Lighthouse at night, (c) 2009 Martin Belam. Via flickr. (CC BY SA 2.0)

Ian Macdonald on Values and the Shadow-side of Requisite Organization (Conference Report)

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Ian Macdonald, of Macdonald Associates Consultancy, opens the day with a short plenary on “Positive Oranizations: Discipline not Dogma”. Reflecting on the practitioner and the practice. Why he does it.

What drew him to Elliott Jaques’s work was the underlying values, like Felt-Fairness, what’s social justice, non-paranoiagenic organizations. It was about building social institutions.

Second, the method of social analysis. Waiting for people to invite you to discuss what they could do, wanted to do. He likes it because it is founded on uncertainty. It’s like the psychoanalytical method. You don’t know where you are going to end up with a client.

Macdonald talked about using social analysis in work with the health services in the UK. He just told them that he was there, and that they could talk to him if they wanted to. An invitation, not an order from on high.

“The production of knowledge is a social process; it is rarely if ever the product of one mind.”

We have to be careful not to end up in the situation where we are seen as celebrating what he calls “negative dogma”. These complaints (in his preso: see the website) come from what we do.

For example, at MAC, they never use language as power, as in referring to folks as “Level 1s, Level 2s, Level 3s”, etc. People are often not involved in the dialogue and experience it as just work to implement the model, rather than work to accomplish a greater social good.

In the Collaborative Process, you have to collaborate, not act like you are the ones who know what is best for them. It is collaboration, for him working along side the CEO or executive team.

The Values Continua (which is in his chapter in the new GO Society book), use of mythologies (also in his chapter), definitions of culture.

Systems of differentiation and systems of equalization. Equalization show that we are the same, that we are all part of the same community. Systms of community. Systems of differentiation recognize how different we are from each other.

All systems of differentiation must be linked back to the work being done or they will be seen on the negative side of the values continua.

You can either combine or break up the community, moving from one side to another. Very important because it is so dangerous.

He pointed out that Levels of Work and Human Capability are core systems of differentiation. It can lead to the confusion between “my human worth and the worth of my work.” People deserve respect no matter who they are.

He closed with Tony Dunlop’s (?) model of consulting models:

  • Mercenary: doing it for the money
  • Mechanic: doing it because you love the stuff itself
  • Missionary

Don’t confuse it with belief systems, or get into religious discussions about “that Jaques stuff”. Don’t confuse the Jaques model with your belief system. Which is why the use of terms like “acolyte” or “disciple” are inappropriate.

(As he ended, the crowd actually gave him a standing ovation. Obviously, the ideas and values that he is talking about resonate with the group here.)

Personal note: I’ve read three of the chapters from the Macdonald, Burke and Stewart’s book, Systems Leadership, and got a good does of the values and mythologies that he is talking about here. You really should check this out. These folks really get the shadowside of Requisite Organization, or perhaps better said the shadowside of RO practitioners.

Image Credit: Lighthouse at night. © 2009 Martin Belam (CC BY-SA 2.0). Via flickr.

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

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