inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #51 of 107: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Fri 5 Mar 04 12:14
    
And two more questions to throw out:

1)  What about Core Groups not within organizations, but across
organizations?  Interlocking Boards of Directors?  The
military-industrial complex.  Or “the liberal media.”  You mention that
a common theme of both left and right politics is a sense of distrust
for the Core Groups on the “other side.”  And, in important ways,
things like the Enron scandal or the Bush Administration’s foreign
policy don’t happen just within an organization, but across
organizations.  It’s easy to demonize small groups of players as cabals
in these things, but it doesn’t seem to do justice to your Core Group
idea to see them just as rogue conspiracies.  How do Core Group
dynamics work across organizations?   (It occurs to me that the
emergence of Kerry through the Democratic primary process is a
wonderful example of “hive mind”)

2)  You note how society hasn’t always had organizations in the modern
sense, but now we’re up to our eyeballs in them.   And that the book
tries to chart a way forward from here.   I have an interesting first
impression, which I will probably retract later, but still maybe it
makes a good question: In some ways, the book reads a bit like an
ancient astronomer trying to make Ptolemy’s system work by adding more
epicycles.  The premise is that we’re stuck with organizations, so we
have to find out how to have better ones.  But is that really the case?
 Are they so embedded in our thinking that they preclude a Copernicus
coming along and offering an alternative social form that (after a few
long and bitter centuries) just supplants?
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #52 of 107: Art Kleiner (art) Sat 6 Mar 04 11:17
    
Keta, these are questions that are going to take a lot of thought.
Particularly the last one. Because I actually feel that seeing
organizations, as they are, is not like being the last Ptolemaic
epicycle-spinner (according to Arthur Koestler, that WAS Copernicus),
but more like being an early devotee of natural selection: Seeing an
invisible process that, once seen, is now reliable as a causal factor. 

While I'm composing my thoughts on this one, I can at least provide
the basic metaphor for the "hive mind." In trying to find the thing
that sets an organizational direction as a whole, I remembered playing
Loren Carpenter's multiple player computer games, the Cinematrix. (I
experienced it at the Hacker's Conference, I think, in 1984.) Kevin
Kelly uses the Cinematrix and the "hive mind" metaphor at the beginning
of Out of Control, of course, but he doesn't link it to organizations.
In the Cinematrix, each member of the audience has a joystick. Each of
them exerts some pull on the direction of the cursor or paddle on the
screen. The paddle moves where they send it in aggregate. 

In an organization, some people have greater "thrust" to their
joysticks than others. Some people have the knack of being ahead of the
direction that the cursor is about to move; others have the perpetual
experience of trying to move the organization in the opposite
direction. Some see their efforts continually canceled out, in terms of
their effect on the direction of the whole. 

So where does the cursor move? When all the contradictory signals are
cancelled out, it moves in the direction set by peoples' perceptions of
where the Core Group wants to go. 

That's why perception of the Core Group is so important -- it
represents the distinguishing factor that sets the direction of the
organization's next move. 
. 
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #53 of 107: Art Kleiner (art) Sat 6 Mar 04 11:22
    
Joe, you ask, What can a Core Group member do to be more effective? 

And this is the flip side of the question, "What distinguishes Great
Core Groups from run-of-the-mill ordinary Core Groups?" 

I agree, Gail, this IS normative. The core group nature of
organizations is (in my view) simply a description of the way they
work. 

But the statement, "Behind every great organization is a great core
group" -- well, that's a provocation. And an unprovable one. 

So if you're a Core Group member, how do you make the organization
great? 

One could start by asking oneself the following set of questions (and
answering them honestly)....

“In this organization, do I want to build for a long-term future, or
simply to generate a big reward -- for instance, am I simply trying to
cash out?" 

"If I'm simply trying to cash out (etc.), am I honest about this with
the people who work here, or am I leading them on?" 

“If I want to build for a future, do I believe that I can do this
myself, or do I need a large group of others in a collaborative
effort?”

“If I believe I need others, am I committed to listening to their
ideas and opinions, or have we hired them primarily to carry out my
orders?”

“If I genuinely believe I need others collaboratively, then, what kind
of core group needs to take shape in this organization five to ten
years from now to achieve our desired future?”

“What do I need to do now to develop people in my organization so they
are ready to take part in that future core group when it needs them?”
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #54 of 107: Art Kleiner (art) Sat 6 Mar 04 23:47
    
OK, back to pick up a couple of loose ends: 

What makes a Great Core Group? 

And (implicitly, in Doug's post and some others), how do we know a
great Core Group isn't just in the eye of the beholder? 

I think the answer lies in analyzing results. For instance, consider
Springfield Remanufacturing Company (now SRC, Inc.). This is the "Great
Game of Business" company (or group of companies) set up by Jack
Stack. Consider these results: 

1. Profitability by any standard. 
2. 23+ profitable companies emerging in 25 years from a failing
International Harvester plant that was about to be shut down. 
3. A thriving business in remanufacturing. 
4. An employee-stock-ownership plan that has engendered wealth for
hundreds of employees -- real wealth. 
5. A palpable degree of commitment, enthusiasm, and learning on the
part of employees, and an atmosphere which reflects it. 
6. One best-selling book (The Great Game of Business) and another
highly acclaimed book (A Stake in the Outcome). 
7. A bunch of articles in Inc. magazine. 
8. Probably a lot of other results I don't have at my fingertips. 
9. The CEO, Jack Stack, earns a very nice living and an international
reputation without having to get on an airplane very often. (I.e, most
of the company's activities take place in and around Springfield, Mo.)
10. There's a new industrial park, designed with high environmental
quality, and other new institutions, including a bank, which are highly
influenced by the concept of financial literacy, and which in turn are
having an effect on Springfield's culture and ethos. 
11. The idea of financial literacy itself may make an increasing
difference.... 

