The Democratic Workplace – The Freedom to Excel

Posted by jlubans on July 31, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Work like Stakhanov!

Next month will record another anniversary of the Stakhanovism movement. In 1935 a Ukrainian miner (in the Soviet) hewed 102 tons of coal in a single shift, 14 times the norm. His name was Aleksei G. Stakhanov. Stakhanovism was communism’s answer to capitalism’s piece-rate. Soon after, at Dictator Stalin’s merciless prodding, other industries followed suit with exemplary workers being heralded and rewarded – and elaborate claims put forth of how socialism was outstripping capitalism.
But resentment set in, as it often does when management exploits a worker’s exceeding productivity norms. If a Stakhanovite can produce three times the norm, well, they hammer, that will be everyone’s new quota! There was an expected jealousy over the rewards (a car, travel, visits with Mr. Stalin, lingerie and perfume) for the Heroes of Labor, but the new quotas profoundly embittered workers. In the Soviet, protesting the new norms would get you a trip to a labor camp or a bullet in the head.
There’s a bitter, if comical, ballad* by Vladimir Vysotsky, about a worker who hates the new quotas foisted on him by his mine’s Stakhanovite. The Hero is trapped in a cave-in. As the rescue team descends into the mine, the unhappy worker sings to his fellow miners:

“Our grief, everyone’s grief, is one
and the same.
If we dig him out, again he’ll start filling three quotas,
Again, he’ll start giving the nation coal and giving it to
Us, too.
So, brothers, in order not to work too hard, let’s take it
Easy now – one for all all for one.”

As you can tell, Stakhanovites or America’s “rate-busters” have earned a considerable enmity among their fellow workers.
Well, doing a great job should not result in loathing. You should have the freedom to excel. I recall one very effective library worker who greatly exceeded established norms. Instead of inflicting her productivity on everyone else, we looked at how she managed to do so much more. The Soviets could have done likewise when Stakhanov set his record. He was a hard worker but what enabled him to produce so much more was that he was a very smart worker. The Soviets should have celebrated the teamwork that resulted in Stakhanov’s record setting. Instead of drilling and shoring up as he went along all by himself, Stakhanov drilled while three other workers followed and shored up the mine – that was how he did so much more.

My point is that some of us are naturally quicker, brighter, and more able to discern, to distinguish, and to do certain kinds of work faster than the rest of the population. Few of us can run a 100 yards in under ten seconds. Those that can have some capacity that the rest of us do not. I’ll never run that fast, but I can learn and improve my speed from the faster person’s achievement. Their speed is probably more than just the snazzy spikes! I can look at the sprinter’s stride, her stance at the start, how he finishes, how she trains, and what he does just before the starter's gun goes off. When others develop new ways of doing a job we should be free to use those ideas. Freedom at work includes the option to be a rate buster with impunity.

Getting back to my effective worker – our Stakhanov – we did look at what she was doing and made those ideas generally available. It never occurred to us to even imply new quotas. We trusted that people who were doing similar work would want to improve. Many applied her ideas and we got good results. Word got out about our productivity and I offered to share the ideas. My impression was that some mangers at other libraries were doing the Soviet thing: If X can do this faster, then you WILL, too. They missed the point. If you give people freedom to invent and to innovate, you then must share the results without inducing fear. The higher production – if it is to be had - will follow. This is when managers need to “let go,” quit hammering the obvious message, and trust that good people will do what is right.

*SOURCE: “In Soviet, Eager Beaver's Legend Works Overtime,”
By SERGE SCHMEMANN Special to The New York Times
New York Times, Aug 31, 1985; pg. 2.

Copyright John Lubans 2013

Friday Fable: More Music to Manage By

Posted by jlubans on July 26, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

20130726-jerry lee lewis*.jpg
Caption: Country rocker Jerry Lee Lewis.
In my impressionable youth, living in the Boston (MA) ‘burbs, I got to see country rocker Jerry Lee Lewis perform his piano stomper, “Great Balls of Fire”. A subdued version is here.
Subsequently, Rock and Roll shows were “Banned in Boston” for many years. I wonder what influence Mr. Lewis and Boston’s banning had on my library career? Goodness Gracious!
Joining three previous posts (here, here and here) on Music for Managers, today’s Friday Fable highlights more country western songs for managers to ruminate about.

