Change and Flexibility – My Dissertation

Change and Flexibility – Attitudes and Organisational Culture

Prepared my MBA Dissertation for HTML publication at last.
It may be ten years old, but it’s the origin of many of my current threads.
In fact this Blog carries on where Chapter 4 of the dissertation leaves business unfinished.

A flexible “learning” organisation needs a “rational” model like a hole in the head. Logical or rhetorical, how do you make a sound business argument out of that? Did someone mention Catch-22?

And yes – checked out the bibliography and sure enough Tom Peters did indeed reference both Robert Pirsig and Chris Argyris, though Charles Handy didn’t from what I can tell, but Peters and Handy also cross cite each other several times. I’m sure ZMM was a significant influence behind much of the “upside-down thinking” management wave of the 80’s and 90’s. Total Quality Management which grew in many guises in the same period, echoes much of the same “logic”, in fact Pirsig’s use of “Quality” as the vehicle for his metaphorical journey is probably responsible for ZMM being regularly classified as a Quality Management text too.

Strangely convincing too, despite Peters getting into hyperbole and doubtful (rhetorical) evidence of succes factors in much of his stuff, the introductory chapters of Peters and Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence” actually describes 90% of the issues in this Blog.

In my post below about Pirsig’s book I indicated the need to take stock.
Scroll down to see the resultant edit I’ve made to the first ever entry in this Blog.

[Pirsig’s ZMM was in fact on a recommended reading list on my MBA course at Imperial College back in 1988, though to my eternal shame, I never read it then. Since this point in Psybertron’s history, I have had a parallel “Pirsig Project” with links in the side-bar, and frequently cross-linked in the blog itself.]

Sturgeon’s Law & Hanlon’s Razor

Sturgeon’s Law
which comes from sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon who said,
“Sure, 90 percent of [anything] is crap.
That’s because 90 percent of everything is crap.”

See also 90/90 rule
“The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time.”
attributed to Tom Cargill of Bell Labs, or
“The time from now until the completion of the project tends to become constant.”
attributed to Douglas Hartree.

Hanlon’s Razor – A simple explanation based on cock-up (stupidity) is more usual than a complicated one based on conspiracy (evil). “Razor” after Occam’s Razor.
Finagle’s Law (Sod’s Law) – anything that can go wrong will.

Taking Stock

Taking Stock (Feb 2002)
Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Well at last I’ve read it …. and Wow ! – I am that man.
Reading it 15 (or even 25) years ago could have saved a lot of effort.
Still, better to travel than to arrive – No ?
Well, yes and no actually.
(Time to revisit the Manifesto ?)

Take care – “It is [not] written” (T E Lawrence)
Trying to dialectically justify why a dialectical model of the world is doomed,
….. is doomed to drive you insane.
The lunatics have taken over the asylum.
Obvious Ken Kesey / Joseph Heller resonances here.

No flight from reason here – this is no excuse for abandoning reason, but a strong case for extending reason to include the observer / participant. There has been such a strong case for such important periods of history already that it is hard to grasp how the status-quo preserves any alternative view. A strong element of Catch-22. How do you “beat the system” when the system is the basis of rational thought ? Exhausting when your quest is, as Pirsig put it, “an attempt to outflank the entire body of western thought.”

How do you publish a learned academic thesis / technical specification, when what you really have is a work of “fiction”.

The real objects of interest are indeed the relationships and processes. Mind (subject) Matter (object) unification. Poincare seems to be everybody’s hero. Still leaves the whole quantum / uncertainty / complexity / chaos / cause-effect / non-locality story very tangled – but truly compelling issues.

Quality / Excellence / Reality / Interconnectedness / Interaction / Holism
– Dirk Gently / Douglas Adams again.
(Did Pirsig inspire Peters, Handy et al in the 80’s ? We certainly know Peters & Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence” cites Pirsig. The reference I infamously never followed-up at the time.)
(Where did Brunsson and Argyris get irrationality from first ?)
(Check who cites who.)

[Editorial Note : As part of this stock-taking triggered, notice, by reading Robert Pirsig’s ZMM, I revisited the first few posts on Psybertron and added this one right at the start … which now (or did for many years) form the footnote to every new page of Psybertron.]

The End Of Change

The End of Change
Extract of book by Arthur D.Little people Peter Scott Morgan, Erik Hoving, Arnoud van der Slot, and Henk Smit.
Uses Pyramid, Cube, Cylinder & Sphere analogies in the obligatory Boston Consulting Group 2×2 grid to charaterise different organisation styles affecting change processes – (How easy is it to move one of these shapes in any given direction, and what profile would that change have ?). Intended as an antidote to change fatigue, where constant stream of “new initiatives” is ultimately self-defeating. Suggests exploiting organisational culture to embed the appropriate style of flexibility, learning and motivation for improvement and innovation. (Cf MBA dissertation on this subject.)

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