===

OK, now consider the results of Exxon-Mobil: 

1. An international brand. 
2. One of the top three oil companies. 
3. An environmental record which is scrutinized and spotty. 
4. Profits. Performance. 
5. A good stock price. 

Which organization has the "better" results? 

Obviously, I'm more enthusiastic about SRC. But I also know the
company better. And which would I want to be a shareholder in? I'd
reserve my judgement until I really explored each company in depth. 

What I'd really like is an almanac that included Results and Core
Group data for each company: A combination of Everybody's Business (the
great Milt Moskowitz compendium) and Hoover's Guide to Corporations
(but with fewer punches pulled). 'Course, that would take an enormous
research effort (and budget). 

In the absence of such efforts, all I can do is offer guesswork, based
on the meager knowledge of the companies that have been written about.
Sunbeam had a terrible Core Group, both before and during Al Dunlap's
era. We know this from their results -- their results are consistent
with the results of companies whose core groups are virtually asleep at
the switch (before) and deliberately parasitical (during). (This is
based on  John Byrne's great book Chainsaw.) In fairness, Dunlap (whom
I met only once, and who charmed some people I respect, like Nell
Minow), may have sincerely believed that his "toughlove" medicine was
the right medicine for this moribund company. On the other hand, his
actions all seemed to betray an intention to patch over difficulties,
get the share price up at whatever cost, and then sell out to another
company (after which, it's their problem to keep the enterprise going.)

To me, an array of great results may or may not include satisfying
stakeholders. I prefer to position myself by asking, "How would history
judge this company?" For instance, "What would history ask of a
for-profit corporation?" 

Here's my list, off the top of my head:  
   1. Generating real wealth for as many of its employees and
shareholders as possible. 
   2. Creating products and services that truly ennoble customers. 
   3. Innovating ideas and things that make a positive difference. 
   4. Finding and fulfilling needs well. 
   5. Not just doing no environmental harm, but providing net
environmental and social benefit (by some credible measure). 
    6. People who come home from work at the end of a day there are
glad they went. And their lives are better, at the end of their time
there, for having worked there. 

  How can you learn if a company fulfills such results? By studying
their record, and interviewing people who work there. 

   And then I personally believe that every company that meets this
criteria has a great Core Group. It would have to. 

A great Core Group isn't defined circularly as "a Core Group of a
company that meets these criteria." (Tho it's tempting to do so.) 

A great Core Group is a core group that, in its actions and its
attentions. demonstrates a genuine regard for -- and competence in --
building an organization that can produce quality and wealth in the
long term. 

And what do I mean by "quality"? Any definition good enough for Robert
Pirsig is good enough for me. 
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #55 of 107: Joe Flower (bbear) Sun 7 Mar 04 23:02
    
So you would judge a Core Group by other than its own standards? I can easily imagine a Core Group 
that, by its own standards, operated wonderfully, but did not serve the greater good at all. Enron, to 
take the most obvious case, was held up for years as a model of good management and great esprit de 
corps, a prime example for all management consultants.

That is an important judgment to make, in my eyes. If we were to judge core Groups solely by their own 
internal standards, I would be left with a lot of “Yeah, but”s.

My reaction to your book has been quite personal. Everywhere I look I find confirmation of why my 
history with organizations has been so spotty. Your chapter on schools was such a clear description of 
my experience: the deepest learning in schools is not the education, it’s learning that the most 
important thing is whether you are in the Core Group, and in what way you serve it. The experience 
made me never want to come near a Core Group. In my case, the usual dysfunctional nature of the school 
Core Group was deepened by the fact that the schools were Catholic – the Core Group was wrapped in 
mystery and impenetrable authority. One of the schools was a junior seminary, where the experience was 
made infinitely more confusing by the fact the true goal of the Core Group was not to turn these young 
boys into priests (as advertised and continually loudly proclaimed), but to turn them into sex toys. 

Values are extremely important to thinking about Core Groups. There is a moral dimension to this 
discussion.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #56 of 107: Joe Flower (bbear) Sun 7 Mar 04 23:03
    
I was reminded, as well, of the way I got fired from one of my first jobs. I worked for a small chain 
of boutiques in the Bay Area. I was in charge of all the transportation, to get the dresses and purses 
and such out to the stores in the suburbs. But I only had one truck. It was deeply and repeatedly 
impressed on me the importance of getting the merchandise to the stores on Friday for the weekend 
shopping. If a shopper did not find what she wanted, she wouldn’t come back next week, she would 
just go to another store. 

