Reading the Organizational Dysfunction Roadmap

Decision and Control

Survival requires that unpreventable entropy increases sustained are reduced, locally in the system of interest, by the imposition of structure and work.

The conflict between professionalism and institutional ideology is intrinsic. Professional standards of care are all about the context of the work commensurate with the stated goals and duties of the profession – held constant. Institutional ideology is exclusively about perpetuating the context of hindsight – the substrate of the hierarchy and fully supported by the preponderance of legal practice. By preferentially supporting the privileges of hierarchy, the law supports hierarchical goals over stated institutional goals.

The hierarchy wields its power of authority for the primary purpose of staying in authority. The basic defense of the hierarchy to industrial strength intrusions is to pretend they do not exist. The final shield is to allege that it has encompassed these ideas all along.

The era of the hierarchy boasting about its ignorance of science and engineering, on principle, to confer a certificate of preoccupation with the higher things of life, has about drawn to a close. In hindsight, meaning starts as a raw awareness of our place in the world that lies outside us. Distinctions are drawn between facts and illusions. Decisions occur at a higher cognitive level as a juridical proceeding.

If opinions, verdicts and assurances are loosely regarded as facts and the process by which subjectivity is propagated and accepted are loosely regarded as rational, it is no wonder institutional decision-making in large circumstances is precarious. Subjective decision-making introduces a malignancy which, if unattended during the vicissitudes of reality, dictates the outcomes.

Comprehensiveness in scientists is as much frowned upon in academic circles as it is unexpected by the institutional hierarchy. For an engineer who is not an institutional man is not just irritating or lacking in value to the organization – he simply does not exist. To deny his existence is the ultimate form of censorship.

Social subjectivity comes down to settling opinion, about the will of the institution, without benefit of necessary and sufficient information. The three general methods by which this is done – tenacity, authority, apriority – were distinguished by C. S. Peirce in the 19th century. His descriptions show no signs of wear in reference to the scene today. There is a biological justification for irrational methods, habits of thought, of making decisions. They are evolutionary, competent to adaptation, and hence to survival.

The whole matter of the institutional dominion of hindsight is not deduction, nor proof, nor the application of facts. The hierarchy, as institutional navigator making decisions about where to aim the organization, is preoccupied with the settling of opinion or belief. It is not a simple matter, with engineering rigor on the one hand and erratic and emotional caprice on the other, to classify how, exactly, the institution goes about settling belief in a particular situation. The reason for the settlement, however, is that hindsight engenders contention while it commands no stop rule. The only way to bring the contest to a close and restore stability is for a stripe-shirted referee to declare a winner.

The method of tenacity determines the will of the institution by what has matured as its habits of thought. Social conditioning is geared expressly to indoctrinate members, using tenacity, with beliefs that would otherwise be unwholesome to them. Tenacity blocks pragmatic foresight.

The method of authority is of particular relevance to gatekeeper duty. This mode of thinking has taken over top spot in fixing beliefs in the populace. The unexampled challenge of gatekeeping is that when it becomes second to engineering rigor, because of quantum advances in engineering rigor, authority fails catastrophically. The prime characteristic of gatekeeping to take into serious account here is that the gatekeeper operates inside a closed system. Closed systems carry the cancer of all closed systems. When closed systems fit the circumstantial requisites of control, they are efficient and robust – cancer dormant. When external disturbances change circumstances outside of its box, closed systems self destruct.

Individuals in any hierarchical level are in conflict between conformance to accepted ideas and values and the principles he holds on his own. It is not simply a matter of his own strength of character on the one hand and his ability to compromise on the other. He is aware of a number of pressures which intrude upon him, but unaware of a great many more which operate in unobvious ways. Foremost among the “hidden” pressures is natural law, especially the laws of systems, dynamics and control. Nothing, e.g., escapes the incessant abrasion of the Second Law. While gatekeeping is, by definition, a closed system, it can be kept viable by procedures proven effective with any closed system. The arrow of this submittal is aimed exactly at preventing the gatekeeping role from going unstable. The arrow must bring in nourishment from the outside and shrink the cancer. If closed systems don’t charge their batteries, they degrade to the rationalization of sheer inanition.

