Candle in stump holder. (c) J. Samuel Burner (CCA-2.0)

Why Requisite Organization Will Not Survive (Or Will It?)

Forrest ChristianChange, requisite organization 66 Comments

UPDATE: Ken Shepard, President of the Global Organization Design Society, has written a response: Perhaps Requisite Organization is going viral under the radar!

I’ve been wondering lately if Requisite Organization (the ideas formulated by Elliott Jaques) will survive for much longer. The GO Society identified several years ago that most of their members were “gray” — retirees or close to retirement age — and there were few young people in the pipeline to replace them.

I’ve worked with Requisite Organization people for several years now, since being found while blogging about Elliott Jaques’s books. I reckon that I know most of the people in the field these days, by name at least. I can only think of a couple of people my age or younger who are active in it, Michelle Carter and Sergei (whose last name escapes me). Many of what the RO people consider the “younger generation” are actually close 50. Younger people like Michael Raynor (author of The Strategy Paradox) use the ideas developed at Wilfred Brown’s Glacier Metal Company in the 1950s and 1960s, but not especially those from Elliott Jaques’s later works. Especially not Requisite Organization.

If you want to have a movement, it’s probably a bad idea to not be developing young people to take your place. It’s interesting that for the most part this isn’t happening.

It may be that RO attracts certain personalities that are less able or less willing to develop others. There may also be personal histories that follow similar pathways. It may also be that Elliott Jaques did not develop or maintain disciples. There is a lot of bad blood with people who worked with him while younger. (Dr. Jacques has been dead for some years now and is no longer part of the equation.)

I’ve heard that there are tight restrictions on using RO materials. Others who parted ways with Dr. Jaques also are aggressive in restricting use of their trademarked ideas. Nothing wrong with that at all, unless your restrictions limit the expansion and growth of the ideas.

I talk with people who would love to use Jaques’s insights but need mentoring. I have no idea how they would get that. The firms that use Requisite Organization theory seem to be small, person-driven shops that will die with their principals. I can’t think of any school that would provide training: using Dr. Jaques’ insights in most Masters degree programs would be degree suicide.

If you’re an RO professional and have better insight, perhaps you would say what is true. Maybe there is a large cadre of young people coming up in the ranks, but my impression is that the generation that Jaques trained himself is the end of the group.

image © J. Samuel Burner (CC BY SA 2.0)

Comments 66

  1. As one of Elliott’s 60 year old lost sheep, I agree with all you have said here.

    Could it be that management science is still so new? Is this just the nature of alchemy? Will it be another 100 to 300 years before a future genius uncovers & advances these concepts?

    Hopefully not: but one thinks of this stuff and tends to feel powerless.


  2. Post

    Thanks for the comment, Darwin.

    IMO, the best thing that the “old guard” can do is to start apprenticing younger folks. There is simply not that many places where one can have that experience. Bioss might be that in the future, as there seems to be changes in the air. I can’t think of anywhere else.

    And I did think that Michael Raynor used EJ’s theories particularly adeptly in his recent book on strategy. He seems to be unaware of the large amount of work that attempts to correct and extend it, though.

  3. I think there are a lot of issues going around at the same time.

    A major issue is that of reverence. Many of the “old guard” knew Elliott fairly well and have a tendency to say “Elliott said”. This somewhat fundamentalistic approach erodes over time. A lot of modern organizational research and findings make more sense seen through an RO lens, but need not be thumped to smithereens for being wrong.

    RO had its roots in research. First at Tavistock and then at Brunel. Elliott was positioned in groups of gifted people and a lot of research was done mainly using collaborative methodology. The aim of the research was solving organizational issues, from which RO evolved. Any RO related research today is fragmented and/or focused on perpetuating RO.

    Loosing the research basis also meant loosing a larger organizational body at the heart of the knowledge. The people working with RO today are highly fragmented working independently or in small constellations. The Global Organizational Design Society is an attempt to get people together, but I have my doubts that it can overcome the fragmentation.

    Bioss is still the major organization in the field. Although it has left its research roots it has an international presence and as at least as many employees and associates as there are GO members. There is a considerable recruitment of younger people into Bioss internationally and Bioss is undergoing a major organizational transformation.

    There is hope even if it at present is not happening on the North American continent. But I do not believe that RO will survive if we all strive for it to remain unchanged.

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    It seems that the most reverent Jaques-ians are those who didn’t actually work with him as a colleague. A lot of them seemed to have gotten fed up and went their separate ways, perhaps because they thought the work was collaborative and but Elliot Jaques thought it was all his. (This was the accusation made by the Tavistock people about the early work at Glacier Metal.) One of them told me at one of the GO Society conferences that EJ tended to attract worshippers. Worshippers want things unchanged. There does seem to be a “I am completely right” side to Requisite Organization (the book) even though it is clearly not what worked at Glacier Metal in places.

    Bioss seems to be the only ones having any impact on younger consultants, but then they are the only Jaques-y firm of any size. And they aren’t really Jaquesians: they seem to use the Gillian Stamp fork of the project, which is different from say the David Billis fork of the ideas. Still, I’ve been glad to hear that news about bioss’s recent changes, as it’s a crying shame if such interesting work by so many people goes to waste.

  5. I agree as far as the aging group is concerned. My other concern why this will become more problematic is the lack of new research and the growing mis-alignment between the less vertical world of work and the vertical management practices of EJ. The lack of linearity of the new world of work and the more linear thinking in e.g. time frames of EJ. There are changes around certain EJ understandings that are in the process of redefining/refining some of the basic principles. While bioss, under Gillian, has taken a step away, the step as yet has not been strong enough to convince the new generation that the framework is principally sound. That is what we need to address and what we in Kontextit have tried to address over the past couple of years. We are in the process of growing younger people in a more progressive value generation focus around context and contexts of value generation that speaks to the dilemmas the younger generation needs to deal with in companies.

  6. Post

    Great point, Pieter. Over here, the two people who have advanced worklevels findings the most are Art Kleiner, editor of strategy+business, and Deloitte’s Michael Raynor in his Strategy Paradox. Warren Kinston has done some amazing work but is just now getting around to sharing it through the THEE Online Project. Good to hear that Kontextit is doing some new stuff: I’m not familiar with y’all at all and will have to get up to speed.

    I’m pretty sure that SST is a network model, and that Elliott Jaques got the timespans incorrect as they should follow a power law more coherently. Presenting it as a network model, and showing that if given the right to choose their own boss, an extant requisite organization will follow, would do wonders for its reputation. I’ve always been amused at management people who don’t understand the hierarchies of networks.

    I’ve not found too many people who rejected the ideas of worklevels amongst my own GenXers, but I also explain them in a way that irritates and alienates the Jaquesians. I really do think that Wilfred Brown was doing something amazing at Glacier, something that people should pay attention to and something that Jaques unilaterally decided to abandon for just strict hierarchy, which made no sense.

    OBTW, now that I’ve read a bit on y’all’s website, I really like the way that you put it, “Context (the wider application of Stratified Systems Theory)”.

  7. Interesting arguments about age and some suggestion of decline. I must admit I cannot agree to the comment ‘The firms that use Requisite Organization theory seem to be small, person-driven shops that will die with their principals.’ Since the advent of computer systems that truly represent RO, I would not classify Anglo Gold Ashanti with 60,000 persons in over 20 countries around the world as small. The latest technology has brought in many new young consultants in RO and the workshops provided by RSC ( on behalf of the Institute are creating much new blood and rejuvenated the greying masses!

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    David, by “firm” I meant “consulting firm” of a decent size (say 1,000+). There are of course several large corporations that are using SST or Glacier principles, including GE, Tata Sons and — from what I can tell — Microsoft. None credits Jaques or Glacier; Tata credits David Billis, for example, and Microsoft keeps this like a trade secret. And even I’ve been a sub on replies to RFPs in a few countries, all stemming from the Glacier methods — don’t know who got them, of course. All to say that sure there are many corporations using the ideas.

