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De Ole Dawg – Part 10 2016: What about Ac 27 and the “garbage can organisation”/ “march of folly” challenge?

What about Ac 27 and the “garbage can organisation”/ “march of folly” challenge?

cartoonBRADES, Montserrat, Feb 22, 2016 – One of the more colourful models of how some organisations tend to work is the garbage can model. Historian Barbara Tuchmann’s concept of communities undertaking willful marches of folly leading to ruin via lemming-like mass march off a cliff is closely related. So is: the fatal step over the cliff as we try to build a self-sustaining economy by tickling the dragon’s tail of risky investments.  So, as we continue to ponder Montserrat’s best way forward, we need to study these; the better to avoid such pitfalls.

In 1972, Michael D Cohen and others pondered organisations that did not seem to fit with classic, rational decision-action models, and he proposed a then new model. An organisation was now seen as “a collection of choices looking for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations in which they might be aired, solutions looking for issues to which they might be the answer, and decision makers looking for work.” How these ingredients get connected together too often is a matter of chance circumstances in a garbage can-like chaos, and of course it is influenced by the balance of toxic gossip, who is “in/out,” what “de big man” say, etc. Where, as the prophet Isaiah hinted at long ago (Isa 5:20), clever smooth-talking faction leaders can readily make light seem darkness, bitter seem sweet and good seem evil.  Sufficiently so, that to stand against the tide of folly can become outright dangerous.

Obviously, such a pattern is unsustainable. It is therefore a warning.

The events at and after the ship’s counsel in Fair Havens Crete c 59 AD, while Paul was on his way to Rome as an Appeals prisoner, are a sobering case study[1]:

“Ac 27:9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over [Likely, mid October], Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.” [ESV]

stormSoon enough a gentle south wind popped up and the ship set out; only to be snatched up in a hurricane force nor’easter early winter storm. Ending, in shipwreck at Malta after two nightmare weeks at sea. By God’s grace the 276 souls on board were saved – after Paul detected and foiled a ruse by which the seamen meant to abandon the passengers.  But, the ship was wrecked and the cargo was lost.

How was such a foolish decision taken by a democracy in miniature?

We see the Merchant-Owner, more concerned about ship and cargo than lives. We see the steersman, who knew on which side his bread was buttered (and by whom). We see people – who should have known that late sailing was dangerous – who felt uncomfortable and hoped for a quick, lucky trip to get to a more comfortable condition.  The lonely voice stands there, a despised Jew – and one in chains (rejected by even his own people). Who was such a one to stand up against the tide of general feeling and expert opinion, not to mention money? For one, a prudent, godly man.

Then, shortly after sailing out, they were caught in the storm. But, it is possible they could have got away with a risky game. And as there were bonuses for late Autumn wheat cargoes at Rome, it is not hard to see that the leaders would likely have then wanted to go on from Phoenix, having got there in a simple and easy “safe” afternoon’s sail.  Never mind that voice of negativity standing there in chains, one man against the experts and the big money.  Just so, poor risk management easily sets in as a very stubborn bad habit. That, too, is how garbage can decision making, and resulting marches of folly can set in. Until, shipwreck happens. Where, you can bet that there will be ever so many who will be plotting a way to land on their feet like a cat . . . never mind what happens to others.

(That is why Warren Buffet warned, that if you are in a Poker game and cannot figure out who is the patsy – the sheep there to be shorn, go look in a mirror.)

How can we do better?eye

First, manipulated marches of folly happen because the simple are blindly following other lemmings who are in turn following wolves in sheep’s clothing, or maybe even – like Little Red Riding Hood – walking in the door to visit with a wolf dressed in Grandma’s clothing and lying in her bed. As our Lord said, inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  So, the test of character is at least as important as the test of technical capability as a basis for leadership. If we vote for, hire, promote or follow wolves, we cannot but expect wolves to be wolfish. We need sheep-dogs instead. (And, we need to get out of the crabs in the barrel – pull you back down – mentality.)

Finally, we must value sound understanding and prudence.  This means we need to seek out the sound, not those who will tickle our itching ears with what they think we want to hear.

