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The Disruptive Competence:
The journey to a sustainable business, from matter to meaning
by Fabiaan Van Vreckham, Belgium 2015

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Review by: T. Owen Jacobs, Ph. D., Principal and Co-Founder of Executive Development Associates, RBL Senior Fellow of Executive Leadership Assessment and Development, senior psychologist at the US Army Research Institute and former Leo Cherne Distinguished Visiting Professor of Behavioral Science Chair at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. 


In The Disruptive Competence, Van Vrekhem has attempted a most ambitious extension of Elliott Jaques' thinking on requisite organization and human capability (Jaques, 1989; Jaques & Cason, 1994).  The impetus for this extension appears to be a combination of many factors, among them concern about increasing rate of change in business and society, on the one hand, and (my inference) a concern for the extent to which business (and other) organizations perceive the importance of creating social value in addition to shareholder worth.  On the one hand, the book is interestingly pragmatic; on the other, it is interestingly idealistic.  

In his early work, Jaques postulated first five and then seven levels of role complexity, heuristically categorized by time span.  He also identified seven corresponding levels of human capability, characterized rigorously by level of abstraction and the way information is processed.    Van Vrekhem builds on this formulation, by integrating Jaques' concepts with concepts about the evolving self (Kegan, 1982) and the mental models (p. 15) required for understanding complexity.  In so doing, he has built a seven level "dimensions" model which perhaps can best be described as a prescriptive structure of values for large scale organizations.   

The book is organized into seven chapters and a conclusion.  In my view, the core of the book is found in Chapter 2, How Entrepreneurs Create Value.  This chapter explores "meaning-Making" – the way in which people give meaning to knowledge, experience, relationships, and themselves.  He cites Kegan in support of his assertion that meaning-making is inherently present in the individual.   He then contrasts Piaget (people go through cognitive development stages that enable them to think more complexly) (p.27) and Pascual-Leone [thinking is organized into two levels:  Working memory, which is "… determined by our mental strength to define the volume and the kind of information that needs to be processed" (p. 27) and the mental content which is "…the stored knowledge and experiences."  (p. 27)]  He then cites Jaques' work as a continuation of Piaget's work, and outlines basic theory:  four levels of abstraction (the complexity of information itself:  concrete verbal, symbolic verbal, abstract conceptual, and universal) and the way information is processed (declarative, cumulative, serial, and parallel).   These combine to create seven "cumulative complexity stages" (p. 29).  

He now appears to use both Jaques and Kegan.  From Jaques he takes "cumulative complexity stages, viewed as dimensions, and from Kegan he takes perspective taking.  In essence, people search for balance with the perceived reality; in this process, elements undergo a transition from subject to object.  Basically, we can give meaning only to what we perceive as object in the Kegan sense.  This produces a transformation of awareness and new ways of adjusting to the environment.  Successive transformations produce seven "dimensions":  quality, service, positioning, differentiation, reputation, societal contribution, and societal progress.   However, these seven dimensions are not conventional RO levels; rather, they look at levels of work not from a perspective of what people do but rather a perspective of the value they add. In effect, he has postulated seven levels of awareness that are increasingly complex, and which, in his view, are prescriptive for organizations that create societal value.  That is, the first requirement is quality of product or service – as perceived by those receiving the product or service.  The second is service in the sense of " playing with quality parameters that address customer needs. " (p. 47)  At the highest level "… dimension not only the quality criteria, the circumstances, the contexts, the roles, and the inner motives are given meaning, but the societal context from which these drives are given meaning is transformed from subject to object.  The leader, therefore, becomes aware of the fact that he or she judges the drives from the perspective of his own societal image.  This enables consideration of alternative or additional images in order to ensure societal progress and integration." (85)  

Perhaps the best insight into his overall purpose is in his conclusion for this chapter:  "In essence it is about a coherent process of value creation, and ultimately of a society that sustains itself, and that is able to work towards further development by reflecting on and especially by looking at other ecosystems or forms of society." (89) That is, his ultimate objective is social progress, and organizations that are aware of their systemic role will understand this and to some extent create strategy to satisfy this expectation.  As each "level of complexity" is added, added value is created.  So his seven dimensions are more like values than like complexity categories, though he has shown in his development how each "simpler" dimension is made "object" by each "more complex" dimension.  

