Archive for Rewards

Slavery is Freedom (Being Part of Something Larger)

Slavery is freedom. Alone-free-the human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal-Nineteen Eighty-Four

Hi Lisa,

I have been lost in Mary Shelley’s apocalyptic novel, “The Last Man.” It’s a rather grim story about a pestilence that scythes the human family like so much corn-as Shelley is wont to say. I’ve accompanied the final fifty surviving members of the human race to Switzerland where they vainly hope to escape the contagion. Shelley’s prose is very dense and thus my mental plod has been very slow. I’ve literally reached the point where Vancouver Library SWOT teams are crashing down my door demanding their book back. “But I’m only on page 5” I shout back. I’m so thankful that the book was not required reading in university or I most assuredly would have abandoned my studies and returned to carrying bricks for hyperactive bricklayers.

Between Shelley’s pale horse and our own [H1N1] I’ve been thinking about your comment:

“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.”

I have no doubt that managers and leaders share a need for meaning, etc., and that they feel (or are made to feel) systemic constraints.”

While reviewing Malina and Pilch’s “Social Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul” I encountered some observations which I believe speak to the experience of managers and leaders. Their analysis focuses on Galatians 5:13-26:

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not [use] liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told [you] in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those [who are] Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. NKJV

Malina and Pilch comment thus: “Israelite Jesus-group members, once under the law of Moses, are now free of those constraints. But this freedom is for a new slave service to fellow Jesus-group members, a service motivated by “love,” that is, group attachment and concern for group integrity. There really was no “freedom from” in the ancient world with out a “freedom for.” The God of Israel freed Israel from Egyptian slavery so that Israelites would be freed for the service of God in God’s land. Similarly, Jesus-group members freed from slave service to the Law were now free for slave-service to fellow Jesus-group members” p.215.

As I discuss in my monograph, “The Secret Synagogue,” what the above authors refer to as Jesus-groups were in reality Israelite rabbinical communities-leaders and managers. “Spirit” was a cipher for “perspective transformation.” I submit that while “meaning, purpose, self-actualization, personal growth, and contribution” were important to the messianic pedagogues, those characteristics and constraints did not negate their thralldom to one another and to their deities. Though we moderns describe group phenomena much differently the reality of thralldom remains largely unchanged.

I believe Nineteen Eighty-Four speaks to the need of mangers [push] and leaders [pull] to escape into something larger than themselves, whatever the relationship-a group, an organization: “Slavery is freedom. Alone-free-the human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal” p.277 I would substitute “administrative family” for Party.

Consequently, when we speak about the constraints managers and leaders are subject to are we not really talking about thralldom-no matter how psychologistic our descriptors?

What are your thoughts Lisa?

Bye for now,


A pattering rain and a melancholy wind assail the coast today. I’m off to locate the last man Lionel Verney and his remnant. I believe Orwell also described Winston Smith-Nineteen Eighty-Four-as the last man. Interesting, no?


Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul. By Bruce J. Malina & John J. Pilch. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press.

The Evolution of Organizations

Hi Carman,

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!


Ideological Inversion and Self-Deception (Illuminating dominator dynamics)

“It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party”–Nineteen Eighty-Four”

Ideological Inversion and Ideological Self-Deception

Lisa, thank you for ‘making the darkness conscious’ by examining the root system of slavery. I especially love your powerful and prescient comment, “In considering how perspective – especially the perspectives of the powerful – shape social structures that reinforce beliefs, it is further reasonable to assume that women and slaves, whose rational facilities were assumed to naturally “lack authority,” would be denied the educational and leisure opportunities that would enable them to effectively counter these assertions – if indeed those in power would listen, given that women and slaves “naturally lack authority.”

Why prescient? Because you reference two dimensions of thralldom that I believe parallel our modern experience: 1) Parasitism and 2) Ideological inversion of reality. Your canine companions will especially relate to threat from parasites-like fleas!

Slavery, says Patterson, is a relation of domination, a relation of “parasitism.” Patterson has much to say about parasitism. I’ll now attempt to encapsulate his treatment. I believe parasitism is one of the most important issues you and I will explore.

In parasitism:

-Dependence may or may not entail destruction of the host
-The host may be dependent on the parasite
-The parasitism may be only a minor nuisance

As a parasite, the slaveholder camouflaged his dependence, his parasitism, by 1) ideological inversion of reality, and 2) ideological self-deception. This former technique, says Patterson, camouflages a relation by defining it as the opposite of what it really is. Isn’t that profound? Ideological inversion of reality camouflages a relation by defining it as the opposite of what it really is.

