The Governance of Specialist Care: a question of ethics?

November 19th, 2014

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

This paper, presented at the OPUS 2014 Conference, describes a two-year intervention within an organization providing residential care for men and women with mental health disabilities. This intervention, in support of the CEO and senior management team, took place during the mid-90’s when the UK Government was engaged in de-institutionalisation, making the transition to Community Care and instituting internal market reforms. The intervention itself was concerned with supporting innovations in the way the work of the organization supported the lives of its residents. These innovations were necessary to the continuing viability of the organisation as a specialist care organisation.

The paper is written from the perspective of 20 years later, making it possible to contrast the hopes and aspirations of both the consultants and the client at the time of the intervention with what actually happened to the organisation subsequently. The paper describes the way the authorisation of the consultants was drawn from the consulting approach. It describes the orthogonality that this demanded of the consultants, through which underlying dilemmas could be surfaced about the nature of the client system’s work. Three issues emerged from the intervention that are addressed by the paper: firstly, the nature and complexity of the client system in its networked environment and the extent of the innovation that this demanded; secondly, the nature of the consulting approach involved in responding to this demand; and thirdly, the implications this approach had for the governance of the client system.

From the perspective of 20 years later, it is not a surprise that the social defences against anxiety won out over the desire for innovation. This gives rise to a fourth issue however: what change in the relationship to the unconscious was being expected of the governance of the client system, what kind of courage did this demand, and what were the unconscious dynamics underlying the Trustees’ refusal to innovate? The paper concludes by considering the nature of orthogonality and the change in the relationship to the unconscious that this demanded of the governance of the client system, a change that involved an ethics that could move from ‘defending against anxiety’ to ‘being true to desire’. The paper concludes by considering the implications these ethics have for a different kind of group relations experience that can explore the existential impact of such changes, so necessary in networked environments.

Minding the gap – three moments of time

March 19th, 2014

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

How do we engage, describe and work without boundaries? How do we move beyond the familiar BART (boundary, authority, role, task) view of systems? And what does it mean to take up a network approach to leadership? A recent Regional Meeting of ISPSO in London took up these questions in terms of the ‘network-coach’ discourse, based on Simon Western’s work on Coaching and Mentoring[1]. This work very usefully distinguishes four kinds of discourse about the nature of coaching and mentoring, based on his research. This led Simon to ask me to clarify three ‘moments’ of time[2] that, while potentially facing a person in any one of these discourses, become particularly critical in the network-coach discourse.

Three moments of time
I described my work with a CEO who started our work together by describing a particular challenge he faced: he could not fit what his not-for-profit did into the normal kinds of business planning framework – service products, markets, competitive strengths and weaknesses, 5-year cashflow prediction etc. The not-for-profit was providing intensive social care, operating in the gap between the social services provided by the UK Government and individuals’ and families’ needs.

  1. The challenge he faced was a crisis for him that had arisen because of the planning framework his Board had asked him to use, which had defined a first moment for him[3] but which had brought about this first crisis – what the not-for-profit was actually doing did not fit the framework.
  2. The second moment[4] involved us working together to understand what was different about the economics of his not-for-profit, about how it needed to be organised differently, and about the different kinds of relationship this demanded between its employees and those to whom it provided care.  The result was a business plan that was accepted by the Board to form the basis of the next 5 years’ work by the not-for-profit, but also a second crisis – something else was needed if the not-for-profit was to develop different ways of actually behaving, a something else that was beyond any business plan. This second crisis was one in which the existing approach faces an impossibility.
  3. So with this second crisis came a crunch time.  Something new was needed in the way the CEO engaged with the employees of the not-for-profit.  As it turned out, this inaugurated a third moment[5] in which a whole new challenge emerged initiating a new cycle of work aimed at addressing this challenge, but it took courage for him to accept this new challenge and ‘own’ the need to take it up.

These three moments of time and the two crises that separate them can be summarised as follows:

  • 1st moment: Accepting the stated problem/challenge and hoping that the existing approach will work.
  • 1st Crisis: Realising that the existing approach will not work on its own.
  • 2nd moment: Getting to grips with the details of the particular situation and adapting the approach to try to make it work.
  • 2nd Crisis: Realising that there is a fundamental limitation to the way the approach can be made to work.
  • 3rd moment: The persons involved put themselves ‘on the line’ in some way in order to act from something new that has the possibility of addressing the gap that has emerged.

These moments of time form a cycle of learning that is only bearable if the gap can be acknowledged – not hidden behind ‘solutions’. So in this case, the CEO works with the knowledge that the gap will always be there however good the ‘solution’ appears to be, and that by remaining aware of this gap, he can work with it while looking for the next gap to appear, which in turn will need to be acknowledged and worked through.

Minding the gap
This relation to the gap is what underlies Simon’s network-coaching discourse – realising that we don’t have neat boundaries, authority, role and task, that there is always a gap, and that the network society we live and work in presents us with increasing connectivity that pushes not towards identifying authority vertically in roles, but towards addressing horizontal rhizome-like power, power that is everywhere and yet cannot be pinned down. Simon’s conclusion was that, at best, we can find quilting points[6] that can anchor our relation to these networks for long enough to enable us to make good-enough sense and to act – until the next gap appears.

[1] Coaching and Mentoring: A Critical Text (2012) Sage.
[2] These three moments of time are based on the three moments in Lacan, J. (2006 [1966]). Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty: A New Sophism. Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. New York, W.W. Norton & Co.
[3] The instant of the glance, ibid. This is the idea that you should be able to understand just by looking.
[4] The time for understanding, ibid. This involves having to work things out by thinking things through. The reasoning depends on the framework within which it is done.
[5] The moment to conclude, ibid. The third moment is the moment in which the ‘challenge of the case’ is taken up, a new challenge that demands that the person puts themselves ‘on-the-line’ by going beyond what they know in choosing to take up the new challenge in their behaviour.
[6] These points of anchorage are ‘points de capitons‘ in Lacanese.

The Governance of Quality

January 27th, 2014

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD
Over a period of three years, 1994 to 1997, I consulted to an organisation providing residential care for men and women with mental health disabilities.  This was in the middle of the changes taking place in the UK to introduce ‘internal markets’ and the de-institutionalisation deemed necessary to providing ‘Care in the Community’.

