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Phoenix Rising

责任编辑:ccpg  来源:  作者:  人气:781  发布时间:2014-03-11 17:09:30

harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

In the wake of 911 it occurred to me that the new reality (or the old reality seen with new eyes) might possibly provide the opportunity to take a few large steps in the direction of truly enhanced organizational effectiveness. Not for everybody or all organizations -- but for those who care to take a leap, having perceived that their present circumstances were less than ideal. The result of my reflections was the following proposal which became the basis for a marvelous gathering of 25 here in Washington. Our discussions were rich indeed. They also appear to be ongoing. I share all this with you good folks on the LIST in the hope that it might tickle your fancy. I would love your reactions and thoughts, and should you care to try the approach suggested (it is by no means proprietary) I would love to know how it goes. On one level there is nothing new here -- in one way or another it is what we have all been thinking and doing. What is new (I think) is the directness of approach. I tried it out with several potential clients, and am pleased to say that one (a good sized corporation) has apparently come on board. I say "apparently" because agreement and follow-through can be two very different things. Anyhow, some thoughts for the new year. And Happy New Year everybody! Harrison  

Phoenix Rising A Proposal October, 2001 Harrison Owen  

A proposal to enable the transformation of organizations from their present state to what Dee Hock has called a Chaordic Organization, and what I have called an InterActive Organization. Under either name (or a new one) the reality pointed to is that of a conscious self-organizing system which knows itself, its environment and its prospects – and optimizes all of them.  

Background and Presuppositions  

The events of 911 have re-contexted, if not totally changed, the world in which all organizations do business. Heightened levels of security, restricted travel, altered relationships with customers and suppliers, employee shock – all combine to produce a new and constricted environment. Add in massive economic dislocation to say nothing of down-turn and we have a very challenging situation.  

The immediate response is predictably a very conservative one. Conserve cash, energy, and all other resources, and indeed this is just what is happening, as we watch massive layoffs, with more doubtless to come. The conservative response is not only predictable, but probably necessary, but as a continuing solution to the present dilemma it will not be effective.  

Effective alternatives will require ways of doing business that are efficient and effective in the extreme. We are not talking incremental movement, but something approaching quantum leaps. And these new ways cannot be draconian in nature, a 21st century version of the sweatshop.  


Humanitarian considerations aside, common sense, to say nothing of massive amounts of experience, tells us that stressed out, over-worked people do not make it over time, and equally importantly, they lack the essential characteristic for the moment: agility. As difficult as things may be at the moment, it is absolutely guaranteed that they will change, and change, and change. What works now will fail soon. Lightening fast adaptation to emergent conditions will spell the difference between survival and less pleasant alternatives.  

The Power of Self-Organization and a New Way of Doing Business  

Self-organizing systems have been around for ever, probably since the moment of the Big Bang. It is only recently that we have begun to understand their function and power, and even more recently – that human systems, like all systems, are basically self-organizing. This later notion  

is perceived as heretical in many (most) quarters if only because it flies in the face of virtually all organizational theory and practice. However, it is a testable hypothesis, and I believe there is substantial evidence to support it. If this is true (or to the extent that it is true) we have some good news indeed. Based upon the 15 year ongoing, natural experiment with Open Space Technology with thousands of iterations in a myriad of circumstances, I would definitely agree with  

   

Johann Paulsen who recently mailed me that, “OST is the most potent 'tool' to apply the principles of complex adaptive systems in an organizational context!” And the news is even better in detail. We know as a matter of experience that enormously complex (sometimes very technical) issues can effectively be dealt with quickly, sometimes amazingly quickly. And while the substantive output may be impressive, I am even more impressed with the “softer side of things.” Leadership appears without training, personal empowerment is a  

common experience, productive teams the norm, and diversity is appreciated as a resource and not a problem. Learning often occurs at lightspeed, genuine community manifests, and best of all, people have fun. There is High Play in abundance. In short, the common experience in Open Space is exactly the sort of thing required by our present circumstances: Super efficient and effective organization which does not achieve these characteristics in a sweatshop environment.  

Of course this is just “Open Space” which is usually a time limited event, and not necessarily to be confused with an on-going organization. But this, I think, is to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. The issue is not the magic of the methodology, but rather the power of the pre-existing reality – self-organizing systems. All Open Space does is to introduce us to what is going on anyhow.  

While the Open Space experiment was under way, another experiment was also taking place, and it too was a natural one – which means nobody set it up intentionally, but we have sure learned a great deal from it. This is Dee Hock’s experience with Visa International, to which he has now attached the glorious title, Chaordic Organization.  