While Chapter 2 is, in this reviewer's view, the heart of the book, the author in Six additional chapters relates the fundamental structure to: The essence of business (Ch. 3), Complexity and strategy (Ch. 4), Complexity and Organizational Development (Ch. 5), Complexity and the Employee (Ch. 6), Complexity and Consultancy (Ch. 7) and Complexity and Democracy (Ch. 8).  The logic across these chapters seems clear.   "The more an organization succeeds in adding dimensions to its product, it will create a customer willingness to pay a higher price for it for the simple reason that the value proposition has increased as well." (p. 104)  So Van Vrekhem is prescriptively advancing some important propositions about value creation and future organizational well-being.  The best potential for long-term survival comes from environmental awareness that enables inclusion of all seven "dimensions" of value defined in his model.  

Clearly, not everyone would agree with the seven dimensions he has defined, and perhaps not even with the priorities assigned.  However, from this reviewer's perspective, he has succeeded nicely in broadening perspectives about levels of managerial complexity and executive development.  He also has succeeded in drawing attention to the organization as a co-acting member of society.  Far too often, the perspective is on the individual executive or executive team, and the personal attributes thus brought to the role.  Holistically, organizations are viewed by those in their environment as entities – the organization's "brand." They are information sensing and processing systems (e.g., Daft & Weick, 1983; Miller, 1978), "making meaning" and setting strategy accordingly.  In Van Vrekhem's view, those organizations with the value proposition embedded in his seven dimensions will sense the environment better and achieve a better fit within their societies over the long term. 

Not everyone will find this an easy read.  And it is made more difficult by formatting and editing that is somewhat different from that found in most books edited in this country.  However, this reviewer found it an intriguing and worthwhile read.  It may or may not be seen as an advance within the requisite organization field conservatively defined.  However, it should be seen as a useful primer on how successively more complex levels of understanding probably should develop in organizations that seek to fit most productively – and symbiotically -- within their societies.   


Daft, R. L. & Weick, K. E., (1983). Toward a Model of Organizations as Interpretation Systems. (ONR Technical Report TR-ONR-DG-04) College Station: Texas A&M University.
Jaques, E. , (1989) Requisite Organization. Gloucester: Cason Hall.
Jaques, E. & Cason, K., (1994). Human Capability. Gloucester: Cason Hall.|
Kegan, R., (1982). The Evolving Self. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Miller, J. G., (1978). Living systems. New York: McGraw-Hill.


Review by:  Jerry L. Gray, Ph.D.  Dean Emeritus and Senior Scholar, The I.H. Asper School of Business, The University of Manitoba

Van Vrekhem, Fabiaan (2015). The disruptive competence. Compact Publishing: Kalmthout, Belgium 

The pioneering work of Elliott Jaques on requisite organization, human capability and mental processing have been the foundation for many research studies, scholarly and practitioner articles, and management books focused on the theory and practice of management. This book is an example of using Jaques’ theories and research to extend knowledge in a related area. It both strengthens the utility of Jaques’ proposals, as well as creates new perspectives in understanding how organizations grow and are sustained through increasingly complex strategies.

The author builds on Jaques’ seven levels of complexity in requisite organizational theory by integrating them with his seven building blocks (“dimensions”) for organizational success. His examples illustrate this interaction from historical examples, as well as suggesting future occurrences (“disruptions”). Having a reasonably comprehensive understanding of Jaque’s requisite organizational concepts would be helpful in gaining a full understanding of the author’s theory. But even at the most basic level, the book will certainly stimulate thinking in how to make organizations more effective.


