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Organisations and the New Science – online workshop report

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Report from the Online Workshop held on 12 January 2000 on 'Organisations and the New Science' led by Penny Sharland of the Framework consultancy network:


Hi to everyone at this online workshop on organisations and the new science. You may want to discuss a whole range of issues including what the new science is, why its interesting and importnaand imporattant or why it might hold us upin our work with organisations. Where shall we start? Hi Barry!
Hello Penny
Hi again how are you before we get started?
Hello Penny
Good afternoon
Hello Andrea
Looks like Penny is having tech problems?
Hi Andrea. Where do you want to start?
Yes I am having a few glitches here - I've brought my iMAC to where I'm working - I hope it works now!
Yup
Hi Penny - I'm not sure. This is the first time I've joined a workshop.
Hi James.
Hello. What's the program?
Yes its my first time running one Andrea!
Hello
James I thought we might start by asking from which point you want to start - by asking either why science is important and interesting or what the 'new science is?
Hi Sue. Welcome to the workshop on organisations and the new scince!
ty Penny
Hi Lesley
OK. I'm all ears, I mean eyes
Hi
Have any of you looked at quantum theory in relation to organisations or shall I write a bit about it first?
does anyone have a starter definition for 'new science'?
please do penny
Ok Penny, explain please
I think it would be useful if you wrote a bit first, please penny
It was very fashionable to look at how we organise at work as if we were in managable sepearate parts all working almost indepent of each other. Get each element working well and the 'system' would work perfectly.
by the way.....where is everyone from? I am a consultant for Coverdale
freelance information and management consultant - mainly vol sector
I work for Royal Mail (Management Consultant - Performance Management
ty...
I'm a freelance trainer and also design and produce training packages
We managed our work by planning and expecting our plans to work as exactly as we had predicted. You will know about how to write five year plans, break down the lemments needed to further each 'objective' and then evaltae it all. Do five year plans work?
We have a process called Performance Management and unit planning, which does the same thing, linking unit plans to business objective and then measuring and monitoring regularly, that's what I do
When things don't work we work even harder to control what is happening or lose interest when other factors complicate the picture.
in my experience most people's five year plans are filed away somewhere while they're kept busy dealing with the unexpected.
The problem seems to be that organisations get too big to manage in one 'chunk' so we end up sub dividing into Departments This creates another set of problems, managing the relationships between the units
Five year plans have to be coordinated, but they often end up as a compromise
the process Royal Mail uses, keeps the plans alive through ongoing monitoring and development, including monthly appraisal of achievements
We continually search for ways to objectify and rationalise what is happening to us and in reality we rarely work from a world view that originates
Penny.....is this about systems thinking......?
in a scientific paradigm.
What new science has found however is that science either at its largest or smallest doesn;t actyually work like this either! The quantum for example is a small element of matter or light that operates very flexibly and responsively in reality!
But in fact in the new science at the largest (global" and smallest ends of the science particles don't operate like this either. The quantum is a tiny element that acts flexibly and depemdent on its circumstances . This has excited scientists since the 20s'
Ok...
and the 'new science' of organisations might explain organisational behaviour in context?
So organisational theorists have been using a scientific paradigm that isn't actually true for these small particles or for large states - have yu heard the one about the butterfly flapping its wings in tokyo and affecting a tornaorndo in Colorado?
yes
Yes Bary I think that's right.
This is similar to the thinking surrounding 'uinintended consequences' in systemic thinking
yes it is...
I'm interested in this simply becuse the Newtonian model just repeatedly doesn't work for organisations in reality. Do any of you find this?
Yes because unless one looks at the whole, the change made in one department puts pressure on another......
and in the sense that strategic planning cannot account for micro effects in (for example) individual relationships
Yes I think the word unintended gives away one of the big problems with the Newtonian model. That certain things are expected and others aren't. When the other thing happens we are surprised because it is beyond our knowledge etc. In this way we limit what could happen.
