But the real eye-opener for me was to realize how control and order were two different things, and that you could have order without control. That was a major shift in my own thinking that I certainly discovered through the science.
I was looking at this wonderful phenomenon in life called self-organization where you look at the creation of fractals on a computer screen and see an incredibly complex well-ordered object on your screen. You say, "where did this come from?" It came from a very simple formula that repeats and repeats on itself and changes itself constantly. Somewhere in there, there's a pattern or structure of organization for a fractal object.
As CEO, he said, he realized everything he knew about leadership was wrong. Then he came up with these new definitions in which he said: the first task of a leader is to make sure the organization knows itself.
We need to think of the leader as a mirror, or as a supporter of the processes by which we know our competencies and we know what interpretations of our history we're willing to enter into. We need to make sure we know our customers, we know one another, and we know why we're in this business or in this public sector organization.
We really have to "de-engineer" our thinking, which means that we have to examine how mechanistically we are oriented — even in our treatment of one another. This is especially true in corporations. We believe that we can best manage people by making assumptions more fitting to machines than people. So we assume that, like good machines, we have no desire, no heart, no spirit, no compassion, no real intelligence — because machines don't have any of that. The great dream of machines is that if you give them a set of instructions, they will follow it.
I see the history of management as an effort to perfect the instructions that you hope someone will follow this time — even though they have never followed directions in their whole life.
When I spoke of "de-engineering" our thinking, I wanted us to realize that at bottom we are alive, we are human beings. We possess all of the attributes that somehow disappeared in the mechanistic way of thinking. At the organizational level, the same is true. You cannot give an organization of people a set of directions, a re-engineered business process, a new org-chart, a new boss, a new set of behavioral expectations. You can't just legislate that. It doesn't happen. Yet corporations were, at the time of the reengineering frenzy, spending literally millions and millions of dollars to develop new engineering plans for the organization.
The 70 to 80 percent failure rate of those re-engineering efforts was, for me, totally predictable. Some say it was even higher than that over the long-term. Wherever you are taking an engineering approach to human organizations, you are going to get an enormous level of backlash and resistance and bitterness because people have not been included.
How is the world going to be different because you and I are working together?