Re: Intro -- Robert (Bob) Plautz LO1391

Jim Michmerhuizen (
Fri, 26 May 1995 23:17:22 +0059 (EDT)

Replying to LO1379 --

On Fri, 26 May 1995, JOHN N. WARFIELD wrote:
[snipped, edited, reassembled...]
> We asked the participants to make a judgment as to whether each such
> [cultural] component could possibly be resolved (a) at the corporate level
> represented by our sponsor, (b) at a higher level in the corporation, or
> (c) at a lower level. Much to everyone's amazement, it was discovered
> that well over half could be resolved (at least for the sponsor) by
> working at or below his level. Ultimately, it was determined that
> roughly 30% required highest-level consideration.
> Consequently, an action map was produced, showing what activities needed
> to be carried out in what sequence to destroy most of the cultural
> difficulties lying at or below sponsor level.
> Before this work was started we were told that the "prestigious" people
> at well-known organization X had determined that it would take at least
> 15 years to modify the culture of a large organization.
> Well, I can tell you that the job isn't finished, but it has made
> tremendous progress in less than three years.
> ...the basic conclusion being that the way to make
> cultural change happen in big organizations is to "install" in those
> organizations processes that are enabling, so that the big organization
> can use those processes for continuous internal redesign.

Lately the image keeps coming of how many very tiny changes in the
behavior of many people together can completely transform -- beyond all
recognition, even -- the "structures" that we think we see in their

Your story is, I think, a powerful example of that kind of change.

You hesitate, I notice, to attribute any strongly "causal" [I'm beginning
to hate that word] role to your own interventions. How many options do we
have, after all: if not causal, then perhaps catalytic? Are you sometimes
tempted, as I am, to invert the whole thing and see the group as somehow
generating the agents of its own forthcoming transformation? But that way
lies madness.

How easily we attribute "mass" and "weight" to the social forms, when
they are gossamer, transient, ghostly side-effects, emergent structures
founded in the micro-interaction of thousands of individuals.

It's like those 3d computer-generated thingies -- whatyacallits that
started to show up a couple years ago. The social structures are the
emergent 3d image, the existing individuals are what's "really there".

     Jim Michmerhuizen
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