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Archive for September, 2015

This morning, gentle reader, we will continue with ‘Organizational Questions to Consider’ – I refer you to Parts I & II for the context of our topic.

QUESTIONS:

What are the gaps between what you espouse and what you enact? The Organization might be well-served if each individual, each relationship and each organized group of three or more folks were to reflect upon and respond to this question. We (individuals, relationships and organized groups of three or more) are imperfect and consequently gaps will exist. Identifying them and discerning how large the gaps are is crucial. There will not be a consensus and there might not be agreement as to what these gaps are and as to how great the gaps are. So another question emerges: ‘Who determines the gaps and who determines how large a gap is?’ There are gaps that are easy to define and the width-depth of the gaps is relatively easy to identify. There are gaps that are more challenging to define and it is then more challenging to identify the width-depth of these gaps. Then there are the gaps that require an ‘outsider’s’ help in order to be defined (denial is a powerful ‘tool’ in organizations). Finally, there are gaps that are undiscussable and these are often rooted deep in the organization’s culture and are also the most impactful (over time) and hence are the ones that place the organization in harm’s way. There are Purpose, Vision, Mission, Goal and Task gaps. There are also ‘value’ and ‘need’ gaps.

What are the primary metaphors that we have integrated? In other postings I have noted that in our Culture (that is, in the United States) we have integrated powerful metaphors and organizations of all types and sizes have also embraced and integrated these. The first, and at one time the most powerful and influential, is the ‘Mechanical Metaphor.’ The organization is a great machine and folks are the cogs, springs, nuts and bolts that keep the machine running. Organizations have also integrated our Cultural metaphors of ‘War & Sports.’ We have melded these together into a seamless whole. We interchange the language of each and yet we all seem to know what one is referring to. More recently – the past 30-40 years – we have integrated into our Culture a ‘Banking Metaphor’ and this metaphor has also been embraced by and integrated into many organizations. People are commodities, assets and resources. Consider: The metaphors we use, plus the words we infuse, plus the questions we muse, define the path(s) we choose. We act as if these metaphors are ‘reality’ and are a ‘given.’ There is a counter-metaphor available to organizations and that is an ‘Organic Metaphor.’ In this metaphor (often framed as a ‘community’ or a ‘family’) all are fully human. The individual is fully human, the relationships are fully human and the organization itself is fully human. Humans grow (become healthier, for example) and they develop (they become wiser for example). Organic metaphors also emerge ‘Developmental Plans’ as contrasted with ‘Strategic Plans’ (which support the War metaphor).

To loop us back to the first question this morning, organizations often espouse a human metaphor yet live out a mechanical, sports/war or banking metaphor (one of these is primary). The gaps between the espoused and the lived metaphor is often quite broad and deep. Why? A primary reason is that each individual has developed his/her own primary life-metaphor and this metaphor might not be in alignment with the primary Organizational Metaphor – it might be in direct conflict with it. Furthermore, each relationship and each organized group of three or more folks who have enough time together will develop a primary metaphor and this metaphor might not be in alignment with the primary Organizational Metaphor – or it might be in direct conflict with it. Metaphors matter – Really!

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As I noted in the ‘Preface’ to Part I, I have been, since 1967, seeking to understand organizations and I have been seeking to help organizations more broadly and deeply understand themselves. My searching and seeking focuses on an inquiry model. I chose to develop an inquiry model because I am not an expert; I am, however, extremely curious.

I am primarily a depth-educator not a teacher. As a depth-educator I strive to help individuals, relationships and organized groups of three or more folks to discern, embrace and develop (or develop more fully) their potentials (that is, their gifts, talents, abilities and capacities). I believe that they are endowed with the potential they need and my charge is to serve them so that they identify their potential, call it forth, embrace it, and develop it. They are the experts; I am their curious, inquiring guide.