    I still contend that teaching the ideas is insufficient: some form of development of consultants up through the practice must also be in place. I’m not sure other than bioss that I can cite a consulting firm who is growing their young consultants in any of the methods and findings from out of Glacier. In my own field, I know that IBM (Canada) has used them to develop project management methods and DEC used them before they imploded (RIP, DEC: I dearly loved my Alpha). Raynor is at Deloitte and as I’ve said, I think he’s extended the worklevels ideas greatly by adding uncertainty; but I don’t think that it’s being used across the company, as evidenced by the recent Marin County, CA project failure. But as far as I know, the consultants involved did not develop anyone other than themselves.

    It’s good to see that RSC is doing something. From what I can see from your website, the software tools that you are providing are going to go a long way to making it easier for people who are interested to adopt these principals for organization design. I wish you great success.

  9. Hi Forrest,

    Thanks for the post.

    There is a group of people that have been very close to Elliott that you have apparently never been in contact with. Many of them live and work in Sweden. Please look at for more information about the company that Elliott co-founded with us.

    Enhancer has worked with over 170 companies in the last 10 years.

    There is a mix of ages in the group and we have with some of Elliotts closest associates a strong on going development of the concepts and practice.

    Robin Rutili

  10. Post

    Thanks for pointing out that Sweden has a robust community, Robin. Paul Holmström and I communicate regularly, and I have a few of y’all through him. I had totally blanked in my mind about this strong community. I hadn’t heard about Enhancer and it’s great to have that link.

    As strange as it sounds, this post has been great to get responses from people who are not as well known in my hemisphere.

  11. Post

    (Sorry about this, Sergey: I somehow didn’t get this comment approved!)

    Sergey’s answer is at the top of that page, and is really interesting. I would disagree that most people are appointed to fail: I think that it’s just that most appointments are not to succeed but to “not fail”. It’s like choosing IBM back in the day: you won’t get fired over it even if they do a mediocre job. But it’s certainly true that most people aren’t hired to make a company successful, except in turnaround situations. Which Sergey points out about crises.

    It’s really very interesting and I recommend taking a look if you’re someone interested in RO’s future.

    For a related but different point of view, check out Mark Van Clieaf’s papers on executive pay at (registration required). Mark studied many of the big companies and found that boards were really managing for level 4 or lower performance.

  12. There are some members of the “younger generation” becoming increasingly interested in some of the work of Elliott Jaques. An article here:

    Also a critical take on biological maturation:

    And I co-taught a course last week in Wroclaw integrating some principles of requisite organisation:

    The students were quite critical of the theory, particularly what it has to say about biological maturation. But they were certainly engaged and interested.

  13. It’s been quite a while since I weighed in with respect to Requisite Organization.

    I have always believed the “problem” has been in the packaging of the product. The notion of complexity of mental processing (current and future potential capability) is counter culture to the American Dream that has been engrained into the collective psyche of the western world. The dream promotes that anyone, if they work hard enough, can obtain anything, including the presidency of the United States, a concept that is obviously flawed. There is none the less an inherent risk in pidgeon holing people and placing some real or artifical value on their cognitive capability. In the eyes of society a free democracy promotes the fundamental values of equality and justice. Dissidents oppose RO at the core value level. If it doesn’t resonate with the values it quickly gets scrapped.

    I think that if requisite managerial practices were promoted and the underlying theory was largely left aside that the whole system would be much more palatable. Even where succession planning is practiced by engaging the MoR, absent the theory related to stratified systems, the organization will define the best candidates for mentoring to senior roles. Assuming people are working near their current potential capability the organization will been relatively content. Those who are incapable of assuming high stratum roles (including the presidency) rarely aspire to that end. The theory, as a consequence, is best left in the unconscious, with the practical components (managerial practices) being brought into the conscious awareness of the organization.

    I have also contemplated that human beings are multi dimensional organisms and that while one facet of our existence may be applied at stratum 3 another may be applied at 5 or 2 or some other level of capability. Leonardo DaVinci, for example, was a pure genius, within the context of his artistic ability. He may have only been S1 in his complexity for managing his household finances.

    The frangmentation of RO post Elliott Jaques is not unlike a major corporation that contracts following the departure of a highly capable leader and a less capable successor. Jaques, according to Kathryn Cason, was S10 (clearly high level even if one wishes to dispute the 10). His followers were likely not operating at the same level and as a result they ran off with pieces of the whole system and are applying these and their own current potential capability.

  14. I second Sergey re “Brilliant!”. There are those though, who maintain that unless the system is used in its totality, that it won’t work. I wonder if any research has been done in that direction.

  15. Forrest, once again, the internet “path” proves fascinating. While reading Sebastian Unger’s “War”, I came across his mention of the “Dunbar number” which immediately stirred memories of my former companies journey with Elliot Jacques’ SST,and the RO science. Googling Dunbar number + Elliot Jacques’ brought me to your site. So, I’ve been exploring with interest your blogs on this fascinating “science” of organizing people and companies.

    The concept was soon the operating system of the company and if nothing else, redefined all the HR systems and elevated the HR professionals to near god-like stature within our organization. It seemed every people, equipment and process issue was first viewed through this lens. It was believed that if these principles (R0) were followed to their scientific limit, the money would fall from the sky in buckets! It didn’t and the compamy later joined the fate of many in the private equity auction where most, if not all of the RO tools, systems, and HR forms were relegated to the bottom drawer. HR became a function of legal and the financial pros assumed the new diety status.

    But I digress. The RO concept had it’s strong points and when selected concepts in the hands of solid leadership were applied, very positive outcomes were achieved. Rising to GM status (S4 in a loose interpretation within our new hierarchy), I found myself reverting to some of the organizational theories when faced with lagging productivity, poor product quality,non-existent labor relations and an every man for himself management structure. I was “fortunate” to have the opportunity to lead two plant “turnarounds” and the experience was the pinnacle of my career.

    “Retiring” in 08 (one of the “grays” exposed to Jacques concepts, actually met him twice when he visited our company), my mixed bag of management tools in hand, I realized my passion for a people-centered inclusive culture. Certainly not a scientific expert on RO or many of the other leadership and organizational styles, but I knew what worked and have since been trying to share that experience.

    Having been exposed to the throngs of consultants our company employed throughout my career, I now fly my own shingle and as one who got up everyday with very tangible manufacturing metrics to “hit”, I focused on the science of pulling every bit of passion, creativity, and capability from the folks who “touched” the product and those who “served” those who touched the product, their managers, both big and small “m’s”.

    Not sure how much of “Elliot” is in all that but no doubt, some of stuck and I’m certain, there’s more right about his ideas than not. As an old grad school professor once told us, “throw what you believe out here in the middle of the floor. We’ll all pick it apart, kick it around and when we’re done, what’s left is probably good stuff. Pick it up and take it with you. Cherish it and it will serve you well”.

    Interesting blog! I’m delighted Sebastian Unger mentioned the “Dunbar Number”.

  16. Post

    Anytime RO is used to strengthen HR rather than management, something has gone off the tracks. I’m actually not that big of a fan of RO, which as others have stated here has a shadow side that is fairly fascist. The actual management methods used at Glacier Metal — where Jaques, John Isaac, Ralph Rowbottom and others first formulated the theories of work levels — is very different. I recommend taking a look at Wilfred Brown’s “ORGANIZATION” which you can get cheaply from UK used book sellers. (I think mine cost US$12 with shipping across the Atlantic.)

    I prefer Brown because (a) he actually managed somebody and (b) he understands that there are issues that all people have the right to participate the decisions, even if through representatives. His use of the Works Council — which he advocated to his death but which Jaques rejected and apparently told people that “we” abandoned them because they weren’t needed — gives the necessary balance to the top-only RO system.

