Conscious or Unconscious LO LO6048

John Woods (
Fri, 8 Mar 1996 09:02:59 -0600 (CST)

Replying to LO6024 --

Barry Mallis writes:

>John Woods typed a few words which struck my fancy. He writes that great
>insights like TQM are on occasion turned into a fad, with suggested
>techniques mindlessly applied without appreciation of the systems view on
>which it is based.

>When John Woods used the word "mindlessly", it made me think about what is
>probably a majority of organizational sites where a broad underlying
>"systems view" is unclear. However, a more discreet understanding of what
>I'll refer to as "immediate" systems is well understood.

I agree with Barry. Each of us does operate from our own sense of a
system and how it works, even if we are not fully conscious of this.
Behind our behaviors is a set of assumptions about how things and people
relate to one another and how these interrelationships work. We often do
not have a good sense of how to make the system work well to our mutual
benefit, meaning in a way that reduces wasted effort, reduces anxiety,
creates more good for the most folks, and so on.

>Over time, with the "unconscious" application of total quality principles
>and tools, the organization comes to realize what system is all about.
>The unconscious leads to the conscious. At some point, critical mass of
>understanding is reached. Indigenous culture changes more rapidly, with
>higher efficacy, and the wheel turns again.

I have often thought about this point. I do not know if one needs to have
insight first to see the rationale for doing the "right" things, or if one
can simply do the right things and by doing so, come eventually to see the
rationale from the good results such behaviors garner. Sometimes in
family therapy (I'm no expert here), I think the therapist will intervene
to get dysfunctional family members to simply change their behaviors, even
if they don't believe it will make a difference. Then it does a make a
difference, and they come to appreciate what's going on and why (the new
behaviors focus on getting along and supporting one another, which results
in the world being better for each individual at the same time--by looking
out for the whole we look out for ourselves. It's kind of amazing, huh?)
So maybe we can implement TQM and the systems view by just insisting on
certain practices and eventually people will come to an understanding and
acceptance of the foundation on which such practices are based. I would
be interested to know what others think about this and their experiences.

>I personally am unable at this time to convince forty people each with
>over 35 years at this facility that there is a new and better system at
>play. You have to, as my mom use to say, learn it yourself. The
>unconscious becomes the conscious.
>This boring and dull revelation (oxymoron?) is, I suspect, the case in
>many, many locations. Theorists like us abound, and we cavort
>electronically, supporting one another, elucidating theories, and
>synthesizing ideas into personal actions. So it has been with me. And
>when I turn away from the screen and work with people, I encounter new
>veils to draw aside which we have made disappear in our own exchanges on
>this list.

With what I said above and what Barry has just said, I must say I still
love theory. Or should I say, I love being aware of and pondering theory.
It has wonderful practical implications for me. It guides my behavior; it
helps me take personal responsibility for my behavior; it helps me learn.
Finally, we might appreciate that thinking about and developing theory IS
a practice in and of itself. We might even suggest that the idea of the
learning organization is the idea of consciously refining our theory of
what it is that will make us successful in whatever we are engaged in.
Ah, it gets complicated, but I still love it. The veils keep appearing,
and they keep giving us opportunities to delve deeper into what it means
to be a human being.

[Aside on semi-related topic: There was a good article in the Wall Street
Journal today, March 8, 1996, (front page, left column) on a Mexican
banker who has eliminated titles, hierarchy, and bureaucracy and made
customer service and the development of new services paramount. This has
resulted in substantial growth for the bank, to the consternation of some
traditionalists. Worth reading.]

John Woods
CWL Publishing Enterprises

-- (John Woods)

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