Category Archives: organizational development

Edgar Schein: On the Evolution of OD, Leadership and Group Dynamics

Anyone who has spent time in the study or practice of Organizational Development knows something about Edgar Schein. He has been a central voice in this space for more than 5 decades, with books and papers that have advanced the field. He has helped to unpack what we mean by research and experimentation in the social sciences, and he has guided application of OD concepts through all aspects of teaching, mentoring and consulting.

What might we gain in looking back at his contributions?

The short answer: plenty.

Let’s use our April 17, 2017 #orgdna chat to unpack some of Edgar Schein’s most important and influential views:

  • Q1. Leadership: best defined as a role, not a position. Has Schein’s perspective received traction by CEO’s? Wall Street?
  • Q2. Culture: includes artifacts, values and assumptions; it’s encountered in layers. Which aspects are most fully realized in the practice of modern OD?
  • Q3. “The job of a leader is to create culture” -E.Schein. Agree/disagree?
  • Q4. Group vs. Individual Dynamics. Does a Western culture emphasizing individual achievement fight with a need for group/team learning?
  • Q5. OD Research vs. Practice. Fragmentation may be the enemy. Few B-schools have picked up the torch. Why?
  • Q6. What does Schein see ahead for OD?

The #orgdna chat community is continuing to unpack key trends in the 21st century practice of OD, from leadership to learning. In 2017 we are looking at ideas of key thought leaders. This year we have looked at Peter Block and Chris Argyris. In the past, we’ve looked at Margaret Wheatley, Peter Senge, and Donella Meadows.

The conversation continues. Let us know where else to direct our focus.

Meantime, join us MON 4/17 9pm EDT for our next #orgdna. We suggest a streaming app like TweetDeck. Just include #orgdna in your tweets, and we’ll see you online.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)

More on Edgar Schein? Try these resources:


Peter Block: Better Questions for Orgs in 2017, moving from How? to Why?

We’re kicking off our #orgdna conversation for 2017. For me, there’s no place better to start than a focus on the top questions facing orgs and their leaders. For that, there’s no better thought leader to tap than the purveyor of the better question himself, Peter Block.

In late 2012, on the heels of getting my first book out, I read both of Block’s successful primers: The Answer to How, is Yes (2002) and Community: The Structure of Belonging (2009).

Together they create an excellent structure for online conversation.

Block introduces key elements of collaborative dialog, and methods to frame social change, in general. We conducted a Peter Block book disussion at our #k12 #ecosys chat in April 2013. On reviewing it, I found the frame excellent for our next #orgdna. Let’s reuse the basic structure, with focus on the first book. Here’s an excerpt of the 2013 #ecosys frame:

Block’s ideas are 100% congruent with what I’ve seen in a variety of social Twitter-based communities. Careful question framing changes our ability to recognize new possibilities. Better questions lead us to a dialog on what matters most.

I’ve updated the #ecosys questions just a bit for #orgdna, focused more on the modern organization (noting that public schools remain “in scope”):

  • Q1. Block argues “How?” bypasses questions of intention. Agree? Why?
  • Q2. The right questions, Block says, are those that get us to focus on what matters. What are some examples?
  • Q3. Flexible Structures. What are source/means for adaptive behavior?
  • Q4. Learning Organizations. Inspired by Senge, how does this happen in +2017?
  • Q5. Updated Guidance. Much has happened in OD since 2002. What would Block and others add to this dialog?

Food for thought, without a doubt. And we’ll use our takeaways to fuel follow-on frames.

Please join us on Twitter.  The discussion will be MON 1/16/17, 9pm EST. We’ve been going about 90 minutes, as we work to accommodate multiple timezones and west coasters. Simply add #orgdna to your tweets. We recommend a streaming tool like TweetDeck, to follow the conversation.

There will be more book-based #orgdna discussions in 2017. Besides, Block, we should look at Margaret Wheatley again, and most certainly others. Please weigh in on a proposed sequence. The only requirement is to keep the discussions practical and accessible. It’s okay to tap theories, as long as we don’t get stuck there.

