I’ve been thinking of writing a blog post about organizational development. However, there is one very important thing to be understood before one engages in such a dialogue: There are no Organizations! I repeat: There are no Organizations! Nope. None. I have been working in and for organizations for 13 years, so I know.
What do I mean by that? Well, I mean exactly what I write. The whole concept of organization is … well, a concept. It’s an abstraction. A metaphora. A symbol. A social object. Dream castle. Externalized speech. Fictive character in a sci-fi book. Second order abstraction. Someone to blame. A scapegoat. Common dream.
I used to be an engineering manager for a technology area with about 25 subordinates + subcontractors. In those times I spent a lot of time discussing with my employees and finding out what motivates them and what demotivates them. Usually they liked their work and team mates, but hated the organization. Sometimes even the whole company. So what I tried to do with them was to prove that there are no “organization” or “company” which makes their life miserable. It is just a projection of their own mind. There are only people, and like they said themselves, most of them are pretty good guys. The “organization” is something we create in our own minds for some specific purposes. It gives us something to relate to, something to compare ourselves with, something to blame for if things don’t go like we would like them to go. It is a “generalized other” which sees us.
For some people this was actually quite revealing. If we create the “organization” by ourselves, we are free to change it. It is quite empowering thing to understand. I remember one guy who was really cynical about the work and the company. After we discussed about this it was like a light bulb lighting over his head. His motivation to work went to different level and his cynisism vanished. But some people don’t get it, not really. With some of them it’s not even worth a try.
So, my goal in this blog post is to make you really understand that what I say is literally true. Not just as a concept but in a very real sense. It is possible to gain a deep and personal experience of this. Of course I can’t give you this experience by writing few lines of abstractions. Some of you might be like that guy I told you about, light bulbs lighting just by reading something like this. But even in that case you can deepen that understanding to be a living experience.
Whenever you have a meeting, in the beginning of a meeting ask yourself: Where is the Organization, right here and right now? In the middle of the discussions in that meeting ask yourself: Where is the Organization, right here and right now? At the end of the meeting, when you all are closing your notebooks and laptops, ask yourself: Where is the Organization, right here and right now?
Whenever you are having a conversation in the coffee rooms or corridors, ask yourself: Where is the Organization, right here and right now? Whenever you are having a one-on-one with your superior or subordinate, ask yourself: Where is the Organization, right here and right now?
Here is the important part of Hua-Tou practice: Whatever answer you might get from yourself (or others), throw it away and reject it. It is not the correct answer. Keep asking the question again and again, going deeper and deeper in it. If you are working with organizations, this will give you more material to work with than any books or trainings could ever give.
This is one of the core practices of any decent Wu Wei Coach.