Who was responsible for creating the ideological inversion of reality? The slaveholder class. Were almost all masters insincere? No. “They genuinely believed that they cared and provided for their slaves and that it was the slaves who had been raised to depend on others.”

“Southern slaveholders,” says Patterson, “were hardly exceptional in their ideological self-deception. The same inversion of reality was to be found among slaveholders everywhere:

“We use other people’s feet when we go out, we use other people’s eyes to recognize things, we use another person’s memory to greet people, we use someone else’s help to stay alive-the only things we keep for ourselves are our pleasures” Pliny the Elder, a slaveholder (quoted in Patterson).

I’ll now attempt to epitomize the relation of parasites and their hosts.


The slaveholders (as parasites):
-defined the slave as dependent

-genuinely believed that they cared and provided for their slaves

-held that it was the slaves who had been raised to depend on them and others (this is ideological self-deception)

-believed (along with the community) that the slave existed only through the parasite holder, who was called the master

-fed on the slave to gain the very direct satisfactions of power over another, honor, enhancement, and authority

-rendered the slave the ideal human tool due to natal alienation and genealogical isolation (i.e., separated from family and kin).

“The slave, losing in the process all claim to autonomous power, was degraded and reduced to a state of liminality” (a marginal status) p.337. Parenthesis mine.

How did the slave resist her desocialization and forced service? By:

-striving for some measure of regularity and predictability in her social life

-yearning for dignity

-becoming acutely sensitive to the realities of community.

The slave’s zest for life and fellowship confounded the slaveholder class. The slave’s existential dignity of the slave belied the slaveholder’s denial of its existence.

Patterson sketches the covert antagonism between the classes thus:


-“retaliated ideologically by stereotyping the slave as a lying, cowardly, lazy buffoon devoid of courage and manliness,

-retaliated existentially: by refusing to be among his fellow slaves the degraded creature he was made out to be,

-fed the parasite’s timocratic character with the pretence that she was what she was supposed to be. She served while concealing her soul and fooling the parasite. “play fool, to catch wise.”


“All slaves, like oppressed peoples everywhere, wore masks in their relations with those who had parasitized them. Occasionally a slave, feeling he had nothing to lose, would remove the mask and make it clear to the slaveholder that he understood the parasitic nature of their interaction.”


“However firm their belief in their ideological definition of the slave relation, slaveholders simply could not deny the stark fact that their slaves served under duress: a combination of punishments and rewards was essential.”


Slaveholders knew that incentives were better than punishments to promote efficient service.


“The well-looked-after slave redounded to the generosity and honor of the slaveholder.” The slave’s response “emphasized the slave’s apparent “dependence” and gave credence to the paternalism that the parasite craved.”

Patterson’s discussion of parasitism is provocative, is it not Lisa? As always, I look forward to your comments. Thank you for including the neglected dimensions (e.g., feminism).

Bye for now,


I hear the sea gulls squawking outside my kitchen window. I wonder what’s bothering them? It’s raining here today. I guess I better wear my Wellingtons (gum boots) on the sea wall. I could just write an ode to my boots. Though they cost less than $10, they’ve been a godsend. “Adventure in ideas.” I like the sound of that!

Leadership vs. Control by Guilt and Fear

In a recent post, Carman de Voer noted the distinction between leadership and management. These two different functions often converge within a particular role, but tend to draw upon different kinds of power. Management is associated with control, which is a highly reputable value and principle in most organizations. The process of management itself has been described as a feedback loop: managers “plan, organize and control” the work of the organization.

We have come to learn that the only relatively simple systems are subject to control in this sense; the interactions between the elements of more complex systems result in unpredictable outcomes. For this reason, particularly where the intelligence, creativity and committed contributions of organizational members are important to organizational outcomes, we have seen a shift from an emphasis on management to an emphasis on leadership.

Whereas management tends to rely on external rewards and punishments, leadership, particularly transformative leadership, seeks to align the self-actualization of organizational members with the self-actualization of the organization (the achievement of the organization’s mission and vision).

However, because leaders and managers, are still accountable for the contributions of their people, and their own jobs and careers are at stake, they usually feel some urgency around results.

