All posts by philipjboxer

Ethical Dilemmas – when Doing Things Right is not Doing The Right Thing

Defunding the police is about “reallocating funds, shifting responsibility away from roles that police have absorbed over time, and establishing guidelines on what society wants and needs from police, including how the police are expected to act in our service.” The issue is not better adherence to policies and practices – doing things right, but greater focus on outcomes for society – doing the right thing.

This is the point made by Suzette Woodward in her book about implementing patient safety. Safety I is ‘the absence of failure’ to follow existing policies and practices, doing things right. Safety II includes Safety I but focuses on outcomes, doing the right thing:

“the ability to succeed under varying conditions so that the number of intended and acceptable outcomes is as high as possible” (p43)

Safety I is thus work-as-prescribed, seeking to limit how far work-as-done diverges from work-as-prescribed in order to prevent errors of execution. When these prescriptions extend to define rules governing composite work-behaviors, for example in combining different drug treatments, Safety I also covers the prevention of errors of planning. The underlying assumption here is that design-time and run-time can be separated, the times at which plans are formed and behaviors prescribed able to take place long before the run-time of work-as-done.[1]

Work-as-prescribed is when we set clear rules and detailed instructions for carrying out tasks […] when the gap between work-as-done and work-as-prescribed needs to be as narrow as it possibly can be.” (p68)

Safety II becomes necessary when this separation is no longer possible because of the dynamic and fluid nature of situations that change with each action.[2] The wicked nature of such situations makes planning impossible, concern with the static nature of errors of planning having to give way to the avoidance of dynamic errors of alignment in each moment[3] and of errors of intent through misreading the demands in each situation.[4]

An environment in which the focus must be on outcomes under dynamic and fluid conditions is turbulent. It requires that an organisation takes power to its edges to minimise both errors of alignment and errors of intent. Such environments require a Safety II focus of horizontal accountabilities to the situation of the client at an organisation’s edges. This creates a new kind of challenge in which obedience to work-as-prescribed is no longer sufficient to ensure safety. New kinds of obstacle to avoiding errors of alignment and intent arise from assumptions derived from obedience to vertically-defined work-as-imagined and built into a individuals’ ways of thinking implicit in work-as-disclosed:

“Work-as-imagined refers to the way people who regulate, inspect and design interventions don’t really understand what reality is actually like (p67) […] work-as-disclosed is how people describe what they do whether in writing or when they talk to each other… (p70)

These new kinds of obstacle may be thought of as a series of three tensions that have to be held.[5] Work-as-prescribed top-down by management is never wholly commensurable with work-as-experienced bottom-up by the individuals doing the work. The assumption with Safety I is that top-down dominates.

Work-as-disclosed reflects the way this first top-down vs bottom-up tension is currently held while always falling short of fully accounting for the unthought known of work-as-done. The second tension is thus between work-as-disclosed and work-as-done, reflecting the limited ability of people’s ways of thinking to capture all of what is going on.

The way this second espoused vs unthought-known tension is held takes the form of work-as-imagined. There will be many ways of holding this tension, but the dominant way shared within an organisation will be the one to which its members are affiliated, referred to as an organisation’s culture:

“… ‘the way we do things around here (when people aren’t looking)’ and the sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another.” (p117)

Safety II introduces a third tension because of the alliance it demands with the situation of the patient, a work-as-demanded that is rooted in what constitutes a desirable outcome for the client-patient. This is a tension between an affiliation to work-as-imagined and an alliance with the work-as-demanded. The way this third affiliation vs alliance tension gets held presents an ethical dilemma for the individual empowered to hold the tension at the edge of the organisation – a dilemma in how to hold the balance between the interests of the organisation and of the client-patient.

The following table summarises the progression of tensions that culminate in this ethical dilemma:

1work-as-prescribed
top-down
vswork-as-experienced bottom-up=work-as-disclosed espoused theory
2work-as-disclosed espoused theoryvswork-as-done unthought known=work-as-imagined affiliation
3work-as-imagined affiliationvswork-as-demanded alliance=ethical dilemma

Wynton Marsalis speaks of a segregation within the USA that reflects failures in how this third tension is held in the interests of all US citizens, an example of such a failure currently giving rise to the calls to defund the police. But why an ethical dilemma? Mark Ruffalo, speaking about using his celebrity, had this to say about putting himself on the line:

“We’re past the point where a celebrity can just make a video and tell people what to do … we’ve been doing that for decades. Now we have to put our bodies and our money and our time and our comfort on the line. That’s what’s being asked of us when we’re being asked to be allies.”[1]

Holding the third affiliation vs alliance tension means questioning our identifications with the citizen-client as distinct from our identification with the organisation, questioning who we take ourselves to be. Mark’s point was that to hold the third tension means being prepared to put ourselves on the line – to be prepared to pay with our being[6]. It also means questioning for what are we, as individuals, using organisations.

Notes

[1] The replacement of people by machines, or at least AI software, thus appears to some to be the ultimate guarantee of Safety I. The crash of Air France Flight 447 is one of many instances showing the limitations of such a guarantee.

[2] As the famous quotation goes: “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force”.

[3] This involves deconflicting behaviors so that they can be mutually reinforcing of an overall desired effect, the other side of which is to ensure interoperability between capabilities in order to reduce the potential for errors of alignment.

