Shared Vision or Shared Cliches? LO26792

From: Alfred Rheeder (
Date: 06/07/01

Replying to LO26749 --

Dear At and LO'ers,

Thank you for your contribution.

At wrote:

>Dear fellow learners, you know these many little "empires within an
>organisation" too well for me to go deep into them. The executive
>management team may form a little empire within. The administrative
>division may form their own little empire, etc. The outcome is usually
>the following.
>. Our exclusive little empire (although never
>. called by that name) is the pivot or founding
>. stone of the whole organisation. The well
>. being of the whole organisation depends on
>. us "extrapolating our business as usual". Our
>. vision is our "imperial positioning" to which
>. you will obey.


>The well being of the whole nation depends on us
>"extrapolating our business as usual" since we are the pivot or "imperial
>position" of nationhood.


>Although it was a South African "imperial positioning" for
>South Africans, it could happen in any country of the world and possibly
>have happened many times in each of them. Hence it is an example of a walk
>of human life establishing its "imperial positioning" for humankind. In
>other words, just to take an example, it happens when IT (Information
>Technology) people claim that the well being of humankind depends on them
>"extrapolating their business as usual" as the pivot for future human


>Nevertheless, how would you fellow
>learners solve this problem of dissolving the many little empires (the
>mental model of "imperial positioning") within an organisation which
>prevents it from emerging into a LO?


>When you again will be invited to a function yourself while it is insisted
>that you would have to dress formally, think whether you will have the
>guts to attend it, dressed perfectly, except for feet bare naked. If you
>have the guts, perhaps you will have the guts to challenge the "imperial
>positioning" in the many walks of our life.

I would like to share some of my experiences regarding "empires". I can
probably extrapolate a bit and describe these empires as powerplays (often
personal), personal agendas, hidden agendas etc. Well if my extrapolation
is correct a conflict seems to exist between the self/individual vs.
organisation or on a more generic level the part vs. whole. I have often
contemplate how I should articulate this conflict. Does the origin have
to do with incongruent or perceived "irreconcilable" value's, beliefs,
missions, visions, goals? Can we even articulate this conflict as Eli
Goldratt does. "I conflict exist between striving towards achieving local
optima (local efficiency) and the global (whole) goal". However we wish
to articulate the conflict, I have often experienced and witness how a
system/systems oscillate between the conflict with eventual devastating
outcomes. I am also of the opinion that in the majority of these
conflicts, assumptions are made about reality which is not valid. In
other words the conflict caused by thinking/acting etc. in terms of
opposing opposites (dialectical duals) is based on false assumptions about

By the end of last year I wrote an article/contribution which excited me.
I made connections between different disciplines and asked important
questions regarding the current understanding of one of the disciplines. I
am not educated formally in either one of the disciplines and therefore my
knowledge is not officially certified. In any case I believe that the
questions asked was valid. I sent the article to friends and
acquaintances of mine which do dispose of credentials (one discipline) in
order to start a meaningful dialog. I most definitely did not intend to
challenge their personal knowledge or credentials when sending them the
article. I believed that exploring the issues raised would be beneficial
to all.

Well I was even more excited when I received replies from everybody except
one. Although the person whom did not respond had officially the "most"
authoritative credentials academically, it did not bother me until later.
In the meanwhile an exciting dialog unfolded.

Two months ago I was invited to attend a presentation to the industry
regarding the discipline. The presentation was an initiative by the
University. However the topic of the presentation sounded allot like the
article I wrote! In any case I decided to attend.

The first 20-30 min was spent to establish and communicate the impeccable
credentials of the persons involved and the university. What bothered me
was that they communicated their credentials in such as way as if to say
that you can only take people with credentials serious. A one-to-one
mapping. Credentials (academically) = knowledge thereby excluding any
possibility to take anybody serious without certified knowledge. After
the credentials was established they proceeded with a preamble concerning
the topic.

It was made clear that university have access to knowledge of so many
disciplines and transdisciplinary and authentic learning is so important
that they continually evaluate the assumptions on which they base their
existence - hence the topic under discussion. Well the topic that was
discussed was based on the article I wrote although it was not copied word
for word. The presentation was warmly applauded. After the presentation I
spoke to some of the important people involved. I was dismayed to learn
that they did not "understood" the questions I asked in my article. I
only caused chaos. They unfortunately defined entropy as a measure of
chaos and therefore felt that they have indeed improved their current

Driving home I questioned their behaviour and intentions. If my article
was complete nonsense they obviously would not arrange for such a
formal/elaborate presentation to the industry attempting to address the
issues I raised. Why did the person not respond to me when I sent the
article to him? Why would they conduct the presentation in such a way as
if it's because of their own authentic and "critical" thinking?

I do not feel offended that they didn't ask me whether they can use my
work. I only wanted to start a dialog.....

I believe that the fragmentation of the reality and the establishment of
elaborate credential system is part and parcel of powerplays - a way to
protect the current organisation, a way to protect the empire. A made
another observation. Why are people and/or organisations pre-occupied by
powerplays and its corollary credentials so afraid to share personal
experiences with others? Why is it important to be "closed"?

When I returned from the USA in 1996 and started working in the family
business I had to learn to swim fast, very fast indeed. I was asked to
negotiate our yearly contract with one of the largest retail chains in SA
(South Africa). Well they are notorious for their conduct. One of the
strategies the chains employ is by giving the national buyers all the
responsibility but not the necessary authority. The retail chains have
become very powerful in SA. Manufacturers and owners of big consumer
brands was arrogant about their "power" and success and the "power" surely
but slowly shifted to the retail chains - which call the shots these days.

In any case the meeting started with establishing their credentials, size
power etc. and they made it clear that our company doesn't really mean
anything to them. Look we are so big and you are so small compared to us.
An offer was put on the table and it was made clear that should we not
accept it that we will be delisted from their stores. The chain was
playing and trying to force us into playing a zero-sum game. Big Blue
would have had a field day (tong in cheek). On a higher level of
complexity a conflict exist between our values and theirs. We had one
major advantage, We are a family business and our value's on which we base
our existence is extremely important to the majority of our organisation.
We are willing to walk with bare feet.

We are not in business to make losses but we will never sell our souls for
money although often tempting (I should I rather say I hope we never
will). If we were delisted and lost a large portion of our business we
will find a creative way to make up for it without laying of people. We
fortunately do not have public shareholders... We refused and we were
literally chased out of their offices.

We waited and kept on waiting and orders kept on flowing in from their
stores. Until last year the contract was officially never renewed.

After these experiences I came under the impression that we should never
become slaves of our material world. If this is the case then human kind
will be in dire straits.

Work awaits

Alfred Rheeder


Alfred Rheeder <>

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