Reading on Culture Change LO13127

John H. Dicus (
Sun, 06 Apr 1997 01:35:54 -0400

Replying to LO13106 --

On April 3rd Paula Bartholome wrote asking for leads to articles on
culture change: specifically from hierarchical to team-based. She also
stated that her client was "rejecting" a currently used article:

>The article currently being used - 'Levi's Changes Everything' from last
>issue of "Fast Company" is being challenged because of recent articles on
>Levi's re: outsourcing, downsizing and the way they treat their outlets.
>There is a perception that the process of change described in the article
>is thus no longer valid. (I don't agree but...)

As I read the message, one article immediately jumped into my mind. After
thinking more about it, I realized it was not an article that specifically
references change in structure from hierarchical to team-based. But I
cannot shake the belief that the article is very relevant, so I will offer
it. It's not very complex, but has beauty in it's simplicity.

The article is by Charles Handy and is titled "Managing The Dream." It
first appeared in the Harvard Business Review and was eventually published
in "Learning Organizations" edited by Sarita Chawla. If you cannot find
it easily, I believe I have it in a file that I can forward.

Handy describes a team from a community model standpoint where individual
and collective are in dynamic balance. He also makes reference to his
"wheel of learning" model which he described in "The Age of Unreason":
Questions lead to ideas. Ideas lead to tests. Tests lead to reflection.
Reflection leads to more questions.

Handy says that for this learning wheel (cycle) to "keep turning," there
must be an atmosphere of curiosity, trust, forgiveness, and togetherness.
It becomes the work of leaders to be designers of the enabling structure,
or "atmosphere" for these learning conditions to exist.

Leaders must be concerned with the generation of a safe "playground" for
learning... described as the space between two concentric circles. The
inner circle is the core of things that "must" be done... the minimum
requirements that must be met for success. The outer circle represents
the limits of "safety"... going beyond is a threat to human/business
health. The space between the two boundaries is where the cycle of
learning thrives. "Mistakes" in this learning space are merely "holes
above the water-line." If the space is too small then there is no
ownership and people shut down. If there are inappropriate inner and/or
outer boundaries, then either work does not get accomplished or the
organization is put at risk. Constant dialogue is needed to establish and
continually adjust the boundaries. Handy also makes the point that one
cannot learn from "expanding the envelope" unless the boundaries of the
envelope are known.

In this model, hierarchy is retained for source of authority,
responsibility for setting limits, and responsibility for overseeing
structural design. Team/community is thrives within that framework... and
the limits are always being consciously challenged in the growth process.

It is humbling to remember that regardless of how good an organization's
intentions may be in shiftting to a new model of behavior, the
organization will invariably stumble a number of times in the learning
process. But you can't steer a ship unles you're "under way."

I'll close with a portion of a quote by the 3M Chairman of the Board...
from nearly 50 years ago:

"As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary for those in
managerial positions to delegate responsibility and to encourage people to
whom responsibility is delegated to exercise their own initiative.

This requires considerable tolerance. Those people to whom we delegate
authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want
to do their jobs in their own way.

It seems to me that these are characteristics we want in people and should
be encouraged as long as their way conforms to our business policies and
general pattern of operation. Mistakes will be made, but if the man is
essentially right himself, I think the mistakes he makes are not so
serious in the long run as the mistakes his manager makes if he is
dictatorial and undertakes to tell people under his authority, to whom
responsibility is delegated, exactly how they must do their job.

If management is intolerant and destructively critical when mistakes are
made, I think it kills initiative, and it is essential that we have many
employees with initiative if we are going to continue to grow."

W. L. McKnight - 1948
Chairman, 3M Company


John Dicus | email: CornerStone Consulting Associates | LO Consulting, Facilitation, Training | Open Space Technology, Community Building 800-773-8017, fax (330) 725-2728

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