This book is for people concerned with groups and with what can go wrong with organizations and groups
This book is for people concerned with groups and with what can go wrong with organizations and groups. But it is intended to be a scientific work on this website and not a kind of handy manual for leaders. The approach is that of the engineer who was called to repair a boiler. He found a stuck valve, rapped it sharply and restored service. He submitted a bill for $100. The owner said that was a lot for a single hammer blow; he requested an itemized statement. The engineer wrote back, “Hitting the boiler with hammer, $1. Knowing where to hit, $99.” That is to say that 99 percent of the text is devoted to a practical understanding of how real organizations work, since knowing that is what makes the therapy of ailing groups possible.
This passage is from the introduction to The Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups by Eric Berne, who spent a considerable part of his life in the practice of group healing. In this volume, the focus is specifically on the point of his last sentence—that a practical understanding of how our organization works is what makes the therapy of our ailing group possible. As such, another possible title for this series (there will be at least two more volumes on group dynamics) would have been Lessons in Belling the Cat.
We have been conditioned, much to our detriment, to believe in waiting for solutions to problems to come from above, the top-down approach. (In the chapter before the last is a terrific example of a leader imposing this conditioning). Therefore, it is possible that several devotees may think it out of place to present books of a socio-psychological nature to the mass of our members.
My hope is that by the end of this book, even the most reluctant reader will appreciate that this is a mistake. Indeed, blind acceptance of the top-down method is one of the central causes of our varieties of dysfunctional dynamics.
Readers will be thrilled to discover that this entire book serves as an explanation of these memorable words from Srila Prabhupada:
“The Krishna Consciousness Movement is for training men, to be independently thoughtful and competent in all types of departments of knowledge and action, not for making bureaucracy.
Once there is bureaucracy the whole thing is spoiled.
There must be always individual striving and work and responsibility, competitive spirit, not that one shall dominate and distribute benefits to the others and they do nothing but beg from you and you provide. No.” (Letter to Karandhara, 1972)
Before the last chapter, lovers of Srila Prabhupada will agree that his brief passage is pregnant with meaning. They will appreciate another statement he voiced quite often in his last two years with us.
Words to this effect: “I have given you the framework. Now fill in the details.”
Our operative assumption is that the top-down method is the method of choice in addressing issues in our society, therefore it is sacrilegious to be outspoken, unless one first reaches the top. Or one can be outspoken, providing a significant amount of the effort is spent in homage, praise, and flattery to the top.
Owing to this disempowering misconception, publication of the first volume of Our Mission brought the full weight of the GBC to bear on me. Understandably, some are in denial about their role in the current chaotic condition of ISKCON.
Hence the body (not every member, but the majority), and certainly the most vocal members, did not like that I dared to publish a book giving honest critical feedback, and analysis of the dynamics in our society, and to some extent, unavoidably, casting them in an unflattering light. This they did not articulate openly. They complained about “the delivery,” meaning “not enough homage, praise, and flattery.”
I met with a GBC sub-committee for four hours to discuss the book, but we never got around to doing so. My attempts to focus on the subject matter of the book were ignored. Meanwhile, no one specified what was wrong with the delivery. Presumably, they would have better appreciated a more oblique approach, something more abstract. “More tactful.” I cannot abide by this for it would have the non-virtue of allowing them to sidestep responsibility for the dynamics that they set in motion.
Indeed, the greatest power our leaders have is the ability to determine the atmosphere of our society.