Dave Iverson

USFS Process Gridlock Suggestion

Do we continue to operate our organization in an antiquated parent/child organizational framework? Do we continue to operate from a belief that running an organization always or most frequently requires use of power-over instead of power-with?

If we answer yes, as I believe we must, why not rethink our organization? We might begin with workshops or "inquiry sessions" for Line Officers, WO Directors, and Regional and Forest Staff Officers. The workshops would focus on how organizations function based on a premise of working with adults, rather than overseeing children. (See generally the literature on 'Learning Organizations.')

Sure we have rules and regulations dictated by law and policy that emanate from domains 'above' the agency in the US government that require certain things from us. Sure we have encumbrances (also opportunities) on 'personnel management' different from private sector organizations. And so on. But that ought not to stop us from reevaluating our organization functions in light of emerging organizational theory/practice.

As I've done before, I recommend that you bring in Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Margaret Wheatley and/or Peter Senge. You may want to include Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot as well. Let this group suggest recommendations on how to structure such inquiry sessions as well as on other organizational betterment ideas.

As the team is assembled, let them know that they are free to work independently or interdependently on recommendations to help you help the Forest Service begin a journey toward becoming better at adaptive management and civic discovery, in short toward becoming a better learning organization.

Alternatively, just go with Weick and Sutcliffe or Kegan and Laskow Lahey and see what they might come up with.

While you are mulling that over, consider the agency in light of what I'll call:

5 Habits of Highly Defective Organizations

In resolving these five bad habits, consider 5 Leadership/Management Needs, recognizing that anybody who might think that any list of 5 or 7 is going to solve much of anything is certifiably nuts! Still, the list might prompt thought and maybe even some action.

5 Leadership/Management Needs

Undergirding our 5 Leadership/Management Needs is a need to learn to frame issues and problems in ways much different than we do, recognizing the interrelated, emergent nature of complex social, physical, and biological systems that enfold us. Also undergirding all five is a need to learn different decision-making processes better suited to the social-political decisions that we constantly face. We can no longer pretend that a rational planning decision-making framework will serve us well in today's environment.