The word “urgency” points to both importance and fear or anxiety. Another common term, which is used in conjunction with urgency is “edge.” (It might be useful to notice that intense focus and forward motion driven by vision and purpose, absent fear, has a very different tone).

Leaders then, very often experience some level of fear or anxiety — conscious or unacknowledged — and, the most common reaction to fear is to try to control others.

It’s useful to pause for a moment to consider: how do we, ourselves, attempt to exert control? What are the options? I once attended a workshop on power dynamics in which participants paired up on either side of a line. Each side was given the instruction that to win, they needed to get the other person to come over to their side of the line. Participants utilized a variety of strategies — including pleading, promising, guilting and dragging each other across.

In Spiritual Selling, sales and marketing expert, Joe Nunziata, describes the often unconscious strategies that people use to control others, and how these strategies are often employed in the workplace:

“Guilt [and shame] is the weapon of choice used by parents to control their children. […] In most cases, parents are not using guilt on a conscious level. They have absorbed guilt […] for generations and passed it on to their children. Innately parents know they can use this guilt to manipulate and control their children. Once the power of guilt is realized, it is then used in all areas of life. People begin to recognize the power of guilt in other situations. It can be applied to relationships, employees, coworkers, friends, and family. […]

“The desire to control and manipulate is driven by fear. The ego believes it will be safe if it can control people and the environment. This is why so-called control freaks are always micromanaging all aspects of work and the people involved with a project. There is an inherent fear that losing complete control of the situation will have disastrous results. […]”

“These same guilt and manipulation techniques are used in the business world. A sales manager may use the exact same process to motivate his or her people. Making salespeople feel they are not doing a good job can trigger similar feelings of guilt and shame. The intent is that they will start to feel bad and then have the desire to work harder. [Those who have read this blog for some time will recognize this dynamic as “The Wheel of Fear.”] The effectiveness of this approach depends on the makeup of the indiviudal. If similar techniques were used effectively by our parents they will transfer into the business world as well. You will be susceptible to the feelings of guilt you experienced as a child. […] Guilt and fear have long been viewed as the only way to motivate performance. Although the world has changed and some organizations are embracing more postiive techniques, a large majority are still trapped in this model. It is important to realize how powerful these unconscious traits are and how difficult they are to break…” (46-49).

Of course, external rewards, such as salary increases, bonuses, promotion, political capital, etc. are the “carrot” of this “carrot-and-stick” approach.

Hence, the organization tends to take on the characteristics of the family — too often, a dysfunctional one.

Transformational leadership, on the other hand, taps into a substantially different power dynamic in which the leader speaks to team members’ intrinsic motivations, to align the self-actualization of each team member with the self-actualization of the team or organization. In my opinion, coaching is a key component of transformational leadership. It cultivates the intelligent, creative energy of team members towards the achievement of overarching, meaningful goals. While recognizing distinctions in roles, it respects all organizational members, and builds the health and capability of the system…

What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy organizations?
How can we cultivate ever more healthy organizations?

Christie, L. “Getting Off Your Wheel of Fear”

Ibid. “Leaping Off the Hampster Wheel of Fear”

De Voer, C. “Promethius and Transformative Leadership.”

Nunziata, J. Spiritual Selling. Hoboken, N.J., Wiley, 2007.

Love and leadership

“Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. It’s hard to imagine leaders getting up day after day, putting in the long hours and hard work it takes to get extraordinary things done, without having their hearts in it. The best kept secret of successful leaders is staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce and with those who honor the organization by using its products and services.”  — Barry Z. Posner and Jim Kouzes

Posner and Kouzes speak of love and leadership, love and business.  How often do we hear those words used together? Most of us have been introduced to a concept of business in which business is a domain unto itself, in which the primary driver is economic profit: the business of business is to make money for the shareholders.  When I earned my MBA, two of my professors presented the relationship between ethics and business as a pragmatic one: if you are in the public eye and you violate the public’s ethical preferences, you can experience negative consequences; for this reason it is necessary to manage this dimension of your business.  The premise is that your competitor will be doing everything possible to maximize profits, so if you give more consideration to other stakeholders  than is required by government regulation and the market (for labor, capital, etc.) then, you increase risk and reduce shareholder returns.  As  a relatively recent example, Costco has come under fire for giving employees better benefits than Sam’s Club does.

For many years, the world of business was a man’s world, shaped according to the stereotypically masculine values of rationality unencumbered by human feeling and by competition — both external and internal.  The “gamesman” contributes competently to the team, but retains a savvy emotional disconnection from the organization, customers, etc. 

