How to Run Any Organization – From the “Both…And…” Mind

I wrote this in 2011. Dear FB popped it up as a memory from a 2020 post.

Needed now as much as ever…

Now, as much or more than ever.

How to run government (or any org)…

.. think deeply about your mission

.. articulate and share your vision/objectives with everyone in and out- all stakeholders

.. listen to ALL voices from all stakeholders

.. distribute control, responsibility, and accountability

..measure two kinds of things, two kinds of ways: for linear, stable processes, count the usual measures of how many, what cost, how long, etc. For complex processes and outcomes, measure a)fidelity/congruence to core operating values/principles, and b)impact (how well..). employee engagement and satisfaction, to goals and objectives. Link results to learning and resource planning/allocation

..devote a percentage of your staff time and your money, to “exploring possibility space.” Try without fear. Learn deeply from all attempts. not give your people so much work, that they have no time to participate in improving/experimenting.

..assure universal access to people and information. Connect everyone to each other.

..if you have unions, welcome them to the table as partners. Management can not exist without workers, nor workers without leadership. Help everyone see that it is in the interests of both sides to collaborate, thrive, and survive.

..forget monetary rewards. There is plenty of data to prove they are more hurtful than helpful. Give frequent and public recognition.

.. follow the example of the former Navy Commander at Alameda base- who insisted everyone get an annual appraisal “as meaningless as possible.” All got a de facto satisfactory, with a tough process to justify higher or lower. In a year, grievances dropped, morale and productivity soared.

..and, teach leaders, managers, legislators, citizens, the wisdom of both Einstein and Deming, who both noted that there are things that can be counted, that don’t count; and things that count, that can’t be counted

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My response to a post by John Hagel on anticipation:

We may anticipate that which is known, or knowable. That which is certain, or highly probable.

Building and using capacities of knowing more than one way towards our objectives. Of being able to change when necessary. Of being able to absorb a measure of adversity and still stay on the path to our goals.

Yet our knowledge and understanding is always limited. We can not and will not anticipate every emergent situation. Things will happen beyond the limits of our current experience. Things happen now, and will happen one day, to which different people will respond with different seemingly coherent views of what it means, and what might be done.

We must learn also to be curious. To be courageous. To be open to the unfamiliar, ambiguous, and uncertain. To purposefully act into the new and next in multiple ways. Exploring the space of possibility wirhout the fear of failure. Learning from each step.

Surviving. Hopefully thriving.

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The Sesame Street Path to Civil Political Discourse

Again, I ask if you watch Sesame Street, and have seen the episodes in the most recent seasons? Their wonderful two-year initiative to teach problem-solving rooted in curiosity and courage.

The framework consists of three simple…but not always easy…things…

I Wonder…

What if…?

Let’s Try!

All and always infused with our perceptions, discernment, reflection, adoption, adaptation, and iteration. Every moment we are alive.

And so…

The confluence of stories of the past 24 hours.. the hostage situation at the Texas synagogue…the statements by a Congressman at dt’s rally last night… blog posts by a former cabinet secretary who I knew and worked for, on the peril in our democracy..and the post on death by the brilliant Maria Popova, simmered together in the confines of my mind, until…

I WONDERED… how the deeply divided socio-political factions in America might find a path to civil dialogue. Even when they strongly disagree on matters of policy. How President Biden might sit together with Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and the most vocal advocates on both sides, in open and generative discourse. And I thought…

WHAT IF… the simple yet powerful method I learned in Philadelphia in 1990, together with the other 21 union and management negotiators of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement at the USDOL, could be adopted by our political leaders at all levels. What if…the leading voices on both sides, from the President on down through Congress, sat together to generate and agree on a short list, five to ten items, that expressed core values and principles which would be applied to all public statements by voices on both sides. A list that would serve both to guide public statements, and to serve as the lens of commitment and accountability- “did they speak and act in accoradance with these principles as they committed to do?” What if our leaders did this, the way management and union leaders at the USDOL and elsewhere in a conservative Republican administration, once did to remarkable and mutually satisfying results.

Let’s Try…

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On Science, Truth, Rational Cognition, And Facebook

My response to a post on science, truth, the biases and issues with Facebook, and more:

On science, and truth- I view science as a method of inquiry, learning, and the application of that knowledge. It is a dynamic and evolving process, as we explore and discover new things. The “truth” in science is in many cases seemingly clear and stable. In other cases, as our capacity to explore and learn changes over time, and as some complex systems also change over time, so too does our body of knowledge change. Some things are knowable. Others are not. This does not invalidate the process, methods, and achievements of science.

