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Fish pond metaphor complexity of management

The shrinking of the world presents new challenges. These challenges may be approximated by the metaphor of fish living in the ocean and transferring them to a fish pond. New challenges emerges. This e-book discusses these challenges and derives managerial and leadership lessons for us to ponder on. One challenge that may be added to the ideas in the book is the challenge of bringing opposites near to each other, which lead to new combined words of opposites such as chaordic and frenemy. Our world complexity needs powerful metaphors to visualize it.

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Fish pond metaphor complexity of management

  1. 1. The Fish Pond Metaphor Complexity of Management. Ali Anani and Bas de Baar  iBooks Author
  2. 2. Introduction Image by lesmana andry.  iBooks Author
  3. 3. Foreword ii The world is changing dramatically, fast and beyond everything we have seen. Globalization and technology have introduced more diversity, more dynamics and more interdependencies than ever before. This provides project management, and management in general, with a challenge. How to survive in this environment? Together, Bas de Baar and Ali Anani, we are taking on this challenge with an attempt to provide some structure and some answers for management practitioners. We call this effort: The Fish Pond Metaphor: Complexity of Management. In essence, we believe the answer to adapt successfully in our new, ever morphing world is to have a flexible mind, a brain filled with many models of the world. We would almost claim that being open minded is the key to survival. To help you create some new and exciting ways to look at the world and business situations, we introduce the Fish Pond Metaphor. We opt to go for the fish pond as a metaphor for the new world. The Managers’ New Brain Every project is unique. Circumstances are always different. Different people. Different goals. To lead a project to success, you need to tailor your approach to the situation. To be able to do this you got to have a flexible mind. One that can switch from one world view to another; one that can use one set of assumptions right now, and an entire different way of thinking in a couple of minutes. Ali Anani got his PhD in chemistry in the UK (1972). As of 1981 Dr. Anani got interested in applying scientific approaches to economic and social issues. Bas de Baar is making complex people stuff less complex. As The Project Shrink he helps people find ways to enjoy the diversity of human interaction in their projects and organizations so that they can get out of their own way and achieve their goals.  iBooks Author
  4. 4. If you are trying to run a country and you have a communist background, you probably are trying to regulate, centralize and formalize as much as possible. You focus on controlling individual behavior in order to control the entire system. When you are raised with a more laissez-faire world view, you can adopt a reign that is totally governed by the free market. Nothing is centrally controlled, everything will take care of itself. Needless to say that both world views have drawbacks and advantages. In our world every country has its own customized version of one of the world views, or something on the gliding scale between them. The successful Project Manager can look at his project and assess the situation using different world views, one in which control is the answer to everything, and one where let it go is the holy grail. And if he trains his mind enough, he can even use a mental slider to get to the spots between the two extremes. Why A Fish Pond? The Fish Pond Metaphor is not one coherent picture of a particular pond. It is merely a collection of narratives and analogies centered around a common theme, the fish pond. We choose the Fish Pond for more than one reason, but mainly because it is an ecosystem. An ecosystem let us describe our main problem with reality called “dynamic complexity”. In our normal line of thinking, we think about an event A that happens, and that causes something else, say B. The occurrence of B might trigger some event C. A nice linear cause-and-effect chain. With dynamic complexity this is exactly what is not taking place: cause and effect are not close in space and time, and therefor, very difficult for us to see. Bas de Baar, Zandvoort, The Netherlands Ali Anani, Amman, Jordan iii  iBooks Author
  5. 5. Copyright iv © 2008-2012 Ali Anani / Bas de Baar This report is free and share it with the world under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. This report contains a collection of articles that appeared on The Project Shrink blog in the first half of 2008. The authors have made their best effort to ensure that this is a high quality, informative and helpful report. This text is a recommendation only, the authors cannot take responsibility for loss or action to any individual or corporation acting, or not acting, as a result of the material presented here.  iBooks Author
  6. 6. Chapter 1 A Metaphor For Management Image by Jurvetson.  iBooks Author
  7. 7. Project life can be quite frustrating when one day after another turns out not how you planned it. The software should be ready when you said it would. It has to. Otherwise you have people waiting, customers complaining and bosses getting annoyed. It is your reputation and ultimately your job on the line. Do you think that if you just plan harder, more detailed, than the plan must be correct? Of course you don’t. Although rationally we all know this, it still can come as a shock for many of us when we can't force reality in sticking to the plan. We just have to forget it. It is not going to happen. Ever. But still, it seems to be a habit hard to break, a state of mind hard to get rid of. Having a false mental model of how it all works, “projects, management, people, reality”, has disastrous results. IT projects have a high failure rate with many reasons why. If you think you can predict the future, if you think you can plot the path reality has to take, but in fact you can't, you have the source of the high failure rate of projects.
 If you are brought up with just one view on management, it is difficult to change your view on this subject. To help you make the switch, to assist you in going to the other side, we have developed the The Fish Pond Metaphor for Management. We are going to dive into a real fish pond, see how it operates to learn valuable lessons about managing projects and organizations in general. Section 1 This first section explains the effects of dynamic complexity, how best practices can become worst practices under changing environments, and how the fish pond illustrates both. Complexity Of Management 6  iBooks Author
  8. 8. This first chapter in our series about Complexity of Management should tickle your imagination. We aim to make you aware of the reasons why we can't predict the future. Our next articles will be explaining the need for the new metaphor and the details and reasoning behind the Fish Pond.Best practices become worst practices under changing environments. Best practices become worst practices under changing environments. We opt to go for the fish pond as a metaphor for the new world. Fish, which live in vast spaces such as oceans, seas and rivers, have been transferred to live in fish ponds or farms. This situation emulates the collapse of the world into a global village. Imagine a piece of pacific ocean: the fish, the water, the vegetation, the currents, the depth, the enormous width of it all. And now imagine you put four glass walls side by side in the ocean, to isolate a small column from surface to bottom. You didn’t change the population of fish, you didn’t change the water or depth, you merely made its size smaller. From all the possibilities that could change, you just changed one thing. Obviously, the fish will have less room to swim in. A fish in an ocean or sea has enough space to swim and move. This movement is restricted in a limited space and may not give fish enough space to go a full distance before turning around. A very interesting research is that reported by Debby Turner. This research aimed at correlating the behavior of fish with that of people. The fish were confined to a large tank. The researcher observed that the fish used the whole area of the tank in their swimming. When a glass partition halved the tank into two compartments the fish still tried to swim the whole area of the tank. The fish banged their heads in the process. After a while the fish adapted to swim up to the glass partition and turned around before making contacts with it. The researcher removed the glass partition afterwards and watched the swimming behavior of the fish for months. None of the fish made an attempt to swim the whole tank for fear of colliding against an imaginary barrier. Fear paralyzed the fish from discovering new frontiers. This is not different from bees when you put them in a transparent bottle. If we lay the bottle horizontally on a table and place a light source to the bottom of the plastic bottle the bees will move towards the light source and stay near the bottom of the bottle when they could escape their prison by moving towards the open mouth of the bottle. Practices perceived as best practices become worst practices under changing environments. Assumptions on how things work under certain conditions can have an entire new meaning when other conditions are valid. We 7  iBooks Author
