Belgian royal conservatory's dome, interior with sun. (c) E. Forrest Christian

On Elliott Jaques’s Detractors

Forrest Christianrequisite organization, Theory 27 Comments

UPDATED 2013 August: I was going to talk about this and realized that this needed a lot of cleaning up. I’m not sure this represents my current thinking but it’s still a pretty good summary of my understanding of things back then.

I have been reading some of the detractors of Elliott Jaques and his Stratified Systems Theory (SST) of Requisite Organizations. Many of them are proponents of Learning Organizations, the organizational systems theory of popularized by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline and The Dance of Change. I have to ask the question: has any of them ever actually read Elliott Jaques’s books? And why do proponents of Learning Organizations believe that Jaques writes so much hooey when Peter Senge himself calls his work a landmark and Art Kleiner (co-author of The Fifth Disciple Fieldbook) even wrote an article in strategy+business about Jaques.

I will be the first to admit that Jaques’s work is thick and difficult to plow through. There is no easy way into the SST, no popularization, no easy in. I ended up plowing through Executive Leadership, re-reading portions a few times. But that is no excuse for people who are supposed to help us organize our companies for success.

A good example of the nonsense comes from Amazon’s customer reviews. Bill Wilson wrote:

This all sounds great. Unfortunately, effectively managing cross-functional workflow in a requisite organization is extremely difficult and time-consuming. Since the attention of most people is on local optimization, and very few managers are up to the task of maintaining a global focus, functional-area hierarchies end up optimizing their local processes at the expense of global performance. Also, since this organization IS so enduring, it is extremely difficult to effect positive changes.

There are some interesting ideas in this book. However, the ultimate product is usually going to be an organization that self-reinforces suboptimal behavior. If you want a self-perpetuating organization rife with finger-pointing, political in-fighting, and deadlocked workflow… implement a requisite organization.

There is little I like worse than people saying that white is gray. And this reviewer does a good job of it. I have to wonder if he read Jaques or simply failed to understand him.

I might as well start popularizing Jaques’s theories so here’s a summary.

Elliott Jaques’s last name is pronounced “jacks”
And it’s spelled without a “c”. He comes from the UK Canada and spent time in the UK, and they are different over there. He was a psychoanalyst who grew into organizations.
Jaques wanted to eliminate suffering and psychological disorders.

He believed that bad organizations produced suffering. Since we spend most of our lives (in the West) in hierarchical organizations, they should help not hurt us.
Eliminating hierarchies is probably impossible
Hierarchies have been around since the dawn of civilization. [But not since homo sapiens appeared, because we weren’t hierarchical back then, unlike the other primates.] Anyone who wants to eliminate them will simply introduce a shadow organization with a hierarchy. If left to their own devices, humans will organize in hierarchies.
Jaques believes that people have different capabilities.
A part of this difference stems from how far into the future they can think, or how far into the future they can work without seeing the results of their work. This is referred to by Elliott Jaques as Time Span of Discretion (TSD) but a better term may be “time horizon”. [It’s not: it means something different.] I’ll be using “time horizon” because it doesn’t have to be capitalized.
Different jobs have different time horizons.
Elliott Jaques calls this the position’s Level of Work (LoW).
Time horizons Time Spans of Discretion (TSDs) correlate with complexity.
People with longer time horizons can keep more variables in their heads.
He believed that the time horizons quantum jumps rather than a smooth line.
TSDs were discontinuous [and at certain time points they broke into a new level]. They broke in the same places across cultures and nations. There seemed to be an evolutionary development, where time horizons broke into strata.
What’s felt as fair pay correlates with the job’s Timespan
The amount of money that you felt was fair for the work required of your position correlated with the time horizon of the job. Elliott Jaques called this Felt-Fair Pay and it has become a cornerstone of job pricing. The correlation is so strong that Kenneth Craddock, the author of the incredibly detailed bibliography on works by or related to Jaques the Glacier Management Method, Stratified Systems or Requisite Organization Theory said

But (Please!), those doing research on this theory do not need to replicate the time-span of discretion to felt-fair pay (TSD:FFP) correlation again. It has been done more than five times. This average on this correlation is +0.89. Q.E.D. Enough already!

A person’s time horizon should match that of the position he held.
A person who had a longer time horizon than his job would get bored. (I currently believe that you will also produce work that is not what your boss wants, since you will be looking out too far, perhaps even farther than your boss.) If you have a time horizon that is shorter than your job’s, you will not be able to succeed in that position even if you have succeeded in the past. You will micro-manage your subordinates and, in the long run, shrink the position down to something that fits within your time horizon.
Being in jobs with a time horizon that doesn’t your own produces suffering and illness.
Elliott Jaques believed that people are happiest when they are using their abilities to their fullest and can succeed in their work. Saying that everyone should want to “batter themselves” is arrogance on the part of people with longer time horizons.
A person’s time horizon increases at different rates for different people.
The difference between two people whose rates differ will be greater at sixty than at 20.
Personal time horizon is not a respecter of person but innate.
The time horizon of one’s mind at work does not correlate with education or race or socio-economic status. One of Jaques’s peeves was that society has been both missing out on potential and producing suffering by not allowing people of out-groups to fill positions that matched their time horizons.
Time horizon is only a part of the equation for success at a job.
You must also (1) want to do the job and (2) have the skills and knowledge necessary to do it. However, skills and knowledge can be gained through learning. Time horizon cannot, nor can the desire to do a job.
Just because a job is not a management job does not mean that it has a short time horizon.
Technical experts with long time horizons (think commodities traders or aeronautical engineers or designers or programmers) will have the same felt-fair pay issues of managers in jobs with matching time horizons and should be paid accordingly.
Jaques broke these quantum jumps into strata.
(I’ll fill in the strata breaks when Bob gives me back my Jaques collection.) [But I never did. Sorry.]
A “real boss” will be able to do work int the worklevel above you.
He must be one strata above you or you will not believe that he is your “true boss”. Your boss being within your strata, even with a slightly longer time horizon, will cause you nothing but misery.
When you jump from one strata to another, you change the way that you think.
This is a natural progression: you cannot make yourself jump to the next strata by “learning” to think differently, since it has to do with the amount of complexity that you can hold in your head. There are four meta-strata, which Jaques and Cason refer to as orders of mental complexity:

  • Universal, thinking about whole societies or worlds. This is the highest order of mental complexity and is only present in a very few. Great artists probably have this, as do big social thinkers. Think of concepts of concepts. I’m not sure I grok this order, but I reckon that it is like “squaring the cube” to get four dimensions.
  • Conceptual Abstract, using words to refer word, ideas to refer to ideas. The concept level is pretty high.
  • Classes, "using words as symbols to refer to concrete objects which are not present in the environment". (Brause 2000)
  • Specifics, where you think about concrete things
  • Specifics Explanatory Gesture, a simple mental complexity that most adults outgrow in childhood.
Each order is made up of four strata.
You progress through these four for each order of mental complexity:

  1. Declarative, where simply make assertions: “This is that”. You make a series of unrelated assertions to support your position: A,B,C, position.
  2. Cumulative Processing, where you make a set of related assertions, a series of "and" connections, all cumulating to support your position.
    A + B + C = position.
  3. Serial processing where you put together supports in your argument by saying A → B → C → my point. Linear arguments of cause-and-effect.
  4. Parallel processing, where you use interlinked serial arguments to support your position.
You can tell what strata someone is in by listening to how they talk about something that they care about.
This is how Alison Brause did her analysis of presidential elections and showed that the nominee with the most complexity won. Except in Bush v. Gore, where they were both equal.

