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When I was young, very young, many moons ago, I remember my school mates and the priests having discussions such as ‘can a young man and a young women be just friends’? Looking back it sounds very weird. Also I am reminded of the jamesian ‘their relationship consisted in discussing if it existed’. I have a deja vu and I can’t make sense of why, other than a loose connection via absurdity.

Can the network coexist with hierarchy? This is the jamesian question asked by the leaders of Kotter International in an article in Chief Executive. After declaring that hierarchy is needed (agree, just published ‘Kings or Cousins’)  the author goes on a confusing and muddling through examination of ‘networks’ to conclude that it is an ‘and’, network and hierarchy. What a relief!

Interestingly, for the author a network is always composed by volunteers (really?) and you should not assign roles to volunteers (really?). One thing is to domesticate the network and corporatize it, another to leave it alone. Not understanding that  the ‘distortion’ of networks can create change and culture, and that ‘volunteers’ welcome in fact, being given a role, particularly if they occupy a special position in the network as highly connected and trusted, is a key error

Glad however that the Kotterians can spell networks, even if they don’t get the grammar, because we have been suffering for years from a misleading Harvard-centric view of change as ‘steps’ leading people to think that if you put a coin on one end, you get change at the other end, just follow some sequence in the steps.  In 2012, Kotter changed his mind and said, more or less, that you can mix the steps after all and all should be more fluid and accelerated (the title of his new book)

This was six years after Viral Change™ and two years after the great Jon R. Katzenbach wrote  Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization, Energize Your Team, and Get Better Results’

The misleading conceptual description of networks as something opposed to hierarchies (networks have also hierarchies) does not help understand how the organization works.

Anyway ‘can a young man and a young women be just friends’? How did I get from that to Kotter. Weird. Absurd.

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