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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Self-Management - an idea whose time has come?

The language of these books and articles about public management is utterly soul-destroying! The series of posts I’ve just done required me to pull out and flick through more than a hundred books in my libraries (real and virtual) - and I had assumed that the next stage would be some selective, in-depth reading – to extract some nuggets.
But the baroque language and dead imagery of the books – even the best of them - have my eyes (and very soul) glazing over.

So I turned instead to a book whose title and sub-title rather put me off - Reinventing Organisations – a guide to creating organisations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness (2014) by one Frederic Laloux whom you can see in action here.
In fact it was just what my jaded soul needed – highly readable and with many inspiring stories.

You can read the book for yourself here – but you can get the gist in the summary given in the hyperlink in the title above; and some good slides here
The book starts well with a strong critique of the alienating nature of so much work in large organisations and a question about why it has so be so, It then suggests that our collective history is not unlike that of our own personal growth, with key points of our development when we became more aware of our relationships with others….Laloux leans apparently for his approach on what is known as “integral theory” - associated with someone called Ken Wilbur.  The book suggests that organisations, until now, can be classified into four types - Red, Amber, Orange and Green – with the guiding metaphors for these types (p 36 of the book) being “wolf pack”, “army”, “machine” and “family”. Reminds me of the four “Gods of management” of Charles Handy and Roger Harrison – who are, however, not credited,
The core of the book consists of his attempt to find organisations which had broken out of the limits of this typology and were giving both customers and staff satisfaction. Twelve organisations are identified and their history structure and processes detailed. They are both profit and non-profit but have one basic feature in common – they are all managed by the workforce with senior executives (such as are left in a streamlined structure) playing essentially a coaching role…..The most famous of these is probably the Dutch nursing cooperative Buurtzorg

There’s a lot of thought-provoking material in the book which, after an initial splash 3 years ago, has not been much heard of – despite it being the first management book or a long time to focus on worker control (in a  totally non-ideological way). Perhaps he offended too many people? First the theorists – for attributing so little to them. And, secondly, the ideologues – who would have preferred some slogans…..

A good time, however, for the Labour party to issue this report (in June) on Alternative Models of Ownership – basically about coops, social enterprise and worker-controlled organisations,
I mentioned a few posts back that even the last UK Coalition government was supporting mutual structures for public services – although I haven’t yet seen a report on the subsequent experience.

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