Conscious or Unconscious LO LO6073

Tobin Quereau (
Sat, 9 Mar 1996 11:28:35 -0600 (CST)

Replying to LO6048 --

Many good things to contemplate in this conversation between Barry, John,
and the universe!

On Fri, 8 Mar 1996, John Woods wrote:
> 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.
> John replies:
> 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.

This takes me back to that wonderful conversation about "freedom", choice,
decision-making, etc., which you had a hand in, John. It hangs on the
notion of "assumptions" or "beliefs" as operational factors in how we act
"in the world" (which is to say, as we act in our _understanding_ of "the
world". But such is the case at all times, anyway ((saints and sages
excepted, occasionally)) and, interestingly enough, is what provides us
the opportunity to shift our perspective and thus change "the world"). It
also makes me think again of the work of Argyris and the value of
surfacing our theories-in-use and the assumptions underlying them as part
of the "inquiry" which can lead to continual learning and growth.

> >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.

Would this be part of Michael McMasters' (and others) notion of "emerging"
knowledge and the process of intelligence in organizations?

> 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?)

As a counselor I can resonate with your example here. The interesting
thing is that in a fairly healthy system, the substitution of healthier
responses can lead to improvement. It is possible to "remind" the
participants what feels good and works well and they take it from there.

In fairly unhealthy systems, such tactics seem to fail. The strategy in
such cases might then be less oriented toward instituting positive
behaviors, and more toward disrupting the situation or pattern itself and
watching what new behaviors arise spontaneously. Then from the responses
in the system, attention can sometimes be brought to the outcomes that
occur and learning can take place as a result. The task in such cases is
more difficult--the system has to learn how to "thrive", not just
"survive". It is almost as though, in unhealthy systems, _recovery_ is the
real crisis and threat, not the upsetting and dysruptive things that
brought the family into therapy.

I wonder what relevance this might have to other "organizational"

> 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.

My prediction is that in "fairly healthy" organizations, that would work.
In "fairly unhealthy" systems, the battle will occur at the level of
implementation and will require some different interventions as a result.

> >Barry says:
> >
> >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.

> And John adds:
> 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.

Yes, especially if we include the level of _acting_ on what we learn and
if we expand the "our" to include the organization itself becoming more
"conscious" of its "self" in the learning process...

> 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.

And part of an evolving world...

Your friend in learning,

Tobin Quereau

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