Hope you’re excited for the new year with #orgdna. Let the conversations and deep learning resume.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Rethinking the Silo: New Designs for Structure and Flow in the 21st Century Organization

In our monthly #orgdna chat, we’ve been discussing the future of the 21st century organization. Some have begun to rethink what is possible. Some have argued, as I have, that leaders should orchestrate their organizations rather than trying to control them, embracing more collaborative models for getting things done. Why?

In short, dynamic models account for the need for organizations to respond to change. Adaptability is a requirement. And resources (e.g., information, people, funding) must be allowed to flow across department/functional boundaries when and where they are needed.

Sadly, silos remain predominant. It’s what everybody is used to. It’s the 100-year-old factory model still being held up as the handbook for modern business. Think about any bureaucratic organization you’ve encountered. They are built in silos that sub-optimize elements at the expense of the whole. They embrace standards, at the expense of change. And perhaps worst, they are virtually programmed to survive.

The good news:  there are some alternative ideas and models in play that set out to change the rules, topics that are worth a deeper dive. So let’s have a look.

First, lets revisit our path:

  • In April, we looked at system thinking (link) as a means to model the structure and flow of the typical silo-based organization, to identify bottlenecks and counter-productive motivators.
  • In May, we deconstructed the silo (link), looking at specific reinforcing flows that create problematic influences, beyond our best intentions.
  • Now, in June, it’s time to look at silo improvements, exploring alternatives to challenges and gaps we’ve identified.

Let’s start with a picture to get us thinking, a visual prompt for ideas that can be complex and abstract when left to words.

Here’s an excellent image offered by a regular #orgdna contributor, Valdis Krebs. The concept of Wirearchy (more) was first coined by Jon Husband in 1999. It is a useful model to explore the alternatives to the organizational silo:

With reflection on this picture, we can resume our Q&A, a dialog on silo factors and alternatives, informed by the Wierarchy idea and fueled by system thinking. Let’s consider ways for:

  • Q1. Restoring Critical Feedback. Adaptation depends on a critical feedback loop, and in silo’d orgs this is often blocked. What new mechanisms could allow feedback to flow across and within silos?
  • Q2. Freeing/Reallocating Critical Resources. We’ve all seen hoarding of financial and human resources within silos produce a negative outcome. What can be done to prevent or discourage this?
  • Q3. Solving Fragility for Resilience. We’ve learned silos that hone deep expertise are fragile or obsolete when demands change. 21stC forces demand adaptability; organizations are seeing shifts in their markets and technology base; operating units must learn to function under new rules. This can be the most daunting kind of change of all. How do we foster adapability and a new resilience?
  • Q4. Optimizing for the Whole. The classic negative silo-driven outcome is optimization at the department or component level, while hurting the larger organization. What is needed to circumvent this self-defeating path?

As we discuss alternatives, let’s continue to use system thinking as a guide. What forces are at work? What controls are increasing, decreasing, or blocking the flow of critical resources? How might these be influenced?

The #orgdna community meets monthly on organizational learning and leadership, typically 3rd MONDAYs at 10 pm ET. Simply sign on to Twitter at that time, and use the hashtag #orgdna to follow the conversation. If you can’t attend, the transcript will be captured in PDF form and linked in a comment to this framing blog post. Prior transcripts are available in a similar fashion, as comments on the respective monthly post.

It’s always a lively exchange. All are welcome. We hope to see you there.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Dialog for the 21st Century Organization: A Focus on Culture, Change and Learning

AMG152695b WeaveI had a fascinating exchange Saturday morning with Panteli Tritchew and Ken Gordon, sparked by a response from Mike Itzius. It was a spontaneous twitter chat (sometimes called ‘async’) that sparks from a tweet or two, aided by twitter-enabled phones with alerts on audible.

We brainstormed a few threads that run through the modern organization. Even in our short dialog, it was clear: there are so many interrelated threads, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s been a challenge for #cdna too, as it’s long been for leaders.

Where does change in an organization begin?

Since mid-2012, a group of us have chatted on these topics under the concise but obscure #cdna hashtag. The tag was short and sweet and it served us well. But with conflicting use now among genetic scientists and stock market traders, we need a new moniker.

