Creating Learning Environments LO30661

From: Bill Harris (
Date: 10/06/03

Replying to LO30638 -- (learning-org-digest) writes:

"Edward W. Rogosky" <> asks:

> Senge speaks of using no coercion in the implementation of a learning
> organization. Yet, people hardly do the right thing inless they are
> slightly coerced into moving in that direction. An example that readily
> comes to mind is the issue of a family therapist encouraging the healthier
> member of the family to take the necessary healing steps in the right
> direction for a family cure. Any thoughts?

I think you've hit on an important and puzzling issue, one I struggled
with for some months when I first began considering the approach of Chris
Argyris. I think it was only when I caught on that I began to understand
what Argyris really was describing in Model II behavior.

Is there perhaps a fine difference between advocacy and coercion that you
might consider? I don't think there's much written against advocacy in
any of the LO literature, although there is a strong emphasis on balancing
advocacy with inquiry.

Let's start with Argyris' premises for a Model II organization (a key part
of a LO): free and open decision making, the use of testable and tested
data, and a commitment to upholding these values. The problem with
coercion (e.g., "Do this because I said so and I'm your boss") in such a
setting is that the very act of a manager telling her people they must
adopt Model II behavior is a Model I act, for it doesn't allow for free
and open decision making, it is based on the manager's statement, not
tested data, and it challenges anyone else's right to uphold the Model II

Is that okay, because it's for a good cause? Do the ends justify the
means? I think not, for it really just told the rest of the group (which,
after all, is a learning organization of some sort, and they'll learn from
the manager's actions) that Model II is good most of the time, but there
are exceptions when it's okay to do something else. That just gave
everyone license to forget Model II when they want to. Since Model II is
tough -- really tough -- I suspect they'll not get there if they lack the
support of others.

So what's a poor LO advocate to do? :-)

I used to think each of us had to discover that for ourselves, and that
may be true. What I discovered for myself was that I had to represent who
I was, what I thought was important, and how I was reasoning -- in other
words, be a good advocate -- without coercing others. I also had to
polish my inquiry skills, including listening. If the others really had
the right to free and open decision making, then I couldn't guarantee
they'd follow me into a Model II stance. If I tried to coerce them,
though, I'd guarantee they wouldn't make it into a Model II stance, so it
was the best I had.

Does that help?


Bill Harris                                  3217 102nd Place SE
Facilitated Systems                          Everett, WA 98208 USA               phone: +1 425 337-5541

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