and then on to a Learning Organisation.
>>I was wondering if you could assist me in finding some examples
>>of organisations were the movement through all three stages have
>>happened successfully, with a profitable, "sound" company to show
>>for it.

>First, I don't think I agree with the position of "matrix" as following
>"network" and preceding "learning organization."

Greetings dear Rick,

It seems to me that Alvin Toffler's idea of "three waves" for human
culture (1st=agricultural, 2nd=industrial and 3rd=informational) had been
copied here. It is important to note that in Toffler's "three waves"a
former wave seems to be prerequisite to a latter one. Industry requires
well fed workers and information requires well equipped workers. Thus we
should ask ourselves whether also for organisations (2nd=hierarchy,
3rd=network, 4th=matrix, 5th=LO) such a requisite ordering exist. Should
it exist, then I think we can speak of waves here too.

As far as my understanding of mathematics goes, when networks and matrixes
are formulated in categorial mathematics as object-arrow diagrams, they
appear to have the same order of complexity. Thus I wonder if there is any
ordering between the 3rd and 4th "organisational waves".

>That said, I think you should take a look at the big oil companies...
>I think they are making the kind of changes you are talking about.
>I'm posting this on the LO list with Teresa's permission... Anyone
>else have comments on this?
>LO readers, what do you think of the idea of five-waves of
>organizational structures?

Rick, I feel that Teresa's request has much more depth to it than what
meets the eye which will respectfully have to try uncovering. Whenever the
novel becomes too novel, it is perceived as dangerous rather than
beneficial. For Teresa to question "organisational waves" requires guts.

On the one hand I perceive in this articulation with "five waves" an
awareness to evolution in human organisations just as evolution in, for
example, geological materials and biological organisms. I have written
long ago that some day some bright student will have to sit down, study
all human organisations since time immemorial and classify their "course
of evolution" just as geologists and biologists did. Goethe (whom we know
today as merely an artistic writer) did it for plants and animals, thus
articulating this "course of evolution"with his concept of "metamorphosis"
-- a "one-to-many-mapping". He even went beyond nature into culture. He
recognised "metamorphosis"among languages too. Hence the brothers Grimm
took up his que and made some fantastic discoveries on the evolution of
languages. Philology became a science. When will this "Goethe"among
Organisational Management appear?

On the other hand, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to fit the
Learning Organisation into an one-dimensional wave sequence. There is
another and higher dimension which we also ought to become aware of. A
couple of years ago Leo Minningh and I (see the LO-archives) explored in
our LO-dialogue the existence of "unarticulated learning organisations" as
far back as two millennia ago in the organisation of the early churches as
well as the classical and medieval guilds. (The "unarticulated" means that
almost two millennia had to elapse before Peter Senge managed to formalise
the concept of a LO with a dedicated terminology.) Should our conclusions
be correct, then we cannot think of an "one-dimensional wave progression"
here. So what higher complexity do we have here?

That study strengthened my believe that human creativity has an
individualistic ("dassein") and collectivistic ("mitsein") duality. Senge
himself articulates it breathtakingly in terms of the two LO-disciplines
Personal Mastery ("dassein") and Team Learning ("mitsein"). The two duals
of this astounding complementarity are often severed apart by the two
opposing Mental Models which we can call "individualism" and "socialism".
These two Mental Models are not as recent as we may tend to think. They go
back into ancient times, for example, the strive between the organisations
of Sparta versus those of Athens.

I personally think that in a LO, whether it be unarticulated for millennia
or articulated according to Senge for some decade, it is not a case of
applying LEM (Law of Excluded Middle) any more -- organising for either
individualistic or socialistic outcomes, but not both. It is not a case
any more for "individualism" versus "socialism". It is rather the case of
harmonising the "individuals" with the "society", the "private" with the
"public", the "many of ones" with the "one for many", the organism with
the ecosystem. The quest for this harmony is not something new. This quest
goes back several millennia. However, coming from early the previous
century, Jan Smuts would likely have called this quest a case for holism
-- a case for more numerous smaller wholes evolving into less numerous
greater wholes.

Holism, i.e. the drive towards "increasing wholeness" gives us a clue to
this higher dimension in the evolution of human organisations. Senge
identifies wholeness as one of eleven essences of any LO. I myself
identify wholeness as one of seven patterns essential to all constructive
creativity, human like and otherwise. These seven patterns, which I call
the "seven essentialities of creativity" (7Es), can be combined into less
than seven complexer patterns or divided into more than seven simpler
patterns. Thus it is possible to derive the eleven essences of a LO from
the 7Es. Consequently we may identify any LO as an organisation dedicated
to constructive rather than destructive creativity.