  9. 9. might base our view of tomorrow on assumptions that can be utterly wrong. It is not just the behavior of the fish that undergo changes by one change in the environment. Physical processes that regulate an ecosystem can get a direct hit from the reduction of pond size. For example in deeper ponds the production of the much needed oxygen is produced by phytoplankton, as explained by Aeration and Oxygenation in Aquaculture. However in shallow ponds it's not the phytoplankton but the vegetation like algae that performs this job primarily. And because the macro vegetation is creating the oxygen, water temperature and illumination are effected. The pond depth influences the role of algae: the deeper the pond is, the less role algae have. Algae are just a single-cell plant that grows like crazy when properly nourished with sunlight, nitrogenous waste and water. Here is the dilemma: fish releases ammonia, which is converted to nitrate. This nitrate help algae grow. And fish feed on algae. But the rapid growth of algae deprives the fish from oxygen, because now the are competing with the enormous amount of algae for oxygen. Over-population of algae causes the death and decay of algae. The decayed algae is a big consumer of oxygen. Fish produce byproducts that eventually lead to their killing! In a pond the build up of the nitrate is problematic, but in a sea it is not. The shallower the pond, the more acute the problem is. Here the algae come to play the role of savers!! Algae consume the nitrate and rapidly populate the pond and might easily get out of control. They blossom and compete with the fish for oxygen! Another example. Not from the Fish Pond. A car repair shop has not much to do. If a client comes with his car, he can be helped immediately. After a while worth of mouth about the speed of service, provides this repair shop with an increasing number of clients. As the number of clients grows, the waiting time for service also increases. When the service time takes to long, clients go away. Having fewer clients, again, the speed of service is up again. In this short example, and the Fish Pond, our main problem with reality becomes clear. It is called dynamic complexity. In most of our normal line of thinking, we think about an event A that happens, and that causes something else, say B. The occurrence of B might trigger some event C. A nice linear cause-and-effect chain. With dynamic complexity this is exactly what is not taking place: cause and effect are not close in space and time, and therefor, very difficult for us to see. Basically, reality is too complex for us to comprehend. And in a real fish pond dozens of these processes are taking place all at the same time. 8  iBooks Author
  10. 10. The Fish Pond And Organizations. So far we have talked about confused fish and a poisoned ecosystem. It explains why it would be very difficult to describe what happens when you isolate a small part of The Pacific. The Fish Pond metaphor provides a link to people working in organizations. People are not different from fish. Fear of punishment and change and forcing strict rules on their peoples actions so that they may not deviate from best practices confine people to limited spaces. This is contrasting with self-organizing behavior when space limitations, the repeated folding and stretching of the space, lead to utilizing the available space efficiently and in an organized manner. Living systems remove barriers and find a way to deal with them. Best management practices are great in certain environments and are real barriers to growth and self-organizing in other. The limitation of space in a pond requires new forms of management that allow for exploration and remove the barriers of fear. And regarding the algae and the oxygen, here is the analogy with toxic employees. They offer you help to ease your life or the teams life, but only for a short while. Once they grow and populate your organization they poison your life. These employees suffocate the good ones and force them out. They spread more and their poison spreads more. This is a vicious cycle that is not encountered in large waters or very deep waters. They consume more oxygen at night! They know when to attack! With this first section we hope to fire up your brain and imagination to start looking differently at projects and organizations. In the next chapters we will explore the Fish Pond metaphor more in depth. 9  iBooks Author
  11. 11. Turn on your television and try not to look at CSI Miami or NYC. It is amazing how popular crime series are, crime series where the technicians will save the day. It must be a universal thing, as the series are as popular in Europe as in The United States. For a Project Manager it is a great inspiration. They find a dead corpse and an FBI Profiler is brought on the scene. He looks around, sniffs the air and creates a nice profile of the potential killer. Gut feeling, combined with a mix of experience and science may transform a dark alley into a rich source of evidence. When looking daily at the remains of your planning you might feel like an FBI Profiler, or more appropriate, a Project Profiler. Look at the evidence and know the problem. Like the FBI, based upon assumptions a profile is created. New information can lead to new assumptions and a new profile. But also the underlying assumptions steer the direction of the investigation, hoping to find evidence that support the probability of the profile. So, it is not just a matter of information gathering, and presto, you have a clear cut description of the problem. It is a lot of backward and forward reasoning. Based upon some first sparse info snippets assumptions are made, and as time progresses you get a cycle of assumptions leading to the direction of investigation and information leading towards change in assumptions. Section 2 To be able to handle change you need to have a flexible brain. Metaphors, like the Fish Pond, are a great technique to train the brain. However, not every metaphor has positive effects. Our Need For Metaphors 10  iBooks Author
  12. 12. To be able to create assumptions and being able to reason to what happens based upon those assumptions, you need models, you need metaphors. They provide you with a simplified version of reality which makes it possible for us mortals to have a clue about what happens if we press button A or button B, take the blue or the red pill. To be able to perform an analysis of a problem in a project we need metaphors about project reality. Metaphors for managing projects and organizations have been widely used to visualize the various needs of project and seeing these needs through various lenses. Metaphors are not just linguistic devices for making the task of reading more interesting, they are the basic means whereby people create their relationship with the world. In fact, the study of several metaphors used in project management reveals how attitudes to project management developed and the focus to which project management attuned to. Different Metaphors. The literature is rich in employing metaphors in project management. We will review very briefly on selected, but widely different metaphors as a necessary prelude to introduce the fish pond metaphor. The machine metaphor is an established one and has been sharply criticized for treating humans as machines and the metaphors false assumption that it is possible to predict the outcome of projects. The rate of project failure provides enough support to discredit this metaphor. The ignorance of human factors and their interactions are among the strongest factors against the machine metaphor. The advancement of communication technology led to extreme changes in the management of projects. Virtual teams, data collection, visualization and mining, rising competition and innovation and throat-cutting competitions exemplify the rapid changes in doing business today that call for new project management approaches. Recent metaphors have taken more consideration of new project management requirements than the machine metaphor. Examples include: The Extended Mirror Metaphor (Timothy Johnson, 2008) - The use of extended mirrors to see beyond the present is an excellent metaphor for project planning because it stretches the thinking process and imagination to enter a space before physically entering it. In defining your requirements, you have to mentally go forward, then look in your rear view mirror and mentally drive backward through your project, define your route (plan your scope), and then actually drive forward. 
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  13. 13. Helicopters Metaphor - (Harrin, 2006) helicopters allow the seeing of the forest with the simultaneity of allowing for zooming on the trees. For projects, this metaphor allows for overseeing the overall progress or zooming on certain tasks. We believe this metaphor may be further enriched by supplying the helicopters with infrared camera, CIS information system and meteorological data to capture information and plan ahead. 
 Star Wars Metaphor (Phil Bennett, 2006) – This metaphor links the roles in the movie with the roles that project managers undergo. 
 The Chimpanzee Tea Party (Helga Drummond and Julia Hodgson, 2003) – This is a very interesting metaphor and in a way remind us of chicken herd. The Chimpanzees follow no rules and chaotic party results. How to bring order into project is what this metaphor provides skillfully. “This metaphor highlights the limits of assumptions and shows how control-based approaches to project management can be counterproductive. Paradoxically, situations may arise where projects can be more effectively controlled by not attempting to impose control,” as mentioned in the abstract of the article. This metaphor is in essence another example of the extended mirror metaphor. 
