Are Hierarchies All Bad? LO31031

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 03/23/04

Replying to LO30991 --

Dear Organlearners,

doug merchant < >

>An old book, "Renewing American Industry" (Lawrence and
>Dyer, 1983, The Free Press) provides a framework that
>examines industries and organizations in the context of
>Information Complexity and Resource Scarcity and addresses
>the respective roles of Hierarchy, Market and Clan mechanisms
>and associated probable nature of the Institutional Strategies and
>Organizational forms.

Greetings dear Doug,

As far as living systems are concerned, hirarchies in them abound. The
following list illustrates some of them (i will illustrate most with three

eco-nich -- population of different species living together at a place
population -- specimens of a species living together
macroscapic organisms -- plants, animals
(microscopic) multicellular organisms -- fungus, parmecium, rotfiers
single cell organisms -- amoeba, euglenoid, coccidians
organelles (in cell) -- mitochondria, microtubelae, nucleus
large molecules -- celulose, protein, DNA
small molecules -- clucose, aminoacid, nucleic acid

There is cooperation (colaboration) between the wholes of a
hierarchial level, but never one of them acting as the boss of the
others. However, there is usually one of these wholes which
coordinates the functions of the rest. For example, the pitutary gland
is the coordinator of the other glands in our body while the
neurolgical system is the coordinator of the other organs.

A whole of a higher hierachy have different functions by way of
emergence than the functions of the wholes from the lower hirarchy.
But again, none of the wholes in this higher hierarchy becomes the
boss of the others. A whole of a higher hierachy also does not becomes
the boss of the wholes of the lower hierachy from which it emerged.
For example, my body is not the boss of say my heart.

This does not mean that the higher whole forget about the lower wholes
nested in it. One of its main functions is always to guide the lower
wholes into better functionality by way of what i call "back action".
For example, my consciuosness which emerged from my body direct me to
eat good food in a good manner.
But when we get to hierarchies in human organisations, little of
nature's hirarchy is to be found in it. The following is rather found
which Molly Brown describes so aptly:

"Unfortunately, few bosses or employees understand the relationship of
subsystem to larger system, and frequently act in ways that disrupt
the healthy systemic functioning of their organizations. CEO's may
assume that because they are "on top," their own needs and
perspectives matter more than anyone else's; they may make decisions
based more on personal preference than on organizational needs.
Disgruntled employees may blame their bosses for low morale and fail
to notice how their own complaining and diminishing productivity
contributes to the overall problem. And even organizations utilizing
systems principles within their management philosophy may fail to
consider the larger wholes of which they are but subsystems-- larger
wholes like the socio-economic communities and ecosystems upon which
they utterly depend. Most of us fall into the mind-trap from time to
time of thinking of ourselves as separate from everything else,
forgetting we are completely interconnected and nested within the
human family and the biosphere of the earth.

>For example: environments marked by low Information complexity and
>High resource scarcity tend to favor Hierarchy (Bureaucratic
>Mechanisms); environments with High Information Complexity and
>Low Resource Scarcity tend to favor Clan Mechanisms; environments
>with High Information Complexity and High Resource Scarcity tend
>to favor Market Mechanisms.

I can appreciate how the above apply to many human organisations. But
as far as my understanding of living systems go, i fail to understand
how the above categorisation also applies to them. I have far too many
counter examples in my mind. But i will give this categorisation much
thinking and see what comes out of it.

I personally think that should people remain ignorant how an emergence
upon a bifurcation in nature happens, they will also handle
hierarchies bad.

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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