This dedication of a LO to constructive creativity does not only apply to
the organisation internally, but also externally to all its relations and
interactions with the rest of the world. It does not only apply to the
physical dimension of the organisation, but also to its spiritual
dimension through all its orders from learning below to loving above. Thus
the biologist Maturana might say that this higher dimension is the
"coordination" once again of the "coordination of relationships". (Neither
networks nor matrices have this deeper coordination -- each is merely a
"coordination of relationships". Categorial mathematics provide for this
deeper "coordination" upon "coordination of relationships".)

Constructive creativity or "coordination of coordination of relationships"
or "deep holism" or whatever we may articulate it with, is not something
new like, for example, a "fifth wave" in organisational management. It is
a way of living which I can identify as far back as four millennia ago
with the "Order of Melchizedek". It is the quest within humans
(individually and collectively) for the divine to overcome the demonical,
to let live with grace rather than to let die so as to justify. It is not
humanism, but humankind seeking its home in Creation belonging to the

This brings me to the very spirit of a LO. Through the work of Senge, De
Geuss, Kleiner and others the organisational features of the LO have
become articulated. What was formerly known only tacitly, can now be
discussed with a dedicated terminology. Unfortunately it has now also
become easy to claim that an organisation has become a LO or that the LO
is one of several kinds of "waves of organisations" because of this
available terminology. Yet all this talk on being a LO will never be its
spirit. The spirit of the LO is manifested in its becoming. Talking after
the doing makes complete sense, not talking before the doing despite how
valuable such talking may be to explore the spirit. Three times I have
experienced this "becoming" while belonging to a LO -- the first two times
long before Senge's formalization. The most profound thing for me was that
all persons involved experienced this "becoming" which they only
afterwards could talk about.

This inversion of "being-to-become" (a goal) into "becoming-being"
(sureness) indicates a grand paradigm shift in which an Ordinary
Organisation (OO) does not become gradually a LO as more of its members
become life-long learners. An OO becomes a LO by way of an ordinate
bifurcation at the edge of chaos. This is how this higher dimension
unfold. The eleven essences of the LO (like the 7Es) will guide this
ordinate bifurcation into a constructive emergence rather than a
destructive immergence. Should we want our OO to emerge constructively
into a LO, just focus on the eleven essences of a LO so that we can put
them into practice. Do not worry about how to get to the edge of chaos.
That will happen sooner or later, whether we plan it or not. But we will
have to plan for the constructive emergence of this higher dimension and
that is where the eleven essences will play the indispensable role.

When we study the evolution of Homo sapiens (humankind) from "Homo
erectus" for several hundred thousands of years, an incredible thing happened
some six thousand years ago -- the mere last percent of the historical span.
Here in South Africa we have perhaps the most comprehensive archeology of
human development over its entire historical span. The oldest records of
human technology (making fires, bedding and stone tools) and human art
(making rock paintings and statues of bone) are here in South Africa, some
dating back more than half a million years ago. But nothing of it seems to
symbolise any spiritual emergence. The spiritual emergence happened in
ancient Mesopotamia (preceding Egypt by some centuries). There humans
began to
1 put their consiousness into script,
2 to articulate their believe in a Divine cause for Creation,

Consequently, I think that the human perception of the "spirit of reality"
began a mere six thousand years ago. We have now proceeded to the stage
where we can TALK openly about that very "spirit of reality" in our
organisations. Many have paid the ultimate price in doing so. But we have
yet to DO that "spirit of reality". The Teacher of Nazareth did it and
paid the price. What will that doing be? The constructive emergence of
"Homo sapiens amans" from "Homo sapiens"! I believe that the LO will be
decisive in accomplishing this emergence. However, we should then not be
ignorant to the fact that the LO itself becomes operational through a
constructive emergence.

Since our topic is on the possibility of "organisational waves", perhaps
the following will help to put the LO in perspective by considering it
metaphorically as a "wave". Ordinary waves (sound waves, water waves and
even radio waves), irrespective of how massive or complex their wave forms
are, all conform to a mathematical equation called the "second order
harmonic differential equation". This equation gave birth to even quantum
mechanics with all the novel insights it afforded -- electrons dance in
atoms and molecules in a wave-like manner. What this mathematical equation
say in ordinary language for any harmonic wave in whatever medium is that
any change in its becoming through space and any change in its becoming
though time have exactly the same form.