One Friday afternoon I had the truck all loaded and ready to go, when one of the three partners 
called. He wanted a desk moved. Now. I explained the situation: only one truck, all loaded, gotta get 
the merchandise out there . . .   He wanted it now. Was he going to use it over the weekend? No. Would 
there be any difference between Friday afternoon and Monday morning for moving the desk? No. But he 
wanted it now. I was stuck between the good of the company (as explicitly laid out to me), and the 
demands of one of its Core Group. I delivered the dresses on Friday, the desk first thing Monday 
morning, and got fired. 

The other partners agreed I had done the right thing, but shrugged their shoulders at his outrageous 
behavior, and could not be inconvenienced to confront it. He was in the Core Group and I was not.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #57 of 107: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Tue 9 Mar 04 14:32
    
Yes, I wonder if anyone can ever really answer the question of where
their contribution fits into what comes before and after.

I like that question, "What would history ask of a for-profit
corporation?"  And I agree that there's a moral dimension to the
discussion.  Here's a question - how can an organization welcome (and
keep) "The Seventh Generation" in its core group?


I laughed at the comment in the book about how at magazines either the
production staff is the core group (in which case deadlines are
sacrosanct), or editorial is (in which case last-minute brilliance
comes through).   I, too, had a couple of stints at the Whole Earth
Review, and one of my lasting memories is working on the Essential
Catalog and having the job of asking Peter Warshall every morning if he
had his assigned pages done yet.  He ended up blowing every deadline,
and then turning in a huge brilliant integrated chunk right before it
was time for him to leave.  That's what everyone apparently knew he
would do, except for the earnest new guy.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #58 of 107: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Tue 9 Mar 04 14:49
    
I know this is a bit off the subject of the book, but thinking back to
my Whole Earth days gets me thinking about Stewart Brand's trajectory,
and what his career has to say about "who matters."

With the Whole Earth Catalog, the publication cultivated the vision
that perhaps the Core Group included everyone.  And even in the mid
80's, when I was there, there was still a sense of the power and
significance of the "over-the-transom" contributions from strangers. 
Someone would just come by and leave a tool or an idea or a piece of
writing, and it was welcomed and incorporated.

Then, the WELL.  My image of Stewart is the guy who spent most of the
time holed up in his boat, and came out with a faraway look in his eye.
 Little did I know how much time he was spending in there as <sbb>,
and he was one of the first people to have a core group of compelling
phantasms from far and wide.

Then the Global Business Network.  I don't know a lot about what they
do, but I know it costs $4000 just to read the website.  What I wonder,
I guess, is how to interpret that vision of Core Groups.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #59 of 107: Joe Flower (bbear) Tue 9 Mar 04 22:19
    
Come to think of it, GBN is a fascinating riff on the whole Core Group idea. I 
wonder what you make of that, ART?
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #60 of 107: from RON BEAN (tnf) Wed 10 Mar 04 13:30
    


Ron Bean writes:



Art writes:

>Ron, I couldn't agree more with everything in #23. Your throwaway
>line, "Don't ask me how I know this!" makes me curious to know
>more about the circumstances under which you decided to leave one
>place (I assume)... just curious,....

It's a long story, but I used to do purchasing for a local branch
of a large company where the salesmen were the core group (to get
promoted beyond a certain point you had to be in sales).

It was actually a type of leasing company, so we had some leeway
on exactly what we delivered-- what we were actually selling was
the service. The corporate purchasing guys were always trying to
get everything for the lowest price, even if they had to cut a
few corners. I was supposed to tell the salesmen that it was an
equivalent product (even if it wasn't). They didn't always fall
for it, and it was very frustrating because I sometimes agreed
with them, but I was supposed to follow orders from headquarters.

It often seemed like the company was at war with itself (or at
least, they were trying to follow two different strategies at
once), and I was stuck in the middle. Now that I think about it,
I wonder if the corporate headquarters had a different core group
than the local branch.

I thought some cross-training would have helped a lot-- I got the
impression that the people at the corporate level hadn't worked
in a local branch for a long time (or ever). Some companies have
their executives periodically spend a day or two in some
front-line job for exactly this reason (I think you could tell a
lot about a company just by asking the execs if they'd be willing
to do this).

Cross-training is one of those things that a lot of people talk
about but somehow never get around to doing-- I don't know why,
the benefits seem obvious.

>I don't know Po Bronson's book. I've heard of it, of course, but
>I haven't read it.

It's interesting to read Bronson's book ("What Should I Do With My
Life") along side Herminia Ibarra's book ("Working Identity").
Bronson is a journalist and Ibarra is an academic, but they come
to very similar conclusions, namely that the story of your life
only makes sense in hindsight, and you won't necessarily know
what you're looking for until after you've found it (as opposed
to the "parachute theory" which says that there must be something
in your past that gives you a clue about the future). So instead
of thinking about it, they say just go do something and see what
happens, and *then* think about it (but not too much).

>Does Silicon Valley thrive because it attracts smart people or
>because it fosters a community among them? Or are those
>reinforcing? (I am not sure they are; lots of places attract
>smart people without having much of a community in them.)

I think the community attracts the people-- if not, then you have
to ask why they go there in the first place.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #61 of 107: Art Kleiner (art) Wed 10 Mar 04 20:42
    
Well, it’s been a frenetic couple of days, but now the kids are
asleep, and the frenzy has died down a bit, and there’s nothing I’d
rather do than tie up the loose ends here… or some of them… 

Re #50: Keta writes: 
>   It looks like
your book… doesn’t presume that there’s
always something profound to the source of the distinctions – the
example of an organization in a ski area where being a non-skiier (or
even a non-natural at it) keeps people out of the core group.

