Two years after 9/11 LO30660

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

Replying to LO30634 --

<> wrote:

> I find At's comments intriguing and stimulating. I generally agree with
> Bill's comments that this is REALLY HARD stuff to do as it must be
> spontaneous and without coercion in order to become permanent and
> effective. There are a couple of exceptions that I want to toss out to be
> kicked around.

> Bill points out that using coercion undercuts the validity of the aims of
> a LO. While I agree with that in principle, I also know that many
> situations require a little coercion to get things moving in a new
> direction. This can be in the form of directives to do something
> different or in the form of the removal of reinforcers for old behavior.
> Either way can, and often does, beget change/movement. The trick is to be
> able to move off of this coercion and to move toward a more spontaneous
> evolution of affairs.

Clyde, you've addressed many issues very thoughtfully. I'll respond only
to a couple of your points due to time.

First, I guess I don't necessarily have a problem with the existence of
coercion; it seems like a fact of life in today's world. I do have a
problem with the thought that coercion and the development of an LO go
hand-in-hand. That is, if I'm setting out to foster or create an LO, I
think I better leave my coercion toolkit locked up in the closet.

Maybe the key to your above paragraph is to inquire into your premise:
"many situations require a little coercion to get things moving in a new
direction." If you're still dealing inside an organization that's seeking
to become an LO (e.g., you're not in need of a police force to stop an
armed robbery), my evidence (admittedly, I'm not giving the full evidence
because of time this morning) is that I helped create an LO in
organization I once managed precisely because I gave up on all pretense of
coercion (or at least to the best of my ability). One of the keys for me
was understanding and beginning to model what it meant to adhere to
Argyris' principles for Model II behavior. I could not ethically nor
pragmatically have gotten there by coercing my department to adopt my
stance. Had I told them, "We _will_ become a Model II organization" (and
explained what it meant), it would have been contradictory nonsense.

Furthermore, I guess I actually tried a bit of that as I was just starting
to learn myself, and the reaction of the people in my department changed
perceptably when I changed from trying to tell them, ever so gently, that
they had to become this new way to trying to be that way myself and
inquiring into their stance on various issues before us. That approach I
took was far harder than issuing an edict, it was scarier (I couldn't
commit to my manager that we'd do things the way I told him I thought they
should be done), and it was far more successful. Because of the free and
open nature of Model II, I can't promise that anyone (including I) can
replicate that experience anywhere else; it's up to _all_ the people
involved, IMO. That also makes it human, real, and very rewarding work.

Put another way, it wasn't until I understood that, how, and why coercion
in the creation of a Model II organization was not only ethically ("in
principle") impossible but also pragmatically impossible ("it wouldn't
work") that I began to understand how one could get there at all and what
I should be doing minute by minute.

Just in case this is what you meant, I by no means think Model II requires
a lack of advocacy on my part. It does requires a balanced level of
inquiry and adherence to those principles that result in people making
decisions based on the best information and judgment available to the
group, not on what someone in power says.

What evidence do you have that a bit of coercion is required in certain
circumstances? Is it possible that you were mixing the use of coercion
and advocacy? Is it possible that there are non-coercive approaches you
haven't considered in those circumstances? Is it possible that you would
need coercion in those situations to effect a change in people's behavior
but the change you'd get was inconsistent with being or becoming an LO?

> At the risk of talking in circles, I can't help but think about Bill's
> comment about the police and their role in society. We want society to be
> safe, so we establish rules by either governance or consensus, to
> facilitate that desired state of being. Because we know human nature,
> though, we also establish a police force to catch/punish those who would
> violate those rules. While the initial desire and decision was
> consensual, the execution is based, at least in part, on coercion.

Yes, we've established boundary conditions in society. For example, I
think most companies that are or becoming LOs probably still have security
guards and locks on the doors. The O part of the LO is bounded.

You've been raising a larger issue of how one creates a planet-wide LO.
While I read of the need for something like that in each edition of the
newspaper, I'm not skilled in how to approach "LO-dom" on that broad a
scale, so I'll leave that to others to toss around.

I do think the UN with its focus on multilateral decision-making has about
as much promise as I see in any structured organization today. As I made
the claim that coercion and Model II are incompatible ethically and
pragmatically, I suspect unilateralism and planet-wide "LO-dom" may be
equally incompatible. While a "Pax Americanus" (okay; I never took Latin
:-( ) might have appeal in the short term, I suspect there's a systemic
issue that would make it (or any other unilaterally controlled state of
the world) a short-term phenomenon, only to be followed by a possibly
rough transition and then perhaps a "Pax Somebody-or-other-else." All of
the energy required to uphold that Pax Americanus might lead to a building
frustration elsewhere that would eventually overwhelm it. I think a
multilateral approach might be the only way to avoid long-term and
potentially violent oscillatory or chaotic behavior.

While I'm thinking loosely in of an oscillation in system dynamics terms,
I suspect some of our complexity theorists might have interesting ideas
around this, too.

Thanks for making me think,


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

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