In our impromptu Saturday chat, we touched on organization development (“OD”), change in general, and the various aspects of learning that weave in and out of these sometimes academic topics.

We didn’t mention, but have in the past, culture, the forces of social complexity, knowledge management (“KM”) and of course, the overarching umbrella of leadership. Those topics often get woven into our chats. Together, they are the fabric (resilient or otherwise) of the 21st century organization.

Add all that up and it’s one whopping hashtag.

But we must find a new one. A hashtag to focus the conversation must foster freedom and independence of new ideas. We can tap other tags (and their stakeholders!) as specific topics afford. I’ve found #orgchange #orglearn and #orgdev all have links back to individuals or corporate initiatives, and some great content. Tags like #leadership and #change need no introduction. We just need a twitter place to call our own.

What do you think? Here are some Q’s to help us sort it out:

Q1. Org Change – the action or the destination?
Q2. Org Leader – the critical catalysts?
Q3. Org Development – the practice and the mission?
Q4. Org Learning – the capacity .. & the missing link?
Q5. Org Complexity – the game changer (if we explain it?)
Q6. Org Culture – the ultimate enabler?

I hope you can join us MON 7/20 at 9:30p ET, 6:30p PT. We’ll take on each thread one by one, to see what kind of magic we might weave. By the end of the chat, we should have clarity on our new hashtag. Until then, we’re still #cdna ..

See you online!

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Cultures of Fear. Is ‘Old School’ still in session?

Staring up the Corporate Ladder. With much at stake, do we dare take a step?

STARING UP THE CORPORATE LADDER. With much at stake, do we dare take a step? Original art by Robert Winkler 2012.

CHARLOTTE, NC. September 2013, by

Seems risk is everywhere in the world these days, and the work place is no exception.  Not long ago we could count on the corporate world to provide a secure income and career track. Today we so often find ourselves vulnerable, unsure of our next steps, with our professional future uncertain.

SEPTEMBER FRAME

I just picked up a copy of Smart Tribes by Christine Comaford, the NYT best seller that does a great job of focusing on this topic anew. She relates traditional views of leadership to ‘old school’ management styles that are based on fear: “Perform, or we’ll remove your ability to pay your mortgage ..” (p.16).

At some time or another, we’ve all witnessed situations where fear has been a factor at work.

To me, the question is how do we escape the destructive gravity of these situations, especially when there is so often critical mass pulling everyone down. Misery, they say, loves company.  Comaford offers solutions that track well with Goleman’s Primal Leadership as well as CollabDNA .. namely .. creating emotional connections, and working to influence the culture.

Let’s frame some questions that might help us on this path:

  • Q1. What are the org dynamics or management styles that make fear possible?
  • Q2. What is the difference between ‘commitment’ and ‘compliance’?
  • Q3. When is the notion of ‘accountability’ effective? Is it sometimes misused?
  • Q4. Can you describe actions, behaviors and challenges of leaders you’ve seen who were actively working to dimantle fear-infused culture?

Thanks as always for your time, insights and energy. See you at the chat, the week of 9/16. Watch for timing.

AUGUST FRAME

As I recently turned the pages of Susan Jeffers’ classic “Feel the Fear, and Do It Anyway” I found both comfort and common sense in the logic of “pushing through.” But in the work context, it seems the risks can so quickly outweigh the benefits. Do we dare raise radical new ideas? Think outside the safety of conventional wisdom?

Can we dare to be different?

Thanks to Scott Smith for his comment in July in the post of leaders who resist change. It caught my attention, and inspired this post.

In our Monday 8/12 edition of #CDNA, let’s ask a few questions about fear in the organizational context, to see if we might bring some new light to a area so often shrouded in the dark inner reaches of corporate politics:

Q1. Argyris (1980) spoke of fear as the unspeakable; has this changed, or is still prevalent?
Q2. Jeffers (1987) spoke of the need to “unlearn negative programming” .. is it safe for us to proceed when others around/above us have not?
Q3. Which is the more difficult fear to unlearn: survival? not knowing? or not fitting in?
Q4. As a leader, what is the first step in elminating fear in the workplace?