    [Note to everyone: Michael has a book that looks interesting, People: The Real Business of Leadership. You can read the first chapter free.]

  17. Just to follow up on the “younger generation.” I just published an article, discussing nuances of the application of the theory and my own research findings, as well as the state of American competitiveness. More papers are upcoming. This one, Why Organizations Fail: A Conversation About American Competitiveness, is available here:

    Published by The International Journal of Organizational Innovation (IJOI), 2011.


  18. I am 62, so may to some extent prove your point. Yet having been through many many training courses and seminars on management, and having worked for Senior Execs, CEOs, and Boards there are only a few that stand out: 1) Drucker — he really sets a context for management , yet he was so prolific that at this point in my career he can create a background context yet can not be a tool; 2) Peters and Covey provide a kick-in-the-butt that is useful yet skunk-works and/or a reiteration of what everybody already knows is not a catalyst. The only tool that can be passed on to my management team is RO – – yet only certain aspects. Although I may be behind on advances in RO, I am very suspect at anyone’s ability to measure the “level” of a interviewee. Yet over time, the “level” of an individual can be assessed, yet in my opinion clouded by 1) “fire in the belly”, 2) success by sheer adherence to a sales protocol (just get it done), 3) excellence at managing the boss, and 4) sheer brilliance (I very much doubt that RO would have picked out Steve Jobs as a winner 30 years ago). I didn’t spend much time phrasing this, so Kathryn may likely conclude she was right in her assessment of me in 1988.

  19. Post

    Thanks for the comment, Gary. (You were really assessed by Kathryn? What was that like back then?) Your comment on Steve Jobs makes me wonder if we couldn’t have seen him as a high potential early on. And I bet that this is testable! The great thing about the PC pioneers is that they were wildly opinionated and didn’t understand yet that they should be watching what they say in the press. Not that the computer press was all that advanced.

    Anyway, the upshot is that we can test your hypothesis by grabbing some old interviews of Jobs and use PeopleFit’s method, which modifies Jaques and Cason a bit, and see what we get. We can grab some from the Apple II days, before he would be scripting his responses, and then some from the NeXT days when no one was listening so he probably didn’t script that either.

    Sales is tricky, in my opinion. Because of the commission structure, most of them operate more like independent agents than employees. That makes it like the “piecework” worker Brown and Jaques talk about.

    I’ve seen a consistent change in people who were “not doing the work to succeed” in jobs too small for them suddenly “work like all get out” when put in jobs that fit with either a Real Boss. My hunch is that this is not true for everyone and some people should be their own bosses. I think that is related to the issue of managing the boss seems to be much less of an issue in requisite relationships (where the boss is actually one stratum higher), at least in my experience. I’ve been amazed at how everything changes when the relationships get more aligned to a natural hierarchy, which is usually a lot flatter.

    In the end, measuring the interviewee is what all testing methods are trying to do. CIP can only tell you what level of work a person could do if they were working full out. Almost no one works full out, and Jaques and Cason never fully explored the issues of work-fit, leaving it to “you just don’t want to do the work”. All it says is what level you could work at, not what type of job or even whether you can actually do the work. I think it works well to evaluate the severely under-employed.

    It’s interesting that if you used your 3 points to evaluate Ulysses Grant before the outbreak of the Civil War, he’d be a loser in all aspects. Which is a great segue into my next topic about how underemployed people can get out of it, even in mid- and later-life!

  20. Hi Forrest, I’m one of the ‘young’ Requisite Organization practitioners (working with Glenn and Michelle @ for the last 5 years) at the age of 48. In our particular branch of consulting we have a 2-fold problem. First, as a field, we don’t have a good methodology for passing on our collective knowledge (Not an uncommon occurrence in the consulting world as a whole). There are a couple of things play into this such as the work is not widely known in industry (at least not by name), and that by nature we are competitive and/or we are not as good at passing on what we know for a variety of reasons.

    Next, it takes a certain amount of capability to be able to learn this stuff and a particular set of skills to be effective to passing it on to others. While the concepts at a base level are easy to understand, when we get to engaging with our target clients, there are a couple of things at play. First, context is best provided by someone one level higher that the person getting the information. In our client world, that means that we are usually dealing with Stratum 4, 5 or 6 level executives. It’s hard to have a person capable at those levels at a really young age (although by no means impossible), and if they are, there is credibility gap with the senior level executives that we commonly need to get our sponsorship from. A certain amount of ‘grey hair’ if you will is expected in consulting. An element of ‘Been there, done that’ seems to be expected.

    So, are we a dying breed? No our ‘Next Generation’ is out there today. They are the young, high potentials that we are all working with inside our clients and they are driving transformation and being successful using Requisite Organization as a key component. Some will have the values and desire to work as consultants transforming systems from the outside. Others will remain powerful agents for change and transformation inside organizations for decades to come.

  21. Hi Gene,

    I don’t think you will find it is absolutely necessary to be one level higher in capability than the individual you are pitching the product to. Naturally, those whose CPC resides within the abstract world may wish to delve into the theoretical postulations behind stratified systems theory however the concrete elements all reside within the context of capable managers applying requisite managerial practices. This is the real meat and potatoes of the system and this is what nurtures an engaged workforce applying its individual and collective capability.

    The brilliance of Jaques is that he has observed the underlying theory and then elevated it to a level of simplicity in respect of how organizations should be organized and what managerial practices should be applied in order to gain maximum benefit. The real challenge is it all requires a behavioral change by management and as we all know behaviors are not necessarily so easily modified.

  22. Very much enjoyed reading all of the comments – I’m a General Manager (Level 4 in our organisation) who has found the principles of requisite organisatioan to be extremely valuable in our workplace.

    I was lucky enough years ago at uni to have a jurisprudence professor who was interested in drawing an analogy between the common law – derived through the legal judgements, and the laws of nature which are derived through experimentation. He pointed out that the power of both methods is in review – if it is found that a certain object does not appear to obey, say, the law of gravity, it is not the object that is rejected, it is the laws of physics that are reviewed.

    (As Robert Pirsig (best known for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) wrote: “the pencil is mightier than the pen”.)

    The laws of physics help us build bridges. If a bridge falls down, we need to revisit our application of the laws of physics to stop it happening again. To me, the equivalent in an organisation of a bridge falling down is simply people being frustrated due to internal reasons.

    If we have a workplace that has people who have some semblance of enjoyment at work, are focussed on their customers and the market rather than on internal issues, and it is achieving what it set out to do – that workplace is requisite. If it’s breaking a principle of requisite organisation, then the principle needs to be reviewed, not the workplace. As I’ve experienced, workplaces that achieve the above generally line up very closely with requisite principles, just like the bridge that does not fall down aligns with what the laws of physics requires in order for it stay up.

    In my experience at work, requisite organisation has provided the organisational laws of physics that have provided fantastic insight into underlying causes of people’s frustration. As Alan refers to above, I’ve not found it necessary to teach underyling concepts, it’s just through putting requisite structures and practices in place that things improve. For those that are of a theoretical bent, I’m happy to discuss the concepts of what I’m doing, but as a colleague said “Why do they call it ‘requisite organisation’. Isn’t it just common sense?”.

    I think the answer to this is yes and no. If someone working at Level 3 has never been told that the real reason they are there is to make their whole show run better tomorrow while maintainign today, then we’re relying on someone instinctively picking that up. To those that find it obvious, then it’s obvious. To others, though, it can be a revelation.

    Thanks to all for all the words, great reading.

  23. Does anyone have a grasp of the academic discussion about RO in universities? Where specifically do we know that young students are exposed to these ideas in undergraduate studies? The few people I know in the field seemed to have stumbled on Jacques’ work, and I wonder if that is the norm.

