Smiles and Tears LO26580

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 04/25/01

Dear Organlearners

Greetings to all of you.

Smiles and tears, whether we laugh and cry openly or hide our joy and pain
behind faces showing something else, are integral to our lives. Please
look that I wrote "smiles AND tears", not "EITHER smiles OR tears".

Should we try to live while having only smiles or only tears? I do not
think that would be possible because the future has one after the other
"ladder forking" (ordinate bifurcation) in stock for us as we have
experienced them many times in the past. Such a "ladder forking" can
result in either a "raising" (constructive emergence) to "more richdom"
(higher order of complexity) or a "crashing" (destructive immergence) to
"more poverty" (lower order of complexity). Raising brings laughing with
joy, but crashing brings crying with pain.

The "ladder forking" (ordinate bifurcation) is like climbing ladder. Each
step will actually break when stepping on it. But this strange ladder has
two complex rails upon which we can pull ourselves upwards by the hands so
as to relieve our weight on every step so that each step will hold rather
than break. For me self the one rail consists of three essential strands
which I call liveness, sureness and wholeness. The other rail consists of
four essential strands which I call fruitfulness, spareness, otherness and
openness. The reason is the way in which I have discovered these seven
strands, first the three of the one rail and then the four of the other
rail. I call them the 7Es ("seven essentialities of creativity"). Your
experience and thus tacit knowledge of the 7Es may very well be
differently. Consequently you will most probably combine them differently
into the two rails of the ladder.

When I pull myself sufficiently upwards on these 7Es, the step attempted
to stand upon will hold. I will see or understand more. The joy of this
"raising" will make me laughing. The future has left the past behind
forever. But when I pull too weakly on these 7Es, the step attempted will
break. I will see or understand less. The pain of this crashing will make
me crying. The past has become the future once again.

I think that one of the main reasons why humans flock together as
organisations, is for each person in such an organisation to have more
"raisings" while laughing with joy and less "crashings" while crying with
pain. But as each human in every organisation climb his/her personal
ladder with a "ladder forking" at every step, so will also the
organisation has to climb its own ladder with a "ladder forking" at every
step. When the organisation "raises" itself at the next step, most members
experience the joy with smiles. But when the organisation "crashes" itself
at the next step, most members experience the pain with tears. It is so
with organisations as small as families and organisations as large as

I am pretty sure that most organisations have few "raisings" and many
"crashings". Thus most members of these organisations are crying with
tears rather than laughing with smiles. Furthermore, I am pretty sure that
most of these members of such organisations will show neither their many
pains nor their few joys. Why? Because in such organisations there is no
comprehension between Personal Mastery and Team Learning. The "crashing"
of the organisation is too easily mistaken as the "crashing" of some, if
not many, of its members. Hence these members have to hide behind faces
showing something else.

Perhaps it is the face of indifference, perhaps it is the face of anger,
perhaps it is the face of contempt or perhaps it is the face of arrogance.
There are so many possible faces. But because of neither authentic smiles
nor authentic tears, all these many possibilities prepare such an
organisation for its next "crashing", adding one to too many of past ones.
Such an organisations with too many "crashings" may be called an Ordinary
Organisation (OO).

Peter Senge identifies and describes a Learning Organisation (LO) with his
five disciplines: Personal Mastery, Team Learning, Mental Models, Shared
Vision and Systems Thinking. I am afraid that these five disciplines may
easily become dogma which has to be imported by rote learning when an OO
wants to qualify as a LO. Furthermore, since Senge has furnished humankind
with a dedicated terminology, it becomes easy to talk like an LO while not
doing like an LO. So what will the LO do rather than the OO talk like a
LO? Obviously, in the context of this topic, the LO will decrease the
number of its "crashings" and increase the number of its "raisings" while
climbing the organisational ladder. Senge gives eleven essences which will
all be used in climbing the ladder. Leave one of them out of the two rails
of the ladder and the future will have more "crashings" than "raisings"
like it has been in the past of that OO.