When the Phone Don’t Ring, You’ll Know It’s Me.
I used this title for its contradictory sense to suggest to librarians that the Internet was profoundly changing our work. Back then our users were (and still are) becoming more and more independent: search engines produced usable results and e-resources promised relief from trudging to the book stacks to retrieve that unique copy of an item. Those days of library dependence were slipping away and the best evidence, was in front of us every day – the long lines at the Reference Desk were no more and the phone rang with a marked lack of persistence.

Just in Time To Be Too Late.
Describes what our long-delayed response to rampant change might have looked like to our now-independent users. They’d developed their own ways of finding and using information. Playing catch-up is no fun. Some libraries knew sooner than others that little would remain the same. Those libraries that anticipated and adjusted still matter mightily – their relevance continued unabated - to their users.

If You Keep Checking up on Me, I’m Checking out on You.
A tune for crooning by micro-managers. A worker, regardless of industry, needs room in which to think and do her job. Telling her repeatedly what to do and how to do it might make the micro-manager feel good, but it will lead to resentment and low performance. Micromanaging takes many forms. One boss I called the creeper. He enjoyed silently coming up on workers and startling them – kind of like Jeeves doing his swami impression of being there and then not being there. All in fun, of course. Yeah!
Too close supervision can result in the loss of a good person who needs far less oversight than another worker who really needs it and you are avoiding. You know what I am talking about.

She Even Woke Me up To Say Good Bye.
Some staff really do rub it in all wrong. When I’ve screwed up, I could always count on a few subordinates to let me know I’d done so and to tell me more than once.

I’ve Been Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart.
For when the wheel of fortune tosses you out from the sky gondola unto the packed dirt pavement, A good song to reflect on the absurdities of what can happen at work. Or, when a good friend in the profession is elevated to a new position, higher than yours, and no longer wants to hang with you.

Please Put Her out of My Misery.
Sometimes it takes a metaphoric bus, like in “Thank God and Greyhound, She’s Gone.”

A Sad Song Don’t Care Whose Heart It Breaks.
In Houston, on my way to work at 8AM, I swear I heard this song coming out of the Hard Case Hangover Cafe on Fannin St. All morning, lachrymose music drifted out the open door (along with the fumes from last night’s beer) into the ears of the passerby.

I May Fall Again, But I’ll Never Get Up This Slow.
For the slow learner about human relationships at home and at work. It gets through eventually to even the most obtuse.

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Leading from the Middle Library of the week: Omaha Public Library.
Copyright - John Lubans, July 26, 2013

Library as Castle of Light*

Posted by jlubans on July 23, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

Last week I got to tour the spectacular new National Library of Latvia building.
It glimmers in the summer light on the left bank of the Daugava River, across from the “Old Town” part of Riga. Twenty years in the making, the National Library will open to the public in September 2014, during Riga’s celebration of its designation as a “European Capital of Culture”.
Some of my photos are from the May 3, 2011 “topping” ceremony during my Fulbright teaching year at the University of Latvia. Most of the photos, but one, come from my July 18, 2013 tour that was most kindly organized by Ms. Viktorija Moskina, Assistant to the Director (Andris Vilks). She is also the Senior Specialist for International Cooperation. And, Ms. Moskina was one of my students in the 8-week seminar, “The Democratic Workplace”, which I presented earlier this year at the University.
While the public opening is a year or more away, the library will be the termination point of a “river of books” on January 18, 2014. From noon - 6.00PM “books will stream from the old library building to the new one by being handed from one person to the next” crossing the Daugava River. This “Friends of books” chain” (Grāmatu draugu ķēde) will stretch for approximately 2000 meters including the Stone Bridge. Sign up here. Wear warm clothes!

