Bureaucracies, or how we organize large organizations, have a kinetic culture. If we can accept that the world we live in today is truly complex, then we see why our linear, kinetic, machine-modeled institutions struggle to make sense of it.
Dave Snowden's Cynefin model shows us why. A machine organization is designed to be at its root simple. It is kinetic. Being kinetic, it is based on the idea of direct linkages and so of cause and effect. That is why they spend so much effort on control. Most banks spend more than 40% of their costs on their control system. They are designed to operate in a simple or in a complicated world.
This used to work because they were born in an environment when the world was smaller and so less connected. They inhabited a local space where it was possible to approximate a simple, or at worst, a complicated space. That is why they worked 50 years ago.
But now, even the individual lives in a global space and so do all institutions. Such a global space is by definition complex and sometimes chaotic. This all about how the individual gets empowered by being connected. This connectivity has accelerated since 1985 with the advent of the web and the mobile phone. The connectivity of the individual is growing exponentially. But this is not how our institutions are organized. This personal connectivity and all that it means is an anathema to institutions. Being kinetic they are designed to work top down and to keep the masses silent. They are designed to deliver the benefits to the owners and not to the servants and certainly not to the "customers" who are objects subject to the power of the kinetic tool.
So as the institutions themselves grow in their end game they clash with how life is lived and clash with the real needs of employees and those that seek to be served.
This is why they enforce a one size fits all curriculum. This is why they have to find a pill that is aimed at one part of one pathway. This is why they have to react to crime and not prevent it. This why they have to kill people to make them free. If they let go, they know they will die. They look at the newspaper and at the music industry and see their own death. They are upping the stakes for all dissent. They have no choice.
The more they seek control, the more the dissonance.
Our current response to this dissonance is blame. We think that the leaders are stupid, venal and weak. Now all this may also be true but it does not get us anywhere. Because, if you were that leader, you would be captured by the system too.
Blame here is a waste of energy. Reform is a waste of energy.
This issue is not a moral one. It is about a design that has outlived its utility. A machine is always a machine. All machines work kinetically.
The real issue is about evolution.
We have to design new institutions that are well adapted to the world that we now live in. This means that the new have to be based on natural networks. They have to be able to do the things that Dave talks about here.
Many hope that our institutions can learn from Dave. I don't see how any organization that is based on a values system that is simple can. But a new organization, based largely on a network, can use all the quadrants when needed,
This is why my only hope for us is to stop trying to reform the old and get busy creating the new.