High Expectations LO17558

Richard C. Holloway (thejournal@thresholds.com)
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 21:52:31 -0800

Replying to LO17554 --

Nancy, I think you ask some thought-provoking and valid questions. I also
believe that you are projecting your feelings into your questions--I don't
know this, but I've inferred it from your posting.

While your points are valid, I presume that there are no more "academians"
on this list than there are business people, internal consultants, public
servants, nonprofit professionals and so forth. I'm just hazarding a
guess--but I doubt that I'm too far off the mark guessing that there are
less professional academics than these other categories (and some of these
categories blend into others).

I suspect (and the little survey I performed several months ago pointed to
that trend) that there are more ties among us in terms of temperament and
personality than there are in terms of earning levels, occupations or
roles. There are many people who teach and study for a living who have
little or no value for this type of dialog--or for learning organizations
in general (god forbid that institutions of higher learning would ever
become learning organizations). Their kindred by temperament and
circumstance live in all organizations. Very few will find their way
here--and when they do, probably very few remain. That's another

I personally know very wealthy people who seldom engage in
self-actualization. They're too busy worrying about losing or acquiring
more wealth. This is not to imply that all wealthy people are this way,
simply that wealth doesn't necessarily beget the urge to self-actualize.

I was at a poetry reading tonight. The youngest reader is an eight-year
old; the oldest a septegenarian. One person who came stays frequently at
the Salvation Army Shelter. Many others were upper middle class. Most
of us work for our daily bread--I don't believe that any of us were
independently wealthy, though some may be comfortably independent. It
was in the act of sharing our creative moments that we were
self-actualizing. We see this creative impulse in the murals and
graffitti tags that litter (or adorn) our public buildings. In the words
the children make up for their songs (or their rapping); the musical urge
that captures people like Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix, who both came from
poverty and from two of the most economically depressed areas in my own

I am often concerned with the arrogance and hubris too many people
demonstrate who want to intervene, or who are self-styled agents of
change, in their communities and organizations. I also firmly believe
that a significant portion of any population are ambivalent or against any
significant change in their lives (from their family to their
organizational role). This isn't always (or even usually) because of
their level in a Maslow model--it's because their "self" and their
"circumstance" have colluded to create intransigent--or
conservative--behavior (for an amazing and complex variety of reasons).

>From another point of view, agents of change are like the activator in a
compost heap. The compost will, under the right conditions, eventually
decompose and transform by it's own nature--but the activator will move
things along much faster than would occur otherwise. This analogy can't
take us too far, though, because transforming the human system is so much
more problematic--and interventions haven't always been sensitive to the
nature of chaos, the complex, the uncontrollable factors of intervention.
They can (and do) often create more problems than they solve.

When I first began to work with the principles I found in the Fifth
Discipline--especially using the fieldbook--it was with several groups of
women who work as receptionists, secretaries, intake workers and office
leadworkers in a mental health agency. They are all members of a
collective bargaining unit. Their salary ranges from $1400 to $2300 per
month. The average education level is about 13 years (some college).
Several are single parents. All of them live from paycheck to paycheck,
many paying for daycare, rent, car payments, groceries, insurance and
entertainment out of the 80% of the income they kept after withholding.

We started with personal mastery and mental models. This process became a
significant factor in the lives of several of these women. They began
communicating and working together as process teams on a very
sophisticated level (much of which reflected their gender, temperaments
and common purpose). Their production, collaboration, interest for work
and responsibility/accountability "quotients" improved dramatically. They
began to work more and more in a self-directed fashion--and even after a
significant change in managers, expectation and roles within the
organization, I understand that this collective of about 25 people are
still functioning in much this same way.

I guess that I'm convinced, more and more, of the wisdom and
knowledge--the responsibility and accountability--that often lies tacit
and hidden in the organization. Unleashing this great energy by unbinding
workers from the stocks to which they have too often confined by
ignorance, and misunderstanding and rigid beliefs or mental models, is a
change that can benefit organizations--if the old guard of the hierarchy
are willing to reap the wind. Well, that's enough--I'll begin writing an
LO manifesto next.

walk in peace,

Doc Holloway

"Love not what you are, but what you may become."  - Miguel de Cervantes

Thresholds--developing critical skills for living organizations Richard C. "Doc" Holloway Please visit our new website, still at <http://www.thresholds.com/> <mailto:learnshops@thresholds.com>

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