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Leading People:
The 10 Things Successful Managers Know and Do
by Peter Mills


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We hope you will read the book and write a review in your own style of any length. It's best to post your review on and Also on, and If you have the energy. Often people read the reviews on Amazon Before They decided to purchase Either online or in a local store.


Review by:  Cynsie Kraines, COO, Levinson and Co., Previously Known as the Levinson Institute; and board member of the Global Organization Design Society

This is an important handbook for consultants and executives seeking to implement the Requisite Organization system of management originated by Dr. Elliot Jaques. Many people have been drawn to Dr. Jaques simple but elegant theories—which conform brilliantly to common sense—only to find the application of the theory to be quite complex.  As a practitioner of Elliot Jaques’ Requisite Organization for more than 20 years, I have found the beautifully elaborated methodology created by Barry and Sheila Deane for working inside of organizations to be a logical and powerful addition to this body of knowlede.  Peter Mills, their longtime colleague, has crafted a very practical handbook for consultants and managers, based on their work.

The clear language, excellent summaries of key concepts, and tips for getting started make this a must read for those who have been flirting at the edges of transforming managerial hierarchies, leveraging the full potential of their talent, and providing true, value-adding leadership.


Review by: Sheila Deane , Chief of PeopleFit Australasia; and board member of the Global Organization Design Society

In a world where more than 11,000 new business books are written every year, and in the opinion of some critics, are offered to a jaded and disinterested readership, Mills has ventured bravely. He is trying to get the attention of practicing managers for something which he feels is important and badly overlooked; that is, the fundamentals of managerial work.

In a world which could appear to have lost interest in the accountable work of the manager and is fascinated instead with other forms of movers and shakers such as ‘charismatic leaders’, ‘champions’, ‘back belts’, ‘scrum masters’, ‘facilitators’, ‘coaches’, to name a few, this task may be regarded as too basic or even unimportant. Not so.

Mills’ book, could be just one more ‘How To’ guide. But its straightforward, practical content and style are supported by profound theoretical underpinnings.

The Leadership Framework upon which this book is based is a manager-centric framework of definitions, principles and practices to guide effective organization design and managerial work. The Framework in turn draws on the unique body of work known as Requisite Organization*. This is a seminal body of organizational and managerial work with deep scholastic and applied provenance**.

Thus, this seemingly simple ‘How To’ guide is set apart from others. Introducing the Leadership Framework in his opening remarks, Mills says that the Leadership Framework is:

“….a fully integrated model of principles and concepts for managing people.”

This low-key description may not immediately attract the attention that it deserves. “….a fully integrated model….” Really?, you might ask. Many readers, perhaps jaded by the hyperbole common to the management paperback, might read quickly past this sentence. But this is important for CEOs, Boards, business owners, shareholders, and every manager of teams interested in high productivity.

The Leadership Framework comprises three interconnected lenses: Leading the Organization, which is the work of Presidents and executive teams, Leading People, which is the work of all managers in the organization and Leading Yourself, which is the ongoing work of understanding yourself and others.

As a senior executive and Human Resource professional with decades-long experience in large commercial and public organisations, Mills shows a preference to direct his messages to practicing managers and to talk practically to them, in their language. Mills presents the world of work as the everyday world of the manager. In this book, Mills focuses on one lens of the Leadership Framework – Leading People, which is the managerial leadership component of the Framework and provides the clear definitions and language which are necessary requirements to, firstly, set clear, unambiguous expectations of managers and, secondly, to underpin consistency in managerial work throughout an organization.

