Re: Chas. Handy "Beyond Certainty" LO2745

John O'Neill (
Tue, 12 Sep 95 11:13:12 +1000

Replying to LO2730 --

John Wood wrote : "Many of the problems in this world have come from
people who are unwilling to deal with uncertainty and try to create a
world without uncertainty, one where people and everything else conform to

Bernard Girard wrote: "That would make a very good definition of what we
do when we organize a company or draw a business strategy. We try (you
try?) to build a system that controls (when possible, eliminates)
uncertainty. The trouble is that people never conform to expectations."

I'm currently studying the strategic planning process in the Australian
Defence Force. Popular opinion would have you believe that the military
are tightly regimented and do everything by the book - this is certainly
true at the tactical level, or the man in the field.

At the strategic level, headquarters are setup with groups of experts to
enable the organisation to deal with uncertainty. The military certainly
recognise that there is much uncertainty with the world. To adapt to this
uncertainty, "business" plans are developed which often involves at least
partial reorganisation of the organisation to meet the requirements of the
situation (now if we had a large military organisation like the US this
may not be the case all the time).

Much of the "redundancy" in headquarters, and organisations in general, is
providing the depth of expertise for the organisation to cope with
uncertainty and novel situations. Management initiatives that aim to
simply increase productivity by reducing headcount are effective if the
world doesn't change and all situations can be handled by routine
procedures. Unfortunately I don't think this is the case even in the
manufacturing industry any more.

Just my $.02 worth (and I notice the Aussie dollar is getting stronger
against the US dollar, does this make my opinion worth more :->)

John O'Neill
DSTO C3 Research Centre, Australia