Information access and flow LO11497

Michael McMaster (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 09:53:21 +0000

Replying to LO11448 --

Rol uses the "H" word and I must respond. ("H" is for hierarchy)

I agree with his statement that "providing information that allows
(causes?) people to function effectively is another matter". I'm not sure
about a "filtering mechanism" but certainly some kind of basis for order
or selection can be provided. And, as he says, "In the absence of a
hierarchy, you need new mechanisms."

Rol says that when the direction was "manage the business" this freedom
failed but tried in a factory it worked. What was the difference? He
says there was more complexity in the former. There was more ambiguity
but not necessarily more complexity. A factory (ie production process) is
usually engineered and has structures that provide selection criteria so
that independent action is constantly shaped in quite direct ways.

If the intention was cross-functional and teams, then something was
missing to make that happen - and to have it make sense. What may have
been missing was that the process was too short. If the challenges are
difficult and complex then generally makes sense to have a large number of
small teams working on them. But it also makes sense for there to be
breaks where the teams get together and share information and then return
to their independent pursuit of solutions.

> What we learned is that there is a role for hierarchy, and it is to tell
> people what common standards, the common priorities and the common
> directions.

Did you "learn" this or did you conclude it? I did not learn that
"hierarchy is necessary" from your story. Only that this experiment
didn't work. It seemed to me that the experiment was insufficiently
thought through to expect it to work - beyond being a part of a discovery

While there are many alternative interpretations and proposals from your
story, try this one. There is still no need for hierarchy. But there is
a need for a specialised role(s) which is the one that doesn many of the
things you say. But this is no more hierarchy than the welders also have
specialised roles.

If the ones who have this role do a good job of developing standards,
priorities and direction then they will become "common" without the
authority of hierarchy. What information will be looked at might come
from customers, users or stakeholders - probably more effectively than
from a hierarchy.

As Rol says, "There are no simple answers." Nor single answers.
Hierarchy is can be one but isn't necessarily one. In my efforts, I
substitute design for hierarchy.

Michael McMaster :
"I don't give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity 
but I'd die for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." 
            attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes 

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