The work was undertaken together with Barry Palmer[1], and presented at the 1997 ISPSO Annual Meeting in Philadelphia under the title The Architecture of Quality. The work established a way of enabling the organisation to adapt its work to this newly emerging environment in which the proactive pursuit of individuals’ care in the community could be put first.  It did this by tackling the north-south bias in the architecture of the organisation and establishing the need for asymmetric forms of leadership capable of realising east-west dominant forms of governance.[2]

By 2001, the CEO and senior management team of the organisation had left, and the organisation had begun reverting to its previous role as a provider of sheltered accommodation.  A more recent paper describes the subsequent events that led to this eventual outcome – The Governance of Quality. One response to this more recent paper would be to characterise the Trustees of the organisation as lacking courage.  But why should a Board of Trustees choose

  • innovating to deliver new levels of service to residents at lower cost while having to learn a whole lot of new ways of doing things, and
  • dealing with a whole lot of compliance issues for which historically they knew accountability could be reliably ‘delegated’, but would no longer be able to be ‘delegated’ so easily?

The Trustees chose the entirely reasonable alternative of running the traditional model of providing accommodation plus basic services under the auspices of housing provision.  The Trustees passed the test of whether the alternative they chose was “reasonable”: a reasonable person could not have been expected to choose otherwise.  But was this work we were engaged in together about what was reasonable? To quote the CEO:

I would not want to just look at the Trustees’ behaviour and motivation. I also resisted stepping beyond my know-how. I carried resistance while simultaneously espousing doing different. This is why I think the link to extreme sports is a useful one and perhaps to courage in general[3]. What is it to do the right thing? And how does one ‘know’? I think that ideas have been under-emphasised in any leadership framework. Instead, the emphasis has been on emotional intelligence which, while being important, is just not enough – being ‘good’ does not guarantee that things will work better!

Two kinds of learning emerged about the intervention from looking back at the process overall:

  1. There was a parallel process going on from the beginning, in which the CEO was receiving personal support in coping with how he took up this new role, support that had preceded his new role.  Having taken up the role as CEO, I was consulting to him concurrently with this other support, my task being to help him develop ways of tackling the leadership challenge he faced.  The splitting of these two aspects of support to the CEO – containing anxiety and innovating – paralleled the way support to the organisation was split between the governance task facing the Trustees and the leadership task facing the CEO. The full implications of this split did not become apparent until 2001.  Barry and I were not able to work the parallel process effectively.
  2. The envisioning of internal markets and de-institutionalisation was accompanied neither by any understanding of how the transition should be managed, nor by any support for the transition itself.  The rhetoric was that all this should be ‘left to the market’.  Even had we addressed the split in our consultation to the organisation, Trustees and Management together would have had to act very strategically to survive the disruptions to funding that would have arisen during the transition – a transition that is still ongoing!  This was because the economics of an east-west dominant organisation are both different to and more complex than those of the north-south dominant form.

But there was something more that we learnt, in that what we thought was the challenge of the case turned out to be much more of a challenge than we realised at the time…

  • Yes, the way the intervention unfolded was hugely particular to the situated nature of both us and the organisation;
  • Yes, both Trustees and Management needed courage, although possibly not as much courage as that of residents resisting being ‘parked’ in their lives by the (counter-resistance of the) existing organisation; and
  • Yes, we consultants needed to grasp the fundamentally different kind of economics that were being engendered by operating explicitly in a turbulent environment in which residents had to be responded to one-by-one.

But beyond all of that,

  • We consultants needed to recognise that what was being demanded of us in our way of working was a relationship to anxiety that involved our being prepared to ‘pay with our being’ – to go beyond what we knew and to put ourselves ‘on the line’.[4] That had to include our relationships with each other, through which the parallel process would have needed to be worked much further [5]

Which brings us back to the place of anxiety, our courage in all this and the different nature of the relationship to anxiety involved in innovation.[6]  Again to quote the CEO:

What I also know now is the investment I had in ego psychology, which Barry perhaps shared. Nailing the attitude to anxiety was one of the most important things noted in both versions of the paper. Any work had to be anchored to making it better for patients, a ‘work’ that we all had to have an investment in.

[1] Alongside the paper on The Architecture of Quality, other relevant papers by or with Barry are Meeting the Challenge of the Case (except that in retrospect, the challenge of this case was more than we thought at the time!), In which the Tavistock paradigm is considered as a discursive practice (thinking about how to situate the approaches associated with Barry’s role with the CEO as manifesting a particular form of discursive practice), and The Tavistock Paradigm: Inside, outside and beyond (laying the foundations for a new set of questions to which we are still trying to find adequate responses).
[2] Simon Western addresses these forms of leadership in his writing on eco-leadership.
[3] This is a reference to current thinking going on about the role of courage in overcoming defences against innovation – see the conclusion to Counter-resistance is always on the side of the supplier-provider.
[4] Which we had nevertheless formulated in 1994 in Meeting the Challenge of the Case, even if we hadn’t realised the extent of it.
[5] This comes up as a central issue in facing the future of the psychoanalytic study of organisations.
[6] This is to be the focus of a forthcoming paper to be presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of ISPSO in Santiago – ‘Betraying the citizen: social defences against innovation’.

What makes leadership ‘asymmetric’?

October 17th, 2013

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

The blog on Requisite Authority argues that Asymmetric Leadership becomes necessary when competing in the ‘red zone’ – the zone in which the enterprise must be dynamically responsive to its clients one-by-one. But what does this mean for a person in the leadership position?  The answer boils down to the pursuit of four agendas that have to be held in balance, a lack of balance between them (i.e. unequal attention to each) leading to the collapse of the whole leadership effort:[1,2]


  • North[3]: Hold the context and provide ‘top cover’ for all those working within the enterprise.  Sustain the steadiness of intent of the enterprise.
  • East[4]: Legitimise questioning in the name of what-the-client-wants, so that the enterprise never loses a sense of its ‘edge’. Allow the otherness of the client to lead you to what is needed in their situation.
  • South[5]: Ensure that the supporting resources and infrastructures are appropriately agile, so that it becomes practicable to take up the questioning and to do something effective in response.  Know where you are and what is possible.
  • West[6]: Make it in people’s interests to engage both with the questioning and with finding ways of responding effectively, which is both a matter of the way individuals benefit from their work and also a matter of enabling them to be equipped with the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to act effectively. Enable people to align whatever is available from the South to the demands from the East within the context of the North.

What makes leadership asymmetric?  It is that its authority is derived from enabling the enterprise’s responses to each client situation to be appropriately aligned in each case, one-by-one.  Its authority is not derived from what is already-known by the enterprise  – that already-known, vested in the leader, rendering his or her leadership symmetric aka North South dominant.  An example of this is given in considering what makes practice-based commissioning difficult in practice.

