Sunday, June 26, 2011

Management Reset – Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness – by Ed Lawler and Christopher Worley

Management Reset – Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness – by Ed Lawler and Christopher Worley, (2011) Jossey-Bass, CA

Book Review
In their earlier book, Built to Change, a title that read more like a ‘me too’ product, Lawler and Worley had already challenged conventional thinking around organizational agility and response to change. Designs for organizational excellence in the past meant that a goal for change was constant relative to the time in which change could be accomplished. Efforts in adaptation would be around such goals that fostered relatively newer forms of stability. The root for change effectiveness was identified as the need for stability. That structure, strategy and organizational design had to simultaneously change as the environment changed was called out in Built to Change.
Evenas they discovered the effects management practices were having on institutions at large, they realized that some of man’s irreversible choices were depleting finite resources. Sustainability of organizations now became inextricably intertwined with leadership as a team sport and shared goals and values were significant part of that journey. Management Reset is about embracing the complexity required to be a sustainable organization. “It is now clear that financial sustainability is a necessary but insufficient organization objective”, write the authors, thus opening up the possibility of reading through some refreshingly fundamental aspects of designing organizations for economic, social and environmental sustainability. Written for consultants who advise organizations on strategy and change, the authors want it to be read by academics who are concerned with organization design, organization development and change. They consider it as the third major management reset since the beginning of the twentieth century.
Command and Control (CCO) organizations responded to volume needs of capitalistic markets with bureaucratic controls. High Involvement organizations (HIO) showed the advantages of tapping into human beings latent potential in the second management reset. CCOs and HIOs are designed to be stable. Few have appreciated thus far, how sharply we will have to deviate from management approaches of the past in order to be sustainable. Fewer have explored its impact for strategy, structure, decision-making practices, human resource management and leadership. A Sustainably Managed Organisation (SMO) requires an integrated approach, far different from the fashion equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. The mindset for the CCO and the HIO is normally one of compliance, and the tension of interests between shareholders and larger stakeholders like society and natural resources remains. Hence the case in this book is made for the integration between agility of the HIO and responsibility of the SMO. 
Forces of Agility
Technology – Virtual presence technology is proliferating, closing the distance between people and challenging the concept of time. The amount of research and knowledge produced is also increasing, pushing the boundaries of change and innovation.
Globalization –The disappearance of host and parent status in manufacturing and research centers have forced organizations to continuously to modify services and products they offer as also where and how to produce them to enable access for their customers.
Workforce – Gender, national origin, race, age and language have come to acquire more central place for attribution to success. Life-span of employment varies not merely by economic development of the host economy, but also with sector of employment, age discrimination laws and financial wherewithal to retire.
Talent, intellectual property, brand image are more perishable and requires a different mind-set to manage as these feed off each other. Knowledge work is harder to direct, measure and perform. Designing for outcomes that may ensure Organizational agility required to evolve from CCOs and HIOs into SCOs are the basic tenets of this book.
The authors quote potential for being SMOs from among their researched organizations. Patagonia, PepsiCo and Unilever are featured for example. The book points towards
a) the way Value is created which includes strategies for sustainable effectiveness as against sustainable competitive advantages
b) the way work is organized, including Governance at the Board, Structures for Operations and sustainable work systems, as against conventional control through job designs; the focus being on organizational designs that dynamically adapt to business environments
c) the way People are treated which includes new notions on Performance, reward systems and management of Talent for SMOs and
d) the way Behavior is guided which entails orchestrating performance through leadership as teamwork, and the transformation to sustainable management where followership is imperative to leadership as well.
Contrary to popular perception, and much against conventional intuition, research on leadership development is quite clear that experience is the best developer of managers and leaders. The development of ‘crucible’ jobs that could provide learning experiences may seem outright first choices for learning designs, but one may fail to realize that moving people from one job to the next rapidly will rob people of requisite learning to overcome quick-fix mentalities - the kind that gloss over long-term impact of actions. What brought us here in terms of short-term thinking that focused selectively on the customer and shareholder will in this sense prevent us from reaching the SMO prototype.
Change Acceleration towards SMO transformations is facilitated by models, language, frameworks and practices that help people talk about and discuss the relevance of change to their work. Formal processes that facilitate learning from experience will be the key to both crucible experiences and the realization of the emerging identity of the organization. The interconnectedness of different social systems in a global world is brought about clearly in this book. It may take an evolved leadership team to embrace the message in this book though.

