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.