Title: The Double Challenge: working through the tension between meaning and motivation in a large system
Author: Philip Boxer
Category: Working Paper
An enterprise is made up of a number of systems of practice within which its work is organized, whether the enterprise is public or private, virtual or not, or for profit or not. Such an enterprise faces a double challenge in the way it elaborates its systems of practice: this challenge places it between what it knows how to do, and the demands made on it by turbulent environments that take it beyond what it knows. A case study of a large system, the US wildland fire service, is used to exemplify these ideas, and the implications for considering the kinds of leadership that are needed to meet this challenge. Motivation is defined as that which emerges where there are gaps in the ability of the enterprise to do what it needs to survive and prosper, that is gaps in its systems of practice. These gaps are understood as ‘driving’ the enterprise, and show themselves as dilemmas that are symptomatic of these gaps. The double challenge presented by these dilemmas are relate to vertical and horizontal kinds of leadership. Horizontal leadership is then linked to the need for a consulting ethic that is reflexive.