I’m feeling discombobulated. Other emotions, too, of course. Both positive and negative. But for the time being, discombobulation predominates. I’m guessing some of you fellows might be experiencing some of the same sensations. Bruce Tuckman described this as common for groups in the “forming” stage – stage one – of his model.

Knowing it’s common, and even being ready for it, doesn’t seem to lessen its impact much, if at all. I just wanted to share, in case you felt it was just you. You’re not alone.

I’ve been trying to process and arrange folks’ recent comments, and form some responses. Many things are still in motion in my head, and my heart, but here’s the first clutch of thoughts:

Who’s In Charge Of Us Fellows?

I have little inkling as yet as to the kind of mental models fellows have about organising for collaboration. Do those models follow the Rightshifting distribution, or do we have a preponderance of more synergistic thinkers? I don’t know – but I’m looking forward to finding out. I’m assuming at least some folks will be coming from more traditional (Analytic-minded) backgrounds. In which case I guess it’s only natural to think in terms of “who’s in charge”.

Who do you want to be in charge? What does “in charge” mean? And what are the merits and demerits – a.k.a. consequences – of the idea of having one or more people “in charge” in any case?

Personally, the sooner we get to some effective, functioning self-organisation, the happier I’ll be. I have ideas, sure, but I’m betting everyone does. I have some notions of what we could be doing first (priorities). Again, I’m sure everyone does. Can I act on that? Discombobulation.

Who do you go convince that you have a good idea worth consideration? Who will give the green light to your suggestion and put things in motion?

And, above all perhaps, how does this question of “who’s in charge?” play into the bigger picture of Organisational Psychotherapy? For example, how might the answer impact our relationships with clients (I’m using Carl Rogers’ term here). Who’s in charge of that?


And further, who’s in charge of the various stakeholders, and the emerging “business” itself?

Aside: I use the term “business” loosely, as it could emerge that we can best serve the needs of our various stakeholders as a charity, foundation, loose or tight network of affiliates, or any number of other forms of association. And although our emergent “association” might be essentially commercial, I’d like to explore all our options about how we might feed and water our association.

Enough for now. Looking forward to your responses. More next time.

– Bob

Further Reading

Reinventing Organizations ~ Frederic Laloux


  1. Perhaps “fellows” should be a collaborative group that listens to each other, and forms a plan of action on various subject matter submitted? Use Pareto’s Principle to choose priority topics to discuss.

    • fivebaldwin said:

      Charles has a good point. Since we are dealing with organisational psyche how about we assess our own? I propose this: We start a limited comment period and have all fellows submit what is on their mind. These could be questions, clarifications, suggestions for movement, structure, etc. Then these ideas are mapped/grouped and we get a sense of what is most on our collective mind. Maybe that is what we are doing here already.

      • Thank you, fivebaldwin.

      • Chuck, Paul,

        I see you use words like “should” and “good” and feel concerned about the implicit obligation and judgmentalism these words can carry. I’m not too clear in my own mind what need of mine is being violated in this instance, but my heart tells me something is amiss. I guess I could let it go at this early stage, but then other folks may have similar feelings – in this or other situations – and maybe wonder if expressing such feelings might not be too confrontational.

        So i’d like to speak from a place of compassion from the get-go, and ask whether you would be willing to consider the impact and implications of the language we use in talking with each other, and by extension, the language – and stance – we adopt with clients?

        – Bob

      • Bob, your post today sounds like analysis paralysis. Should and would are anticipatory words. They apply to a new fellow organization.

      • Chuck, Paul,

        Having got that off my chest, might I turn from the tenor to the substance of your comments?

        I feel affinity with Chuck’s interpretation of what it means to be a fellow (in part, at least): Collaborative listening to each other’s feelings with one eye on action. I guess when we better understand the relative impact of of our various emerging options, then something like pareto may serve. More generally, I ask myself the question “How can we most effectively attend to our stakeholders’ needs, and which ones are most important at this time?”.

        Paul: I respond to your proposal on the assumption that you are seeking advice before you take some action. It would help me understand better, and thereby make it easier for me to contribute said advice, if you could present your proposal in the form of a statement of intent (cf. David Marquet). E.G. “I intend to do X [action], because [observations, needs, feelings] so would you be willing to contribute some advice before I do that?”. In general, I’m up for exploring our collective psyche. Hopefully my “Discombobulated” post has made a contribution in that area.

        – Bob

  2. Michael Arnoldus said:

    Dear Bob,

    I appreciate and value the fact that you’re taking a first step into a more vulnerable space by sharing what’s going on for you personally. This has prompted me to investigate what’s going on in me and getter a better sense of who you are – getting to know you better.

