Monday, February 23, 2009

Conflict and Managing Conflict

The Foundation Coalition offered several options to deal with conflict. They suggest ways that teachers can have students learn to deal with conflict they face in their daily lives. I translated this in to practices that can be used by mangers in an organizational learning setting. Learning to compete, avoid, accommodate, compromise and collaborate with others on issues is a valuable skill. Knowing what strategy to use in each case allows the individaul to be assertive or cooperative. The issue sometimes dictates the strategy an individual will use. Asking some other questions about relationships, importance, energy, and potential consequences (no action or ramificiations) also shapes the skill to be used. Once the teacher is sure the students knows how these strategies work, students can create conflict management plans, collaborate and communicate with others, and learn to reach consensus on issues. Everyone giving a little usually ensures buy in from individuals.

Conflict occurs when an individual or a group are not getting what they need or want (as in their own self-interest). The author discusses the early signs of conflict, some indicators, types (constructive or destructive), and techniques for avoiding and resolving Board - Superintendent conflict. The discussion on elements of a strong Board - Superintendent partnership are stated. Quite often conflict can be reached by consensus and there are 6 ways given as guidelines to reach that goal. I wish I would have knwn this in my first superintendency. It sure would have avoided several issues with the school board. It is hard to build the concept of teamwhen there are five other people and you. Unless the Board and Superintendent can minimize conflict their relationship is doomed to failure.

Conflict may provide challenges or opportunities to improve an organization. Several points were made about how contention can threaten one's self-image. There is a tendency to fight it out or flee the scene. Yielding or avoiding conflict does not solve anything. Effective dialogue reduces stress. We should seek to understand others then attempt to be understood. Listen then speak. By focusing on a person's needs instead of a person's position, we can get a clearer picture of what the real issue is. Learn to disagree amicably. Sometimes a mediator or an arbitrator is needed to settle the conflict. Learning to be a good listener is the key to repairing conflicting points of view. There should not be winners and losers when settling a conflict.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Organizational Interventions

The article by Roger Harrison on closing the depth of organizational intervention spoke about "how deep, value laden, emotionally charged and central to an individual's sense of self are the issues and processes a consultant attempts directly to obtain information and which he seeks to influence". The client needs to be a collaborator to problem solve and the intervention can only go as far time and money can realistically allow. I believe if the client does not work with the consultant there will be little or no organizational development.

Change efforts fall into three categories: fad or fly-by-night; false front (time and motion study); and false front (actions used against employees). Ethical consultants make the lives of employees and managers better. The consultant's goal is job enrichment, organizational development, continuous improvement. Empowerment is the watchword for employees to do their job and share a common vision. People need to believe in a vision and feel like their opinions are valued in order for an organization to grow.

The 3 contingency model of performance management includes ineffective natural contingency (wish to do something, begin the project, complete the project); indirect acting performance contingency (lose rent reduction, read and study the manual, will get the rent reduction); and, inferred, direct acting contingency (fear loss, start cleaning kirchen, no longer fear losing). Analysis: Each of these models has drawbacks. The consequences are either too small or improbable. Sometimes the consequences are delayed and in the long run prove meaningless.

The article on combining theory and action that lead to organization change interventions is a panel discussion that was condensed into four (4) abstracts. Some important points made include: building social capital by face to face contact; employees and leaders need to have a strong sense of a common vision; how managing change and problem-solving is important to improve and transform work groups; and, technology has improved the speed of communication, share knowledge, and create new ways of thinking. If in fact work groups are transformed they could move into action research. Action research could then lead to information technology, which is what Nonaka & Takeuchi state in the book on organizational learning.

I believe that interventions are important to facilitate organizational learning. In my own organization, ACSA, I can see several ways that the association can be a more effective in service to its members. Some of the information interventions discussed in this week's readings would definitely help ACSA grow as an organization.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Diagnosis of Organizational Development

This week's readings all had a different spin on how to diagnois organizational development and learning. The most intriguing article was about the concept of a "World Cafe". ACSA held several of these at their annual conferences and sad to say I never attended one of them. i imagined using this technique with a school or segments of a district staff. Pick a topic, set up a freindly environment, discussion a question to delve deeply into that question, encourage everyone to contrubute to the discussion, rotate participants at the tables, listen to each other for patterns on common threats, and share what the group has collectively discovered. Sometimes this raises additional questions or areas to be explored.
Equally interesting was the article on the diagnosis of an organizational system. The approach is pretty straightforward. Identify the system, focus on a members and communications, be sure to act as a researcher (objectively), enter the organization, collect data using a variety of approaches, and give feedback to the participants. Hopefully the researcher will find a healthy organization that has satisfied employees who have improved communications and a better awareness of their purpose and goals.
The next article took that concept a step further by looking at long term success by deep OD. This is as oppossed to easy answers andquick fixes. Typical problems (deep seated issues) include non meaningful communication, long standing friction, barriers (bureaucracy and culture), and distrust. Barriers can be impatience, simplicity, fear, lack of skill, vertical perspective, and hypercompetitive prssures. In the age of technology and growing global competetition, issues increase and become more complex there is less time to consider and understand the issues. To break this paradox managers need set ROI, provide time to problem solve, diagnose OD & provide insights, motivate employees, look for creativity and internalize the practice of constant diagnosis.
Lastly appreciative inquiry incorporates research of an organization that is appreciative, applicable, proactive and collaborative. The method of change includes discovery, understanding and amplifying. This method of inquiry should lead to a better understanding of leadership, facilitation, and the change process in school systems (i.e., schools).
I have experimented with the inquiry method with the hospital that my wife works with in Thousand Oaks. They could better serve their patients with an OD study. Without revealing any confidential information, the hospital does not systeamtically look at how communication is handled, and would benefit by using methods of inquiry that include a "world cafe" setting.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Organizational Learning and Culture

It sure is nice when a plan comes together! This class reminds of last semester's technology class. The learner gets tossed in the deep end of the pool and then starts swimming as fast as they can. The similarity is in the amount of reading that needs to be front-loaded in order for the course to make sense and establish a common vocabulary and reference point. What is organizational learning - brainwashing or corporate protocol? What is organizational culture and how would you recognize it?
The foundational reading before the first class meeting connected me to the giants of organizational learning. Schein, Lewin, Argyris and Schon had contributed so much to the field. Single and double-looped learning were new terms to me. Theories of action/Theories in use were also new concepts for me to digest. Lewin helped me analyze organizational learning from the perspective of force field analysis by looking at internal (want) and external (need) sources. Tuckerman's model of forming (orientation), storming (conflict), norming (group cohesion), performing (functional role-readiness), and adjourning (closure - terminating roles and tasks, and reducing dependency).
My reading of Argyris and Schon for another class solidified the concepts of how organizations learn. I made a connection with these authors and Tuckerman to a study on the Japanese model of knowlwdge creation and going from tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge. Top the reading off with a dash of organizational culture and the picture becomes clearer. Knowing how organizations learn, why they learn the way they do, and examining values. expectations, customs, rituals, stories, common vocabulary and metaphors was confirmed by Schein and Morgan.
More think about and more to digest!