What happens when people in a meeting are different stratum (per Elliott Jaques’s requisite organization theory), knowing each other well enough to have some experience of each other’s capacity? Who leads? If certain people talk, does the conversation die? Does the meeting have to be facilitated by the highest stratum person? Will it be regardless, at least effectively?
This got started by my recently reading an old article by Peter Block (1998, “As Goes the Followers; So Goes the Leader” and the response by Trudy Cooper) about an experiment regarding what he called “patriarchy”. I wonder what the results would have been had he considered stratum of Requisite Organization.
Imagine a meeting with ten people around a table. It’s a mix, but a higher stratum mix and almost everyone is in a five year age-range. The breakdown looks like this:
- Two people capable of doing work at Stratum III
- Four people capable of doing work at Stratum IV
- Two people capable of doing work at Stratum V
- One person capable of doing work at Stratum VII
Make the discussion about something personal, say a community issue rather than work. Each person is here by choice rather than appointment so eliminate non-desire as an issue.
Further, the meeting is facilitated by a person who is capable of doing Stratum IV work.
What happens? What dynamics play out? What if we simplify it thus:
- Four people capable of doing work at Stratum III
- One person capable of doing work at Stratum IV
- Three people capable of doing work at Stratum V
- No one capable of doing work at Stratum VII
Now what happens? If the meeting is run at Stratum IV, one would think that this would get the Stratum III engaged. Or do they wait for the Stratum VII or a StrV to set further context?
What happens if one of the Stratum V+ capable persons speaks out on an issue? Will the Stratum III capable people clam up because the conversation has taken a weird turn or will they engage more because that person has set an broader context?
I know that in this case personality would play a part, especially the control and dominance scores (as measured by Human Patterns personality test). If the facilitator has strong control and dominance scores, will she or he even let the higher stratum members speak for long?
These meeting happen rather regularly at work, of course, except it normally looks like Str2/3/4. At least within IT they are quite normal. One would expect control mechanisms to support whomever had the managerial authority (normally a Str3) in order to maintain the illusion of the hierarchy.
I really don’t have any good ideas on this one except that trying to lead a meeting with a higher-stratum person in the room probably means always fighting for control. I’m not sure that Dr. Jaques ever described this in Requisite Organization or anywhere else but I don’t know.
In a way, this is related to the problem of having the boss in the room during a discussion of direction. Inevitably, people will look to him or her for signs of approval or disapproval. George Washington pulled off the “argue your case with each other” with his executive team during the war. He would get them together and have them passionately argue with each other, almost to blows. He would then make up his own mind about the issue. I suppose that they felt comfortable arguing because he felt comfortable being responsible for making the decision.