I mostly buy Robert Fuller’s notion in Somebodies and Nobodies – that
racism and sexism aren’t really visceral ends in themselves, but rather
means to the deeper, shadowy desire to always have a scapegoat or
“other” to blame and outrank. 

And then you really provide a kicker: 
> An organization is on a trajectory, but there is a
whole realm of work/activity that is cyclic.  It doesn’t have to be
discussed in gender terms, but in some ways, that’s easiest.  The
saying, “a woman’s work is never done,” originally referred to the
fact
that as soon as you feed someone, they are already becoming hungry
again; as soon as you clean, dirt is arising; sustaining life is
tending a birth-growth-flowering-seed-decay-renewal cycle.   I wonder
if organizations inherently define cyclic work as “not mattering”?

And then: 
> “Do organizations systematically evolve a consensus that sustaining
life
doesn’t matter?”  Do they act as if trajectory can exist without the
background field?  In I Ching terms, “Where is the yin?”

 Boy, I wish I’d heard that (or thought it) before writing the book. 
I think you’ve nailed a critical difference between organizations and 
communities. I think this is why it’s appropriate for organizations to
have Core Groups, but abusive for communities to have them.
Organizations are going somewhere. Communities are living through the
cycles. Very nice. 

‘Course, you can have an organization and a community in the same
space. David, you and I both worked in such an enterprise – Whole
Earth. (Not quite at the same time; I think you entered about a year
after I left.) One of the interesting things about Whole Earth, in
retrospect, was the way in which it struggled to define itself as both.
I think of Stewart, myself, Stephanie, and Kathleen as pursuers of the
organization (when I was there); Anne, JD Smith, Ben, Lorrie, Susan,
and Dick as the keepers of the community. And most of the others as
sort of on the fence – sometimes quite eloquently on the fence (like J.
Baldwin).  

So while there’s a certain yin quality to community and a yang quality
to organization, I’m not sure their passionate acolytes can be divided
by gender… 

Re#51: How do Core Group dynamics work across organizations?  
 (It occurs to me that the emergence of Kerry through the 
Democratic primary process is a wonderful example of “hive mind”)

When I talked to Robert Monks (the patrician shareholder activist and
former Republican candidate for US Senator from Maine) about the Core
Group idea, he immediately focused on the national Core Group – the one
that covertly runs the country. 

But I have a hard time believing in just one Core Group in a system as
complex as a cross-organizational structure. That’s why I like Robert
Dahl’s book Who Governs? And Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities so
much – they both depict cities (New Haven and New York, respectively)
rife with Core Groups, that are almost unconscious of each other (and
of the effects they have on each other). I don’t think there’s one
ruling elite, not even Skull and Bones members. I think there are a lot
of ruling elites, each with their own dominance on different people’s
cognitive maps, and they often come in for rude awakenings when they
discover the limits on their influence. (One reason I don’t like A Man
in Full as much is that Wolfe’s Atlanta is a lot less rich in Core
Groups than his New York.)

Also re: 51:
2) The premise is that we’re stuck with organizations, so we
have to find out how to have better ones.  But is that really the
case?
 Are they so embedded in our thinking that they preclude a Copernicus
coming along and offering an alternative social form that (after a few
long and bitter centuries) just supplants?

I’ll believe it when I see it, keta. I still remember all the
excitement about “alternatives to hierarchy” in the 1970s. But I never
saw an alternative. I think there are very few (probably no) pure
hierarchies, in the sense of a social system that follows the lines of
command and control precisely. But there is a natural tendency toward
hierarchy that may well be ingrained in human nature.  (Sociobiology
again – and Elliot Jaques.) I don’t presume to know, myself. But if
there were in fact some kind of new supplanting social form slouching
toward Santa Cruz to be born (forgive me), I think we’d see more signs
of it by now.   


Re #208: 
Joe writes: >So you would judge a Core Group by other than its own
standards? 

Yes, and I would judge individual people that way too. 

In fact, that’s what the study of human systems is all about, in my
view – the study of peoples’ intentions and effectiveness (singly and
in groups) by other standards than their own. 

(I am coming to think that social psychology, sociology, management
science, organizational studies, some aspects of anthropology and
probably a few other fields of study should all be lumped together into
a big department called “human studies,” mix up their jargon together,
and try to sort out some better set of theories.) 

ÿ Enron, to take the most obvious case, was held up for years as a
model of good management and great esprit de corps, a prime example for
all management consultants.
Yeah, we don’t hear a lot about that now, do we? I remember being in
BP and hearing a middle-level manager make a case that they should all
be acting a lot more like Enron. Later on, I found out, the senior
executives of the company were already seeing the writing on the wall,
and very deliberately distancing themselves from Enron-like moves. 

ÿ One of the schools was a junior seminary, where the experience was
made infinitely more confusing by the fact the true goal of the Core
Group was not to turn these young boys into priests (as advertised and
continually loudly proclaimed), but to turn them into sex toys. 

Stories like this consistently hit me hard. I included one of them in
the book: the West Coast town where a high school teacher consistently
hit on the field hockey players, and the superintendent told each of
their parents, “You know, you’re the first to complain.” 

