‘De-engineering’ your organisation …

I just stumbled across the term ‘de-engineering’ – a term first coined by Margaret Wheatley in response to the notion of organisational ‘re-engineering’. She says:

“We really have to “de-engineer” our thinking, which means that we have to examine how mechanistically we are oriented — even in our treatment of one another. This is especially true in corporations. We believe that we can best manage people by making assumptions more fitting to machines than people. So we assume that, like good machines, we have no desire, no heart, no spirit, no compassion, no real intelligence — because machines don’t have any of that.”

I REALLY couldn’t agree more with her on this issue … the sooner we re-humanise the workplace the sooner we will have truly engaged employees. I think deploying social media tools in corporates is a fast track to achieving this …

Margaret describes her work as opposing ‘highly controlled mechanistic systems that only create robotic behaviours’ … Margaret just became my new hero – which is lucky, as I’m attending a course later this month at Schumacher College which she is facilitating! 🙂



  1. Excellent post and great reminder what’s really important!

    Wheatley’s insight parallels something I just posted on my own blog about what Warren Bennis has to say about leadership: We are over-managed and under-led. Managers are about systems and strucuture, and leaders are about vision and people.

  2. Good article. My definition of a leader has little to with their job title. A leader is someone who is able to influence someone else to do something. This can be, and often is, a person who’s seen as being “in charge” of a group. But it can also be anyone else who has the courage to “lean into their discomfort” and speak the unspoken, or do the right thing, rather than simply doing things right.

    Someone said “Leadership is the act of getting others to (want to) do what what you think should be done.” I add the parentheses because most people leave that part out. They think leaders are people who get other people to do things. The best leaders get people invested in a compelling vision so that they are committed to taking action. It’s a want to vs. have to sort of thing.


  3. It’s a nice idea – but with an increasing focus on hard-wired reward – and totally mechanistically driven performance management, where decisions are made outside the organisation could make re-humanising the workplace difficult.

    Treating people like machines – or “human resources” – and then wondering why they may not give of their best is hardly inspirational.

    I think big Professional Services organisations need to pour more resource into forging stronger, self-leading communities. The tension that causes with HR is something that has to be managed. I’ve blogged about this recently in http://shaidorsai.wordpress.com/2008/03/11/building-strong-professional-communities-through-performance-mgt-hr-initiatives/

  4. I totally agree that existing performance management systems are too ‘robotic’ … they really need turning on their head – we should be measured by our ‘contribution’ to the overall organisaton …

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