When is an Ordinary Organisation a LO? LO28205

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 04/11/02

Replying to LO28183 --

Dear Organlearners,

Daan Joubert <daanj@kingsley.co.za> writes on the
Subject: Golden Rule and the 7 E's (2) LO28183

>When you say with reference to what the LO list is
>becoming (or should be becoming?) that "All involved
>have to decide collectively by knowing what each
>wants?", are you referring only to the active participants
>or the whole list? Or all of them - even the silent ones,
>who then presumably vote through their continued
>presence that they are in agreement with the way
>the LO is developing and not merely remain here
>through idle curiosity - or having forgotten to remove
>themselves off the list.

Greetings dear Daan,

I have told before that the Bible study group of which I am a member
functions like a LO, even though only I am formally aware of this fact.
Thus I think of our group as a "tacit LO". It is for me one of the best
opportunities to see the five LO disciplines in action.

Any way, of the 14 members three of them are very quiet. But, when they
say something once in a while, it is most striking. Yet, when we have to
do something, they are first into it. Thus I have to think of them as
"tacit members" of a "tacit LO". It becomes rather complicated, does it

>Secondly, I have the impression that you believe the
>LO should become a cyber LO organisation, rather
>than the cyber organisation for learning.

I should have expressed my self better -- cyber LO on the one hand or on
the other hand a cyber email list for organisational learning.
Furthermore, it is not something which I believe, but something which I
desire very much. Lastly, it is very difficult for me to express this
desire and try refraining from suggesting or proposing such a becoming. I
will not suggest it nor propose it because it must happen spontaneously.
This spontaneous happening is crucial to its successful emergence. Perhaps
we cannot perceive it for a Learning Organisation, but it is definitely
the case for a Living Organism.

>How does one even know that one is on the right
>road to whatever is the desired end? And even more
>so when perhaps a large majority of members have
>not spoken up to lucidly or tangentially provide insight
>into their own views?

This is a most important question. The answer for me is by observing
carefully what the actions are and not what is being said. On any email
list we have an additional complication. We cannot observe any actions
except the actions taken in writing. Nevertheless, telling deeds proceed
telling words.

You know of the watershed event on 16 Decemeber 1836 in our country's
history. Black and white at war during which so much blood flowed that the
river became one of blood. A lot of telling was done afterwards on that
crucial event itself. But very have traced how two men, Gerrit Maritz and
Hans Dons, road on horse day by day for more six months, pleading to other
white settlers to come to their senses. The leading was talking, but
riding the horses through the dangerous country side was the doing.
>My apologies if I seem to be scratching away all
>the time. And it is not that I believe I have answers
>to these questions - but getting feedback would
>bring the LO list more clearly into focus and thereby
>help me to see myself in better perspective as well.

I am one for whom you never need to make apology for such an action. This
is what questioning does. It scratches away the layers of formal knowing
until it can sink its roots into the beauty of tacit knowing.

>May I mention that when I first came to this list my
>impression from the first few posts I read was that
>here was a good number of practitioners of
>organisational change - both consulting and as
>managers - who were dealing with the superficial as
>well as the more deeply seated problems of the LO
>concept, ....
>That impression has faded a little. And this might be
>due to the fact that there is another current taking
>some (all?) of the members along in the direction you
>referred to above - growing as an LO in itself and of
>itself. And then also for itself. Question: has this mater
>ever been articulated and discussed here before?

First, my answer to your question is -- no, not what I can recall.
But let us ask Rick?

Secondly, I think we have to keep track of two things which cannot be
separated -- the day to day business of an organisation and when it begins
to happen, the transformation of an Ordinary Organisation (OO) into a
Learning Organisation (LO). The day to day business of our LO-dialogue is
to disseminate organisational learning. The curious thing is that should
this LO-email list (and not any other email list because of its unique
purpose) begin to emerge into a cyber LO, the dog will begin to bite its
own tail.

>I would like to juxtapose this with what Andrew
>wrote in a more recent post (LO28168):
>>One aspect of 'creative collapse' is to become open
>>of one's inner-private self. This can be terrifying.
>Is that what the pupa goes through in the transition
>from worm to butterfly?
>If so, it seems the pupal stage is not restricted to real

That I wont know because I am not a worm. I do not even know what they
eat, although I try to learn something about it ;-) But it reminds me of
many artists who have had that experience which Andrew wrote about. The
most classic example for me is Beethoven. He never talked about it that he
contemplated suicide seriously after realising that his irreversibly
increasing deafness will have a most devastating influence on his art.
Only after his death they discovered among his papers what is now called
the Heilingenstadt Testament (Last Will).

This testament tell in words what a creative collapse is. But listening
(for each genre) to each of his works in chronological order tells by
deeds what it involves. It is terryfying, but also completely enspiring.