The priest sex scandals were breaking when I was composing my first
draft, and I consciously decided not to include them. I didn’t feel I
knew enough about them to reliably point to them as examples of Core
Group dynamics. (Had I talked to you about it, I might have.) The
distinction that makes it a Core Group dynamic, of course, is the line
between individual and institutional culpability. If an individual
exploits another individual, that’s one kind of culpability. But if the
abuse is consistently enabled by the rest of the organization, then we
have an abusive Core Group structure. And of course one of the primary
“purposes” of the organization will then become to keep the abuses
going and to keep them from coming to light. 

ÿ Values are extremely important to thinking about Core Groups. There
is a moral dimension to this discussion.
Yes, Core Groups (in my view) are inevitable. But the values with
which the Core Group operates are not inevitable at all. 

And I resonated with your “desk” story. Actually, I  have to admit
I’ve been in the other side of that story – sacrificing the overall
profit of the enterprise for my convenience, and having the whole
enterprise buy into that convenience as its purpose. It’s supremely
self-indulgent, but it hurts so good… 

Re #57: Keta writes - How can an organization welcome (and keep) "The
Seventh Generation" in its core group?

I challenge anyone to answer that question without putting themselves
in the shoes of tobacco company executives in 1953. They saw the
reports that their product was addictive and carcinogenic. They chose
to keep making it. What would YOU do? 

I’m not sure too many people would have chosen the seventh-generation
solution. I’m not sure there IS an obvious seventh-generation solution.
(The closest I can think of is to package and market cigarettes as
expensive, heightened-sensation two-per-day luxuries. But I don’t know
if that is even technically possible.) 

Re #57: Keta, I had to go look you up and find out that you were David
Finacom. 

>[Peter Warshall] ended up blowing every deadline,
and then turning in a huge brilliant integrated chunk right before it
was time for him to leave.  

Some things never change. In the Next Whole Earth Catalog (1980), we
called Peter’s material “the rat coming through the snake.” 

Incidentally, Peter spent years trying to get into the Core Group at
Whole Earth. He never quite made it (in my view at least) until Stewart
left. And for good reason: He wanted to change the ethos of the whole
publication, and everybody knew it. People colluded in dozens of subtle
ways to keep Peter out of the Core Group, without being fully
conscious that we were doing this. 

But then Stewart left and Peter ultimately stepped in and DID change
the ethos and (in my view) Peter’s stint as editor was one of the
magazine’s richest and most interesting periods. 

It was also fascinating to see how he was quickly adopted into the
Core Group at GBN for a while in its early days. Arie de Geus had a lot
to do with that. 

Re #58: It would be fascinating to hear from other Whole Earth alumnae
about this. 

(Should I email Stewart? Or Peter? Or JB? Or HLR? I’m a little scared
to do it…)

During my time, I remember explicitly saying and thinking that the
Core Group of the publication did NOT include everyone – and we were
sometimes downright rude to people who came through the front door.
Some of that was Stewart’s influence; a lot of it was Anne Herbert’s;
and probably some of it was mine. (I was in the Core Group there, I’d
judge, for about three years, and a Core-Group-in-training for about
two years before that. I was sort of thrust into a prominent role there
very fast, and went through a trial by fire in the first Catalog, but
it wasn’t until we startled to settle into the software stuff that I
ever realized that anyone was taking my priorities seriously.)

>  Little did I know how much time [Stewart] was spending in [his
boat] as <sbb>,
and he was one of the first people to have a core group of compelling
phantasms from far and wide.

You know Clay Shirky’s theory about online communities having Core
Groups – that 20% of the members are the ones whose perceptions and
priorities drive the system? The link is: 

It’s probably generally true. But I don’t think it was true of the
WELL. (I’m not sure if it’s true today.)

Re #208: And then there’s GBN. 

Yes. Um. Hm. GBN. Er. Um. 

How much do I dare write about GBN in this venue? 

GBN was one of several organizations that made me aware of the Core
Group concept in the first place. Five partners who came together with
a common interest in scenario planning (but very different ideas about
how it should be packaged and sold), with (in Jungian terms) a “king”
(Peter Schwartz), a “magician” (Stewart), a “lover (of humanity)”
(Napier Collyns, the generally acknowledged mentor to three generations
of writers and thinkers), a “warrior knight” (Jay Ogilvy), and
Lawrence Wilkinson, who bounced among all those roles. Or at least
that’s how I would tell it if I were writing a novel about it.
Originally the idea was to make money by drawing a network together and
selling access to it, in a scenario/futures context. And that IDEA has
held steady, even as the Core Group of GBN has (dramatically) shifted
over the years.  

I was very conscious of NOT being in the Core Group of GBN, while
doing one or two projects for them per year. Nor was I ever close
enough to it to really see how the place worked. But I did notice,
around 1990, that there was a funny dynamic going on. The five partners
were at the center, but there was a tension between the office staff
(the “magnet”) and the various far-flung network members (the “iron
filings.”) Both groups genuinely liked each other, but they were set
against each other by the organization’s business model. The magnet had
to bulk up to sell consulting, and then the iron filings became weaker
(sometimes they seemed almost irrelevant to GBN’s mission.) But then
the organization would somehow collectively remember that the “iron
filings” were part of its unique advantage, and they would take on more
weight and importance, and the “magnet” would get scattered and
disorganized. 
 