On Facebook- for over ten years I have asked a few seemingly simple questions of folks designing and applying “Big Data” systems. I ask if, and how, they test their data-collection and analysis algorithms for validity, accuracy, and biases. I ask if, and how, they look for unintended consequences of their algorithms. I ask if they have ever run a comparison study of insights, using a human sensor network along with their Big Data analysis. For years, I got blank and puzzled looks, and no replies. As I first wrote over ten years ago, “Beware the Rise of the Algorithmists.” Facebook is certainly not perfect. Its standards for fact and decency, spam, false information, and terrorism, are weak and inconsistent at best. How can we make it be better? I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the work of Margaret Wheatley. She first became well-known writing about leading change and acting into the complex challenges in organizations and life. In recent years, she has responded to the sad changes in our societies by encouraging us to be “warriors for the human spirit,” doing what we can locally, with courage and kindness. In 2002, over a three-hour breakfast I had with Meg, she told me she saw “dark times ahead.” Around 2012, her astonishingly prescient book “So Far From Home” detailed the impact of the web and social media in changing what we believe, think, and do.

On “truth”- our lived experience makes us who we are. All we have learned and understood and applied. The norms and values, ideologies and intentions that arise from the complexities of where and when we have lived. All coming through our lenses of cognition, discernment, and sense-making. Since 2015 and Brexit, I noticed and wrote about the loss of rational cognition. The impact of false information in spreading ignorance. The resulting suspicions and fears of the ignorant, leading to bias and hate. Making them vulnerable to the intentionally-false narratives of authoritarians. We see the tragic consequences now. Every day. Will our nation and democracy survive? What might transform these galvanized minds, no longer able to unlearn and relearn? What might enable truly respectful and generative dialogue, that could guide us back to rationality…and a consensus rooted in fact, science, and truth?

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On This Day in 1990

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the signing of the NCFLL-DOL Joint Statement of Purpose, creating the partnership for the Employee Involvement and Quality Improvement initiative.  I was the union representative, having explored and advocated quality and process improvement with Bernie Shain starting in the late 1970s. I still have a box of information Betnie and I were able to obtain about the few early efforts in government (which we got thanks to FTS- “free telephone service” enabling us to call all over the country).  

On this day in 1990, in a room at the Perkins Building, Secretary Dole, NCFLL President Rios, AFGE President John Sturdivant, Jim Armshaw and I, and some DOL officials, heard the Secretary proclaim that “our employees are our greatest asset.”

We had worked for a year preparing for this day.  We learned about self-organizing and self-managing teams.  I figured out how EIQI would fit into the Contract.  We stripped agency steering committees down to their bate minimum of two people kut of necessity- not knowing this had not been done anywhere before.  

In six months, we had over 220 EIQI teams working around the country.  In three years, Wage and Hour’s San Francisco region won a Federal Quality Improvement Orototype Award- the second-highest award in the Federal sector. 

A few things you might not know or remember-

Doris Wooten had rejected Bernie’s and my TQM proposals for years. 

What made me the choice of the NCFLL to work on a DOL TQM initiative happened by happy accident.  At an RA  meeting, Doris was talking to OSHA RA Jim Stanley.  Doris said she had a bad relationship with me and the Local.  She noted the positive relationship I had with Jim, and asked his advice on improving things with me and the Union.  Jim said “have you ever done anything nice for Bruce?” (Knowing full well how she was, and what the answer was).  Doris replied “what do you mean?” Jim said, “well… have you ever invited Bruce to any of your management meetings to talk with your DDs and ADDs?” (Again, knowing the answer).  Jim explained how he had invited me to an OSHA meeting in Saratoga and had me speak with them about LMR.  Jim asked if there was anything Doris could do for me. She thought a moment and said she had invites to the Federal Quality conference.  She knew my interest over the years. So in May 1989 I went to the conference.  I came back fully convinced this was the way forward for Wage and Hour, DOL, and the NCFLL. 

On the Union side, EIQI almost didn’t happen.  At an NCFLL meeting in Summer 1990, two leaders, Richard Coon and Jim Weyrauch, spoke against it.  Both were controlling types, and they expressed their fear that such collaboration would undetmine Unuon power.  But… AFGE president John Sturdivant was in the room.  He stood up in the back as Weyrauch finished.  John beamed as he said “brothers and sisters, I have seen the future of our union, and it is EIQI!”  

