Margaret Wheatley

Organisations as living systems – day 1

Day 1 was all about getting used to Schumacher College and its philosophy of participative community – including cooking, cleaning, gardening etc. and getting to know the other participants. The other attendees come from all around the world (from Australia to Canada) are very interesting and friendly and it seems like I’ve been here for weeks rather than 24 hours. The philosophy of the college is that the most valuable learning happens during the interactions in the group tasks/household chores and not in the lecture room … they assured us that they could afford sous chefs, gardeners, cleaners etc. if they wanted!

We had an introductory session in the evening with Margaret Wheatley (to be known as Meg from now on!). It was really a scene setting presentation so was lots of sound bites diagnosing the current situation in which we find ourselves with wholesale system failure on a global scale.

Some of the soundbites I found most interesting are below (apologies to Meg for misquotes, misinterpretation etc):

  • “A leader is anyone who is willing to help.”
  • In terms of ideas, we should be: “… midwife to the new; hospice for the old”.
  • “Curiosity is dead.”
  • “The future is being created by our day-to-day choices.”
  • “The world has more than enough good ideas – we have to be the change to make them happen.”
  • “Political correctness is one of the most oppressive things we have ever created.”
  • “America is over.”

These soundbites don’t really do justice to the richness of the conversations we had, but I’m not good at doing two things at once … more about Day 2 later!

‘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! 🙂