Caption 1. My 2011 introduction to the new National Library, taken along the Stone Bridge on way to the May “topping” ceremony.
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Caption 2. Now, the Castle of Light from the water, June 23.
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Caption 3. Heading into the construction site with Ms. Ineta Kivle, Director of the Department of Special Collections, Viktorija and Sheryl Anspaugh, all in green.
Caption 4. At the 2011 topping, on an unfinished floor, the celebratory choir about to break into song.
Caption 5. The same floor, almost finished, with a glimpse of vast spaces.
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Caption 6. Looking down from the fifth floor through the atrium.
Caption 7. Another 2011 topping picture; much to do.
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Caption 8. Two years later, the finished interior, looking up through the atrium.
Caption 9 Architectural flourish near the top of the building.
Caption 10. Solid wood stairs.
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Caption 11. A vista from an upper floor public space. Users will look across the Daugava to old town. The Stone Bridge in the center, will see a “river of books” flow across it on January 18th.
20130723-Viktorija Moskina .jpeg
Caption 12. New office space. Viktorija in the middle of her office in the administrative suite.
Caption 13. Outside work continues apace. Caulking glass plates.
Caption 14. Skylight at top of the Castle. The two glass enclosed levels beneath will be public and availabe for special occasions, say like my birthday in 2016!
Caption 15. The top level, all glass enclosed, will feature public seating (cushions and pillows) alongside a planter.
Caption 16. Ineta scans the view from the top.
Caption 17. Back outside, view of old town from the library grounds. Some say a footbridge from old town to the Castle is planned, arching over the Daugava, ending where I took this picture! (In the winter, pedestrians cross on the ice from the library side to the old town and city center. I've ventured a few yards out on the ice but chickened out.)

* From the song “Gaismas Pils” (“The Castle of Light”) written by Jāzeps Vītols in 1889 from Ausekļis’ 1873 poem. (A) “sunken castle of light symbolises the lost freedom and the spiritual heritage of olden times.” The National Library building is the now-risen castle!

Building facts: Height of building: 68m or 223 feet tall.
Overall size: 40 455 (square meters) or
435,454 square feet.
350,000 books (reference and widely used items) will be on open shelves. Much of the collection of over 4 million items will be in closed, compact shelving.

LINKED TO by American Libraries Direct, the e-newsletter of the American Library Association, June 24, 2013.

Friday Fable: Phaedrus*: “The Proud Frog”**

Posted by jlubans on July 18, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Illustration by Bernard Salomon in Les Fables d'Esope Phrygien, … par M. Antoine du Moulin Masconnois.
 A Lyon, Par Iean de Tournes, & Guillaume Gazeau. 1547.

"When poor men to expenses run,
And ape their betters, they 're undone.
An Ox the Frog a-grazing view'd,
And envying his magnitude,
She puffs her wrinkled skin, and tries
To vie with his enormous size:
Then asks her young to own at least
That she was bigger than the beast.
They answer, No. With might and main
She swells and strains, and swells again.
"Now for it, who has got the day ?"
The Ox is larger still, they say.
At length, with more and more ado,
She raged and puffed, and burst in two."

LaFontaine ended his own “THE FROG THAT WISHED TO BE AS BIG AS THE OX,” with this couplet:
“And, really, there is no telling
How much great men set little ones a swelling.”

The saying “full of himself” comes to mind. A few of us really do think we are special, really special. As a daily reader of the Chronicle of Higher Education I get a regular dose of those in the academic world bloated with self-importance, convinced that if only the rest of us possessed half his/her IQ and charm, why the world would be all Camelot.
A Brit academic, recently busted for sexually harassing one of his students, was in high denial and dudgeon this week, -he was after all a successful “ladies man” – how anyone could interpret his wit and banter as sex-laced and creepy, well, that was their problem not his. While sent packing, the prof - like Phaedrus’ frog – keeps inflating with his own importance to the splitting point, if not, like an overheated sausage, already burst.

*Phaedrus “(c 15 B.C.–c 50 A.D.), Roman fabulist. Little is known of him except from his own writings. He was a slave taken from Macedonia to Rome and later freed by the Emperor Augustus. The publication of the first two books of his Fabulae Aesopiae incurred the ill-will of the Emperor Tiberius' favorite, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, who imagined that he saw in the fables unflattering reflections of himself and Tiberius. The three remaining books did not appear until after Tiberius' death in 37 A.D. Phaedrus died about 50.” Biographical information from Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Online, 2013. Web. 18 July 2013.

**Source: The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse. Phaedrus. Christopher Smart, A. M. London. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1913.

Caption: Frog as toreador. Unknown artist, published by McLoughlin Bros, NY around 1880.

Copyrighted John Lubans 2013.

Freedom at Work: Saying No to “Gamification”, Slogans, Mottos, Mantras and Maxims, including Performance Appraisal.

Posted by jlubans on July 16, 2013  •  Leave comment (1)

(This continues my series on what it means to be free at work, what the democratic workplace looks like.)

