Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26

Like all organizations and sub-units of organizations, teams have presented as necessarily contextual in nature. What outcomes particular team building organizations have sought to achieve, have helped to define their contexts. In recent discussions with colleagues, I proposed a role reversal of sorts, with relationships serving as the targeted outcomes and activities of production, service, and distribution serving as means to achieve those outcomes. Even when they exist in simple structures and have otherwise simple missions, goals, objectives, and tasks; organizations and their teams have also presented as complex, adaptive, and dynamic entities (Argyris, 1957; Arrow, McGrath, & Berdahl, 2000; Stacey, 2007). In that regard, viewing relationships as ends would likely add additional complexity, especially from researchers’ perspectives, since output, profit, or some combination of those and other constructs, like those included in a "balanced scorecard" (Kaplan & Norton, 1996), have typically served as the “normal” bottom lines in most traditional Western organizations. In any case, however, four broad-based questions seem to emerge when considering the associated dimensions related to relationships as outcomes; and arguably, these could represent a typology that encompasses team selection, whether viewing relationships as means or as ends for given organizations. These questions include:

  • Do organizations place conditions on those who perform team selection, and if so, what do those conditions consist of?

  • How do functional supervisors or others “in charge” and tasked with the job, actually decide who will serve on their organizations’ teams?

  • Do the criteria for selection for formal team leadership differ from those of general team membership and should they?

  • Do the criteria and concerns regarding selection for and membership in local, face-to-face, functional teams differ from those of international, multicultural, virtual, and cross-functional teams, and if so, how?

Argyris, C. (1957). Personality and organization. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Arrow, H., McGrath, J. E., & Berdahl, J. L. (2000). Small groups as complex systems: Formation, coordination, development, and adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Kaplan, R. S., & Norton, D. P. (1996). The balanced scorecard: Translating strategy into action. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Stacey, R. (2007). The challenge of human interdependence: Consequences for thinking about the day to day practice of management in organizations. European Business Review, 19(4), 292-302.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 16

Dent (2003) wrote of dimensions beyond those of which people commonly perceive. He suggested that these dimensions host constructs that humankind hold as paradox. However, in these other dimensions these constructs present as “material” and therefore, self-evident. Dent’s premise arguably holds two ends of complexity, spiritual and physical. He asserted, based on the works he cited by Gell-Mann, and Schwartz and Ogilvy, that relationship forms the “central concept of organizational life” (p. 131). Conversely, the Bible teaches and some ostensibly have observed that both God and man function as triune beings. This observation has therefore created plausibility that dimensionality and therefore complexity, as the literature has recently defined it, may fall short of encompassing the observable nature of material reality in the four sensed dimensions. Combining the soul, represented by one’s intellect and seat of emotions, with physical existence (as much of the recent literature has), might render the contribution of the soul less valuable than what its nature actually provides to the dynamics found in complexity. A three-way paradox, of sorts?

In that regard, I consider the ramifications associated with the long accepted, a priori observation that sometimes the whole presents as greater than the sum of the parts. Rational, natural, open, and chaordic systems enter the discussion here. The dominate coalition examined above developed, maintained, and presented behaviors based on their individual and collective rational beliefs that “… organizations are purposefully designed for the pursuit of explicit objectives” (Scott, 1981, p. 408). Natural beliefs emerged, as they nearly always do, questioning if "the plans" would win out or if some other complex, adaptive, and dynamic factors would emerge and vanquish “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…” (Burns, 1785/2008). Scott further suggested that people may view both rational and natural systems from either an open or closed system perspective. He further detailed how the open system viewpoints have dominated the literature since about 1960; regardless that Pfeffer (1998) presented a case in which he argued the typical existence of organizations that continue to use management techniques that most readily apply in a paradigm of closed-rational, even though Scott and Pfeffer (and I would suspect Bennis, Beckhard, and Stacey, among a whole host of other leadership and organization experts) would argue that generally, theorists find open-natural the most appropriate model by which to consider today’s organizations.

