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Who Will Defend Us Against Ourselves?

The Missile Defense (aka Star Wars) Agency holds the dubious distinction of spending the most while producing the least of any procurement program in American history. The entire Manhattan Project cost about $22 billion in today's dollars. Missile defense—so far— has cost more than $100 billion. Our Congressional Budget Office estimates missile defense will be costing us nearly $19 billion a year by 2013, about half the current budget for the entire homeland security department. Slip over here for more ...

Mapping Human Relationships

Thanks, again, to each of you who commented on my Relational Work Manifesto. Since posting that, I have been thinking about how one creates maps of these relationships. Of course, trapped in the mechanical mindset, I started looking for physical amendments to the tired, potentially trueish PERT or GANTT representations before recalling that this different order of 'relating' might well demand a different typology for the mapping, too.

The challenge might be not to create coherent tacit maps, but to accept that they are creatable. We can and do create these, though not always deliberately and mindfully. Years ago, in a book entitled The Politics of Projects, an explicit mapping was proposed, rather like data mapping. I thought then that the relationship, political side of projects was mutli-faceted, encompassing too many dimensions to display in two or three dimensional space. But our minds are not bound to these few dimensions. How to employ this facility?

In our Mastering Projects Workshop, we've employed several different techniques for side-stepping the usual urge to jump right into task definition and requirements discovery, under the belief that projects are usually better served by understanding their present context first, before they start describing their future or the path there in any detail.

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Organizational Insurgency

How do new ideas get started in organizations? If you read the trades, you might be convinced that organizational change results from senior management aligning the organization around strategic initiatives. Nice fantasy. I suppose change could happen that way.

More often, a better idea confronts an entrenched one. Asking for permission to change typically results in permission being denied. What's a good soldier to do?

I've started gathering stories of Organizational Insurgents and their Insurgencies. Before you start calling me a terrorist or a supporter of terrorists, I'll point you to the dictionary, where insurgency is defined as:“Insurgency: the quality or state of being insurgent; specifically: a condition of revolt against a government that is less than an organized revolution and that is not recognized as belligerency. Latin insurgent- to rise up, from in- + surgere to rise.” (from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Following is a first story. I'm gathering more. If you have one you'd like to share, please contact me. I think there's a pattern of successful insurgencies. Could be useful to tease it out. Slip over here for more ...


Deming Died Disappointed

I've received a few comments, none of them completely positive, from my Relational Work Manifesto. I repost two of them, posted as comments here, on the following page---follow the slip over here link below---for those who (like me!) cannot always access the comments script following the original posting. Thank you Tim and Joel for caring enough to post really biting comments.

I'm with you. This idea upsets me greatly and doesn't, on the face of it, seem to describe how we produce output in companies today. Joel, you note that much of this already happens, and I agree with you. And if we closely investigated how Hoover Dam actually WAS built, we might be surprised at how much of what I tried to describe happened even there.

My invitation: Observe what you do for a week. Watch how much of what you do depends upon unplanned and unplannable exchanges.

Here's a little poem to guide the inquiry. Slip over here for more ...


Relational Work - A Manifesto

Following is a first attempt at a curious manifesto. I create this manifesto to reframe our interpretation of work.

We live in a time immersed in a culture focused upon processes. I believe this is a fundamental misinterpretation, one which causes many of its own shortcomings.

I warmly appreciate Gregory Howell and his colleagues for pointing out an obvious truth: the metaphor we unselfconsciously use to guide our work is faulty. We see work as a series of disembodied input-process-output processes, though much of the work we engage in these days cannot be effectively characterized in this way. How we think about work influences everything.

How would it be if we characterized work as primarily relational rather than primarily transformational. In this frame, work is the product of interacting relationships, not compliance with disembodied processes. Each is free, within ethical boundaries, to engage in offer-bid-accept trades intended to achieve results. How they engage, when they engage, and to a very large part how they produce results is in the individual trader’s hands, understanding that the future viability of the community depends upon sustaining relationships, not simply fulfilling a current need.

I invite you to join this consideration. I need your help, whether that comes as biting criticsm or encouragement. Consider how this frame of reference might change the work you do and we’ll talk.
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Ain't No Fleas On Me!

For a century following the Civil War, Southern voters with lingering resentments against Mr. Lincoln’s Republicans claimed that they would vote for the Democrat, even if the party nominated a yellow dog as their candidate. Many of these Yellow Dog Democrats shifted allegiance during the sixties’ Civil Rights struggles, becoming born-again, Pit Bull Republicans. Now, after nearly thirty years piddling on the Congressional carpets, shredding the White House furniture, and sometimes both, the old yellow Republican attack dog no longer seems able to hunt. Slip over here for more ...

Replies: Monoculture, Corporate Culture, and Cultural Change

Finding Purpose

When efficiency become the purpose, purpose is gone

When low cost becomes the purpose, purpose is lost.

When conformity, consistency, and sameness become the first measure of goodness,

All goodness is gone.

Mistake the measure for the purpose, the process for the result, the glossy cover for the book,

and you’ll never find meaning in literature again.

Purpose lives beyond tomorrow, over the foreseeable horizon, in a dreamland banned from the bottom line.

Without it, every bottom line is meaningless.

With it, the bottom line today rarely matters.

Slip over here for more ...


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