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Caordic Systems

"I said it was because every social issue I've run into in my time at Joyce had several things in common," says Getzendanner. "One is that the institutions just aren't up to the challenge. Two is that we don't have all the answers. The pieces aren't there yet to solve these problems, and we need a way to harness human creativity to find those pieces. And three is that the current system is locked in. There's so much inertia that you can't change it even when the system isn't working. So there needs to be some way of unlearning the system. And that's exactly what Dee was talking about."

Why? Because he's got no intention of giving you a precise organizational plan and telling you how to implement it -- not even the Visa plan. For one thing, the Visa bylaws were designed for credit cards; they aren't transferable. For another, the world changes too fast, making detailed plans obsolete before you can implement them. No, he says: "Far better than a precise plan is a clear sense of direction and compelling beliefs. And that lies within you. The question is, how do you evoke it?"

To start with, he says, "unless we can define a purpose for this organization that we can all believe in, we might as well go home." That's "purpose" as in, "We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union .... " The purpose has to be an authentic statement of what the organization is about, not some platitude cooked up by a consultant.

Next, you're going to have to agree on a set of principles for the organization. That's "principles" as in, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal .... " Again, this isn't a bunch of platitudes, but a manifesto of what the people in the organization believe in and care about in their gut. And getting there is going to be downright excruciating. You're going to struggle to articulate things you never even knew you felt. How do you really feel about power, for example, or autonomy, or job security, or how the money flows?

Executives and secretaries alike are going to find themselves breaking down in tears. It's going to take a year -- or more. But it's absolutely essential. Because what we're trying to do is build a community. And it's only when that community has solid agreement on purposes and principles that you can start talking about the concept and structure of the organization.

Visa notwithstanding, democracy in the workplace still sounds like a recipe for dithering and paralysis. It also ignores certain verities of human nature.

Not so long ago, says Senge, Hock was addressing an audience full of CEOs. And he really had them pumping: "Great! This is how to create a learning organization that can grow at 20% per year! He's found the keys to the kingdom!" That is, until the end, when he told them about the one little problem: "You'll never be able to justify paying a CEO $1 million a year to run this kind of corporation."

Some good 

Dee Hock on Management

Dee Hock on Organizations