Now I would like to add my own conclusions and speculations from reading Jaques in context of the Learning Organization writers (I don’t see a problem) and others.

Elliott Jaques wasn’t a management writer.
Jaques’s work does not have any ties with other management writers because he was, at heart, not a management writer. He was a psychiatrist (psychoanalytical) and has many ties with other psychological and psychiatric researchers. For example, Human Capability: A Study of Individual Potential and Its Application shows how Jaques and Cason’s model of strata of mental complexity matches Piaget’s findings of development in childhood. I do agree that this lack of ties to others’ works needs rectifying.
Mental complexity has very little to do with what we measure on intelligence tests.
Al Gore is a smart guy. He is not a very complex mind. Smart, but not complex. Most of us would assume that they went together, but they do not. You can measure what Americans call "smart" by IQ tests. "Smart" can be improved by education and training. Complexity appears to be an innate process that is not affected by education or experience. You may have a person with a longer time horizon (higher Level of Capability) who lacks the education to perform the job. Jaques believes that IQ or "smart" is mostly socially determined. Out-groups, such as African-Americans, can be called "not smart" because they lack the education to perform intelligence tests. "Complexity" cannot be gained through education. You can make it more useful but you can’t improve it. Nor can you speed up the jump from one strata to another. If companies could, they would; they can’t, so they don’t.
I had a hard time with this initially since I thought it made no sense.
[Of course, there’s also my original post after finding out about Elliot Jaques’s theories.] A key for me was a statement James Watson, one of the discoverers of DNA. In The Double Helix, he makes a statement to the effect that most scientists aren’t very smart. He obviously does not mean “smart” as I used it above. He means that they lack complexity. Very few scientists could see what he thought was obvious: that DNA was the “it”. Smart and complexity can go together but don’t have to. Al Gore is smart but he is not very interesting because he isn’t very complex. George Bush, Jr. is smart but he is not very interesting, either, for the same reason. Now that I hang out with professors on a regular basis (L has a PhD and taught at a couple before “retiring”), I can honestly say that there is a difference between smart and complex.
Bad job fit leads to social problems
I believe that putting people into positions in organizations where their time horizon does not match that of their jobs is a major cause of learned helplessness in society, and thereby depression.
Requisite Organization works in the New Economy
I have read that Jaques’s theories fall apart with activities of the new economy like programming. Obviously, these were written before the dotcom bust when twenty-somethings were running companies that had a paper value of hundreds of millions. Reality has returned and corrections made. As a worked in the new economy since 1994 (I wrote my first commercial ecommerce website in late 1994, before Netscape or Internet Explorer), I have not seen any evidence that the time horizon strata no longer hold. Indeed, most of what I have seen simply shows that most Organizational Design and HR staff have absolutely no idea what developers do. They therefore cannot put together the time horizons for their work. I believe that this is simply a problem of them catching up with us. Programmers create hierarchies in the form of pecking orders faster than hens do. I don’t know if I have ever worked in an environment elsewhere that had anywhere near the stratification and each of us knew exactly where everyone else sat in the pecking order. One of the great injustices is in the poor pay of many developers who must have long time horizons to do their jobs properly.
Jaques’s theories do not tell you how to behave within any organization
Even Requisite ones organized according to his ideas. It deals with structure and says that if you require a 2-year person to try to complete a 5-year task, you are setting that person up for not only misery but failure.
Most of the people who have a beef about Jaques have not read his work.
The others mischaracterize it. Of course, Jaques was not a great writer and makes it hard to understand what he is saying. But no more than reading the latest perl books. I will admit that some of the criticisms are justified and Jaques’s work has holes. Most critics don’t seem to get to them. I think that they are just mad because if they believed the results of his work, they would have to give up a lot of what they do for a living.

That’s my look at Jaques tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll summarize the meaning of life and end by creating it myself in a jar on my kitchen counter.

Belgian royal conservatory’s dome, interior with sun. © E. Forrest Christian

Comments 27

  1. I’m not entirely convinced that complex thought can’t be learned.

    I suck at most games because of my lack of complexity. But I wonder if I had some more tutelage and practice whether that would be the case.

    Kids who are taught chess seem to do better in other things as well. Gates and Buffet play bridge together.

    Can’t the mind learn disciplines? Can’t appropriate learning education give a kid a strata level boost?

    Doesn’t simple knowledge sometimes branch out your ways of thinking? Taking a class in economics is most folks first time to start peering around at the world in terms of costs and benefits.

    I’ll readily admit my ignorance of these subjects. But at the same time I’d rather not wade through a bunch of psychology and management texts. My momma told me “use your resources” so, enlighten me mac. What do the academics say?

  2. Post

    I hadn’t heard that kids who are taught chess do other things better. I do know that children who have music classes do better at arithmetic. With chess, I would imagine that it teaches a thinking skill. Education does the same thing. But it does not make them more complex thinkers.

    I wonder if a simple test wouldn’t be worth doing. I don’t know of any research that tested Jaques’s theories in children, although he makes a link to Piaget’s developmental model explicit in Human Capability. I think that most of the problem is that we teach children so few thinking skills that when they get some, it changes their performance. The unfortunate truth is that even today, way too many kids are “tracked” based on their ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Teaching them thinking skills helps those whom the system has discarded because it makes clear to them that they have thinking abilities. At least, this is my guess. Jaques’s theories may not make sense with kids. There haven’t been any studies.

    Remember that just because you have the mental complexity equal to the time horizon of the position, that doesn’t mean that you can do the job. You also must possess the desire to do it and the knowledge/skills necessary. I certainly have the complexity to be a programmer: I just lack the desire to even bother getting the knowledge/skills that are necessary to do the job. I won’t be good at it, regardless of my complexity, unless I value it. I value interacting with humans more than being alone, so I make a lousy programmer. If I were in solitary confinement, I could only keep my sanity by inventing conversations with imaginary friends, which people regularly accuse me of holding anyway, as I talk so much that others often don’t get a word in (as you well know!). This theory does not mean that you can do any job that you have the complexity for. There are issues of political clout (emotional intelligence?) and expertise that Jaques does not really ever address.

