Can We Imagine?

Can We Imagine?

Can we imagine alternatives to conventional management? Different ways of coordinating organisations, large and small?

“Finding deficiencies and getting rid of them is not a way of improving the performance of the system. An improvement program must be directed at what you want, not at what you don’t want. And, determining what you do want requires redesigning the system, not for the future, but for right now, and asking yourself what would you do right now if you could do whatever you wanted to. If you don’t know what you would do if you could do what you wanted to do how could you ever know what you would do under constraints?”

~ Russell L. Ackoff

Of course there are constraints on what we can do right now to improve the fundamentals of how we coordinate and direct our organisations. But if we can’t even imagine other ways, better ways, then what does that say about our imaginations?

As a starter for ten, here’s a comparison of just three alternatives for coordinating our organisations:

Different Forms of Organisational Coordination

Conventional Management

Vs.

Lean Management

Vs.

Fellowship

Authority

Vs.

Responsibility

Vs.

Mutuality

Results

Vs.

Process

Vs.

Relationships

Give answers

Vs.

Ask questions

Vs.

Make refusable requests

Plans

Vs.

Experiments

Vs.

Conversations

Formal education

Vs.

Gemba learning

Vs.

Mutual exploration

Specialists own improvement 

Vs.

Line manager and teams own improvement

Vs.

Those doing the work own improvement

Data-based decisions made remotely

Vs.

Facts-based decisons made at the gemba

Vs.

Decisions made together

Standardisation by specialists

Vs.

Standardisation by manager and team

Vs.

Standardisation by team

Go fast to go slow

Vs.

Go slow to go fast

Vs.

Play

Vertical focus

Vs.

Horizontal focus

Vs.

People-as-individuals focus

Fixed mindset (cf Dweck)

Vs.

Growth mindset

Vs.

Mutuality mindset

Extrinsic motivations

Vs.

Intrinsic motivations

Vs.

Mutual joyfulness

Violence

Vs.

Respect

Vs.

Nonviolence

Imposed or opaque purpose

Vs.

Shared (static) purpose

Vs.

Mutually-evolving purpose

Key decisions made by a few

Vs.

Key decisions made by a few

Vs.

Key decisions made by consensus of all

Economics of Cost

Vs.

Economics of Flow

Vs.

Economics of Joy

What other forms can you imagine?

– Bob

 

5 comments
  1. Hi Bob, as per your tweet, here are the things that work for me in this post:

    1. The Ackoff quote is great. I agree that we need to build what we desire rather than trying to get rid of things we don’t like. It resonates with an idea that I’ve been playing around with for a while, and I will use it going forward.

    2. The table is a nice summary of three different approaches to management. Again, the ideas around Fellowship resonate strongly with me. I have not thought of these values as a coherent whole, though, so seeing them pulled together as you have is of great value. It helps me clarify my own thinking, and, again, it gives me some useful ideas to build on.

  2. Bob,
    Interesting breakdown although I don’t think the three are mutually exclusive. Off the top of my head how about ‘Partnership’ as another form of organisation? Following your structure in the table, the factors would be:

    Shared responsibilities
    Results & process
    Communication
    Knowledge sharing
    Learning (gemba?)
    Teamwork
    Decisions made together
    Standardisation by team
    Paced
    Network
    Open mindset
    Satisfaction
    Respect
    Shared, understood purpose
    Key decisions made by key individuals
    Economics of value

    regards,

    Chris Kelly

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