For another view try this link 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

FMEA and perception of dysfunctional routines

The Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) has been around in Preventive Maintenance and Total Predictive Maintenance for decades. It gives a Factory Manager the assurance of keeping machines used for production up as much as capacity so promises. The accent is on a kind of alertness that is habitually in anticipation of potential errors so that losses in production are minimized ahead of their likely occurrence.  While that is a model approach, it is a feature of ‘systems’ thinking, that if comprehensively appreciated, could alter the design of systems intended for service or production.

In political science, democratic systems are guarded by the procedural manual of a ‘Constitution’. Democracy has the parallel of a system of ‘checks and balances' - the FMEA kind of equivalent. The Executive, Judiciary and Legislature being the original three Estates, has been checked very strongly in the recent past by the Fourth Estate namely the media – print and electronic. The rise of this estate has been drastic with the spread of the Internet. The ‘rule of law’ is a presumptive assumption that human beings have learnt from evolution to believe in principles of justice, equality and freedom.  
Rumblings of social systems in Myanmar, China, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Greece, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Taiwan all indicate that there are tensions between social order, governance and individual lives.
In market mechanisms like corporate America – Enron, WorldCom, Lehman Brothers, Accenture, ethical violations dominated. Adaptive concerns dominated the fall of Netscape, Nortel, Motorola, the American automotive sector, and similar tensions prevailed in the music recording industry. The norms for checks and balances in corporate India have been tested during stock market crises before. The Satyam debacle ( and the 2-G scam in India have been in the public domain due to the media.
Recently when Karl Albrecht announced a posting on his website,
I was reminded of Dr. Jagdish Sheth’s book, “The self-Destructive Habits of Successful Companies”. ( 

Organisation Development has been a discipline of applied behavioral sciences that rose from the ashes of WW-II. In repatriating life in communities, the effectiveness of the individual in groups was known to be supported by values enhancing the expression of Truth, Justiciability and Actionability. Such a climate ironically requires more courage today than is required to wage war. I was beginning to think that fostering such institutional ethic was more about creativity. The insight is now about courage, creativity and a trusting in one's deeper self.

Permeability of dysfunctional routines was studied by Argyris ( ) before. Defensive reasoning and cover-ups continue to dog the decadence of groups. What is it then as Argyris first thought that prevents the upholding of truth in our social systems? I thought there was at least once such appeal in the public domain on the nouveau mode channel of TED events. Watch Brene Brown here on why we’re afraid of being vulnerable.

In the meanwhile I will continue to explore, where does the slip occur - the individual, the group or the larger collective? What should we be open to, and allow to occur that will not result in dysfunctionality of social systems? Would that be a worthy pursuit?

Do let me know.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nine Days to Knowing by Iain Ewing - Book Review

Why was Alexander the Great not as great as we should consider as great? Where do real heroes of the world toil? 

Are there more bosses than leaders with transformational prowess? Seldom have business fables captured responses to such questions as has Nine Days to Knowing by Iain Ewing. This book is about several layers of distillation and narration. Part autobiographical, part spirited in the giving dimension of a richly experienced life, and part an amalgamation of brain science, social norms and evolution of the human species, this book is not for the weak at heart. It surprisingly will not exclude the meek who comprehend the harsh brutalities of living life on our planet. 

