Margaret J. Wheatley, aka Meg Wheatley

Margaret J.
Wheatley, aka Meg Wheatley

American Writer and Management Consultant on Organizational Behavior, Co-Founder of The Berkana Institute

Author Quotes

Everyone in a complex system has a slightly different interpretation. The more interpretations we gather, the easier it becomes to gain a sense of the whole.

In our daily life, we encounter people who are angry, deceitful, intent only on satisfying their own needs. There is so much anger, distrust, greed, and pettiness that we are losing our capacity to work well together.

For eons, humans have struggled to find less destructive ways of living together.

In the past, it was easier to believe in my own effectiveness. If I worked hard, with good colleagues and good ideas, we could make a difference. But now, I sincerely doubt that.

For example, I was discussing the use of email and how impersonal it can be, how people will now email someone across the room rather than go and talk to them. But I don't think this is laziness, I think it is a conscious decision people are making to save time.

In these troubled, uncertain times, we don't need more command and control; we need better means to engage everyone's intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise.

For me, this is a familiar image - people in the organization ready and willing to do good work, wanting to contribute their ideas, ready to take responsibility, and leaders holding them back, insisting that they wait for decisions or instructions.

In this present culture, we need to find the means to work and live together with less aggression if we are to resolve the serious problems that afflict and impede us.

For us, someone who is willing to step forward and help is much more courageous than someone who is merely fulfilling the role.

In virtually every organization, regardless of mission and function, people are frustrated by problems that seem unsolvable.

Here are a few principles I've learned. Start something, and see who notices it. It's only after we initiate something in a system that we see the threads that connect. Usually, someone we don't even know suddenly appears, either outraged or helpful.

I've wanted to see beyond the Western, mechanical view of the world and see what else might appear when the lens was changed.

Hopelessness has surprised me with patience.

I believe that our very survival depends upon us becoming better systems thinkers. How can we learn to see the systems we're participating in? How can we act intelligently when things remain fuzzy?

Aggression is inherently destructive of relationships. People and ideologies are pitted against each other, believing that in order to survive, they must destroy the opposition.

I believe that the capacity that any organization needs is for leadership to appear anywhere it is needed, when it is needed.

Aggression is the most common behavior used by many organizations, a nearly invisible medium that influences all decisions and actions.

I didn't have an interest in the new science. I had a realization that in my profession ? which was vaguely labeled "organizational change," "organizational development," or "management consulting" in general ? none of us knew how organizations change. When I talked to other consultants, I noticed that if we had an organizational change effort that was successful, it felt like a miracle to us. I realized with a great start one day that we weren't even geared up for success. It didn't matter that we didn't know how to change organizations. We were all professionals who didn't hope to achieve what we were selling or suggesting to clients. The field was really moribund.

Aggression only moves in one direction - it creates more aggression.

I think a major act of leadership right now, call it a radical act, is to create the places and processes so people can actually learn together, using our experiences.

And time for reflection with colleagues is for me a lifesaver; it is not just a nice thing to do if you have the time. It is the only way you can survive.

I think it is quite dangerous for an organization to think they can predict where they are going to need leadership. It needs to be something that people are willing to assume if it feels relevant, given the context of any situation.

At the same time ? and this is the serendipity of life ? I had a friend and educator whom I had worked with for many years who said casually one day "Meg, if you're interested in systems thinking, you should be reading quantum physics." He didn't know where I was in my despair over my professional failings. But I said, "Okay, give me a book list." He gave me ten titles. I read eight of those and I was off. I always credit him with that casual, helpful comment that changed my life.

I think we have to notice that the business processes we use right now for thinking and planning and budgeting and strategy are all delivered on very tight agendas.

Circles create soothing space, where even reticent people can realize that their voice is welcome.

Author Picture
First Name
Margaret J.
Last Name
Wheatley, aka Meg Wheatley

American Writer and Management Consultant on Organizational Behavior, Co-Founder of The Berkana Institute