[1] This notion of balance was based originally on The Book of Five Rings written by Shinmen Musashi in 1645 (Allison & Busby: London, 1974), and in particular its notion of the void: “By void I mean that which has no beginning and no end.  Attaining this principle means not attaining the principle. The Way of strategy is the Way of nature.  When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing the rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally”. For us, this “enemy” is that which prevents us from continuing to be dynamically responsive to the situation.
[2] What makes this balance so difficult is the very different nature of each of the four agendas. Thus on the one hand is the conveyance of a shared sense of what the enterprise is about (N), and the grounding of this in meeting the challenges of each client’s situation (E). But in order for HR policies and systems of accountability to support dynamic alignment (E), and in order for the enterprise’s resources and infrastructures to deliver requisite agility (S) a wholly different order of complexity and timescale have to be managed. Failing to balance the ‘relationships’ (NE) with the ‘engineering’ (SW) means a split between a NE espoused theory and a SW theory-in-use with fatal consequences for the development of the enterprise as a whole.  The nine varieties of ground provide a way of thinking about the different kinds of challenge leadership faces as the four agendas become unbalanced.
[3] Fire: “This book is about fighting.  The spirit of fire is fierce, whether the fire be small or big; and so it is in battles.  This is the steadiness of intent with which the client challenges are enabled to be met.
[4] Wind: “This book is not concerned with my Ichi school but with other schools of strategy.  By Wind I mean old traditions, present-day traditions, and family traditions of strategy… it is difficult to know yourself if you do not know others. To all Ways there are side-tracks.  If you study a Way daily, and your spirit diverges, you may think you are obeying a good Way but objectively it is not the true Way.  If you are following the true Way and diverge a little, this later will become a large divergence.”  This is the ability to recognise and respond to what is ‘other’ about the client situation that is expressing an unmet need.
[5] Ground: “It is difficult to realise the true Way just through sword-fencing.  Know the smallest things and the biggest things, the shallowest things and the deepest things.  As if it were a straight road mapped out on the ground…”. This is about knowing were you stand in all respects in being able to act effectively.
[6] Water: ‘With water as the basis, the spirit becomes like water.  Water adopts the shape of its receptacle, it is sometimes a trickle and sometimes a wild sea. ”  This is about neither the ‘organisation-in-the-mind’ nor the ‘world-in-the-mind’ being frozen, but being able to take up the shape of what is being faced.

Requisite Authority: when is triple-loop learning *necessary*

October 2nd, 2013

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

What organisation needs asymmetric and tripartite approaches to leadership? Why engage in triple-loop learning driven by dilemmas in sustaining relationships to individual clients’ demands?  What makes action research using plus-one processes so important?

Approached from the drivers of organisational scope, the answer to each question is: any organisation, once responding to the horizontal drivers of performance becomes more important than remaining subject solely to the constraints imposed by its vertical controls, since under these conditions the organisation is in a complex and therefore ‘turbulent‘ environment in which clients must be responded to one-by-one. Health and social care are good examples of such an environment, but all industries are moving towards this condition under the influence of information technologies and the increasing prevalence of multi-sided demands, the necessary corollary being the use of platform strategies.[1] Another kind of answer is: “if competition pushes you into the ‘red zone’ in the diagram below”.

It is easier to understand this ‘red zone’ if we start by considering what makes triple-loop learning not necessary. The diagram approaches this in terms of the way role and task are aligned to each other, requisite authority being whatever role definition is congruent with the task demands on the organisation. Triple-loop learning is  not necessary as long as the ‘red zone’ can be avoided, the ‘double diamond’ providing a diagnostic tool for identifying this condition:


  • Task: Either there are no dynamic cross-boundary relations to demand situations that are driving performance (e.g. providing medical equipment), or, if there are, then they can be responded to solely in terms of a choices defined by the organisation ex ante (e.g. providing a menu of in-home services)
  • Role: Either there is no accountability for performance in the demand situation (e.g. performance of the equipment once sold is down to the purchaser), or, if there is, then the accountability is to the person who signed the contract and not to performance within the situation itself (e.g. “if you are not satisfied with my performance, then take it up with my manager and don’t complain to me”).

Requisite authority involves there being congruence between the role and task sides of this diagram.  Lack of congruence means either too much organisational complexity or inadequate organisational support, depending on which way it goes.

We can add labels to the different parts of this diagram to make it clearer when triple-loop learning does become necessary:

  • Task: There is a dynamic relationship to the client’s situation that demands the dynamic alignment of differentiated behaviors and that involves dynamic linkages across the boundaries of the organisation (e.g. a care pathway has to be configured and continuously adapted to the needs of the individual client).
  • Role: Responsibility for responding appropriately involves bringing together a number of services from different organisations and holding them accountable in ways that are sustainable and that relate explicitly to performance within the client’s context-of-use (e.g. a care manager responsible for through-life management of the client’s condition and accountable directly to the client).

Examining a particular case situation, a hospital group wanted to provide seamless care to patients admitted through their Emergency Department (ED).  The task on the right was therefore to provide a condition-centric episode of care, the episodes being designed one-by-one.  The problem was that the ED was in a matrix relationship to the specialist wards with which it had to negotiate admission after having admitted the patient to ED.  This negotiation was constrained by considerations other than the patient’s condition, such as the receiving ward’s budgets.
Diamond3The proposed solution was to create an ED diagnostic team that had the power to determine where a patient went from ED.  The danger with this was that did not provide requisite authority, simply relocated where power was held without addressing the underlying challenges of designing and aligning care pathways that were sustainable across the hospital group’s ecosystem.  The solution was to set up a forensic process that could track and evaluate the performance of the ecosystem in order to learn what forms of agility were needed beyond the establishment of the diagnostic team.

The outcome from this process was a new organisational capability to backtrack ED admissions and to examine them as symptoms of failure in the primary social and healthcare systems.  This led to new ways of managing patients’ chronic conditions and failures in care funding.

[1] The multi-sided platform strategies of Apple, Google and Amazon are also good examples of this, as are the failures of Nokia and Blackberry through their continuing pursuit of one-sided strategies in environments demanding multi-sideness.

Parallel process and triple-loop learning

August 8th, 2013

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD
What lies at the heart of asymmetric leadership, through which the North-South bias can be balanced off by the relentless pursuit of an East-West imperative? I believe the reflexive process ‘behind the mirror’[1] is at the heart of this form of leadership.  Through reflexive process, the dynamic impact of unresolved dilemmas may be identified and worked through in parallel processes. Triple loop learning is a way of thinking how these parallel processes interact with each other under asymmetric leadership, enabling the organisation as a whole to respond dynamically to the demands arising in a complex environment.

