Why organisations exist? LO10212

Arthur Battram (apb@cityplex.demon.co.uk)
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 14:15:31 +0100

Replying to LO10175 --

replying to Benjamin Compton <bcompton@geocities.com>on Wed, 25 Sep 1996
Subject: Speed. Change. Time. LO10175

this is reply number one

OK, what I want to do here is a major ANDnotbut thing, which is to agree
with mike, and you, ben

[loved the story of your little boy -5-9yr olds are brilliant!]

AND disagree, because its about context and perspective, and purpose and
intent also, probably.

>Organizations don't live to make money. They live to imagine and create
>new things. It just so happens if they didn't make money, they couldn't
>imagine and create.

I think its an AS IF thing
Organizations get locked into operating ASIF their purpose is to make

but let me tell a story, with a preamble:

"The key purpose of the waste disposal/management industry is to improve
the environment" the consultants offered at a meeting I attended a few
years ago .

No, I disagreed, its to make money. Don't tell me that companies that
'fly-tip' [illegally dump dangerous waste on other peoples land] or
operate polluting incinerators are doing it to improve the environment.
Greenpeace might have improve the environment in their key purpose , but
not these guys. [ I get quite heated about incinerators and other
un-green stuff, you see]

heres the background to the meeting- skip it if you like
-----------In the UK the government has been developing National Vocational
Qualifications since the early 80s. These are Vocational Qualifications
based on 'outcome [not the same as output] statements'. called standards of
competence [not the same as Hay/McBer competencies, which are more like
personal qualities [ish]. for example from the Management Standards:

element 9.1 ' run meetings to exchange info and make decisions'

So a 'standard of competence' doesn't specify input like an academic
curriculum , or output like an industrial quality process, instead it says
-do it how you like so long as you actually do ' exchange info and make
decisions'. Of course there's more to it -range statements and
performance criteria, but you get the drift, hopefully. so if I can run
meetings by standing on the table, humming the national anthem, or by
using silence or Michael's gong - cool, so long as I deliver to the
standards spelt out in element 9.1.

Now when I understood standards which isn't easy-you have to do a mental
flip, [which is especially hard for trainers and HR people, incidentally,
the 'troops' usually 'grok' it straight away] I felt liberated: if you can
SHOW using evidence[ for which there are also rules], then you could gain
a qualifications regardless of academic so called 'knowledge'. This opens
up access to women returners and other groups previously excluded from
education because of circumstance, prejudice etcetera. There is no
curriculum, so a parent can use their household management skills as
evidence of management skills, for example. Then the colleges and
professions got hold of it and as the police here say 'it all went
pear-shaped guv', but that's another story.

OK so that's the background: new type of qualifications, opening up
access, supported by us at LGMB, because of that.

so the meeting I attended was a meeting of a development group at which
the Key Purpose of the waste disposal / management industry was the topic

[more jargon: Key Purpose- its like a 'mission' a bit ,except its for an
occupation in the case of NVQs (although it could be for a company also),
it's like a raison d'etre, maybe, but its very operational, not

I've been involved in the past in the development of National Vocational
Qualifications in a number of ways in my work at the The Local Government
Management Board, because we have represented local authorities to ensure
that our sectoral views are heard, including inputs on values/professional
issues, using standards of competence in improvement initiatives in
organisations etcetera, as well as straightforward qualifications
development related stuff.-----------------------------------

so my example is very similar to the 'organisations exist to make a profit
idea'. And it's interesting that ALL groups got 'all philosophical' when
looking at key purpose, and the consultants ALWAYS had to refocus them on
operational concerns, like what they actually do. BTW, my take on this is
that if you think its just a paper exercise, you can afford to get 'all
philosophical' , then its back to business as usual. Most people have a
'vision gap' -between vision and reality of practice- that you could herd
a very big herd of buffalo through.

So to my point: most people companies will behave ASIF profit is the
purpose, they will tend to see vision as irrelevant, and yet they will
tell you that vision is very important, if asked [what psycologists call
demand characteristics]

mike said:
>> But I maintain that they don't exist *to* make profits even
>> though they must.

And because they must they get trapped by the 'profit motive' [which is an
attractor BTW]

So I would now disagree with my self in my story, in order to acknowledge
at least the potential for a more noble goal in the waste industry, even
in the poor little flytippers, who are struggling to make a buck. But try
telling their shareholders/board/bankers that they exist for any other
reason than profit- we measure success of companies against money
criteria, not environment criteria.

[not at the moment anyway; the new economics foundation in the UK and
other similar organisations in the US are working on it..., carbon tax
ideas, total environmental costings including habitat damage from
materials extraction to be included in 'energy efficiency' ratings,
etcetera, etcetera ]

So I guess I'm saying yes and no to you ben : "Organizations don't live to
make money. They live to imagine and create new things. It just so happens
if they didn't make money, they couldn't imagine and create. " AND
because of this they get locked into the profit attractor, because it has
a stranglehold on the way we run/legislate/organise/conceptualise our
meeting of our needs in our societies..

I suspect Mike McMaster would agree with at least some of this and is
working on some of it: any tips for me [and ben] on how to get it across
to battle scarred cynics in organisations, Mike ?

[also see my next message focussing on the reaction ben got from his
management training group...]


from Arthur Battram, organiser of the LGMB project 'Tools for Learning': helping local authorities to apply complexity concepts to personal and organisational learning. apb@cityplex.demon.co.uk "complexity is in here... and simplicity is out there...if we want it to be..."

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