My apologies for my delay in responding! I appreciate your willingness to remain in dialogue with me during this period where I’m not able to respond as quickly as I would like.
Your post raises such insightful and powerful questions about organizations. First, you notice the parallel between Patterson’s description of the thrall or slave, “a body with natural movements, but without its own reason, -an existence entirely absorbed in another” [the Master] and Morgan’s description of employee in a bureaucratic organization (organization as machine). Both scenarios share the ethic of controlling others to achieve one’s ends. This ethic is common and even considered part of normal human condition in much of Western philosophy, psychology, management literature, etc.
Your openness and willingness to dig – to notice the residue of the dominator paradigm in even the brain metaphor and learning organization demonstrate intellectual courage. I agree that we need to be willing to explore beyond even such valuable contributions as these — using them as stepping stones on the road to personal and organizational self-actualization.
Thank you for introducing Dr. Tara Fenwick’s analysis that:
* “Even within the Learning Organization – ample evidence of thralldom (disposition to dominate; propensity to submit).”
* The learning organization while being “ostensibly egalitarian” remains “essentially authoritarian” in that all serves the organization “learning is technical, instrumental”
* “Critical scrutiny is deflected away from the power structures and the learning organization ideology itself, and focused on the individual”
* “The voice of the learning organization sculptors is not self-critical. The agenda and vision of the leader or educational agent is bracketed out, obscuring the partiality and positionality of the voices calling for continuous learning and learning organizations.”
This seems true on its face. Organizations are not self-existent, but exist within a larger social and economic framework. A colleague of mine has recommended business journalist Marjorie Kelly’s book, The Divine Right of Capital. Kelly’s work contrasts economic democracy with economic aristocracy, which is comparable to feudalism. (The feudal analogy is commonplace in organizations). We are all shaped, to a substantial degree by our inheritances. Therefore, many (most?) learning organizations are the convergence of these two streams. Further, leadership and organizational coaches, consultants and trainers usually serve larger organizations whose roots are in Theory X soil, and so we may emphasize how these approaches help organizational leaders serve their ends, which include the achievement of career success by delivering results to shareholders.
Based on my own experience in organizations and conversations with corporate managers and leaders, I think many contemporary leaders also share a need for meaning, purpose, self-actualization, personal growth, contribution, and despite their privileges, and also often experience themselves as constrained by the system in which they operate.
It comes back, I think, to this sense of self-searching and transformation. As Fenwick implies, this is particularly important at level of organizational leadership precisely because of the impact that the “beingness” of leaders has on the quality … and effectiveness of the organization.
The topic of organizations, effectiveness, and the self-searching and self-actualization of organizations and their members is such a large topic, that I will postpone it to another post. But, I do want to acknowledge your question about structure and the implied consideration of the nature of power (is it unilateral or co-creative?) This question is also timely as we are increasingly seeing the realities that Tom Peters described in Thriving on Chaos 20 years ago, in which the employer-employee “contract” has been substantially dissolved and the boundaries between career and entrepreneurship have become increasingly blurred… What new structures are arising?
Thank you for bringing such an interesting discussion!