As I was sorting through some of my books earlier today, I came across David Ewing's Practice of Planning. Published in 1968, this was one of the texts to which I referred in a thesis on organizational planning way back in 1980 (see here for the first in a series of posts based on its findings).
My reason for commenting on it today is that it fell open at a section headed "Veridical Perception". Given that much of my current practice is based on encouraging managers to engage directly with the everyday conversational life of their organizations, I was interested to read Ewing's introduction to the concept:
"The word 'veridical', as used here, implies that the manager observes pertinent conditions directly, personally, immediately, factually, accurately. It implies seeing, feeling, sensing, being there - these qualities as opposed to judging on the basis of hearsay, wish, or rules of thumb borrowed from others. The veridical approach combines two views in the same estimate*: the eyes that look outward at the organization's personnel and facilities are the same eyes that look inward at management's intentions and desires for the future."
* Ewing introduced this as an important aspect of organizational appraisal.
He goes on to say,
"Because the manager sees, hears, feels, ponders the facts himself and reacts emotionally, he develops a sense of commitment which is deeper than what he might get from hearsay."
Thankfully, his observation that the manager "feels the facts" and "reacts emotionally" recognizes that he/she is an active and involved particpant in the emerging 'facts' of the situation and in the co-creation of meaning. He/she is not an objective, dispassionate observer of other people's actions.
In discussing veridical perception as an aspect of the planning task, Ewing refers exclusively to the actions of managers. However, leadership from this perspective emerges in relationship. That is to say, it is not confined solely to the actions of those who are formally in charge. At the same time, it shows once again why it is essential for those who are in formal leadership roles to actively engage in the everyday conversational life of their organizations.
This is at the core of the informal coalitions approach to change leadership and organizational dynamics.