The method of apriority is wildly popular and subtle. The hierarchy produces all kinds of arguments to support their decisions which begin with unexpressed assumptions taken to be self-evident. When the institution defaults on the pensions, e.g., it assumes the retirees will accept the financial basis for the renege. The institution handles experience showing an assumption to be wrong, by denial. Such contradictory experience must not be discussed. Violators of apriority are quickly expelled from the institution. Gatekeepers cannot afford the luxury of apriority. Engineers spend the majority of their time denying the assumptions of their arguments supporting their concepts – to see what happens.

Society thinks of science and experts as remote and dedicated men who follow an inexorable chain of discovery. Their work picks out coherent and objective facts from life (hindsight). Abstraction makes the work of experts and science remote from social utility and remote from the satisfaction of psychological drives, even remote from life. Society recognizes it, e.g., the Nobel Prize, as the most powerful way of thinking mankind has yet evolved, safely disentangled from emotion and ambition.

The way that society thinks science works is much honored. It is thought to begin with the collection of objective facts, and to sift these logically. It sets up hypotheses about the way things work and tests these hypotheses exhaustively. The goal is to try and formulate “laws” – propositions – about the way things behave in general that turn out to be useful in predicting particular consequences. This process is seen as wholesome and good and likely to succeed. The managerial hierarchs trapped in a climate of opinion frequently dress up arguments, derived from mental procedures which are no more than habits of thought, to look scientific. In the end, it is society that pays the bill for substituting subjectivity in place of rigor.

The method of tenacity relies on Pavlovian conditioning. The method of authority hinges on the fact that the believer finds himself within a social enclosure of which he is an indivisible part, so that his behavior is inescapably affected by the gross behavior of the institution. The method of apriority exploits the fact that all communication requires a language and assumes ostensibly objective conclusions in the premises which underlie the axioms of that language. Notice that all three subjective forms – the biological, the anthropological, and the semantic – man is virtually powerless to exert his free will in rigorous choice. The expert is a victim of his own training.

Subjective formats for settling judgment, all based on hindsight, provide solutions which fit into our experience and comfort our opinions. The common procedures for settling opinion among men rarely remain scrupulously irrational, but they can never become rigorous. Hindsight-based practices cannot escape contention and, accordingly, cannot escape the pull of subjectivity. Only foresight, can be rigorous. Only foresight, done to specifications in professional capacity, can achieve zero subjectivity.

The hindsight disciplines and sciences are intrinsically confined to the orthodox thinking of the guild as a prisoner within the acceptable boundaries of the existing solution. Problems, however, show no respect either for organizational chart or the talents of the company servant who encounters a symptom. The red flag of hindsight dominion is the assumption that the problem is confined to where its symptoms are first noticed. All hindsight advice, accordingly, is stereotyped by both the advisor and the advised. In a free goal-seeking activity, workers do not concern themselves about arbitrary borders erected for any societal purpose. Practitioners of foresight cannot afford stereotype or commitment in advance to a point of view.

Compliance to orthodoxy is not the goal; the goal is the goal.

The universal stereotype of engineers is, of course, not one of us – the generic loose cannon rampaging one level below leper. Much easier to live with the stereotype than the truth, both the engineers and their quarantined Arcanum are undiscussable. It is the punishment instinctively inflicted by society for taking a multi-disciplined, rigorous approach to a desired future. The hindsight plan A institutions of society deeply resent the existence of a plan B based on foresight – particularly one which derives a much superior solution without them. Engineers soon learn to take the punishment in stride as a benchmark of engineering professionalism. It is how society acknowledges that your presence matters.

