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The System 4 Organization
Abstract: This article assumes a general familiarity with The System of Cosmic Order. Here, we will apply it to the structure and functioning of an organization, particularly a business. Then, we will provide some personal commentary on its implications and how to extend it.
The Four Levels of Delegation & Structural Constraint #2
In the context of a business, each Center of System 4 has a specific meaning:
Functional Work is associated with the actual tasks of the business (e.g.: what it does as a service or the manufacturing process of what it sells). Supervisory Work makes sure that there is enough time and resources for those tasks to get done (e.g.: through scheduling). Administrative Work makes sure that all of the necessary roles are filled (e.g.: acquiring the appropriate skills through training or hiring). Managerial Work oversees the direction of the company (e.g.: adapting it to both short-term and long-term changes within the environment, keeping it consistent with a mission statement).
In a business operated entirely by one person, all of these types of work are occuring simultaneously within that person. As a business grows to have more than one person operating it, these different types of work are usually delegated to different roles, hence they are sometimes referred to as The Four Levels of Delegation. The size of these levels is often determined by the size of the business. The larger the company, the more delegation. When there are extra roles that operate in-between these four levels, what we might call Half-Rank, it starts to create problems. For example, one level might feel that they have "more than one boss" to answer to, that their communications have to be filtered through a "middle-man" unnecessarily, that there is favoritism for particular roles within the company, and so on. In short, it structures the company in such a way that infighting is almost a guarantee, so the business starts to crumble from within.
Therefore, if a business is to survive, Structural Constraint #2 is to make sure that there are NO Half-Rank positions and that The Four Levels of Delegation are clear. We will get to what Structural Constraint #1 is in a moment...
The Six Domains, The Three Polar Dimensions, & Structural Constraint #1
In the context of a business, the six Particular Terms of System 4 also have a specific meaning:
||Perception of Field
||Creation of Idea
We will call these The Six Domains. We can symbolize this with the six-pointed "hexad" shape within The Enneagram:
The Six Domains can be taken in pairs directly across from one another in the diagram. These represent The Three Polar Dimensions of the business as a whole:
Structural Constraint #1 is that The Six Domains must be distinct. If they aren't, we cannot fully gauge the Performance, Potential, or Commitment dimensions of the business. For example, one might not be able to tell when vital resources are overextended during a task or insufficient for accomplishing a future goal. The business is in a precarious situation without this necessary feedback.
Like The Four Levels of Delegation mentioned above, The Six Domains are usually delegated separately and become progressively more distinct as the business grows. They may also start to multiply in complexity, where each Domain starts to have its own six "subdomains". Look carefully at the communications systems of the organization and what kinds of tasks are being carried out.
The Two Triads
The Marketing, Organization, and Treasury domains are associated with the "customers", the "employees", and the "shareholders" of a business, respectively. The self-interest of these various groups has a tendency to pull the company apart. These are called Structural Regions as they are concerned mainly with the structure of the business.
The Sales, Production, and Research domains are the common goals that unite the "customers", the "employees", and the "shareholders". They have a tendency to draw all aspects of the company together. These are called Process Regions as they are concerned mainly with the processes of the business as they relate to the environment.
We can represent both the Structural Regions and Process Regions as two triangles or "triads" within The Enneagram:
Managerial Work consists mainly of trying to keep these two triads, the "inside" and "outside" of the company, balanced with one another. If either of the two Structural Constraints are ignored, the business becomes unstable and it might be hard to determine exactly why. If they become too far imbalanced, the company falls part completely. It doesn't matter how large or how small that business is, "risk management" is important.
The same is true for people approaching a business from the "outside" (like a "customer" or an "investor"). They have to get to know the "inside" of the company to some extent in order to determine if it is legitimate or simply a cleverly disguised scam.
The System of Cosmic Order truly is incredible in the amount of insight that it provides into reality, including the operation of businesses of all sizes. However, there are a couple of points that I would like to highlight...
Point #1: An Issue Related To The Four Levels of Delegation
It would seem that many issues within business stem from treating The Four Levels of Delegation as a "rigid hierarchy". In other words, some types of work (such as Managerial or Supervisory Work) are sometimes falsely considered more "important" than others and this creates a kind of despotism between levels. Instead of being treated as equals, people are separated into classes with labels (such as "manager" or "supervisor") and offered "perks" that others aren't.
Instead of making things easier for everyone, "mass production" (i.e.: the use of "assembly lines" and "automation") often exacerbates the problem. For example, Functional Work is sometimes seen as relatively "unskilled labor", so any "worker" who has a job that is purely functional may be treated as disposable, no matter how long they have been with the company or how much they have contributed to it. Who can reasonably determine the "value" of another's work though, especially when all work is necessary to the operation of the business and the people inside of it may have a bias against any work other than their own? For a person "higher up" on that hierarchy, one who might have some level of influence on the overall operation of the business, there may be no incentive to change it for the better because they seem to benefit the most from how it currently operates. In the worst cases, that dynamic leads to all sorts of behaviors that undermine the power of the "worker", whether we are talking about on an individual level (such as "micromanaging") or on a collective level (such as "union busting").