You’ve seen them, those glossy posters of an iced-over climber staking a flag on a mountaintop or a kayaker soloing a raging river; they’re all about excellence and what it takes (for you!) to be the best. Pretty good photography but is it effective in doing what it is meant to do: goosing the lackadaisical, the disinterested, the fatigued and tired to new levels of production?
Caption: Tom Sawyer’s Fence.
With the internet comes a new term: gamification*. It’s a way to get people to do things they normally would not do – e. g. write long reviews for free, for Amazon and TripAdvisor. In return, we get e-badges, congratulatory e-mails for achieving or aspiring to new levels of contribution. We may even be designated “top contributors!” If this reminds you of Tom Sawyer getting his friends to pay him so they can paint his fence, then you understand gamification. Indeed, gamification concepts have long been applied to work. If you achieve a certain level, you are rewarded along the way, maybe with a gold star, a badge, a medal Now, the computer tracks your progress and e-rewards you to keep you on task and tricks you (willingly), ala Tom Sawyer, to work harder. You are having fun. Right?

Well not really. Gamification – while automated - is not much different than any other external motivator, like the high-flying eagle on the wall poster. You might like the picture, but if you do not personally aspire to soar metaphorically alongside that eagle, then it is not likely you will. Anytime you are exhorted, reminded externally to do better, to give more, to pick up the slack, the assumption is that you are holding back and that you are not giving it your all.

I would go so far as to suggest that Performance Appraisal (PA) is a pre-internet example of gamification. PA is different from much of the new gamification in its explicit “carrot and stick” (rewards and punishment) approach. Most gamification suppresses punishment – Amazon does not upbraid me for failing to review a book I’ve purchased nor does TripAdvisor reproach me for too few reviews. LinkedIn does not admonish me - yet - for failing to post my CV. No, gamification does not at the moment use electrodes to buzz me with gentle reminders that I am, yet again, falling down on the(ir) job, that I have not clicked the SUBMIT button often enough.

Nowadays, most everyone in the library workplace goes through an annual ceremony of boss sitting down with an employee and assigning one of five levels (badges?) to that employee, from Exceptional to Unsatisfactory. Much of this process is tacit, highly ritualized, and pleasing only to HR officers who think – without any quantifiable evidence - that PA makes a positive difference. You disagree? Totally? Well, please show me a study or two concluding that performance appraisal makes a difference instead of stealing hours away from service desks and other real work. The notion that PA forces the boss to talk to the employee tells me that the boss needs to be replaced. Or, there's the other heralded result of PA; an official document that protects the employee from a mean-spirited supervisor. Again, why are we employing such cretinous bosses? PA has little, if anything, to do with the frequent coaching and disciplining, guiding, mentoring, and conversing - all essential components - in the daily relationship between leader and follower. The more independent and accomplished the follower the less frequent the interaction.

“OK, OK”, you exclaim! “You’ve convinced me to tear down (sob!) my inspirational posters, to stop with the Vince Lombardi wannabe exhorting my team to excellence, and to limit PA to an annual conversation about ambitions and goals! Now, what can I do to help my staff be more creative, more industrious, more willing to think about what they do?” “Gamify reference and cataloging?”
Nyet! No easy task or solution. I quote or allude to Fred Emery’s research more than once in my book. His research helps clarify what an organization must provide each worker to augment, perhaps waken, internal motivation:

Adequate elbowroom for decision-making
Opportunity to learn at work
Variety in work
Mutual support and respect
Desirable future

Work towards these ends, then you’ll have a motivated library staff. Some workers will excel regardless, but if you do not provide what Emery concludes most workers want, they won’t be around for long.

*I ran into “gamification” in the Times Literary Supplement: Michael Saler, "How the internet is using us all”. Published: 22 May 2013.

Friday Fable: LaFontaine’s “THE FOX AND THE GRAPES”*

Posted by jlubans on July 11, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Linocut by Christopher Brown for the Fox & Grapes pub on Wimbledon Common, 2011.

"A fox, almost with hunger dying,
Some grapes upon a trellis spying,
To all appearance ripe, clad in
Their tempting russet skin,
Most gladly would have eat them;
But since he could not get them,
So far above his reach the vine--
'They're sour,' he said; 'such grapes as these,
The dogs may eat them if they please!'

Did he not better than to whine?"

