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Review: Reinventing Organizations

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Fri, 15 May 2015 19:36:37 -0300

This was originally a set of notes on Reinventing Organizations by Laloux, and
they (written sequentially) are still visible below.

But after going through the whole book, I decided to add this summary / review

  * parts 2 and 3 contain piles of useful, practical information about
    "modern" companies solving real, interesting management problems that
    balance having flexible, involved, smart workers, and actually getting
    shit done.

  * frustratingly, at the same time, the introduction and part 1 are fluffy
    woo bullshit full of invented just-so stories to give a justifying

So please, read this book.  But jump straight to parts 2 and 3.  And then it's
awesome.  If I have one criticism (other than the first parts) it's that the
actual process of *changing* organisations isn't covered in that much detail
(just one chapter near the end).


PS I feel particularly sorry for people at Zappos who, I understand, were told
to read this book and then leave if they didn't agree.  Because it's not clear
(at least to me) whether they were being asked to agree to the good stuff or
the claptrap.

Foreword (Ken Wilber):

  * Rather a lot of Woo.


  * OK, so if you're reading these notes with the hope of deciding whether to
    read this book or not, the first section of the introduction says that we
    have three brains.  It turns out these are the (real) brain, Auerbach's
    Plexus and the Autonomic
    Nervous System (but just the part in the heart) - all of which are
    incredibly cool, but perhaps not what you would actually call brains
    (apart from, you know, the brain itself).  So if that kind of thing
    irritates you (and it does me) then this may not be a book you will enjoy.
    Which means that, from here on.  for the sake of sanity, I am going to
    ignore such things and try extract just the "dry" ideas / argument behind
    them.  If they exist.

  * Organisational models are limited by / reflect our general world-view
    (kudos - Sapir Whorf is not mentioned and is not even in the index).

  * Bosses are suffering just as much as workers.  Honestly - they have "a
    deep inner sense of emptiness."  Even if they don't have to worry about
    menial things like medical bills (OK, the book didn't mention the medical
    bills bit).  And now I really am going to stick to just the argument.

  * Oh for fucks sake.  Now we have an Einstein quote and I'm still only on
    page 5.  JUST THE ARGUMENT.

  * Part 1 of this book is going to divide human history into stages of
    development and associate each with a kind of organisation.

    * These are stages of consciousness.

    * Each stage has a different colour.  Jesus.

  * Part 2 gives practical details of the next stage.

    * Based on research as 12 organisations (all over 100 people).

  * Part 3 describes how to reach the next stage.  So I think part 2 is more
    about particular aspects that are common to multiple "advanced"
    organisations, and then part 3 will try to synthesise from that how
    similar organisations can be created.

Part 1

  * Chapter 1.1

    * Major stages:
      * Reactive / infra-red - foraging bands
      * Impulsive / red - hierarchical tribes.  Present-centred.
      * Conformist / amber - complexity built on agriculture, reflective 
        awareness of self through others eyes.  Morals and inflexible laws.
        Long term perspective, size and stability.
      * Achievement / orange - scientific investigation.  Command and control
        evolves to predict and control.  Machines and meritocracy.
      * Pluralistic / green.  Emotions, egalitarianism.
      * Evolutionary / teal (see chapter 1.3)
    * Are the details in the above really true?  Do foraging bands not have
      hierarchies or morals?  Why is the hierarchy for amber "formal", while
      for red it is not?  Do civilisations really follow the same development
      paths as Piaget describes in children?  Or is this the sociological
      equivalent of Recapitulation Theory?

  * Chapter 1.2

    * Adds a little complexity and nuance to the above.

  * Chapter 1.3

    * Maslow's self-actualising level.  Post scarcity (reads very much like 
      something for people who have financial security).
    * Organizations as families (or living systems, which sounds rather more
      like a question of life and death).
    * So what does this mean for the associated organisation?  (It will be
      interesting to see how it's more than privately wealthy people making
      crafts to sell on Etsy.)

Part 2

  * Chapter 2.1

    * The new breakthroughs are:
      * Self-management
      * Wholeness
      * Evolutionary purpose
    * List of companies surveyed

  * Chapter 2.2

    * Self management and the structures that enable this
      * Example of a nursing cooperative
      * Similar structures at FAVI (manufacturing)
      * Ditto Sun Hydraulics
      * And a school
    * These are surprisingly detailed accounts.  Much less bullshit.

  * Chapter 2.3

    * Self management and the processes that enable this
      * Addresses decision making.  Group based, but not consensus.
      * p117- a software company (may be relevant to work)
      * Dismissals.
      * Compensation and incentives.  Interesting example from Gore.
      * p134- summary.  It's not happy clappy idealism.
    * Again, this is surprisingly meaty and interesting.

  * Chapter 2.4

    * General practices (wholeness)
      * Reflection, communication
      * Meetings.  Conflict resolution.

  * Chapter 2.5

    * HR processes (wholeness)
      * Training
      * Working hours.  Feedback + performance management.
      * Dismissals
    * Again, practical details and examples.

  * Chapter 2.6

    * Lack of competition (connection to open source?)
    * Organisational evolution
    * Planning.  Fast iterations (Agile?)

  * Chapter 2.7

    * Organizations culture
    * Creeping back to psychobabble with over-selling of the quadrant
      model, but at least here it's a useful framework.

Part 3

  * Chapter 3.1

    * Two critical preconditions:
      * Top leadership
      * Ownership
    * Which seem to boil down to general belief, acceptance and commitment in
      the ideas.  Fair enough, but not much help for most, I suspect.  It
      certainly won't help where I work.

  * Chapter 3.2

    * Starting an organisation from scratch (the easier option I guess)

  * Chapter 3.3

    * Converting an organisation.
      * Most of the surveyed companies started that way.
      * Details from those that didn't.

  * Chapter 3.4

    * Rather vague on whether this really is a leap forwards in terms of
      results (profits?) (but not sure a reader would care?) (exactly what
      "performance" is, in this context, is not discussed).

  * Chapter 3.5

    * Teal society (fluff).

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