The magnet was trying to do what central administrative staffs do in
all services firms – become part of the Core Group. And the existing
Core Group resisted. That tug-of-war persisted, in my opinion,
throughout the 1990s. The first real Core Group shakeup at GBN occurred
right around the time Stewart left. (Come to think of it, that’s when
it happened at Whole Earth as well.)

(Again, remember, this was just my view, akin to judging the life of a
person by occasionally peering in their kitchen window.)

Re #60: Ron, thanks for this story and for these insights. I’m still
thinking about them. As I said, the column I am just starting to put
together (I do four per year on “culture and change” for
strategy+business) is on Andrew Hargadon’s theory of the “community
nature of innovation.” 

I was going to post these all in separate items, but one of my
daughters just woke up and I need to hurry and put her back to bed.
ArtK 
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #62 of 107: Ron Bean (bumbaugh) Thu 11 Mar 04 08:18
    
Ron writes, from off-Well

Douglas Weinfield writes:

>This points me towards what is most poignant for me about "Who
>Really Matters."  I want more. I want more about what
>distinguishes a good Core Group from a bad Core Group.

I don't think there's any one definitive work, but several
authors have described various aspects of it.

What they have in common is what Art mentioned earlier: great
core groups are *inclusive*. They think anyone important enough
to be on the payroll is important enough to at least have some
influence on the core group (that is, the group doesn't have to
literally include everyone, but it does have to take them
seriously). Conversely, anyone not important enough to merit that
kind of consideration doesn't stay on the payroll very long (in
other words, they don't take advantage of people who aren't
really "on the bus"). One of the key traits of great managers is
that they have the ability to see things from other people's
points of view, including people they don't agree with.

They say the entire Bible can be summed up in the Golden Rule.
I'm not sure great core groups are much more complicated than
that (OTOH, bad ones can be really complicated-- maybe because
they don't want to admit what they're doing, even to themselves.
Art's six questions in #53 seem to be aimed at this).

Somewhere there's a quote which I can't find right now (maybe
from Deming?) saying that the more people you include in your
"system", the more effort it will require, but the greater the
potential payoff (this might include suppliers and even
customers-- as Art mentioned earlier, great salesmen often treat
customers as if they were in the core group).

For what it's worth, here's my "short list":

Jack Stack:
The Great Game of Business (1992)
A Stake in the Outcome (2002)
(Stack doesn't seem to be interested in being a "top dog"--
he wants to be on a great *team*, and the Game is his way of
building one.)

Douglas McGregor:
The Professional Manager (1967)
(This is one of the best books I've ever read, and
IT'S OUT OF PRINT, DAMMIT! Get This Book Back In Print!)
(If the first chapter seems overly abstract, keep reading,
it gets better.)

Saul Gellerman:
Motivation and Productivity (1963, out of print)
Motivation in the Real World (1992)
("You have to make their work into an instrument for getting what
they want. And most people want a great deal more out of life
than just money.")

Robert Wright:
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
(Civilization advances whenever people find "nonzero sum"
solutions to any given problem, and the effect is cumulative.)

Benjamin Zablocki:
Alienation and Charisma: A Study of American Communes (1980)
(Communes aren't run like businesses, but they do have core
groups. I mention this one because it's a fascinating study and
you won't find it in the Business section).

Ricardo Semler:
Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual
Workplace (1993)
(Semler's motivation seems to be similar to Jack Stack's, but he
takes an entirely different approach. The "Most Unusual
Workplace" claim is not just hype. The "core group" is open to
criticism from other employees.)

Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee:
Primal Leadership (2002)
(Emotional aspects of leadership; McGregor mentioned this but
didn't develop it as fully. This isn't really about core groups,
but it may be a prerequisite to building a great one.)

James O'Toole:
Leading Change (1995)
(This is an attempt to figure out why existing core groups often
resist being inclusive: "For any system to change peacefully, the
majority must willingly admit the position of the minority.
Peaceful change thus requires acquiescence in upsetting the
dominant worldview-- in effect, the collective eating of crow by
those who have the most power to resist change." O'Toole claims
that only a moral argument will carry enough weight to do this,
practical arguments alone will not produce action.)
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #63 of 107: Joe Flower (bbear) Thu 11 Mar 04 09:09
    
Wow, Ron, thanks for that interesting list.

>priest sex scandals . . . one of the primary
>"purposes" of the organization will then become to keep the abuses
>going and to keep them from coming to light.

I couldn't enlighten you much more about that, except to note that there 
_must_ have been some institutional backing for the abuse: In time, a dozen 
priests were indicted, defrocked, or reprimanded in some other way for the 
abuse during those yearsn (out of a faculty that probably had no more than a 
dozen priests at any one time). And there were signs and hints that the 
priests abetted one another. I wish there were some way to know the whole 
inside story.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #64 of 107: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) Thu 11 Mar 04 09:28
    
Art, what was your involvement in the Whole Earth Software Catalog?  What
years was that?  Any memorable moments?
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #65 of 107: Art Kleiner (art) Thu 11 Mar 04 10:31
    
Yes, Ron, that's a great list. I think I'll reflect a bit on books
about management from this perspective -- where's the advice to truly
help you create a great core group? 