Given this, here are some questions I might invite ‘organizations’ to consider (AN ASIDE: ‘Invite’ means that the recipient of my question always has ‘choice’ as to how and whether to consider or respond to or ‘hold my question.’ ‘Organization’ includes the individual, the relationships, and any organized group of three or more folks. ‘Consider’ means, first, not to dismiss the question because it does not resonate with him/her/them; ‘consider’ also means that the recipient(s) will take some time to reflect upon the question(s) and to make note of what emerges from within in response. Given this framework, here are some Questions for Organizations to Consider.

QUESTIONS:
What is your Purpose? That is: Why do you exist? What needs exist in the/your world that you are striving to address? If you did not exist (as an organization) would you have to create yourself? What sets your Purpose for existence apart from others – that is, what makes you unique? For me, this question, ‘What is your Purpose?’ cannot be asked often enough and yet it seems that few organizations take the time to reflect upon it and respond to it. Can an organization become ‘successful’ – that is can it become ‘distinctive’ and ‘high achieving’ if its ‘Purpose’ is other than its ‘product’? Consider the following: Howard Behar reminds us that Starbucks, is ‘Not About the Coffee’ (it’s about the people and the relationships). There is a construction company that is consistently rated as one of the best places to work for in the United States and in 1946, the founder was clear – it is not about ‘construction’ it is about developing caring, serving people; it’s about helping folks identify, emerge and develop their talents, gifts, abilities and capacities. Here are some other organizations that are ‘models’ for what I am referring to: Medtronics, Herman Miller, Johnsonville Meats, Southwest Airlines, and Vanguard.

Are you seeking to be high achieving? Consider that being ‘high achieving’ does not equate with being ‘highly competitive’. Consider that being ‘highly competitive’ can actually lead an organization astray (think ‘greed’ for example or think ‘internal infighting for resources). Consider that ‘high achievement’ is rooted in an abundance model/mentality (many can ‘win’) and ‘Competition’ is rooted in a scarcity model/mentality (only one can win). A classic story involves Walt Disney. He needed the Six Flags theme parks to be successful in order to help Disney World succeed. He even sent Marriott one of his best design teams to help ensure their success. Disney was rooted in an ‘abundance’ model. Gentle reader, which organizations that you are familiar with are rooted in an ‘abundance’ model and which are rooted in a ‘scarcity’ model?

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PREFACE: In 1967 I began to seek to understand organizations (for me an organization is any organized on-going group of three or more people). As I recall, ‘organizations’ legally came into existence with the advent of the Industrial Age which was rooted in the Industrial Revolution. Prior to the Industrial Age recorded history tell us that we had the Age of the Hunter-Gatherer (which lasted a few thousand years and remnants of this Age continue to exist today); this Age was replaced by the Agrarian Age (which continues to be alive and well globally); this Age has also lasted for thousands of years.

Then we experienced the Industrial Revolution which is the foundation for the Industrial Age – which is also alive, if not well, globally. The Industrial Age also ushered in rapid change and thus within the past 100+ years the following Ages have also rapidly emerged: the Modern Age, the Post-Modern Age, the Technological Age, the Information Age, the Conceptual Age and now we are experiencing the Creative/Innovative Age. Because ‘Change’ washes over us like an out-of-control tsunami, we do not have time to integrate an Age before the next one emerges. The boundaries separating the first three Ages were clear; the boundaries between the Ages that followed the Industrial Age are muddied, at best. Perhaps they do not exist at all.

Because each of the first two Ages (the Hunter-Gatherer Age and the Agrarian Age) lasted for thousands of years, we humans had the luxury of ‘evolving’ into them. Many changes within each Age occurred yet because the Age itself was, it seemed to us anyway, ‘stable’ and ‘predictable’ we were able to experience, experiment with and choose which changes to integrate and which to discard. Since the advent of the Industrial Age we have had less and less time to experience, experiment and choose – as a result we are less responsive (and perhaps we are less response-able and responsible); we are more reactive (both appropriately reactive and inappropriately reactive). Each of the Ages since the Industrial Age are anything but ‘stable’ and/or ‘predictable.’ The length of each of the first two Ages also supported an illusion we held: We are in Control! It seems that we humans continue to hold onto this illusion of ‘Control’ – although ‘Mother Nature’ has a way of powerfully reminding us that we do not have the control that we believe we have.