Mills’ book provides a veritable ‘tick list’ for managerial work. He is also clear about the expectations of employees as part of a successful manager-employee relationship. Mills presents the Framework through his own experience – in my view, a valuable rendering. However, he does not allow himself to drift off the theoretical foundations or to ‘cherry pick’ areas that might be celebrated as today’s fashion. He states that for those being managed, it is either a world of compelling challenge and achievement or a world of crushing boredom and even fear; a world of personal progress, or a world of dispiriting stagnation. Mills works to persuade the reader that organizing and managing employees in a truly productive way, requires a well-founded understanding of human work and what work, or the true nature of motivation, really means to people. His book sets out the building blocks for productive workplaces where employees’ capability is released and the organization’s business objectives are delivered. Importantly, he promises a framework that helps managers diagnose the organization and leadership problems they face every day, thus building managers’ confidence in clear and consistent decision making.

Practicing managers, we are told, are people in roles in which they are to be held accountable, not only for their own effectiveness (as are all employees), but they are also to be held accountable for the work output of their direct reports. The felt weight of this accountability is well known to experienced managers. Ultimately, the test of Mills’ offerings in this book rests upon the judgment of this manager readership.

Throughout the book, Mills makes it clear that provided with effective managerial leadership, based on requisite practices, employees will experience ‘systemic’ trust in the workplace, and will behave productively. On the other hand, poor managerial practices will induce systemic fear rather than trust, and will immediately choke employee discretionary effort in the managed team and ultimately, will produce dysfunctional behaviors. The higher in the organization the particular manager role is, the broader the reach of this impact on productivity and behavior.

Clearly, Mills accepts that the underlying theoretical base is solid. The many, varied and alternative ideas and arguments which management ‘science’ attracts, he simply leaves for others to navigate. He avoids the mud and tangle of the ‘conceptual swamp’ of management science (as Elliott Jaques* once characterized the field) and jumps straight into the things that managers must know and do.

Although there are only ’10 Things…..’ successful managers know and do, in the title of this book, a deeper reading reveals that there is much more to know and do than just 10 things. This is, in my view, is less a weakness in the book and more a strength. The partitioning of the subject seems to be more likely a result of a publisher’s advice in trying to raise the attractiveness of an apparently dry subject in an overfilled market. If the title gets readers to open the book, they will be rewarded by more than the title offers.

Mills takes the reader on a journey through the ten key managerial principles, with supporting practices, necessary to enable each employee to deliver their best work. He maps out the detail of these practices, from understanding the work of a manager, to building great teams, designing clear roles and filling them with capable people, through to the suite of trust inducing performance practices such as assigning clear tasks, coaching and developing to deliver those tasks, recognizing and rewarding, and sustaining the team through accountable implementation of change.

The chapters are set out to be used as independent modules for discussion, with a summary of the principles at the end of each chapter and a link to a website for hands-on tools, checklists and exercises. This is smart and pragmatic, as it is likely to keep the reader connected over time with others interested in probing the field in more depth. I expect that it will also enable Mills to keep the practices updated and current on his related website. This will be most helpful from a practicing manager’s point of view.

Mills’ book could have benefited further from his significant workplace experience by the addition of examples of the many tricky and often sensitive performance issues faced by managers, although the web links contained in the book provide compensation.

Mills has undoubtedly decided that delivering requisite managerial practices is critical to unlocking the organization’s core of building mutual trust.   Others working in the Requisite Organization field may have something to say about Mills’ minimalist handling of complexity of work known as Jaques’ Stratified Systems Theory, and the clinical assessment of individual capability to match the complexity of work.

However Mills’ personal experience in working with practicing managers, together with his own experience as a manager, clearly point him to address the pain points experienced by managers. Managers new to the field, and experienced managers needing a whole system approach to making sense of their environment, will find this a useful ready reckoner and guide in their everyday work.

Mills is clear about the organization’s and manager’s contribution to failures in organizations. I believe that he can be judged favorably on providing a concise, workable set of tools to help managers all levels to meet their accountabilities for building valuable workplaces and avoiding such failures. I recommend Leading People to all managers seriously interested in building sustainable workplaces where their employees are free to experience the joy of work.