However, there is also a different equation called the Korteweg-DeVries
equation which applies to the so called "soliton" or "singular shock"
waves. It is a wave with only one crest travelling much faster than
ordinary waves (which have many crests) in the same medium. What this
mathematical equation say in ordinary language for any harmonic wave in
whatever medium is that whatever becoming pushes from below, whether in
space or time, has to be controlled by its becoming from above. For
example, when lightning strikes, the soliton sound wave will reach us much
faster that the ordinary sound waves of thunder. We cannot hear this
soliton. But when the lighting strikes close by, we can observe its
effect. A tree in the process of shedding its leaves, having many leaves
ready to fall upon the slightest breeze, will suddenly shed a shower of
leaves as the soliton passes it. The subsequent thunder itself, although
very awesome, cannot do the same.

Our present technological activities have been described by a revered
cosmologist as a "one-only peak" and not as another plateau upon
successive plateaus (ordinary waves) of the past. The reason is that we
had been driving our technology with fossil fuel which nature prepared
through many millions of years. By compressing (turbo-charging) these
millions of years into two centuries of consumption, this high speed
became possible. However, we cannot sustain this technological activities
indefinitely. In fact, the summit of the "one-only peak" may have already
passed us some years back. We will have to redesign our technological
activities on renewable sources of free energy. But we need organisations
to do it. That is why the oil companies, as Rick have noticed, are
investing so much in new "waves of organisation" (using Teresa's

Humankind is in much deeper trouble than we may think. Millions of people
have become "unprecedent" rich because of this "one-only peak" while
billions of people have become "unprecedent" poor. We have already
suffered two world wars because of this unprecedented disparity between
the rich and the poor. Can we think of this "one-only peak"of technology
as a soliton with a much higher velocity? Yes, it has taken the management
of human organisation in all other walks of life by surprise. It causes
problems which the ethics, aesthetics, morality and logic of two millennia
cannot solve. Thousands of children here in Pretoria feel its effect.
They go to school without having anything to eat for breakfast. There they
fall asleep while staring empty eyed at their teachers. Here and
elsewhere in the world the existing "ordinary waves of organisation" are
not capable of managing this "one-only peak" as is evident from our daily
news bulletins in the media. Millions of humans in need, like dead leaves
on a tree ready to fall, become a shower of fallen angels as the
technological soliton passes through them.

What we need, is a "soliton" of organisation to catch up with the
"soliton" of modern technology. The "ordinary waves of organisation" seem
to be incapable of catching up. They rather seem to be lagging more and
more behind. Furthermore, whereas ordinary waves usually leave the medium
unaltered after they have passed through, soliton waves usually change the
medium irreversibly as they pass through it. With all my creativity
possible, I cannot imagine this "soliton" in organisational management to
be anything else than the Learning Organisation. But then I have to add
that in this LO we have to seek for irreversibly authentic learning rather
than reversible rote learning, otherwise all will be in vain.

If I may, I want to advise Teresa to seek not only for the succession of
ordinary waves of organisation in managing human affairs, but also to seek
for that extraordinary single crested wave with a much higher velocity
which will transform existing organisations into a higher order of
spiritual awareness. Teresa, like Chris, Alfred and I live in South Africa
and thus we are experiencing soliton (shock) waves as seldom possible
elsewhere in the world. Most of these shock waves have had destructive
outcomes because South Africans have not been prepared for them. But even
so, through our tears we can learn from them so as to complexify ourselves
until we can manage the Law of Requisite Complexity in a constructive
manner rather failing it in a destructive manner.

Perhaps the LO is not the soliton wave needed for organisational
management, but rather just one of many ordinary waves as Teresa's request
has suggested. In that case we will have to find the soliton wave soon
because the soliton wave of modern technology is leaving us daily further
behind with far more destructive immergences than constructive emergences.
Millions become rich, but billions become poor as it passes through
societies. The mounting pressure of these destructive immergences is
driving human civilisation to the edge of chaos. We need in our
"humanhood" to catch up with the soliton wave of modern technology. Only a
soliton wave of "humanhood" with a much higher velocity will enable us to
do so. We also need to reduce drastically in a constructive manner the
destructive outcomes of modern technology. Only a soliton wave guided by
love-agape, the law of perfect freedom as St.. James call it, will be able
to do so. Let us think how it happens in nature.