For many years Organizations had the luxury of knowing that a ‘generation’ lasted 25-30 years and so they could engage in long-term strategic planning. During the past 20 years or so an ‘organizational generation’ has shifted from 25-30 years to 3-5 years (at best). Advances in technology have, for some sectors, shortened a ‘generation’ so that it is now 8-10 months (think ‘Apple’).

Given all of this, I strive to offer Organizations some questions to consider and perhaps reflect upon. Next time I will share some of these with you, gentle reader; perhaps a few will be helpful to you and an Organization you know.

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Although in many instances cataclysmic, for thousands of years change seemed more evolutionary in nature. For example, the Ancient East (think of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Persia) powerfully influenced and was eventually replaced by the Greek Civilization. The Greek Civilization powerfully impacted and was replaced by the Roman Civilization. This three step ‘impact-replacement’ took a few thousand years. The Roman Empire was replaced with another diametrically opposed civilization known as the Holy Roman Empire and the feudal structure that emerged from within it. The monarchies of the West were gradually replaced – some are still surviving if not thriving. The impetus for this was the French Revolution. During the nineteenth century, Europe evolved from monarchies into nation-states.

Then a dramatic, if not cataclysmic, change occurred and given the length of recorded history this change altered the world in a minute or two. This change is referred to as the Industrial Revolution. This revolution is continuing in the ‘emerging’ nations and it continues to hold on in the ‘developed’ nations.

Within a generation, a number of ingredients came together with the result being World War I-World War II (World War II was a delayed continuation of World War I). One by-product of this 30+ year war was/is that evolutionary change has morphed into ever increasing rapid change (for example, a ‘generation’ used to be 25-30 years; today it is more like 3-5 years). [AN ASIDE: What is interesting to me is that the length of ‘adolescence’ has actually increased in years since the Industrial Revolution].

Consider that since the end of WWII (1945) we (in the West) have experienced several ‘ages’: Atomic, Space, ‘Modern,’ ‘Post-Modern,’ Information, Technological, Innovation, and the current emerging age that has yet to be named. The concept of an ‘age’ has been dramatically altered forever. Prior to WWI our ‘ages’ were truly ‘ages’ – there was the ‘age’ of the ‘hunter-gatherer’ which lasted many thousands of years. There was the ‘agrarian age’ that also lasted thousands of years (and in our young country the agrarian age was seen by our Founding Fathers as an age that would continue to last). The ‘urban’ age continues to survive, if not thrive. Today, the ‘ages’ come and go as if they are on a twenty-four lunar cycle.

These changes say little about the myriad of other changes which have taken place during these past thousands of years. The implications of these many changes would take up volumes. My broad brush strokes however do indicate to some extent what these changes can be: not merely differences in living resulting from the advances that run the gamut from agrarian to industrial to informational to technological to innovative to creative (this list will continue to be added to). Then there are the changes involving transportation, communication, population growth, and the growing need to ensure that we have an ‘educated citizenry’.

At one time, ‘evolutionary change’ allowed us humans to respond and adjust and embrace and integrate the changes; today, with the rapid pace of change continuing to increase we humans are more likely to react (it seems we don’t have the time to respond – it is like we are standing near the shore in the ocean at high tide and waves are washing over us continuously). We are then attempting to adjust on the go and the idea of embracing and integrating the current change does not seem possible. Dickens, many years ago, provided us the sentence that best describes our lives: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’

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A ‘Commandment’ is a mandate; it is an authoritative order to act in a certain way. Following are Jesus ‘5 Commandments’ (these are not Jesus only Commandments, they continue to be the ‘five’ that continue to stretch and challenge me). As I noted in my last entry, an acceptance of them and a commitment to follow them would alter the course of one’s life. One would truly be ‘transformed’ as a result. If a critical mass of Christians would do so the world as we know it would be radically changed, if not transformed. Jesus repeated the same pattern with each of his Commandments: First, he would state the commandment of the ‘ancients,’ then he would add: ‘But I say to you’ – this would be followed with his Commandment.