    So, yes, learning a new discipline does expand your knowledge. But it won’t help you make connections. You may learn a different way of thinking, but you can’t learn a way of thinking more complexly (as defined by Jaques). There is definitely a difference between knowledge and mental complexity. You may remember people in college who knew more than you did (since they went to expensive private schools and you went to one of Houston’s ISDs) but who were not able to understand things that you got immediately.

  3. I was conflicted when I saw the movie GATTACA and this discussion hasn’t helped.

    The hero did not have the genetics for the complexity necessary to do the job that he had the desire, knowledge and skills for. The movie ends as he achieves the job. The producers tout this as a triumph of the human spirit. I didn’t entirely buy it. Seems to come from the same ideology that thinks psychopaths just need a hug.

    The Jaques sequel would no doubt show him floundering and miserable trying to actually do the job. Or maybe his adeptness at subterfuge and manipulation would hold him in place, just as it seems to for many executives. To me that seems a miserable existence always on the edge of exposure, but that’s probably why I’m not an exec.

  4. As I read this, my thought was, “maybe I’m not complex enough to understand all this!” 😉 only half joking. A lot of times, I feel like there is a great “truth” floating in my head, just beyond the grasp of my conciousness, so maybe I am just coming to grips with who I am.

    Anyway, again, we’re discussing a model; an imprecise instrument. You’ve already identified some areas where the model doesn’t fit as well as some where it does. Gut feel, primarily on experience managing organizations, is that Dr. Jacques has got a pretty good handle on reality. I can think of plenty of people who are really bored at what they do, so they either make life interesting by creating organizational problems or they are constantly looking for something new. I can also think of plenty of people who are clearly in over their head and have to BS their way through each day. Some of them actually think they are good/effective managers because they survive. Jacques appears to explain both to some degree.

    However, I agree with jmmj, there must be other factors involved. Education & experience clearly changes ability to deal with complexity. At the conclusion of college, I was a more complex thinker than I was at the conclusion of high school. Today, I’m a more complex thinker than I was at the conclusion of college. Don’t know many people who aren’t; so there’s gotta be a link in there somewhere. I’ll try reading some of this guy’s stuff.

    Thanks for introducing me to Requisite Orgs.

  5. Post

    Jaques talks about, in Human Capability, that people increase in complexity as they age according to clearly defined arcs. I’m not sure that he is accurate, but I am beginning to believe that education will not make me more complex. You were more complex after university because you grew: the Army had already started filtering candidates, and you were looked at extremely closely. I’m taking for granted that your dad didn’t have connections where you’d get in regardless. Of course, maybe he did: I still have that signed photo from the second shuttle crew.

    Anyway, that is a part of Jaques’s theories that gets him the most ostracized. But I’m not sure that there isn’t truth to it: you will be only as complex as you have within you to be. You can maximize what you have use, using all of it rather than just a little, and you can reduce it by psychological trauma like drug abuse or hatred. But I’m coming to understand that telling people that they can be something that they aren’t, instead of enjoying who they are, is just arrogance on my part.

    Similarly, I can only be what I am. I will never be someone with great sight or a stomach that works well or can do higher mathematics. Or even program a computer. I am who I am and some things I can only compensate for.

    One of the things that surprises Americans who live in Europe is how a man can be a waiter for his entire life and that’s OK. No one thinks less of him because he isn’t trying to “advance” himself. If he enjoys waiting tables, he provides a valuable service to the community and he can do it all his life, becoming better at handling customers and great at working the wine menu with you. All cool. Americans are scandalized, since we are taught from the very start to achieve, to do better, to compete on all levels.

    Jaques believed that everyone should be given the opportunity to succeed, to perform at their own personal fullest. Whether that was on the shop floor or the executive suite didn’t matter. A person put into a job beyond his complexity would fail and be miserable, creating a miserable organization.

    Not saying that he’s right, just pretty compelling evidence.

  6. Lets think about that; “education will not make me more complex.” Common perception is, that’s false. You’re paraphrasing Jacques’ thoughts as education and experience only develop complex thought at specified rates. So if I started out with a brain capable of highly complex thought, and I failed to get training or experience to develop it, I result in a stunted growth arc? And if I start out with a very non-complex brain, I won’t ever get beyond a certain point of complexity even if I get a great education and extensive experience. Have I now achieved RO Nirvana (understanding)? So, the bone to throw to the crowd who will call this racist or whatever-ist is that complexity does not, by itself, predict “success?”

  7. Post

    You’re close. Jaques said that you progress in increasing mental complexity (what People Fit [] renamed “Complexity of Information Processing) according set tracks. You progress along one of these tracks vey predictably in your life. Unless you damage your brain or have some really severe psychological issues, your complexity growth will be predictable across your lifetime and is never affected by education or training. So, yeah, your education will not make your progress quicker in complexity of information processing. You are going to go to the next level at an incredibly predictable age, according to the path or track that you innately are on. Genetic rather than nurture.

    However, the proper level of complexity is just the ante for the job. (Necessary but not sufficient condition.) You must also be interested in the work AND possess the knowledge and skill to do it. Education means that you will be able to take full advantage your level of complexity, whatever it is. Very complex Americans with no education are unlikely to feel fullfilled on the job. My grandfather, with his ninth-grade education, is a case in point.

    Jaques discovered that complexity did not correlate with race, which is why there are great leaders in every people group.

    I gotta send you a copy of Executive Leadership…

  8. Don’t send it. I’ll buy it and charge it to work. Gotta do professional reading to meet my goals anyway. . . . . Executive Leadership by Elliot Jacques, right?

  9. Going back to the social aspects of Dr. Jaques work…

    I’ve been been applying, and testing his theories for 10+ years, and offer some statistics:

    In a typical organization unfamiliar with Jaques work, we expect to find:
    35% of the people have capacity above or below their role. That is, they either are incapable of performing the role, or find themselves underutilized, bored, or frustrated.
    39% of the people have managers that are either too far ahead of them, or insufficiently ahead of them to provide effective leadership. This shows up as inability to create the context needed by the subordinate to effectively carry out his or her role.

    Although there is overlap, these two populations are not the same. Therefore the total number of people suffering “structural dysfunction” approaches 50 to 70% of the entire organization population.

    These numbers our based on data I have collected for 5,000 people. They are consistent with numbers observed by colleges in the same field based on an additional 20,000+ people.

    These mismatches tend to create a high level of frustration in the lives of the people mismatched. Think of the impact of 50 to 70% of the working population going home from work frustrated each day — if you’ve been commuting in traffic, you can experience the tip of the iceberg!