    I’m finding myself intrigued, curios, interested. Partly about your discombobulation (funny word), and partly about this initiative overall. To me this is still something I’m investigating. There no doubt in my mind that I will continue to do work in this direction. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’d like to work closer with you – and having read some stuff from other fellows, I see there’s the possibility of sharing in a good way. Having done something like this before I’m also aware that there’s a high likelihood it will come to nothing – or that it will take a direction that isn’t true for me. I’m not writing this to put hemlock in the cup, but simply to acknowledge the reality of the situation as seen from my perspective.

    If I try to imagine myself in your position, the discombobulation becomes a lot more understandable. In some sense you’re a pig and I’m a chicken to use an old agile expression. Which bring brings me to your next point about who’s in charge.

    The way I see it, I’m clearly in charge of myself. I’ve shown my interest in previous comments – and continue to do so with this, and in this phase of our fellowship I’m – as I have mentioned before -primarily interested in getting to know everyone better and build a minimum of trust – preferably by doing something relevant to the purpose of our “enterprise”. To me it makes more sense to think in terms of leadership rather than who’s in charge. You’re the one who has been writing for a long time about Org. Psych. You’re the one who sent out the invitation. You are – again in my view – our de factor leader – leader here seen as someone who is aware about the space we communicate in (ref. your previous comment about the language use), the one who has a vision, and the one who’s probably the most committed at this point.

    Not in charge in the sense that the rest of us should just lean back, but a leader in the sense that your have a clear sense of direction while being influenced by others

    As a aside I’m finding the concept of leadership in self-organising group settings very interesting.

    And finally a bit more about space. The communication space we’re currently using is your blog and twitter. For me twitter is high-friction due to extreme amount of small, interrupting comments. I’m fine with others finding it a low-friction forum, is just doesn’t work very well for me. Which means my primarily interaction through your blog. And it’s your blog, hence in some sense “your space”. Its works for me as a beginning and allowing something – yet unknown – to emerge, and I’m fine with that also corresponding to you be a de facto leader (in the *tip of the spear” kind of sense).

    I’m hearing you as wanting to either create or allow agency in the rest of us. I’m with you on that. I think our “communication space” is important in that regard. Unfortunately I’ve seen no really effective, functioning online communication spaces for self-organising teams, so i’m not sure what kind of action would be beneficial.

    Enough for now … 🙂

    • Hi Michael,

      I take much heart from your comments, and from this one not least. I guess it’ll take us (not just you and me, but all us fellows) some time to get to grips with the situation. The inevitability of things continually changing whilst we do that promises to make it all the more vexatious, interesting, challenging, fun, etc.. Amongst my hopes for us fellows lies the hope that folks might discover new perspectives, including those on e.g. leadership in self-organising groups. I accept that Twitter does not suit everyone. And more generally, that any form of online interaction has chronic limitations, compare to e.g. face to face. BTW and for the attention of everyone, I’m happy to interact via other channels, including telephone and Skype.

      I’m sure we will quickly outgrow or become frustrated with my blog as the primary vehicle, and I’m intending to do something about that just as soon as it becomes a priority (for us all). I’ll post a formal “advice sought” intention at that time. I recognise and do not discount the emotional value of a sense of “shared ‘home'”.

      Yes, I feel anxious to invite – or afford the opportunity for – agency in each and all us fellows. I feel it would be incoherent to engage with fellows in a manner dissimilar to that afforded to clients.

      – Bob

  3. daveatigence said:

    Discombobulated indeed!

    I find myself reading your posts (and others’ comments) and feeling somehow lost as to how I can get involved and what I can bring to the party. I have been looking at how organisations can be better for the people working in them for many years now and is the reason I found your postings in the first place. I’ve studied loads, done some small things, got many completely wrong and am constantly battling the traditionalists (the analytic ones perhaps?) when they inevitably trot out their; “That’s all fine in utopia, but in the real world…”

    Even this comment is somewhat wayward and perhaps just a brain dump to salve my conscience?

    What I know I’m looking for is a way in which I can stop thinking and actually start doing truly effective stuff to create a place where smart (and perhaps not so smart?) people can come and achieve of their best.

    I can only stand on the sidelines at the moment and watch, hoping somehow my discombobulation will pass and I can pitch in.

    Leadership is a funny thing, full of every contradiction you will ever see and still somehow some people manage to be great at it.

    The only thing I can bring to this party (and thanks BTW for you getting to the end of this comment, I appreciate it), is that perhaps just the “talking” for now will be the best we can do? Maybe as we all get more used to each other, ideas will flow, thoughts will occur?

    Who knows. All I can say for now is; “Bob, please keep prompting us to think and add stuff”.

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