Are Hierarchies All Bad? LO31066

From: dougm (
Date: 04/27/04

Replying to LO31047 --

Art Kleiner offers "at least four necessary dimensions for
understanding how an organization works:

...The hierarchy system...The network system...The clan system...The
market system...

"But how exactly do they fit together? I'm not sure, but it seems
reasonable that in any organizational situation, there is "stuff"
going on in all four dimensions...
 -- Art Kleiner

While I've used the labels Hierarchy, Market and Clan for three
learning mechanisms I fear the labels may distract us from the three
distinct underlying learning mechanisms:

1) Symbol & Rule Mechanisms (a Stored Program Machine metaphor;
learning is difficult :-)

2) Population, Mutation & Selection Mechanisms (an Evolutionary
Metaphor; e.g., learning is Darwinian or Lamarckian)

3) Neural Network Type Mechanisms (a Neural Network Metaphor; e.g.,
learning is Skinnerian)

In this taxonomy Art's Network and Clan system are both manifestations
of Neural Netork Type Mechanisms (e.g., "Love" could describe the
relationship "glue" among two or more individuals in an organization
network :-)

Of course, these learning mechanisms are at play across many levels of
the organization.

For example, imagine an organization composed of semi-autonomous work
teams. Each work team can be thought of as a neural network. The
process of Team building develops the fabric of relationships among
the team members. In this sense the team is a Clan, with each Team
Member willing to defer self-interest to further the interest of the
team to which she is a member. While team building builds the
relationship capacity for the team to perform, team learning
reinforces and modifies those intra-team relationships in order to
promote team performance (everyone immediately looks to Jack when
confronted with an arcane accounting problem; they all know not to
bother Sally with the details).

Now, imagine an organization composed of many teams, successful teams
grow and some team characteristics my be eventually copied;
unsuccessful teams are eventually disbanded and individual team
members are available for selection to other teams. Over time, past
organizational learning is embedded in the population of work teams --
both the teams that have flourished and (implicitly) in the teams that
have disbanded.

Of course, both the individuals in the teams and the work teams must
have an organizational context or governance structure in which to
operate. This context is defined by a set of Symbols and Rules.
These Symbols and Rules shape the Playing fields on which the Work
Teams evolve. In this organization, a prime role of Organizational
leadership would be to maintain and adjust the governance rules as
necessary to assure effective evolution and functioning of the

doug merchant


"dougm" <>

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