LO & Big Layoffs LO5809

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@compuserve.com)
22 Feb 96 23:15:06 EST

Replying to LO5739 --

LO & Big Layoffs LO5739 and 5702

Both Michael and Phillip have challenged me for the following sentence,
saying the use of 'I' is indicative of a mindset in which there is a
'first' -- and therefore 'second' -- group of people rather than a
holistic mindset (Michael), and that it is indicative of someone who backs
away from participative organizational learning when things get tough

"I think that there is a devil's choice sometimes, do I 'downsize' and
save the corporation or keep everyone until I file bankruptcy."

I appreciate their thoughtful and very useful challenges. I would like to
more thoroughly explore the boundaries of our alignment or misalignment
because there may be something to learn here. I find there is always
something to learn when there is a gap.

First, I have never had to make such a choice, so I speak only from a
somewhat theoretical perspective. The 'I' was purely rhetorical.

Second, no one with any sense of responsibility would take the decision to
downsize as a first step, and I was assuming it would only be a last
resort. This is not, I fear, the case in all downsizings in the world,
but it was my assumption.

Once management has taken a 40-70% pay cut, and everyone else has taken a
20% pay cut, once other business options have been fully considered, once
all other choices have been fully explored and either exploited or
rejected, then if there is still cutting to do, downsizing begins to be a
reasonable option in my eyes.

It may be that a fully developed LO can take a decision to downsize.

However, it may also be that, as someone else very eloquently stated,
there are different roles for different levels in an organization. The
lower levels see their elephant from their perspective, the middle levels
from theirs, the upper from theirs. If we change the organizational
structure to Ginger's wheel, we may change some of our wording (lower,
middle, upper), but we probably will not have changed the reality that
different peer groups will have responsibility for viewing and overseeing
the organization from a particular perspective. And therefore, at the
life-threatening times, the leader steps in because it is his or her job
to view the whole and be responsible for the whole.

This view is not so different from Bill Hobler's submarine commander. He
is responsible for the training, he takes command at critical times, he
is, like it or not, responsible for the well-being of the crew and the
ship. At key times he or she will entrust the decisions to him or herself
alone. There may be occasion to take counsel with trusted advisors. That
will not change the locus of responsibility one iota.

I think Phillip's example is a wonderful example of how participative
management can work in a crisis. But it also illustrates my point that
the CEO set the agenda, apparently noticed that there was a problem,
brought it to everyone's attention, set the timetable, and ultimately,
made the final decision. I think that CEO did exactly what I am
describing. The level of participation is wonderful, but if the
participants had come back with a plan he did not have faith in, he would
have still made a decision.

I agree that Phillip's criteria for participative involvement make sense.

Open book management
No secrets in a crisis
Participative processes to the bitter end
Collective generation of solutions
Continuous learning within the company to include systematic
development of employees to be flexibly employable elsewhere
Early interventions

I just think there is only one person who will be responsible for the
final decision to downsize.

Am I wrong about this? Is there a way for the actual decision to be
jointly owned? Can the participants really over-ride the CEO? Do we
disagree or not?

 Rol Fessenden
 LL Bean

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>