Re: Org Charts for LO

Mike Gurstein (
Sat, 12 Nov 1994 09:19:36 -0500 (EST)

Keith Cowan's introduction of the notion of "managing the white space"
is, IMHO a very useful one. But he leaves off just as the discussion
gets interesting. Exactly how does one get an organization to begin to
manage the white space. In an organization I know well, it is done by
by-passing the org chart/manuals/rules and procedures in order that
anything gets done at all. But this can only be temporary.

Hiring a consultant is one approach. But as a consultant I know that my
presence is as often a way of avoiding real organizational learning as it
is a real contributor to change.

Confronting one's organizational mortality either individually or
collectively is almost certainly useful in concentrating the mind and
inducing learning of a sort.

Having/getting the right mix of people certainly helps.

My guess is that re-structuring/re-engineering while doubtless teaching
an organization many (and often) harsh truths does not ususally lead to
structures/processes of recurrent self-sustaining learning capacities in
organizations. The human traumas generate resistance and risk avoidance
rather than the self-confidence out of which learning can emerge.

Technology, like this one is a useful adjunct by making information more
readily available but probably most usefully by facilitating
communications at the organization's boundary thus opening it up to the
signals that its environment is sending it.

Any others? Mikeg

On Sat, 12 Nov 1994, Keith Cowan wrote:

> The term "managing the whitespace" refers to the fact that amy org chart
> is merely a simplified surrogate and cannot represent what really goes
> on (the whitespace is all those functions that happen in spite of the
> fact they do not show up on anybody's chart).
> A frequent example of whitespace is the handling of a customer complaint.
> They can enter anywhere and will proceed randomly through the org until
> they come to rest (not necessarily resolved!). A learning-org might be
> characterized as one that decides to develop a process for complaints
> when the consultant brings it to their attention that this is in fact
> randomly handled today.

> Symptoms of a LO might include the ongoing ability to recognize and
> correct whitespace issues that emerge as the inevitable result of
> economic entropy and the natural emergence of chaos in any system.