  24. Post


    I’m not an expert in that area but the GO Society ( has had discussions about this at their conferences. Requisite Organzation, Inc. ( might also have info, as they are or were in the academy. My impression is that Jaques is taught in few places, including at Brunel Univ. where he taught himself. Wilfred Brown is almost unknown. It has seemed that it is spotty, here and there. It may increase with Art Kleiner’s pushing of Jaques’s work to understand a piece of the organization puzzle.

    The reality is that Jaques and Brown were derided by the academy by their contemporaries, who went on to control PhD work. This limited the opportunities for academics who wanted to pursue Jaques’s ideas. Jaques taught until he died, so there are those folks, but I understand that many in the department weren’t happy.

    I’d bet that that Ken Shepard of the GO Society would know. His contact details should be on the GO Society website.

  25. Our organisation was re-built on RO principles 10 years ago, and has gone from strength to strength. Our implementation inadvertently created a rigid hierarchy that interpreted decision authority as the same as communication – which we’re loosening up now.

    Overall – a good structure for predictable times, however in its implementation (ours) seems to struggle with innovation, self-forming workgroups, experts who can float up/down the hierarchy and see out 20+ years – we’re also challenged with organisational agility – how can we nimbly respond to external changes and contexts.

    I like EJ’s work – however think that this, with a combination of systems-theory, human-dynamics, and Clare Grave’s work could be the platform for the next 20-years of organisations – perhaps more, if we can shift some of the underlying mindsets about growth.

    btw – I’m in the younger category (fun to claim this, still < 50), and in NZ.


  26. I’d like to respond regarding “RO implementations.” Comparing “RO implementations” with the ICARUS experiment, through which physicists are debating whether neutrinos can travel faster than the speed of light, the debate centers around measurement and its precision.

    Having read/heard that a particular implementation of RO lead to “struggle with innovation,” I would like to see the measures and data, such as the precision of levels, capabilities, and other data that none of us in the social sciences field shares, including Jaques himself. I also don’t know what “innovation” is, which could be a symptom of a poorly-designed or -functioning organizational system, but I still would not know about what we are talking because we lack a universal language. For example, I have seen multitudes of ways how a particular consultant determines the levels, and so, when we claim level/stratum 3, 4, 5, etc. — they all mean very different things (the last consultant I met “determined” levels by HR pay-grade). So, I very much doubt that there has ever been a scientific (measure-based approach) implementation of RO, and all claims of success/failure are suspect, and not verifiable, considering also coincidental business fortunes/misfortunes.

    Jaques, in his genius, observed several important laws of organizational systems, hid their complexities, and presented them in a simple and eloquent way (as brilliantly commented by Gorman). Jaques also created a ratio-scale measuring instrument to observe some organizational dynamics. To our great sin, not a single organizational consultant/researcher, including Jaques himself, has ever published the measurement data. Without this data, we will never be able to move beyond Jaques’ superficiality, just like CERN scholars would not be able to support or reject Einstein’s speed-of-light theories.

    Furthermore, Gorman makes an interesting observation about “a behavioral change by management … not necessarily so easily modified.” I would like to fundamentally disagree. All human behavior is a function of a system. Jaques eloquently described (and predicted) human behavior in organizations. The management does not exist in a vacuum. The CEO resides within a different, larger, and arguably, more complex system. Changing or even understanding its laws could have a fundamental shift in the behavior for which some of us so long.

  27. Post

    This is fascinating.

    I recall Cason emphatically telling Ken Craddock, “If they weren’t doing timespan, they weren’t doing Jaques!” Seems relevant here. I also recall hearing that in a well-known implementation, the company’s CEO role was bumped up a stratum to appease his/her ego, creating a fake layer somewhere in the organization. Maybe they were supposed to grow into it, as I tell my kid when she gets pants that are too big. There is way too much of this stuff going around.

    That said, the consultants I know and have worked with seem pretty adamant with their clients about reality. They also use timespan.

    I wonder if Sergey can talk more about what he means by “ratio-scale measuring instrument”. I’m unclear on what this is.

  28. Forrest, thanks for the opportunity, glad to contribute. Yes, I am discussing the timespan method to obtain the ratio-scale measurement of the size of the role within a managerial hierarchy (not association). Now, the language problem that we all face is daunting, because I would not know what “timespan” means when other consultants or researchers claim to use it. There are many different timespan methods. Regarding this, I will be giving a presentation on this very topic on June 3-6 at International Conference in Chicago. I would be glad to share the presentation when it is ready, and hoping to develop a scholarly article afterwards (would be glad to learn of any journal suggestions). Back to timespan, when someone says he used timespan to derive at stratum-n, I would still have no idea what that means; the error could be n+/-1 at least.

    Stratum is nothing more than an interpretation of the measurement derived by using timespan of the role (when all of us agree on what that method is), which simply gauges the actual work in this particular role (just like blood pressure, it can go up and down). So, when we discuss stratification, we really need to publish the “timespan” set of data, amongst other information, not just accept strata and interpreted conclusions at face value.

    On your other point regarding raising the CEO’s role by one level, this never happens in reality, only on a diagram. Stratum (derived through a ratio-scale systemic measurement method) is just a reflection of actual work. I have similarly seen, for appeasement reasons, “adding” level 8, 7, etc., but we are just kidding ourselves, and simply creating extra levels in a hierarchy that likely functions at level 5 or below.

  29. Jaques was very precise in what he intended discretionary timespan to represent. My recollection is that discretionary timespan denoted the longest task an individual was capable of working on. This is limited, in the first instance, by the complexity of mental processing the individual possesses. For example, an individual capable of rationalizing third order declarative processing (Level 1) cannot lead cultural change in an organziation as this task requires an individual capable of abstract information processing in the fourth order of information complexity.

    Returning to behavior versus system we need to acknowledge that all organizational systems are led by people and that the behavior of the individual leading the system will impact the ordering of the organization compelled by the managerial systems. These behaviors will also impact how readily the systems are employed and what values are prevalent within the organization.

    Organizations are much more complex than they appear on the surface and much of what is observed, particularly in larger organizations, is not so much a function of what has been deliberately intended. A lot of what we onserve is the consequence of the unintended and the interpretations of those affected by the system. Human beings have a propensity to individualize the effects of the system (both good and bad) within the domain of how it makes me feel. Specifically we filter what is occurring in respect of an individual or collective interpretation of values. (McDonald has done some very good work on the subject.) Systems should enhance trust within organizations and should be fair however many interpret them as being unfair and deceptive and in particular when they are changed within organizations that are dycfunctional the first response will almost always be one of “they’re doing it to us again”.

    A shift to an RO implementation requires are pretty resilient CEO and board recognizing that the effects of its implementation may not be fully visible for five years or so (I doubt that a cultural transformation can occur in much less time unless the organization is very small) and the marketplace for publically traded companies can barely look beyond a few quarters.

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    Wow. St Charles is close to my old stomping grounds at Fermilab. Perhaps we can meet up if you have time before or after the conference. Think about doing a recording of the talk, too, if possible. It sounds very interesting.

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    You’d be surprised, Al, at how much controversy there is over timespan. I’ve heard people go at it for hours at professional meetings, to not really get anywhere. Rowbottom and Billis essentially say that it’s worthless above stratum 5 (the first real executive level) and so let’s not use it. Many of the other people at Brunel Institute of Social Sciences felt the same way. Jaques always got these timespans in his work, they said, but we can’t replicate whatever he’s seeing.

    One of the current detractors is the US Army. They feel that there is “timespan compression” for battle troops. One could argue that the fact that very few of the US military brass were thinking much beyond the initial conflict (handily won) that we have such problems in the post-war Iraqi peace (more or less bungled).

    Another argument, made most recently by Tom Foster in his blog, says that the timespan of your training you have to keep up with is relevant. Which is silly prima facie: all pre-med students would have to have 10-year timespans. He was making the argument about software developers, and it’s just not right. Speaking as someone who has managed software developers in three countries.