The worst "crashing" of that OO will be that it will not become a LO. That
step along the organisational ladder will break time and again for the OO.
The OO may perhaps re-engineer itself from one model (like hierarchial,
network or matrix) to another model, hoping that the smiles will become
more and the tears less. It will not happen, although many who had smiles
may begin to cry while many who had tears may begin to laugh. But overall
there will still be too few smiles and too many tears.

I have no doubt that an OO, whatever the model or methodology it may be
organised with, has to emerge constructively into a LO. I have used the
metaphor "climbing the ladder of complexity" up to now. The word "raising"
depicted the constructive emergence and the phrase "ladder forking"
depicted the ordinate bifurcation at the edge of chaos. But a ladder is
too much a human made thing, i.e cultural artifact, to stress the next
important thought which I want to share with you. Let us now use as
metaphor "propagating life". The constructive emergence is like a birth

In pristine nature the birth process is usually without any trauma. When a
seed of pristine nature germinates into a seedling, do we sense anything
else than joy in the plant who produced that seed? Perhaps plants are too
different from us. Let us think of animals. When a lioness or an oryx cow
give birth, do we sense any pain in that female animal? No, soon after
birth live seems to proceed as normal. Perhaps we are sensitive enough to
observe peace in mother and baby. Perhaps we are most sensitive to observe
them smiling with joy. However, what we will not observe, is conflict and
even them crying with pain. The casual thinker will explain it as that the
fittest have survived because of natural selection.

But let us think further. As soon as humankind introduced some culture
like breeding specific strains of animals for husbandry or pets, emergence
is complicated with emergency. What should have elicit smiles of happiness
transform into tears of sadness. Many breeds cannot even give natural
birth any more, but have to be supported by an external system. Has the
veterinary profession not become big business in which only the most
intelligent people are allowed to enter because of the complexity of the
external support systems?

Since an OO is completely a cultural rather than a natural event, can we
expect only smiles and not also tears when it has to be born into a LO?
No, often the birth of a LO out of a OO will cause smiles and tears. The
tears will flow when practices have to be given up which led to abortion
rather than birth. The tears will flow because those involved in such
practices do not understand why abortions rather than births will follow.
The 7Es may be considered like the seven vital organs of the organisation.
When one or more of these vital organs are impaired or even not
functioning at all, every carriage of that organisation will become a
miscarriage. When the organisation willfully neglect the healing of one or
more of these seven vital organs, the birth will become aborted.

Are we wise enough to make a decision which will cause tears rather than
smiles? Are we strong enough to shed these tears during the emergence?
 Are we able to lose creatively so as to gain more than what we have lost?
When we have to gain what seems to be a mystery while we have to lose what
seems to be a certainty, will we smile or will we cry? When our OO has to
be born into a LO, do we realise that most probably it will have to happen
by way of a creative collapse? Will that creative collapse cause smiles or

Imagine that you have cancer. Imagine that you have to decide how to
proceed in the future. Will the course which you take cause tears rather
than smiles? Will you have the guts to give some things up crying with
pain so as to gain other things laughing with joy? Will you overcome
these pains which cannot be described except with tears so as to
experience joy which cannot be described except with smiles?

What is most unbearable, the pain and tears of abortion upon abortion or
the pain of correcting so as to get ready for the successful birth?

Death brings tears because death is the one sure thing to happen. I am
sure that many of you as managers (or consultants to them) are distressed
beyond description by this fact. Whether it is a person's body dying, a
person not learning or a person losing his/her job, it is death with its
many faces. Is it possible to transform what seems to be inevitable death
into giving new life with smiles of joy? Yes, but there are many Mental
Models which can constrain this transformation, so much so that the
pending birth becomes an actual abortion.

One of the worst Mental Models is that "birth is a reversible, reflexsive
process". Birth is actually an irreversible, transitive process. Several
weeks ago with bladder stones blocking my urinary tract, I became once
again deeply under the impression of this fact. The volume of urine in my
bladder was increasing hour after hour and so the pain. I did not know
which organ was giving me such pain because the whole of my abdomen was in
pain. I though that finally my kidneys gave up because of the high protein
diet which I follow. (Two years ago an attack of flu incapacitated my
pancreas and in about a dozen days I became a full diabetes. Fortunately
-- see my reply to Chris Klopper on marketing -- I was allergic to the
external support system of medicine for daibetes -- pills and insulin.)