* ' Requisite Organization 'was the title of a book first published in 1989 by Dr. Elliott Jaques (Cason Hall & Co Publishers Arlington VA). Then in the years since, the phrase, Requisite Organization Has Come to Represent a science-based body of work Which HAD ITS beginnings in the multi-year, work-place based action research Conducted at the Glacier Metals Company (UK). This body of work is Usually Attributed to Both Jaques and his former long-time client and collaborator, Lord Wilfred Brown Who Was, at the time, the Chairman and CEO of Glacier Metals. Further development of the work Took Place During another multi-year project at organizational reform Conzinc Rio Australia under the leadership of CEO STI Then, Sir Roderick Carnegie.

** As a start, see 'Requisite Organization - annotated bibliography' by Ken Craddock at:


Review by: Azucena Gorbarán, Managing Director of AMG Consulting, Buenos Aires; and board member of the Global Organization Design Society

Peter Mills succeeded in transmitting the fundamental principles of Requisite Organization in a simple and clear way.

That simplicity reflects an understanding based on experience and a deep understanding of the dynamics of organizations and the factors that affect the loss of differentiation and results.

The framework integrates three dimensions: to lead the organization, to lead the people and to lead oneself. The framework organizes the inherent complexity of leadership for any manager.

The book focuses on the principles and practices included in the last two dimensions having as prinicipal focus the line manager, accountable for executing the strategies defined and assigned by top management

Mills uses the 10 principles to unfold one by one, the requirements and steps leading to successful execution.  The principles include creating one's own role, understanding and respecting the roles of others, creating subordinate roles and staffing them with the right capabilities, building teams, building confidence in the manager-subordinate relationship, assigning and evaluating work, providing coaching and managing recognition.

Each of the principles is supported by clearly described concepts with tips for implementation that facilitate action.  

Beyond other management books, this framework and its principles are based on a scientific theory that has been researched and tested over time. 

Accountability is foundational to good management and the well researched concepts of levels of work complexity and human capability create the order and clarity required for execution:  Who is accountable for what?, What level of authority do they have in making decisions?,  What is the nature of the vertical and horizontal relationship between roles, assigning and evaluate tasks, developing and rewarding people?

Order and clarity not only facilitates a productive performance but creates equal conditions and confidence for people to deploy their full potential at work.

I would highlight one theme present throughout the book but whose connection is not obvious.  This is to uncover and to raise up the ultimate purpose for which the organization exists.  This guides creating value for the customer and for all its stakeholders.

Put the manager-employee relationship is fine center from the time that organizations are human and that everything is settled in the interaction, but the offset is necessary to put the servant leadership collective value creation.

Mills stresses the importance of setting context and defining a sense of direction.  He encourages you to explain the purpose of the role and its accountabilities and authorities -- all the while helping the subordinate to answer the following four questions.  

1.  Where are we going?
2.  What is my job?
3.  How will my performance be evaluated?
4.  Where am I going .. what's my future in the organization?

He emphasizes the importance of recognizing the individual's contribution within a team and the importance of working productively and collaboratively with other roles in the organization to ensure the quality of "delivery".

He defines a manager's indirect responsibility to define and reinforce proper vertical and horizontal role alignment to ensure that collaboration occurs and to create conditions of equality and trust throughout the organization.

In my view the organizing focus for all these principles is the concept of value creation. The manager's meta message in leading is to clearly define the customer as why the organization exists and how it should be organized. 

This does not detract one iota from the value of the book, it's just a challenge to encourage continuing work to focus on purpose and customer service.

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Organization Design, Levels of Work and Human Capability: Executive Guide

GO Book Cover

by 40 authors from around the world
and edited by Ken Shepard, Ph.D.,
Jerry L. Gray, Ph.D. and
James G. (Jerry) Hunt, Ph.D.


