Criteria for "Learning Organization" LO29466

From: Jan Lelie (
Date: 11/06/02

Replying to LO29449 --

Dear At, sweet readers,

(perhaps the subject line should read "Read: re-sourcing people"

Communicating equals behaving. Words are a special case of informing - a
very recent one, i might add - and are used in communication. Words are
NOT meant to communicate meaning, in my opinion. When i - or you At, or
you, dear reader - refer - in a post or memo - to people as resources, it
is most likely that others do NOT know what is meant by it. Because you do
not experience my behaviour. You - we - do not know if i'm laughing, or
frowning, worrying or perhaps brainstorming. Perhaps i want to educate
people again, so i'm talking about re-sourcing people. You make a number
of assumptions - and you have to do so, you have to "fill in the blanks".

In the day-to-day interactions we act as if these assumptions are true.
We do not question or criticizes them - we're not even aware that we're
doing so. We even create so called double binds to prevent people from
questioning our assumptions. A double bind communicates information on one
level ("people are not resources") and meaning on another level (suppose i
was telling this to my employees from behind my desk in my large top floor
room). This is "binding", limiting both parties: there is no space left to
question the validity, the meaning or the information. A worker could say
that (s)he feels treated like a resource, but as i'm the boss, (s)he has
been taught that this is unwise. As i will get no denial - i assume that i
was right: the workers do not feel themselves treated as resources. This -
and i assume that this is why we do it - works very efficient, as we do
not have to discuss much. It would have been better to inquire - as a boss
- on how people feel treated. Or even better: i should ask somebody who is
neutral - an outsider - to ask it for me. (This should not be somebody
with a commercial interest! Anecdote: i heard of an inquiry into the
quality of the internal communication of a company by external
consultants. Apart from the fact that they "forgot" to interview two major
departments, one of the results was that top management was seen as not
very communicative. This is a very difficult message to bring to your
client, so they wrapped it in a gift package: the workers should show more
initiative in communicating and - they said - "you probably do not want to
listen to this, but some managers are perceived as not very
communicative". They got a next assignment: training the workers.).

So, At, to wrap it up: i do not like people being referred to as "hands",
"workers", "employees", "resources", "numbers" etc. too. At the same time
see no reason why a company can not become a learning organization and
keep on referring to people as resources. People do re-source the
organization and every organization is resourced ("powered") by people. I
just wanted to reiterate the point that people in a learning organization
are enabled to question the attribution. People should be offered a free
choice to be referred to as resources or not - not once, but every day.

Hope it helps, take care,

Jan Lelie

AM de Lange wrote:

>Greetings dear Jan,
>This sentece articulates for me why I also dislike to think of workers
>as a "resource". To think of a fellow learner, even when a member of
>an organization, is preposturous. How can such an organization ever
>become a learning organization? Can anybody explain it to me.
>With care and best wishes

Drs J.C. Lelie (Jan) 
facilitator mind@work

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