    The Canadian RO people seem to be more coherent, perhaps because almost all of them learned RO after, well, RO, as opposed to back in the SST or BIOSS days. European Jaques-ians have more differences, many of which keep them from working together.

    One of the issues may be differentiating Timespan (the time it takes to accomplish your longest task [or see the results of your work?]) and Time Horizon (a personal quality of how far into the future one can see). There has been task timespan data published but it feels like it’s been awhile, and the vast majority of implementations don’t ever try to measure the timespan of the roles.

  32. I will try to cover as much of the method as possible in Chicago at the International Conference. I think eventual agreement on the method is necessary to succeed in moving the field towards science. Agreeing on the method would also disclose the measurement error in our reporting, thus, enabling alternative interpretations. We need the same measurement standards for organizations as the ones that exist for length, weight, etc. — kept by the General Conference on Weights and Measures, as I understand on an international territory somewhere in France (the standard of meter, kilo). I am sure there will be other cleverer measurement ideas developed later, but at least we would have a Galilean foundation for future Einsteins. Without that, the discussion of stratification is intriguing, possibly fascinating, but hollow.

  33. Phew, there are so many things to comment on in this thread

    I had a few days with Elliott back in 1997. One day was with one of my clients discussing how generals lead war. Elliott introduced the concept of “compressed time” as a way of coping with speeded up time during war. I figured that this is what happens in industries where rapid change takes place. My personal conclusion was that time span analysis might not be easy if the speed of time can be considered as variable.

    Timespan has been controversial for a long time. According to what I have heard Elliott was explicitly forbidden to do time span analysis at the National Health Service in the eighties.

    Forrest’s quote from Cason “If they weren’t doing timespan, they weren’t doing Jaques!”, makes me recall my comment 2010 in this thread about fundamentalistic attitudes hindering the development of the field and making it less attractive to newcomers. Which capable person wants to work with something that is set in cement? Unfortunately the term “requisite organization” has become unrequisite. Going back to the work done at Glacier and later described in Social Analysis, “requisite organization” has become “manifest”, a description of how things should be, rather than a search for the better way of working.

    Sergey touches on the research roots in the field. I have heard that Elliott’s original data was lost, but considerable research was done both at ARI and Bioss. Gillian Stamp developed CPA/MCPA and some of the research was published at ARI, including the longitudinal studies if my memory serves me right.

    As far as I understand about what has been done, there is a research base for time span analysis and CPA/MCPA, but no other methods. Also the original research does not go beyond seven levels and eight modes. Given that there is no further research any additional levels and modes are hypothetical, not proven.

    I disagree with Sergey when he writes “Stratum is nothing more than an interpretation of the measurement derived by using timespan of the role”. The work by Isaac and Gibson as described in “Levels of Abstraction in Logic and Human Action”, suggests otherwise. Isaac and Gibson had independently found a discontinuous stratification, which as I understand it made Elliott reinterpret time span analysis and set in motion the work of Gillian Stamp in developing the CPA.

  34. Lovely and lively discussion. On compressed time. I think Jaques was wrong there. If you cannot measure the phenomenon, then how are you going to test it? Everything then becomes “compressed” time. Stalin, in 1942, when the Germans were right near Moscow, was discussing plans about dividing Europe after the WW2.

    About Isaac’s research on capability, which he called capacity. His research was paramount, unfortunately largely forgotten. He developed the Theory of Discontinuity of Psychological Development, finding distinct populations of capacity amongst the college students, evaluating this capacity using him-invented capability-measuring tool, something like an abacus, which came close to measuring Isaac’s capacity/Jaques’ capability. Unfortunately, his tool is also lost to history.

    Gorman’s idea about multi-dimensional capability is brilliant; I agree with it. Now then, back to the organizational/hierarchy’s stratum, how are you going to get at stratum without a measuring tool? By title? By gut-feeling? By clothes people wear? Or how far they think into the future? My point was that without a precise measuring tool, you cannot get at the phenomenon, be it the level of work in the hierarchy, or a dimensional capability of a person (try measuring the speed of your vehicle without an odometer). The tool(s) should also be widely understood by others so that a conversation about data and findings could be possible.

  35. Pingback: Does Requisite Organization really work over a weekend? (REDUX) - Requisite Reading | Requisite Reading

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    Hi Anil! The goals for the head of HR depends on the level of work (LoW) in which he is working. That is, a Chief HR Officer (CHRO) in a worklevel 5 role will have different goals than would a HR manager working at level 3. This is true even if both report to the CEO of their respective companies.

    Tony Welsh, Vice President at Forrest and Company (of Toronto, and not related to me), has pointed out to me that different companies will implement Requisite Organization (RO) differently. To be successful, they should focus on what will deliver returns quickly. That said, he believes that most companies can get major results by implementing the Manager-once-Removed (MoR) process. But I am not sure if this is a “goal” or an initial task.

    Any move towards a naturally organized enterprise will have goals of:

    1. Everyone has a Real Boss: a manager who, as Tony’s colleague Nick Forrest says, “adds value to their work”
    2. Compensation meets “felt-fair pay” from the bottom to the top
    3. Managers are consistently held accountable for the outputs of their reporting organizations

    Once I started writing this list, it struck me how much it looks like Gallup’s “12” list for engagement. Several people have argued how RO is the method by which one achieves the “12”. So better engagement as measured through Gallup’s questionnaires would provide a great goal for any RO engagement.

    This also solves Gallup’s most glaring hole: they provide no prescription for attaining better engagement. RO has consistently created much higher levels of engagement. It’s a pretty good combination.

    However, I suspect that RO practitioners and thinkers will have different points of view.

    This is such a good idea that we would do it as a separate post! Or even white paper!

  37. Hi Christian,

    Thanks for that quick reply!

    I meant Level 3 only and designation may change according to the Company.

    My point is to undesratnd how time span of each goal will differ in RO concept. For eg. one of the goals I can relate to is on the creation of the talent pipeline. L2 will have to look at the positions and no of people to be devloped in teh current year, a Lvel 3 probably will have to target number of replaceable postions (replacemnet ratio yoY). Likewise, what can be on the Cost aspect, Processes, Developmnet etc. Is there anyone who can help me with this info.

    Also I am interested to be part of the further discussion on RO & Q12 relation building!



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    Processes are a big deal. Mickey Jawa has spoken about how the work of Satistar in business process redesign has been improved through working with Don Fowke of the New Management Network, an RO expert. Nick Forrest of Forrest and Company (no relation) has an to-be-published manuscript that includes a chapter on the importance of cross-functional processes, going beyond simple lateral processes to the complex, multi-level, specialist-heavy cross-functional processes common in any global firm today.

    I once spoke with Ravi “Shanks” Shankar about the problems of his global workforce in southern Asia. He talked about the importance of a common culture. Since they did not share a common culture normally (different countries, belief systems, native languages) he created a strong culture within the firm. It’s an area that RO has nothing to say about that is very important. RO is in many important ways an embedded set of cultural values. Where kinship and power centrism reign, RO will be unsuccessful.

    A true “talent pipeline” is really a relatively rare. Very few companies have matured to the point where the whole culture will support it. According to Warren Kinston (Strengthening the Management Culture) talent management requires a Systemicist culture, which is top of maturation for management cultures. Few companies have systemicist cultures and so talent pipelines can never be really developed. It requires a particular type of thinking.

    Succession planning, however, is much simpler and requires much less maturity from the management culture.

    But who can best help you will depend on exactly why you need it. Send me a private email at manasclerk at/sign gmail (period) com and I will try to connect you to the right resources.