As Aesop well knew, and LaFontaine put to verse, it’s highly human to grouse about something we desire but cannot attain. But, sometimes, the appearance of “sour grapes” can prevent a wronged individual from making a complaint. A good friend was passed over for a University Librarian job in favor of an Internal Candidate. The Internal sat in on all the UL interviews and heard all the questions and answers, thereby gaining an unethical advantage, not to mention inhibiting staff candour about what needed fixing. Still, the Internal did not do all that well in his interview and it took a last ditch effort by the Internal’s strongest advocate for him to get the job. I am convinced my friend would have done a better job – he had already proven himself to be a builder, a person who would improve the role and budgetary standing of the library, and someone with a strong ethical understanding about leadership. I thought he had a case for a discrimination action. He considered it but chose not to pursue the matter; it’d have looked like “sour grapes.” My friend continued his successful career elsewhere and the Internal did a ho-hum job, as expected. That university and library staff lost out on someone who would have changed a good, albeit constipated, library into an outstanding one.

*Source: THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE Translated From The French by Elizur Wright. [original place and date: Boston, U.S.A., 1841.] A New
, with Notes by J. W. M. Gibbs,1882.

"Atkārtot!": Speaking up at Work.

Posted by jlubans on July 10, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

I’ve been immersed in Latvia’s quinquennial Song and Dance Festival.
This weeklong celebration – nationally televised from start to finish - of Latvian song, dance, music, theater, art and crafts involves approximately 40,000 performers. Every community in Latvia sends its best to take part in DZIESMU SVĒTKI in the capital city, Riga. And, Latvians from all over the world converge on the city and fill its streets, literally, with dance and song. The grand finale features a community-sing* with audience and choirs holding forth until 6.30AM the next day.

Caption: At sunset in the Mežaparks concert bowl, 10.30PM, the audience and the 14,000 singers, just getting started.

At the final song concert, held outdoors with 14,000 singers, led by ten or more male and female conductors*, I observed an unusual practice. After a particular song, one that went especially well, the choir would chant "Atkārtot!" to the conductor. You can hear it here, and, even better, here, asking to repeat the highly patriotic song “Saule, Pērkons, Daugava” (Sun, Thunder, and the mighty river Daugava.)
My young cousin Ivars tells me that this chant is more about self-expression, “We want to repeat” than it is a command to the conductor. In my experience in the classical music world, I have never seen an orchestra say much of anything (with the notable exception of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, of course).
If there are to be encores, the conductor decides. If a particular piece goes well, the audience – in Italy, for example – may ask for it to be sung again. So, to have the performers feel this strongly and then express their desire is something I, frankly, like very much.

Why do I like it? Because of what "Atkārtot!" says about the relationship between the nominal leader – the conductor – and those being led – the followers. Getting people to speak up is one of management’s biggest challenges; not speaking up in the workplace is more the norm. Here’s an insightful note from Ivars: “As this fest's grand finale is like a party after the 5-year work for the choirs, I guess they are feeling not that much as the performers but more like a part of the audience.” (Emphasis added.)

And I like what "Atkārtot!" says about the followers. This kind of follower has her own mind – she knows a good thing when she hears it. These followers have internal standards to which they aspire. Internal is the key word here. Knowing you’ve done a good job is as much a personal realization as it is something for which you receive external recognition. These followers are analytic and they love – as does the conductor – what they are doing. When something goes really well, they want more of it.
"Atkārtot!" is remarkable because it confirms the trust between leader and follower. The conductors (half were women – this is Latvia, remember!) are publicly honored by the choirs. After the conductor leads the singing of a song, several of the choir members run up to the conductor’s platform and present him or her with flowers, smiles and hugs. You can see that at the end of the clip.
What does this have to with work? With working in libraries?
If we enjoy what we do and we do something really well, would it not be nice to do it again, that the accomplishment be recognized by one and all? If we have been well led, then let the boss know. Maybe we do not do the flowers and the hugs but we surely can smile and offer thanks. This is part of a realization that all – each and every one of us - have done a good job and that it is worth taking the time to celebrate the achievement. "Atkārtot!" brings to mind the Taoist and early anarchist, Lao Tzu: “The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’"

*NOTE: In Latvian, conductor is “Diriģents”. While translated as conductor, the Latvian word may have some etymological nuances not associated with our (English-speaking) interpretation of the word.