[4] Working at the edge of an organisation in this way involves being able to attend to the ‘something missing‘ in the way the client’s situation is understood. A misreading arises when a blind eye is turned to this ‘something missing’. The plus-one process is designed to develop the skills of working at the edge.

[5] These three tensions are the dilemmas of ignorance applied to the way power is exercised within an organisation: top-down vs bottom-up; espoused theory vs unthought known; and affiliation vs alliance.

[6] The 2nd crisis in the three moments is to be unable to get any further with an existing way of thinking/understanding. The third moment comes when we choose to act as if we know while knowing that we do not. Such a choice involves letting go of existing identifications, i.e. to ‘pay with our being’.

Towards a Design for a Virtual Open Source Event

A Virtual Open Source Event (VOSE) aims to hold both sides of the dilemma identified in the previous blog asking what we can learn from going virtual. In the design below, the word ‘matrix’ is used in the Foulkesian sense of “the network of all individual mental processes, the psychological medium in which they meet, communicate and interact”.[1]

The design uses a virtual platform, for example Slack, that can provide synchronous and asynchronous communication among participants over an extended period of weeks. The participants come together because they have direct experience of a problem domain[2] and are wanting to develop new initiatives within it that have the possibility of adding value within that domain. Participants’ direct knowledge of and experience within the problem domain is crucial, whether from the supply-side or the demand-side, because this is necessary to the forms of learning that will arise in the matrices.

The work takes place within four matrices, each with its own moderator and each with its own distinctive focus.[3] Three of these matrices focus on different perspectives on the domain: the Witnessing, Plus-One and Parallel Process matrices. Participants bring these perspectives together in the fourth Development matrix as planned collaborations, in which the focus is to ensure that the spokes of each collaboration’s development wheel can be balanced.

The VOSE ends when a majority of its participants are ready to put their planned collaborations into action.

Plenaries: Two plenaries involve all participants and moderators. The Opening Plenary introduces the event. The Closing Plenary reviews the emergent learning.

Witnessing matrix: Participants form a matrix in which individuals identify and narrate situations in which there is a value deficit and/or injustice that has arisen within the chosen problem domain.  The rule in this matrix is to make no interpretations.

Plus-One matrix: Participants fishbowl around a 3-person plus-one process exploring an individual’s experience of a situation identified in the Witnessing matrix. The individual uses the emergent metaphors to formulate a counter-narrative and underlying dilemma implicit in his or her reading of the situation.

Parallel process matrix: Participants fishbowl around individuals focusing on their understanding of the parallel processes in a situation with its underlying dilemma that has emerged from the Plus-One matrix. The aim is to explore the strategy ceilings constraining the ways in which the dilemma is being responded to.

Development matrix: Participants form collaborations that bring together insights from the other three matrices to form initiatives that can be balanced across all the spokes of the development wheel.

Enaction: The VOSE exists to work through understandings of what is going on in the problem domain and the crises limiting what innovations are possible within the domain. Enaction involves moving to a third moment in which new collaborations can be realised.

Moderators: Each matrix has its own moderator supporting its work.[4] Moderators’ meetings are to provide peer support in sustaining the different kinds of relationship between the participants in each matrix. Participants can observe moderators’ meetings in ‘fishbowl’ and contribute issues for consideration.[5]

Notes

[1] The quote is from Foulkes, S.H. and Anthony, E.J. (1965) Group Psychotherapy: The Psychoanalytic Approach: Second Edition Karnac Books: London. The role of each matrix becomes apparent through the fishbowl effect created by the relationship of its participants at any one time to the working of a focal individual or group within it. In effect, the fishbowl turns the work of the focal individual or group ‘inside-out‘.

[2] A problem domain defines the ‘north star’ bringing people together because of their shared concern for what is going on within a domain. This is most apparent in the public and not-for-profit sectors, where issues of health, social services, urban economic growth, housing, transportation etc bring people together with the political will to make something happen. Such ‘north stars’ are not so apparent in the private sector because they take any individual organization beyond its definition of itself to have to consider its role within a wider ecosystem. Examples such as energy, digital communications, insurance, farming and recycling etc nevertheless present the same challenges.

[3] The design is thus a further development of the 12-step witnessed plus-one process. It separates out the identifying of narratives (the Witnessing matrix), the situating of a narrator within a larger ecosystem-of-concern (the Parallel Process matrix) and the development of a dilemma formulation from a plus-one process (the Plus-One matrix). This enables there to be a circulation around these matrices by a larger group of participants within the problem domain. To this it adds the Development matrix, in which the development wheel is used to examine critically the planned interventions emerging from participants’ collaborations in terms of both their balance and their leadership dynamics.

[4] Depending on the numbers of participants involved, the VOSE can be run either by a team of 4 moderators or one moderator taking up the different moderating roles in succession. The key is that the contract with the participants is to be working with their transference to the work of the VOSE. This means that the moderator(s) have to be very clear about the different way of working in each matrix, and to be able to hold these differences. This leaves the participants with the challenge of how they put it all together.

[5] The fourth Development matrix is the place where participants bind together what has emerged for them in the other three matrices in ways that have meaning for them. This binding can be thought of as a Borromean knotting. The challenge for the moderators is to enable the essential incommensurabilities between the other three matrices to be held.

Balancing the development wheel

We are seeing that securing effective testing for COVID-19 is not so easy.  Of course there need to be enough tests manufactured that are effective.  But there are also the questions of where and how to test citizens, who will do the testing, how to protect the testers, where to run the tests once samples are taken, and how to set the priorities for who should be being tested.  Even given leadership, there are huge challenges of training and organization to put all this together in ways that are aligned to and can cohere within different local contexts.