>Daan Joubert
>Curious to see if there will be wings

Dear Daan, your last remark in terms of the context of your entire reply
made me think of the following question:- What percentage of members of
the OO (Ordinary Organisation) have to function like a LO (Learning
Organisation) before the transformation from the OO to the LO can be
considered as successful?

Does it have to be 100%? Let us think of the five disciplines of a LO --
Personal Mastery, Team Learning, Mental Models, Shared Vision and Systems
thinking. Will they give us the answer? I think so.

Think of merely one team in that OO, learning together and also practising
the other four disciplines. That team itself is a LO. It does not talk
about it because it will be talking in Afrikaans to and English audience.
Thus it rather sets an example and through its practice affords others in
the OO the experiences to gain in tacit knowing of the LO. Sooner or later
some other members will want to articulate this tacit knowing. They will
begin to talk about it. But ultimately they will have to become practising
members of the LO before their talking make sense to them. How will they
become practising members?

Three possibilities come to my mind. The first possibility is that the
whole OO transforms by one unique event into a LO. It is too improbable
for me. Therfore, suggesting, asking or proposing it will lead to nothing.
Futrthermore, enforcing it by managerial powers will be sure recipe for
never accomplishing it. It will become an OO with lots of LO words, but
lacking LO deeds.

Thus only two possibilities remain. One is to form a second learning team.
This is like super saturated solution of a salt in water. First one
crystal forms, then a second one, then a third one, etc. Let us call it
the serial transformation. The other possibility is to join the first
learning team until it gets to large that it has to divide into two
learning teams. This is like a cell growing into maturity, feeding upon
its environment. When it is mature, it divides into two daughter cells
which after their maturing again divides, etc. Let us call it the parallel

How far do we have to go with either the serial or the parallel
transformation through learning teams before we can say that the OO has
been successfully transformed into a LO? It is a difficult question like
the one for the nine months of human expectancy. Let us go back two
millennia. At the one end of possible answers the Romans said that a fetus
becomes a person only on the day of birth. At the other end the Jews said
the person already becomes alive at the day of conception. Today we have
many answers in between, using various other criteria. The criterium for
the Romans was the ability to breath self. But the criterium for the Jews
was the ability to develop self.

I myself think like the Jews, but because of the essentiality liveness
("becoming-being"). Once the first cell (sigote) has been formed
spontaneously (out of the two gametes), the process is on to form more
cells. A LO is not merely a structure, but also a process. Processes are
integral to each of the five disciplines as are structures. Obviously,
after some cells have emerged, the process may abort as an entire
immergence. This abortion may be caused by either the system SY (one or
more of the learning teams functioning as a LO) or the surroundings SU
(with the rest of the OO as its most obvious part).

There has to be deep commitment in each of the cells (learning teams
functioning as a LO) that it will not be responsible for an abortion.
Likewise there has to be deep respect in the rest of the OO that cells
formed are not alien to the purpose of the OO, but the very best among all
its resources.

We can learn from both the serial (salt example) and parallel (cell
example) what is required to keep the transformation on track. In the salt
example water has to evaporate to keep the solution super saturated. Every
salt crystal formed lowers the concentration of the solution until it
drops out of the super saturated condition. This evaporation of water is
an ongoing process ("becoming"), a removal of water which may dissolve any
crystal. To do the opposite by adding water to the super saturated
solution will lead to a sudden immergence of all the already formed
crystals, an abortion of the process.

In the cell example the microscopic cell has to be fed on a much lower
molecular level by biochemical substances like minerals, vitamins, amino
acids, enzymes and hormones. In mammals, once the first cell (sigote) has
been formed and soon after a few divisions, the growing structure gets
attached to the mother who will provide for all the nourishment to keep
the process on track. In plants the attachment is already from the first
cell formed. Here nourishment is provided for the sigote to grow into a
mature seed consisting of many thousands of cells. All these cells contain
sufficient nourishment for the germination of the seed at a later stage
under favourable conditions.

>From the salt example we learn that certain things have to be kept away to
keep the transformation on track. From the cell example we learn that
certain things have to be provided to keep the transformation on track.
This tells me that openness ("paradigm-convention") plays a crucial role
in keeping the transformation on track.

A learning team can be as small as two members. (Remember Gerrit Martz and
Hans Dons above.) But it cannot become too large as Don Dwiggens recently
pointed out with his idea of "assosiative entities". I would say that 7 to
9 persons are the optimum number. (I have had too many classes ranging
from as litlle as four to as large as 200 learners not to know where the
cut-off number is.) When it becomes more than twelf, the number of
combinations rocket sky high. In other words, the learning team has to
prepare for a cell-like division when it reaches the number 12.

Please observe that I did not suggest or even propose what we should do on
our LO-dialogue. I rather strongly urge every fellow learner that the
right hand should not know what the left hand is doing. It is then when
the magic happens.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> 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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