Parallel processes
Parallel process is ‘brought forth’ by a reflexive process(5) engaged in by leadership ‘behind the mirror’.  In this process, dilemmas are looked for in the experience of clients(1). This identification with the experience of clients in their context(1) is crucial. From this reflexive process(5) come questions about the nature of the leadership process(4) that is shaping the nature of interventions(3) on the way the organisation works(2) in relation to its clients(1):
cycle2The circular nature of the relationships between these layers becomes apparent if we relate them in the form of a learning cycle:

  • 5->4 Reflective Observation: new dilemmas emerge in the experiences of clients
  • 4->3 Abstract Conceptualisation: this is the approach the leadership team takes in addressing these dilemmas
  • 3->2 Active Experimentation: this is the plan of action through which leadership will intervene on the way the organisation works
  • 2->1 Concrete Experience: this is what actually happens

Looked at as a cycle, three kinds of learning can emerge, depending on the extent to which the cycle is short-cicruited.  This short-circuiting arises when a strategy ceiling forecloses certain kinds of questioning of the behaviour of the organisation:

  • single loop: changing how a chosen approach to interacting with a given environment is executed.
  • double loop: changing how the approach to interacting with any one environment is chosen in pursuit of given direct effects.[2]
  • triple loop: changing how the approach to interacting with any one environment is chosen in pursuit of given indirect effects.[3]

Relating this back to the parallel processes, the importance of  the reflexive process becomes apparent – without this capability an organisation does not have the means of questioning its own assumptions as a part of its own ways of creating value for its clients.[4]

[1] ‘Behind the mirror’ is a way of approaching what-is-going-on based on a metaphor with systemic family therapy. While an individual may be working with the family, a team observes what-is-going-on from behind a one-way mirror, trying to make sense of the family dynamics in ways that can support the individual working with the family. It is impossible to get an organisation in front of a one-way mirror (!) but the metaphor is used to indicate a certain kind of critical questioning of the relation between the observer’s interests and what is being observed.
[2] The direct effects are defined by a one-sided relationship to demand in which the value is inherent to the direct behaviors of the organisation.
[3] The indirect effects are defined by a multi-sided relationship to demand in which the value is inherent in the indirect behaviors supported by the direct behaviors of the organisation. See the asymmetric nature of multi-sided demand.  The implications of such an approach are that the organisation has to pursue a platform strategy in order to capture indirect value from the relationships between its different kinds of customer rather than solely direct value. See what distinguishes a platform strategy.
[4] This is not to say that this questioning does not happen – only that without a reflexive process, the learning has to take place ‘above the strategy ceiling’. This may work in relatively stable environments, but in complex turbulent environments such an ‘above-the-ceiling’ process does not enable the organisation to be sufficiently dynamically adaptive. See Tempo, Entanglement and East-West dominance.

Leadership Qualities and the North-South bias

August 8th, 2013

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD
A recent examination of the Leadership Qualities Framework, developed by the UK’s National Skills Academy, shows just how difficult it is to counteract the bias of North-South dominant assumptions about governance and leadership[1], even as in this case where there is very clearly a wish to do so.[2]  This bias becomes apparent in the assumptions made about the nature of strategy and its relation to hierarchy.

Policy, Strategy and Tactics
The framework gives a special role to strategic leadership with its own additional qualities: creating the vision and delivering the strategy. In the forward to this framework, Norman Lamb MP points out the following:

Good social care has the potential to transform people’s lives. It can help them realise independence, exercise meaningful choice and control over the care and support they receive, and live with dignity and opportunity. Good social care has the potential to transform people’s lives. It can help them realise independence, exercise meaningful choice and control over the care and support they receive, and live with dignity and opportunity. High quality leadership, embedded throughout the social care workforce, is fundamental to the delivery of high quality care. At the same time, we need to reach beyond the workforce and bring leadership skills and capabilities to service users, their carers and the communities in which they live and work.

For leadership to fulfill this promise, it must at least aspire to responding to people’s lives one-by-one. Put another way, in order to transform a person’s life, a particular combination of services need to be dynamically aligned to that person’s needs over time that remain particular to that person’s situation and context. This alignment of services has to be run East-West to reflect the fact that its design is inevitably entangled with the way they impact on that person’s experience.
This means that leadership has to enable the organisation to hold a dilemma – a tension between securing economies of scale and scope from the way component services are provided, and securing economies of alignment from the way these component services are combined in relation to any one person’s needs. This tension can be represented by the concept of rings and wedges: rings (securing economies of scale and scope) can provide well-defined services that are effectively provided by North-South dominant forms of governance, while wedges (securing economies of alignment) align combinations of services in particular ways that can be effectively provided by East-West dominant forms of governance.
So what is wrong with thinking in terms of strategy-and-tactics? The industrial world names as ‘strategy’ what the military calls ‘operations’, while the industrial world names as ‘policy’ what the military calls ‘strategy’.[3] Relating the industrial names to the NSEW model<sup[4],

  • tactics are about using know-how(W) to make the best possible use of capabilities(S),
  • strategy is about developing the most effective know-how(W) for addressing a particular kind of demand(E), and
  • policy is about determining what variety of demands(E) can be addressed within the context of the organisation as a whole(N).

The point about East-West alignment is therefore that strategy has to be determined at the level of the individual wedge and it is the policy frame that creates the conditions at the level of the organisation as a whole within which the ring-wedge dilemmas can be supported effectively.  Strategy has to be held at the edge of the organisation within a unifying policy frame.

The vertical and the horizontal axes of governance
Which brings us to the relation of strategy and hierarchy. The Leadership Qualities Framework proposes that it be applied at four levels of leadership as follows:

  • Front-line Worker – Care Assistants, Care Workers, Volunteers, Students, Graduates, Temporary Ancillary Staff and Practitioners
  • Front-line Leadership – Supervisors, Team Leaders, Shift Leaders
  • Operational Leadership – Registered Managers, Service Managers
  • Strategic Leadership – Senior leaders, Directors and Managers who are responsible for directing and controlling the organisation

The issue here is that these levels are defined hierarchically (in the sense that each one is accountable to the level above it), as opposed to being defined in terms of the tensions held between them, which look different in terms of rings and wedges:

  • Operational Leadership becomes responsible for supply-side leadership of defined services, accountable for the way these services can deliver outcomes in combination with other services[5];
  • Front-Line Leadership becomes responsible for demand-side leadership at the edge of the organisation, accountable for the dynamic alignment of combinations of services appropriate to the situation and context of a demand[6];
  • Front-line workers become responsible for task leadership, ensuring that a particular alignment of services is delivered effectively; and
  • Strategic leadership becomes responsible for asymmetric leadership – leadership which enables the organisation to hold and sustain a dynamic balance between its supply-side and demand-side.[7]

Asymmetric leadership is about enabling dilemmas to be held effectively E-W
The use of hierarchy has to be placed in the context of networked forms of organisation and distributed or collaborative approaches to leadership.[8] Operating within these turbulent complex ecosystems cannot be managed independently of the dynamics in the environment. In the place of hierarchy with its defined outputs as an overarching organising principle therefore comes the containing of dilemmas and a double challenge.[9]