A recent example would be where impleminting a large information system nearly failed because the two data clerks couldn't work together
Yes Barry to micro effects but what quantum theory suggests is that large effects are missed/can't be coped with/ shut down and this leads to prproblems/
(some unintended spelling here!)
Its...ok ...it is still understandable
Yes again. The two data clerks are absolutely part of the whole quantum 'field' and will impact on the 'whole'.
examples of large effects?
So... if you add to this "you can never do just one thing, because there are always side effects - how do we manage this?
Field theory is intersting because it suggests that organisations will fare best when they pay attention to every aspect of their field that includes everyone and dare I say their history and their future. This is where it gets a bit wacky!
Would you say this could be easier the smaller the organisation is?
Large effects might be the decision to site a project un a particular town because the director has been influenced by aspects of their field that they hadn't acknoweldged on not baesed on sound judgements that are out in the open.
ok
in this example it is the influence of the individual that determines whether their judgement has a large or small effect?
Not necessarily. It may be an inaminate part of our field too - eg. uniforms.
expand?
Work done on the nursing profession in the 60s and 70s suggested that the profession developed a very strict system including starched uniforms in order to defend psychologically against the awfulness of death and disease faced every day.
like 'drill' inthe armed services...
Nurses themselves experienced a state of anxiety by not being to relate to their patients, without seeing that this went beyond people right into the CULTURE of the whole profession.
so the uniforms acted as a barrier in the wrong sense?
Hi everyone - I'll lurk whilst picking up some threads, if that's okay.
So its not just down to individuals to get over the difficulties they might experience but it is the whole 'field' that we need to be aware of to make change.
Hi Mike.
Hello Mike
hi
Hello Mike
Join the lurkers.......thats what I am doing
Newton's physics transmuted the living cosmos of Greek and medieval times into a dead clockwork machine - things moved because they were fixed and determined, cold silence pervaded the once teamoing heavens. Danah Zohar quote from her book on this subject.
an unintended consequence of trying to solve the psychology of nursing was to distance nurses from patients?
Yes indeed Barry. They are known as social defense mechanisms
Didn't Newton say womething about `standing on the shoulders of giants'. Isn't that what we are doing today, standing on his sholders. Only we now beliee they were the wrong sholders to start with.
What's interesting about the new science including chaos theory is that it is showing us in organisations a way to get away from the machine like apporach. But Sue you asked how we manage it all. This is the crucial question if its all so interlinked even across the universe!
Interestingly the East never took to Newton or his ideas. They still accept the mysteries of the universe in a way the West has (until Diana's death perhaps) rejected.
Sue, I don't think we should use the word `manage' in the sense that it has been used in organisations for the past 200 years. We should enable conditions
if manage='control' or 'make predictable' then it doesn't work here...
...but that's the paradigm most managers I come across are into
I think its more about working with the unpredictable and accepting it rather than controlling it
I agree, Barry. That's beacuse they got where they are today by learning control and the exercise of power. And Sue's thoughts are spot on.
There's a lot of energy to be released by stopping attempts to control the unpredictable!
I agree. Commentators on this prefer 'gaining awareness', 'establishing intentions' enabling etc.
hmm...so the managers of the future perhaps need to be rewarded for others skills rather than control...
Absolutley.
that should have said other...
Rather than spending lots of time and energy on detailed plans it seems to make sense to think about overall intentions and direction then to make a single move and watch how that change affects the whole field. Then take the next step.
A key skill in this is assessing risk
Penny, Dee Hock calls this purpose after which all other things follow.
Yes Sue. If managers were not forced tinto positions where they have to control but could enable single steps to be taken and encourage organisations to identify the changes those steps make then we would need to relaern management.
A lot depends on trust
Thanks Mike. I've not read Dee Hock. After our session I can send you some refs that might lead you down interesting paths.
certainly does.....Barry
Control often flows from lack of trust within organisations
where does this fit in with quality management systems which seem to lead to people wanting to control the work environment?
