Friday, September 19, 2003

Accidental Conversations 

This puts so well into words the source of much of my current disatisfaction at work, in an environment that fits perfectly Jack's description of a formal institution. No rainforest with emergent new species here.

It is ironic that so many communities of work have become formal institutions dedicated to preventing surprise. Scheduled meetings, tight agendas, formal lines of authority, and centralized planning are the tools of this agenda aimed at creating a world predictable enough to be measured, planned, and controlled.

What’s interesting is that no matter how much habitual momentum the formal organization has developed over time, the informal organization of unplanned conversations continues to thrive. The informal side of the organization is the dynamic field of actions and interactions that are too resilient, tacit, opportunistic, inventive, and fluid to be prescribed much less controlled.

The informal organization is the organic, self-organizing, and evolutionary network of adhocratic relationships and collaborations that pulsate in the white spaces and margins of organizational charts. We observe the informal organization at work in unplanned conversations between meetings, across emails, and in side conversations.

The informal organization is the work community’s rainforest where new species of ideas, stories, and questions emerge and thrive. The idea that we can legislate any genre of spontaneity is unsupportable in my experience. This includes the quality of relationships that impact everything that occurs.

From Accidental Conversations by Jack Ricchiuto

Its also a curious example of the serendipitous nature of unplanned conversations, which is the wider theme of the book from which the above extract was taken. Walking back to the office after a lunchtime stroll, the thought was crystallising in my mind that the core issue that has been bugging me is one of sitting at the edge of a command-and-control structure where all communication is via the centre. The spokes (I'm just a humble spoke) only communicate via the hub (of our sub-organisation). Checking blogs semi-randomly, I click on a few links and what do I find? Words which describe my current situation as though Jack had been looking over my shoulder.

Back to current posts