Secretary Dole was under pressure from the White House to get a TQM initiative started.  She approached the NCFLL about hearing some TQM experts present about it.  Over dinner in DC, the Council talked first about the Union’s upcoming major anniversary (25th?) and how we could get union leaders around the country together to celebrate.  Suddenly- an AHA moment.  WHAT IF…. we told Secretary Dole to bring every upper management person and every union leader from around the country to DC to hear the TQM presenters for a day.  AND THEN… we gave our celebration dinner that night.  All travel on DOL!   Well… it worked!

Although the work I was doing was easily at the GS-15 level, I worked as a GS-12 in behalf of the Union. After EIQI earned the Prototype Award, Jim Armshaw suggested to his boss, OASAM A/Sec Tom Komarek, that I be put in for an award.  Once approved, I was to get a $5,000 award.  But then… a story appeared on Page 6 of the Washington Post.  The Federal page.  The last place you wanted to appear.  Komarek had been found to have written himself up for the top award as well… with a $25,000 award.  Well… he was soon out.  No award to him.  And, unfortunately, my award went down the hole with him. 

The end of EIQI and the Federal Quality Movement is another story.  How it gave way to Reinventing Government is a little-known story with its own remarkable coincidences that brought the story to me.  A story for another day. 

Today, we have both the need and the opportunity to implement some Federal approach to improve effectiveness, efficiency, innovation, and public trust in government.  I believe now what I believed in 1990- that empowering employees, collaborating and exploring possibilities, partnering with unions, and accountability for acting consistent with shared values, is the way to achieve these goals. 



Sent from my iPhone

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The Place-In-Between. . .

I have been thinking this week about the place-in-between…

Between our intended meaning as we communicate and act, and the meaning interpreted by other reasonable people.

Between our freedom to think and act in accordance with our own sense of norms, values, and beliefs, and the consequences of our actions on others who do not share the same norms, values, and ideologies.

Between compassion born of deep listening and observing, filtered by a sense of caring, and a sense of indifference born of a sense of independence and entitlement to be as we choose, without consequences.

Between the possibility space of respectful dialogue with those of different mind, and the isolation of confirmation bias.

Change and progress are rarely easy or free of challenges. If we are not able to acknowledge the limits – and consequences – of our thinking and actions, we will never get to and through the place between, to seek and enter the place of new possibility.

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The Donut and the Hole…in Krispy Kreme’s System

As folks line up, vaccinated card in hand, to get a free donut at Krispy Kreme, a few words about my experience. . . and my shock at what I learned there.

The decision to get, or personally eat, a free item, would seem to be a personal decision. Ideally informed by one’s awareness of your own health, and the impact of eating- a donut.

And yet, as I was shocked to learn when I visited the nearest Krispy Kreme to my home last Friday, there is a far bigger and more serious problem happening there.

On entering the store, I got in the masked and distanced limited occupancy line along a series of cases displaying literally hundreds of donuts, in dozens of varieties. In addition to my free glazed donut, I wanted a blueberry donut- of which at least two dozen were in the case on display.

But at the register when I ordered, I was told “sorry, we don’t have any blueberry donuts.” I was surprised, and frankly certain the clerk didn’t know so many were literally two steps away to her right. I gestured and said, “excuse me, but there are lots of blueberry donuts right here in the case.” With no tone of apology or regret, the clerk said “those are not for sale. They are for display only.”

What‽ I asked with incredulity what she meant. Why were the literally hundreds of donuts displayed in cases right in front of the customers NOT available? And if they were not for sale, what was to be done with them?

The clerk replied – again, with a tone of both certainty and correctness- that these were simply for show, and that after a certain number of hours. . . they were. . . thrown away.

I was shocked and appalled. “What do you mean? Why can’t you sell these? And why would you throw them out? Why can’t you donate them to a local organization to feed those in need?”

The further reply only amplified my shock and disdain. The clerk said that it was policy. That the manager decided when the display donuts were no longer useful, and needed to be thrown out. That they could not be given away, because after a certain number of hours, they might (emphasis in my mind on “might”) be bad, and might make someone sick. A risk Krispy Kreme just could not and would not take.

To this, I replied that Krispy Kreme needed to change their system. Either sell the display case donuts, or give them away when it was safe enough to feed those in need. Of course, the clerk had no answer for my concern and complaint.

