What are orgs for? LO6072

jack hirschfeld (jack@his.com)
Sat, 9 Mar 1996 11:57:55 -0500

Replying to LO6038 --

As usual, Mike McMaster has said a mouthful, and there is enough
provocative thought in LO6038 to generate a very extensive dialogue.

For me, the most significant contribution is when Mike brushes aside the
cobweb of "purpose" to reveal the underlying issue of authenticity:

>I think that Alan's comments here get at one of the core issues:
>> Public pronouncements about the purpose often backfire - customers,
>> suppliers and staff see that reality is different and dismiss the
>> statements as management's latest fad. I believe employees will only get
>> the message when they see top management living it, walking the talk,
>> working with the values implicit in the purpose, choosing difficult
>> courses of action consistent with the purpose and values rather than the
>> easy way out.
>These are questions of authenticity, not the existence or source of
>purpose. Statements prepared for customers, etc are usually designed
>to manipulate (sorry, influence) and are not authentic. The problem
>of "walking the talk" is significant IMO as an issue of authenticity.
> When failures to be congruent are present alongside authentic
>expression, then we are dealing with a learning or transition period
>or the ordinary failings of human beings - worthy of effort but not
>the kinds of assessments that "failure to walk the talk" are usually
>pointing to.

In my opinion, the latter part of this discussion can be seen as excusing
inauthentic speech or behavior. Indeed, "purpose" is often used to excuse
inauthenticity, but the incongruence is much more visible in a social
context (organizations) than in the individual case. Most people's lives
are riddled with behaviors that run counter to some expressed value. We
sometimes explain this by "accepting" that we have conflicting values, as
Mike does when he says:

>I don't believe this is true for either individuals or organisations
>except in the *very* general sense that we too are intentional
>beings. That is, we have many complex intentions that vary over time
>and which ones are present or dominant at any moment in time may be
>different. There seems to be some very broad ones that are
>operational but these can be questioned and certainly are not
>reliable for effective functioning. (ie. We can say that "survival"
>is a fundamental purpose/intention but we can see behaviour that does
>not support survival.)

The "rationalizing" aspect of such thinking is, I think, difficult to see
unless and until there is
a very broad disconnect (usually associated with social rejection),
a serious failure of ability to function (dysfunctional psychosis),
or an unexpected personal crisis (health issues, death of another).

For most people who achieve some insight into this in their personal
lives, the insight flows from routine pursuit of a set of practices, which
one might think are usually religious, but which I think are as often or
perhaps even more often practices associated with the pursuit of "personal
mastery". Gurdjieff found it in a rug weaver, for example.

The recent book Built to Last points to authenticity as a key
characteristic of a business organization which outlives and outlasts its
(very excellent) competition. Finding a language which connects "core
values" with "core actions" is difficult when they are disconnected
internally for so many people. But I believe - with Mike - that business
corporations mimic in many ways the growth and development of individuals,
and if we wish to speak at all of organizations that learn, it would serve
us to think of them as entities very like individual human beings, and not
"made up" of them.

To be authentic is to be true to your values, whether you are a person or
an organization made up of people. Inauthenticity is corrosive of the
individual's moral integrity (and as a consequence of his or her
effectiveness and happiness), and it is corrosive of a business's
long-term viability for the same reasons. No talk of "purpose" can ease
these consequences, in my opinion.

Jack Hirschfeld        It seems we have met before, and lived before, and
jack@his.com           loved before, but who knows where or when?

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