    Here is a closing point. We have a small but clear set of data that leads to the following, disturbing, conclusion:
    “If your manager is lower than he or she should be, then it is highly likely that your manager’s manager will judge you lower than you are.”

    Back to the opening point: fix the organizations and improve the overall quality of life in the society. To say nothing about the fact that productivity goes up (evidence is available of this) 25-50-100%.

  10. for gmehl:

    I’m a mid-level manager. My boss works out of the corporate office about 100 miles away. I just completed a plant turnaround and I’m getting bored. I look at my organization, and I see dysfunction from top to bottom. The CEO & COO are in over their heads and it took them about 3 years to even be able to tread water. They’ve finally got a solid core of GM’s right under them and that has made the difference. Sticking to my division, our GM is excellent on the sales side but relies on her VP Ops for operations. VP Ops has grown significantly, but with a few more years experience, I’ll be able to run circles around her. In the plant, I have one working beyond her potential, one working under but with PTSD (my own diagnosis), one working under, and one who’s just right.

    How do you fix that? My boss protects the one beyond because she’s been around for 35 years and has made good contributions to the company. The one with PTSD gets very frustrated, but because of her issues has difficulty resolving them. The other below potential is frustrated but stays for other reasons. The one that’s just right is a joy to work with and I hope she never leaves.

    To Summarize:

    CEO & COO – lack complexity
    GM – good fit
    VP Ops – lack complexity
    Plant MGR – too much complexity
    MGR1 – lack complexity
    MGR2 – too much complexity – PTSD
    MGR3 – too much complexity
    MGR4 – good fit

    So, do we fire everyone and start over? Do I quit and find a better organization? Incidentally, I hired the two too complex folks and I have to manage them differently. I constantly keep their plate very full with a wide range of projects to keep their minds active. I do that for myself as well.

    Going beyond the management side to hourly, what does a RO do for hourly employees? Your problem employees sometimes are in over their heads, but more frequently they’re bored. Again, we keep ’em busy, but do we throw seniority out the window and start moving people around?

    You’re either an academic or a consultant with your experience. I’m not looking for free advice, I just want a rough idea of how RO is applied in the real world to a real organization. Some facts are changed to obscure my identity in case the wrong person stumbles in here.

  11. To “name withheld”

    You have the beginning a first class analysis. Just a little more and some issues would be clear.

    A key point is that RO is not “it all” — we need to think in terms of strategy and structure. RO is the structural part. The right structure with no where to aim it gets us no ware.

    What you have done we call mapping the extant organization — how it actually works. Let’s take that as a beginning and go further. I’ll lead you step by step — it’s not difficult. Start by constructing a stratum chart of the roles (equally spaced horizontal lines about 1.5 ” apart will do, labeled from the bottom: 1 day, 3 months,1 year, 2 years, 5 years) this will give you the first four stratum:

    1) positioning the roles using time span and two cross checks on reasonableness.

    First does the description of the work in the role match the description of the work for that stratum.
    (see the second and third articles down “role complexity and level of work” and “time span” located at:

    Second, when you plot all roles lean back and see if you get “gut confirmation” does the picture match your perception of the “relative weight of the roles”?

    Don’t forget to add your role and your bosses role.

    When you are comfortable that the chart accurately represents the relative weight then go to step two.

    2) Map the people into the roles. Ask this question: could Susie, if she had the required knowledge and skills, and wanted to do the work, which of the roles do you think would best match her ability to make judgments. (there is some subtlety here that would take more development than appropriate here) Its not “can she do this job now.” Its does she have the capacity to deal with the complexity, balance the issues, make judgments, required at that level.

    Than mapping the people to the roles. Check reasonableness by judging whether the relative positioning of the people is reasonable. Do you see the people at the same level as capability of dealing with the same level of complexity. Fiddle with it till you are comfortable.

    3) Now analyze for problems.

    See “staffing” button, lower right on

    By not you will have a good handle on the org. strength and issues.

    4) Now your ready to go back to the strategy issue.
    Does your organization (the role boxes) match the needs of your mission?
    If not than its wither re-arrange the boxes or the people or a combination of both.
    From the data you have given I would predict that there is at least one extra layer in the organization causing compression. Its likely to be the VP operations, and you see the GM as the true manager of the plant manager.
    This is challenging to communicate in writing. If it doesn’t flow I would be happy to walk you through some of the tricky spots — drop me an email and we’ll get in touch (

  12. Sorry for the several typos above. manasclerk: The “preview” feartue doesn’t seem to be working for me.

  13. to gmehl

    I’ll work through your activities and get back with you. Thanks!

  14. Post

    gmehl raises some great points that I’ve not bothered to discuss before but should have, especially regarding the issues of structure vs. strategy. Take a look at his comments (/bloghost/manasclerk/archives/000511.html) at another post on this site.

    All of this stuff is tricky. I compare my comprehending what little I do about Jaques’s work to tying a bow tie: you work at it and work at it and then suddenly you have a knot. If you get the length right and the tie has been “prepped” for tying, you get a snazzy bow tie that you can retie at lunch to entertain your high school pals. Which neither J or JMMJ ever got to see. Poor bastards.

    Still, the ideas are worth fighting to get. It seems simple, and it certainly is, but it isn’t simplistic. As the length of answers shows. Of course, compared to some of the organizational change projects I’ve been through which lasted years and accomplished naught, this isn’t all that great of an outlay for lasting results.

    What surprises me is how managers in the right job for their personal strata seem to grasp this for their work right away. You can always throw out the results of Human Capability (the idea that people grow in complexity of information processing on tracks across their lifetimes) and just keep the simple idea that you need to be big enough for the job. Of course, that means that you have to try and get the size of the job down, which takes work and means that you as the manager have to be a strata above it (I think; mayhaps one can get away with being on the same strata) so it also means you have to have structure which leads us back to Jaques’s ideas again.

    Or at least it does me after a fun week at BIG.

  15. Ok gmehl, I’ve done my homework and I’m ready to discuss. I’ve also read just about everything on your web site in addition to the articles you directed me to.

    You correctly diagnosed a lot of the issues based on my first post.

    Compressed organization and mismatched roles. I really don’t care to get fired, so I won’t go into specifics, but very few folks in our hierarchy fit the RO model even remotely. In fact, perhaps Manasclerk will allow me to modify my earlier post where some of my comments could be taken as somewhat disparaging by people in my food chain.

    Anyway, what this has brought up are some conceptual questions on my part.

    First, I recoiled at the thought of my role being a 1 year TSD. Quite frankly, I don’t believe someone with that short of scope could properly fill the role. However, I have an open mind. I assume there is some scientific data to support these breaks?