The government agencies in both the USA and in the UK learnt that it was not enough to procure a new piece of equipment.  In order to deploy a capability effectively within an operational theater, the US military took the view that development had to take place along 7 spokes of a development wheel: doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities. NATO added an interoperability-between-forces spoke to this list, while the UK military removed the leadership spoke from this list, added Information and logistics spokes, and renamed the doctrine spoke as a concepts-and-doctrine spoke and the facilities spoke as an infrastructure spoke.

Putting all of these together in the context of an organization seeking to be edge-driven in the way it creates effects for its clients, we come up with eight spokes for the development wheel, four hierarchically/ vertically-driven because driven by the need to secure economies of scale and scope; and four horizontally/edge-driven because driven by the need to secure economies of alignment within each edge situation and client context-of-use.

  • Why spokes of a wheel? If there is not balance across all eight spokes, the development wheel will not be able to turn.
  • And why does the wheel need to turn?  Being edge-driven requires continuous adaptation and learning by an organization, which, while starting from situational understanding, has to be able to impact on all eight spokes.  Without situational understanding it is not possible to determine what effects need to be created by the organization at its edges in order to sustain its viability, but without balancing the wheel, the organization cannot then be effective.
  • And what does this mean for leadership? Each spoke demands its own form of leadership, and the relationships between these different forms of leadership determine how the wheel is able to be kept in balance. This economy of leadership goes beyond narrower definitions that are identified with just one of the spokes.

Hierarchically/vertically-driven

Doctrine & Operational Concepts: The principles and framework governing the approach to generating effects for clients within a domain of relevance.

Facilities, Infrastructure & Logistics: The facilities, infrastructure and logistics providing the platform that supports an organization in doing its work.

Leadership and Education: The ability to lead creatively and effectively within the chosen domain of relevance.

Materiel & Technology: The equipment, tools and methods needed to be effective within the chosen domain of relevance.

Horizontally/edge-driven

Edge Organization: The particular orchestration and synchronization of capabilities needed to generate the desired effects within a client situation.

Mission Alignment: The people with the appropriate know-how and ability to work together collaboratively in support of a given edge organization.

Situational Understanding: The way a domain of relevance is defined and its data is fused and interpreted to provide a composite picture and understanding of what is going on in the particular situation.[1]

Personnel & Shared Culture: The people with the socialization, background and mutual knowledge and trust to be able to work together.

Notes

[1] A key issue here is not only ‘dark data’ i.e. data that is accessible, but not currently included within the current definition of the domain of relevance (see Hand, D., J., Dark Data – why what you don’t know matters. 2020: Princeton University Press.), but also traces of behaviors that are not yet accessible as data – the kind of traces that require ‘feet-on-the-ground’ and a forensic attention to what-is-going-on (wigo).

What can we learn from going virtual?

Digitalization is changing the competitive demands on every organization across all sectors, at different speeds and in different ways. The covid-19 pandemic is accelerating these changes, driving each organization towards becoming more knowledge-based, so that it finds itself having to compete more by aligning its behaviors dynamically to the differing situations of its clients and by synchronizing its own behaviors with others’ behaviors within the client’s context-of-use. Think wrapping continuing support around the evolving situation of a client.

Something of the enormity of this shift can be grasped in terms my work not being organized primarily around the task boundaries of what I am doing as a provider in terms of my primary task. Rather the work must be organized within the client’s system-of-meaning in terms of the primary risk from leaving too large a gap in relation to what the client wants. Whatever I and others do must be translated and transposed into the client’s context. Think what it takes to perform standup comedy.

This translation and transposition are endemic in the virtual world, in which meaning is endlessly emancipated from our own ways of organizing it. Having to work within others’ organizations of meaning leads us to being between two sides of a dilemma that both need holding, both ‘here’ and ‘over there’.  The virtual world entangles different ways of organizing meaning such that there are always multiple version of the ‘truth’. Think processes for agreeing where to direct investment within a city to impact on the greatest need.

A LinkedIn blog asks: “can group relations work actually be undertaken virtually”? Its five questions can be re-framed in terms of this dilemma arising from the impact of digitalization, leading organizations towards having to hold both sides. The question of whether group relations work can be undertaken virtually thus becomes a question of what innovations are needed in group relations work that will enable us to learn how to hold both sides.

***

Q1. What happens to ‘the task’ and the capacity to find and hold the task – made more complex without bodies in the room and unidimensional head photos on a screen? Made more challenging to persist with by virtue of the distractions available when working virtually. How are the initial agreements stimulated and supported virtually?

A group relations event is designed to explore transferential and counter-transferential effects arising between people as they emerge in group dynamics.  The event as a whole, however, depends on its participants taking up a transference to the work of the event per se as a work in which all the participants are engaged. Thinking of ‘a work’ in this way is like the way an artist creates ‘a work’, each work revealing to her a bit more of what her work is. When a group relations event goes virtual, what is the work to which the participants have a transference when it can’t be to studying the in-the-room interactions of the group per se? To make sense of this, we need to understand what constitutes a transference to the work:

transference to the personversustransference to the work

In a transference to the person, it is as if the other knows what it is that the individual wants, while in a transference to the work, it is as if the work knows what it is that the individual wants…

Q2. What about ‘time’ as connectivity issues plague beginnings, middles and endings of each GR element – and at every moment in between? Connectivity strength varies across the globe and at various times of the day and night; timezone issues might make for a complex weave of differing biorhythms for members – my morning, your evening? And what about digital security?

