Life in Organizations LO9755

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@CompuServe.COM)
05 Sep 96 00:29:30 EDT

Replying to LO9718 --

I like If's concept of self-perpetuating ideas, and the implication that
people are in some ways trapped by their ideas. The ideas they have, the
memes(?) that If refers to, become limitations.

There are lots of examples of this. Overcoming this is what happens in
part when we break a paradigm. There are examples of non-optimal memes
all around us. Beta Max VCRs are one of the better-known examples where
an inferior technology became the standard despite the existence of a
better technology.

In systems and process development efforts we often enunciate the notion
that the process can define the tools, or alternatively, the tools can
define the process. Thus for example, if we only provide tools that
promote and require cross-functional collaboration, then cross-functional
collaboration will occur. On the other hand, if we provide stove-pipe
tools, then cross-functional collaboration is unlikely at best, and
perhaps impossible.

If, are these representative of what you are referring to when you say,
for example, that we can become prisoners (my words, not yours) of our

I agree with your perspective, and i would add one further point, which
you may have said already. That is, that once we recognize that we are in
fact in part a creation of the systems and culture that we inhabit, then
we become more capable of changing them. Understanding the point above --
that tools can drive the process as well as vice versa -- is freeing and
allows us to leverage our environment.

In addition, realizing that we are prisoners of our culture and system
helps us 'see' where to look for paradigm changes. If we cannot recognize
that our perceptions are colored by our culture and systems, then we
cannot change our perceptions, nor can we really change the culture or
systems. Is this what you are saying?

On a closely related note, I have been promoting a distinction between
'system' and 'culture' which my dictionary describe respectively as the
organized way to accomplish a task, and the beliefs, perceptions, mental
models, and so forth of an organization. In short-hand we can very
accurately refer to these as 'task' and 'tool set'.

System Culture

an organized, repeatable way to Beliefs, perceptions, mental models, etc
accomplish a task of an organization

Task Tool set

You may believe that these are inextricably intertwined, and I cannot say
they are not. However, I submit as a meme the notion that separating them
in our minds creates a valuable distinction that allows us to focus our
efforts for the greatest impact. Therefore, when you say "The 'system'
part [that whole unwritten mix of mental models/ language/ 'rules' etc]
then tends to blindly seek its own replication,..." you are, in my
terminology, referring not to the system, but to the culture. To me the
distinction is important because changing the culture requires different
methods and different tools than changing the system (system in my
narrower sense). What do you think?


Rol Fessenden <76234.3636@CompuServe.COM>

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