Knowing what is practical with foresight, it has become sad for the PE to look on quietly while decisions are taken, strategies adopted and controls instituted in important institutions on the basis of guesswork. The frequent occasions when a course of action is adopted for feeble reasons that masquerade as scientific are no happier.

The institution is designed to harbor no entryway for pragmatic foresight. There is no common language shared by two domains of thought to enable effective communications from foresight to hindsight. This deliberate obstruction is at the heart of every catastrophe enabled or amplified by institutional design. In every case, foresight was overruled by hindsight – allowing the unmitigated disasters to unfold. After the consequences have played out, the investigation invariably finds the instances of on-target warning being rejected by the institution – by design.

The institutional response to the catastrophe is likewise composed only of standard hindsight practices. Firefighting response is followed by damage control. The lessons learned are translated into the language the institution understands – more regulations and rules added to the existing spores of hindsight. When the cycle is completed the institution is no better positioned to benefit from foresight as it was before the calamity struck – by design.

The institutional blindspot for foresight is easy to measure because it is carried from top to bottom as the core ideology. Although no engineer can imagine it, the loyal hierarch has a scale of tolerance for natural laws and sorts them into bins marked discussable, neutral and forbidden. The engineer finds it possible to have a rational discussion of the effect of certain natural laws accepted by the public as applicable. This collection usually includes the Newtonian set and some of the laws of conservation. Regarding the laws of the very small and quantum physics, institutions are neutral. String theory is not considered a menace to institutional stability.

The natural laws that invoke institutional hostility, should one dare to mention them, are the same laws fundamental to pragmatic foresight. The undiscussable set includes all the laws that span time. While the laws of systems, dynamics and communication, especially Shannon’s 10th Theorem, are simply reviled, the laws of control and thermodynamics are aggressively denied. Anything suggesting that the consequences of action become inputs to the next increment of activity is considered blasphemy. The test of natural law bias, regarding hindsight and foresight, to characterize a domain of thought is infallible. It is surmised that instinct fears reality shorn of mysticism and poetry, bypassing the bedeviling disputation that attends analogy. The reality that institutions cannot avoid is mirrored in the processes of nature engineers wrestle with to realize their concepts. Competency with natural law informs the engineer of the common patterns in problems which appear dissimilar to the institution.

In the institution, workers see themselves at the bottom of a massive organizational structure, the weight of which bears down on him, and the limits of which fade out of sight and comprehension. He simply does not understand, nor is he understood. Validated research into the mismatch of understanding between levels has shown the disparity between “downward transparency” and “upward opacity.” In any four tier hierarchy, corporate management’s belief that it understands the problems of those who work beneath them emerges at the bottom at 83%. Going upward, management’s “sympathy” for workers survives at 7% So much for the torque in hierarchical communications.

As time unfolds, history ‘fixes’ the uncertainties; the probabilities vanish in ascertainable facts. Although all the facts of history are in principle ascertainable, only a portion will be ascertained. The record of a transient condition of the past is a many-one reduction of what actually happened.  If hindsight is to be useful to engineering, the framework must be right and the facts illuminating that structure must be sufficient. The institutional recipe for hindsight, woefully deficient, ends in a stalemate of contentions and the trap of undecidable situations. The stage is then set for management to intervene with its judgment and collect its reward. An exclusive use of institutional hindsight for navigation destroys the learning mechanism engineers rely upon to learn from their errors. Institutional hindsight reveals a language in which no mistake can possibly count as a mistake. It perpetuates the myth that history is merely a random succession of states of affairs. It one stroke, the omnipresent flux of natural law is set on its head. Any opportunity for objectivity has been erased for the duration.

The exclusive use of hindsight is characterized by perceptions of a static state, history as a snapshot rather than as a dynamic. It pretends to know the absolute boundary conditions of the system which are not known and not absolute. The degrees of freedom of system dynamics cannot be constrained any more than natural law can permit.

