The Mary Parker Follett Network

Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. - MPF

Mary Follett : was she too optimistic ?

Mary Follett : was she too optimistic ?

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Depends on the time horizon. For her era, she probably was too optimistic or idealistic. Within a longer time horizon, it might be more accurate to say she was just far ahead of her time, to some extent even ahead of today as well. For instance, she believed that companies had an obligation to develop their employees. Progressive, enlighted business leaders embrace this notion, although perhaps largely justified because it makes good business sense. Even today the dominant paradigm is the the primary purpose of a company is to maximize return-on-investment and shareholder wealth. Fortunately, there is an increasing blurring between for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

John Sarvey
I think that John's reply is both right and wrong. Yes, Follett's approach was certainly based in a certain era, however, I think that our business culture today is more 'backward' or reactionary than it was in her day. In other words, I cannot imagine how Follett, today, would find much acceptance for her very innovative approach. And yet, it seems to me, at least if we are to take her word for it, she was able to successfully negotiate several labor-management conflicts in her day.

I am specifically refering to her practice of "integration" which she clarifies in her paper on Constructive Conflict (Dynamic Admin.): "when two desires are integrated, that means that a solution has been found in which both desires have found a place, that neither side has had to sacrifice anything."

My question to the MPF network is, "Is there anyone out there, who is actually practicing this approach, i.e. integration, in their work (or even social) environment, business or otherwise? And if not, why not?

Tom Let
My Limited Experience with Follett’s Integration

Many years ago, I actually lived with a group of people where integration (as per Follett) was one of our operating principles. My experience with our attempts at integration demonstrated to me that we were just not ready for it. (I don’t want to generalize from this but I am willing to venture a bet that our experience was not all that unique.)

Here is a summation with that experience:

People want what they want and when they want it. In other words, they do not want any substitutes. (Note the example in the Constructive Conflict lecture, p. 41 and 42 of my edition, of the girl who wanted to go to Europe.) The fact is that people in our group were too wedded to their symbols to be willing to give them up. In our group we talked about this attachment to our symbols as non-negotiables. This, of course is in direct conflict with Follett’s approach. We were too wedded to our ideas and how things should be which left us closed off to any sort of negotiations.

Fear is another factor that necessarily enters into the equation. The fear that I have in mind is the fear of losing the status quo, no matter how bad it might be. I imagine that it has to do with the fear of the unknown. And, of course, in order to subject yourself to Follett’s process, one has to be willing to let it take you where it will. In other words, for most of us the status quo was preferred to anything that’s unknown.

Finally, we lacked the necessary identification with the Whole (yes, a metaphysical Whole, which by the way is crucial in understanding of Follett’s writings). In other words, we identified with the limited self rather than with the larger all inclusive Self—one that includes the Whole as well as oneself.
I think there are probably countless examples everyday. Countless, but probably still in the minority. It's just that they are not systematized, and they are not at the level of "government". Follett simply observed what was able to happen if people were open to crieative integration, regardless of the context. It was very pragmatic to her. As for practical examples today, I believe that many mediators - if they use an integrative approach rather than an arbitration approach - approximate what Follett was talking about. I think also that within individual groups, committees, etc., especially outside of bureaucracies and corporate structures, one would find this kind of experience. However, it is certainly rare to find examples of true participative, creative democracy at the level of neighborhoods, let alone cities, states, provinces, nations. That's for us to carry off. The fact that we are here having this exchange is a sign that Follett was not too optimistic. The question for me is, will people of the next generation think that WE are too optimistic, or not optimistic enough?

Matthew

Tom Let said:
I think that John's reply is both right and wrong. Yes, Follett's approach was certainly based in a certain era, however, I think that our business culture today is more 'backward' or reactionary than it was in her day. In other words, I cannot imagine how Follett, today, would find much acceptance for her very innovative approach. And yet, it seems to me, at least if we are to take her word for it, she was able to successfully negotiate several labor-management conflicts in her day.

I am specifically refering to her practice of "integration" which she clarifies in her paper on Constructive Conflict (Dynamic Admin.): "when two desires are integrated, that means that a solution has been found in which both desires have found a place, that neither side has had to sacrifice anything."

My question to the MPF network is, "Is there anyone out there, who is actually practicing this approach, i.e. integration, in their work (or even social) environment, business or otherwise? And if not, why not?

Tom Let
John, Tom and Matt,

One of my favorite Follett comments appears on page 39 of the New State:

However various the reasons given for the non-success of such experiments as Brook Farm, certain religious associations, and certain artistic and literary groups who have tried to live together, the truth is that most of them have died simply of non-nutrition. (Next comes Matt's choice of a MPF quote for our new Network) Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. We attain unity only through variety. Differences must be integrated, not annihilated, nor absorbed.

May I add a quote from one of my favorite "anti-heros," that is, Saul Alinsky, master community organizer. In Rules for Radicals, rule # 7. Anything that drags on to long becomes a drag. (p 128) He follows this rule with a very sympathetic description of the way we all grow tried of causes that become "ritualistic."

So, Tom, I resonate with your tale of the failed social experiment, having recently dropped out of an artists' "co-op" after two years, perhaps, as Follett suggests, because I was dying of non-nutrition.

On pages 195 through 198 of the New State, Follett has some dynamite things to say about neighborhoods, such as:

In a more or less mixed neighborhood, people of different nationalities or different classes come together easily and naturally on the round of many common interests: the schook, recreational opportunities, the placing of their children in industry, hygiene,housing, etc. Race and class prejudices are broken down by working together for intimate objects.

