The systens thinker

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THE

S YS T E M S
THINKER

®

BUILDING

SHARED

VOLUME

17

NUMBER

9

NOVEMBER
2006

UNDERSTANDING

IN THIS ISSUE:
2

Feature

Future Thinking by Middle Managers: A Neglected Necessity by Michael Sales
A cross-functional group of middle managers takes the initiative to look at their organization’s future.They
come up with a far-reaching proposal that would changelong-standing organizational structures while providing
new efficiencies and mechanisms for inter-unit collaboration.When they brief their vice presidents on these
recommendations, the VPs criticize them for going beyond their charge.The team, which had made such
headway, grudgingly decides to put the project on hold.
This story can be seen as an illustration of what systems theorist BarryOshry calls “The Failure of Middle
Integration.” Oshry contends that systemic forces exert predictable impacts on groups at various levels of an
organizational hierarchy. Unseen, these forces will limit the effectiveness of any group and, therefore, the level of
satisfaction people have in being part of it. Oshry uses the terms “Tops,” “Bottoms,” and “Middles” to represent
people who work in thedifferent strata of organizational life. He proposes “Middle Integration” as an antidote
to the problems faced by middle managers such as those in the case study. Middle Integration occurs when the
managers of various subsystems consciously meet—with the authorization of their
supervisors—to identify and address organizationwide issues.

8

Viewpoint

Three Horizons: Shifting Vision toLead to an Emerging Future by Sadruddin Boga
Good leadership requires a careful and continual evaluation of a vision of the future to which one can navigate.
Currently, many leaders are guided by the mechanistic worldview that projects a future horizon from the
consciousness of our past—a forecast.This approach of forecasting holds serious limitations that prevent us from
predicting the distanthorizons.To co-evolve synergistically and harmoniously with the emerging future, we
need to steer at three levels of consciousness.The first two levels project the forecast of the first horizon and the
foresight of the second horizon, respectively.The third level is the most challenging. It requires us to “be in the
present” to enable us to foreknow the distant future.These trajectories to thethree horizons are complimentary,
iterative, and recursive.

11

From the
Resource
Shelf

Beyond Awareness:Turning the Tide Toward Sustainability by Janice Molloy
For most of us, insight into the problem of global warming isn’t enough—we want to know what steps we can
take to become part of the solution.Two new books, Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds by
DavidGershon (Empowerment Institute, 2006) and Learning for Sustainability by Peter Senge, Joe Laur, Sara
Schley, and Bryan Smith (Society for Organizational Learning, 2006), offer ideas and inspiration for how
individuals and organizations can begin the long journey toward bringing the planet back into balance—and
connecting meaningfully with others along the way.

12

Pegasus Notes

Announcing the17th Annual Pegasus Conference

Copyright © 2006 Pegasus Communications, Inc. (www.pegasuscom.com)
All rights reserved. For permission to distribute copies of this newsletter in any form, please contact us at permissions@pegasuscom.com.

FEATURE

FUTURE THINKING BY MIDDLE MANAGERS:
A NEGLECTED NECESSITY
BY

MICHAEL

his is a story about what hap-

T pened to a group of technicalmanagers working in a multinational
corporation, the Big Can Corporation (BCC)*, when they tried to
influence the organization’s strategy
and structure. BCC has over 20,000
employees on several continents.The
company manufactures and distributes
containers of various sizes for the
storage of all sorts of commodities.
Sometimes these materials are stored
for subsequent use; sometimes...
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