Yes Barry. Trust is crucial. The whole way of working is against control and based on mutually agreed intentions and gaining awareness.
Thanks for the offer, Penny. Please do that - I have been interested in this stuff for about 3 years now and have re-read Margaret Wheatly (new edition)
Penny, what about emotions? and their link within the system?
QM is often about giving people the influence they need to improve their work
thats an interesting point Barry
When I worked as an inspector, I was more a thorn inthe side of management than a lacky!
As the quantum nature of organisations is better understood and the paradigm expands certain ways of working will fly in the face of the change and I think quality control is part of a sort of despearte backlash that says - no more and more control - don't let go!
there is a difference between quality control and QM
Emotions are important...because whether we acknowledgement them or not...they are there.....I think that in acknowledging the emotional domain with others...it helps build trust
Lesley - yes emotions become very crucial in all this, both negative ones eg fear and psotivie ones eg joy. If we can really tap into people's joy at work then we have a huge amount of energy within the field'
Selling QM can also be an issue, particulalry as if already stated, that control structures make it wealdy
Penny, but where can we learn to harness emotions, in terms of chaos and dynamic complexity?
Comes down to people seeing the benefits for themselves - which links to the emotional side of the issue
Field theory suggests the existence of many invisble fields of different types of energy interwoven between us, and these structure and shape our behaviour.
One thing chos and complexity have taught me is that there are many, many lenses through which we can view organisations. One way we could address the quality issue is to ask - who owns it. Cahoes sugegsts that ownership by a single entity is not possible and that multiple ownership results in dynamic and innovative processes.
Barry, this amounts to freedom, which sometimes is not possible due to other control mechanisms
I understand - but someone has the choices
Rather than harnessing emotions we need to see them as an integral part of our working lives. So find out how you all are before embarking on a major team meeting. But don't judge emotions as either good or bad. Just learn about themm and make them a legitiamte part of enquiry.
Mike - if ownership results in innovative processes again how do we harness this for the benefit of the whole?
Good question Lesley. My guess is that it comes back to the question of purpose. Why are we doing thisin the first place?
I see what you mean
And values? why is this a good thing to be doing?
Agreed
Well that's our time almost up. One hour to re-address the universe. I can send a paper to you all if you are interested to follow it further.
yes please
Yes please Penny
so the new definition of management is about guiding the purpose and values of the organisation...
Yes please Penny
yes please
not so new then....
guess not
Yes, Thanks
Barry I really like that. Take stock of your universe and not just the bits you can control! Great stuff.
Thanks Penny
perhaps the universe is addressing us?????
Keep in touch and we may do another workshop on a similar theme soon. Thanks for all your contributions.
Thank you penny
Thanks Penny
Thanks Penny - I enjoyed the discussion
I think you might be right there Mike!
reference on trust in organisations - read Larry reynold's book!
Thanks Penny and to everyone else. Sorry I was late
Thanks to all for the stimulating discussion
Anyone interested in systems thinking.....which I think is what some of the discussion referred to....Senge 'The fifth Disciplne'
penny - do you need email addresses - or does this do it automatically?
I think Training zone will have a copy of what you typed in at the start. If you don't hear from me in the next week email me penny@framework.org.uk
Ta very much
Yes if you highlight the names on the right it brings up the emails.
Penny...is there a discussion on here every week?
whoops...too late
The schedule is on the Workshop page - every Tuesday usually
ty Barry
Nice 'meeting you' - I am interested in systems thinmking - perhaps we'll get the chance to do this again!
Indeed...have you been to many of these discussions?
No - this is my first!
Yours too?
Me too....I am familiar with online chat....but its the first proper hosted discussion
I thought it went pretty well
Time to go, sadly, Bye Sue
Bye Barry....nice talking to you

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