How much management is needed? LO30413

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 07/25/03

Replying to LO30380 --

Dear Organlearners,

Jan Lelie <> wrote under the
Subject: Understanding 'The New Knowledge Management' LO30380

>I think that KM assumes that this world needs management.
>When one frames the world in this view, this is what you will
>see: a "Knowledge Life Cycle". In my view this KLC is true,
>valid as an expression of that view. Personally i'm satisfied with
>a world that needs no management. What interest me is why
>and how we somehow need to convince others that this world
>needs management (a leader, a God) and fail to prove that this

Greetings dear Jan,

I found the above most interesting and therefor have changed the subject.

I have explored pristine nature extensively, especially its arid parts. I
was always amased how plants and animals can live as individuals and
groups without any sign of a manager among them needed to do so. Even in
the case of animals always grouping themselves into flocks, herds or
families with a definite leader (male or female), the leader set the
example rather than coercing others to do what the leader wants.

I often wondered what makes us humans different that we need leaders to
manage our organisational activities. (Exploring a desert alone gives a
person ample time to reflect on civilisation and its peculiarities.) Do we
need management because of our consciousness? Do we need it because we can
make choices? Do we need it because we can learn? Do we need it because we
are highly creative? Do we need it because we are fallible? Do we need it
because we have supressed or lost our instincts as animals? Or are we
simply following a practice which has enslaved us without us knowing why.

Your "(a leader, a God)" has a strange bearing on the above. In most
religions it is confessed that the religion's God(s) Creator is
responsible for the ordered and sustainable way of living for each kind of
creature. In other words, the God Creator of the religion is the manager
of all creatures except humans. In the case of humans that God seems to
have given some humans godly powers of management.

Slowly a different picture began to develop through the efforts of
scientists. Nature seems to have definite laws according to which plants
and animals live without ever transgressing these laws. In other words, in
the natural world its laws have become the manager of all creatures
including humans. It is only in the cultural world of humankind where
these natural laws do not apply so that humans had to make their own
cultural laws.

So it now seems that we have two pictures -- the religious and the
scientific pictures. Both seems to entail a manager, whether God or laws.
But i think that there is also a third picture which is gradually
developing. It is because this picture is still so extremely hazy that we
need managers. It is the picture in which words like metamorphosis,
evolution, self-organisation, autopoiesis, complex adaptation and
creativity occur. It is a picture in which its two main ingredients are

If you ask people to answer on the spur of the moment why organisations
need managers, the far majority will say that either managers keep order
or without managers chaos will develop. The managers are the noble knights
for order against chaos. I think it is this "managing for order against
chaos" which leads to over management.

However, in nature itself order is not against chaos. There is a
bewildering interplay between order and chaos. For example, the chaos of a
desert storm is a frightening event -- the blasting and choking of sand
are unbearable. Yet it has many favourable outcomes for nature. For
example, sand which has gradually built up against plants because of
normal winds, are blown away, clearing these plants. Rocks are eroded,
releasing new trace elements needed for growth when a little bit of rain
does fall.

What about human activities? I work in the Gold Fields Computer Centre. It
is one of two legs. The other leg is the Discovery Centre. It has many
life size apparatuses which visitors can experiment with. My office door
open into the hall housing it all. At this very moment there are some 100
pupils of a high school. They have entered the hall orderly. But it is
chaos now -- pupils talking, playing, experimenting, solving riddles and
drawing beautiful diagrams with mechanical devices. Some older visitors
might complain that the chaos blasting their ears and eyes is unbearable.
But it is absolutely necessary because often a pupil will exclaim: "Aha,
now i understand it!"

Soon it will become quieter, each pupil drawn to an apparatus which
pleased him/her most. Out of the chaos of now he/she will begin to explore
the order which that apparatus affords him/her. Should the curator
afterwards give a lecture with demonstrations, they will be very
attentive. But should the curator give the lecture just after they have
arrived, they will be as dull as in their school classes. Their minds have
not yet heated up by the shuttle of order to chaos to order back again.

Aha, many would now argue that these pupils are not an organisation. Were
they bound into an organisation, order rather than chaos is needed. Well,
they come from a school which is an organisation. In it the principal and
teachers try to maintain order while trying to get them learning. Getting
order is usually successful, but as for learning, i have my doubts.

In one of the companies which i am helping, a new manager employed for
innovation purposes complained to me that the CEO thinks the manager is a
loose cannon which will only cause chaos. What a situation! Perhaps the
new manager is creating chaos where it is not necessary. Perhaps the CEO
is insisting on order where it is not necessary. I will have to find out.
But what strikes me is the conflict between the two involving order and

How much management in an organisation is needed when we understand how
order and chaos function as a complementary pair and allow them to
function as such? I have too little experiences in business organisations
to give a definite answer since they will not allow it. But i suspect that
much less management will be needed. I wish i can get some definite
answers from fellow learners. Margeret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers
in "A Simpler Way" advocate such a complementary function between order
and chaos to minimise management. I still have to hunt for documented
results by those who have travelled "A Simpler Way".

How much management is needed in specifically a Learning Organisation
(LO)? I have had direct experiences being a member of four "tacit-LO"s,
tow of them in the past. (The "tacit" means they function as a LO without
knowing of Senge's concept of a LO.) In them little official management
was/is needed.

I am also helping a few organisations to emerge into LOs and then mature
as such. The biggest problem which i encountered on this path is over
management. Managers want to know the details of every step to be taken
before they might give the green light. Should they give the red light,
some clever scheme would be needed to take a side step which will get the
green light.

Jan, you wrote "Personally i'm satisfied with a world that needs no
management." It makes me wonder. When all the organisations of the world
from families to nations function as LOs, will the world still need
management? Let us suppose the answer is no. (Here in the Discovery Centre
the pupils have just left. Nobody managed them while they were here
learning more in two hours than a week in school.) What will the
consequences be? No managers any more. No more expenses to pay them high
salaries and bonuses. Huge cuts in the taxes we have to pay. Huge lowering
in the prices of goods and services.

It makes me think. Life has become expensive and dangerous. How much of it
is caused by management? How much of management itself is not due to
managers wanting to secure themselves in life which has become expensive
and dangerous?

Dear Jan, somewhat further down in your contribution you wrote:- "IT IS
THE MANAGEMENT, STUPID!". When i read it, i thought by myself: "Now you
have let yourself for a few battles". But after some of things which i
wrote above, i think that i have done the same to me. Is it not stupidity
which makes life expensive and dangerous?

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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