Working Smarter vs. Working Harder LO30240

From: Malcolm Burson (
Date: 06/05/03

Replying to LO30202 --

On May 25, Keith Cowan joined the conversation between Fred Nickols and
Ellery July as follows --

> As with any organizational initiative, the behaviour will flourish if it
> is rewarded. The person in charge must foster and nurture the behaviour if
> it is to be sustained. The dilemma is that many "successful" executives
> become complacent because of their success. Furthermore, they become
> cautious and want to continue to do whatever it was that worked and got
> them where they are today. This is normal human behaviour and we should
> not be surprised to see it in any organization we encounter.
> Fighting for change from the "bottom up" is ultimately a losing battle,
> like trying to stop water from overflowing its banks.

Keith, I've heard this assertion repeatedly over the years, but remain to
be convinced. It seems to me that the declaration that the "person in
charge" is the single key factor in sustaining "good" behavior, which must
also be "rewarded" only works, if at all, in circumstances where the
organization is by definition a structure hierarchy where power flows down
from above. Yet the LO literature abounds in cases where change is
initiated and sustained in other ways, in organizations which are not
structured as you seem to assume is always the case.

And I also wonder what your evidence is for the assumption of something
called "normal human behavior." Much of what you've written runs counter
to my own experience, particularly your apparent declaration of the
futility of change emerging anywhere but from the top. Can you let us
further into your thinking and experience on these matters?


Malcolm Burson
Director of Special Projects
Maine Department of Environmental Protection


Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.