    Secondly, and it follows out of #1, could you create an organization where your managers look one year out, your manager of mangers looks two, etc.? Could this work? The big problem I see is at the bottom: Could you get level two people to do level one work with adequate compensation and mental activity artificially built in?

    Thirdly, is there some part of RO that would indicate the number of direct reports a manager of managers should have? One, Four, Twenty four? If the answer to number two is affirmative, how does that impact this answer? Does higher level = greater capacity of direct reports? Or is it converse because of the complexity required to just do your own job? It seems to me that the answers would greatly impact any organization and its ability to function adequately.

    Four, as any organization moves through personnel transition, does your Org Chart move too? Wouldn’t this lead to an overly dynamic organization? From experience you clearly need some bedrock people in the organization to give it stability. If everyone’s a mover and a shaker (how’d you call; it Potential vs. Expert?) and hence constantly on the move, the org itself will become shaky. Kind of impacts my question 2.

    There’s some more questions out there floating in my head, but I’ve got a couple hot projects right now and Manasclerk told me you were getting antsy for a reply. I just do this on coffee breaks for some good mental gymnastics. Part of keeping my sanity. Anyway, please don’t think I’m blowing you off. I am very interested in all this. Thanks, – Namewithheld

  16. Hi Namewitheld — You raise some interesting issues. I’ll see what I can do.

    Gmehl: Let’s begin with “what-sa manager?” A person accountable for the output of another.

    Call this “the accountability set.”
    Before you can ask me to be accountable for the output of another I must have four minimum authorities:

    – the authority to veto membership on my team (If I don’t believe that a candidate can produce the output for which I will be held accountable, then can you rightly ask me to be accountable?)

    – the authority to assign tasks to those for whose output I am accountable (no brainer),

    – the authority to judge performance and determine, within guidelines, the annual compensation level (too involved to treat here)

    – the authority to initiate removal from my team (same idea as 1, if I no longer believe that the member can deliver the required output, I need to be able to make a change)

    Here’s a loaded statement to consider: If the manager is accountable for the output then is the subordinate not accountable for his/her output? Well, who assigns the tasks? Who provides (or should be providing) the resources? The subordinate (referring to a role reporting to another role not the politically incorrect idea of a sub-person) is accountable for applying his or her full resources to the task assigned within the resources provided.

    Consider the impact of the proceeding arrangement on the manager-subordinate relationship. I, the manager and person now accountable for your output, suddenly get very concerned about your ability, progress, needs, training, development etc., etc., etc. The tricky part here is, does the manager-once-removed really hold the manager, not the manager’s subordinate accountable?

    Now put accountability on the shelf and go to step two.

    Call this “the context set.”

    The primary, and possibly most important, role of a manager is to create context for those in subordinate roles.

    Consider– can a manager assign a task that is longer than the longest task for which that manager is accountable? While I have seen some stretch their brains to create far flung situations in which this might happen, for all practical purposes it can’t be done, legitimately. The implication is that, in an accountability hierarchy, which is what we are talking about, the mission of the organization is accomplished by the cascading of tasks down through the organization. Tasks at any level are subsumed into the tasks at the next higher level. Therefore a role of the manager is the subdivision of assigned tasks into tasks for those in subordinates roles, and tasks that he/she will perform as his or her own output. Therefore, the time-span of a subordinate role must, in all cases be shorter than the time-span of its manager’s role.

    Enter the idea of context – best by example. Your manager is speaking:

    “Susie, I am asking you to do the x.z.y project. The reason is that my manager expects me to accomplish a.b.c, so that he will be able to deliver l.m.n. Your peers will be working on h.i.j and k.l.m.”

    With this level of context I know what my work is and how it fits into the related work environment and the overarching tasks. This equips me to make better judgments along the way – and it is all about making judgments.

    I need one more set to tie it together.

    Call it the “complexity set.”

    From earlier comments we know that work occurs in levels of increasing complexity and that people possess varying levels of capacity to process complexity. Further, that there is a one-for-one match between any given level of work and a particular way of processing complexity.

    Here is your question restated:

    Namewitheld: First, I recoiled at the thought of my role being a 1 year TSD. Quite frankly, I don’t believe someone with that short of scope could properly fill the role.

    First, in my May 5 entry I indicated that 30-40% of the people don’t match their role. So, it is quite possible that your time horizon is beyond one year, and you see a need for work to be done that extends beyond a year. The positioning of the role will however, depend on the time-horizon of the manager.

    (Aside on terms: time-span refers to the measure of the complexity of a role – it’s a measure of level-of-work. Time-horizon refers to the judgment of capacity of an individual. They are both expressed in units of time or stratum.)

    What determines the complexity of a role? The tasks assigned by the manager. But, the tasks that a manager is capable of assigning, of thinking up, of constructing, of building context for, must fall, will fall, within the most complex task that that person is capable of dealing with.

    I cannot construct sub-tasks beyond, more complex than, the most complex task I can process – period, no-way!

    Some implications. A) If the manager is one stratum above your role (60% probability) then that manager can place your role in appropriate context. If (A) and if B) your are at your role (60% probability), you will feel a proper match. (.6 x.6 = .36 probability). And you can see all the permutations.

    Namewitheld: However, I have an open mind. I assume there is some scientific data to support these breaks?

    Gmehl: Lotsa data on the time-span breakpoints that separate stratum, even to within low, medium, high levels within stratum. They are so predictable that they work in interviews with people who have never been exposed to the theory, or even explained what you are trying to get at. They work across diverse organizations. They work even when the manager starts by saying “you don’t understand: in our business we don’t have tasks over â.”

    Namewitheld: Secondly, and it follows out of #1, could you create an organization where your managers look one year out, your manager of mangers looks two, etc.? Could this work?

    Gmehl: Absoultely, that’s the objective.

    Namewitheld: The big problem I see is at the bottom: Could you get level two people to do level one work with adequate compensation and mental activity artificially built in?

    Gmehl: I’m not sure I understand the question. Why would you want to when stratum 1 people can do stratum 1 work at stratum 1 compensation? However, there can be economic justification to migrate work from stratum 1 to stratum 2. For example: stratum 1 mortgage seller may sell two 85,000 mortgages in a week where stratum 2 sellers may sell four 115,000, with the compensation less than double. (460,000 sales vs. 170,000 sales for Namewitheld: Thirdly, is there some part of RO that would indicate the number of direct reports a manager of managers should have? One, Four, Twenty four? If the answer to number two is affirmative, how does that impact this answer? Does higher level = greater capacity of direct reports? Or is it converse because of the complexity required to just do your own job? It seems to me that the answers would greatly impact any organization and its ability to function adequately.

    Gmehl: There are some span of control thoughts, but not what you might expect. It depends on many things – dispersion, routine-ness, etc. However there is a “social” limit. (Manasclerk has some sociology behind him) The maximum number of people that the average person can know their likes, dislikes, preferences, personality, skills etc. is about 70. Therefore the maximum number that a stratum 2 manager can manage is 70. This would be under ideal, highly simplified conditions. One study for phone operator team leaders suggested a max of 20.