My involvement in the Whole Earth Software Catalog -- well, I was one
of the primal players. Wrote a draft of the book proposal. Participated
in hiring many of the principal players (including Matthew McClure).
Was tentatively offered the job of editing the whole thing, and
demurred, feeling that I didn't know enough about computers (I was
right). Stewart brought in Tom Hargadon's partner, Richard Dalton,
instead. And I got to take on the "domain" of telecommunications, which
meant I was right in the thick of the emerging realm of personal
computer communications. At the time, this was very much a sort of
orphan stepchild of computer applications; the excitement was all
around writing, spreadsheet, and data base programs. Andrew Fluegelman
was alive then; most of the exciting telecom software was freeware. 

There were a lot of Core Group problems in the organization at that
time, many of which were engendered by the Software Catalog and the way
it was approached. I can think of a lot of things I wish we'd  done
differently. But as learning experiences, it was remarkable. My only
(!) regret is that it didn't last a couple of years longer. 
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #66 of 107: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Thu 11 Mar 04 10:33
    
Ron Bean (NOTW) presents an interesting list in <62>.  I'm unfamiliar
with most of them, but I, too, was very impressed with McGregor's work.
 I was an undergraduate business student at the University of Southern
California (1977-80), and though my emphasis was Marketing, I took
three Management courses, including a senior elective in Organizational
Behavior.  But I spent too much fooling around in the computer center
and wound becoming a programmer.

For most of my 25 years as a programmer, I've worked as a consultant
and/or contract programmer and, therefore, have seen the inside of an
awful lot of companies and organizations.  And one of the things that
has most baffled me in observing managers is how little they seem to
know or care about what I learned in management courses as the new
school of thought - and I assume they must have learned the same
things, yet never practiced them.

Despite the widespread adoption of new school jargon - e.g., changing
"Personnel" to "Human Resources" was supposed to reflect progressive
management thinking, moving away from the old-fashioned militaristic
model to the modern organization - yet old-fashioned management based
on rank, hierarchy, and motivation by threats and coercion still seems
to be the most prevalent form of management.

In light of your book, Art, I've been analyzing my experiences with
various organizations and trying to determine if the Core Group Theory
explains that behavior.  I can see ways that it does, but in some
cases, it's not clear to me.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #67 of 107: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Thu 11 Mar 04 12:34
    
Sorry Art, I forget my name is obscured.  I dropped out of online life
for a few years (also due to family), then came back after 911 – hence
the Rip Van Winkle pseud.

Ah yes, the way you peg who at Whole Earth was a pursuer of
organization, and who a keeper of community – it instantly brings
richness back to the memories.  Especially J Baldwin as “quite
eloquently on the fence.”  I remember many conversations with him that
had the feel of the device of Camelot (Arthur talking to Young Tom
through the eve of the great battle, telling the story of  “once there
was a spot…”)   I never put it into these terms before, but I think the
thing I took away from working with him was how much it mattered that
someone had (and was still trying to) bridge the gap between those two
(organization and community).

Peter Warshall – yes, the one who was subtly intuited to be too
dangerous to let into the core group.  (I think Kevin Kelly also fit
that category in some ways.  And eventually, off he went to Wired.)  
Again, putting it into these terms gives me a new frame of reference to
look at some of my work experiences.  I’m similar to Peter in many
ways, and I’ve gotten a lot of similar subtle arms-length treatment
over the years.  And had breakthrough experiences too.   What is
interesting to me is that the organizational ante-room for indigestible
ethos-changers (at least in my case) seems to be jobs attending to
other people’s details.  
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #68 of 107: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Thu 11 Mar 04 13:02
    
>What is interesting to me is that the organizational ante-room for
indigestible ethos-changers (at least in my case) seems to be jobs
attending to other people’s details.  

Insight on my own thought: Maybe what makes someone dangerous to an
existing core group is their facility with moving between Details and
Big Picture.  I remember picking Peter up from the airport, and as we
were driving up a curved freeway onramp, he pointed out a rare bird in
the bleak, barren circle.  Then went on to explain what it was doing,
and generally bringing the whole landscape alive with that detail.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #69 of 107: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 11 Mar 04 13:49
    

Another similar inside-outsider role is the kind of person who is the
rational but pessimistic brakes to an organizational sportscar.  If 
the organization knows the brakes are valuable, that person or people can 
be in the core group, from my experience.  But often that very valuable 
role is kept at arm's distance and the brakes is/are made to be 
even more contrarian.  That's my impression anyway.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #70 of 107: from ROBERT WORRILL (tnf) Thu 11 Mar 04 17:42
    


Robert Worrill writes:


Re:  A conversation with Art Kleiner

Twenty years ago I read a book called something like "The Social Psychology
of Organisations" in which was said, as I interpreted, that all organisations
run with two agendas, the one they were set up to carry out and a 'Dark
Agenda' made up of at least two factors.  Because human beings are not
completely integrated beings they tend to work on two levels.  Rational goals
and more basic ones, see the priests mentioned above.  This is because we are
some sort of evolutionary ape running "high level software" in our more than
animal brain.  We therfore as individuals try to inprove our situation
because that is a rational thing to do ie Ivory Tower Syndrome, the more
people you have underneath you the better off you are.  Plus expanding the
organisation in general ensures more choices and opportunities for all in the
group and reduces competition from outside by overcoming competing groups and
eventually becoming a monopoly.  Also individuals have motives not well
understood even by themselves but carried through nevertheless following "gut
instincts".