To be taken seriously — to be successful — women needed to learn the language and the terrain.  Using terms like “love,” “desire,”  “care,” etc., according to one professor, whom I like personally but tend to disagree with on a variety of subjects was, “writing like a girl.” 

Therefore, it is particularly striking that Posner and Kouzes, luminaries in the subject area of leadership, speak of loving:

  • leading
  • the people who do the work
  • the company’s products and services
  • the customers served

Gamesmanship is not about love, but leadership is.  True, the ethic of many organizations does not, in fact, reward love or personal commitment. Yet, the transformative leadership that is needed now, to create highly adaptable and creative organizations, expresses a very different paradigm — of vision, commitment, caring. This paradigm presently often co-exists with the classical paradigm in which human values are generally extraneous — “softer,” “feminine,” inappropriate to the business environment. ( The exception, in the classical paradigm, is that human values are employed instrumentally to manipulate stakeholders towards “rational” economic ends — that is, ends that benefit shareholders  as purely economic beings).

Having spent the first part of my career in corporations — substantial intact systems — I now have the opportunity as a small business owner, to choose my market, the clients and customers we serve, and our products and services. And I am finding that the business “clicks” — is the most successful — in that intersection between core capabilities, market needs, and passion.  I am finding that when we love the clients we serve, our internal and external business partners, and our products and services, we find the greatest success.  Mission, human connection, and ethics are at the forefront of the business.  In the old paradigm, we might contrast selfishness with selflessness, with the former being a winning  position, and the latter a losing position — the first stereotypically equated with masculinity and the second sterotypically equated with a subordinate femininity. In the new paradigm, leadership is about “both-and,” with the “and” serving as a creative dimension in which new possibilities for mutual sustainability arise, and the rewards are diverse and many.

Towards a Learning Organization (A presentation by Carman De Voer Mais)

Carman De Voer Mais has developed a fresh and insightful PowerPoint presentation on learning organizations. He makes the important point that becoming a learning organization isn’t something that “patched on” to the existing organizational paradigm, but rather a transformation of both the paradigm and the players.  I’m going to try to share that presentation with you here.  This is my first attempt to provide a file link in WordPress, so it may take a few tries …

Carman, I hope your cold has lifted!


Thinking Creatively, Building Effectively by Carman De Voer Mais

We never know the impact we have on the lives of others

Partnership includes the values of care and compassion. It supports financial abundance but also recognizes that there are ends that are far more important and intrinsically valuable than economic ends alone.  Sometimes when we follow our hearts, we make a profound difference in the lives of others. 

One such extraordinary woman is Gina Gippner-Woods of Just Mom, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides comfort toys to seriously and terminally ill children at Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles.  Gina taught me that we never know the impact we have on the lives of others.

This is the story of how and why Gina founded, Just Mom, Inc.

“Once upon a time a woman named Gina Gippner-Woods was admitted into the hospital. There was no room for her in the adult ward, so she was placed in a room with a child. A little girl.

This young girl was recovering from surgery which removed a tumor from her brain. She had no family and her nurse developed a friendship with her and would bring her in gifts daily.  One morning the nurse brought this young girl a stuffed, plush puppy. The little girl took one look at the plush pup and threw it across the room. Gina, not understanding why she would throw it, got out of her bed and recovered the toy.

Taking it back to the little girl she asked, “Honey, what’s wrong? Why did you throw your puppy?”

“It’s not mine. It’s broken!” The young girl replied.

At that moment Gina looked at the plush puppy and realized that its ear was ripped. She looked at the young girl and then looked at the loose gauze which was lying on the table next to her bed. Immediately she grabbed the gauze and began bandaging the head of the broken puppy to match the little girl’s bandage. When she was done bandaging the plush puppy she looked at the young girl and said, “It’s not broken. It’s got an “owie” like you. It’s your ‘OwieBowWowie.'”  The little girl then took the dog in her arms and comforted it, and it became her friend, accompanying her through all of her challenges…

I was surprised and saddened to hear that there are many seriously and terminally ill children who don’t have any family or visitors.  So, Gina founded Just Mom, Inc., to provide comfort toys for these children so they don’t need to go through their ordeals alone.