ENDS –

[1]             https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+27&version=ESV

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What about Ac 27 and the “garbage can organisation”/ “march of folly” challenge?

cartoonBRADES, Montserrat, Feb 22, 2016 – One of the more colourful models of how some organisations tend to work is the garbage can model. Historian Barbara Tuchmann’s concept of communities undertaking willful marches of folly leading to ruin via lemming-like mass march off a cliff is closely related. So is: the fatal step over the cliff as we try to build a self-sustaining economy by tickling the dragon’s tail of risky investments.  So, as we continue to ponder Montserrat’s best way forward, we need to study these; the better to avoid such pitfalls.

In 1972, Michael D Cohen and others pondered organisations that did not seem to fit with classic, rational decision-action models, and he proposed a then new model. An organisation was now seen as “a collection of choices looking for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations in which they might be aired, solutions looking for issues to which they might be the answer, and decision makers looking for work.” How these ingredients get connected together too often is a matter of chance circumstances in a garbage can-like chaos, and of course it is influenced by the balance of toxic gossip, who is “in/out,” what “de big man” say, etc. Where, as the prophet Isaiah hinted at long ago (Isa 5:20), clever smooth-talking faction leaders can readily make light seem darkness, bitter seem sweet and good seem evil.  Sufficiently so, that to stand against the tide of folly can become outright dangerous.

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Obviously, such a pattern is unsustainable. It is therefore a warning.

The events at and after the ship’s counsel in Fair Havens Crete c 59 AD, while Paul was on his way to Rome as an Appeals prisoner, are a sobering case study[1]:

“Ac 27:9 Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over [Likely, mid October], Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.” [ESV]

stormSoon enough a gentle south wind popped up and the ship set out; only to be snatched up in a hurricane force nor’easter early winter storm. Ending, in shipwreck at Malta after two nightmare weeks at sea. By God’s grace the 276 souls on board were saved – after Paul detected and foiled a ruse by which the seamen meant to abandon the passengers.  But, the ship was wrecked and the cargo was lost.

How was such a foolish decision taken by a democracy in miniature?

We see the Merchant-Owner, more concerned about ship and cargo than lives. We see the steersman, who knew on which side his bread was buttered (and by whom). We see people – who should have known that late sailing was dangerous – who felt uncomfortable and hoped for a quick, lucky trip to get to a more comfortable condition.  The lonely voice stands there, a despised Jew – and one in chains (rejected by even his own people). Who was such a one to stand up against the tide of general feeling and expert opinion, not to mention money? For one, a prudent, godly man.

Then, shortly after sailing out, they were caught in the storm. But, it is possible they could have got away with a risky game. And as there were bonuses for late Autumn wheat cargoes at Rome, it is not hard to see that the leaders would likely have then wanted to go on from Phoenix, having got there in a simple and easy “safe” afternoon’s sail.  Never mind that voice of negativity standing there in chains, one man against the experts and the big money.  Just so, poor risk management easily sets in as a very stubborn bad habit. That, too, is how garbage can decision making, and resulting marches of folly can set in. Until, shipwreck happens. Where, you can bet that there will be ever so many who will be plotting a way to land on their feet like a cat . . . never mind what happens to others.

(That is why Warren Buffet warned, that if you are in a Poker game and cannot figure out who is the patsy – the sheep there to be shorn, go look in a mirror.)

How can we do better?eye

First, manipulated marches of folly happen because the simple are blindly following other lemmings who are in turn following wolves in sheep’s clothing, or maybe even – like Little Red Riding Hood – walking in the door to visit with a wolf dressed in Grandma’s clothing and lying in her bed. As our Lord said, inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  So, the test of character is at least as important as the test of technical capability as a basis for leadership. If we vote for, hire, promote or follow wolves, we cannot but expect wolves to be wolfish. We need sheep-dogs instead. (And, we need to get out of the crabs in the barrel – pull you back down – mentality.)

Finally, we must value sound understanding and prudence.  This means we need to seek out the sound, not those who will tickle our itching ears with what they think we want to hear.

ENDS –

[1]             https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+27&version=ESV