Towards a Paradigm Shift

    Beau Hasham
    By Beau Hasham

    In mainstream thinking an organization is thought of as the pooling together of knowledge, skills, capabilities and strength between three or more persons which employs primary resources and activities to meet the needs of their market. The basic pillars on which every organization relies are: vision & strategy; knowledge & communication; processes, structure & systems; and control.

    Most organizations are more or less designed as and into a certain hierarchical structure of layers or levels, complying to a set of design principles and rules. Typically, every level reports to the next, higher level. Business units on such a level are directed by a manager and controlled by officials like auditors, controllers and members of higher management.  Managers, auditors and controllers are objective observers of the business processes.

    Being in charge is being in control. To this end, managers communicate internal information about their performances and communicate external information about e.g. the market, all to ' above '. Information is created, send, received, and stored, and becomes knowledge when internalized by the organization. This communication process is a sender-receiver process. Despite that organizations suffer from the unpredictability of their environment - the turbulent outside world – strategy and plans are made on the basis of received and stored information on which forecasts are build.

    Knowledge is used to prevent  the invention of the wheel all over again, for continuous improvement of the organization’s performance and to increase the adaptability of the organization. Knowledge management involves storing, sharing and updating knowledge of individuals and of the organization as a whole.

    Business units are distinguishable components, together they form the whole ' the organization'. Therefore, the organization is distinguishable from other organizations, in the sense that the organization has a boundary. In many change projects  the renewed company-vision is disseminated, new structures are designed and people are trained to exert new behavior.

    In my opinion, this is roughly the prevailing management-paradigm.

    Problems lies in these basic pillars. If you would take a closer look to how people interact with each other, you might see other processes going on. So, I would like to introduce a ' new ' paradigm:

    • there are no layers and levels; there is no ' top ' or ' bottom ', ‘above’ or ‘below’;
    • units/organizations have no boundary; the organization nor the market does not exist; there is no inside or outside;
    • an organization as a Whole does not exist; there is no Whole that can be managed;
    • managers, auditors and controllers are not objective and they do not just observe;
    • the past and present are not fixed; a future is an expectation or a desired state, but it is factually unknowable;
    • communication is not a sender-receiver process; information is not converted into knowledge;
    • vision, values, culture and above all, knowledge, cannot be disseminated, cannot be stored, transmitted, and cannot be shared.

    Incidentally, I do not claim that the old paradigm - the organization as a complex system - is not useful in its entirety, or that there may be no benefit to gain for an organization. As long as the organization itself is not confused with the systems used …

    I can imagine some explanation is desired. This will be provided in due time. Please, do not hesitate to express your thoughts and comment on my post.




    Beau Hasham

    Beau Hasham

    We assist organizations in their development towards a sustainable adaptive organizationby means of (self-) research as an intervention method.
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    Change cannot be planned, but interventions can. We assist organizations in their development towards a sustainable adaptive organization by means of (self-) research as an intervention method. To...

    • Rimarcable
      By Rimarcable

      With a bit of experience in the field I agree with the first paradigm. The theory is correct for organisation to work that way, except for the fact that organisations are made of human individuals. Culture is a vital ingredient for it to function.

      In southern Europe and the US there is a higher sence of hierarchy than in Northern Europe, but in all larger organisations information get's filtered before getting sent up to the next management level. Essential information gets lost -is left out- to please upper levels or hide mistakes or fraud.

      I prefer to work close to my customers, not only because I am not a hierachy kind of guy, but because information is always complete and consistent. In my perfect world, organisations would only exist where competencies are complementary and can not be combined in a single individual. When required, get in contact with another professional to complete the task at hand.  

    • Centillien
      By Centillien

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    • Beau Hasham
      By Beau Hasham

      Hello Rimarcable,

      I am pleased to see that you can find yourself in the first paradigm. However, you are actually subscribing to the second, ‘new’, paradigm. Why do I say this?

      My point is that organizations actually do not work according to the first paradigm. As you work closely with your customers, so do all people in organizations work closely with other people e.g. colleagues, particularly with those whom they think can be trusted. These forms of cooperation, social hierarchies, shapes communicative patterns independent of the formal hierarchy, which are constantly changing. These forms of cooperation, in fact any type of relationship, are based on power differences. Power differences also determine who is included and who is not. Therefore, filtering of information may be a necessity for some; It is a strategy in order to protect yourself and your relative position.

      Working together actually happens on one and the same level, because business processes are communicative actions. But different people have different roles with formal powers accordingly. This also means additional formal power differences.

      In short; on the one hand, the organization is regarded as a system consisting of subsystems at several levels, on the other hand, what we actually do is working together in self-organizing patterns of communication. This is the ‘new’ paradigm (not new of course, it has always been this way). No individual, including managers, auditors, controllers etc., can function outside a pattern.

      I get your statement: “organizations are made of human individuals. Culture is a vital ingredient for it to function”. From the perspective of ‘my’ paradigm I would say that ‘organizations are collections of self organizing, local patterns of interrelating between human individuals’.

      Thanks for your response.

      With regard,


      Beau Hasham

      Beau Hasham

      We assist organizations in their development towards a sustainable adaptive organizationby means of (self-) research as an intervention method.