Have we confused control with order?

Our organizations are strong complicated structures that are resistant to change, fearful of the future and we have built them that way deliberately. We built them that way to hold back the forces that seem to threaten their very existence. We are afraid of what would happen if we lose our grip. If we let the elements of our organizations recombine or reconfigure or even to speak truthfully to one another, we are afraid that things will fall apart. We do not trust that this is a world of growth, rejuvenation and process. We believe we must provide the energy to hold it together. By sheer force of will, we have resisted destruction. And if we let go, the world will dis- integrate.

awesome nature


Yet, throughout the universe, things work very well without us. Wherever we look, we see a landscape of movement and complexity, of forms that come and go, of structures that are not from organizational charts or job descriptions, but from impulses arriving out of deep natural processes of growth and of self-renewal. In our desire to control our organizations, we have detached ourselves from the forces that create order in the universe. All these years we have confused control with order. So what if we reframed the search? What if we stop looking for control and begin the search for order, which we can see everywhere around us in living dynamic systems?

It is time, I believe, to become a community of inquirers, serious explorers seeking to discover the essence of order-order we will find even in the heart of chaos. It is time to relinquish the limits we have placed on our organizations, time to release our defenses and fear. Time to take up new lenses and explore beyond our known boundaries. It is time to become full participants in this universe of emergent order.

– Margaret Wheatley



“When spider webs unite, they can halt even the lion.”

Well, the subject of difficult negotiation reminds me of one of my favorite stories from the Middle East,of a man who left to his three sons, 17 camels. To the first son, he left half the camels; to the second son, he left a third of the camels; and to the youngest son, he left a ninth of the camels. The three sons got into a negotiation — 17 doesn’t divide by two. It doesn’t divide by three. It doesn’t divide by nine.Brotherly tempers started to get strained. Finally, in desperation, they went and they consulted a wise old woman. The wise old woman thought about their problem for a long time, and finally she came back and said, “Well, I don’t know if I can help you, but at least, if you want, you can have my camel.”So then, they had 18 camels. The first son took his half — half of 18 is nine. The second son took his third — a third of 18 is six. The youngest son took his ninth — a ninth of 18 is two. You get 17. They had one camel left over. They gave it back to the wise old woman.