The hierarchy functions on a set of a priori notions continuously falsified in practice. It allows no vocabulary capable of discussing errors. Hindsight by hierarchy reduces to an exchange of slogans in place of enquiry. The engineer has no difficulty in recognizing the truth in the guise of what is already the case. This competency is reflected in a century-old canon of professional engineering to determine and then carry the forecast of certain project failure ‘up the ladder’ well before the fact. Knowing the price for bringing bad news to the king, the canon preempts the punishment phase by mandating withdrawal from the project.

Hindsight, used exclusively, assumes that “What has happened can happen.” Using recent experience as the planning foundation, time marches on. In truth, the influence of history is felt from way back, with an impact that decays as it retreats into the past.

The whole thrust is that hindsight exclusive has serious limits in a changing world. These limits cannot be extended by more and faster hindsight. While the institution is entertained by prognostications, it cannot abide pragmatic foresight activity. In fact, the key subjects of pragmatic foresight are undiscussable. Ultimately the organism perishes.

Operating exclusively by rules provides fixed and certain mechanisms, easily supervised, facing an unfixed and uncertain world. The event of mishap is misconstrued as a breakdown of the system, switching on emergency response to take ad hoc crisis measures. The event of disturbance to the feedstocks of a closed system puts it in shock. It does not have the control variety to deal with the variety of effects uncontrollable disturbances can deliver. All closed systems are vulnerable to disturbances that can bankrupt operations. The event of change in rules of action is a risky proposition. The system is so poorly understood, what will happen when a rule is changed or added in a closed system is not known in advance.

What you get, without limit, are extenuating circumstances and unintended consequences. Obedience to rules, no matter how intense, cannot compensate for ignorance about system dynamics. The limits of hindsight to deal with the future cannot be extended by more, better and faster hindsight. All attempts to cope with the infinite variety of fluctuations in a system without detailed insight, without understanding the patters of events, and without sufficient channel capacity will degrade viability.

Institution as organism with viability. Three attributes of viability are its innate complexity, its complexity of interaction with its environment, and its complexity of internal connectivity. The amount of knowledge to deal intelligently with viability is far above rule-obedience. To override these matters by subjective devices, treating the system as simple and closed, places a definite and measurable limit on obtainable system information. This limit is very quickly reached. The management override of complexity, however, was rationally justified because the complexity could not be processed otherwise. The complexity barrier was the legitimate institutional excuse for failing to imitate the advanced control systems of nature. When the barriers fell in 1990, eliminating that excuse, it became obvious that the underlying aversion to pragmatic foresight was the threat to erode the presumption of hierarchy omnipotence.

You can test the resistance to pragmatic foresight by attempting to get a rational discussion about their definition of cornerstone terms. Intelligence, system, complexity, cycle/loop thinking, feedback, control theory, communication theory, foreseeability (tort), professional negligence, preemption/anticipation, etc., will serve to illustrate the condition. Ask how they consider the natural laws of systems, dynamics and communications as they influence their sphere of operations, especially The Second Law. Do not run this test at home. The only neutral audience you will encounter there, at best, is the dog.

The reason a rational discussion of even the vocabulary of pragmatic foresight cannot be held outside of the engineering disciplines is the inculcated institutional hindsight bias. The commitment to a foresight-free environment is the hallmark of blind loyalty to the institutional ideology. If worker bee A doesn’t stop you, worker bee B will. He will also report the disloyalty exhibited by A to institutional authorities, because he must.

Every member of the institution, except the engineering department, will instinctively destroy foresight-think because it is universally considered the ultimate threat to the very identity of the organization. This instinct is totally valid. In the operational reality, the institution so clinically paranoid about removing all foresight contamination, it becomes a fetish When faced with no alternative to adjustment, the institution, without hesitation, commits suicide. It is a principle the PE soon learns in practice – “Never invest effort encouraging an institution to do what it cannot.”