*Two views of the community sing taken at 3AM. Perspective is from the side of the stage looking out into the audience. From a friend and colleague who was there:



Friday Fable. Odo of Cheriton’s “The He Goat Who Wanted to Take a Ride.”*

Posted by jlubans on July 04, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

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“Against those having no respect for their lords.”
“Once upon a time, a he-goat was appointed the ass’s servant; and he observed that the ass was both simple and humble. So our goat climbed up on the ass and wanted to take a ride.
The ass, enraged, drew up his hind feet and sent himself tumbling to the rear – he fell, indeed, squarely on his back. This squashed and killed the goat. And the ass merely remarked: ‘When an ass is your lord, don’t think you can ride him.’
In like manner, many men observe that their lords are simple, aged, blind, or inept. Hence they scorn and laughingly mock them.”
Well, I can identify with Odo’s interpretation. I am sure there were times, because of my casual ways, I appeared “simple and inept” – and a few colleagues felt free to scorn and mock. I never did kick up my heels much about it, preferring to let my deeds speak. Perhaps “simple and inept” in sytle, some folks saw that I was letting them lead, encouraging them to take initiative. I did not want to be ridden, I wanted to accomplish - with them alongside - what we set out to do. We did. The mockers? Hard to say. Like the he-goat, a few got their come-uppance. Others, have done OK. Perhaps they are now the ass, un-deservedly scorned and mocked.

Caption: The ass leads.
Speaking of asses, the first chapter in Leading from the Middle
is “Balaam’s Ass: Toward Proactive Leadership in Libraries.”

*Source: The Fables of Odo of Cheriton, translated by John C. Jacobs. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press 1985 . Pp. 152-153

Freedom at Work: Verticals & Horizontals

Posted by jlubans on July 03, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: “Occupy Everything” on a wall on Skolas Street in Riga Center, June 2013.

There’s an interesting article, “Paint Bombs”, about one of the guiding lights of the Occupy Wall Street movement: David Graeber.
Of most interest to me is Graeber’s concept of “verticals” and “horizontals”. For Graeber, verticals are the planners and the organizers, the party heads and march leaders, the line monitors – the guys with the bullhorns. Verticals populate the decision-making committees that tell other protesters what to do and when to do it. In the music world, a vertical is the conductor with his baton, a silent bullhorn. And, in any medium-to-large library organization, verticals are the people who inhabit the boxes on the org chart – supervisors and department heads, on up – and plan and manage the work of the hierarchy. Verticals make the decisions – sometimes shared with workers, but more often not. Protest-verticals see nothing incongruous about their managing and controlling a protest against the status quo and for more individual freedom; in their eyes, they provide an essential service: organizing and getting stuff done. A vertical believes someone must be in charge; that without leaders only chaos will result and nothing will get accomplished. And, if verticals are “more equal than others”, so be it.

Graeber takes a contrarian view – for him, the reason most organized protests go nowhere – dither - is because of verticals. Verticals interfere with the natural process of what would happen when people are left alone to engage and to come to agreement, without a boss. That is why Graeber advocated for a horizontals-emphasis at the OWS event. Apparently there were enough like-minded people to prevail over the usual protestor/organizer-types. The result was an enthusiastically egalitarian philosophy of open discussion and widely distributed decision-making. Zucotti Park became known for its “no parties (factions), no leaders, no demands.” At least for while it lasted.
I can sympathize with much of the horizontal way. My book is about encouraging managers and leaders to “let go.” That was how I managed and led; by letting go.
Leading from the Middle suggests that the “invisible leader” – the purpose of the organization – can enjoin workers and mangers to work together to achieve the most. Unlike Graeber, and most Gawd-help-us paint bomb tossing nihilisti, I believe managers and leaders have their individual roles, but the former should be doing less so that workers can do more. If that sounds paradoxical, it is, and, akin to this paradox from the earliest, genuine anarchist, Lao Tzu: “The best leader leads least.”

What I found in my days of managing and leading in libraries is that good people doing real work do not need much guidance, if any, from supervisors. They work best when left alone. “Good” staff are goal-oriented and open to other ideas and to guidance from the “boss” when distracted or off track. But, having to get permission from the boss, to file weekly “progress reports,” and to perform “performance appraisals” – along with the other accountability-minutiae of the work place – are mostly time wasters.
It probably needs repeating. Organizations that de-emphasize the strong boss or the role of management, are not without leadership or management. Leading and following are distributed across the organization instead of boxed up in the org chart. For example, consider what Chris Rufer, the CEO of the no-managers, flat organization, Morning Star means when he says: “Everyone’s a manager here, …. “We are manager rich.”