 The Pie Metaphor (Kevin Shockey, 2005) – This is an interesting metaphor on how to allocate project resources to project tasks and how to expand on the share of a tasks pie. The pie metaphor gives a useful way to relate to management. Sometimes it is who puts on the biggest show that gets more pie. Models Effect Reality. The mindsets, the metaphors in your head, are a very powerful tools. They really do affect reality in a sense that the effect the decisions and behavior of the people that hold them. When using metaphors you are taking the images of a different system, and use that to describe, to model the workings of the system at hand. The use of the famous metaphor as mentioned earlier, that of a machine when looking at an organization, meant neglecting the individual character of every employee. People can talk about projects as if they are conducting a war. They are using words like marching orders and the troops. If a Project Manager has a mindset like this, war as a metaphor, his mind is thinking in friends and foes, allies and enemies. You are either with him or against him. This view of the world will make it very difficult to collaborate with this person if you disagree. In the end, the war metaphor effects reality. If the model is powerful enough and wide spread among more people, the model will even become a reality. The project will end up as a war. 12  iBooks Author
  14. 14. If models can have such an impact on the performance of reality, you almost have to be aware of the images that people try to fill in your head. Sumantra Ghosal makes a connection in his article ”Bad Management Theories Are Destroying Good Management Practices” (Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2005, Volume 4, No 1, 75-91) between theories that are taught on universities and excessive stock options at companies like Enron. He mentions particular the use of agency theory in which managers will only do the right job for the shareholders of the interests of both parties are aligned. By providing enormous stock options the managers can be “trusted” to do the right thing for the shareholders. At least, in theory. Ghosal sums it up nicely in the same article:
 “Unlike theories in the physical sciences, theories in social sciences tend to be self-fulfilling.” We are raising this point because many practitioners are not aware of this phenomenon and its effects can be disastrous. Please, stop and think for a short moment contemplating this matter. If you perhaps used to work in environments very influenced by corporate politics, the metaphor created for yourself could be that of monkey hill where all the baboons are showing off their butts to each other in the eternal struggle for having the most red butt. Although this model can help you to run many projects in such an environment, after a couple of years all you can remember is that you are working in a zoo. Everything you see is getting translated into an image of a political arena. In the end, you almost become what you hated in the first place. 13  iBooks Author
  15. 15. As a manager you are now more than ever faced with the fact that part of your team is at the other end of the world. Different cultures, different time zones, different languages, different customs. You hardly see them, let alone know them. A part of the team (and stakeholders) may permanently be on the move. They are multitasking beyond compare. It is rare if someone is dedicated full-time to one project. For most of them you don't have full-time tasks. You need more and more different specialization's for every new project you take on. More people doing more fragmented tasks. Globalization has affected the work environments in many ways. Now, we refer to the networked world as a small village. This has led to many new aspects of project management such as self-organizing teams, risk management, information poverty, virtual teams and project management, information economy, and many other aspects. The question in mind is to find a suitable metaphor that fulfills these requirements. What other systems that lived within a large space and then moved into small space? We find that fish ponds provide a suitable metaphor. We transferred fish from rivers, seas and oceans and accommodated them in tanks, jars or ponds. Section 3 In this section we connect the global trends that are taking place in our world to the Fish Pond. What is happening and why does this make a fish pond a proper mental image? The Fish Pond Metaphor 14  iBooks Author
  16. 16. We have also gained experiences in monitoring the behavior of fish in ponds. What are these lessons? How may we relate them to project management? What changes are necessary in managing projects? These questions and others are the theme of this work. The new trends of the global business and their associated tensions have been ably summarized by Joo-Seng Tan as follows: • Globalization: Global versus Local • Diversity: Heterogeneity versus Homogeneity • Flexibility: Flexibility versus Stability • Flat: Centralization versus Decentralization • Networks: Interdependence versus Independence A summary of these concepts is given. Globalization- Globalization is a converging and diverging force at the same time. Companies merge and diversify products and services while having at the same time to tailor these products to the tastes and needs of each local market. 
 Diversity- Globalization has increased the diversity of employees in organizations. Never before groups of different cultures, have backgrounds, specialities and ages been put to work in the same place. The tension on how to deal with diversity of people necessitates the acquirement of communication skills to a degree that has been never experienced before. Flexibility- Established work norms are in tension with new ones. Self-organizing teams, flexible working hours and deviation from long-established procedures create tension because of peoples tendencies to reject and resist change. But to stay competitive in the global markets people need flexibility to produce new products and services while maintaining a minimum structure to hold the company together. 
 Flat- It is the fastest who wins and not the strongest. Information and its communication need circulate fast in organizations nowadays. The swing from pyramidal organizations to flat organizations is creating tension from those who are on top of the orthodox pyramidal organizations and from managers who love to manage by controlling others. Self-interest is conflicting with organizational-interest and this is creating tension. 
 Networks- Networking enhances flexibility of organizations as well as reduction of fixed costs. However; these benefits are in tension with the need to control distantly positioned teams to keep the quality of products and services. We propose a new metaphor for management: 15  iBooks Author
  17. 17. that is The Fish Pond Metaphor. The reasoning behind selecting this metaphor is to provide a fresh look at projects that cover the realities of todays business climate and that assist the working Project Manager in his daily work life. We need a metaphor that fulfills the following requirements: • A live metaphor. Water in a pond is subject to variations and is not static. Growth of algae, draining, response to changes such as temperature and acidity fluctuations affect water and make it a live metaphor as fish that live in this water are affected too. • Use of different scales of the metaphor to allow for experimentation on different conditions, sizes, times and environments. • A metaphor that allows for use of the extended mirrors in that we may not only visualize, but also experiment on a small scale to see behind the boundaries. • A metaphor that is communicative, adaptive and sensitive to changes. • A metaphor that allows to study the effect of the environment on individuals, groups and external changes. • A metaphor that is sensitive to minor changes that affect a host of dynamic balances to allow the study of responses to such changes. • A metaphor that is sensitive to location because it lies on the boundary of different climatic zones so as to optimize its selection and to promote the potential of success of the project. • A metaphor that doesn't provide a very gloomy view of the world, but is realistic enough. We live in a world that is changing continuously. Change creates tension and tension is stressful. Globalization has created five major tensions. The fish pond metaphor reflects these stresses: • Global Vs local or big seas vs. small ponds • Diversity- We may diversify the fish ponds by adding to the pond aggressive fish, food-greedy fish, hibernating fish, and contaminants, toxic materials (toxic employees) and different plants that increase the competition for space. • Flexibility- fish may gather in schools as a way of self- organizing. How flexible fish are to changes and how they cope with them. Some fish hibernate while others die. Big fish might eat small fish like big competitors eating small competitors. • Flat- Fish use different communication channels depending on where it is located. Electromagnetic signals, voice and body movement that conveys messages to other fish are means of 16  iBooks Author