After leaving, I checked on the web and learned that Krispy Kreme has been faulted for this practice before.

Why, I wondered as I drove away, could Krispy Kreme not put up high-definition tv’s with beautiful bright images of their donuts, as Dunkin and other chains do nowadays? Why literally waste hundreds of perfectly fine donuts every day?

And so, for those bringing vaccination cards for freebies… why not coordinate with a local foodbank or similar charity to have a van outside each KK so we can immediately give away our free donuts and food to those who both need something to eat. . . and who likely have not yet been vaccinated?

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Strategic Planning: The Core Before…

My response on what core elements I include in proposals to assist an org with strategic planning. What do YOU do?

Several critical elements…

Whose voices need to be invited, included, heard, and considered?

How will you assess whether a situation you are experiencing is simple/clear (use known best practice); complicated/technical (use knowable expert practice); or currently unknowable/complex (try multiple ideas and adapt to best outcomes)?

Will you agree to use a lightly-structured framework for inclusive, generative dialogue; decision-making; and assessment of outcomes?

Will all voices present generate and agree on a short list of core values and principles, which will serve as a lens to evaluate all ideas and options, and to hold each other accountable for doing what we said we would do, the way we said we would do it?

Will all voices present define metrics in advance to assess the outcomes of trying promising ideas, and how ideas with undesired results will be stopped, and success stabilized and amplified?

#leadership #adaptive #collaboration #cognition #coherence #innovation #dialogue #discernment #weaksignals #story #sensemaking #emergence #rebuildbetter #complexity #fluxcapacity #narrative #patternrecognition #appliedinsights #planning

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These are times… more than most times, I believe…when the curiosity, courage, and compassion needed in the world… are calling us to explore… to wander… to ponder the story of each and all… to wreck the journal of what has been… and write the journal of what could be…

A couple of years ago, when I visited the remarkable Olana state park and estate in New York’s Hudson Valley, I went to see the equally remarkable Wander Society tent and installation Keri Smith had built there for us all. And there, I met explorers… wanderers… visitors who came upon this thing and knew not what it was. And I did my best to explain, and show them. En-couraging them to open every drawer, look in every folder and book… and find the gifts carefully placed within.

And that day, I also was so fortunate to see the last day of the also equally remarkable Wander Society camp for young kids. I saw the art the kids had made, met and talked with the 7-8 year-olds who had been through this journey together, and talked with the teachers who had guided them all in Keri’s vision.

And now, this day… we must wander… explore…en-courage… each, and all.

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Well HI THERE fans and friends of Liberating Structures in the GREATer Philadelphia area… Yes. . . it HAS been a while… AND. . . well, a lot has been happening with our Yes, And…Philly group.

So YES, AND. . . it is time again to CONNECT | COLLABORATE | CREATE as we join with other great Liberating Structures facilitators to bring you the first ever joint EAST COAST LS EXPERIENCE!

On behalf of our great LS communities and their organizers in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; Montreal, Canada; and the Greater Philadelphia areas…

Do you have CHALLENGES right now? In your organizations? Your communities? Challenges that may be complex or even chaotic at times, and where no expert knows a certain solution? The set of unique methods known as LIBERATING STRUCTURES offers ways to open up and include all voices, all ideas. Ways to do better together. If you have experienced Liberating Structures before, you know they are EASY TO LEARN, EASY TO IMPLEMENT, AND GENERATE RESULTS.

Today, with the unique and complex challenges we are all experiencing, LS are needed more than ever. This is why a group of LS community leaders have come together to offer this unique online LIBERATING STRUCTURES EXPERIENCE.
SO JOIN US… as we guide hundreds of participants – and YOU – through a series of Liberating Structures both familiar, and… emerging. Learn the WHAT, HOW, and WHY of these remarkable collaborative methods.

TIME: 8-10p.m. Eastern U.S. Time
COST: This one is FREE, thanks to the efforts and contributions of our JOINT LS EXPERIENCE organizers Mentioned above.

Over 75 people have already registered, and we have a limit of 250 for this event. Please click the link below, and REGISTER TODAY to secure your spot at this first-of-its-kind event.

Registration link:

Stay well, friends, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!

For Yes, And. . .Philly,


Bruce Waltuck, MA, C, C, and C


Yes, And. . .Philly

The Philadelphia Area Group for Liberating Structures and. . . 

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