Meg Wheatley - rational elements LO14650

Frank Billot (
Mon, 11 Aug 1997 22:50:27 +0200

Replying to LO14635 --


you wrote
>I feel very strongly about this as I believe that many so called "change
>interventions" intervene into the structure and the processes of the
>organisation - what is concrete and observable without considering the
>current, past and future "pattern" or identity and sense of unity in the
>So while we muddle around with the structure - we have a huge impact often
>adverse impact - on the "patterns" - "identity" and this is ignored.

I agree with you that most of us tend to privilegiate structures for they
seem concrete and that mental models should not be ignored. At first,
because the models we reason through (or with), contribute to create,
reinforce, transform the structures. So that structures cannot be
considered 'given', they contribute to and are modeled by the social
interactions. One could even say that the strength of the structure lies
in the regularities of the interrelations and behaviours, because its
credibility stems from them.

Collective action is regulated through the constraints of the environment,
the structure AND the 'culture' of the actors; and culture and identity
are built by action and interaction with others and the environment (in a
broad sense). So the structure is significant of a cultural regulation of
collective action, and change in the organisation should not undertaken
under mere *objective* or technical considerations, as though *all other
things were still remaining the same* (ceteris paribus).

In other words, we build our identity through the dayly interactions we
have at work; because we learn much more than we can say from our
continous practice of our environment, creating tacit, incorporated
knowledge that will influence our interpretation of the context. So when
smart managers decide to reingeneer, or change the norms and processes as
though humans were pieces of clay, they usually get undesirable effects
(as RK Merton said long ago)

>I also have a belief that if we spent more time paying attention to and
>working with the patterns, the relationships, the beliefs etc to bring to
>the surface what is the current set of beliefs the system holds about
>itself and built more respectful, constructive realtionships with one
>another in the system the changes in the structure and the changes to the
>processes would emerge from these conversations. These changes would be
>implemented with a spirit of trust and commitment as they emerge from the
>system itself rather than from an external or internal power broker who
>decides what the system will change.

Facing those beliefs, models, tacit knowledge... that cannot be known
exhaustively (even by the person herself, not to mention the managers) I
see two means of acting upon. The first would be provoking insight,
recognition, explicitation of the tacit. This is a heavy duty that seems
to require the attention of a therapist, if deep action is considered
(even it is claimed that it can be changed in an hour of time). It needs
not saying that business situations do not provide the necessary empathy
and confidence to undertake this.

The other way I think of is through behavioural change. Since we socially
learn and adopt the conventions that allow collective actions, would it
not be an effective means to provoke change than having the managers adopt
the behaviour that they want to obtain, and the vision that goes along ?
For a convention to be adopted, it requires credibility. That implies that
if you want to lead some organisationnal change, you must be congruent in
acts and speeches. And my belief is that it is easier to make the speech
accord to the behaviour than the contrary.

So trust being required to get commitment, the more natural way seems to
to put vision in action, in dayly behaviour so that it may spread to
others' representations, by memetics so to speak.

Of course, people would not follow any behaviour. Employes would not work
20 hours a day just to replicate the boss' behaviour. It has to be linked
with a vision that fits with what peoplere can go for. To begin with
respect, sense of community and teamwork (esprit d'iquipe). I don't mean
that the lattest are determining factors, I just feel like this now ! :-)

Sorry for such a long and divagative post

Frank Billot   ---  820 chemin traversier   84210 Pernes les Fontaines  France
telephone 33 4 90 66 53 24

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