The various task systems created by a group relations event have their own bounded timespans of discretion within which participants make the choices implicit in their behaviors. The absence of boundedness created by virtual processes demands of participants that they choose the scope of the complexity that they are attending to, their interactions with each other taking place within these differing spans of complexity. Here we are moving from being dominated by the chronos of clock time to the kairos of what is constitutive of moments that have moment:

timespan-of-discretionversusspan-of-complexity

The timespan of discretion of a task system is defined by its beginning, middle and end, while its span of complexity is defined by the scope of the networked collaboration needed to to produce a desired outcome…

Q3. Since the ‘territory’ is no longer ‘our’ physical space, how do we contend as consultants with being in the ‘territory’ of the membership – their living rooms, offices, bedrooms?

The territory of a group relations event establishes the boundaries that limit the ways in which participants may be present. Going virtual means that no such boundaries are established while participants’ different ways of organizing meaning are made more apparent.  The resultant experience of edges is in terms of the contexts from which participants speak within their places and local times:

boundaryversusedge

A boundary is marked physically in time and space, while an edge arises wherever there is an experienced need to translate and transpose between different ways of organizing meaning…

Q4. How does ‘authority’ work in the virtual environment? Can useful explorations of transference arise in making sense of what’s really going on?

With transference to the person, questioning the relation to authority involves questioning the relationship to the person. In contrast, transference to the work involves questioning the effects that appear to be being called for in a situation and what then might be necessary to giving rise to those effects. This changes where a participant looks in understanding what is really going on from the other per se to the situation:

authorityversusperformativity

Authority questions what participants are being obedient to, while performativity questions the relation between ways of organizing meaning and their effects…

Q5. If these boundaries are fundamental for ‘containment’ – how are we to anticipate, manage and make use of the anxieties that arise and are necessary for deep learning? Surely these virtual anxieties will have a different quality?

The ‘containment’ of a group relations event is derived from the way it holds its boundaries, limiting what participants must deal with. It is also derived from the ways of organizing meaning that emerge within its boundaries in the way participants make sense of what is going on. Going virtual emancipates both the ways of holding and also the ways of containing. Here ‘holding’, as the way in which horizontal complexity is limited, is distinguished from ‘containing’ as the way of organizing meaning. This challenges participants to focus less on how they are working with their anxiety and to focus more on possible innovations in the way they use the organization: 

defenses against anxietyversusdefenses against innovation

Defenses against anxiety defend from what is going on below the surface of a participant’s consciousness, while defenses against innovation defend the way a participant uses an organization to support some aspect of their identification.

***

Putting all five dilemmas together, placing Group Relations Work on one side and ‘Going Virtual’ on the other, we can see something of what holding both sides might involve:

 Group Relations Work Going Virtual
Q1transference to the personvstransference to the work
Q2timespan-of-discretionvsspan-of-complexity
Q3boundaryvsedge
Q4authorityvsperformativity
Q5defenses against anxietyvsdefenses against innovation

The question, then, of whether group relations work can be undertaken virtually is a questioning of the limits to ‘containing’ as a conflation of holding and containing. Whatever is needed of an event that goes virtual, its design will need to involve holding in such a way as to emancipate containing. Think Open Source Event.

The Ethic demanded is of Engendering Leadership

The presentation describing this pathway within the 3rd epoch domain explores what is the ethic underlying this way of approaching the relation of an organization to its wider ecosystem?

Under edge-driven competitive conditions, leadership must support a questioning both of the structures underlying the capabilities of the organisation and of individuals’ valencies for how they support value-creation.  For an organisation to be dynamically responsive to its clients in a way that is sustainable, this means balancing the consistency of each response to a client’s situation by an interest in its incompleteness.  Engendering leadership enables this balance to be held in its pursuit of learning.

There are a number of challenges that an organisation faces as it goes relational and becomes edge-driven. The challenges arise in seeking to create effects in clients’ situations that reduce clients’ value deficits while at the same time remaining sustainable as an organisation.  Foremost amongst these are the parallel processes that need to be sustained by governance structures rooted in an alliance with the client-in-their-situation. Another challenge is in overcoming the forces of maladaptation that stand in the way of such alliances. Going relational thus involves more than the Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm’.  It involves doing as much as possible for the client without jeopardising the sustainability of the organisation. A key question, then, is why individuals should choose to do this.

The earlier pathways have addressed this question in terms of the interests of organisations in supporting the changing competitive dynamics of ecosystems. But what do these changes demand of individuals working for and within organisations?  The temptation has been to encourage individuals to be dependent on the organisation to support their identities through the roles on offer.  While organisations these days make fewer and fewer long-term commitments to their employees, there is nevertheless still an implicit bias to do as much as possible for the identities of senior management and shareholders while not jeopardising the relationship to customers.  Overcoming this implicit bias involves a change in the kinds of identification that are supported, underpinned by individuals’ valency for particular ways of being. Going relational involves individuals developing a different relation to their valency.

