Five Waves of Organizational Structures LO26561

From: Jan Lelie (
Date: 04/23/01

Replying to LO26546 --

Good morning class,

Taking a meta-perspective: when we're talking about structures,
organizations and waves we're learning through the exchange of
perspectives. Before i cloud move on i noticed i had to draw a map (this
became a very complicated message and partly beside the point, i'm sorry,
just skip it).

Four perspectives, standpoints (or "grounds" i have them in color, perhaps
Rick will publish it also)

[Jan's image is at ..Rick]

I: unitary ground: principles, rules, structure, blue
A: mythical ground (or rather, air): ideas, concepts, vision, yellow
a: social ground (or better: water): feelings, what matters, people, green
1: sensory ground (like fire): concrete, physical, cause, effect, red

We can move on one ground, remain on terra firma and stay with our
principles (I->II->III->..), our ideas (A->B->C), our feelings (a -> b ->
c -> ...) or our things (1,2,3,...). That is secure, reasonable,
practical, smart. We stay put (some would call it stuck) in our own
worlds and people operating from another perspective are, depending on
your own perspective, pathetic, sick, mad, stupid, narrow-minded,
different.... . Or we can change. Every change is a movement from one
ground - or perspective - to another i.e.: IA, from rule to idea, or I1:
from a rule to an object, or Ia: from a rule to an emotion. That is not
very secure, but it will work. And it gives us an opportunity to modify
behavior. Most of the time we simply go back again to the previous
perspectives. (A->b->C->d...) or (a->2->c->3..), because we came from
there and coming home is always nice. Most people know how to change in
this way, but do not venture very far out. For fear of punishment,
perhaps, or becoming outcast, or because they know not how to learn.

We can learn. Learning is a change of changes, moving beyond the standard
change. It can happen by accident or one can be taught. Now we have more
options, these paths become more complex (I->B->c->IV (IBcIV...),
A->b->3->d (Ab3d..) or A->b->3->D (Ab3D..), or a2C4d or A2cD etc.). You
can see why we do not like change nor learning: it becomes complex.

Using this notation, we can keep track of our path, the standpoints we
visited and the changes - or options - in perspectives (please note that
this is a model, making rules and a notation. This is not the truth or
what is actually happening with people). Let's look at the travels with
the five waves of organizational structures.

I. We must have the structural perspective, as this tells us the principles
and rules of an organizations and its hierarchy.
IB. It seems logical, from that perspective, to assume that there is also a
structure (hierarchy) of structures. Then we'll see the development of
organizations, and without realizing it, we've changed our standpoint and look
from a different perspective.
 IBIII. We can then go back to our first perspective and derive rules and
principles of transitions. We will start then to create models, pictures and
signs. This is the normal movement of consultants: making models, pictures,
visions, metaphors with rules and structures.
 IBc. But we can also learn, change on into the what you may let me call the
social perspective, were learning, intentional learning, occurs. Here the
notion of waves is natural. This feels like a normative perspective, as Peggy
points out referring to DiBella (who i've not read yet). We can again go back,
two options now, to our first perspective or to the second.
IBcIV. In the first case, we have to mediate between the our values - and
those of others - and the rules of the organization. This is often difficult
because the rules seem "closed" while the feelings and emotions have to remain
IBcD. In the latter case, changing from social back to mythical, i will start
to conceptualize again, searching for changing meaning. These are both not
very practical movements.
IBc4 there is a strong tendency to move on to an action perspective: just
doing things, that's were organizations are for, getting results. A structure,
any structure, will do. This perspective can work effectively, as long as it
is grounded firmly. One movement (IBc4E) would be to suggest a metaphor: when
we have a fixed location, we can move an organization to any place.

We have these different perspectives like, an organization = structure
(I), or organization = vision (A), or organization = people (a) or
organization = results (1) or organization = change (controlled: 1II,
functional I2, moderated (1b), facilitated (aB), persuasive (Ib) ...)
organization = learning (1IIC - want to see ;-) etc. and my favorite =
organizing = grammar interlocked behavior for reducing equivocality Ib3D).
For years we've been trying to get these perspectives into agreement,
trying to convince others of our standpoints. But to me that is no longer
the problem. Everybody has a need for, an idea of , a right to and a
reason for his or hers perspective on organizations, organizing, changing
and learning derived from the individual character.

So i can only agree with all that is said, because i now know that the
issues in organizing and development - which is from my perspective the
same as societal development - is to deal not with the in-formation but
with the context, the metaphor, the grondvormen or, as i read the other
day, the ex-formation. Ex-formation is in our minds, it is - my
interpretation, the information has already been thrown away - the data
used to use information.

We're hardly aware of the way our minds work - your mind tells you
otherwise and not to worry, but that is part of the cover up, part of the
same minding process, taking care of the person and his (or hers) mind.
The mind uses languages and signs we can not consciously hear, read or
understand AND act intentionally at the same time (i do not say that we
can not understand the workings, i just want to say that we can not at the
same time follow our minds reasoning and act intentionally. The intention
of an act is create before we're conscious of the act - and the
intention). Perhaps the whole purpose of a mind is to take care of our
body and mind and therefore we (body and mind) "invented" these strange
concepts like an eternal soul, rebirth or resurrection.

Now our minds have constructed Learning Organizations and we are faced
with the issue of accepting complexity and reflective actions. Perhaps we
need a change of meta-perspective? A mind is like a parachute, works best
when opened, look up and tell me: what colour is your parachute?

Peggy Stuart wrote:

> First, what are we talking about when we talk of organizational
> structures?


With kind regards - met vriendelijke groeten,

Jan Lelie

Drs J.C. Lelie CPIM (Jan) LOGISENS - Sparring Partner in Logistical Development mind@work est. 1998 - Group Resolution Process Support Tel.: (+ 31) (0)70 3243475 or car: (+ 31)(0)65 4685114 and/or taoSystems: + 31 (0)30 6377973 -

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