Re:Organizational Integration LO1037
Wed, 3 May 1995 08:23:44 -0400

Replying to LO973-

Michael McMaster writes:

>Things_ aren't complex . They are what they are. They become
>"complex" in our attempts to understand them. The complexity
>arises from the level and context of our analysis. At one level,
>say a surface one, they will be simple.

I completely agree. There is nothing in the external world which is
either complex or simple. That is a concept of the mind. It is up
to an observer to label a system as either complex or simple, based
on the observer's internal understanding or "model" of the system.

This, I think, provides the foundation for judging the relative
usefulness of models.

>Does Noel mean "managing complexity" when he talks about the intent
>of the existing system or does he mean managing information flow?

I refer to "managing complexity" in relation to managing
information. I probably should have said "managing variety," but I
was not sure that everyone would understand that variety is a
cybernetic term used for the measurement of complexity or possible
number of states in a system. This analysis was geared around
implications to Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety.

>Complexity in information cannot be managed in the traditional sense.
>Complexity in its more general senses and its specific uses (such as
>complex adaptive systems) cannot be managed in the traditional sense.
>Management, in the traditional sense, means to control flows to
>produce intended and predictable results. =

This, I think is the heart of the problem that Dennis is dealing
with. If management in its traditional sense attempts to control
information flows to produce intended and predictable results, they
are in fact attempting to manage vertically. In essence management
is attempting to reduce or attenuate the variety of the
organization. From management's understanding of the environment,
it determines its (supposedly) optimal organization to produce its
outputs. Management develops specific procedures for its operations
to follow, and determines the SPECIFIC types of information (on
forms, for example) that should be sent up the chain to determine
future direction. While this method of managing complexity may work
in an unchanging environment, such as fast food, or to a lesser
degree, supermarkets, it will not work for an organization that
operates in a changing environment.

Due to their structured way of receiving information, a vertical
style management structure will literally not be able to notice
certain changes in the environment. As the operating environment
changes, the specific types of information that travel up the chain
become less relevant. Management only has an inkling that something
is wrong, but they can't quite put their finger on it. Over time,
as the environment changes, and the organization doesn't, the
organization appears to be "rigid" by the majority of its employees.
Comments such as "They just don't listen" and "Management just
doesn't have a clue what's going on" become common place. The
management structure quickly becomes labeled a bureaucracy, with
everything that the term engenders.

To improve horizontal communication, there needs to be a different
outlook on managing variety. In fact this whole notion of employee
empowerment brings up a multitude of hidden subjects. If top
management in an organization is set on empowering employees, and
reducing the level of decision making to lower levels in the
hierarchy, this inherently means there is less to do in the upper
levels of hierarchy. An upper level middle manager=92s role consists
of passing information he/she deems important up and down the line,
and setting direction for his/her immediate subordinates. He/she is
no longer concerned with technical decisions. If the level of
decision making is reduced, the upper level middle manager no longer
needs to set direction. This change also allows a high tech
information system to pass information up and down the chain.

Thus, the role of the upper level middle manager becomes reduced.

Their job category will begin to disapear. It is no wonder that, as
gerry starnes states in LO 976, that high level middle managers are
the ones who resist this change the most. While upper level managers
can theoretically be re-educated (possibly on complex adaptive
systems), their role in this new organization will change. Most
likely it will change to one of less status and importance. Good
luck getting buy-in.

>Noel goes on to say that if management sees the organization in
>vertical terms then the horizontal will be difficult. Seeing it as
>will be almost as limiting. Seeing it as complex is what I find makes t=

An interesting notion. I'm not sure I agree. If an organization is
seen in terms of horizontal communication, it will be managing
variety at "lower" levels in the hierarchy. In essence, those who
are producing the outputs are also managing the variety. They have
the ability both to notice change and then act on it. This should
have implications in how organizational resources are managed, the
relative fluidity of job descriptions, and the ability to learn. =

>I suggest that a quicker route to the goal will be a brief
>education in complex adaptive systems. Modeling is a long way
>around that might not get there. Modeling may also be a useful tool
>to assist the educational process. But simple visuals will probably
>do as well. =

I may not understand you correctly. How will providing the
organization a brief education in complex adaptive systems attain
their goal? =

Noel Dickover
(currently at, previously at =, soon to be at