  39. So I’d like to join this conversation, I certainly feel like the lone “youngster” in the jaques crowd, but I always have been. As the son of Stephen Clement, Jaques co-author and partner in australia, I believe Ive got a unique perspective on his work. Afterall my exposure began in high school, with nightly dinners with my father and elliott while visiting in melbourne, where EJ would grill me about with a ton of questions about my schoolwork. I would say what I learned from them functioned as a foundation for my success as an executive in a fortune 500 company, later as an owner of auto delarships and now currently a business owner again. Recently, my father and I have written a book, to be published in the next few weeks. It’s All About Work; Organizing Your Company To Get Work Done. In this book we build on their past work, yet add in some new concepts, such as Time Compression as a sort of balance to Time Span..we have adapted some of the tenets of RO based on my fathers experience in RO projects AND my experiences as a manager and leader. I do not count myself as one of the EJ “worshippers” or as I call them, the fan club..RO provided me with an organizational mindset to be succesful. It really helped me, however, I have issues with some of it, and at times clearly violated some of the principles… most of my roles have been in operational roles, No HR or internal consultant roles..pure P&L accountability..I NEVER used time span as a manager, but I was always AWARE of a biz owner I once had to choose between managers in a shrinking business (automotive) I chose to keep the manager with LOWER capacity…these experiences would lead to my father and I changing the conversation with his clients, to changing how/what I applied in dealing with subordinates, partners and corporate bosses..I am not much of a theoritical guy but more of a practical, ROI , what are the results type of guy..

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    Thanks for the comment, Chris. I heard your father speak about some of your work before. You and Sergey aren’t really the youngest folks out there. One of my clients, an American serial entrepreneur, just turned 30 and he’s been using various parts of SST for about six years to great effect. (Although those Toronto meetings did feel awfully gray. Thank God for Justin Codreanu who kept me from being the youngest person in the room!) There are lots of young managers who use variations of it without thinking, especially in India. My guess is that India will be the place it really takes hold, like Japan grabbed the earlier Glacier work.

    Cason would be clear about her opinion here: “if they aren’t doing timespan they’re not doing Jaques!” At least she has been in the past in meetings. I’ve heard people say that timespan is a big part of RO’s problems in the marketplace of ideas but I am less certain. However, I come of out of software development and systems consulting, and our world is faster paced than other people’s, so time is of greater importance.

    Glad to hear about the new book. From what I’ve heard from your father, it will be a solidly managerial book which the field needs. I am looking forward to picking up the book when I can and doing a review.

  41. Hi All,

    It is a pleasure to read all the comments and I will be one of the younger guys not the youngest who is passionate about RO. I was introduced to RO a couple of years back and I have been implementing RO in my own IT company based out of India having global operations and for few of my clients.

    Though I love EJ’s work but there are areas where RO is weak and thin.

    There is no mention of Change Management in RO, In today’s world organizations have to quickly adapt the changing market conditions to excel and survive. When it comes to change management Jaques would simply say that structuring, filling and leading an organisation using requisite principles creates an organisation that is able to change quickly as required, which is not actually true.

    This might exactly be the thought that has lead many organisations to failure in change.

    There is a big difference in setting up an organisation for efficient and profitable operation (A) and guiding an organisation successfully through change (B).

    Assuming that having done (A) will ensure (B) is a big flaw. They are totally different modes of operation.

    (A) requires stability and maturity and “regulation”. (B) requires Agility.

    Assuming that having done (A) will ensure (B) is a big flaw.” RO is pretty silent about B and A. RO has lots to say about how the organization ought to look like and operate to be like (A) but RO doesn’t say much of value on how to get there.

    In RO a project is a task. QQT/R but there is nothing defined in RO that says much beyond that other than how to use your team to help plan it. RO does not define anything that says how to execute a project, what are the processes invloved in doing a project. How to break the project into smaller tasks so that they can be executed.

    A few of my collgues and I are extending RO in some key areas where it is thin and we are devloping a new framework called “Requisite Agility”

    Amit Aurora

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    Thanks for the comment, Amit. I stumbled across your company a couple of weeks ago when looking for something a software architect recommended that the US military put out (also called requisite agility). It looks interesting and I hope we’ll hear more about what you’re doing.

    Jaques was a researcher and never was interested in the issues of actual management. Wilfred Brown was because as MD/CEO of Glacier Metal, where Jaques did his seminal work over 25 years, he had to be. His book, ORGANIZATION, has only parts of what Jaques would later concentrate on. It went farther afield. I’m not sure that he would have even known the term “change management” which is relatively new. But he did run the company as they went through some large growth, changes in production and at the end, a buyout.

    That’s not to ding Dr. Jaques: he was a brilliant researcher who did amazing work. He just wasn’t interested in those problems, and Requisite Organization passes over it. His collaborators such as Stephen Clement (whose son, Chris, comments above), Owen Jacobs, Ian Macdonald, Catherine Burke , and Karl Stewart were more interested in seeing things get done. Their output fills some of these holes. I would especially recommend Macdonald, Burke & Stewart’s Systems Leadership: Creating Positive Organisations. You can read a condensation of three chapters in the GO Society’s book.

    I also like what Jos Wintermans has to say. He was President of Canadian Tire Acceptance, the more-or-less standalone credit card arm of Canadian Tire (CA’s largest retailer), and President of Rogers Cable (CA’s largest cable TV provider), among other head positions. But I’m not sure that he’s actually published anything.

    The project-oriented world is new. Certainly software and IT have become obsessed with it and everything is done that way.

    It has been a few years since I worked in software and iT consulting at global companies. I liked the core of Agile Development but it always felt like a solution to what was largely bad management. (Alistair Cockburn has insinuated as much in an interview, although I don’t think he would put it quite so strongly.) Warren Kinston’s domains of work (and the associated languages of achievement) reveal some of the reasons why Agile processes are so successful with software development, because it has to interface with Organizational people who simply speak a different language. I’ve addressed this with some of my recent clients but I’m not sure that anyone has really talked about it.

    Burke wrote an earlier article about RO in IT. Glenn Mehltretter used RO principles to help very quickly reorganize an IT departments of the merged healthcare company that was fairly large (tens of thousands, I think). One of the presenters a few years back talked about how IBM consulting in Canada was using RO to determine

    Mickey Jawa of Satistar is a process design specialist who has teamed up with Don Folke, an RO expert, to balance out his work. Nick Forrest of Forrest & Company (no relation) points out in a soon-to-be-published manuscript how Jaques’s types of authorities make defining cross-functional processes sensical. Like you, he is shoring up RO because it simply does not address key points necessary even in doing the change management necessary to install an RO in the first place. But he totally believes in its power and efficacy.

    But I think you’re right that many people advocate Requisite Organization as if it is a management method. It’s not, at least not entirely. It really needs to be augmented.

    It’s great to see someone extending Requisite Organization into IT. IT has always seemed to me to be either extremely well run or absolutely abysmal. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

    And glad to hear more voices coming out of India. My money is on your country as the place where post-Jaques work will explode.

  43. Hi Amit,

    Nice to see your comments on RO as a person having dirtied your haands trying to use RO concept in an IT organisation.

    I am also was finding it difficult to relate to a Situation like you mentioned in A & B.

    What is required to build a RO necessarily may not take you to a Profitable organisation and there are other ways of getting to a profitable organisation.

    Can I get your cordinates so that I get some of your expert thoughts in teh context of IT, India and comparatively younger organisation.

    Christian Forrester was kind enough to through some good light to me on building an RO and his blog is helping us to be connected too Thankyou Christian!



  44. Thanks Forrest, pleasure reading your comment. Yes Jaques was a great reseacher and a very intelligent man, He should be given full credit for the work he had done.

    I learned RO from Herb Koplowitz and I really can’t thankyou him enough for introducing me to RO. It has been quite a fascinating journey for me over the last 4 years.