  18. 18. circumventing communication barriers. Fish lure other fish to capture them and feed on them. • Networking- Communication skills mean maximizing interactions among fish. The concept of the fish pond metaphor lies in viewing the fish pond as a miniature for the global world. Globalization has increased the interconnectedness of countries but at a price- the social and political powers also got reshaped. “Poorer, 'peripheral', countries have become even more dependent on activities in ‘central’ economies such as the USA where capital and technical expertise tend to be located”, according to Smith and Doyle. Globalization involves the diffusion of ideas, practices and technologies, and fish ponds involve the diffusion of oxygen in the pond and of communication. Ponds may easily become muddy and globalization is thus hindered. Communication, availability of food and space affect social relationships with far greater magnitude in a fish pond than in an ocean. Small local muddy area in a pond is expected to have far greater effect than the same muddy spot in an ocean. Globalization has revealed that such a trend really exists. Anthony Giddens (“The Consequences of Modernity”. Stanford University Press, 1990) has described globalization as “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa”. This involves a change in the way we understand geography and experience localness. 17  iBooks Author
  19. 19. Times are changing. The world is getting smaller. World orders are shifting. The ocean is turning into a pond. That is the whole idea behind the Fish Pond Metaphor. In this section we will have a more detailed look about the globalization, into people interacting on a global scale. What is going on in The Big Pond? What Drives Human Behavior? Our investigation starts however on the lowest level: the individual inhabitant of our planet. What is driving their behavior? What is determining the way they interact with other people? Our journey has to start here before we can make some sense of the overall result of all those interactions on a global scale. Generally spoken, people will try to reach their goals, their desires, or try to avoid their fears come true. However, this can be so generic, therefor we will go one step back; peoples needs. The needs of humans is their ultimate goal that drives their actions. People have physical or material needs. Think about food, a roof above their heads, or maybe some kind of transportation. We will categorize this type of needs as economic needs. In its simplest view we will just assume monetary rewards in return for labor when we are referring to economic needs. Section 4 We are approaching projects and organizations as groups of people interacting together. It is a complex adaptive system in which the agents are formed by people. In this article we look at why people interact in the first place, and how this leads to the emerging of groups. The themes discussed are why people behave the way they do, and the creation of economic and social clusters. The Big Pond: Global Village 18  iBooks Author
  20. 20. Next to economic needs are emotional needs, like feeling accepted, acknowledged, loved and trusted. These needs are all expressed in relationship to other members of the globe. That is why they are considered social. In this context we also consider the concept of group affiliation. Group affiliation is what it is all about in our lives. During your life you are a member of a lot of social groups, by default, by choice or by force. One of us, that would be Bas, is a Dutch white male, member of a child-less double income household, Project Manager, author and web aficionado, to name just a few of his traits. The Dutch white male is something that he is by birth, by default. All other affiliations are more or less done by choice, even though you can debate if in all case he was totally aware of the choice made. The group memberships determine how we see ourselves in the whole of society, it determines our identity. 
 Actually, we have more than one identity. We can choose, we can switch depending on the situation. Bas, again, likes to see himself also as an author. He likes the worldly sophisticated aura that is associated with it, even though every one can publish a book these days. Within the professional world he emphasizes the software project manager affiliation. You have been dealt a lot of group affiliations. You can emphasize or down play each affiliation to create your identity. As an identity is how we see ourselves within the ultimate large group of humans, it not something that is to be seen an an individual level, it is a group thing. Without groups, the whole concept of identity wouldn’t make sense. We are shaping identities by combining three mechanisms: categorization, identification and comparison. Although broadminded people like to think they do not put everyone in boxes, everyone does. We always put people in categories, we label them. This is done by looking for signs that we associate with a certain group. These signs are the mentioned use of icons, rituals or speak. To be able to associate yourself 19  iBooks Author
  21. 21. with a group, we first have to divide society into groups. Identification is the part where you affiliate yourself with a group. People are in continuous pursuit to satisfy their economic and social needs. And we are grouping together to accomplish that. Just like fish. Fish In Schools. Fish do not simply float around in a tank. Although they once in a while bump into glass walls, they are able to find food, detect other fish and perform other cases of interacting with their environment. Fish in general can sense changes in the environment either by vision, by smell, sound and by the sensitivity of the skin (changes in water pressure, acidity and temperature). Yes, if fish want to communicate, they blow bubbles, as suggested by a contributor at In a pond or ocean fish will continuously sense their environment, make something of that information and change their behavior if needed. We can discuss to what level a fish uses a mental model to make explicit decisions. But at some level, conscious or at a more hard-wired biological level, information is processed into action. For fish the speed of which they can make use of the latest information is essential. A useful aspect for our metaphor is that some fish are social. They group together for a purpose. They travel in schools. The website offers great insight in why fish actually travel in schools: “Should a hungry predator approach the group, the first line of defense begins with the many confusing silvery flashes or mesmerizing stripes that make it difficult to focus on a single fish. Schools also seem to make finding food an easier task.“ This does sound familiar to our previous discussion on clustering. We group together for economic reasons: it is easier or even essential to get life’s necessities being part of a mob instead of being on your own. The other reason for forming clusters is social: it determines our position in the world, it is how we make a 20  iBooks Author
  22. 22. stand for our selves while protecting our brain against the complexity of the world. In the metaphor we link the two reasons for schooling (food and protection) respectively to the notion of economic and social clustering. In the first section of this chapter we started out with this question: “Imagine a piece of pacific ocean: the fish, the water, the vegetation, the currents, the depth, the enormous width of it all. And now imagine you put four glass walls side by side in the ocean, to isolate a small column from surface to bottom. What happens?” What happens to schooling if you put a few fish in a more confined space like a tank? If a schooling fish are kept in a confined space, most likely one of the fish will start to dominate, according to He turns into some kind of a bully that will drive other fish into hiding. The dominant fish might even start to nip at the fins of the other fish. If the weaker fish is not able to get to the food because of the bully, he might eventually die. Humans In Economic And Social Clusters Suppose we have a model with agents (people) modeled after the concepts as described in the previous paragraph, and suppose we look at the global perspective. What is it we will see? All the fish in the pond are grouping together. Economic Clustering. Like the oceans are all connected to each other and provide us with currents, so are the economic forces in constant flux and alternating over the globe. Work moves around. If it can be produced cheaper, more efficiently or better, it gets relocated. Talent moves around. If one area on the globe is more exciting and thrilling than another, people relocate. Work moves around and people that perform the work move around. Not necessarily dependent of each other. Regional population changes rapidly. Asia gets a booming population growth. First world nations have a enormous amount of seniors coming towards them as the baby boomers are getting old. With regional changes in the populations, the demand for work shifts. But one remarkable aspect is that work seems to be located around certain topological centers like a harbor, a place rich of natural resources or just cities. Work is not spread out evenly over the planet. There are concentrations of it. The same goes for the other current, that of talent moving around, as described by Richard Florida in “The Flight of the Creative Class: The New 21  iBooks Author
  23. 23. Global Competition for Talent”. The most incredible, creative talent is looking for great places to live. Places where tolerant stimulating locations provide company of like minded people. Both currents have as a net effect that people are clustering, one gets clusters because people have the need to satisfy their economic needs. Social Clustering. Imagine the map of the earth doesn’t reflect countries, but it represent ideas. Or they would represent religions, world views, life styles and other concepts. Imagine a spatial representation of concepts. People will not be spread out evenly. What you will see is that people are cuddling up next to each other. As their social needs by definition can only be fulfilled in relationship to other people, the association needed with groups ensures the clustering will be a fact when using a conceptual map. 