Commandment #1 concerns Anger: You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘Whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with another, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult another, you will be liable to the council; and if you say ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. ‘Do not be angry’ is good advice and has been given as good advice by wisdom figures for thousands of years. Jesus ups the ante and shifts the language from ‘advice’ to ‘commandment.’ How many of us actually strive to live into and out of Jesus first Commandment?

Commandment #2 concerns Adultery: You have heard it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Jesus, again, ups the ante. This time he expands the ancients’ law from ‘adultery’ to Do Not Lust!

Commandment #3 concerns Taking Oaths: Again you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely’ , But I say to you don’t swear at all. . . Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’. Each of us has the capacity to ‘reason’ and each of us has a ‘conscience.’ We are entrusted with our ‘reason’ and ‘conscience’ and hence we are response-able and we are going to be held responsible for our ‘Yes, Yes’ and our ‘No, No.’

Commandment #4 concerns Retaliation: You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. . . Give to everyone who begs from you. . . One way to promote the ‘good’ over the ‘evil’ is to follow the most virtuous – say from Buddha to Jesus to contemporary givers of ‘light.’ It involves seeking to see one’s truth clearly and then to speak it out courageously (that is, to speak from the heart which loops us back to our ‘Yes, Yes’ and ‘No, No’) and to allow ‘your truth’ to influence others – not to use your truth to coerce others. Coercion promotes the ancients’ idea of an ‘eye for an eye.’

Commandment #5 concerns Love for Enemies: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. . . This commandment is the most far-reaching; it provides us the most daunting challenge. This is the ‘game-changer.’

Jesus concludes Chapter 5 with these words: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect. Of course, we are by nature imperfect human beings. So what did Jesus mean by his closing statement? To further complicate all of this, later on in Matthew (Chapter 22) Jesus also makes a clear, concise and concrete statement: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars; and to God the things that are God’s. With each of Jesus ‘5 Commandments’ governments have provided their own ‘legal’ interpretation. So, how is one to discern when one is to ‘render’ to the government (that is, to Caesar) and when one is to ‘render’ unto God? Ah, this is the rub; this is the challenge for us who espouse to be followers of Jesus the Christ.

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Matthew’s Gospel helped me understand and make sense of Jesus’ teaching and helped me to more fully understand Jesus’ life – his ‘call.’ Once I decided to take Jesus’ message and life (his ‘good news’) seriously it was as though I had found a way through a confusing labyrinth. Jesus teaching and his lived-example formed a complete whole for me.

Thanks to Matthew, it became clear to me what a follower of Jesus the Christ was called to be and do – and it scared the stuffing out of me (it still does). For me, Jesus teaching and his charge to anyone who espouses to be a follower of his is powerfully contained in Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel. The way is quite simple actually: Live into and out of the Beatitudes (the Be-Attitudes) and Jesus ‘5 Commandments.’ During my current re-reading and re-reflection of Chapter 5 I have been specifically drawn, once again, to Jesus ‘5 Commandments.’

In Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus clearly and concisely provides us with his practical advice. Jesus often taught in parables and parables are open to a variety of interpretations. When Jesus delivers to us his ‘5 Commandments’ he does not tell us a parable he is clear, concise and direct – and the result is that we, the recipients, frequently become quite disturbed.

A common response – one I have used and one I have heard many Christians use is: ‘You can’t take him literally; no one can follow these commandments. In fact, following them would be foolish at best and catastrophic at worst.’ If all Christians would follow these Jesus ‘5 Commandments’ the world, as we know it, would be radically transformed (transformation = a fundamental change in character and structure). Of course, this is what Jesus was calling us to: a Transformation. This is also what we Christians continue to resist individually and collectively (consider, gentle reader, that if ALL who espouse to be Christian would live into and out of Matthew’s Chapter 5 then that would be enough – this is the common ground for ALL who espouse to be Christians).

