November 13, 2005

2 articles on OB - leadership, respect, unstructurelessness

Two good articles on OB ("organisational behaviour") which is a sub-discipline of business studies (a.k.a. the MBA).

First up is Tom Peters saying that leadership is about respect for those you have under your control.

Consider these two compelling quotes from MAJ Gavrilis:
"We behaved as if we were guests in their house. We treated them not as a defeated people, but as allies. Our success became their success."

"We were friendly and respectful whenever we met a Bedouin or farmer, often sharing tea with them in the middle of the open desert. Our behavior sent the clearest message: We cared more about the people of Ar Rutbah than did the Fedayeen. ... After all, we had done everything possible to limit damage to civilian infrastructure and private property. ... We treated enemy wounded and distributed contraband food. I stopped our final assault to institute a day-long cease-fire as a gesture to the people of the city."

Second, an old article by Jo Freeman from the 70's womens movement. Her thesis is that unstructured groups don't exist, and pushing unstructured or free open group concepts must become a facade for the informal but real power structures.

...Thus 'structurelessness' becomes a way of masking power, and within the women's movement it is usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not). The rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is curtailed by those who know the rules, as long as the structure of the group is informal. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware.
Posted by iang at November 13, 2005 11:03 AM | TrackBack

Unstructured groups can exist, but they do not emerge spontaneously. Mold cells exert a lot of effort to form an unstructured organism that is notoriously difficult to "decapitate". There is some nice mathematics (graph theory, random graphs in particular) about this. The bottom line is that spontaneously emerging trust relationships result in a power hierarchy, without anyone making any effort to this end. Also, if the participants are unaware of the process, it takes very little effort (especially, if some crucial information and enough computational muscle is available) to steer it and put the "right" people in positions of power. By forming trust relationships on the far ends of the trust graph, the "center of gravity" of the power structure is shifted very quickly, after a "tipping point" is reached.
Some tricks to leverage this phenomenon have already been successfully applied in engineered revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and the Ukraine. There are some people at Columbia University in New York, who specialize in this field.
I find it particularly amusing that it's the same university, where Asimov wrote his SciFi about psychohistory. Chalk up one more for science following fiction. ;-)

Posted by: Daniel A. Nagy at November 14, 2005 08:05 PM
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