    In a three level org. (stratum 3 manager) the max is determined by the number of people who a person can recognize as part of their group. Its called a “mutual recognition unit.” When I go to the stadium and say “There is Sue Brown. She works at the plant.” I see that in action. There is a lot more to this, but enough for now.

    Namewitheld: Four, as any organization moves through personnel transition, does your Org Chart move too? Wouldn’t this lead to an overly dynamic organization? From experience you clearly need some bedrock people in the organization to give it stability. If everyone’s a mover and a shaker (how’d you call; it Potential vs. Expert?) and hence constantly on the move, the org itself will become shaky. Kind of impacts my question 2.

    Gmehl: Sure it’s moving. But, without this it’s moving and we don’t know how to deal with it. With RO, you can know what your state is, and have a good shot at planning how it will move in the future –even when it will move.

    Have fun!

  17. gmehl:

    Got some more questioins:

    1. I think I didn’t express myself clearly on question 2. Could I successfully shift everyone working in each slot up one. So my manager of managers is really a person up one on the complexity scale and the managers really should be managing managers, etc. Ignoring pay issues, could that work?

    2. You speak of accountability. If my plant manager is really only expected to manage one year out, then are we really holding him/her accountable for the plant? Shouldn’t a good plant manager see several years into the future? Just think about that for a minute. “Plant” is after all a relative term. Could be as small as 20 or so employees with $10 million in sales or could be a chem plant with over a thousand employees and half a billion in sales. Astronomical difference between the two with the exact same job title. However, all plants share some things in common: Capital assets and human resources. Many times, you have to plan refurbishment of capital equipment on a rotating cycle several years out. On the people side, developing a managerial candidated is also frequently a longer time span operation. Are you saying plant managers shouldn’t manage this? That’s what I hear when you say they only need to think one year out. I have never heard of a corporate organization that can do these functions better than the people running the plant.

    3. Feeding off my previous question, I think the answer is that it starts with the top. The CEO or whomever, manages a subordinate by directing assigned tasks that cover a set period of time. Then subordinates do the same on down the hierarchy. Its a top driven system. If the guy on top isn’t looking at the right time period, the whole org suffers. If somewhere in a person’s food chain there’s a mismatch, that piece suffers. Is this correct?

    4. So if i can recognize 20 people in my group, I can manage that many? So, lets assume I’m assigned 20 people as my subordinates. They run operations in 4 countries in the western hemisphers that range in size from 7 or 8 million to 30 or 40 million in sales. They supply over 100 different customers, but have about 8 primary ones. To help me cover this, I have a staff of 3; a quality professional (with 1 assistant), an engineering professional (with 3 assistants), a regional guy who covers 6 plants and speaks their language (1 assistant). The last one is the only one with direct supervisory authority. the others are only staff. How would we fix that? Do we need to? If we aren’t getting all the work done – long term goal setting and project management – do we add staff or do we add managers?

    5. What does RO say about self directed work teams?

    6. Is that enough for now? 😉

  18. To Namewitheld

    Let’s begin with your third question/observation:

    Namewitheld: 3. . . . I think the answer is that it starts with the top. The CEO or whomever, manages a subordinate by directing assigned tasks that cover a set period of time. Then subordinates do the same on down the hierarchy. Its a top driven system.

    Gmehl: Basically yes. Yes: but! Each person is accountable to provide his or her manager with feedback:
    – about how things are going
    – changes in circumstances
    – useful suggestions, and
    – ways to improve processes.
    For that to occur the manager must create an environment which encourages those inputs and not discourage them. Routine meetings of the team are expected as well as occasional meetings of the three layer organization (MoR, Mgr, Sub). Free flow of information and ideas is critical.
    The objective is to create a true team with an open, willing, two way sharing of information and ideas. The “top down” aspect, when the structure is right, occurs because the manager has the required level of capacity to create context for the team. The other team members would not be expected to have that capacity.

    As you pointed out earlier, the state of the team is evolving. Therefore at any given time there may be direct reports who have equal capacity to their manager.

    Namewhtheld: If the guy on top isn’t looking at the right time period, the whole org suffers.
    If somewhere in a person’s food chain there’s a mismatch, that piece suffers.
    Is this correct?

    Gmehl: Yes. Yes. And yes!

    Namewhtheld: 2. You speak of accountability. . . “Plant” is after all a relative term. . .

    Gmehl: You rightly bring up the issue that titles have some problems when used to identify level of work. For example the title “plant manager” could cover a three person welding shop or a 3,000 person chemical factory. That example includes stratum II through V, and time span of 3 months to 10 years. To pinpoint the level of work we really have to fall back to time span (the length of the longest task for which a role is held accountable by the manager of that role.). The reasonableness of the longest task can be checked against the description of the nature of the work the role requires, and the agreement from the manager-once-remove that the manager can delegate that longest tasks. At times the MoR will say, “you can’t assign that task, I’m holding you accountable for that.”

    Concerning discovering the longest tasks, we generally look in three areas: operational tasks, people development tasks, project or improvement tasks. For example, the typical longest tasks of a stratum 3 district sales manager, is the development of a team of people to some level of competency, in 14 to 18 months. For a stratum 2 customer service manager, the longest tasks might be project related. Perhaps install a new computer system in 9 to 12 months. When you cover these three areas you will usually hit the longest task.

    Namewhtheld: 4. So if i can recognize 20 people in my group, I can manage that many?. . .

    Gmehl: Concerning the span of control portion in this, could you go back and review the last 3 paragraphs of my 5/17 response. There are several subtleties around the word “recognize” and “know,” and the impact of added complexity as you describe above.

    On the specific org design part, role playing (e.g. “lets assume”) doesn’t work well. The earlier option for a conversation is still open. Drop me an email ( and we’ll set up a conversation.

    Namewhtheld: 5. What does RO say about self directed work teams?

    Gmehl: RO says not good! Also, says not good to incentive pay! Wonder why?

  19. Interesting. . . .

    I also am uncomfortable with full blown self directed work teams, but some organizations have had real sucess with them. How do we explain that?

    Why no incentive pay?

    Is the Level V leader Jim Collins talks about in “Good to Great” really just a correct stratum CEO? What is your take on some of the well known and celebrated CEO’s he takes issue with like Jack Welch and Lee Iacoca (sp?)?

    Are there any companies that you know of that actully pull RO off “correctly?” I’d like to do some research and review their results.

    We’ll have that talk sometime. .. .I’ll contact you.