Burns, R. (1785/2008). To a mouse, on turning her up in her nest with the plough. Retrieved from:

Dent, E. (2003). Reconciling complexity theory in organizations and Christian spirituality. Emergence, 5(4), 124-140.

Pfeffer, J. (1998). The human equation. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Scott, W. R. (1981). Developments in Organization Theory, 1960-1980. The American Behavioral Scientist, 24(3), 407.

Stacey, R. (2000). The emergence of knowledge in organizations. Emergence, 2(4), 23-39

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October 7

Do any leaders possess the skills and abilities required to single-handedly pull any group completely together, especially when using the term "leader" only in reference to people who fill the top functional positions in teams, group, or organizations? Some researchers have suggested that the complex, adaptive nature of organizations, generally, makes the possibility of any one person directing the behaviors of other members in the absolute realization of a preconceived vision highly unlikely (Arrow, McGrath, & Berdahl, 2000; Streatfield, 2001). Although it also appears, a priori, that a values alignment between members (regardless of functional position) could likely contribute to unified visions of future states of organizations and therefore, ultimately result in the better realization of their preconceived visions, at least one other scholar has suggested that it presents as unlikely that members could align their values to that degree, over the long haul (Vince, 2004). Specifically, opportunities and challenges emerge to confront organizations in processes of internal integration and external adaptation, the responses to which cause members to adopt new or modified values and priorities (Griffin & Stacey, 2005; Schein, 1992; Stacey, 2005). Notwithstanding the potential role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, some other scholars have actually theorized that leader effectiveness could correlate better to serendipity -- a contextual application of luck, happenstance, or being in the right place at the right time, than to his or her skillfulness in terms of directing the achievement of organizational outcomes (Svensson & Wood, 2005).

This doesn't even address the question of who actually serve as leaders at any level, at any time, within any organization, regarding any opportunities. Arguably, in an organizational setting, functional supervisors should have the "lion's share" of expertise, but in the internet age, who can guarantee that they will possess the most experience in any organization on any given topic? The bulk of members in many organizations include professionals that possess extensive work experience, including participation in international teams. If the job of leaders ultimately consists of directing behaviors toward the closure of perceived ethical gaps, created by emergent opportunities for which no procedure exists, then I posit that many members in many work centers, departments, and divisions could take the leadership mantle for themselves and for other members. The role of the functional supervisors, at those points and maybe at all times, becomes one of facilitator of the learning and leading processes (not necessarily qua servant leader, but actually as a servant of the other participants within the work division). In the role of process expert and facilitator, the functional supervisors can then provide the support necessary to let other members experience leadership in their own rights, as they respond to emerging opportunities; the functional supervisors can rework the flow of resources and organizational structures to meet members' emerging needs; and they can thereby position themselves to better mitigate the outcomes of conflicts and frustrations.

Arrow, H., McGrath, J. E., & Berdahl, J. L. (2000). Small groups as complex systems: Formation, coordination, development, and adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stacey, R. (2005). Introduction: Emergence and organizations. In R. Stacey (Ed.) Experiencing emergence in organizations: Local interaction and the emergence of global pattern (pp. 1-16). New York: Routledge.

Stacey, R. & Griffin, D. (2005). Introduction: Leading in a complex world. In R. Stacey & D. Griffin (Eds.) Complexity and the experience of leading organizations (pp. 1-16). New York: Routledge.

Streatfield, P. J. (2001) The paradox of control in organizations. New York: Routledge.

Svensson, G., & Wood, G. (2005). The serendipity of leadership effectiveness in management and business practices. Management Decision, 43(7/8), 1001-1009.