I believe, and I think most would agree, that what Hock is talking about is, once again, Self-organizing systems. It is interesting to note how (apparently) it all came about. It wasn’t planed, it wasn’t intended, and it certainly wasn’t designed. But somehow, in some way – and probably in spite of the best efforts to the contrary – the system did it all by itself. Totally remarkable when seen from the point of view of “standard” organizational theory and practice. And totally predictable when seen in the light of what we now know about self-organization. Now it seems that everybody (or at least a lot of somebodies) wants to be a Chaoridic Organization. And for good reason: They work. It is interesting to note, however, how folks are going about doing this. A presentation at a recent ODN gathering offered to enlighten participants on How To Organize Self-Organizing Systems. And based on some unsubstantiated gossip, I understand the Dee Hock is traveling a similar road. With his notoriety as the inventor of Chaordic Organizations it is reasonable that a number of people would like to benefit from his experience. And he is attempting to oblige. However, as I understand it, the success rate to this point in time has been zero. I do not have the details, but I believe he has started with the “traditionals” – Clear Mission, Goals ... etc. etc. Sounds an awful lot like trying to organize a self-organizing system. His heart is definitely in the right place. However, I think we can do it better.  

The Program  

Reduced to basics, the critical issues are how to start up a self-organizing system, (or start it up again if stopped or damaged) and to sustain it over time. With regard to the later (sustenance) I refer you to Part IV of my book cited above, where I have outlined practical approaches to maintaining effective communication and coordination, as well as the deeper task of sustaining the focus (mission) and values of the operation. The tools are familiar: InterNet and the organizational mythology.  

Start-up or Re-start is a job well performed by Open Space Technology. It has become clear that the “magic” of Open Space is that we unintentionally stumbled upon the essential preconditions for self-organization. In short it is no “magic” at all – simply what all of us do, all of the time whether we like it or not, even if we are totally unconscious of our actions. Nothing new, simply a blinding flash of the obvious.  

But obviously the obvious is not all that obvious to all. In fact the majority of present organizational activities (managerial and executive) are premised upon the notion that somebody has to be in control, and that organization happens only when we design, create and control it. After all, what are we being paid for?  

And there is the rub. Much of what happens in a well functioning self-organizing system (as also in an Open Space event) is perceived as being counterintuitive at best and probably impossible – even illegal, immoral and fattening. So why would anybody want to go there? The answer is simple one: It works. Not only does it work in substantive terms, but the results are achieved (typically) in a fraction of the “usual” time and with minimal stress and strain. Clearly one can continue to do business as usual based on the traditional model of command and control – that works too, but in a hugely sub-optimal fashion.  


When the stakes are high enough and the time available short enough – impossible alternatives become acceptable, which has been our experience globally with Open Space. Possibly 10,000 organizations and groups around the world have chosen to do what most would call impossible. In short there is a track record.  

The Core of The Program  

The core of the program is less about creating the conditions for self-organization and sustaining them over time than about enabling current executives and managers to be comfortable and competent with all of the above. And whatever we do, it must be congruent with the painful constraints of the moment, to say nothing of a wildly turbulent environment. In short it must be fast, economical, and effective – which not incidentally – is precisely our experience with Open Space. There is a natural rhythm to the proposed undertaking: Open Space, Reflection, Improvement, Open more Space strategically...  

Opening Space: Initiating/re-starting self-organization is the easy part. It always works, and the results are predictable, if not in detail then certainly at the grosser levels of group performance and production. In a word there is immediate return on the investment – no training necessary, no planning required. The good news is, any concerned group can quickly become what it already is, a self-organizing system. Best of all, the benefits are concrete and almost immediate: new products, resolution of thorny issues, new and expanded bodies of knowledge, in addition to a great bunch of “fringe benefits.” The major problem is that things happen so fast and appear so natural (easy) that many, perhaps most, people simply do not realize what has gone on. Which means, unfortunately that they are less likely to do it again and do it better.  

Reflection: Reflection need not be a major time consumer for the objective is simply to acknowledge and anchor the experience. This is not about reviewing the substantive outcomes, but rather a consideration of how we did what we did with the thought that next time around we might do it better – or all the time.  

Improvement: I suppose this might look a lot like a “training program” but it is radical, experiential learning. Concepts may be useful, but the experience is primary. Thus the group may have noticed that Leadership in a self-organizing system was emergent and effective. Definitely good news, which raises the question – how do we do it better and more consciously? And then some bad news appears. Turns out that positional power is not only absent, but when present (a holdover from the ancient regime) it gets in the way and generally mucks things up. Worse, effective leadership seems to have a lot to do with Letting Go and forgetting about Span of Control, Lines of Authority, Direct Reports – all those things dear to the heart and ego of most of us. It would appear that some attitude adjustment, might we say Coaching, would be in order.  