In the land of the Tundra, hunters evolve to become herders, who in turn may see some people getting herded themselves. “People who are herded do not spend time observing the behavior of the herd to which they belong.” Shamans in the cold deserts of the Tundra consciously step back to observe the hunters, the herders and the herded. At one level, such wisdom as Iain Ewing narrates is deeply spiritual. It reminds me of the work done by Rev. Richard Rohr, in his book “The Wild Man’s Journey” that explains the revelations and transitions sensed between the deep and the shallows of the masculine and feminine parts of ourselves. 

The fable is revealed through a 65 years old book-store owner when approached by a modern day set of youngsters from work life. It took about 9 days for him to reveal what he could about the relentless harshness in which the high-latitude desert bears life. What  that difficulty did to about 3 million caribou amidst predatory wolves is a compelling backdrop. In a year, this region could see about 250 cm of snow. Caribou move in herds to keep themselves alive from wolves. Their migratory path involves almost 3,000 km at times, one of the longest for four legged animals on the planet. And the lessons in the book are about the ways of the wolves. 

This book is also about the power of paradigms. Paradigms can govern our thinking as much as it can conceive of possibilities and patterns. The paradigm of this narrative is about the parallels in wolf packs that resemble human conduct in organizations. Social order is controlled not only by Alphas (male or female); it is also routinized by Betas and Omegas.  And while that may be in caribou worlds as in wolf packs, behaviors of escape and hunting differ. A caribou will keep a constant distance from other herd members and turn when neighbors turn; a wolf will not keep constant distance but vary it with the closest wolf; and turn when the prey itself turns. A company of humans is more like a wolf pack, watching what the Alpha does and what the Senior Betas do. And while such sits easily between imaginations, general awareness from popular nature channels on television; what separates that from this book is involved interpretation.
The book-shop owner is a figurative shaman, of the good variety; for in life evil shamans exist too. The interpretation distilled from keen observation tracks human evolution too. While our brains defense systems triggers either a fight or flight response in default mode, it also gives us the competitive advantage through nutrition and advances in medical sciences to discern phases in life-span. The new paradigm is about thriving in 6 phases – childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age. The associations between time-based biological evolution and roles in corporate hierarchy are strongly brought out, although contemporary technologies may allow for social roles to flip once in a while between age-groups in counter-intuitive ways. Generally, however, the rules of occupying leadership and followership roles in an organization seem to draw on wisdom from the ages. There seems to be an order of nature there that the narrative seeks to share as a mark of respect for life’s harsh conditions for survival and growth. “I don’t think powerful Alphas can be powerful shamans and that powerful shamans can be powerful Alphas”. But they need each other.
“Being kind is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength”. The relationship between the means and the end is an interesting concept. Iain also provides his version of what paradigms do as contrasted with analogies. The relationship between personal transformation, observation of shamans and one’s shadow self is a struggle in intensity as the fable unfolds. Selective episodes of being a son oneself in regions close to the tundra and being a father rearing one’s own son between China, India, Indonesia and Thailand – all indicate personal transformation worthy of sharing. With tips on how to approach life at each stage, and making allowances for each stage of life to enter our conscious psyches this is an alternate reading written lucidly and convincingly for those in the modern day wolf-pack – the organization. The sharp integration from the I Ching, the Milarepa, Vyasa’s Bhagvad Gita and Lao Tzu’s Art of War are only a faint depiction of a distilled wisdom in this book – of how we can make learning simpler. Do not merely aggregate learning – integrate the lessons in life to convey it in a compellingly simple way. It took 9 days for the book shop owner to entertain the contemporary corporate employee through personalized knowing in this book. 

Else, this book is an easy, quick read of timeless heritage. It is also the mark of a living son's odyssey in wrestling with one’s shadow side trusting in the knowing that Alphas need endearing company. The author's son Tejas makes for a minimalist in the sketches he provides for a figurative symbolism through visuals - also including the notion that Alphas need to know when to retire and how to keep friends for Old Age. One of the benefits of reading this book is surely, watching out for one’s future NOW.