A "manager" should know that they cannot take advantage of other people (like their "employees" or their "customers") and expect to stay in business for very long. Ideally, part of the purpose of a "human-resources department" is to keep all "employees" working together fairly and respectfully (which includes the "owners" of the business). Likewise, the purpose of "public relations" is to protect the reputation of the company in the eyes of the "customer" without resorting to lies or manipulation. Trust that is lost is often hard to gain back. Inversely, misplaced trust often puts everyone at risk. A company without proper vetting of leadership is sure to have little "job security" and will probably be a very unpleasant place to be (i.e.: creating/facilitating a toxic "culture" within the organization).
How do we fix these types of problems? Different types of business organizations, like "cooperatives", have already provided many solutions. For example, instead of dividing up the The Four Levels of Delegation into separate roles, some cooperatives allow people to periodically cycle through different positions all throughout the organization. This is usually done to break up the monotony of the job, but it has several other important benefits as well. Not only does it make it more apparent how each type of work contributes to the whole, it also makes the operation of the organization more transparent.
A few more examples are:
• Meaningful personal contributions
Decisions made through consensus throughout the entire organization are almost always more effective than commands that only come from the "top-down", especially if those commands are arbitrary or not accompanied by clear and patient reasons for doing so. Engage with things straightforwardly as much as possible (i.e.: bypass all of the excess "red tape"). People do not have to be compelled with threats of punishment or promises of rewards when it is clear how the system is both serving them and served by them. Similarly, when relying on voting rather than consensus, there is more equality when people vote on processes directly instead of through representatives (i.e.: "direct democracy"), by protecting voting mechanisms from fraud, and by using systems that try to take into account the biases of the voters (e.g.: "quadratic voting with artificial currencies").
• Emphasis on shared goals / needs
Much infighting is naturally dissolved by approaching situations as a task to overcome together instead of as a battle against coworkers. Collaboration naturally leads to a sense of partnership, while competition is alienating. No organization can survive when everyone within it is pitted against one another over rank. Let's dismantle "the corporate ladder" so that we can all be on equal footing together. Again, without a clear understanding of where we fit into a greater whole, what motivation do we have to contribute to it?
Point #2: An Issue Related To The Six Domains
What is the activity of The Six Domains focused on? Robert Campbell repeatedly points out that businesses cannot have "profit" as a sole motive for their activity as it often leads to the unchecked growth that is now destroying economies and ecosystems the world over. There are two aspects to this...
• What should be done with profit?
Robert wisely suggests that all profit should be equally distributed amongst the Structural Regions (e.g.: the "customers" get higher quality products at a lower price, the "employees" get better pay and benefits, while the "shareholders" get a higher return on their investments all at the same time). The rigid hierarchy described above usually leads to situations where there is a huge disparity between different roles (e.g.: "workers" get paid much less than "managers").
Some cooperatives try to bring a balance to this situation by being "employee-owned" in some way. This leads to a more equitable distribution of profits and an increasing sense of teamwork. More "traditional" forms of corporation can also become more "cooperative-like" by transfering ownership from shareholders to employees (e.g.: in an "Employee Stock Ownership Plan" or "ESOP"), and by making investments into infrastructure within the local communities that they are a part of. These can be wonderful sometimes, but they are not always enough, or may even have the opposite effect. For example: If a company has no strong "Corporate Social Responsibility" (or "CSR") practices to start off with, or worse, has a history of profiting at the expense of a community, any type of community-building activity will be met with suspicion or outrage. It will seem disingenuous or manipulative no matter what the intention is behind it.
• What are the limits to growth?
Open and honest dealings are important for everyone, but it is also imperative that we know what we are trying to achieve together. If we aren't working towards money, then what exactly are we working towards?
To reiterate, the chasing of "profit" and endless expasion is destroying environments, both Natural and human created. Businesses do not exist for their own sake. They exist to serve a community, both the people who make them up and those within the greater community outside of them. There comes a point where it no longer makes sense to keep throwing resources towards expansion, but to invest in maintenance and refinement instead. We need smaller organizations that are tailored to their environmental context (i.e.: both equitable and sustainable). "Too big to fail" systems are dangerous because they act like a "single point of failure" when they are tied up in so many vital aspects of life. Pay close attention to how the Process Regions interface with Nature and the community in which they are embedded.
One of the strengths of The System of Cosmic Order [as well as similar tools like Stafford Beer's Viable Systems Model] is that they are so generally applicable. You might have noticed that the tables describing The Four Levels of Delegation and The Six Domains above refer to both a human being and a business. The principles which keep one alive are similar to the other. System 4 can be more broadly applied to the designs of cities and governments as well. For example, The Six Domains might be named differently, but they will have similar functions all across the board because they are applicable to living systems in general. This feature can be used to get many different kinds of systems across every level of scale to interact with one another in ways that are balanced.
We will continue to explore these applications in future articles. Thank you for reading!