In order, let’s go over what I think are the truths of Requisite Organization. Some of this comes from a result of reading Solaas’s article (see my other posts for a link) and some from fighting through my own questions.
And, yes, I know that TSD is validated and I already have the Craddock bibliography. That wasn’t quite my question but I admit that I’m not sure what I’m looking for. Probably controlled tests. Maybe I’ll design a few and see if anyone’s done them.
In order, my understanding of Elliott Jaques’s theory of Requisite Organization:
- RO describes how humans naturally want to order themselves in hierarchies. People want a boss to see out farther than he does but this difference is discontinuous, i.e., your boss’s time horizon has to be at the next quantum state for time horizons above your own for you to recognize him as being your boss. RO is the result of discovering this empirically and describes what appears to be a naturally occuring phenomena in human organizations across cultures.
- This is kind of but not quite like saying that my boss can’t just be a little better than me.
- Not every grouping of humans is a hierarchy or should be a hierarchy. RO only describes management accountability hierarchies. It does not describe the natural relationships within families, professional societies, or board rooms.
- You recognize your boss by intuitively knowing that he can see farther into the future than you can, and that this difference is enough to put him into this next quantum state for time horizons, which RO calls Strata.
- The time span of discretion of a job is about how far into the future are you responsible for a result that you are working towards today.
- This is problematical for technical expertise. Is the PhD chemical engineer in R&D who doesn’t want to manage anyone (or at least not more than a very small group of other PhD engineers not as advanced as he) supposed to be at the bottom of the management hierarchy? It would depend on the result that he is being held to, how far into the future that result is.
- All of this has to be understood in terms of accountability and responsibility.
- In IT, my experience (and reading of others’ experiences) has been that no one ultimately owns the long-term results of a system developed in-house for a particular purpose. This is stupid but often true. Which explains why no one knows how to measure anything.
- RO must be understood from the idea that humans are goal oriented creatures.
- RO is not a goal but a description of how management accountability hierarchies naturally form. So it must describe an emergent function of humans gathering together to accomplish a goal.
- Manager-Subordinate relationships that more closely resemble this natural alignment are more trust-full.
- Non-natural organizational arrangements (rationalized management layers, per Taylorism) produce distrust.
- The person must be able to fulfill the requirements of the role. Otherwise he cannot meet the goals for which he is accountable.
- To be adequate for a role, you must have the appropriate knowledge and skills; value the work that the role requires; and have a personal time-horizon that corresponds to the strata of the role’s longest-out goal.
- If you don’t value the work being done, it doesn’t matter whether or not you have the time horizon necessary since you won’t do it anyway. If the technical expert doesn’t value managing, don’t give him the job.
- These values may be innate, or at least set early in life. Ergo, you probably can’t do anything to change them.
- If you don’t have the knowledge and skills to do the work, you can be trained in them. It is probably better, given the choice between someone with the knowledge and skills but not the time horizon and someone without the knowledge but has the time horizon, to pick the latter. You can always teach knowledge and skills but you can’t teach time horizon.
- These relationships between boss and subordinate change as each grows.
- The boss or the subordinate may outgrow the job; i.e, he is time horizon matches the role above him. This leads to problems: if the boss and the subordinate are suddenly at the same level (sub grows up a stratum), the sub will not recognize the boss as his “true boss”. If the boss grows up a stratum, he may become bored in his job or not communicate adequately with the subordinate.
- Jaques later discovered that Complexity of Information Processing (CIP) corresponded with Level of Work stratum, but this is a different matter.
Is that right?
Image Credit: Employees at Mid-Continent Refinery [ca. 1943 Tulsa, OK]. Photograph by John Vachon. Via Library of Congress collection. ]