Personal valency is rooted in the way an individual takes up a relation to what-is-going-on (wigo) that is also implicitly a relation to what remains lacking in that way of organising wigo. The individual experiences a value deficit just as much as does a client, so a choice between the interests of the employee and those of a client is a matter of balancing their respective interests. The point about going relational is that it is a response to a fundamental shift in how this balance must be held in creating value for the client.  To make sense of this, three layers need to be distinguished in the way an individual takes up a relation to wigo.  First there is the auto-noetic layer of conscious speaking about wigo. Second there is the noetic layer below the layer of consciousness that is implicit in the way the individuals’ behaviors are themselves a part of wigo.  A third a-noetic layer is then needed to give an account of an individual’s valency for the way their second noetic layer is organised. This a-noetic layer is radically unconscious in the sense of being unknowable in any direct way.

To understand this, it is easier to start from the way the relation to the client’s lack is held by the behaviors of an organisation.  There are thus real traces left by real objects, intentional traces arising from the way patterns of behaviour are experienced, and traces-of-absence arising from the way patterns of behaviour are experienced as not present.  These three kinds of trace define three separate kinds of surface, a primary task surface arising from behaviors, a domain of relevance surface arising from the way behaviors are experienced, and a primary risk surface arising from the way behaviors are not experienced.  An organisation is founded and subsequently develops by the way these three surfaces are held in relation to each other. In this sense, the organisation is this way of knotting the three surfaces together in the a-noetic layer.

These three surfaces come to be known only by the data in the second noetic layer arising from the way the individual pays attention. The valency of an organisation is thus the way this knotting is taken up by an individual in the second noetic layer as a way of realising their identification, complete with its implicit relation to lack.  Different kinds of identification thus create different kinds of strategy ceiling on the way behaviors are organised in relation to clients.

There are an equivalent three surfaces in the relation of an individual’s neural networks to their embodiment so that while there is a valency for the way an individual takes up their identification per se, there is also an implicit valency for the way an organisation provides support for the individual’s identification. The different ways in which this is done are then reflected in the different ways in which learning can take place.

There are then two sides to valency.  These need to be considered in order to return to the question of why individuals should choose to change the way in which they take up their identification. On one side is the consistency that is the way an identification is taken up, while on the other side is its incompleteness.  This incompleteness, experienced as a relation to an irritation of doubt, a value deficit, a structural lack, or a disrupting ‘Real’ identification, makes a radical non-rapport apparent between the current organisation of consistency and an ‘otherness’ that is quite other – an extimate symptom of lack.  Engendering leadership, then, is an approach to leadership that holds this non-rapport in order to create the conditions in which innovations, qua third moments, may emerge that can sustain learning and adaptation. Individuals should choose to change the way they take up their identification for the good in being alive to wigo as much as for the good of the larger ecosystem.

An Organisation’s Leadership must sustain a Circulation of Discourses

The presentation describing this pathway within the 3rd epoch domain explores what is demanded of an organisation to sustain being edge-driven?

The way individuals take up their identifications within the context of an organisation is subject to a three-way stretch between their investment in their own histories, the way their colleagues define what is in their interests, and the interests the organisation’s clients have in the way value is created. The cultural inertia of an organisation is determined by the way these different valencies interact with each other.  Changing their systemic balance is necessary to enabling sustained change.

An organisation is like a coral reef providing a habitat that supports different kinds of niche, each one defining roles that get occupied by individuals, the roles in each niche interacting with the roles in other niches to form a coral-reef ecosystem.  A coral reef is alive too, however, itself occupying a niche within a larger ecosystem with which it too is interacting.  If the coral reef dies, so too does the ecosystem it supports. An organisation thus faces a double challenge in the same sense as does a coral reef.  It needs to sustain itself as an ecosystem at the same time as sustaining its relationships with the larger ecosystem of which it is a part.

While a role may define the identity of a niche, an identification defines the way the niche supports an individual’s way of being. Thus while the leadership of an organisation might want individuals’ ways of being to be defined by the way its roles are defined, so too might individuals want the roles of an organisation to be defined by the ways-of-being that they bring to the organisation. In practice both processes are going on, so that in order to understand how niches relate to each other as an ecosystem, it becomes important to understand the different ways in which individuals take up their identifications per se

As economies become increasingly knowledge-based, our interest in sustaining being edge-driven arises because it means that an organisation must become effects-driven in the way it relates to its larger ecosystem.  In order to take up this form of the double challenge effectively, the organisation must be able to sustain the dynamic alignment of its behaviors to the demands of its clients one-by-one.  This means overcoming the cultural inertia of its existing social systems and counter-resistance to changing away from a previously one-sided relation to demand. Two things become important as a consequence.  The first of these is the way individuals’ identifications are supported by the organisation’s structures.  This is not just about the way the organisation defines roles but about the way individuals invest their personal valencies in those roles, roles and personal valencies in relation to each other being the way individuals take up their double subjection.  There are a limited number of ways in which this relation can be put together, each one defining a different kind of discourse.

The second thing that becomes important arises from the relationships between discourses. These relationships lock in relationships with others’ ways of being doubly subjected.  The result is a systemic effect in which any attempt to change the way an individual takes up their double subjection jeopardises the way an individual’s discourse has been supporting others’ ways of taking up their double subjection. Put the other way around, inertia and counter-resistance emerge when individuals seek to suppress changes in the way others take up their double subjection in order not to have their own discourse called into question.

