STIA Conference Reports LO2946

Willard Jule (
26 Sep 95 22:29:43 EDT

Replying to LO2937 --

Thanks for the offer to share learnings from the STIA conference. Here is
one learning that I had. In the next couple of days I will share some
thoughts on strange attractors and the power of the quantum physics view
in conjunction with Eastern vs. Western philosophy.

Systems Thinking in Action Conference Sept. 18 - 20, 1995

For anyone who reads this, be forewarned. It appears to begin with a
hostile tone toward Peter Block's comments. This is only revealing some
of my left hand page and sets the stage for a deeper insight for me about
me (and maybe others). Peter was presenting a premise that essentially
stated that people can make major changes within an organization even if
senior management does not lead the change effort. This premise angered
me inordinately and troubled me all the first day.

I found myself in hallway conversations energetically denouncing Peter's
theme and bringing up evidence from my corporate days and recent
consulting experiences. I dominated any conversation that I engaged in;
intent on a mission to controvert Peter's message.

Later in the day, Danah Zohar added fuel to my overwrought state by
suggesting that dialogue has magical results. I wanted to jump up and
tell her that it is not magic; whatever happens is the result of an
effective communication process and is within our control and

The fires that had been ignited by Peter and fed by Danah continued to
burn through the night.

During the introduction to day 2, Daniel Kim suggested that the audience
take five minutes in solitary silence to reflect on day 1. I decided that
this would be a great time for me to paradigm-map why I was so angry about
day 1. (Paradigm-mapping is a tool I use based on mind-mapping to engage
in deep dialogue and reflection with myself or with a group.) Suddenly,
there it was! This two liner popped into my head.

Expecting magic, he got ashes.
Expecting nothing, he created his future.

I realized that ever since I read the Fifth Discipline, I was sure that
humankind had all the tools to finally rid the world of dsyfunctionality
in the work place and society as a whole. This has been a driving force
for me for many years. The power of the concepts in the Fifth Discipline
is so compelling that I was convinced that it was only a matter of time
before our major corporations would become functional and we would all
live happily ever after.

However, recent events in interactions I had in some major U.S.
corporations convinced me that I was sorely deluding myself. It now
appears that the transformation in organizations from command/control,
win/lose management to partnering, win/win management is not going to
necessarily be driven by market forces.

The conjunction of Peter's comments and these recent events came together
and made it impossible for me to continue to deny reality. For me the
message is, "If I want the transformation to happen, then I must be
willing to pay the price to make it happen. If I am not willing to pay
the price, then just recognize and accept that about myself and move on
with whatever it is that I want to create." All the anger melted away and
was replaced with a very peaceful, content feeling.

Now other things started to fall into place. The realization that we will
be much more effective when we accept personal responsibility for our
results became even more deeply entrenched in my emerging mental models.
It seems that the fundamental transformation I want to see requires people
in power positions to create conditions that help people develop from a
sense of dependence to a sense of independent capability and do this in an
interdependent context. This, by the way, is why I feel that it is
imperative that senior management lead the transformation process. In the
current conditions that exist in many organizations, individuals can
accept personal responsibility for themselves but they are not going to
change the prevailing culture.

Someone then pointed out to me that chaos theory tells us that a small
perturbation to a system in chaos can lead to a major transformation. I
believe that this is possible, but the corporations that I have been
dealing with recently are not at the edge of chaos. Small perturbations
are unlikely to lead to fundamental redefinition of the way these
organizations so business.

So what is the fundamental formula for a business to be successful? It
seems that the answer is in the value/price/cost relationship. That is,
as long as the customer perceives the value of a product or service to be
greater than the purchase price (and they can pay the price), they will
buy it. The provider will continue to offer the product or service as
long as they can do it at a cost that is sufficiently below the price the
customer will pay.

This personal lesson in economics made it clear why the businesses I
interacted with are still successful using 1920's management tools; no
competitor is providing a superior offering. The internal dynamics of any
organization are then transparent and irrelevant to the customer. Only
when a competitor uses the learning organization tools to bring a superior
offering to the market place with an effective market access strategy will
it be necessary for business to fundamentally change their cultures.

Bottom line message for me is that all I can do is use the tools with the
companies I work with and work to help the senior managers discover the
power for themselves and others in using the tools. It seems that
paradigm shifts don't come easily.

Willard Jule <>