[1] The difference between North-South and East-West dominant assumptions about governance is introduced here, with comment on the consequences of North-South dominance on the East-West axis here.
[2] A close reading of the detailed content of the framework clearly recognises the issues raised in this blog. The difficulty is that the conceptual scaffolding within which the framework is constructed rests on presumptions of hierarchy. For more on conceptual scaffolding, see Lane, D. A., R. Emilia, et al. (2005). “Ontological uncertainty and innovation.” Journal of Evolutionary Economics 15.
[3] For more on this three-way distinction, see creating value in ecosystems: establishing a 3-level approach to strategy.
[4] Another way of understanding the relations between policy-strategy-tactics is in terms of the dual span of complexity and associated timespan of discretion, complexity and timespan being synchronic and diachronic ways of describing a system. In these terms the actors within a system are subjected to (i.e. constrained in their choices by) structure; and narrative takes place within the context of actors’ lives. Policy is thus structural in its effects, strategy is about asserting and sustaining difference between actors, and tactics are the unfolding of narrative within this context. A forensic process therefore examines the implicit effects of structure on narrative in order to identify how its constraints ‘kill’ certain kinds of narrative i.e. prevent certain kinds of outcome.
Jaques’ insistence on discrete levels of discretion can be understood in these terms as relations of subjection.  The figure above is derived from Figure 5 in Christian Dominique and Stephane Flamant, “Strategic Narrative: around a narrative intervention assisted” French Management Review, 2005/6 No. 159, p. 283-302.
[5] This is referred to as the primary task of the service…
[6] … while this is referred to as the primary risk faced by the particular relation to demand. See quality as the driver at the edge for more about these two axes.
[7] This creates challenges for the organisation, both enabling its client-customers to be related to one-by-one by authorising leadership at the edge, and also by creating appropriately agile supporting platforms and infrastructures that make this sustainable. This kind of complex organisation I refer to as quantum organisation.
[8] For more on the architectural implications of quantum organisation, see architectures that integrate differentiated behaviors
[9] For more on the different nature of complex environments, see the drivers of organisational scale.

The future work of ISPSO is the psychoanalytic study of organisations

July 11th, 2013

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

At this 30th annual meeting of ISPSO[1], it is my view that if ISPSO ceased to exist, it would have to be re-invented. There is too much of a future work yet to be done in the psychoanalytic study of organisations.  We need to work with:

  1. the existential dimension of anxiety, in which the very foundations and efficacy of our mental models are being called into question;
  2. the leadership of organisations in turbulent highly-networked environments, enabling their organisations to innovate continuously in response to their customers one-by-one;
  3. the courage necessary to putting ourselves on the line in order to do this kind of work; and
  4. the future generations, for whom each one of us must find in ourselves a response to these challenges.

I say “a work” in the sense of a life’s work or oeuvre, through which a person struggles to realise something felt to be true that can never be fully realised. In what follows, I want to say why I think this, but first, what exactly do I understand as constituting psychoanalytic insight?

The fundamental insight of psychoanalysis, which I attribute to Freud’s original work, is that we human beings are doubly subjected. We are subjected to the way in which we are able to construct meaning, to structures of signification, and we are subjected to our unconscious. Freud understood, in living this double subjection, that we human beings experience ourselves as most ourselves as subjects of the unconscious: “wo Es war, soll Ich werden[2]. And what does it mean to be ‘subjected’?  In our interactions with a structure, we are subjected to the extent that it constrains the ways in which we are able to act.  It follows from this double subjection that we are ourselves always implicated in any study we undertake.

Starting from this fundamental insight, we can ask what kind of a work this means for us, and why in particular this work involves the psychoanalytic study of organisations. A preliminary glance at the programme for this year’s annual meeting provides some preliminary clues. Words appear such as ‘not belonging’, ‘perverse solutions’, ‘climate change’, ‘ideology’, ‘containment’, ‘virtual organisation’, ‘gender relations’ and ‘betrayal’. These words indicate experiences that take place within the context of organisations. The experiences, however articulated, are of persons as subjects of their unconscious, and the contexts of which they speak are structures of signification.

The relation to anxiety
Emery and Trist give an account of work with the top management of a business in the aerospace industry that had been the outcome of a merger [3,4]. They had been asked to intervene because the top management had proved itself unable to collaborate in determining how to respond to a change in the technology associated with jet engines. Emery and Trist established that there were no deep incompatibilities between top management, nor was there stubborn adherence to past loyalties. It was their view, rather, that top management needed to engage in a collective re-appreciation of the whole situation faced by their newly-merged business. The conclusion of Emery and Trist was that there had been a flight into the personal dynamics arising between the members of the top management group and that this flight was from existential anxiety. This flight from existential anxiety, also referred to as annihilation anxiety, was preventing the group from engaging in the innovation needed to the changed situation facing the business.

The members of the top management group were in roles defined within the context of their newly-merged business.  There is nothing easy about taking up a role within an organisation and the demands for performance in a role are ever increasing and ever changing. Existential anxiety arises in the face of the possibility that the organisation-as-context will cease to exist in its current form, as with the aerospace case. It arises when an individual has difficulty even envisioning how his or her role might change, let alone knowing how to engage with changed circumstances. It is not surprising that the inability of the top management group to collaborate was originally identified with their ability to take up and perform in their roles.

In the last 30 years, ISPSO has learned much about how to work with the anxiety that individuals experience in seeking to take up and perform in their roles. Amongst all this learning, the group relations experience stands out as providing a unique approach to enabling individuals to learn about the way they authorise themselves within such contexts [5].  The challenge they faced, nevertheless, concerned the very existence of their organisation and not their relationships within it.  These were the conditions in which their existential anxiety arose.

Thus while performance anxiety is experienced within a given organisation-as-context, existential anxiety arises in situations where that given context is no longer experienced as effective or where there is no longer a given context.

  • The challenge of adding ways of working with this existential dimension of anxiety is a future work for ISPSO.[6]

The object of study
A recent project in the UK’s National Health Service has been examining the way a person’s experience of the end of their life is supported. Developing ways of aligning its own and others’ services to the person and their family context was not only highly valued by that person and their family, but also proved to be much less costly overall. Another organisation managing risk for a European car rental business was able to identify each vehicle at risk from pan-European flooding and take steps to mitigate that risk in each case. Again, aligning mitigating activities in this way proved to be much less costly overall.  In both cases, the object of study moves from being an organisation per se to being the dynamic performance of an ecosystem – sometimes referred to as a complex adaptive (eco-)system – in which a key consideration becomes its economics.

We are all aware of the huge impact that information technologies are having on organisations and whole industries. In these examples, the key difference is in being able to align services to client-customers one-by-one in a way that is dynamic. ISPSO’s object of study has been ‘the’ organis-ation, but under these new conditions the object of study becomes the dynamic organis-ing of activities. This is the distinguishing characteristic of Emery and Trist’s turbulent (highly-networked) environment which is ‘alive’ [7]. Not only must individuals be concerned with taking up a role within an organisation, but they must also be concerned with how the organisation takes up a role in the life of its client-customers. The organisation has to be able to organise many different ways of responding to its client-customers at the same time, ways that are constantly changing.