The different kinds of relationship possible between the different discourses, giving rise to this systemic effect, constitute a libidinal economy of discourses (LeoD).  It is libidinal because of the way individuals are investing their personal valencies in roles; and it is an economy because the relationships between the discourses affect the forms of adaptation and learning available to the organisation. The LEoD thus provides a means of diagnosing the ways in which inertia and counter-resistance are mobilised in conserving existing identifications and thus provides a way of considering what forms of systemic intervention might be possible.

For an organisation to be able to sustain being edge-driven, there has to be a circulation of discourses in which learning and adaptation arises not from any one place in the LEoD, but through the way changes in any one discourse are able to trigger learning and adaptation elsewhere. This changes the work of leadership away from an approach based on holding individuals vertically accountable to its existing models.  In its place comes an approach to sustainability based on holding individuals horizontally accountable for responding to what remains missing in the way they are creating value for their clients.

Individuals are having to adapt to taking up roles within Networked Collaborations

The presentation describing this pathway within the 3rd epoch domain explores how are individuals to adapting to taking up roles within networked collaborations?

To be edge-driven, individuals must be driven more by the outcomes they can secure for their clients than by any existing role definitions.  Doing as much as possible for the client without jeopardising the sustainability of the organisation means engaging critically with existing understandings, developing a ‘nose’ for the dilemmas faced in creating value for clients, and learning that links the challenges their clients face to the challenges they themselves are prepared to face.

Social networks are known to disrupt existing institutional affiliations.  The kinds of identification that they support are not based on shared ideals but on making common cause, in which there is a shared relationship to a situation marked by some particular challenge – a ‘something missing’. The challenge for the individual is how to place these affective networks within the context of the other forms of identification through which they take up their being, including such things as living in a loving relationship and holding down a job.

Historically, any anxiety that an individual might feel was something for them to manage personally, so that they were better able to engage with the challenges of their role(s).  When individual’s roles bring them into relation with clients at the edges of an organisation, however, the affective networks that emerge around there being ‘something missing’ may contain the seeds of important learning for the organisation as well.  The more dynamic and multi-sided are the demands in relation to which the organisation is seeking to create value, the more important this learning can become for the organisation. The challenge for the individual, therefore, is not to go off and ‘sort themselves out’ so that they can do their job better, but rather to use their valency for there being ‘something missing’ to investigate of what it might be a symptom.

Approached in this way, a ‘something missing’ becomes a value deficit; and in order to investigate of what it might be a symptom, it becomes necessary to distinguish the way in which what is going on (wigo) is being contained from whatever remains ‘beyond’ or ‘missing’, which we can refer to as what is Really going on (wiRgo). Not that it is ever possible to know what is Really going on, but wiRgo becomes a way of pointing towards a deficit that lies outside or beyond the existing ways of containing wigo, i.e. giving meaning to wigo, and thus beyond the container’s organising assumptions. It will be these organisation assumptions that will be determining norms of behavior within an organisation, so if these are to be challenged successfully, then investigation will involve looking more closely at how the container contains wigo.

When an individual speaks of a situation that they are experiencing, there will be the firstness of how s/he in particular feels about it, its secondness that will be what can be apparent to any observer, and the thirdness through which its meaning is contained.  This thirdness frames the way meaning is made through the way it applies its organising assumptions.  There are then different kinds of thirdness which form a cycle from which innovations may emerge: a frame may be accepted as right because it feels right (1st kind), because of who says it is right (2nd kind) or even because everyone agrees that it is right and ‘how could it not be right’ (3rd kind). Finally, there is the possibility of doubting the rightness of any of these first three kinds of thirdness (4th kind), this preparedness to include doubt being the necessary condition for pursuing any investigation. It is the roots of this doubt in the individual’s personal valency for feeling that there is a ‘something missing’ that enables that individual to take an investigation forward.

Thus are the conditions set for adapting to and taking up roles in networked collaborations: no-one can be assumed to know best, it cannot be assumed that there is one right way to frame the situation, and any investigative process must be open to including firstnesses and secondnesses that were previously considered not to be relevant. This gives rise to the need for a plus-one process in which any given situation is approached as presenting at least one dilemma, with the value deficit being what continues to fall between the horns of the dilemma.  The work of approaching this dilemma (or these dilemmas) has to get past two crises, the first being to take the existing framing to the limits of its ability to provide effective answers to what’s ‘missing’, the second being to accept that the existing framing must ultimately be set aside if something new is to emerge.  The second of these crises is the most difficult to overcome because it demands that the individual take personal responsibility for tackling what’s missing, not to leave it to others and not to expect this to cost them personally in some way.

These are very great challenges for an individual to face. Even though the penalty of not facing them will ultimately be toxic for the wider system in which the ‘something missing’ is arising, this is small comfort in the short term.  The temptations of defenses against anxiety thus offer much greater immediate benefits than the challenges of overcoming the wider system’s defenses against innovation. Meeting these challenges means exercising leadership in a way that is tripartite, giving weight to the importance of addressing value deficits while not abandoning the vertical constraints to which any new kind of response must be subject if it is to be sustainable.  It remains therefore for the individual to understand how the wider system will resist change while accepting that the arguments for change must be won both with respect to existing ways of framing and with respect to overcoming the personal costs of so doing.

Sustaining Requisite Agility requires Platform Architectures

The presentation describing this pathway within the 3rd epoch domain explores how are edge roles to be supported by platform architectures?

