Re: How Much Time in Meetings? LO3747

Michael McMaster (
Fri, 17 Nov 1995 18:38:53 +0000

Replying to LO3700 --

John says
> You have stimulated my thinking some more on this. If networking is
> political in nature, i.e., in pursuit of personal goals, then I still
> think it is nonvalue-added.

The Scottish Enlightenment School (Adam Smith and friends) as well as
theories of complex adaptive systems of today suggest that value-adding
and pursuit of personal goals (or not) have little if anything to do with
each other. They suggest that the value adding of the pursuit of
individual goals *unconcerned and/or uknowning of social value* is
dependent on the structures that they occur within. For instance, the
action in the marketplace is value adding for those who buy, those who
sell and those who do neither but value the opportunity to do so.

>However, if it is aimed at developing the
> relationships across the organization needed to get work done, then I
> think it may be good, even very good.

We have all seen the damage that can be done by well intentioned and
even reasonably well informed people in pursuit of anything - even
"developing relationships". This too is system and context dependent
rather than "intention" dependent.

>In fact, it is consistent with the
> idea of self-organizing systems.

Self-organising systems depend on pre-existing structure, conditions
intergrations for their effectiveness. There is no "intention"
required for self- organising systems to function. Certainly "good"
intentions are not required. The self-organising systems of nature
of just doing their own thing and the design (or whatever you like to
call it) takes care of the whole working or not.

> I have been thinking that one thing that makes organizations ineffective
> and inefficient, especially in the era of electronic communication, is a
> conflict between formal organizational structures and those that
> spontaneously develop

This statement I agree with. Interesting that we can differ
radically on the earlier statements and agree here.

> I think people will naturally organize themselves to
> achieve an objective when they all share that objective

I suspect this statement hides the difference above. Yes, people
will tend to self-organise (effectively) *when they all share that
objective*. But that hides a major problem. People seldom *do*
share an objective if there are many people and/or the objective is
significant and/or complex - which is almost everything of
compelling interest, it seems to me.

I think the only saving possibility in this is that our independently
driven actions and conversations can converge and can self-organise
(two often separate states) by the operation of emergence based on
some practices, principles, designs or mere historical integration of
language and/or social custom.

> have access to
> the information they need, and can easily communicate with each other.

It is these - access to information and ease of communication that
open up the possibility with no requirement (fortunately) for shared
intentions except at the broadest and most common social level. And,
as you say,

> Formal structures can get in the way of this, creating uncertainty, waste,
> and frustration.

> If people who encourage self-organization are rewarded and promoted, then
> that's a good turn of events. Whether that's the case, I'm not sure.

I doubt that we are wise enough to know which "self-organising"
behaviour to reward. But if rewards are obtained by action within a
free, uncontrolled and designed system, those rewarded will tend to
do more and we can see the system in operation and make adjustments
(which also might not work) as required.

The question for me is not "is liason activity non-productive" but
what are the measurements of productivity and, even more usefully,
what are the theories operating that give the measurement criteria.

Almost all measurement conversations - especially business ones - are
so far off track because they fail to realise that *what* is to be
measured and its significance depends on the theory of what matters
and what has impact on what. These are assumed to be givens and the
measurements turn out to be simplistic or worse - ie. they damage the
sources of success.

Michael McMaster