    Once I got a hang of RO I did realize that RO was becoming old school and had to be extended in today world by joining it with the new school stuff, There were challanges but overall it has worked out very well. Agile has a lot of problems due to it non accountable nature, It works well in small teams but it weakens when it is scaled up. This is where I thought of combining RO with Agile and comming out with RA. Agile on the RO framework can be very powerful framework as they both complenent each other.

    The core team of RA has done a lot of work and countless hours in deveoping RA, hopefully in next few months we plan to launch it.

    We might do a presentation of RA in next GO conf. Herb has been talking to Ken about this and let us see how it goes.

    I think I have been talking to Chris and we do have to shedule a conf together , I have to learn more about his work.

    You are right when you say it is not a management method , I agree with you on this.

    We should always try to extend and improve presious work of great people like EJ , There is a limited amount of things that a person can do in his life time, What he has given us is something very fascinating and we should all try to use its power to the maximum and extend where it is needed.

    Thankyou for your appreicaition, You will surely see a lot more on RA in comming days. Once we make the official public site of RA , I will invite you and others to be a part of it.

    I agree to you what you say about India, after all it is a country of religion where hierarchy, authority and accountablity was very well defined in the hindu Gods. So this comes natural to us. Look at TATAs and other big companies in India who have used the power of RO. We do plan to do the launch of RA first in India and I look forward to see you there and being a part of it 🙂

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  46. Sure Forrest you can send my email to Anil, it is always great to meet people like you and others who later on even become good friends 🙂

  47. I am 40, President of growing business, using RO as our managerial leadership practices. I see a lot of issues with the ability to transfer this knowledge and learning. RO goes against the mainstream traditional management models imbedded in companies (large and small).

    RO is the greatest strategic weapon for running a business. I have little patience for people who are not willing or equipped to see the value.

    I can take apart a company very quickly and explain to the other senior manager (be it CEO or President) “why” the problems in the organization exist.

    Think you have to get over the ej vs whoever and recognize RO as a strategic weapon.

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    Steven, great points. And it’s great to see another “live” manager who is using RO principles. And you’re only 40! Just like that you take an axe to my biggest complaint. Huzzah!

    You’re also hitting on a snag that most people tell me: RO is hard to disseminate. I don’t get this, myself: I’ve been writing about Jaques & Colleagues for a decade now, primarily to the “uninitiated”. I routinely communicate the core concepts in less than 30 minutes. It takes awhile for people to see how these simple ideas disrupt their current thinking, but it’s usually pretty straightforward. Not that I haven’t had some major communication blunders! It seems like the key communication points and processes haven’t yet been worked out in the field. Not a slap, that: it took IT until the last decade to work out how to retrain mainframers to OOP, because no one was deconstructing their mindset first.

    You’re right that RO provides real strategic value. Timepsan of discretion is clearly the best part. It’s endlessly useful and wildly easy to apply: people just hand it to you on a embossed golden platter. We use it to evaluate CEOs and executives to determine a risk number that they’ll tank the business or that the company (while looking good on paper) will have serious structural defects that will collapse value after purchase. RO is, as you say, a strategic weapon and savvy investors use it. The Glacier Method has things that provide value that Jaques ignored (oddly, even claiming Brown had abandoned them, too) but I like the stuff that Gillian Stamp and colleagues worked out in the RO model about role relationships, which has the air of military. Really nice with teasing out processes.

    Still, as is pointed out, correctly I think, by Warren Kinston — psychiatrist and director, systems researcher, Jaques colleague and creator of two successful biotech startups — RO’s points aren’t what’s most important to a company: it’s cashflow. RO addresses only one part (or perhaps two) of the necessary components for a truly mature management culture, especially in large businesses. That said, it’s right after pragmatic issues and so vital to a firm’s foundation and you can ensure cashflow by following these principle of Natural Management.

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  50. I’m involved in an effort to bring Requisite to the analysis of governance structures for court systems. In the process I’ve talked to a couple of dozen people about requisite. What seems to get their attention is to begin the discussion with Piaget, not Jaques, and then tell them that Jaques proved that cognitive development continues through adulthood. Time span, work levels, information processing, and maturation trajectories make sense at that point, though there is some nervousness about being pigeonholed. Also, there is confusion at first in distinguishing between an abstractive hierarchy (sets with sets) and a methodological hierarchy (integration of navigational skills). The light seems to go on when it becomes apparent that this is real science–simple laws of motion explaining complex processes, and extending into mainstream economic theory.

  51. Peter

    I think the question you are asking is important enough to start a new discussion topic for this group.

    You’ve done some good thinking on the high level values we use to frame our stories, and how to develop effective narratives to influence — perhaps coming from your experience as a trial lawyer.

    I for one would greatly value such a discussion.

  52. I’m doing my PhD right now and although it’s on cognitive complexity of PhD students, and the PhD process, I’m going to incorporate Jaques’ ideas in to the structure of a PhD research degree, and universities as organisations (without mixing them up). I’ve talked with the CEO of his Association and she is onboard. I think that we might need to find other uses for his ideas where we can.

  53. Not to blow my own horn, if you were doing graduate work, please Google and read my “THE END OF MANAGEMENT ALCHEMY”. It’s gaining popularity among acemedia as a straight forward primer to RO.

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    Yes, indeed buy Darwin’s book–it’s terrific. It also doesn’t suffer from the High Language endemic to management literature. I’ve had a review on my to-do list for months now. Highly recommended.

  55. Is this still an active blog? I have questions about Requisite Organization and its impact (negative and positive) on organizations, particularly in the innovation and creativity space.

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    I’m not really writing much these days but I’m not dead, either. I have considered the issue of creativity and RO. Requisite Agility which I help do the initial build out on tasks about that a lot. We were all concerned about the organization and its affect on software development. In its purer forms, sev work serves as a stand in for creating and innovation in general. So ask the question and let’s see what I can point you to.

  57. I’m glad to hear you’re not dead. I just saw this blog (while looking for some reference material on RO). I was introduced to RO by Gerry Kraines of the Levinson Institute (recently acquired by Pariveda) over 25 years ago (when I was 33), as a young executive who found himself way over his head, running a $.5B business after leading an 1470 person employee buyout, and in need of help and coaching. As an engineer (but with good instincts around people and organizations as I was told), the “engineering like” methodology Gerry had created (having worked with both Harry Levenson and Elliot Jaques, and having integrated both bodies of work in to fundamental principles and frameworks that could easily be used to deploy the “science”) resonated with me immediately. This body of knowledge affected the way I’ve run businesses ever since, and I believe was foundational to the many turn around/business improvement experiences I’ve had over the years, and is probably one of the last (and most untapped) areas of business improvement knowledge the business world has not broadly deployed. Now, as the COO of a large global private equity business accountable for overseeing all portfolio companies (35 – 40 in any given quarter), I continue to use these learnings and associated experiences to rapidly drive value creation at these companies, and in turn have started to develop programs and materials to train our younger professionals to use this methodologies. I believe we are establishing a competitive advantage which I have no doubt will be important, and sustainable given the lack of awareness and attention RO is given by other organizations. It will be truly unfortunate for the world to lose this body of knowledge if that happens! As I say when training up and developing our young talent pool (many with engineering backgrounds): “As Newton was to Calculus, and in turn its affect to advance the real life deployment of science that is called engineering, RO is the foundation to understanding how to fix, improve, and optimize organizations to achieve their stated purpose and maximize value”. You can’t assess and design optimized complex dynamic physical systems without calculus and engineering. To me, RO is the “calculus and engineering” to optimize “human dynamic systems” commonly referred to as organizations. A practitioner’s perspective!

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    Great to hear from you, Denis. I met Cynsie at the first GO Society meeting, and she introduced me to Gerry. He’s definitely one of the leading figures, and has done so much. And he’s good people. I spend my days in operational risk for a global financial concern

    (The rest of you should pick up Gerry’s book, Accountability Leadership: How to Strengthen Productivity Through Sound Managerial Leadership. He’s also got a new one scheduled for release next year. Here’s a sample of his thinking lately: How can leaders learn during times of crisis.)