 When discussing social clustering in the context of The Fish Pond one needs to consider what has been termed Big-fish-little-pond effect (BFLPE) by Hebert W. Marsh. According to Wikipedia “the self-concept of students is negatively correlated with the ability of their peers in school.” Bas was a good math student in high school. That all changed when he enrolled his first year at a large Mathematics department at the university. Even though his math skills only had improved. Do big fish in shallow waters compare themselves with others? Socialization in a small world might intensify the feeling of belonging in either a positive or negative ways as proximity might encourage comparing oneself with others. If a team member feels he is a Big-Fish in a Little-Pond will behave differently than if he feels that he is a Small-Fish in a Big-Pond. The idea is similar to a hefted weight is perceived as heavier than normal when “contrasted” with a lighter weight. Closeness of social groups may produce another effect. International teams may produce different breed of ideas as fish produce different breeds of fish in a fish pond. Most pond fish will breed with regularity in a pond containing plant life. It is always fun for everyone to see the baby fish hatch and see what colors and characteristics they develop. Socialization in international teams might lead to novel ideas because of their hybrid fertilization. What puts the village into Global Village? Until now we didn’t touch on the current trends that are taking place. The world is shrinking. But what does that mean? The world is getting flat is a statement we hear a lot. It reflects the effect of globalization on economic needs. As observed by Clyde Prestowitz, our “flat” world, a phrase popularized by author Tom Friedman, is created by the disappearance of some trade barriers and technology. However, he sees it more as a slightly tilted pane, one that moves production, power and wealth from West to East. 22  iBooks Author
  24. 24. The removal of trade and other barriers, the ever increasing availability of cheap communication are what puts the village into Global Village. And the impact is not only economic. Globalization also has its effects on social needs. On the Globalization Website from the Emory University we can read how globalization creates a social problem by changing world order. All of a sudden we now realize that we have to live in one world. And we are trying to figure out how to view this. We are trying to see what to make of this globalization. Different images are formulated: “some portray the world as an assembly of distinct communities, highlighting the virtues of particularism, while others view it as developing toward a single overarching organization, representing the presumed interests of humanity as a whole,” as formulated on the mentioned website. What is happening in this live time is unprecedented. Economic and social barriers as we know it are removed; mostly creating new ones. People will still form clusters, but that is a grouping we are not familiar with. All the barriers that used to separate people from each other are gone. The same people are now in one room together, and we are all running for a corner to get the familiar feelings back. 23  iBooks Author
  25. 25. Chapter 2 Fish In Schools Image by JennyHuang.  iBooks Author
  26. 26. Imagine all the people in the world floating around, freely. They group together for a while, and some float further. Others dock to the people left behind. Clusters evolve and clusters dissolve. Relax, this is not a yoga exercise, this is the image we created in our previous chapter about The Big Pond. Imagine a cluster is a group of people working together. Suppose this is a project. And now we take the stretch to the Fish Pond Metaphor, imagine your project is a Koi Pond. We want to especially focus on the filter and drainage system of the pond as this will function as a fabulous metaphor for people docking and leaving your team. The filtration and drainage system can be viewed as the essential blood cycle of a pond. According to fresh oxygen is created as “the filtration system purifies the water of wastes, bacteria and Section 1 This is an example of a specific narrative surrounding the Fish Pond metaphor. It makes the analogy between the filtering and drainage of a pond, and the need for trust and elimination of toxic employees in a project. Filter And Drainage: Trust In Teams 25  iBooks Author
  27. 27. other toxins... (and) pushes air into the water so the fish will have oxygen...” 
 The Filter. As anyone that has worked some time in projects will tell you, the purifying element in teams is trust. Trust will enable smooth operations among the group members, it creates flexibility and creativity. Not every free floating developer will be able to enter the pond. The project should have some kind of filter, some door- policy who may enter and who doesn't. If everybody knows your name and fame, and your are trusted, you pass the filter. In this way the fresh flow of trust is ensure while pumping in new team members. The shrinkage of the global project playing field brings new challenges and opportunities. What happens if everyone lived in a small town? What happens if everybody knows everyone? Or at least, when someone you know, has a sister, that has a friend, that knows the other person? In this small pond, every fish has heard about the reputation of every other fish. And that is a good thing. In order to succeed you have to treat people nicely. You have to play fair. If you want to enter the Koi Pond, you have to be kind and nice in the new world. The basic argument goes like this: Lets assume I am a manager in US and I am looking for a virtual development team in India. If I treat people well and I have a good track record, the good people from India will work with me. If I treat people like dirt, the good developers will not work with me, and I will be stuck with the people of lesser quality. If I have people of poor quality, my project will be of bad quality. Therefor I will have a bad reputation as a manager in the US. The filter on the pond ensures that only the people that bring in trust will enter the pond. The flattened and spiky world makes sure reputations spread faster than you can say Geronimo. Over a decade ago it seemed almost impossible for someone in Europe to have a clue about the reputation of some person in Africa. With the Internet we have reputation systems in place where crowds share opinions among each other. On we share book reviews, on we share buyer and seller reputations, and on some sites we even share reputations about IT skills. Although your local Koi Pond has just one filter, all the filters are working together in this way to ensure the flow of trust. The Drainage. At the bottom of the Koi Pond is the drain. The drain pulls water out of the pond. Some fish in fish ponds generate a lot of wastes. A large amount of water is needed to balance these wastes. Wastes will reduce the amount of oxygen available to the fish and 26  iBooks Author
  28. 28. the older the fish are, the bigger the problem is. But it can get even worse. Lower oxygen levels might introduce other fish types, ones that stick to the bottom and making the water muddy. According to Ohio Pond Management muddy water can create problems for fish trying to feed themselves and affect their size. Phytoplankton might also became scarce and increase the problem of growth and malnutrition. A toxic employee is a well established fact, that brings down the level of trust within the team. Some employees are like fish that produce toxic materials that kill the fish themselves. It is a kind of suicide. In a fish pond this suicidal effect is multiplied. Toxic employees do the same thing. They spread negativity, demotion and stress through the organization. They contaminate the work environment and suffocate the morale of employees. Like in fish ponds, pollution might kill the desirable employees and replace them with undesirable ones. Or, the good employees leave before they are suffocated. The cost is high and the strategy is to prevent toxic employees from working in the organization by using the right filter. However, while toxic employees can be created over time, or the filter may miss something, the drainage should work properly. The members of the pond that muddle the trust should be released into the great wide open, floating free, away from you project. 27  iBooks Author
  29. 29. Fish schooling is an important part of the Fish Pond Metaphor. Schooling mimics human tendency to organize and view our selves in groups of people. This leaves the question of how individual fish operate within a school resulting in one organic adaptive entity? How do they deal with changes in the environment? When fish pack together in a school their movements are tightly coordinated without one central fish giving orders. The school can make very sharp turns adapting to any threat in the environment. Speed is of essence. Be slow and you are dead. The fish on the outside of the school sense the threats. If enough outside fish make a certain turn the rest follows automatically.
