What's in a name? Boss? LO7246

Michael McMaster (Michael@kbddean.demon.co.uk)
Tue, 7 May 1996 06:15:38 +0000

Replying to LO7193 --

Bill, let me continue to clarify while honouring your respect for
some accountabilities (that we call manager) and for a particular
person who happens to have those accountabilities (your particular
manager) - if I can. I understand the respect of both but still want
to challenge the terminology we use.

Your challenges are really wonderful because they come from a view
that there is nothing wrong that needs fixing. Better , they come
from someone who honours and respects the system. There is no room
for righteousness in a response - only for seeking openings for
action, improvement, freedom, value.

My intention isn't even to replace the words. My intention is to
transform them so that they have left baggage behind and then change
them if appropriate.

I understand that your manager represents the hierarchy *that does
exist* and that you respect the control function of the hierarchy for
the whole. I suspect your respect is for the organisation and its
control functions and they just happen to be manifest in hierarchy in
this instance. Yes?

To the extent it is a hierarchy, "reporting to" is an appropriate
term because that *is* the hierarchy. That is, a hierarchy of
"reporting tos" is what we mean when we talk about hierarchy in

In my notes here I'm trying to distinguish "reporting" from "to".
There are many important reports to be made. If reports are created
and "posted" somewhere specified as a sufficient condition for
reporting then "reporting to" would not need a person's name or, more
commonly, position to go with it. This would apply even where the
specified place of reporting was on a particular person's desk or
verbally to a particular person.

It is the named relationship between people that I am after changing
here. If I "report to" you, as a description of my relationship,
then I suggest that there is something implied that will suggest a
power relationship - and that it's built into the conversation.
(This does *not* mean that the particular case of you and your boss
is contaminated with this. You may have come to an understanding
that avoids this dilemma completely.)

I also want to challenge the term "manager" and its applicability.
The question isn't "Do I value individuals who are managers and what
they do?" Nor is it, "Do I think that there are functions that those
we call managers now do that are important?" I, for one, would be
affirmative about both of these questions. The question is, "Is
management the right term to use and what do we intend by it in the
world of new organisations?"

I do not think it appropriate because of its roots (hands on to make
happen, driving livestock and, more recently, command and control).
On the other hand, I haven't found an acceptable term.

The route I am currently pursuing to transform this is to suggest
that, whatever is managed, it isn't people. Maybe we manage
conversations. Maybe we manage environments. Maybe we are only
describing sets of accountabilities when we refer to managers and do
not mean that they necessarily "manage" anything.

The term originated outside of human affairs and came into being when
our systems were based on an understanding of the world that was
physical, material, mechanistic. In a world which is mental,
non-material, living, what does management refer to? Management of
structures of information maybe?

There is, in my opinion, little value in attacking these words
individually. It is the system of language that we need to transform
whether through invention of new words, new uses of old works, new
operational definitions or some combination of all.

Michael McMaster : Michael@kbddean.demon.co.uk
book cafe site : http://www.vision-nest.com/BTBookCafe
Intelligence is the underlying organisational principle
of the universe. Heraclitus


Michael McMaster <Michael@kbddean.demon.co.uk>

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