In delivering his ‘5 Commandments’ Jesus follows a repetitive pattern – repetitive patterns help us ‘get it’ (mostly). With each Commandment Jesus leads with ‘the ancients taught us’ and clearly, concisely and concretely states the ancient’s commandment. Jesus then says, ‘But I say to you. . .’ And then Jesus clearly, concisely and concretely provides us his Commandment. Jesus concludes the delivery of his ‘5 Commandments’ with a startling statement. This statement is also clear, concise and concrete (and I might add, ‘disturbing’). Jesus concludes with: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ YIKES!!! I am an imperfect human being – how can I ever ‘Be Perfect as God is Perfect’? Luckily, for me anyway, this is a topic for another time.

So what are Jesus ‘5 Commandments’?

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As I have mentioned in previous postings, I consider myself to be an Ecumenical Christian. I am a follower of Jesus the Christ – which makes me a Christian – and I also search and seek for the good, the true and the beautiful in all faith and humanistic traditions – which makes me an Ecumenist. I am also a member of what is known as ‘The People of the Book’ – Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We – ‘The People of the Book’ – have been gifted by Yahweh-God-Allah with Ten Commandments.

For the past 53 years one of the most powerful ‘books’ for me has been – continues to be – the Gospel of Matthew. Recently I began to re-read and re-reflect upon Matthew’s Gospel. Early on, Jesus gifts us with the Beatitudes and shortly after giving us this gift he gifts us with his ‘Five Commandments.’ The Beatitudes and the ‘Five Commandments’ call us not to shift or change but to transform. These are so challenging and disturbing for those of us who espouse to be Christians that we have spent – we continue to spend – a great deal of energy re-interpreting Jesus’ words. ‘He surely couldn’t mean what he says; how absurd.’ Since I have been re-reflecting upon Jesus’ ‘Five Commandments’ I thought I would share some of my reflections with you, gentle reader.

Consider that each of us has a reason and a conscience that come to us from somewhere: we did not ‘make them up’ ourselves. These twins – reason and conscience – oblige us to differentiate between good and evil (or, if you will, virtue and vice or light and darkness); you and I must approve of some things and disapprove of others. This obligation (or ‘ought’ or ‘must’) is one of the common grounds upon which we all walk; we are all members of the same family and we are all daughters and sons of the same God (Note: For me, ‘God’ is all and is therefore both male and female – if God were only ‘male’ then God would not be all and hence God would not be God).

Residing in each of us is a higher or better nature – a spiritual and divine nature. As Lincoln noted in 1860, there resides within each of us ‘the better angels of our nature’ and it is our charge to call upon these especially during times of challenge and adversity. Because we are endowed with a higher nature we can, if we open our hearts and minds discern good from evil (or virtue from vice or light from darkness); we can monitor our own choices and our own conduct.

My hunch is that most of us human beings know that our purpose here on earth is to serve others rooted in our higher nature; we are to call forth the ‘better angels’ as we live our life. Jesus identifies himself with his higher nature (consider that if Jesus were truly fully human then he, too, would have a ‘lower’ nature – perhaps this is the nature that tempted him three times). Jesus speaks of himself and of us as ‘Sons of the Father’ and bids us to be perfect as ‘our Father’ in heaven is perfect.

Perhaps this is the answer to the question: ‘What is the meaning and purpose of my life?’ There is a ‘Power’ enabling me (and you) to discern what is good – my reason and conscience flow from it and the purpose of my conscious life is to do its will – that is, to do good. What is the ‘good’ I am called to do? Jesus provides us an answer when he gifts us with the Beatitudes and when he gifts us with his ‘Five Commandments.’

What are Jesus’ ‘Five Commandments’?

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