Gina’s effort to get the word out is heroic.  For example, she is donating her time for projects, with the funds going towards the purchase of a comfort toy for a hospitalized child.  And this is a micro-charity, so it’s easy for any of us to make a difference.  You can see a heartfelt mission in action on her site:

Life World vs. “Systems World” – A Tale of Two Employers

Hi Lisa,

My apologies for my slothful response: a cold came upon me like a highwayman, stole my strength, and left me a shivering mass of human impotence. I believe it was the symbiosis of sleep and flowers (Echinacea) that restored my soul.

I love your comment, “it is important to affirm and point out the deep – and, for myself, I would say spiritual – dimensions of the quality of subjective experience.” I think spirituality and self-identity are inextricably interlinked.

How tragic that the market system has achieved a global god-like status, a new theology-economics, and a new way of being in the world-largely defined as “consumerism.” The paradise it promises and the sacrifices it demands are taking their toll-as you and I are witnessing. I believe Dickens speaks to the erosion of the lifeworld in his magnum opus “A Christmas Carol.” It’s interesting to compare and contrast the two employers and to speculate on their success or failure in resisting the systems world. It would be fascinating to consider your comments on how the two ultimately defended the lifeworld Lisa.

Fezziwig and Scrooge-Lifeworld Versus Systems World-A Tale of Two Employers

Lifeworld: The unquestioned world of everyday social activity. The world of shared common understandings.

Lifeworld Characteristics: Spirituality, individuality, creativity, play, fun, morality, talking about differences, coming to a common understanding, who we are and what we value, ethical obligations to family, friends, and society.

Systems World: Money and power. People in command positions in systems use a form of reason that represses human norms or values.

Systems World Characteristics: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control.

Fezziwig’s Lifeworld

*Fezziwig is human: “laughs all over himself, from his shows to his organ of benevolence; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice”

*addresses employees by their names: “Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!”

*contributes to the happiness of employees by throwing a ball in his warehouse: “the happiness” Mr. Fezziwig gives “is quite as great as if it cost a fortune”.

Scrooge observes: “[Fezziwig] has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

Scrooge’s Systems World

*Working conditions are deplorable. Employees are intensely scrutinized: “The door of Scrooge’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.”

*Scrooge resents pay for public holidays: “And yet,” said Scrooge, “you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”

*Scrooge has uncoupled the Lifeworld from the Systems World: “It matters little,” she said, softly. “To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.” “What Idol has displaced you?” he rejoined. “A golden one.”

*Scrooge addresses his employee as “Cratchit.” He avoids his first name and sees him as a tool, a functionary.

Scrooge Ends The War Between Private and Public Life

*Scrooge received counseling and guidance from the Spirits

*Scrooge developed Personal Mastery by seeing his connectedness to his world, clarifying what was important to him, and learning to see current reality more clearly.

The Spirits, it seems, help Scrooge recover the Lifeworld. The impact on his employee and his family is holistic and impressive: “A merry Christmas, Bob,” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year. I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob. Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!”

Bye for now!



A Christmas Carol m

Peter M. Senge: “The Fifth Discipline”, ISBN 0-385-26095-4, Doubleday

From Motivations for change (on dairy cows, creativity, adaptability & effectiveness), 2009/03/28 at 7:07 AM

More on humanizing systems (and the brain)

Hi Carman, As always, your posts are both intellectually enriching and poetic.

Years ago, Alfonso Montuori and I wrote an essay on how our philosophical paradigm and guiding metaphors have shaped organizations and leadership, and created the blind spots that now limit organizations. A very perceptive reviewer suggested the article would be all the more impactful if it was written from the voice that naturally emerges from the perspective we descibe. You write in that voice.

You make an excellent point about humanizing systems, and I appreciate your references to Weber and Havel. It raises the question: Are we meant to serve our systems, or are they meant to serve us?  There is so much more to be said here about human and social psychology in a “mechanistic system” or a “theocracy.”  But, for the moment, I, too, am drawn to explore more creative and fulfilling possibilities. ..

Towards that end, I would like to offer an additional perspective. In our essay, Alfonso Montuori observes that we tend to emphasize and value either the individual or the group — one in opposition to the other. For example, capitalism vs. communism; the lone hero fighting the oppressive organization.

