ADLER typewriter Model n°7 (Frankfurt / Germany). Unknown model date (probably ~1930/40). By Dake

Pragmatist Meets Structuralist: A Web Example

Forrest ChristianTheory, Warren Kinston 2 Comments

Here’s a good example of what someone who is a structuralist sounds like when talking to a pragmatist, for those who’ve been following my discussions of Warren Kinston’s and Jimmy Algie’s Seven Languages of Achievement (aka the Seven Decision Languages).

The manager, like most managers, is a pragmatist working in a pragmatist company. “Get ‘er done” is the motto. The Software Engineering Institute referred to this as Level 1 in their Capability Maturity Model, and many other management frameworks talk about it.

As we saw in Warren’s spiral (this from the back of Strengthening the Management Culture [PDF, 12MB]), all businesses must start in pragmatism. Otherwise they will never get anything started. Pragmatism is the first level because it is the only necessary one: you have to have some form of pragmatism in order to keep moving. I say this as a supremely non-pragmatical person. I can’t understand it but I can appreciate that this is true.

Tom Foster’s character in this exchange is rightly identifying the next step that this manager and company have to take in order to grow. They must define roles and accountabilities, making things clear.

(Recall the example Warren Kinston gave in Strengthening the Management Culture: Most of the big Jaquesians are Structuralists. They use the word “system” but they mean only the structural system rather than what Warren and Jimmy referred to as the interest of systemicists.)

To grow beyond the Structuralist state, you have to move into what I call “political” (Kinston’s and Algie’s “dialectic”). That’s not something many structuralist enjoy.

What’s even more interesting is the people in the Jaquesian world who are what Kinston and Algie called “rationalists”. You’d think that they would be diametrically opposed to the structuralists.

There’s a part of me that is wondering if Tom really isn’t trying to introduce Rationalist values into a pragmatist culture. It’s a common ploy of consultants and it never works. If you look at Warren’s spiral, you can see that Rationalist can’t be gotten directly from either Pragmatist or Structuralist. You can’t talk Rationalist values without first accomplishing the Structuralist and Dialectic (Political) phases. Hard to tell without thinking more and knowing Tom (which I don’t): his other work seems to imply a rationalist mindset that gives lip service to dialectic/political but doesn’t really think that they are as important as getting the structuralist part right.

Which would be true if this is a purely pragmatical organization.

No one person can think in all of the ways necessary to successfully build an organization or human society by himself. Which is why you need other people, even when you can’t stand them.

It’s problems like this that make Warren being right so irritating. Coming to grips with Warren’s findings makes the same process with Jaques a walk in the park. But it’s worth it because Warren Kinston’s material can truly illuminate your work problems.

NOTE: remember that no achievement language subsumes any of the others. You always need all of them, but one of them will necessarily dominate at any point in the life of your organization.

What examples of two different Achievement Languages conflicting can you think of?

Image credit: Model n°7 (Frankfurt / Germany) by Dake via Wikimedia. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Comments 2

  1. Post

    Peter Duschinsky, the guy behind, apparently was an employee of a firm to which SIGMA Centre consulted years back. Warren didn’t seem to know that he was teaching SMC concepts until earlier this year.

    This animation is not quite right a points, at least not from what I understand from my conversations with Warren and Verity. (E.g., Pragmatic isn’t “doing everything ourselves” but a can-do, “get ‘er done”, “just do it” thinking.) I should probably do up a proper animation on this. The transformation (if that’s the proper term) of the hierarchy into the spiral into the tree is quite illuminating. And explains why it will take a bit of work to get the complete TH3EL completed.

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