  20. Your conversation is among my favourite topics and interests. Having glanced at the comments posted I wish to acknowledge the depth with which gmehl and manasclerk appear to be operating at in respect of their understanding of stratified systems and requisite organizations. I would, nonetheless like to add a few comments from some of the queries and assertions that captured my attention while scanning the comments:

    1)An immediate manager needs to be a level of capability above his or her subordinates. There is an assertion that suggests that the immediate manager could in fact be of equal cognitive capability when compared to the subordinate. This is nonsense. Assuming equal cognitive capability one should expect clearly that a power struggle will ensue absent a clear distinction which entitles two individuals of equal capability to occupy a manager/ subordinate reporting relationship. This would only hold up where the subodinate is gaining skills and experience and/ or where the subordinate does not value the work. Assuming they both aspire to higher levels of accountability and their skills and experience are similar (and there is an absence of -T) they will inevitably find themselves engaged in more conflict than is productive for the benefit of the organization and the conflict will tend to be pesonal versus organizational in nature.

    2)There is an assertion that where one’s manager is working below his or her current potential capability that the manager’s subordinate will incorrectly be judged to have current potential below his or her actual CPC. While this may in practice occur, the subordinate would have to be one level of complexity below the manager for this to occur with both individuals. The manager once removed would be capable of judging a subordinate once removed as having current potential capability beyond his or her immediate manager where there were two or more levels separating the subordinate from the immediate manager. My experience has been that the talent pool judgement of current potential capability is often confused. Managers once removed confuse applied capability (effectiveness in role) with potential capability and rarely will judge an SOR, whether valid or not, to possess CPC higher than the MOR.

    3)In respect of the arguments regarding the ability of education and experience to change one’s ability to deal with complexity, assertions indicating that cognitive capability can be developed are categorically incorrect. It is equally incorrect to assert that individuals with high cognitive capability and no formal education will realize a “stunted growth arc”. Consider that education and experience are simply skills and experience as referred to as being essential requirements to ensure effectiveness in role. The innate predetermining factor howevr remains CPC. There are examples where uneducated individuals are managing high risk, complex organizations, some at levels 5 and 6, commonly referred to as organized crime. Similarly, it should be acknowledged that a breadth of education (skills) and experience allows one to formulate cognitive structures referencing an increased database from which to interrelate these skills and experience. Simply said the individual’s ability to reach his or her full capability is enhanced by the range of skills and experience with which to apply to his or her innate cognitive capability. CPC will not develop in an accelerated state, beyond its normal and predictable maturation pattern, because of skills and experience and may otherwise reside under-utilized.

    4) Why no incentive pay? The answer can be summarized by recognizing that output based incentive systems are predicated upon two fundamentally flawed assumptions: a) that an employee is accountable for his or her own outputs. This is wrong as the immediate manager is accountable for the outputs of his or her subordinates. The subordinate is accountable for doing his or her best recognizing the skills, experience, and cognitive capabiliy of the employee, utilizing the resources that he or she has been provided by the immediate manager. and, b)That employees do not arrive at work to do their best. Otherwise, why would w need to provide an incentive for them to willingly provide their best effort. Recognizing the compensation systems currently in place for officers of corporations we need to seriously reconsider executive remuneration. Shall we conclude that CEO’s do not arrive to deliver their best? Incentive systems are, at best, generally counterproductive and are at worst dysfunctional and corrupt. What CEO would not favour short term results to earn substantial annual incentives even where the ten or twenty year future of the corporation is being compromised? Real accountability becomes obscured. Managers falsely assume that the incentive system promotes self-accountability. There is no substitute for accountability fostered through clear task assignment, coaching, personal effectiveness appraisal, and proper selection and deselection within organizations. What then should incentive systems be replaced with? Try fair compensation referred to by Jaques as “fair felt pay”.

    5) Examine any successful so called “self-directed work team” and you are apt to conclude there was clear context, purpose and definition in the assignment of the mandate (task) for the team in terms of quantifiable, qualitative outcomes that were to be delivered within a specified period of time with a specified set of resources. Consider as well that managerial leadership was provided to the team by individuals either on the team, or in the shadow, who posessed CPC at least one level higher than the remaining team members who were undoubtedly selected because of their skills and/ or experience which were deemed as critical factors when provided to the team. RO does not suggest that teams cannot be deployed to make improvements and in fact would promote that continuous improvement is an essential managerial prctice. The hierarchial structure can either be emphasized explicitly in the foreground or can exist implicitly in the background.

    6)There are several references that indicate that there are areas where the “model” does not fit. Assuming we are confining our discussion to work organizations (as opposed to political or religious orgnizations, or other social organizations) I would be very intersted in someone defining where stratified systems and requisite managerial practices do not apply. I would welcome a debate as insofar as I am concerned the assertion is wrong.

    Thanks for providing this forum. I will check back frequently to see developments unfold. Congratulations!

  21. Post

    Another wow. Fabulous! I love reading cogent statements, especially about something I’m interested in.

    Points (1) and (2) are well stated. You can’t manage someone who is at your Stratum. I have been in the situation of being the Project Manager (accountable for the performance of my people, too) with a Lead Programmer/”Engineer” who had my level of capability. I was able to manage that situation by clearly letting him know that he did not report to me and that I was not going to task him. I treated it much like Jaques describes “colleague” project teams. I wish that I could describe how this worked, since it did splendidly, but I can’t put my finger on it. I think that he could recommend tasks for my team members but that I kept final say. Of course, I would only disagree when I had a good reason to (e.g., I knew about something going on in the organization that he didn’t) and I would always talk over my reasons with him. I want to explore this type of “staff worker” or “internal consultant” arrangement.

    The comment “assertions indicating that cognitive capability can be developed are categorically incorrect” is, of course, exactly what Jaques argues. Since the null hypothesis is easily created (“We can train someone at StrII to perform at StrIII”), the tests are very clear and the evidence strongly supports the theory (null hypothesis not proved).

    I do have to wonder whether or not CIP would have to correlate with learning; that is, you can’t stop someone from learning (as opposed to being educated) commensurate with their CIP. There’s something about CIP that seems to imply that people with higher CIP will learn regardless. They just may not learn what you think they should. So, for example, the Costa Nostra might be led by a StrVI individual during times of stability, who has little formal education but a great deal of learning (acquired knowledge and skills) about how to do the job effectively. I’d be interested to discover whether or not effective organized crime organizations follow RO naturally. And no, d0g0wa5, I am not going to do the research.

    You’re comment that behind any “self-directed work team”

    there was clear context, purpose and definition in the assignment of the mandate (task) for the team in terms of quantifiable, qualitative outcomes that were to be delivered within a specified period of time with a specified set of resources

    seems accurate. I hadn’t thought about that point and it makes sense. In fact, one reason that teams work better is that because they are usually put together for a particular purpose (“create a better cell phone”) that is clear, etc. They therefore produce better work than normal (non-requisite) structures which don’t have clear accountability or goals. And it explains why so many companies that become totally “teamed” or projectized have serious performance hits: at that level, it’s simply obfuscating management’s denial of accountability.