Product Details

Digital PDF: 520 pages
Publisher: Global Organization Design Society
Date: July 16, 2007
Language: English
ISBN-10: 097838590X
ISBN-13: 978-0978385903

The Practice of Managerial Leadership describes the comprehensive set of principles based on comprehensive scientific knowledge called "The required organization," developed by Dr. Elliot Jaques and his colleagues through the research work in consulting for over 55 years in 15 countries. Nancy Lee Dr. Jacques worked for more than 20 years. This book is aimed at managers at all levels, and refers to the managerial role, which is the point where most needed to have clear guide action to achieve the goals of the organization. The application of these ideas has the effect of increasing the productivity and profitability, strengthen confidence and provides employees with a healthy work environment that promotes personal development.

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pdf CLICK HERE for a preview of the index and the introduction of the practice of managerial leadership ( 211.88 kB )



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Topics in the book:

Chapter 1:
Basic Concepts

1 Associations and the managerial hierarchy
2. The working relationship manager-subordinate
March. Time interval and organizational levels (strata)
4. Working level or timing of discretion
. 5 The required pattern of organizational structure
6. Complexity of roles and tasks

Chapter 2:
The human capacity

  1. The nature of human capacity applied to work
  2. Negative Temperament
  3. The maturation of the complexity of data processing and maturation Development
  4. Fairness in the employment relationship
  5. Complexity of information processing and organizational strata
  6. Orders of complexity of the information processing
  7. Research on the complexity of the information processing

Chapter 3:
Working relationships

  1. Relations role in the allocation of tasks between manager and subordinate
  2. Teams and teamwork
  3. Cross-functional working relationships

Chapter 4:
The structure of the organization and functional alignment

  1. The functions in the organization
  2. Corporations stratum VII
  3. Business units and roles of stratum V
  4. GMs stratum IV
  5. Units of mutual recognition (MRU) in stratum III
  6. Turns frontline

Chapter 5:
The management practices

  1. Organizational leadership practices
  2. Managerial Leadership Practices for all managers
  3. Coaching
  4. Evaluation of effectiveness
  5. Merits review
  6. Selection
  7. Induction
  8. Reversal and dismissal for cause
  9. Management meetings
  10. Continuous Improvement
  11. Continuous improvement at all levels

Chapter 6:
The story of Novus

  1. History of Monsanto and novus
  2. Fresh start using principles and practices required
  3. The question of temperament
  4. Analysis of cross-functional working relationships
  5. The development of practices required for novus
  6. Educate employees on the Novus Management System
  7. Other required practices
  8. Level of work and organization structure
  9. Salaries
  10. The development of talent pool
  11. Integration of Management System of the company Novus
  12. Reflections on the Novus project
  13. Novus in the XXI century

Chapter 7:
The case Roche Canada

  1. Background
  2. Roche Canada is preparing for the XXI century
  3. Definition of organization required to comply with the strategy of Roche
  4. Improved cross-functional working relationships
  5. Establishment of high performance teams to develop and launch products
  6. Evaluation of the talent and communication of results
  7. Training for managerial leadership
  8. Rewards and recognition required
  9. The Requisite Organization principles and strategic planning Roche
  10. What we learned at Roche Canada
  11. Synthesis


Professional associations & universities that support and / or co-market society conferences

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IBM International


The Argentine Human Resources Association

The European Organization Design Forum


Canadian Association of Management Consultants

Human Resource Professionals of Ontario

Human Resource Planning Society

An institute for advanced human resources professional development

An association of academics, business users and consultants headquartered at Aarhus University in Denmark

A USA based association

A Toronto-based association of advanced HR practitioners 


An Argentine Society for Quality Improvement


The Argentine Society for Training and Development

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Federation of Human Resource Associations in Latin America 

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A management consulting firm in Toronto, Canada



Forrest and Company, Toronto, Canada


A global network of associate consultants headquartered in Toronto Canada



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Toronto, Canada

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