And there are a few other dis-comforting things that may come to view. For example, at any given time a person may be leader and follower in multiple groups. So how should we handle compensation and benefits? Or – it appears that innovation and application can occur very rapidly and not on a pre-existing schedule. So how do we handle Planning and Accounting? Clearly we do not want to discard a real money maker because it is not in The Plan (and I’ve seen that done) nor do we want to loose the money because our Financial System is so rigid that  


we can’t book it. It appears that the new (old ) reality requires the best attention of folks from Human Resources and Finance – not to do the same old thing, but to utilize their considerable talents in support of productive work as it is actually taking place.  

Strategic Self-Organization: Self-organization is something that happens quite naturally, without our assistance. At the same time we may become more fully conscious of the process and learn to ride the waves of our lives with greater competence. The reference to “waves” is not happenstance, for I believe conscious life in self-organization has a lot to do with surfing. The surfer does not create the waves, but he/she can learn to recognize a good one. Technique matters, experience counts, and good equipment won’t hurt. Helping organizations to realize and practice Strategic Self-Organization is the top of the mountain. It begins with first steps, as in Opening Space, Reflection and then Improvement – but the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and the journey is more than the sum of the steps. This is going “meta” to the whole affair. Everybody is surely capable of doing all this at some level, but those who’s view encompasses the highest levels will surely be in a position to contribute mightily to their organization’s future. I think we can get them there.  

robert chaff e, victoria, australia:  

Harrison, Thanks for the copy of your long proposal. It does seem rather complex and I wonder if we need to follow this path to win the job? A self organising system, learning organisations, etc. are all constructs that we use to describe the reality in an organisation that works and is sustainable. Somehow we need to find a way of allowing the client to discover their own words to describe their organisation and keep the Jargon for our own use.  

Just as when we trip and fall most of us welcome the hand that helps us up and then lets us get on with what we know best to do. As has been said may different ways over the past months the way forward is with LIGHT and LOVE. I think that what open space technology does is provide a process that allows the participants to reconnect to the their lives and discover the LIGHT for themselves while surrounded by LOVE (SPIRIT and all the other words we use from time to time).  

Every time I start to give long responses to what Open Space is or can do I am reminded of the words from South Pacific "Fools give you reasons, wise men never try!"  

For the business we could ask. "Do you want to make the best of the current opportunities to grow your business?" " Do you want to make the best use of the resources of your business?" "Do you want your staff totally committed new business plans and actions?" "Are you prepared to work with your staff to create a new business that is better than what any of you thought possible?"  

If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions then Open Space can help. ( Fill in the examples of success). The only question left is, "When do we start?"  


harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

Robert Chafe wrote: A self organising system, learning organisations, etc. are all constructs that we use to describe the reality in an organisation that works and is sustainable. Somehow we need to find a way of allowing the client to discover their own words to describe their organisation and keep the Jargon for our own use.  

Absolutely correct, in my view. Simple is best. And when dealing with a client it is essential to start with the language, thought forms, mythology and ideology of the client. Further, it has been my experience that all clients (read all people that I have met) are "already there." Some while back, there was a lot of conversation about bringing Spirit to Business. My response what that was sort of Carrying Coals to Newcastle. A waste of time. What was not a waste of time, however, was enabling the client (person, people) to recognize and enhance what they already had/were. Call it Helping them to grow their Now. Every time we open space with a client, I think we make a start at that process, but I don't think that is the end of the process. To the extent that people perceive their Open Space experiences as "only" a better, more productive meeting (which it certainly is) they are only skimming the surface to their disadvantage. However, at the end of the day, they must see their own depths in their own terms. To help them do this -- if they want the help -- I find it useful to have critically considered what those depths might look like -- which means for me going to my own depths and engaging in a process of critical thought and  

reflection, which almost inevitably generates some language (aka "jargon"). Insisting that they use my jargon, however, is not helpful.  

Every time I start to give long responses to what Open Space is or can do I am reminded of the words from South Pacific "Fools give you reasons, wise men never try!"  

For the business we could ask.:  

"Do you want to make the best of the current opportunities to grow your business?" "Do you want to make the best use of the resources of your business?"  

"Do you want your staf totally committed new business plans and actions?"  

"Are you prepared to work with your staf to create a new business that is better than what any of you thought possible?"  

My experience exactly. I suppose if I have a mantra it is Don't sell (explain) Open Space -- Do it! Don't talk about the method, theory, esoterica of Open Space, talk about results. All true. And then there is more... Leadership appears in new ways. Acknowledge that and go deeper. Community appears in new ways. Recognize that and go deeper. Compensation (pay checks) must come in some new packages. Think about that and go deeper. Accounting systems serve a closed system way of being in organization. A self organizing system, which manifests in Open Space, has a different metric. What is that????  

To be sure, things get a little complicated, and we certainly could get buried in arcane esoterica, to say nothing of mind-boggling jargon, but we have a secret weapon. Just open some more space, and let the fresh air in. But I don't think we can do our job and also avoid the complexities. Sort of comes with the territory.

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