Information technology may be used to fragment and control, but it may also be used to enable the dynamic alignment of activities to situation and context. Using technology in this way means extending our understanding of leadership to include both the means and the potential impact of dynamic organis-ing.

  • Extending our understanding of leadership to include both the means and the potential impact of dynamic organis-ing is a future work for ISPSO.[8]

Psychoanalytic study
Returning to the way in which the psychoanalytic insight means that we are ourselves implicated in any study we undertake, it follows that psychoanalytic study demands that we consider how who-we-take-ourselves-to-be affects the ways in which we give meaning to our experience. We are ourselves invested in anything we do so that we can ask how it is that we ‘pay’ when engaging in psychoanalytic study.

  • One way in which we pay is with our time. Those of us that are paid by our clients or universities to study may recover some of this cost to ourselves, although even then it is rarely for all of our time.
  • Another way in which we pay is with words. Words are the medium in which we make meaning and those of us who work as analysts or writers know what a work it is to make meaning in this way. Rarely do we get paid for our words.
  • A third way in which we pay, which is the way that is most particular to psychoanalytic study, is to pay with our being. Winnicott, in speaking about the challenge of a case, spoke of the need for at least one person to be prepared to go beyond what they knew in order to respond effectively to the client’s situation[9]. This ‘going beyond’ is to pay with our being by putting ourselves ‘on the line’ or ’at risk’.

With this notion of ‘paying with being’ we return to the challenges of existential anxiety and the psychoanalytic ethic implied by taking up this challenge.  More than anything else, however, it is this preparedness to ‘go beyond’ that brings us together as an ISPSO community.

  • To continue to take up this challenge to our being is a future work for ISPSO.[10]

Paying it forward
ISPSO would have to be re-invented because its future work needs us to work together in finding new ways to work with existential anxiety, new understandings of our object of study, and new ways of taking up the challenge of psychoanalytic study. But more than this, in paying with our being we are paying it forward.

  • Our future work is for future generations, a work in which we must find it in ourselves to innovate.

[1] The ‘ISPSO’ is The International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organisations. This blog formed the basis for one side of a debate concerning the future work of ISPSO, held at the 30th Annual meeting of the Society at Oxford.
[2] Freud, S. (1964). New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. J. Strachey, Hogarth Press. XXII.
[3] Emery, F. E. (1976). Searching for New Directions. New Ways for New Times. M. Emery. Canberra, Australia, Centre for Continuing Education, Australian National University.
[4] Trist, E. (1977). “A Concept of Organizational Ecology.” Australian Journal of Management 2(2): 161-176.
[5] I have written elsewhere about some of the challenges faced by this way of thinking, particularly with respect to boundaries, authority and containment.
[6] For one approach to this other axis of anxiety, see Harari, R. (2001). Lacan’s Seminar on “Anxiety”: An Introduction. New York, Other Press.
[7] Emery, F. E. and E. Trist (1965). “The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments.” Human Relations 18: 21-32.
[8] For more on the challenges to leadership in these environments, see leading organisations without boundaries and the related paper on engendering ‘boundary’ as the object of psychoanalytic study.
[9] Winnicott, D. W. (1965). Training in Child Psychiatry. The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment, Hogarth.
[10] For a way of elaborating on this three-way distinction, see Lacan, J. (2006[1966]). The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of Its Power. Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. New York, W.W. Norton & Co: [489]585-[542]648.

Leading organisations without boundaries: quantum organisation and the work of making meaning

January 2nd, 2013

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

The following is the abstract to a paper accepted for presentation at the 13th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organisations (ISPSO) at Oxford UK, July 2013:

Doing many different things at the same time
What happens when an organisation has to be many different things at the same time in how it relates to its clients? Digitalisation and the internet lead every client to expect more dynamic interaction with their particular situation, context and timing. Familiar examples from the perspective of the client are healthcare, financial services, air travel, mobile apps and the home delivery of food. Organisations that are interacting dynamically in different ways with each of their individual clients are best understood as being without boundaries. This paper uses a ‘quantum’ metaphor to think about this, considering each individual client interaction as a ‘quantum’. Quantum theory argues that the ‘classical’ reality of which we are conscious is quite different to the underlying reality of distributions of quantum states [1, 2]. This quantum metaphor provides a way of thinking about something very similar going on in relation to the underlying reality of organisations. The work of ‘quantum organisation’ by these organisations becomes that of making meaning within the client’s particular situation, context and timing. The paper uses examples from healthcare to elaborate on this use of the quantum metaphor, and draws conclusions about the leadership needed by these organisations without boundaries.

When Jack Welch asked for a ‘boundaryless organization’, General Electric didn’t get rid of its boundaries [3]. It rearranged its vertical, horizontal, industry and geographic boundaries so that it could better thrive, and shifted its focus to creating structured networks [4, 5]. Structured networks are a response to the need to address value creation at the level of the business ecosystem [6, 7]. This shift is apparent in manufacturing [8], and it is even more apparent in healthcare [9]. Organisations that interact dynamically with their clients are presented with demands that are multi-sided, in the sense that the context of the demand becomes at least as important as the demand itself [10, 11]. Thus, it may be clear that you need a heart transplant, but your healthcare has to be at least as concerned with the context of your body and your lifestyle if the transplant is to be effective. To create value for the multi-sided demands of patients within a healthcare ecosystem, a healthcare clinic must align a unique care pathway to manage the chronic symptoms of each of its patients [12]. The organisation of such a clinic is not easily understood as a socio-technical open system with its boundary conditions “directly dependent on its material means and resources for its outputs” [13]. How then is the work of such an organisation to be understood, if not in terms of how it manages its boundaries?

Distinguishing the ‘operative’ from the ‘regulative’
Emery and Trist argued that while open-systems models enabled material exchange processes to be dealt with between the organization and elements in its environment, “they did not deal with those processes in the environment itself which were the determining conditions of the exchanges”. “Those processes were themselves often incommensurate with the organisation’s internal and exchange processes” [14] p30. This led Trist to restrict the term “socio-technical” to ‘operative’ organizations, distinguishing them from ‘regulative’ organizations. Regulative organizations are “concerned directly with the psychosocial ends of their members and with instilling and maintaining or changing cultural values and norms, the power and the position of interest groups, or the social structure itself” [13]. Trist later called these regulative organisations ‘referent’ because they were defined by their relation to the ecosystem as a whole [15], and by their boundary conditions. These regulative or referent organisations were instead focussed on aligning the behaviour of an ecosystem to particular interests, in a way that parallels the work of the healthcare clinic to align care pathways to the interests of its patients. Accepting this difference means losing a direct identification between a physical system and the system of meaning of which it is a realisation. This forces us to abandon the direct identification of boundary with container [16] and re-examine the concept of containing.