    Managers falsely assume that the incentive system promotes self-accountability. There is no substitute for accountability fostered through clear task assignment, coaching, personal effectiveness appraisal, and proper selection and deselection within organizations.

    Very clearly put. Incentive programs don’t work because you are taking away the accountability of the manager for the work of his or her subordinate. Plus, as you alluded to in your discussion of executive incentives, incentive pay really just incetives manipulating the system to maximize your results. “I’ll put this off this client’s shipment until next quarter because I’ve already made this quarter’s goal and it won’t increase my bonus…”

    I would be very intersted in someone defining where stratified systems and requisite managerial practices do not apply.

    Personally, I’m wondering how they apply in mixed environments like hospitals — doctors belong to the hospital, while nurses are employees of it — and, more in my interest, law firms, where one hopefully moves from being an employee lawyer to a member of the firm as a partner (Jawues’s “association”, I’m guessing). Otherwise, I totally agree. J disagrees, I think.

    And you’re at a metals company! Very cool.

  22. I’m not sure I don’t agree, though I’ll have to think about it. I think I would explain it that the concept of RO seems sound, but with all the billions of permutations and combinations of humans at work, there must be cases where the model doesn’t hold. Take for example, APFG’s first point where he gives two examples where a same level employee could work for a same level boss. Some external or internal influence results in a decision to work in a non-requisite structure. That must happen fairly regularly. Hence RO can’t be a law and hence its merely a model we use to explain the world in simplified terms.

    You view of self-directed work teams meshes fairly well with my experience. I implemented them in my plant, but not full blown like some advocate. I merely removed a superfluous level of management and created a very structured and organized “box” for the teams to operate in. There are, however, some places where the teams purchase, hire, fire, etc. and they claim it works.

    Continuous Improvement Teams or whatever you want to call them, as Manasclerk points out, frequently just get in the way. Its entirely possible to get too unfocused and have too many teams doing too much and they all fall apart. That type of team needs to be small, focused and a self-destruct date would be nice as well.

    Incentive pay: At senior levels they’re required to set the company up for the long term which is a little harder to measure concretely and many times at the expense of short term profits. However, there is no reason at my level that the goals for my incentive not be the goals I have for my subordinates. That’s fairly easy to accomplish. The concept that everyone comes to work to do their best in the RO workers utopia is fanciful at best. Too many billions of outside input for your employees to sift through for that to be true. Anyway, I disagree with my incentive program because it isn’t managed well and creates more issues than it cures. I have not yet reached the conclusion that they can’t be managed well and work. Incidentally, they take a portion of that “felt fair pay” and make it conditional. That results in a lower payroll and hence makes it very unlikely they’ll go away anytime soon.

  23. Manasclerk said a long time ago: “Anyway, that is a part of Jaques’s theories that gets him the most ostracized. But I’m not sure that there isn’t truth to it: you will be only as complex as you have within you to be. You can maximize what you have use, using all of it rather than just a little, and you can reduce it by psychological trauma like drug abuse or hatred. But I’m coming to understand that telling people that they can be something that they aren’t, instead of enjoying who they are, is just arrogance on my part. ”

    I think I have finally come to grips with this concept and can accept it. It really is no different than athletic ability or physical attributes: You can make some improvements, but in the end, you are what you are. Had two NFL football players attend my highschool. There was no doubt about their physical prowess and no matter how hard I worked out, I never looked or performed like them. Taking this concept and applying it to mental functions really isn’t that great a leap.

  24. To further the discussion in respect of a couple of the loose ends that appear to be outstanding:

    1) Jaques would very much advocate that RO does not apply in a direct application with doctors or lawyers. These relationships are different. It could apply nonetheless where the doctor had managerial accountability for employees at the hospital. The principles in this instance are the same. I am inclined to subscribe to a view that indicates that RO’s application can be more generaly applied than Jaques’ advocated. His references were typically confined to work organizations.

    2)Agreed that we can train someone at stratum 2 to perform at stratum 3 provided the individual at stratum 2 possesses serial processing capability and thus would have current potential capabability at level 3. The training is in the realm of providing skills and experience. It’s difficult from your statement to conclude whether you are in fact in agreement or disagreement.

    3)Be satisfied that people (at least in a majority sufficient to generalize) do arrive at work to do their best. What employee do you know who was not enthusiastic and willing to fully contribute the day he or she was hired by his or her employer? The problem is once they became employed we began disenfranchising them. The work culture is a managerial accountability. If the employee is disengaged we need to ask ourselves what within the managerial systems has failed and how is the organization not performing in a requisite manner? Utopia? Perhaps, however I would assert that until an organization is fully functional it is unjust to ascribe a Conrad Black perception of workers in a general sense. (Black asserted that all employees are fundamentally lazy thieves that need to be guarded to preserve the well being of the organization.)

    4) Incentive systems are dysfunctional at all levels within an organization. If we fully appreciated the effects of incentives on the well being of organizations we would quickly rationalize that we are not saving anything by providing a percentage of fair felt pay within a variable output based incentive scheme. I note that you indicate that you feel your system is unfair. Consider that many others who are remunerated with these systems have similar views. I’ve been engaged in a conversation for most of the past twenty years which has been discussing the problems with the incentive system and what needs to be done to fix the system. If incentives are so effective why are we forever engaged in a discussion that is promoting what needs to occur to fix them?

    5) Consider that many individuals feel liberated when they understand that their manager understands what their potential capability is. Not all individuals aspire to climbing the corporate ladder. Many feel they will be viewed unfavourably, or as lazy, if they promote an unwillingness to do so. Most individuals understand when they are working at, above, or below their current potential capability. A select few have visions of grandeure however this is not the norm. An employee who is being judged by his or her MOR indicating that the judgement is that he or she has been dtermined in the discretionary judgement of the organization to be working at their level of capability, is appreciated in role, and may be assessed at a later date (recognizing CIP matures) to be capable of more should be expected to be received as satisfied and content. Similarly one who is in over their head and who is provided an opportunity to move down often feels relief.

  25. Post

    On (3), I wonder how this plays out in low-trust, low social capital cultures like southern Italy. I’ve not checked yet but I wonder if there have been any studies on requisite hierarchies in southern Italy, China (PRC or Taiwan) or France. I’d also be interested in seeing results in Islamic countries, for no other reason than I’m interested. I’d figure that they would be more like the West and Japan than China would be. In a low trust society, do workers respond to respond to requisite structures in the same way as Westerners or Japanese?

    I’ll pursue this more in the requisite organization category archives.

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