From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Emperor's Teacher (7)—Table of Contents-b

For the introduction to The Emperor's Teacher, click here (coming soon).
[a] Lesson journey RF
I am devoting 2012 to one of the projects closest to my heart/mind (心). It is called The Emperor's Teacher, and deals with lessons that need to be understood by managers all over the world. "Managers?," I hear you ask? But I am a parent, a teacher, an employee, and, at home, a busy cook, bookkeeper, and sometime voter. I'm not a manager.                            Yes, you are. 
[b] Lesson shelter RF
We are all managers, and we would do well to learn abiding lessons of how to make managing work. Some people in our midst (and in human history) have spent inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out how we might manage ourselves (since if you can't get your self right, you'll have a hard time with anything bigger...right?), our families (since a family is a whole bunch of interrelated selves in social communion), and the whole enchilada...all under heaven (天下). The latter term was used traditionally in China to refer to running the empire, but it had both moral and governmental innuendo that we would do well to consider in our own lives today. All three ideas (oneself, one's family, and all under heaven) are versatile enough to be read in secular or sacred terms, and, indeed, early Chinese cosmology had a plethora of ways of interpreting such matters. Interpret away. The concepts are big enough for all of us, as even Dong Zhongshu might have agreed.

My book, The Emperor's Teacher, introduces the greatest management book of all time (Sima Guang's Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Ruling), and then explains its key teachings to readers in the twenty-first century. This is challenging stuff for readers today (in East Asia and the West, I might add), just as it was ten centuries ago. No book is deeper or richer with lessons you need to learn to manage your career, your family, your football team... 
...or the corporation you lead. We all need it. My book takes you through the lessons found in a thousand year-old text. The "Talking Points" that follow in the next few posts will give a sense of the book as a whole. Close readers of Round and Square will know that I have already posted all of chapters one and two, and the first parts of chapters three on this blog (look for them below). I will post the entire "blog draft" on Round and Square in 2012. 
              A-Talking Points (5)                     B-Table of Contents (3)                   1-Breaking the Vessel (12)    
              2-Living and Learning (12)          3-Spring and Autumn Roles (12)     4-The New Hierarchy (12)

Part Two—Chinese Lessons for Leaders
Chapter Three
Chinese Lessons—Roles 
[c] Roles RF
We live through our roles.  This much is obvious, but discussion of roles rarely becomes as deep or nuanced as when we look at Chinese thinkers who sought to create (or return to) a harmonious world in times of discord.  Confucius once answered a disciple’s question about how to bring about social harmony with eight Chinese characters: ruler ruler minister minister father father son son.  He meant, of course, let the ruler be the ruler, and the minister be the minister.  The implications are great, since each of us occupies multiple roles.  Moreover, almost everyone has the experience of occupying different roles in the same “dyad” at the same time—many women are daughters and mothers, bosses and employees.  The implications run very deep, indeed, and it is the purpose of this chapter to “set the tone” for the discussions of structure and remonstrance that follow. 

Chapter Four
Chinese Lessons—The New Hierarchy 
Sima Guang begins the Comprehensive Mirror with an elaborate critique of a political order more than a millennium before his own time.  His critique can be summarized as a plea for understanding structure and hierarchy.  We ignore it at our peril.  The chapter begins with a discussion of American business attempts to ignore the implications of hierarchy in our lives, and our inability to see the enormous potential of smoothly operating structures.  I argue for “the new hierarchy”—a way to understand the inevitable mountain slopes of knowledge, power, and even status in the fluid and nuanced ways articulated by Confucius, Sima Guang, and other thinkers throughout Chinese history.  The common understanding in the West that China is rigidly hierarchical and unimaginative with regard to organizations is stereotypical in the extreme.  When organizations worked well in Chinese history, they articulated an elaborate “dance of hierarchy” capable of integrating the thoughts and opinions of a wide range people.  Music and ritual elements played a profound role in this, and I will show the potential to make hierarchies work in our favor.  It is far from being a call for what most Americans regard as hierarchy.  It is a call for attunement that Western readers must understand if they hope to succeed in a complex global marketplace—and at home.  (Yes, I envision a Time cover story called “The New Hierarchy”). 
[d] Remonstrance RF

Chapter Five
Chinese Lessons—Remonstrance (The Rock That Breaks the Vessel) 
Remonstrance is the concept around which the book is written, and it is by far the most original contribution in the text.  It cannot be understood without understanding roles and hierarchy, so it cannot stand alone.  Indeed, the three concepts should be imagined as sets of cards on a Rolodex, one leading to another, with the “last,” remonstrance, leading right back to roles…and hierarchy.  In its narrowest sense, remonstrance in East Asian traditions is the practice of the junior member of a dyad (a son, a government minister) providing a critique for (note that I did not write “of”) a more senior member.  It is the way that one practices being the emperor’s teacher.  It is the built-in “check” within hierarchical systems to make the organization work more smoothly and to learn from each other.  

Chapter Six
Chinese Lessons—Remonstrance (From Cooperation to Coordination) 
[e] Enlightened RF
When practiced as an organizational art—the way that Sima Guang articulated throughout the Comprehensive Mirror—it contains the kernels of powerful growth and learning for individuals, divisions, and corporations.  The failure to learn in this matter has been in the news lately.  The Financial Times recently ran a story bemoaning the fact that diversity has not created a greater interplay of ideas in the boardroom.  Sima Guang would not have been surprised.  Organizations without powerful and empowering “teaching” (for the junior and senior member of the engagement) will only accomplish an uneasy overlay of unity.  A Chinese writer from the Song dynasty (960-1279) spoke directly to this problem, and it lies at the heart of this chapter’s lessons. 

          Why would one take water and give it the flavor of water?  Why would 
          someone create a lute with but one note?  There is no harmony in these 
          things.  Such is the inadequacy of mere assent. 

On Thursday, we'll look at the last section of The Emperor's Teacher, when all the swirling themes come together to make you and your organization ready for the new entrepreneurial world in which we live.

No comments:

Post a Comment