Conspiritorial LO teams LO7219

Tobin Quereau (
Mon, 6 May 1996 11:42:03 -0500 (CDT)

Replying to LO7170 --

I would imagine, Archie, that, unfortunately, neither your situation nor
your response to it is very unique. While it is always easier to respond
to someone else's situation than our own, I would like to share some of my
responses to what you have written.

On Fri, 3 May 1996, Archie Kregear wrote:

> In a situation where the purpose, objective or goal of an organization is
> truely correct and honorable, such as the serving of one's customer and
> achieving a reasonable profit, but the appointed leaders or managers are
> not correct or honorable in their methods, the individual contributors may
> band together to accomplish the goal in spite of the incompetance of the
> leaders.

I have to admit that my internal alarms go off when I read this section.
It may well be the case, but I wonder if characterizing all of the
"appointed leaders or managers" as being "not correct or honorable" and
"incompetant" is entirely accurate. The concern that I have is that such a
broad assumption and description would, in my opinion, be likely to
generate equally broad and demeaning attitudes and responses from the very
people you would like to work with more effectively. In other words, if I
am, in your opinion, neither honorable nor competant, what incentive would
I have to try and work with you to solve problems. I think I would need
something more solid to base our interaction on.

> In my situation, there have been a number of senior managers who
> were looking out for themselves first, and the objectives of the company
> second. However, there are a few individuals in lower and middle
> management who have been committed to the company objectives. These
> middle managers have in numerous occasions collaborated together to
> accomplish tasks full knowing that senior managers would disapprove
> primarily on internal political reasons.

What do you mean by "internal political reasons" and are they always
suspect and to be sidestepped if at all possible? How are you determining
the reaction of the senior managers is primarily for internal political
reasons? Are there some times when this is not the case?

> An example: A couple years ago there were times when I have needed to ship
> a part to a customer on a rush basis. This required the signature of the
> Director of Material Operations who did not want me to succeed in this
> company. He routinely held all requests I made for 2 to 5 days before he
> signed them.

Did the Director hold everyone's requests for that period of time, or just
yours? Had you addressed the need for "rush" approval on occasions with
the Director to see what procedure could be arranged if any? Is your
assertion that the Director of Material Operations "did not want me to
succeed in this company" an example of what you call internal political
reasons? If this is accepted as true, what do you think contributed to the
situation where this person would not want you to succeed? How would that
be helpful to this person or to the operation of the company?

> Thus, I waited until he was out of the office (even for
> lunch) and signature authority was passed to the manager of the warehouse.
> I went to him, and the request was signed off and the part shipped in a
> matter of minutes.

I can see here that your need to ship on a rush basis was met, but it
doesn't seem that the needs of the Director of Material Operations or the
existing company procedures were being considered. Do you feel that the
Director of Operations engaged in similar tactics to keep you from
achieving your goals? It sounds like this kind of action is part of what
contributed to and sustained the lack of trust and support between the two
of you.

> Another example: The warehouse needs their computer system upgraded. They
> have the parts but not the expertise. They need an engineer to assist
> them. The director of engineering does not want to provide any assistance
> to the Director of material operations. I request a day off and say that
> I will be in over the weekend to make up the time. During the weekend, I
> assist the manager of the warehouse in getting the new system running.

I see that you stepped in to take care of the warehouse computer needs
which I imagine made them very happy, but I wonder if the way in which you
went about it enabled a very serious situation in the company to continue
unaddressed. After you helped with the warehouse upgrade, did you have to
keep that a secret? Did your action put you potentially in the "line of
fire" because of the battle between two people above you? Do you feel
uneasy about having to misrepresent what you are doing to your own
supervisor in order to "get the job done"? In what ways is that different
than engaging in actions for "internal political reasons"?

> These are examples from a couple of years ago, however this week, now that
> I am looking, I have seen three instances where a cross departmental team
> is pulled together by an individual contributor or lower manager, to
> resolve a problem or alter a process. Senior management is not involved
> nor even notified of the changes that are made. If Senior management did
> get involved, then they would want to "control" the change, gather
> information, make a decision and force us to follow the new direction.

My first reaction here is that the more that can be done at a lower level
the better as long as it fits in with the company goals and values. The
rationale, however, for doing things this way seems to be coming more from
a need to "control" the outcome (or keep someone else from controlling it)
than from getting things done that need doing. As an aside, it sounds as
though the senior management might have a hard time "forcing" anything in
this sort of environment...

> What I think that we at the lower levels have realized is that Sr.
> managers her do not know what the process is normally so if a change is
> made then that will not be noticed. And that we can change things in a
> matter of minutes instead of days or weeks.
> As Sr. management has turned over in the past, those of us at the bottom
> doing the work have learned that in order to get most tasks accomplished,
> senior management does not need to be involved. And in fact we conspire
> to avoid senior management even knowing what is truely going on. Thus the
> Conspiritorial LO team theory.

I wouldn't call any group that operates by conspiracy an "LO" team.
Conspiracies are what I would hope an organizational learning approach
would eradicate. In what ways do you think that by working to keep senior
management in the dark you are helping the company to succeed? Is there
some confusion about which issues should be resolved at your levels and
which are appropriate for senior management to be involved with? Do you
assume senior managers automatically want control over "everything"?

I guess what I am feeling overall is some confusion over the openness and
directness with which you describe these situations with us on the list
and the secrecy and indirectness which you felt were required in the
situations you described. Were you unable to discuss these issues with
managers as openly? This is certainly a good example of how difficult it
can be when basic levels of trust and ability to communicate between
people is damaged.

> I doubt that the idea is original, anyone have any information on a
> similar situation?

I recognize I haven't responded with information about other situations,
but I hope you will continue the conversation about this one. I know that
my reactions are as much about me as they are about you, and that there is
a lot more that I would need to know about the situation to begin to
understand what you are saying. Please take these comments and questions
in the spirit of inquiry, not of judgement. I would be interested in
hearing about your reactions to what I have written, so feel free to
contact me directly or as a part of the ongoing conversation on the list.


Tobin Quereau Austin Community College

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>