 As explained on “Tightly packed bundles of protruding hairs, called a neuromasts, encased in a jelly-like sheath, are scattered around the head and body. Most are concentrated in two canals along the sides of the fish called lateral lines, which run from the head to the base of the tail. With the slightest change in pressure, the tiny hairs bend.” The faster information is transferred through the whole school, the better its adaption. However, this is not the entire story. If the fish act upon any piece of information that hits their body the movement of the school gets slow and slightly Section 2 Take a chair and read this one when you have a clear mind. We make the connection between the availability of information and the use of the OODA loop as an essential skill to adapt to the environment. The OODA loop was first conceived by the US military as a way to structure the process to adapt on a battlefield. Driving On The OODA Highway 28  iBooks Author
  30. 30. chaotic. By focusing mainly on the fish in front of them, you get this tightly packed movement. The fish seem to swim upstream the information flow. “As a result, the macroscopic behavior of a school, such as its steering behavior, is closely related to the transmission of information within the school … Individuals in natural fish schools tend to follow the motion of their front neighbors, a tendency called front-priority … This front-priority tendency means that individuals in natural fish schools tend to receive information from their front neighbors...” as mentioned on a Penn State University website. Instead of looking at information as some kind of package that is lying around somewhere, we have to view information as a stream. The constant flow of information is dripping and feeding the school and the fish in it. If not enough information is flowing in, the image of the environment is incomplete. If too much information is entering the loop one drowns in an overload of information. And finally, the quality of the flow is important to the adaption skills. Poor or false information can be even more destructive than no data at all. Making the comparison to groups of people operating in a shrinking world, we learn two important elements from the schools of fish. The adaptiveness of an individual within the group depends a) on the quality of the information he receives and b) on the individuals place within the group. In this section we discuss the effectiveness to deal with a changing environment depending on the availability of information. In the next section we will talk about the role of the place of the social network. A Network Of Interactions. 29  iBooks Author
  31. 31. Whatever your take is on projects, at the end of the day it is just bunch of people working together to achieve a certain goal. During this endeavor to laugh, cry, pull pranks, play dirty tricks and have all other kinds of behavior towards each other. If you are lucky they even work to reach the final goal. If you take everything away, and put people in the center of what a “project” is, you will see a group of stakeholders interacting with each other; just like any other group of people would do. Just to make things easier on our life, we call the result of all this behavior “the project”. In this sense it is nothing more than an abstraction. If we say the project is late, this doesn’t mean that some creature or entity from outer space showed up later than expected; it is the result of the project people working together that wasn’t finished on the time we predicted. In this sense the word “project” is the same as “economy”. If our economy is improving, there is not some kind of energy force that is doing better than before. The whole system of people working, people buying and people living that is better off in some way than in the past. Projects, organizations and even society in general are all abstractions of the interactions of individuals. Eating Information And OODA Loops. To have a complex system, like groups of interacting people, that is resilient to changes, that has a mechanism to transform itself and to be able to adapt to the environment it needs feedback from the environment. Feedback information needs processing and communicating to other agents. To do this an agent has to go through the OODA loop. John Boyd, a famous military strategist, created the so-called OODA loop to give us structure when discussing this subject. The loop consists of four steps: Observe, Orient, Decide and then Act. When looking at how a cluster of people (organizations, projects, society) adapts to changes, we have created the image of individuals operating on continuous OODA-loops. 30  iBooks Author
  32. 32. Observing reality based upon absorbing information from other agents and the environment. The processed information is used for orientation in combination of the mental model a person has of the reality. Based upon the expectations resulting from both previous steps an agents decides what to do. Like a little PacMan we are eating information packages on the OODA highway. The higher the amount of high quality information, the better our effectiveness in adaption. The Long Tail Distribution Of Information. The effectiveness of these snacks, the information packages, is depending on the amount of solid processed information. While traveling through life you have positions where you have more of the proper information and places where you are lacking information. The road of life in this way becomes flat and spiky. ‘Spiky’ meaning huge differences between availability, ‘flat’ indicating equal opportunity to access information for everyone. Processed information, like wealth, is unevenly distributed. It follows a long tail distribution. According to Wikipedia: “The long tail is the colloquial name for a long-known feature of some statistical distributions ... The feature is also known as heavy tails, power-law tails, or Pareto tails. ... In these distributions a 31  iBooks Author
  33. 33. high-frequency or high-amplitude population is followed by a low- frequency or low-amplitude population which gradually “tails off.” In many cases the infrequent or low-amplitude events ”the long tail” can make up the majority. Information is a type of wealth and is expected accordingly to follow the same distribution. Recent studies show that this is the case indeed. The Internet has drastically lowered the cost of stocking and distribution of information (music, news, art, etc.) and physical products. This opened the way for long tail applications, such as the spread of online video over the web. These findings tempt us to conclude that the information landscape is both spiky (large differences between the amount of processed information available to agents) and flattened (everybody has the same amount of information available). Not everyone has access to the same amount of processed information. Every agent has different amounts of information available depending on its location and place in time. 32  iBooks Author
  34. 34. In the previous section we painted the image of people walking on the OODA highway, continuously performing OODA loops, interacting with the environment, in the search for information packages that help them adapt to changes. In this posting we discuss the importance of your location in the network; we want to extend this notion to the use of social OODA loops. Humans are social. A group of people interacting with each other has to be viewed in a social context. We wrote earlier: “(Human) needs are all expressed in comparison of other members of the globe. That is why they are considered social. In this context we also consider the concept of group affiliation. Group affiliation is what it is all about in our lives. During your life you are a member of a lot of social groups, by default, by choice or by force (…) The group memberships determine how we see ourselves in the whole of society, it determines our identity.” If we want to have a proper understanding of how groups of people adapt to different situation, we need to have a look at how resilience is created within a social complex system. By making the system social the OODA Highway is effected in the observe step by the influences of others on our mental constructs. Section 3 In a traditional OODA loop your mental models of the world are used. Your view of a situation, with your experience and history. But because humans are social, a large part of our mental constructs are connected with other people. Religion, economic relationships or even just being married create a shared construct. It is impossible to look at humans as individuals. We have to make connections with the larger groups. Social OODA Super Speedway 33  iBooks Author
