Today was the day for the Chinese NY parade here in San Francisco. I noticed the San Francisco Chronicle headline this morning was that 'weather could disrupt the parade'. It was good to see a later report that 'rain can't stop the parade'. "Rats were king at the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco on Saturday night, as crowds of people turned out to celebrate the animal known for its witty, generous and cunning behavior. And rats are quick".
I was musing on the organization that goes on behind the scenes to design the 100 entries and 27 floats on the parade route. It appeared that hearing the weather forecast "Many participants have spent the last few days waterproofing their floats and costumes for the parade." I wonder if organizations have been categorized by their Chinese year characteristics? Maybe that's a topic for my next book. It seems that the parade designers took on the rat characteristics as they adapted plans to meet conditions.
Walking the labyrinth in the forecourt of Grace Cathedral was a new experience the other day. I then found the website for The Labyrinth Society (http://www.labyrinthsociety.org/) which has the statement "The labyrinth is an archetype of transformation. Its transcendant nature knows no boundaries, crossing time and cultures with ease. The labyrinth serves as a bridge from the mundane to the divine. It serves us well." I wonder whether a good organization design could emulate good labyrinth design becoming transformational. So much is written about business transformation and so few businesses seem to transform.
I've just read an article on Dave Allen torn out of Wired of October 2007. His techniques, in my view, are perfect for people who want to organise their stuff and I've adopted many of his suggestions. I was facilitating a workshop recently and one of the participants commented on the fact that I had Dave Allen's book 'Getting Things Done' in the 'Further Information' section of my book. He used Allen's techniques and found them helpful too. The article made me laugh as it says, 'This book is for those who are striving hard. "The people who take to GTD are the most organized people," Allen says, "but they self-assess as the least organized, because they are well-enough organized to know they are fucking up."
Daniel Pink's book "A whole new mind: why right brainers will rule the future" gives food for thought. The discussion on the six senses he thinks will become ascendant (not just in organizations) are design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. If he is right we're likely to see very differently designed organizations emerging.
The story of teaching the horse to talk is one that is good to bear in mind in many situations. It runs like this.
Many years ago in a far away country a wise old teacher was in trouble with his King. The King sentenced the teacher to death, but listened to the teacher's appeal.
The teacher pleaded for the King to give him five years in which to teach the King's horse to talk. The King liked to own unusual things and a talking horse would certainly be unusual and after considerable thought said "yes".
A friend of the teacher said to the teacher "Why did you make such a rash promise? You know no one has ever taught a horse to talk." The teacher said in reply: "Sometime before the end of five years:
1. The King might change his mind and pardon me.
2. The King might forget that he sentenced me to death.
3. The King might die.
4. I might die.
5. I might teach the horse to talk.
In any event, I gain five years."
Reading 'A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines' by Janna Levin I'm struck by one of the characters noting that 'We wanted to construct complete worldviews, complete and consistent theories and philosophies, perfect solutions where everything could find its place. But we cannot. … We all prize a resolution, a gratifying ending, completeness and unity, but we are surrounded by incompleteness'.
Given that a great deal of my consulting work is about trying to help people in organizations break down/through the silos and talk with each other/run common processes and so on I was intrigued to read the sentence "The closer the connection between the parts, the more vulnerable the whole system becomes to any major wobbles."
The sentence appeared in the review of a book "Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalisation", Nayan Chanda, Yale University Press; 391 pages; $27.50 and £16.99 (see Economist print edition July 28 – August 4 'The Early Pioneers'. http://www.economist.com/books/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9539888)
Reading this led me to wonder whether the current drive in many organizations to be boundaryless, silo free, and collaborative might have a range of downsides that lead to a weakening of the design: an image pops to mind of something on the lines of metal fatigue. It's a thought I'll bear in mind when I come to my next assignment where part of the design request is to become 'boundaryless'.