    It is amazing how much value people throw away simply by not addressing work levels. Work that should be done at Level 4 is being pushed down to project managers capable at Level 2. There is simply no understanding that they will never be able to give you the Level 4 results you need. Well, perhaps: but it’s lucking into the solution that you don’t understand.

    I don’t think there’s any analog for this cluelessness in engineering. It’s as if we would continue to use a cabling method that failed multiple times in the past. People just don’t have a clue as to how work gets done.

    This leads operational risk to be so insidious. The risk of poorly organized management structures is never accounted for, yet if you don’t get the work done at the right level, it can never be done. How often have we seen a level 2 project manager being tasked with completing a corrective project with due date more than two years out? The poor soul has no chance of understanding what needs done, and so creates a solution for the parts he can see. Upper management, in what Nick Forrest calls “managerial abdication”, sees a project plan and sends it on its merry way to failure.

    I’m betting that using RO &emdash; especially through Gerry’s combinations with Levinson’s groundbreaking ideas &emdash; produces some crazy-big results in PE. There is so much untapped value laying about in organizations. Mining the lower ranks for people is also effective in most companies, but these folks are the only way for incompetent executives to get these Level 4 projects done cheaply.

    I spend my days doing operational risk for one of the G-SIBs but still find use for SST. One of the most effective things is that it gives the specialist a tool to know what executives can understand. Instead of spending time explaining something, you can accept the limitations and do something else. But it also provides a key to understand the operational risk of poor management structures. Good structure isn’t the only thing you need, and maybe it isn’t even the most important. But it does give you what you need to succeed over the long run with a large organization.

  59. Hi all,
    This is the most amazing blog on RO I’ve ever seen.
    I’m probably one of the youngest now (42), and I was introduced to RO and EJ’s work during my Executive Masters in 2014 from one of the Bioss consultants. Since that, my life (as others used to say) changed completely. I’m a consultant myself, working independently (in Russia before, now in the Middle East) now, and before was with the big names of PwC/Deloitte/KPMG. At KPMG in 2016 I found an internal OD framework directly citing EJ, and at PwC I recall one consultant apart from me working with RO principles, but these frameworks and people are all gone now, as big consultants are not interested in RO stuff at all. Even PwC (that acquired Booz in 2014) is not interested, which is strange given Art Kleiner is still there (technically, as a Chief Editor of Strategy+Business).

    I’m myself using RO for the OD work with smaller companies of the non-IT nature (construction, farming, retailers), but for the pure software development, I find it challenging enough not to try. The most curious work on levels in IT I saw from Janne Korhonen.

    Re assessments – there is a clash between approaches, as Bioss tends to offer external assessments, and GO/ROII rather deny that method. There is also an amazing tool from CognaDev, called CPP, for which R&D was done by one of the most knowledgable persons in the world in a psychometric domain, Paul Barrett. Also, Fabiaan van Vrekhem offered a fresh perspective on levels (you can watch his videos on YouTube) and integrated this view into his tool, called Valpeo, which is, basically, a semi-structured interview. The problem with interviews is a natural limitation of an interviewer’s capability, so you might not get the correct result – none of us, afaiu, has a CAC of EJ.

    There are other developments around, some of them going into design work (such as Requisite Agility introduced by Amit above – 10 years ago, time flies) and some of them – into assessment and development (here I can recall IDM by Otto Laske or Lectica by Theo Dawson). Btw, what do you all think of Lectica?

    Anyway, kudos to Forrest and others to keeping the thread as it is extremely important to develop the global community.

  60. Post

    Great to hear from you, Pavel. There has been some interesting work with worklevels in both Russia and the Middle East (I recall Saudi Arabia specifically). There were some interesting lessons learned about the importance of social trust that Jaques never discussed. You have to have social trust in order for RO to work. If you have low social trust, RO simply can’t work: no one is willing to trust in a system that isn’t based on power dynamics. I think people in high social trust societies forget how fragile that is. America has been burning its social capital for a while now (thank you, Baby Boomers and Silent Genners) and this has impacted how well companies can work internally. Chaos and order, the masculine and feminine: always in struggle.

    I was part of the dev team for Amit’s Requisite Agility, although I’ve had to fall off since. I recommend some of the stuff coming out of that. Especially Steve Clement’s new conception of agile teams within a requisite structure. Like everything else he’s done, it’s well thought out.

    Luc Hoebeke wrote a book extending Stratified Systems Theory that is liked in IT. He’s also interesting, just generally, in how he thinks.I hadn’t seen CognaDev, probably because of my USA-centric view, and appreciate the pointer to them. Paul Barrett has several papers available over there, and I’ll be looking them over. Nor had I seen van Verkhem’s work. More to learn!

    On needing capacity: I’m not sure that’s true. There is probably a minimum level required, but I think it is fairly low. This was something Jaques and Cason discovered when they used graduate students. I think that Bioss and PeopleFit have also seen this. When someone has a structured methodology, they can find the markers and do the evaluation. Stan Smith of Human Patterns demonstrated pretty strongly to me that having training in interview techniques gets you past the smoke. But it wasn’t necessary to get the evaluation in most cases, just made it easier. At one point I trained a high school student to evaluate interviews, and got good results. I think this is a timespan thing: the actual coding of an interview isn’t a high level task, even if the person is using high level language.

    There was a new evaluation being marketed that, according to its creators, solved some shortcomings of the CPA and MCPA. Can’t recall if it ever got off the ground, and I’m not really qualified to judge what I read.

    I think that in the end RO is a meta thing, like Jung. We all think we can build the Tower of Babel, but we can’t. In the end, we always devolve in being “scattered across the face the earth”. Warren Kinston called it factionalisation, I think: he was telling me about how psychoanalysis broke apart into fighting camps, and how this is just the way. He would no doubt have many objections to my characterization, but that’s how I recall it.

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad these things are useful.

  61. Dear Christian,
    Thank you for your blog post and the decade long discussion that ensued. I am “only” in my 30s and dipping my toes in RO after having to explain my managers the triad of responsibility-accountability-authority (NAG-Syndrome).
    I found this article’s comment section to be the best discussion on RO for a newbie that con be found online.
    On my research on the topic, I am left with the feeling that the argument is considered yesteryear’s management fad.
    At least, this is the impression from and external observer that would like to be a “newcomer’.
    Really curious about your impression.

  62. I am 53 years old and just discovering Jacques work. Came to hear about Jacques through Don Fowkes in Canada. Don has developed an assessment that he calls Tuzzle. Following an interview, Don and his team send a report describing the level that a person is currently at and the number of years that they are likely to take to develop to the next level. I was fascinated and it certainly gave a new perspective on what goes wrong in organizations. Wrote a book in 2017 where I mused about what I have learned about building an organization being on the senior leadership team of a national Canadian company for the past few years. I imagined that the mis-match with some managers had to do with the type of work in which they were interested (tactical, strategic or governance). Was thrilled to read Jacques work and realize I was on the right track, just didn’t make the connection to the time horizon of these three realms.

    One thing that I wonder about Jacques theory is whether a person who isn’t mentored is going to be stunted in their growth? If this is true, then I can see why some people looking at Jacques theory are offended by it. If it is a meritocracy, then some people will have more opportunity over others, who are equally capable, just haven’t been exposed to the knowledge that is needed to progress through the levels. There may be concerns about how to reach those people.

    RO is of great interest to me as I have just started a new company that is focused on helping people to use their interests to guide them to the type of work that they want to do. Jacques work helps to explain why some will stay at what I was calling the “tactical” level and what he calls work at the symbolic verbal level and others progress on to the higher levels of complexity. Is there anyone offering training in Jacques methods?

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