  35. 35. Curtis Gale helps us explaining the first aspect by his introduction of social OODA loops. He points out that in a traditional OODA loop the orient phase is assisted by mental models and experiences from the individual person. But in the context of social systems being affiliated with a certain social group brings a specific set of mental constructs with it. If you consider yourself religious, you are guided by a different mental model than when you are a Darwinian. The notion as that these mental constructs are shared among the members of the social group. The effectiveness of adaption in social complex system can be considered depending on the quality and amount of mental constructs a person has as his disposal. Like people on the previous OODA Highway, who were eating information like PacMan for their survival, our social PacMans must have food too. We are proposing the concept of social capital as being the central available element that expresses the effectiveness of resilience and adaption within a social system. Although there are a many definitions going around for this concept, like on Wikipedia, it provides the notion that a higher value shows better access to other people, to either share, exchange or in an other form influence shared constructs. A definition by the Center of Disease Control comes close in reflecting this aspect: “The individual and communal time and energy that is available for such things as community improvement, social networking, civic engagement, personal recreation, and other activities that create social bonds between individuals and groups.” Social capital is closely related to “social networks”. If you are better connected, you are more likely to have a larger social capital. 34  iBooks Author
  36. 36. Although we insinuated above a direct relationship between social capital and the level of connectivity in the social network, in reality the dimensions are a little more complex. For example, the location in the network is a balance between direct bonding and keeping a little distance. Some possible negative effects like too strong bonding, exclusion of outsiders, bullying of deviants and resistance to change are associated with being in a center of a social network and are not contributing to adaptability. The Distribution Of Social Capital. This turns us to the question on how social capital is distributed among the system. Does the information OODA Loop have any impact on the Social OODA loop, or vice versa? It turns out, they do. For example, information exclusion might lead to social exclusion, which in turn affects social interactions. The “network effect” was ably recorded by Buchanan. This effect leads to the spiky and flattened social landscape, in which agents experience differences in their ability to observe and gather information depending on their location on the landscape network organization. Moreover, a network organization depends only weakly or not at all on the actions or character of their individual members. In other words, your own individual actions have no real impact on the whole, its your place within the network, who you know, that makes the difference. The question turns now into: if information is not evenly distributed, would they result in uneven social OODA loops? Or, will social networks produce different landscape of interactions than that of the information network? It turns out that social networks behave similarly. In the following example we illustrate how this might work. Say you are living on a small rural village in Jordan, somewhere in a dessert. You have internet access, a telephone, you speak English and have all the skills that are in high demand. You don’t know anyone outside your village. You start calling people up using the phone book and start by the letter A-Z… every week you learn one person that is connected with something you want to do. 35  iBooks Author
  37. 37. You move to the capital, the city of Amman. You attend a small seminar and meet 100 people . All relevant people that can help you out in getting what you want. Those 100 people also know people, and because they are all in that city everyone’s networks accelerate by the growth of anyone else’s network. Being in the center of economic activity, being on the spike, acts like a tornado, it sucks everything to it. The social network brings you information, an opinion of the information, perspective on the information. Connections between people emerge. But they also dissolve, either because of a changing need, but also because there is a limit to the amount of relationships a person can effectively keep. Actually, it is not just the size of the network, but of course also quality of the people in it. People on the spike have more choice of connections, and therefore can make a better selection of the connections that are kept. Being on a spike increases the network in size and quality. Staying on a spike creates exponential growth of the network size and quality. After a year you can move back to the rural village in the desert. You take your network with you. Creating your own small spike. 36  iBooks Author
  38. 38. The fish pond represents a complex ecosystem. Being confined in space, a fish pond allows for the observation of what goes inside it. The fish is disturbed if predators are present in the pond or if they are stressed by the presence of parasites, lack of Oxygen or space, lack of appropriate place to hide or if exposed to strong light, just to name few factors. External stress may easily remove the fish from their comfort zone. External disturbance of fish pond by anglers hook compound the stress on the fish, which in turn behave abnormally. In contrast, watching fish without disturbing them does not added an element of stress on fish and accordingly the fish behave normally. Direct watching of fish in the fish pond is made difficult if the surface of the water is turbid. The wear of Polaroid glasses and by watching the pond from a short distance above the water surface helps in reducing this problem. Watching the fish at different times and seasons reveals varying pattern of fish behavior. It is interesting to note that fish are far from being cold and alien, as many people think of them, fish can be heatedly emotional and express themselves through a variety of physical displays. The fish circle, dance and jubilate because they are leading a normal life and they are not stressed by feeling endangered. The Management Lesson: Section 4 Just looking at employees or fish can already have an impact on behavior. Again the similarities are striking. Indirect Control By Just Looking 37  iBooks Author
  39. 39. We may draw very important managerial lessons from observing a fish pond. Employees live in complex organizations, Complexity imposes unpredictability of the future and only a turbid picture of the future may be sensed. The direct control of the employees will stress them and the employees will act and not behave normally. If a manager wants to see the real behavior he has to do it indirectly and from a distance. He has to observe behaviors at different times and see the collective behavior of employees without direct interferences. The examples are numerous for attempting to make direct monitoring of employees. One example is the study of cyberloafing, which is the act of employees using their companies’ Internet access for personal purposes during work hours. The employees feel stressed being watched and their reactions have created newer problems. The loss of privacy at work provides one example. The staggering estimates of annual loses resulting from lost times using the internet for personal reasons totaling sixty three billion dollars annually prompted the direct monitoring of internet use. The employers and employees are at two polar ends. A new conflict emerges and the cost of which might tip those costs resulting from surfing the internet for personal use. The realization that observing behavior without stressing employees is the practical option to find the real causes of why the observed employees behavior has emerged in a particular fashion. Are the employees using the internet for personal reasons because they are not busy? Are not sure of direction? Are their work assignments in line with their desires? Low performance results from low desirability, low ability and low institutional support. Knowing the real cause of the problem is only possible through observing. Observing behaviors under normal conditions have other merits. The observance may help in detecting early signs of deviance of normal behavior: coming late to work, poisoning the work atmosphere, failing to submit report on time and lack of patience with others are indicators of emerging problems. Facial Expressions. The use of Facial Expression Analysis is an advancing field to observe the emotional reactions of people by looking at the entire face, a part of the face and even by analyzing individual muscle functions. 
