learning-org-digest V1 #3487 LO30920

From: Mark W. McElroy (mmcelroy@vermontel.net)
Date: 01/31/04

Replying to LO30908 --


Since it was me that started this "statements vs. facts" line of
inquiry, I will answer your question. Statements are nothing more
than claims about what is, or what's going on, or what might be.
They are the basis of all action in business. So it matters greatly
about how accurate they are as a basis for action -- for effective
action, no less. Facts, on the other hand, are the real world things
statements purport to describe. In other words, there are the things
in the world (facts) and then there are the things we say or claim
about the things in the world (statements).

So when I asked if there can be such a thing as a correspondence
between a statement and a fact, I'm simply raising the question of
whether or not the veracity of statements or claims in business matter
as a basis for effective action. If so, then as a "division leader"
(or leader of any other kind in business), you'd better consider
yourself duty-bound to create and maintain the conditions in which
claims made about facts in YOUR world by YOUR workers can be held to a
test of whether or not they correspond with the facts and survive.

What I'm raising here is the issue of what an organization's
"knowledge ethic" is. Are people in the organization encouraged and
incented to think in terms of whether or not their ideas correspond
with the facts (regardless of what others think), or are they instead
expected to think only in terms of what management thinks and the
correspondence of their beliefs or claims (statements) with THAT?

The general subject here is 'corporate epistemology.' The question is
what YOUR organization's corporate epistemology is. Is it one that
encourages people to think for themselves by comparing their beliefs
or statements against the real world (facts), or is it one that
DIScourages people from thinking for themselves (and on behalf of the
organization) by comparing their beliefs or statements only against
what management's beliefs or statements happen to be?

I guess the question is 'do we encourage people in organizations to
think for themselves by applying their own tests, or is the only test
of interest to us one where we determine whether or not people's
beliefs or claims happen to align with management's?' By asking the
'correspondence' question, I surface the basic issue of whether or not
a belief or claim (statement) may be true, regardless of whether or
not it complies with management's views. The issue, instead, becomes
does it comport with facts?

Bottom line? If you're a manager or leader, you'd better be more
concerned with how well people in your organization are applying their
abilities to think for themselves as a basis for effective action, as
opposed to how well they're managing to shape their own behaviors in
response to management's beliefs or claims, since management's beliefs
or claims may be mistaken.

All of this of course is based on the so-called correspondence theory
of truth, and the question it raises it what the knowledge ethic in
your own organization is. Managers or "division leaders" in
organizations, no less, that cannot answer this question should be
very worried. For the basis of action in their organizations is
unclear, and that is an untenable, unsustainable situation -- even



John Shibley wrote:

> Regarding the conversation about the difference, or lack of
> difference, between facts and statements...
> I've been following this thread, or trying to.
> Here's what would help me. Pretend I'm a division leader at GE, or a
> banker, or the Deputy Assistant for Health for Quebec. OK?
> Now, convince me to hire you to help my organization based on the
> premise that the difference between facts and statements matters. What
> real role does such a conversation play in moving organizational
> learning forward?


"Mark W. McElroy" <mmcelroy@vermontel.net>

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