Uncertainty Principles

This brief (informal) speech from 1994 contains precisely the kinds of insights which should form the basis of any introductory managerial instruction but which I imagine rarely ever do so. Russ Ackhoff has a way of penetrating to the crux of analysis which we don’t often encounter. His discussion here of quality and continuous improvement appears still to be literal light years ahead of every lumbering aspiration to organisational improvement that I have witnessed across many organisations and bureaucratic contexts. There is a certain wisdom and insight of analysis which decries what we might witness as the various failures of a pure and abstract command-and-control reductivism to ever be able to successfully integrate and optimise within the dynamic and diverse complexities and turbulence of actual “real world” organisational contexts and environments.

He briefly touches on the non-trivial revelation of the significance of creative discontinuity in leadership. Innovation and creativity are everywhere recognised and celebrated as foundationally significant but are also almost everywhere uniformly invalidated and devalued by organisational systems which attempt to enable transformation through blind adherence to continuity and to a derived certainty which is only ever retrospectively justifiable. Elsewhere, Ackhoff asserts that “no problem stays solved in a dynamic environment” and this insight captures something profound contra the ways in which commonly used assumptions of measurement, design and planning often produce arhythmic, staccato and incomplete processes and progress. The true price of attempting strict control and dogmatic narrative continuity in organisational management may be of a perennially blossoming principle of uncertainty in the dual vectors of: what current situations and environments actually are; and, where organisations and their functional components are actually heading.

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