In place of this direct identification, the paper argues that the work of regulative or referent organisations has to be understood as one of making meaning rather than managing across a boundary. This work involves a container-contained relation that returns meaning to the other (the patient) with respect to what the other experiences as ‘bizarre’ or anxiety-inducing (the symptoms). Containment involves making sense through a work of transformation within the context of a ‘vertex’, or a way of organising meaning [17]. Two conditions follow from this for the healthcare clinic to be effective in organising the care of its patients:

  1.   The ecosystem must act as a supporting infrastructure that is appropriately ‘agile’. This means that it can simultaneously support a wide variety of alignments of care services[18]. In this sense, the ecosystem must be able to sustain many different states of alignment at the same time, each of which is a ‘quantum’ state. For the patient, this quantum state is the singular behaviour of the ecosystem, while for the ecosystem, it is one of many simultaneous states it must be able to support.
  2. Its leadership must make it in the interests of its clinicians to contain the patient’s particular experience within its local multi-sided context, and must make it possible to form effective workgroup collaborations able to align appropriate care pathways [19, 20]. This process of containing the patient’s experience of his or her symptoms becomes the process by which a singular state of the ecosystem is aligned to the local environment of the patient in the form of a unique care pathway. The paper argues that the regulative or referent role of the clinic makes it an organisation without boundaries; the processes by which it is enabled to create agility and alignment are better described in terms of quantum organisation. The paper explores these two conditions characterising quantum organisation using examples from healthcare. It draws conclusions on the leadership demanded of such an organisation, and on its psychoanalytic implications.


1. Rosenblum, B. and F. Kuttner, Quantum Enigma: physics encounters consciousness. 2006: Oxford University Press.
2. Atmanspacher, H., H. Romer, and H. Walach, Weak Quantum Theory: Complementarity and Entanglement in Physics and Beyond. Foundations of Physics, 2002. 32(3): p. 379-406.
3. Ashkenas, R., et al., The Boundaryless Organization: Breaking the Chains of Organization Structure. 2002: Jossey-Bass.
4. Goold, M. and A. Campbell, Designing Effective Organizations: How to Create Structured Networks. 2002, London: Jossey-Bass.
5. Provan, K.G. and P. Kenis, Modes of Network Governance: Structure, Management, and Effectiveness. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 2007. 18: p. 229-252.
6. Trist, E., A Concept of Organizational Ecology. Australian Journal of Management, 1977. 2(2): p. 161-176.
7. Porter, M.E. and M.R. Kramer, Creating Shared Value: How to reinvent capitalism – and unleash a wave of innovation and growth. Harvard Business Review, 2011(January-February).
8. Iansiti, M. and R. Levien, The Keystone Advantage: What the New Dynamics of Business Ecosystems Mean for Strategy, Innovation, and Sustainability. 2004, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
9. Porter, M.E. and E.O. Teisberg, Redefiining Health Care: Creating Value-based Competition on Results. 2006, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
10. Silverthorne, S., New Research Explores Multi-Sided Markets: an interview with Andrei Hagiu, in Harvard Business School Working Knowledge2006. p.
11. Evans, D.S., Some Empirical Aspects of Multi-Sided Platform Industries. Review of Network Economics, 2003. 2(3).
12. Rouse, W.B., Health Care as a Complex Adaptive System: Implications for Design and Management. The Bridge, 2008. 38(1): p. 17-25.
13. Fichtelberg, J., H. Murray, and B. Trist, Social Engagement of Social Science: A Tavistock Anthology: The Socio-Technical Perspective. 1997: University of Pennsylvania Press.
14. Emery, F.E. and E. Trist, The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments. Human Relations, 1965. 18: p. 21-32.
15. Trist, E., Referent Organizations and the Development of Inter-Organizational Domains. Human Relations, 1983. 36(3): p. 269-284.
16. Palmer, B., The Tavistock paradigm: Inside, outside and beyond, in Organisations, Anxieties and Defences: Towards a Psychoanalytic Social Psychology, R.D. Hinshelwood and M. Chiesa, Editors. 2002, Whurr: London. p. 158-182.
17. Bion, W.R., Learning from Experience. 1962, London: Heinemann.
18. Boxer, P., et al. Systems-of-Systems Engineering and the Pragmatics of Demand. in Second International Systems Conference. 2008. Montreal, Que.: IEEE.
19. Bion, W.R., Attention and Interpretation. 1970, London: Tavistock.
20. French, R.B. and P. Simpson, The ‘work group’: Redressing the balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups. Human Relations, 2010. 63(12): p. 1859-1878.

Span-of-complexity, timespan-of-discretion and the double alignment of ‘know-how’

November 7th, 2012

by Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD

John Kotter, in his article about how to stay competitive amid constant turbulence and disruption, introduces the idea of “two systems, one organisation“, one system being about the organisation of the vertical linkages associated with the hierarchical North-South, and the second being about the way East-West networks of horizontal linkages are organised. He makes the point that competition is more and more about managing the complex on the edge of chaos, far different to the demands of the 20th Century corporate era.  How are we to think about the demands this shift is imposing on individuals?

Elliott Jaques, in his book The Form of Time, makes a distinction between two kinds of time (p14):

  • chronos – that of “chronological, seriatim time of succession, measurable by clocks and chronometers”; and
  • kairos – that of “seasonal time, the time of episodes with a beginning, a middle, and an end, the human and living time of intentions and goals”.

Jaques, and the Brunel Institute he founded, developed an approach to career path appreciation within bureaucracies – organisations in which the work of subordinates within a hierarchy were aligned under the strategy ceiling of the whole.  This approach was based on the timespan of discretion expected in the exercise of a particular role within the hierarchy.[1]

This timespan of discretion of a role is identified by Jaques in terms of chronos, but can also be identified in terms of kairos in terms of the role’s span of complexity. The span is defined by the operationally and managerially independent entities that are interacting with each other ‘horizontally’, but for which the role holder is responsible ‘vertically’. The complexity comes from the way these ‘horizontal’ interactions generate behaviours [2].   This timespan of discretion/span of complexity reflects the extent to which the exercise of the role is under-determined, i.e. determining outcomes is open to the judgement of the role-holder. In a role that is over-determined, there is a chronos logic to the succession of events that leaves the role-holder with no discretion over outcomes.  But with under-determination comes the opportunity for the role-holder to impose outcomes through the exercise of judgement.  In Jaques’ work, the importance of the accountability hierarchy was to ensure conformance of the role-holder’s judgement to the overall expectations from above the strategy ceiling.  Seven levels were distinguished, described as follows:[3]