 Observing work performance and providing feedback about it should be a routine part of the performance management process. In the book “What Did You Say? The Art Of Giving And Receiving Feedback” by Seashore c.s feedback may be defined as “information about past behavior, delivered in the present, which may influence future behavior”. Feedback should be based on observed and/or verifiable work-related behaviors, actions, 38  iBooks Author
  40. 40. statements, and results. This type of feedback is called behavioral feedback. Effective feedback helps the employee sustain good performance, to develop new skills and to improve performance when necessary. Interestingly, observing the behavior of birds show similar patterns if birds are kept in a cage. According to birds develop behavioral problems when they have problems satisfying their basic needs, like food, water, social interaction or if they outgrow the cage. We observe the same problem if a fish outgrows its pond or an employee outgrowing his job. A second major problem is boredom. This is a major factor in behavior problems because the bird has nothing to do, so it finds something to do on its own, as mentioned on Boredom might be a significant factor in changing the behavior of employees. The managerial lesson is Observe, Orient, Decide and then Act. 39  iBooks Author
  41. 41. Chapter 3 The Organizational Pond Image by Alan Vernon.  iBooks Author
  42. 42. this chapter we will introduce a view on organizational structures using The Fish Pond. It provides an alternative perspective in answering the question whether we should have flat organizations, pyramidal organizations or something in between. We will use the process of pond stratification as illustration. Stratification of fish ponds means having different layers or levels of water type (level of oxygen, density, e.g.). These levels are not fixed as the environment of the fish pond changes during daytime and seasons. Depending on the circumstances this layering will change. The environmental conditions demand differences in layering to create a stable ecosystem in the pond. In other words, the stratification serves a purpose. However, if certain circumstances take too long, negative consequences can occur. Also tinkering with the ecosystem to eliminate some layering can have negative consequences. The management lesson provided: there is no ideal fixed hierarchy or organization structure, only one that should be adaptive to environment. Unlike sea water, fish ponds do not allow for the free flow of water resulting in the stratification of their water. “During summer, the heat and relatively calm weather causes pond water to stratify into layers. There is a less dense, warm, upper layer that is exposed to the sun and atmospheric oxygen, a very thin layer where temperature and density changes Section 1 We introduce a view on organizational structures using The Fish Pond. It provides an alternative perspective in answering the question whether we should have flat organizations, pyramidal organizations or something in between. We use the process of pond stratification as illustration. Stratification: Structures In A Pond 41  iBooks Author
  43. 43. rapidly, and a cold, denser, lower layer that receives little sunlight and does not mix with the upper layers...” as mentioned by the Virginia department of Game and Inland Fisheries. This process is called stratification. And it can cause problems as explained on the website of North Carolina State University:
 “Pond stratification with turnovers can become a problem in ponds because the deep bottom water has no to low oxygen levels. When the barrier breaks, the oxygen-rich surface water mixes with the oxygen-poor or even oxygen-deficient bottom water. This can result in severe oxygen depletion with a fish kill. Pond turnovers happen quickly, and you should be prepared to handle a low oxygen situation.” Too much layering in a small work pond will deny the lowest layer with oxygen. There are two complementary problems addressed in this case: the lack of oxygen, and the sudden addition of oxygen. When the bottom layer doesn't receive oxygen, it is essential to add it by means of aeration, pumping oxygen into the pond. Otherwise fish get killed. But it's not only the fish themselves that get into trouble. Worms and bacteria that keep the pond clean and and support the creation of nutrients from the sediment, are also unable to survive with a lack of oxygen. In this case the lesson is clear: lower level employees need aeration to survive in a work pond much more than they need it in a copious working space. Unless this condition is fulfilled, mass destruction to the organization where they work might happen. By making the analogy to the Filter and Drainage story from chapter 5, too much layering (or shielding the team of from outside influences) disturbs the needed flow of “fresh” trust entering, and the building up of toxins. Adding oxygen might be beneficial as indicated. But this should only be done if the mixing will not make oxygen deficiency all through the pond. Normally, the bottom layer is prone to oxygen deficiency. Flattening this deficiency by mixing all layers will be counter productive if deficiency of oxygen will make the new emerging homogeneous layer oxygen-deficient. This will also lead to mass kill. This means that we may have multi levels of organizational structures and each level must have assignments in parallel to the prevailing work conditions and their possible changes. The integration of these levels and the flow of information must be initiated to satisfy the prevailing work conditions. The issue is we may tolerate few layers to distribute our resources even though one layer will be deficient. Trying to distribute the resources equally will make the whole organization deficient leading to its killing. 42  iBooks Author
  44. 44. In conclusion, sometimes layering is needed for protection, making sure that deficiencies or not spread all over the place. Sometimes layering is just adding handicaps, like limiting the flow of information and trust. 43  iBooks Author
  45. 45. As projects start and end within organizations the demand for employees fluctuates. It seems that in certain times the workforce is just too small to handle all tasks, and in slow times many employees are doing nothing. With change and with projects come the tidal movement of need of labor force. Most projects will be done in times of change, when economic forces are up or down. Times of stability don’t call for much projects. Hibernation: After Busy Times, Leave Them Alone. Businesses go in cycles and each cycle demands a different caliber of staff; like each season imposes different demands on fish ponds. Fish hibernate during winter and it is not recommended to feed them during hibernation. At water temperatures below 50 degrees fish become almost motionless, hibernating in the deepest and warmest part of the pond. Businesses also go into hibernation and for long spells sometimes. Do we expect employees to hibernate during this people? Some employees will have low resiliencies and will tend to hibernate any way. Fish hibernate for purpose. Many fish pond managers make mistakes that are repeated by some business managers. Sometimes when the weather gets a little warmer than usual, fish might get a little active. Misinterpreting this behavior as the end of hibernation, some owners start to feed the fish. But when the temperature becomes normal again, Section 2 As projects start and end within organizations the demand for employees fluctuates. It seems that in certain times the workforce is just too small to handle all tasks, and in slow times many employees are doing nothing. This article provides two insights: 1) Hibernation: After Busy Times, Leave Them Alone; 2) Recruit During Economic Winters. The Pond And The Workforce 44  iBooks Author
  46. 46. and the fish should start their hibernation again, the float to the surface as their bodies cannot handle the unexpected food. Transient time may tempt some managers to make the wrong decisions and actually to kill their businesses. Employees are more stressed during change, during projects the intensity of work is increased. True project people know the cyclic effects of projects and take that into consideration. They go full throttle when needed, because they know they can rest later. Management should know: after busy times, leave them alone. Don’t keep them busy with stupid tasks, give them leisure, pleasure and relaxing time. Everybody will win this way. Recruit During Economic Winters. Before you can make use of employees, you first have to recruit them. Stocking your pond. Timing of populating a fish pond is a crucial factor for the survival of fish in a pond. Stocking a pond in mid-summer should be avoided. According to the University of Florida website ... “... High water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen may weaken fish being transported. Sudden temperature changes can cause fish to go into shock and die. When stocking fish, transport water and pond water temperatures should be equalized by slowly adding pond water into the transport container.” It is the conditioning of fish that adapt them to the new environment. Better still, is to add the fish to an experimental tank for some time before transferring them to the fish pond to ensure that the fish are healthy. An unhealthy fish is not expected to interact with other fish and its environment in a healthy way.
 The economic conditions under which you are recruiting can have a large impact on the quality of the new employees. Fish can be conditioned into being adaptive. The conditioning of employees is not different and should follow similar steps. “I think that conditioning your employees to expect change, to live in an era of change, and to embrace it in a positive way rather than fight it, is an important theme in almost every industry,” Marc Hebert, executive vice president of Sierra Atlantic said as quoted on These facts and the image provided by the Fish Pond Metaphor prompt us to propose a different recruitment and keeping pattern of staff. When business goes down it might be a better idea to recruit or keep staff that have been conditioned for hard times. Experiences in meeting suffocating problems are highly desirable in such situations. This conclusion is reinforced by the observation that the single constant in business is resistance to change. We are all creatures of habit and will continue doing the things that we are doing unless those habits are challenged in some manner. People who 45  iBooks Author
  47. 47. have the ability to survive hard times and business downturns are always needed because no business will avoid occasional lengthy downturns. The idea of placing fish in a tank prior to their transfer to the fish pond suggests another dimension for time management. We need enough lead time to select the appropriate employees and to put them under test to monitor their healthiness and readiness for the job. Rather than adding employees directly to projects or business we may consider putting them first in a simulation chamber to monitor their behavior. Only candidates who perform well may be later added to the “work pond”. The key to successfully developing such a program is to follow a proven recruiting process for the positions you need to fill in a timely manner and in a way to prove that performance of recruits would meet future challenges. Resist the temptation to omit steps, because shortcutting the process can shortchange your results. 46  iBooks Author

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  • LadaPrkicCEng

    Apr. 15, 2019

The shrinking of the world presents new challenges. These challenges may be approximated by the metaphor of fish living in the ocean and transferring them to a fish pond. New challenges emerges. This e-book discusses these challenges and derives managerial and leadership lessons for us to ponder on. One challenge that may be added to the ideas in the book is the challenge of bringing opposites near to each other, which lead to new combined words of opposites such as chaordic and frenemy. Our world complexity needs powerful metaphors to visualize it.


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