The 2nd week of each month at 8pm or 9pm ET, the #CDNA crew seeks to bring open minds to our ongoing conversation on organization change.

Sure, we’ll try to tap industry knowledge and the wisdom of sages along the way. But we favor a common sense approach. Challenging “what we think we know” and suspending our favorite paradigms is, almost always, the first step to new thinking.

Looking forward to seeing you at #CDNA.

Chris aka @sourcepov


Many Dimensions of Collaborative Learning: Where Are the Synergies?

Even on our worst days, we’re learning.  It’s a skill hard-coded within the human DNA for survival.  But in the context of education and business learning agendas, perhaps we can raise the stakes a bit, if ask this non-rhetorical question:  how could we get better at learning how to learn?

As we attack this in the early months of 2013, I thought it might be useful to look at how learning is approached in a variety of different disciplines, to see where we might find common themes.  This graphic was designed to get us thinking … and talking ..

I’ve attacked many of these topics in The DNA of Collaboration, especially as they pertain to Culture.  Over in the #K12 #ECOSYS chat community, we’re about to do a deeper dive on the K12 Advanced Learning Models.

In the meantime, lets keep the #CDNA conversation at a higher level for now, to explore the broadest synergies.  As we look across disciplines, what might we gain?  Here’s the chat format for the next several weeks at #CDNA, starting MON JAN 7 8pET.

To get started, we’ll walk down the chart, one row at a time, with these questions:

  • Q1.  What are the most common, fundamental, intrinsic drivers of human learning?
  • Q2. Who or what are the most important catalysts and motivators for this learning, over time?
  • Q3. What can we learn from traditional classroom methods across K12, HigherED & Business?
  • Q4. What advanced learning methods may be most interesting in this analysis?

I hope you find the frame as intriguing as I did, when we started talking about it on Twitter in December.  Interesting comments sprang from both my own sourcepov blog and our own new CDNA G+C Community “Collaboration DNA”.

I hope you’ll share your feedback with us, as we explore each impact vector (row) and discipline (column) in turn.

Our goal?  To rigorously explore the possibilities of Learning How to Learn.  You might say we’re using critical thinking to better understand and raise the bar on .. okay, you guessed it .. our capacity for critical thinking.

See you online.

Chris


Learning to Learn: The Evolution of KM and OD; Can they work with Education to change the game?

DNA in the Evolution of KM and OD

DNA in the Evolution of KM and OD: Can we adapt to drive meaningful change?

As covered in my recent KM-OD post and discussed in my KM World 2012 W5 workshop, the modern organization needs every shred of productivity and innovation capacity it can muster. But buzz words and aphorisms abound in this space.

Can we actually make a meaningful difference?

I’ve found that traditional practices of Knowledge Management (KM) and Organization Development (OD) have struggled when it comes to getting people meaningfully engaged on the topic of learning. It can be an abstract discussion. Uncomfortable with ambiguity and not knowing, most of us quickly we turn to process manuals, documenting what we think we know, or running training classes.  For KM and OD to evolve .. for the modern organization to truly embark on learning how to learn .. we must change the approach.

And what role does organized Education play in all this?

I discuss some ideas for this in The DNA of Collaboration (Ch.19).  In today’s virtual Book Tour conversation, let’s discuss a few of the key points:

  • Q1. KM should help knowledge moves through organizations and generate value. Does this happen where you work?
  • Q2. Does an OD function in your organization exist? Does it help teach people to learn?
  • Q3. What are the synergies between KM and OD?
  • Q4. How can organized Education influence/guide this evolution?
  • Q5. Senge and Wheatley have said much on learning in the collaborative context. Is it still relevant?
  • Q6. New thinking about change (per Hagel): a shift from structure to flow, reflecting how we learn. Agree?

You can join the conversation via TweetChat here.

Note that Saturday is becoming our Global CDNA conversation, with N.Amercian (US & CN) CDNA conversations breaking out Monday evenings, moving to alternate weeks in January.

Intrigued?  Reach out, let me know your thoughts.

Chris Jones, aka @sourcepov, author