Language Dilemma + A New Picture LO13876

John H. Dicus (
Sat, 07 Jun 1997 02:21:10 -0400

Replying to LO13849 and LO13865 --

> "...This tension between BPR and LO is one of the threads I want to
> explore. I agree that BPR and LO are at opposite ends of the
> structured-unstructured spectrum. However, I do not agree that this
> means they cannot or should not be linked."
> IT/LO versus IT/BPR. As an IT professional, it is clear to me that
> enlightened organizations are now practicing IT and BPR as a single
> discipline. As practice fields mature, IT and LO may similarly
> merge.
> Maybe the next step is to say that we should not be designing at all.
> If LO is "the born" and BPR is "the made", how will we fuse them?
> Imagine that our LO practice field games are refined and embellished
> and become BPR models and finally enterprise software. "
> Doug Simpson

>Could it be a language dilemma to express certain concepts :
>e.g. "LO" "IT" "BPR" and using different metaphors to describe,
>e.g. "the born" "the made" "structured-unstructured spectrum" etc.
>It appears that each "languaged concept" as above is separate
>part / entity / domain / compartment / fragment.....
>But one of the essence / discipline of LO is "SYSTEM THINKING"
>which deals with interrelationship, inter-depedency, inter-reaction
>of all these parts plus many more.
>Andrew Wong

Doug and Andrew have awakened these thoughts. Here's my two cents

I would prefer to talk about systems being differently structured, rather
than structured or unstructured. I think we confuse the word structure
with rigidity or degree of control. For example, Open Space is not
unstructured, but highly structured in a different way. We just need
different "glasses" to see/ appreciate the structure. An LO (and a self
organizing system) is differently and highly strucutured.

I have seen BPR efforts "give birth" to sustainable systemic organizations
-- and I have seen LO efforts "build" throwback replicas of the
dysfunctional past. I have seen IT enable, and I have seen IT dis-enable.
As long as IT tries to measure and control it will dis-enable. As long as
IT helps the organism to think and act as a whole it will enable.
(parallel to efforts to contol the www) I've seen BPR and LO efforts kill
the collective intelligence of the organization by linearizing the
communication and production processes, taking away the redundancy
necessary for ideation, creativity and patterns of thought.

There are so many words in our "organizational change" vocabulary that
have been made illegitimate by bad experiences. We tiptoe around words
like leadership, management, training, and teaching. The list is long.
Before long we'll have eliminated all the words we have available for use
in dialogue without any new ones to take their place. Why not
re-legitimize our vocabulary by new intentions, new experiences, new

I believe that we don't get to the fundamental issues involved -- the
stories under the stories -- as we work with/in organizations undergoing
transformation. Hence we treat issues symptomatically, setting the stage
for their re-occurrence. We then unleash the next program of
intervention, still not getting under the surface -- going deeper into the
structure of the human/business system. Eventually, all our efforts
become "four letter words."

We watched Management By Objective become illegitimate. Participative
Management and Quality Circles went the same route. TQM has become a joke
in many organizations. Cultural Diversity and Team Work Training brings
waves of disgust. BPR "failed." How long will it be until the LO becomes
a bad word? Has it already? Listen to some of the threads.

I really fear that day. I have such a strong dream of how things could
be. I don't care what we call it - I have the dream - nothing will change

When I read Hammer and Champy's book ("Reengineering the Corporation") a
number of years ago, I was excited because through my filters I could
imagine what an organization might become as an open, living system.
Other people read the book and used it to legitimize extensions of
high-control closed systems concepts. As I understand it, Champy wrote
"Reengineering Management" for that reason.

Japan heard Deming through their filters in their own unique state of
acceptance. The US heard him through their filters. Each person jumping
on the TQM bandwagon heard Deming as they chose and as they were able.
Demings' point number 8 -- "Drive Out Fear" is the most forgotten/unheard
of all his suggestions.

Andrew suggest we have a language dilemma. Makes sense to me. Perhaps we
are dealing with something we might term "beyond language." Some of you
may be mountain climbers (I'm not). We have been recently told the
stories of last year's tragedies on Mt. Everest as competing teams of
guides tried to commercialize the climb. People left frozen up in the
thin air where it takes a whole new set of competencies to survive and
climb. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote this poem in 1914. "Left out to die on
the mountains of the heart. Look, how tiny it is, do you see: the final
barn of language, and, above it, still tiny, one final granary of feeling.
You've seen it before? Left out to die on the mountains of the
heart......." What will it take for us to learn to live above the final
barn of language -- beyond the last granary of feeling?

I would like to suggest something I have been thinking about for a long
time. A few years ago a book was written by a pair of authors in the UK
called "The Learning Company." It was a collection of 101 glimpses into
the future -- vignettes that stood alone.

How about our beginning a thread wherein each person adding on simply
paints a word picture of some facet of the organization of their dreams.
State it in the future perfect tense -- as though we are already there
with you. As the thread builds there should be a very rich, textured, and
compelling picture about what this new organization looks, feels, sounds
like -- even though we might not have a good name for it. Make it vivid.
Let's get out of our heads for a little while. The neat thing is that the
multifaceted picture would be generated by having the "whole system in the
room" -- all of you. Its our future.


John Dicus   |
CornerStone Consulting Associates   |
Learning Organization Consulting / Facilitation / Training
Open Space Technology / Community Building
2761 Stiegler Road, Valley City OH  44280
800-773-8017  |  330-725-2728  (fax)

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