For me, this all adds up to looking for opportunities to try out "power with, instead of power over." I also have put to work Alinsky's first and foremost rule: Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have. (RFR, pp126-7)

Lastly, some of my BEST integrative moments and "successes" have come when a newly formign group of people are enthused, motivated, open, feeling fresh. And, I should add, as one who had mediated conflicts since 1980 in all kinds of settings and conflicts, some simple mediations of small claims, less than an hour, out in the hall, can knock your socks off, because people do very quickly get the benefits of searching for integrative solutions; they even enjoy it! How about others on the Network?

Albie
My answer is 'Yes'. I quote from my book 'Integrative Management - Creating Unity from Diversity'.
'I well remember my first conscious effort at finding the integrative solution. The cen tral display manager was sitting in my office and we were discussing the location boards in the store. The central rule was that departments had to be listed in alphabetical order. So, he was insisting that Baby Linens (which were not in much demand then, few people having babies at that time) had to come first. I wanted Young Fashions (very buyoant and all hidden on the top floor) to come first. I was invoking my authority as general manager, getting set in the adversarial mode; we were approaching a bad-tempered deadlock. And then, I thought :He's only trying to implement the rules. Which could be the solution that would meet his need and, at the same time, mine? I had hardly formulated the question that I found the answer. 'How about calling that top floor department ALL Young Fashions?'. He was delighted, for, as the name of the department now started with A, he could put it right at the top of the list on the boards. I, too, was delighted for I also got what I wanted. A potentially explosive situation was defused and became the plank for the subsequent cooperative
relationship between us'.
'Find the integrative solution' became one of my mantras. I explained and discussed it at meetings with the department managers, the section managers, the rank and file.
It was an important plank of my management style. And very quickly it became accepted and used. It was creative and fun and productive. And it developed into a
behaviour habit which we took into our private lives.
Integration is not, of course, always possible. There are irreconcilables in life, but it is possible to achieve it much more often than we think. And as we learn to solve our little problems through integration, we become better at it and better prepared to manage the bigger problems when they appear.


Tom Let said:
I think that John's reply is both right and wrong. Yes, Follett's approach was certainly based in a certain era, however, I think that our business culture today is more 'backward' or reactionary than it was in her day. In other words, I cannot imagine how Follett, today, would find much acceptance for her very innovative approach. And yet, it seems to me, at least if we are to take her word for it, she was able to successfully negotiate several labor-management conflicts in her day.

I am specifically refering to her practice of "integration" which she clarifies in her paper on Constructive Conflict (Dynamic Admin.): "when two desires are integrated, that means that a solution has been found in which both desires have found a place, that neither side has had to sacrifice anything."

My question to the MPF network is, "Is there anyone out there, who is actually practicing this approach, i.e. integration, in their work (or even social) environment, business or otherwise? And if not, why not?

Tom Let
What a great story, Pauline,

And, with your French accent, did you call the baby section, "Zee babies." I love the simplicity of your tale and will remember it if and when I lose faith in the process. Albie

Pauline Graham said:
My answer is 'Yes'. I quote from my book 'Integrative Management - Creating Unity from Diversity'.
'I well remember my first conscious effort at finding the integrative solution. The cen tral display manager was sitting in my office and we were discussing the location boards in the store. The central rule was that departments had to be listed in alphabetical order. So, he was insisting that Baby Linens (which were not in much demand then, few people having babies at that time) had to come first. I wanted Young Fashions (very buyoant and all hidden on the top floor) to come first. I was invoking my authority as general manager, getting set in the adversarial mode; we were approaching a bad-tempered deadlock. And then, I thought :He's only trying to implement the rules. Which could be the solution that would meet his need and, at the same time, mine? I had hardly formulated the question that I found the answer. 'How about calling that top floor department ALL Young Fashions?'. He was delighted, for, as the name of the department now started with A, he could put it right at the top of the list on the boards. I, too, was delighted for I also got what I wanted. A potentially explosive situation was defused and became the plank for the subsequent cooperative
relationship between us'.
'Find the integrative solution' became one of my mantras. I explained and discussed it at meetings with the department managers, the section managers, the rank and file.
It was an important plank of my management style. And very quickly it became accepted and used. It was creative and fun and productive. And it developed into a
behaviour habit which we took into our private lives.
Integration is not, of course, always possible. There are irreconcilables in life, but it is possible to achieve it much more often than we think. And as we learn to solve our little problems through integration, we become better at it and better prepared to manage the bigger problems when they appear.


Tom Let said:
I think that John's reply is both right and wrong. Yes, Follett's approach was certainly based in a certain era, however, I think that our business culture today is more 'backward' or reactionary than it was in her day. In other words, I cannot imagine how Follett, today, would find much acceptance for her very innovative approach. And yet, it seems to me, at least if we are to take her word for it, she was able to successfully negotiate several labor-management conflicts in her day.

I am specifically refering to her practice of "integration" which she clarifies in her paper on Constructive Conflict (Dynamic Admin.): "when two desires are integrated, that means that a solution has been found in which both desires have found a place, that neither side has had to sacrifice anything."

My question to the MPF network is, "Is there anyone out there, who is actually practicing this approach, i.e. integration, in their work (or even social) environment, business or otherwise? And if not, why not?

Tom Let

Are humanists too optimistic?

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