Re:Organizational Integration LO1066

Michael McMaster (
Thu, 4 May 1995 09:14:19 +0000

Replying to LO1037 --

Noel isn't sure if he agrees with my assertion that "seeing
organisational communication as horizontal will be almost as limiting
as seeing it as vertical and that seeing it as complex will make the
difference." He expands his statement with

> 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 make the assertion based on a number of ideas. One is that any
"either/or" representation is likely to create limits that cause
trouble. Related to that is that there are situations where
"vertical" is more effective than "horizontal" and vice-versa.

Worse, however, is that the opposition of vertical and horizontal
have built in notions of hierarchy (how do you know which is which?)
and that they trivialise the possibilities of information flows.
There are far more information flows, combinations and relationships
than can be characterised by vertical and horizontal and these others
may be more important by far for learning, creativity and innovation.
Reflexivity and iteration name a couple of these.

This leads to my suggestion that education in complex adaptive
systems might be more beneficial. I might have said education in
information theory or communication theory. These are distinct but
also have the possibility of providing more openings than staying
within the boundaries or hierarchies, existing management thinking
and the notions of vertical and horizontal.

I have the funny notion that education in basic contemporary thinking
- in many fields - can provide more openings for action than we can
imagine. The main challenge is to be able to provide such education
in ways that are simple and understandable yet retain integrity with
the philosophy and science that supports them.

My specific response to

> How will providing the
> organization a brief education in complex adaptive systems attain
> their goal?

is: when those responsible for the design and operation of an
organisation - which I consider to be a complex adaptive system
(actually I refer to them as intelligent systems) - understand the
nature of that system in a more useful way, they will be able to
develop structures, processes and practices that produce better
results in ways more appropriate to the human beings within (and
without) those organisations.