Vince, R. (2004). Rethinking strategic learning. London: Routledge.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October 4

Ultimately, how we vote comes down to what we believe about the role of government -- or at least it probably should. Let me preface by saying that I serve as no apologist for Mitt Romney or the Republican Party. Although I have counted myself a Conservative, with Libertarian tendencies, I have done so because I believe that smaller, less intrusive governments; free markets, tempered with level "playing fields," and personal responsibility make for the best socioeconomic mix. I have also found that "experts" in my local neighborhoods have often supplied answers to local and regional problems that rendered similar, if not better results than those supplied by the experts appointed by the Federal Government -- and usually with much lower associated costs. That said:

I find it ironic that people who have had their pensions invested in high yield growth funds that held stock and other securities in companies like Bain Capital, would then turn around and say that they would never vote for Mitt Romney, because they disagree with the methods he used to secure profits for Bain. Even if the methods the people of Bain used didn't prove as "worker friendly" as those methods employed by members of some other companies; for some outcomes, having it both ways has proven difficult, if not impossible.

I also find it difficult to understand how some people have come to seemingly believe that their employers owe them lifetime employment. I inferred such a belief on the part of Mike Earnest. He was featured in the pro-Obama advertisement, in which he recounted the events surrounding the year 2000 closing, by Bain, of the Ampad paper company plant in Marion, Indiana. In the advertisement, he reported working to build "a 30-foot stage;" receiving the news that people of the company had lost their jobs; and feeling. later, like "it was like building my own coffin." If Mr. Earnest and his co-workers seriously thought that the company could generate enough profit to warrant staying in business indefinitely (even though the company began showing losses in January 1999), it seems like it would have made sense for them to have taken the initiative to band together to establish an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, in order to buy the company, outright. On the other hand, if after they completed their due diligence, they bought the company (to absolve Bain of its involvement), and they later found that Ampad did not have what it took to remain profitable, I wonder how many of their employees would have voted to stay in business and how long they would have personally absorbed any subsequent losses (before they otherwise complained that they felt like they had built their own coffins). By the way, Mr. Earnest could have invested in the securities of the companies that owned the plant, right along, and made an equitable percentage off of that particular sale.

Of course, some would likely say that because Mr. Earnest and his ilk served as workers in the company, they should not have had to concern themselves with ownership and management responsibilities. Maybe not, but history recounts those who have observed the existence of leadership vacuums and chosen to ignore them, rather than either answering those opportunities (themselves) or fighting to choose their close allies to answer those opportunities. The people who failed in this regard have almost inevitably had to follow the directions of whomever did fill those leadership vacuums, usually regardless of the politics involved or the subsequent outcomes.

If President Kennedy correctly stated, "to get a good job, get a good education;" then I would suggest: "to get another job, get another education" or "to get a better job, get a better education." No one I know likes to have had to arbitrarily change jobs, but just about everyone I know, over 30 years of age, has had to do it. Neither did any of these people necessarily enjoy having to pack and move across the country (or the world) to work in those new jobs. However, all of them who had the wherewithal to do it, did the deed. Most of them had the wherewithal because they had prepared themselves, in advance. Most of them took personal responsibility for their own lives and many of them trusted God to provide positions in which they could use that preparation. Regardless of their beliefs in God, it doesn't change the likelihood that taking personal responsibility for self-improvement has usually resulted in superior results, especially when compared to the life-styles represented by sitting around and endlessly complaining about the unfairness of situations that emerge in life.

Finally, I wonder what Mr. Earnest would have done if a competitor had offered him a significant raise to come to work for them six months before the plant closed. Would he have stayed with Ampad and thereby displayed the same loyalty to the owners and the management team that he expected them to provide to him? Had he taken the higher paying job, what would he have felt, had the company broadcasted on national television that he had proven disloyal to his friends and his co-workers and that by his quitting, it felt to them like he had "put the nails in their collective coffin?" Similarly, if he held securities in a losing corporation, would he sell them, rather than taking a loss on his own portfolio, if he knew that selling those securities would cost people their jobs? As you read this now, what would you do in similar situations?