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November 23, 2009



Another thoughtful post. A couple of challenges and riffs. Dating myself my memory serves back to when e-mail and v-mail first took the business place by storm. They were such a clear performance gap over extended phone tag turning 3 day garbled contact chases into asynchronous links of high reliability that everything changed. Do social media offer the same performance gap today? On the other side we know and can now prove with brainscans that attention is not divisible; hence the need to shut down the flood of e-mails. Social media make that worse and one needs to manage one's attention span.

On the bigger picture Peter Drucker retells the familiar cathedral story where three workman are helping build a medieval cathedral. The first says I'm chiseling a stone, the 2nd says I'm chiseling a stone for that cathedral while the 3rd (in the std. ver.) says I'm helping to build a cathedral. Hence two decades of vague but non-operational vision and policy statements. In Drucker's ver. the 3rd master mason says, "I'm chiseling this stone using a beveled chisel on granite and it will be part of the key arch on the nave". In other words he didn't JUST get the vision he knew exactly what he was doing, had a deep technical knowledge AND also knew exactly how his work fit into the overall strategy, goals and operations.
Drucker wrote that ver. in 1973 but I didn't find it until this year. Distributed leadership will result when local actions are taken consciously and self-responsibly in the structured context of a clearly laid out management system that defines goals, resources, timetables and checkpoints that the local point of action understand and commits to. If that sounds like something from the distributed computing literature of thirty years ago that suggest we have a body of knowledge to use in designing such systems.

Dating myself even more I can recall reading stories of Bull Halsey in my mis-spent youth where he said he was loud, simple and profane because he want' every sailor in every ship in the fleet to act with the same motivations, which he could only create by setting the tone, not by individual attention.

Chris Ward

Centralised leadership gave the world OS/2 . Distributed leadership gave the world Linux.

Are there any other candidates for 'operating systems for personal computers' ? If so, what is their future ? And what makes supercomputers different, if anything ?

A puzzle.

Edward H. Powley

I'm interested in the notion of Distributed Leadership you've presented here. I wonder however, how it is integrated with, different from, or similar to scholar's at HGSE who define DL from the standpoint of both "theory of activity" and "distributed cognition." They basically say that leadership activity describes the practice of collaborative interactions of multiple stakeholders throughout an organization in the leadership situation--it's more than the leader-plus approach (multiple leaders around the organization). Moreover, distributed leadership is about 'how' leadership is accomplished, in addition to 'what' leaders and those in the leadership situation do.

More integration from the field of education would be a nice.

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