When I was admitted to the trauma unit of a general hospital close by,
they could identify only two symptoms -- extremely high blood pressure and
a hardened prostrate. (With so much bladder stones pushed into the
prostrate, how could it be otherwise. With my heart trying to pump blood
through kidneys working against such pressure in my bladder, how could it
be otherwise?) The internal physician to whom I was assigned, is what we
would call in my mother tongue a "horse doctor". This was fortunate for me
because for another six hours (after some eighteen hours) I had increasing
pain which could only be described with tears. None of several injections
of different pain killers helped. (The urologist explained afterwards that
the bladder like the eyes are not responsive to most pain killers.)

I experienced how a mother in labour must feel when the birth is hindered
for some reason. (Later some sisters at the urology hospital, being
mothers themselves, said to me that a man experiencing urine retention is
worse off than a mother in labour.) I would not know. What I do know, I
was not only crying with tears, but sweating like someone having a deadly
fever and shitting like a baby with diarrhoea. Yet nothing was wrong with
my mind. During that increasing pain of twenty four hours, I often though
of how an OO must feel when a pending birth is impossible and abortion the
only alternative. At the end I commanded one of the sisters in charge at
the general hospital to search for another physician in the hospital and
bring him to me immediately. He came soon afterwards. When feeling my
abdomen carefully, this gentle man ordered the sister to put in a catheter

The joy which then followed can only be described by smiles. I had not a
baby to deliver, but some two and a half litres of reddish urine to pass.
What a delivery! Afterwards I sank into a state of half asleep, half
awake, with so much pain killers in my body. All the pain was gone. My
youngest brother was visiting me at that stage, trying to make a
conversation with me. I tried to answer him, but the peace within me and
the peace with the world outside me was overwhelming. I rather wanted to
dream of sleeping in the desert on sand or a flat piece of rock, half
asleep, half awake, without pain killers keeping me in that condition.

Afterwards I was taken to the X-ray unit for pictures of my abdomen --
orders of the original "horse doctor". He never touched my abdomen even
once. He simply relied too much on his external support systems -- sisters
taking my blood pressure, trauma doctor feeling my prostrate and X-ray
unit probing my ailment. Were in not for that other fine physician who
touched me and called for an urologist, things could have turned out much
worse for me. My heart and kidneys were tested to their limits. God was
kind to me, giving me well needed experience.

Dear fellow learners, you who are managers, consultants or just members
working for the birth of your OO into a LO, will you act like the first
"horse doctor" or the fine physician afterwards? Will the tears of pain in
the organisation let you stand at the door, looking more at the sheet of
data produced by the external support systems than to the patient. Or will
you move to the patient to have closer contact by feeling what is wrong
and thus take the necessary actions?

When the sister inserted the lengthy catheter through my penis and what is
beyond, she kept on saying "Sorry Mr De Lange, sorry". But I was not even
feeling it because of the other pain. Afterwards I smiled while telling
her that her compassionate sorries were misplaced, she wanted to become
angry. I quickly explained to her that a great pain acts as an effective
pain killer for a small pain. Then she too laughed with relief. She had
done it a couple of times before, but then the men often began to cry of
pain. She simply forgot about all my hours of tears before the procedure.
I wanted to tell her all about openness, but she was too busy caring for
ill patients depending on external support systems.

Dear fellow learners, you who are managers, consultants or just members
working for the birth of your OO into a LO, you too will have to learn
what little pains are needed to relieve your OO from its great pains with
tears so that after the birth everybody will smile with joy. Are there
some members in your organisation who do not smile often and seldom, if
ever, show any tears? I think that this absence of smiles and tears is a
sure sign that your OO has not yet emerged into a LO. One cannot talk
smiles and tears, one can only do them. Please open your understanding to
exactly how an OO transform into a LO. The lack of openness is deadly,
causing tears rather than smiles all the way.

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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