These individuals also work together understanding each others motives, your
"core group" perhaps, and go on to influence the destiny of all around them
in all sorts of ways not expected by the original setup group.

All of these motives result in a malign influence on the overall society and
can only be combatted by overseeing and regulation as they cannot be trusted
to do this themselves, as we all know.

CU

Robert Worrill
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #71 of 107: from LAVINIA WEISSMAN (tnf) Thu 11 Mar 04 20:40
    



Lavinia Weissman writes:




I am a bit of latecomer to this conversation.  It is truly a great read.   I
have spent the last 5 months or so thinking about the practical aspects of
Core
Group and Jobs and  what this theory means to HR.

Art, I have been giving som ethought to what Core Group Theory means to
the decline in jobs as productivity continues to grow.
Makes for an interesting paradox in an economy burdened by deficits, job
loss and other chaos.

I recently did some benchmarking of a few core groups at CXO Media (CIO and
CSO Magazine)  that I have drafted into an article that will be posted on
www.hr.com in April.  Anyone can email me for an advance copy.  In
benchmarking this core groups thinking relative to layoffs, I learned that
thought was given to best performance and how to keep the best performers
that could give 150%.  It made me think, are layoffs simply shave away
barriers to productivity as Core Group work harder and get smarter?

I see another paradox that is about work/life balance. As companies strip
away resources for education and professional development and more and more
workers examine how to counteract stress, how will people find and identify
resources for professional development where they can learn how to
professionally develop into an effective core group. Could a core group be
the best approach in the long term to employment and career stability?
Isn't a core group an opportunity for creating a balanced practice of work
that is not completely reliant on how a leader directs his subordinates?

And does a core group help an individual find balance?  Clearly with the
growing amount of work related stress and health issues, there is something
to learn from this.

It's something I am looking at in my forthcoming book
Beginner‚s Mind ˆ Core Group Theory and Practice
For Leaders, Organizations and Community
scheduled for publication by April 2005.

I would love to interview anyone who has examples of highly functioning core
groups and or is an individual that has found career stability with a core
group.

Contact me at coregroup@workecology.com.

Cordially,
Lavinia Weissman
www.workecology.com
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #72 of 107: Queen Amygdala (tinymonster) Fri 12 Mar 04 08:43
    
(Good luck, Lavinia!)

<70> --
<All of these motives result in a malign influence on the overall
society and can only be combatted by overseeing and regulation as they
cannot be trusted to do this themselves, as we all know.>

And then that raises the question of who is going to do the
regulating, if all organizations, presumably governmental as well as
private, are inherently corrupt.  Any thoughts, Robert or anyone?
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #73 of 107: Joe Flower (bbear) Fri 12 Mar 04 08:55
    
>an individual that has found career stability with a core group

What this brings to mind: Core Groups can actually survive the death of 
organizations. My ex-wife worked in San Francisco for a 
not-for-profit healthcare organization. In the last few years it underwnet 
drastic change. It merged with a much-larger Chicago-based organization, which 
then gutted the San Francisco operation, laid off almost everyone, and moved 
all major functions to Chicago. At the same time the organization's 
charismatic founder retired.

So what happened to the core group at the original not-for-profit? Most of 
them moved to a different, unrelated San Francisco not-for-profit, where they 
seem to be replicating many of the roles and relationships they had been in 
for years.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #74 of 107: Joe Flower (bbear) Fri 12 Mar 04 09:05
    
>if all organizations . . . are inherently corrupt

I am not sure anyone here has said that -- unless you mean by "corrupt" that 
they are following both personal and public agendae. In that sense, the level 
of "corruption" would be defined by how divergent those two agendae are. In 
the case of Enron, for instance, or the priests at my seminary, they were 
wildly divergent. In other cases, they are only divergent in some ways, and 
complementary in others. In the case of Apple, for instance, the Core Group 
seems to have an agenda of being an extension of Steve Jobs -- his will, his 
taste, his strategic guesses. This could be called "corrupt" in the sense that 
it aggrandizes Jobs, and makes him rich and respected, and gives him lots of 
jollies. On the other hand, it seems to work for Apple -- producing great 
products, establishing new markets, strengthening its brand, adn getting out 
of debt.

But the answer to how one organization can regulate another if both are 
"corrupt" is more complex. The complexity comes from the question: How do 
their Core Group agendae interact? It may well be that it serves the Core 
Group agenda of organization A very well to be a meticulous and thoughtful 
regulator of organization B. Right now, for instance, it suits the agenda of 
the office of the Attorney General of the state of New York to be a ferocious 
regulator of the securities markets -- and that says nothing about whether the 
Attorney General has other private agendae that might be at odds with good 
public policy. In this particular circumstance, his agenda seems to be serving 
us all.
  
inkwell.vue.208 : Art Kleiner: Who Really Matters? The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege and Succes
permalink #75 of 107: Queen Amygdala (tinymonster) Fri 12 Mar 04 09:15
    
Good points.

> I am not sure anyone here has said that 

That was just my reduction of Robert's "malign influence... cannot be
trusted to do it themselves" idea.  In my desire to be concise, I
probably oversimplify more often than I think.
  

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