Experiencing a thunderstorm in the desert is worth a Mona Lisa. It happens
seldom. The sun shines while a dark cumulus cloud is building up right
above one's eyes. To the horizon the sky is still azure blue. The cloud
does not get swept from somewhere else by the wind. Usually there is not
even a breeze. It is then time to run down as fast as possible to the
lowest possible place, laying down on one's back to gaze at the sky. Why?
Because lightning will struck at any high point. When it strikes, it is
awesome. An immense voltage is needed to bridge the resistance of the dry
desert air and the immense gap because the cloud has been formed so high.
One can actually hear in the silence of the desert the sizzling as the
voltage builds up. The bolt of lightning does not fray out as usual, but
shoots straight down with an eerie purpose to a high point -- perhaps a
human ignorant that lightning seeks a high point ;-)

As I have described earlier, a shower of dead leaves in any bush close
by follows as the silent soliton pass through it while the roaring thunder
still has to catch up. As it becomes quiet and one stares intently at the
cloud, the soliton which also passed through the cloud unleashes a veil
of rain drops. While descending gracefully down, the veil becomes
thinner as many rain drops evaporate. Finally, when the few remaining
drops reach one's body and the desert around, an ode of joy erupts as
dead leaves and living insects begin to chant:-
. Send another bolt of lightning.
. Feel the shock wave passing.
. Hear the thunder intimidating.
. Wait for the raindrops falling.
. Suck from the water its becoming.
. What is below is close to dying.
. But from high above comes living.
. Creatures in distress are crying
. Yet the Creator never stops loving.

Let us think of wave speed on the level of molecules . Quantum
mechanically perceived, the duplication of the DNA in any cell of a
complex species is a symphony of Wagnerian proportions. How long does it
take to perform this symphony? Billions of years? No, a couple of minutes
by the extremely complex enzyme called DNA polymerase which acts as the
conductor. The DNA synthon (assembly of hundreds of thousands of base
pairs) is an awesome soliton wave which hurries along the double helix at
breath taking speed. How long will it take to transform an organisation,
whether it be a hierarchy, network or matrix into a LO? Several years, if
ever? No, a couple of months or even merely some weeks. The "enzyme"
called here for is the very management staff of the organisation. They as
leaders will have to act as the catalyst DNA polymerase, the most unique
chemical soliton (synthon) imaginable.

I suspect that as leaders they will have to contemplate three things in
1 The enzyme DNA polymerase is extremely complex. Likewise these
managers will have to evolve in their own complexity. They will have to
respond in a constructive manner to the Law of Requisite Complexity
(LRC). They will have to become prepared for the Law of Singularity of
Complexity (LSC). The more complex they become, the more they will
have to rely on their own self-organisation rather than relying by rote
learning on the autopoiesis of others.
2. The enzyme DNA polymerase knows where to begin in the chromosome
with its replicating work. Physically it is one of the two endpoints of each
chromosome. But which endpoint? I believe that spiritually it is at the
endpoint of love-agape rather than the endpoint beginning with whatever we
consider the foundation of the universe to be.
3. Do rather than talk. Help rather than despise. Give up rather than gather.
Wash feet rather than chopping off heads. Serve rather than dictate. Learn
rather than teach. Construct rather than destroy. Love rather than hate.

Let us begin with assembling the DNA of love needed for the emergence of
"Homo sapiens amans". "Homo sapiens" has created the soliton wave of
technology. Only "Homo sapiens amans" will catch up with its own soliton
wave of organisations.

To summarise, those managing or facilitating the management of
organisations, will have to contemplate the intricacies of what they will
have to do as well as make sure that unconditional love will be their
guide. This will enable them to catch up with the soliton wave human
technology. I am deeply under the impression that ordinary harmonic waves
of organisation will not cope. We will have to respond as never before to
the essentiality openness ("open-paradigm").

To create ordinary harmonic waves is one thing. To create extraordinary
soliton waves is another thing -- to give up the past so as to gain the
future in no other possible manner. I do not think of the LO as one of the
usual harmonic wave of organisations. I do not think of the LO as a
successor to similar waves of the past. I think of the LO as the becoming
from a bolt of lightning. If we want the raindrops of grace to fall upon
us like upon creatures of the desert, we will have to humble ourselves so
that the bolt of lightning will not strike us. I think of the LO as the
becoming of a cell in every organism. If we want to assemble the DNA of
love, we will have to let God Creator play the role as the Infinitely
Complex Enzyme.

There is a time for exploring by talking and there is a time for expecting
by doing.
With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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