For an organisation to be dynamically responsive, it must have the requisite agility to sustain concurrent networked collaborations at its edges. This requires an approach to organisation that can sustain development across the whole range of its activities in a way that is itself aligned to its edges, platform architectures capable of supporting the resultant variety of value-creating responses, and an approach to securing returns on investment that values impact on structural agility per se.

How are we to think about the demands placed on an organisation when the tempo of demand exceeds the tempo of alignment?  There is something to be learnt here from the military having to respond to an accelerating tempo of threat, in which they distinguish between eight different lines of development of an organisation in order to be able to respond effectively.  The result is a diagnostic framework in terms of which the ability of an organisation to be effects-driven in its responses may be evaluated.

In taking power to the edge of an organisation, the effectiveness of an effects-based response is driven by a situational understanding rooted in what is going on (wigo) in the context giving rise to the perceived demand (or threat). Any response will be constrained by the existing capabilities of the organisation, but before any consideration of what might be effective, a fundamental limitation will be created by the ontological scaffolding in terms of which the situation is itself defined and understood. This scaffolding defines a domain of relevance that will both shape and be shaped by a double ‘V’ cycle driven by the desired effects. 

The evaluation of any response will need to consider the cohesion cost of its orchestration and synchronization, the value of the response lying in its cohesion cost being less that the indirect benefits it creates. An evaluation will also need to consider the design assumptions built into any supporting systems, since these too may constrain the responses possible to the extent of rendering effects-based responses impossible other than at very great cost. These evaluations again constitute a double challenge for the organisation as a whole.

Looking closely at what needs supporting, three independent axes emerge along which it must be possible to make structural choices determining functional capabilities, non-functional constraints, and the forms of dynamic alignment necessary to creating cohesion. In effect, each dynamic alignment constitutes a value proposition, so that supporting systems must be able to support multiple propositions concurrently spanning a range of different kinds of response at the edges of the organisation.

Valuing any investment must therefore be against the full variety of client situations in which the organisation wishes to generate effects. The changing probabilities of situations arising across this range make real option methods of valuation necessary. Real option methods in turn mean relating the full variety of client situations to the structural characteristics of the supporting systems and their ontological adequacy. First, this means using a rings and wedges model for describing how the tension between scale/scope and alignment is to be held in relation to any given form of cohesion.  Second, this means placing wedge processes within the context of both clients’ effects ladders and also the underlying ecosystem providing the products and services needing to be aligned. The resultant layering of contexts is referred to as a stratification.

Stratified analyses of the ecosystem supporting a variety of client situations with their effects ladders show us how demand on primary (origination), secondary (derivation) and tertiary (delivery and customization) industry sectors is derived from the knowledge-based sectors aligning or attending to clients’ needs (quaternary) and/or making services cohere around them (quinary).  A number of different examples show how competition within industries push them towards being driven from the knowledge-based sectors.

It remains, then, for an organisation to evaluate the ontological adequacy and stratification of its ability to align itself to an anticipated variety of effects in client situations, defining a requisite agility. Modeling its triple articulation along the three independent axes provides the organisation with a framework within which to identify structural gaps in the stratified layers (i.e. ontological inadequacies) and to perform real option analyses of investment opportunities. These analyses use Monte-Carlo simulations to evaluate the consequences of different probability-weightings across the anticipated variety of client situations. Thinking about the demands placed on an organisation when the tempo of demand exceeds the tempo of alignment therefore means managing multiple entangled dialogues at its edges, in order to define the variety of networked collaborations needing to be supported.  It also means providing supporting systems that are ontologically adequate and capable of the requisite agility for supporting the concurrency of those collaborations.

Organisations must take Power to their Edges

The presentation describing this pathway within the 3rd epoch domain explores what are the limits to being strategic at the level of the organisation as a whole?

Capturing value on the demand-side means creating alignment and cohesion within clients’ situations better and more economically than the clients themselves. This means knowing a lot about how a client is itself trying to create value and where the gaps are in that client’s current approach to doing this.  This creates a new kind of challenge for the organisation in which it must hold a dynamic balance between the effects created for each client and the sustainability of this kind of responsiveness.

The creation of sustainable competitive advantage makes a distinction between the positional strategies of dominating a category of product and dominating access to relevant combinations of product and/or service; and the relational strategy of dominating the relationship to demand. Whereas the first two of these involve expertise in modes of extraction, production and distribution, the last one involves knowing more about what the client wants than competitors – the client’s value deficit.

Looking at all of these in terms of the relation to the client’s demand, the rcKP distinction between value propositions involves introducing progressively greater degrees of design control over the relation to the client’s value deficit.  This in turn requires the supplier to become increasingly involved in the situation and experience of the client, the effects ladder being a way of thinking about their combined effect on the situation of the client.

Competitive advantage is not static because the knowledge needed to compete on the supply-side can never be wholly monopolised.  Propositions thus have a lifecycle in which, as they lead to the proliferation of individual products and services, make it possible to create systemic propositions through their combination, the possibilities for which are greatly increased by the effects of digitalisation. Suppliers’ efforts to control and/or ‘ride’ the cycle of knowledge diffusion thus form the context in which clients seek propositions that can satisfy more and more of their value deficits.

These supply-side dynamics form the context within which a supplier will seek to position itself in terms of balancing the complexity that it is managing on the client’s behalf and the contractual frame within which it does this.  The resultant positioning on a value stairs allows us to think about how both the client and the supplier are having to move over time as competitive conditions change.  It also allows us to think about the changes in the capabilities of both client and supplier which, in general, will involve engaging more and more with the knowledge-based sectors as they address value deficits that are more and more particular to the client’s situation.