However, Montuori also observes that sense of opposition itself reflects a worldview of separation (which I would loosely associate with our ideas of left brain cognition).  Rather, from a systems point of view, he suggests, it’s a matter of “both/and. ” The organization and individual are part of a single continuum. In a sense, each is in and shapes the other.  In a healthy organic system, groups exist to serve their members, and members serve the group so that it continues to sustain them. We could also add that a healthy organic system also recognizes that its own sustainability requires a healthy environment…    

A key distinction between a healthy organic system and bureaucratic systems is that, as rational systems, bureaucratic systems tend to make objects of their members. Using the machine analogy, the “subject” is the operator of the machine, and the experience of organizational members is not considered as important as the economic and other outcomes of the organizational machine. Often it could be said of these organizations that the experience of organizational members only makes a difference in so much as as it affects the bottom line.

This machine also exists inside many of its members — who learn not to value our own subjective experience.  For example, there have been times in my organizational career, where I had so much to do (produce) that I literally felt machine-like and disconnected from my feelings.

My perspective is that in a hierarchal, bureacratic system (which emphasizes external power relations), we are enculturated to feel primarily those emotions associated with our dynamic place in the pecking order: anxiety, anger, depression and for the lack of a better word, “glory.” But, in as much as we are encouraged to subordinate the quality of our experience to economic and other outcomes, there is an inclination to shut down other feelings, including empathy, which is considered to be “soft” and “feminine” and therefore, less appropriate to an organizational environment.

Being a biological organism myself 🙂 I believe that when one of my bodily subsystems is in distress (or very healthy), I feel it — either unconsciously or consciously.  Conversely, when I am happy or in distress, every system in my body is impacted by that.  In other words, I think that the quality of holism arises, at least in part, from mutual feeling (of parts and the whole).  [I’m very influenced in this train of thought by Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy.]

So, I think the restoration of feeling and the revalorization of the quality of our subjective and inter-subjective experience is key to a more cognitively balanced (Partnership) approach to organizations…  To come full circle, this is a quality I hear in your writing.

thank you so much for this inspiring conversation!

Transformative, holistic learning

Carman, Sorry for the long delay! My executive and career coaching practice includes working with people in career transition, and, unfortunately, many people are needing this kind of support right now.

Regarding transformation, you wrote:  “It changes ‘how’ we know. Change thus appears to involve the re-perception of reality. [It…] involves the ‘deconstruction of a given world-view and its replacement by a new world view.’ […] I believe it is superfluous to talk about collective (organizational) transformation without first clarifying individual transformation.”

Yes, I agree whole-heartedly. I suspect the reason many change efforts fail is that real transformation hasn’t taken at the individual level, and for change to hold, leadership must be transformed as well (hence, of course, the term “tranformative leadership”).

And, yes, I would also agree that personal transformation involves a re-perception of reality, such that the desired changes can be seen as a natural and normal part of being in the world (or organizations).

For example, most people would agree that the value of charity — lending a hand to those who need it — is a good one. However, behaving charitably does not come naturally to everyone — otherwise, there would be less want in the world. If our perspective is that the world is a collection of separate beings in competition for scarce resources, and we feel fearful, we might publically endorse the concept of charity, but not live by it. Rather, this world view leads to a different value, which contradicts the espoused value. This creates a culture in which it is understood that we say one thing and do another.

Similarly, in organizations, it’s not uncommon for people to espouse one value and then act in a way that is contrary to the value.

So, it’s interesting to consider the dynamics of that transformation… how does it happen?

Another consideration is the system itself. In this blog, I’ve primarily emphasized change from the inside out. There is also change from the outside in. In a nutshell, every worldview generates values and a structure of living in accordance with that view. If we are able to create a change in the structure, we may find that experience, perspective and attitudes change as well. 

For example, when I entered the field of software engineering years ago, women engineers were still a rarity, and I experienced some pretty blatant discrimination. In retrospect, I’m sure I was an affirmative action hire. Still, I did an exceptional job, and so did many other women. Over the years, affirmative action created a climate where the presence of women was considered more normal, and discrimination dwindled. 

Another example is compensation or performance management systems. We may prefer to behave in one way, but the system may shape our behavior in another…

Usually, the problem with this outside-in approach is that the structure is not strong enough for the new behavior to hold long enough to cause a change in perception.  It comes back to the perspective of human beings.  

That said, ultimately, for change to be sustained, the entire system, inclusive of psychology, sociology, organizational structure, processes, performance management system, culture, etc. must shift to be in sync with that change. This is, of course, the broader topic of organizational learning. It’s the systemic nature of this transformative learning, which I attempt to capture in my transformational-holistic-learning model.

It’s another full week for me, but hope to connect again, soon.