  • The enthralling business of contending over meaning.
  • The hierarchy re-directs the motives of the host institution distinct from its aims.
  • The economy run on business as usual becomes so preoccupied with its own survival that it runs down and dies of unmitigated entropy.
  • Intellectually neutral. Deciding on the basis of temperament.
  • The institution cannot do foresight because it immediately reformulates the mission with the hindsight standard for execution. The conclusions are assumed in the premises petitio principii

The hierarchic superstructure imposed on the institution confined to hindsight cannot sustain viability. As time goes forward, the Second Law makes withdrawals on the viability account. The hierarchy is driven by a purpose defined by the goals it did in fact hit – understood external to the hierarchy post hoc. Whenever goals can be only formulated from hindsight, there is no mechanism available to attain a goal specified in advance.

The hierarchy in command of argument and the institutional opinion, makes assessments in terms of loyalties, personal ascendancies and character.  Skill in these subjective realms has no value in the design of viable systems. The universe of the institution is broken up into many mutually exclusive divisions attempting to cope with their province in vacuo. Once isolated, no overriding amalgam of their interests is possible. This is why, exactly, when you find one red flag of organizational dysfunction you always find the lot. The legal duty of the PE to forecast project failure, quickly and with certainty, is one of the easiest regulatory mandates to meet. Time orientation comes in sets.

The institution locked on hindsight has no central nervous system. All the modes of control that are visible, predicated on hindsight, are no more than outward signs of control-like activities which have no ultimate connection. They are epiphenomena of a central control which does not actually exist. Goals of a hindsight domain can be recognized, even by itself, only with hindsight. On the bottom line, unfiltered buffeting of the institution by external intrusions drives the incessant change in goals. The hindsight ideology can only regain control over fiscal policy, temporarily, by declaring bankruptcy.

The strategy of all hindsight is the same. Operate by rules of action established by experience. Respond to those events for which the rules fail with firefighting action. Prepare for the failure of rule-based operations by purchasing insurance, rewarding the firefighters, and keeping damage control on alert. The ultimate response may be ingenious and appropriate – but far too late to stem the damage. The institution communicates within by a metalanguage in which every choice except obedience to authority can be disputed. The price of ultra stability is poor adaptation. The indicators used by the hierarchy to validate stability, such as financial statements, over simplify to the point where they are a positive danger.

Institutions do not want to know what information is needed to maintain a viable operation. The business runs on historical accretions, folklore, until the viability account is depleted. The hierarchy does not reach decisions by putting together, like a jigsaw puzzle, a composition of logical pieces. It is created through like-mindedness settled among contending interests by pulling rank. The organizational chart becomes the blueprint for the disintegration of the firm.

The illusion that decisions are purely economic in character. Hindsight does not permit the expression of vital facts of system dynamics. The conceptual framework of the institution in use is created by the hierarchy as a whole. It is a product of social process.  The balance sheet is a social entity. It intends openly to express financial stability to stakeholders and the financial world which underwrites the business confidence which surrounds it. The hindsight accounting model chosen by the hierarchy has proven to be a bad predictor of stability in the face of change. It does not betray in-process scandal.

The institution is particularly unwilling to disturb a condition the hierarchy regards as satisfactory. It fears the change created will damage whatever unknown mechanism it is the apparently serves them well.

Government as juridical. The hierarchy invites biased information and advice. It is lethally cocooned by its staff even as it demands a particular hierarchical pattern supported by organizational energy.

Society moves against massive inertia with behavioral patterns so stable that subtle changes have little effect on results. The institution collects data about what has happened and assumes its place as the facts of the situation. Hindsight is so much flotsam, floating about on the surface of tides created by the systemic structures below the surface. Hindsight data has little utility in forecasting the future.

  • Management portrays itself as full of self-improving intentions while it remains grimly determined to claim the prerogatives of its forefathers. Management training is an improving process a man applies to his subordinates.
  • Regulators believe that a high variety system can be controlled by rules of action – provided they are obeyed.
  • The very taking of a decision can mean the decision was right.
  • The decisions are not irrational and contrary to reason, they are arational and devoid of it.

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