We can succeed only by concert. It is not “can any of us imagine better?” but, “can we all do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 1, 1862
There are some quotations that are timeless in their applicability and this is one of them. I’ve used it on many occasions and introduce it now as part of a blog series over the next week which will look at traditional management practices from the the perspective of naturalising sense-making. I could equally apply it to the current financial crisis i but my ambition for the moment is both less and more. In this first post I want to outline three key principles that need to inform both the theory and practice of governance in organisations. The overall title of this series will be Think anew, Act anew and I will continue tomorrow with Scenario Planning. I particularly like the We must disenthrall ourselves by the way; too many management movements are starting to represent religious cults (the black belts of sick stigma for example) and the need for institute detoxification programmes is long overdue.
Before outlining the three principles its worth a brief reminder of what is meant by naturalising sense-making. I am using sense-making here is the sense of answering the question of how do I make sense of the world so that I can act in it? With that comes a concept of sufficiency, knowing enough to enable action but without the implication that I can know all that I might like to know. It also contains an inherent assumption of praxis which in tern implies that practice must be grounded in theory. If you want an example of the need for that then look at Alan Greenspans recent testimony that he was wrong in following Ayn Rands (a really nasty piece of work if there ever was one) belief that the self-interests of organisations (such as banks) would provide sufficient regulation. He argues that 40 years of success lulled him into that belief. The addition of naturalising is to create a distinction with people like Weik and Dervin (while respecting their considerable contributions) by linking to the naturalising tradition in philosophy which generically means creating a base in the natural sciences for said theory. The main areas here are complex adaptive systems, cognitive science, aspects of evolutionary psychology and large swathes of material from anthropology, ethnography and narrative theory to provide a balancing contribution from the disciplined side of the Humanities.
So what are the three principles? I will outline them here, but then expand on their meaning over the next week.
That lays out the principles. All of them link back to the naturalising concept and I will expand on that over the next week. So far I plan to cover Scenario Planning, Understanding Employees/Customers, Ethical Auditing and others. Any suggested topics feel free to throw them in through the comments field or via email
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