  1. Prescribed output: responding to concrete demands – use expertise in practical judgement in such a way that resources of time, skills, equipment and materials are not wasted or misused.
  2. Situational response: assessing concrete needs – comprehend each particular situation by exploration, imagination and appraisal, and then resolve it; explain why work is to be done in a particular way; explain/demonstrate how a particular task is to be done.
  3. Systematic provision: handling concrete systems – imagine all the possible practices and systems that might be used; select those that are appropriate in the light of local conditions; make the most of the people, the finances and the technologies in order to realise those that have been chosen.
  4. Comprehensive provision: developing multiple services – coordinate and supply resources for the practices that are already in place; develop new systems or practices; meet changes in purpose; terminate those means that are no longer realising the purpose.
  5. Field coverage: shaping overall operations – represent the organisation to the external context; act as the source of the mission and as the source of both current and new technologies; relate the separate activities of level 4.
  6. Multi-field coverage: framing operational fields – monitor, obtain and shape intelligence about external contexts; protect the strategic business units against excessive turbulence, alerting them of opportunities and likely pressures; representing the organisation in external contexts; judge priorities for corporate investment.
  7. Total coverage: defining basic parameters – state and disseminate the values of the whole; consider how these values may best be expressed in contexts with different value systems and different social and political economies; design contexts for the future of the whole in places or activities that may appear peripheral but will eventually be sources of strategic advantage; sustain the whole by producing new strategic business units by acquisition, mergers and joint ventures and divesting where appropriate.

The difficulty with this framework emerges when there needs to be no strategy ceiling, and the behavior of the enterprise needs to be relational, delivering type IV quality within the client’s domain of relevance. The alignment of the levels must therefore not be determined by a prior design-time strategy ceiling but in response to the present ‘WHY’ of the client’s relation to their situation representing an opportunity.[4],[5] This is a shift from affiliation to a founding model established at design-time ‘above the ceiling’. In its place comes an alliance formed at ‘run-time’ around containing some particular set of dilemmas in the client’s situation. It requires a change to the way the levels are understood in which the four quadrants are explicitly aligned to the particular client situation. It helps to see this difference if we speak of ‘service units’ rather than ‘business units’.

The first four levels remain the same, being about the way infrastructural capabilities (1-2) and intra-service-unit organisation (3-4) operate.  The changes come in the levels 5-6 which deal more explicitly with inter-service-unit alignment, and with the superstructural assumptions in level 7 which become primarily about creating value in the client situation:[6]

  1. Prescribed output: responding to concrete demands.
  2. Situational response: assessing concrete needs.
  3. Systematic provision: handling concrete systems.
  4. Comprehensive provision: developing multiple services.
  5. Field coverage: shaping overall operations within the client’s domain of relevance – align service units to the client’s context-of-use within an operational field[7]; act as the source of the mission and as the source of both current and new propositions; relate the separate activities of service units at level 4.
  6. Multi-domain coverage: framing operational fields aka domains of relevance – monitor, obtain and shape intelligence about clients’ contexts-of-use across multiple domains of relevance; protect the domains against excessive turbulence, alerting field coverage of opportunities and likely pressures; represent the whole in clients’ contexts-of-use; judge priorities for strategic investment..
  7. Overall coverage: defining basic parameters – state and disseminate the values of the whole; identify client domains of relevance for the future of the whole in places or for activities that may appear peripheral but will eventually be new sources of value; sustain the whole by creating new service units and potential composite services through alignments between them by acquisition, mergers and joint ventures and divesting where appropriate.

Viewed in this way, these two sets of supply-side levels 1-4 and demand-side levels 5-7 can be used to examine the ‘double alignment’ of ‘West’ know-how[8]:

  1. Vertically, to ensure that roles are defined in terms of the first supply-side set, aligning role-holders’ interests to supporting the use of units’ services at the edge; and
  2. Horizontally, to ensure that the dynamic processes of collaboration and co-creation align the relations at the edge between units’ services and client situations, conforming to the second demand-side set.

These correspond to Kotter’s “two systems, one organisation“, the first being about the organisation of the hierarchical North-South, and the second being about the way the East-West networks are organised.  Managing the tension between these two forms of organisation is fundamental to enabling an enterprise to sustain relational behavior.

[1] Two kinds of insight emerged from the use of career path appreciation: (i) a critical examination of the numbers of levels in a hierarchy, and whether they were necessary to its effective operation – leading to the identification of pseudo-levels; and (ii) a comparison between the level at which the role was defined as compared with the level of which the role-holder was capable – here mismatches led to difficulties in fulfilling expectations of the role and/or behaviors going beyond the remit of the role itself.
[2] Complex behavior (as distinct from chaotic, complicated or simple behaviors) reflect the relation between the horizontal cause-and-effect linkages and the vertical control linkages. See the drivers of organisational scope.
[3] In his book on levels of abstraction in logic and human action, Jaques approximates these timespans chronologically in terms of where the breakpoints came: levels 1-2 ~ 3 months; levels 2-3 ~ 1 year; levels 3-4 ~ 2 years; levels 4-5 ~ 5 years; levels 5-6 ~ 10 years; and levels 6-7 ~ 20 years. When dealing with relational organisations, these have to be converted into time spans relative to the granularity of the component activities, but in a way that reflects the way the relationships are structured.
[4] ‘Client’ is used here in the sense of the position of the client in tempo, entanglement and East-West dominance – the problem is local to the client’s situation or context-of-use, and the models for delivering value have to be actively aligned to that situation.
[5] Remember that the strategy ceilings are derived from the 4-quadrant analysis of the theory-of-use implicit in the behavior of the enterprise.  The ordering of these quadrants comes from the ways in which their timespans of discretion/spans of complexity are nested – it takes longer to shape behaviors supporting the ‘WHY’ than to shape the behaviors supporting the ‘WHAT’.
[6] Thus levels 1-2 relate to the infrastructural capabilities of the ‘WHAT’; levels 3-4 relate to the intra-service-unit organisation of the ‘HOW’; levels 5-6 relate to the inter-service-unit organisation of the ‘WHO-for-WHOM’; and level 7 relates to the superstructural assumptions of the ‘WHY’.
[7] This ‘operational field’ is the domain of relevance with respect to the client’s situation.
[8] Referred to in a footnote to the last point 4 of tempo, entanglement and East-West dominance.  This is what leads to the need for ‘tripartite leadership’ – see The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation in a large system.  Tripartite leadership involves top leaders, professionals and clinicians e.g. in “Leading Psychological Services: A report by the Division of Clinical Psychology”, British Psychological Association, February 2007. For clinician you can substitute any edge role that is about shaping the response to the particular situation. The religious domain is another domain in which I have had particular experience of the challenges facing tripartite leadership e.g. Asymmetric Leadership: supporting a CEO’s response to turbulence.