The Beauty of the Beast

Geoffrey M. Bellman

xi. Our organizational models of immediate gratification for the few are not working for the many.  There must be ways of working that honor long-term aspirations and fulfillment.

xii.  Needs for achievement, stature, and predictability result in our complex bureaucracies

2. The path to the organization that we dream about runs through the door of the organization we dream in; we must walk it.

Hating Loving
Help How does hating organizations help you? How does loving organizations help you?
Harm How does hating organizations harm you? How does loving organizations harm you?

7. love and harm: They defined their game and I played it.  I continually reminded myself of the larger, personal life game I was living, but returning to their halls and meetings year after year affected my independent thinking and choice.

8. Harm and hate: the profit motive becomes an organizational cancer growing faster and out of proportion to the rest of the corporate body; profit crowds out all other purpose and consumes energy needed for wider corporate health.  …  Hating them distorts my views of myself

9. Hate and help: my hatred of their abuses is one source of energy to change them and the world in some small ways.  … Gradually I am realizing that what I hate in organizations is often what I hate in myself — that part of myself I have yet to come to terms with.  With this perspective, I find my intense response to what is going on out there in a particular organization hints at something unresolved within myself.

10.  I gradually became aware that my energy for work was an attempt to fill in what I lacked.  I needed others to change because I needed to change.

  • How do you project your aspirations and limitations onto organizations?
  • Of all that is there, what are you choosing to see?
  • How did your early life prepare you to see organizations as you do?
  • What is the agenda you bring to each organization you work with?

11. The choice to begin our work on organizations with ourselves is a hard one, and usually not reinforced y the people around us.  But lets face it, the approach of placing all the blame and responsibility on organizations has not made people any happier.  Millions of people have not become more fulfilled by declaring that someone or something else is responsible for their anger and emptiness.

14. Organizations are cauldrons of power, heat, intelligence, intensity, equipment, and emotion.

15.  Organizations often represent the worst of what we can do together.  These crazy-making creatures lock people together in mindless structures within rules they don’t understand, going places they don’t want to go.  If someone set out to regularly abuse human talent, spirit, and purpose, they could hardly do better than create some of our organizational structures.   …   Never have so many capable people produced so much service, profit, product, and stress — with so little fulfillment and happiness.

16.  What organizations are now is far short of what they can be.  Eventually, it is all possible that our hopes will be realized.  It may take lifetimes, but it is possible.

Churchill: First, we shape our structures.  Then our structures shape us.

People step into their work spaces and it’s not long before they are pushing out at the walls.  Or they move in and fully occupy the roles they have been assigned, acquiescing to role expectations that they not be themselves while at work.  We are more aware of these kinds of problems today than every before.

17. Those of us determined to reach the end of this organizational search in our own lifetimes are doomed to frustration and false answers.  Generations will pass before the answers become clear.  And then, all of the searching likely will lead to discoveries of what was there all along.  One of those discoveries will be that the organizational beasts we have alternately blessed and cursed are also the source of the fulfillment we seek.

18.  What if the world…

Is not broken?

  • Is not a chaotic mess at all, but we just don’t understand it yet?
  • Is not crying out for us to impose our form of order?
  • Knows more about us than we do about it?
  • Has an order of its own?  (cf: Leadership and the New Science)

Creating a Bureaucracy to Curse

21.  Our organizations were created by people as well intentioned and smart as ourselves, then we stepped into their creations.

22. We act as if we have nothing to do with the existence of the structures we love to curse, when in fact we assist in building them.


22. The tendency to grow without regard for organizational limits has more to do with human nature than with some genetic defect peculiar to staff professionals.

23.  We want to make a difference; we want to be important.  Our need for significance is expressed through our work.


24. In our search for security and certitude, we refine the structure of our work; we eliminate discovery, flow, and flexibility in favor of knowing.  Freezing people and their actions in place becomes our way of knowing ahead of time what will happen.  As their results become more predictable, they are often less productive.

25.  Successful, happy people … don’t usually hold up a ten-step model and proclaim it as life.
Successful, happy people (and organizations) usually have a larger guidance in their lives, beyond any methodology or model.

  • They reflect regularly on their meaning, intention, and purpose
  • They pay less attention to the roadmap and more attention to the needle of their compass.
  • They are drawn toward their magnetic north, and they adjust to the terrain whether the map says there is a road there or not.

Helping people point toward their own magnetic north is not as easy as installing a process or a model, asking everyone to learn and use it, and putting in some controls to make sure it’s happening.  Bureaucracy imposes order from the outside in, seeking performance that can only come from the inside out.

There are no procedural substitutes for a person committed to a purpose.

26. The security of knowing what is next is why many of us work in large organizations.  We are there because of the regular work, the dependable resources, the interesting people, the fringe benefits, and the paychecks.   … We are torn between freedom/spontaneity and control/predictability.  That part of us that opts for the predictable supports the growth of bureaucracy.


27. Those of us who would like to see ourselves as better than others are drawn to hierarchical ladders.  …  As we elevate ourselves, we complicate the organization.


27. We simply do not recognize the impact of adding an individual, a level, or a function to an organization.

28. We seldom consider what is happening when we take the next step of moving beyond a person to a pair or a team.  The initiating individual seldom says “Actions like I’m about to take, create the bureaucracy I love to hate.”

29. In the absence of a clear, compelling corporate purpose, people define their own.  They “make up” the reasons they and their departments exist. (cf.: Wheatley)

Your Choice

31. The cynic sucks the breath out of our organizations.

32. Come to terms with what you love and hate about these bureaucratic creatures.  Come to terms with what they give to you and take from you.

34. Together, we are the life of our organizations: As we breathe, so they breathe.  What we choose, they become.

Searching for the Beauty




Primary Goals sits at the intersection of three core ideas about communication:
  • Leaders create vision by communicating a compelling future to their teams.
  • Teams create success based on how effectively the communicate and coordinate with each other.
  • Entrepreneurial ventures are successful only when they communicate value to people with a concern that the business can take care of
In all cases, it’s about Conversations for Committed Results.  That’s our Primary Goal.  



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