Into this a new factor emerges as the tempo of demand accelerates.  The supplier must not understand the client’s situation but also change the way it relates to that situation over time as it develops.  The consequence is that the supplier becomes entangled with the situation of the client, introducing a dynamic into the behaviour of the supplier that demands designing agility not only into the architectures of its task systems but also into its structures of governance – its structures of governance must become generative.

Unlike the cycles of knowledge diffusion changing the ways in which clients make demands on an ecosystem of suppliers, the development of a supplier’s structures of governance must follow a zig-zag path as it first learns how to span greater amounts of supply-side complexity and then learns how to align this complexity to the demands arising from clients in increasingly differentiated situations.  Good examples of the zig-zag path are apparent in the learning taking place in the military’s response to asymmetric forms of warfare, and in the response of urban governance to foster growth in the interests of all its citizens. In effect, what is being learnt by those working on the supply-side are different bases of trust within which to collaborate with others.

The limits, therefore, to being strategic at the level of the organisation as a whole are created by the impossibility to know at the level of the whole how individual clients will need to be related to in creating value for them.  This situation arises when the tempo of demand exceeds the tempo of alignment and the supplier’s organisation must become entangled with that of its clients in a circular relationship. This demands the creation of platform architectures capable of sustaining such dynamics; and it demands structures of governance that can enable the horizontal relationships with clients to become dominant while at the same time ensuring that the organisation remains economically sustainable.  Together these constitute a double challenge for the organisation.

The structure of the economy is changing

The presentation describing this pathway within the 3rd epoch domain explores what is happening to organizations and to their role within the larger society?

Digitalisation is changing the balance-of-power between the supply-side and the demand-side of the economy, moving organisations towards having to deal with the multi-sided nature of clients’ demands. Capturing value in this competitive environment depends on a demand-side ability to attend/align to the particular situation of each client and to wrapping any solutions around that client situation as it unfolds over time. This fundamentally changes the way organisations need to compete.

The interest here is in the larger context in which all organizations are working, regardless of whether private, public or not-for-profit.  The assertion is that all organizations are having to place increasing emphasis on the customer journey – the particular experiences of their customers over time within the contexts of their lives. No one organization can ever contain all of a customer’s needs in doing this, as the customer’s demand is always multi-sided and any one organization is always at least implicitly having to collaborate with other organizations in supporting effective responses to the customer’s journey over time.  The larger context is thus always an ecosystem in which the organizing hand of any one organization is increasingly a vanishing hand as organizations develop varying degrees of platform strategy capable of supporting these collaborations, collaborations in which what is doing the organizing is frequently shaped behind the scenes by the way software works. 

From the perspective of the organization, this means seeking to survive in an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), an environment referred to as turbulent. Not all organizations feel able to respond to this requirement for agility, in which the primary emphasis shifts from the interests of employees to those of customers. An organization’s response to these turbulent environments can be defensive as it holds on to its one-sided relations, but which leads to long term stagnation within the larger ecosystem through a failure to learn and adapt while at the same time being perceived by citizens as prospering at their expense. This defensiveness gains support from the one-sided way of defining GDP, so that no account is taken of the effects of digitization on utility itself.  This leads to an understating of both GDP and productivity measures, and to a systematic blindness to the changes taking place on the demand-side of the economy.

In order to understand what is driving this turbulence, we thus need to understand how the structure of economies is changing.  Globalization, enabled by free-trade agreements, has accelerated the commoditization of products, shifting the focus of all economies towards providing services supported by increasingly complex supply chains.  At the same time, digitalization has intensified this shift towards services by enabling the development of knowledge-based sectors in which value is driven from the way attention is paid to the situation of the customer and from the way suppliers’ behaviors are made to cohere for the client. Thus in 2017, nearly 60% of the US GDP was in the knowledge-based sectors even though only about 40% of the jobs.

So the challenge presented by turbulence involves an organization having to compete within the client’s ‘experience space’, requiring changes in the way it competes and in the way it adds value. This shift means giving primary emphasis to horizontal linkages to the situation of the client, albeit subject to vertical constraints. This involves not just leveraging well-established economies of scale and scope, but adding the ability to deliver economies of alignment to the situation of the client. Competition becomes not just about creating asymmetries between the supplier and its competitors in how to make and deliver things, but also about reducing the asymmetry between itself and its clients in order to know more than its competitors about how to embed services within the client’s experience space at a tempo that fits the life of the client. The life of the organization can no longer be divorced from that of its clients but instead becomes entangled. Faced with such challenges, one-sided responses of defensive organizational cultures prevent the learning and adaptation needed for survival, ultimately being toxic for the life of the organization itself, although not before being toxic in the lives of its citizen-clients.

In order to take up the challenge of these turbulent environments, an organization must master all three asymmetries, the third of which presents a new kind of organisational challenge, namely to be driven from its edges, where it encounters the client’s situation, rather than from a priori assumptions made at its center. If a strategy ceiling is the level above which it is nobody’s business (except the center’s) questioning things, then becoming edge-driven means lifting the strategy ceiling to make everything questionable in the interests of creating value for the client in a way that is sustainable for the organization. Instead of working up-and-over, following the center’s lead, the organization must work across-and-up from its edges.