The Transformation Of Human Systems by Robert Quinn, Gretchen M. Spreitzer, Matthew V. Brown

Wow, what a fascinating article, I loved reading it. This journal article truly wraps up the ideas presented at all blogs, articles, and case studies we read and discussed in Management and Organizational Behavior class. Why? Simply because most of those readings discussed talk about how organizational systems and behaviors need to change in order to truly undergo a real change in our attitudes, work habits, and lives, and how managers who attempt putting new systems in place everyday fail at it just because they don’t change in their way of thinking, doing, and learning. So to truly experience a change in both the communal and business context, the most important component we must heed is that of personal change, so we can change others through changing ourselves: “we attract others to change when we first change ourselves” the authors pointed out.

The ACT (Advance Change Theory) then challenges managers and leaders to have personal change, as this is the only and exclusive way to truly have systems change. Therefore, below please see the most important learning points I took away from this amazing article:

  • Self-change: requires one to engage in a particular path of action and courage- that is making logical arguments for change; using forms of leverage to force change, using participation and pursuing win-win strategies. Moreover, during this transition we need to be adaptable to change, be open to the learning process, and the best be open for personal growth always. Keeping these core elements in mind will eventually lead us to setting up the foundation of a major breakthrough that will last a lifetime.    
  • Self-evaluation: this calls for a deeper personal evaluation about our body, mind, and soul. Unseen elements that connect us with one another to work together with true meaning and to stay true to that purpose; unspeakable elements that truly foster healing in the corporation that make us throw away the self-interest and lookup for the shared organizational goal and be guided by the right actions and values.
  • Hypocrisy: we need to be able to face it and dissipate it from our ways so that it doesn’t become an impediment toward our individual and collective growth. Therefore, we need to change those patterns, actions, and choices of self-deception into something positive for the betterment of the company and us. We need to see ourselves for who we really are, in other words be authentic leaders!
  • Establish our own values: be it moral or civic values, for instance: integrity, honesty, fairness, self-involvement, etc. we all need to align our behaviors with those values.
  • Once we have established our values and aligned to them, the ACT principle frees oneself from what is prescribed by existing laws, rules, or authorities, relieving with this the tension by external sanctions and our ability to innovate and the capacity to take risks develop. Then we become self-starters, self-directors! And no longer self-centers, as we are always in the lookout for the common good.
  • Put the needs and wants of others before your own. The ACT also develops a vision for common good. Once we set aside our own self-interest, then we become purposeful leaders as we start thinking about the common good.
  • Purposeful leaders are true to themselves and to their values they uphold, and fight for what they think is right and stick to it to the edge of chaos, even if they are seen or sanctioned as an outliers, and even if they have to lose their jobs.
  • Lastly, true authentic leaders appreciate the work of others, as they understand that growing through excellence is a painful path that requires sacrificing things you love to do yet that greatness is reached when you have identified the values that will lead you to success, when you have change yourself then that’s when you start attracting and inspiring others to do the same.

This wonderful article also touches upon the lives of Jesus, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi as role models to the ACT principles who were truly inspirational figures back in the days that put aside their self-interests to look out the common good for both their communities and organizations.

In summary, the ACT, if practiced, can result in a truly personal harm, however for the organizational point of view leads to real positive change in the systems, a change that certainly can impress not only the socks of our customers, stakeholders, employees, but also of those around us.

The above article written by Elizabeth and Frances describes pretty interesting organizational ills like “the dean’s disease” that arise when leaders, managers, or supervisors have put a failed system in place full with yes people afraid of voicing their concerns, problems, opinions, or ideas, and even worse afraid of challenging their bosses’ thoughts and beliefs.

This organizational silence becomes then a potentially dangerous hindrance to organizational learning and change process; because employees are led to believe that their opinions and ideas have neither voice nor are heard, putting the shareholders’ capital on the line as managers or leaders are not making evidence-based decisions due to the failed system they have put in place, so productivity begins to be affected negatively and so does profitability.

How can leaders attempt to change others or fix a problem when they don’t even try to change themselves nor have an idea that problems exist because of the organizational silence they have put in place?

We have been discussing a whole lot in class that systems really drive one’s behavior in the organization, so having that flawed system in place leads to this epidemic of silence that sends wrong signals to employees, causes nonparticipation to growth of the corporation and abstention in the learning process for fear of being punished or facing negative repercussions.

Below please see the most important learning points I took away from this reading:

Reason why this organizational silence takes place in the organization:

  • Managers take constructive feedback personally because they often feel threatened by it, and as a result they avoid it, while also lose the message and attack the credibility of the source “subordinates”, so then employees afraid of being disregarded don’t air out the truth of certain problems or issues to their superiors who deceive themselves by taking this organizational silence as a signal that everything is okay, then they make supposedly good decisions based on facts that don’t even exist, and never get out of that circle “single-loop learning”.

Effects of organizational silence on employees:

  • Lack of variance in informational input: less effective organizational decision making and learning.
  • Lack of critical analysis of ideas and alternatives: less effective organizational decision making and learning.
  • Lack of negative internal feedback: poor error detection and correction which leads to a less effective organizational learning.
  • Employees’ perceived lack of control: low internal motivation, withdrawal, turnover, sabotage.
  • Employees’ cognitive dissonance: anxiety and stress.

Easy fixes to dissipate this organizational silence “disease”

  • Good managers need to encourage disagreement “independent thought” from their subordinates to challenge their ideas, and the best to instill an atmosphere of trust and participation “self-involvement” at all multiple departments characterized by openness- to listen to all sides to search for true opinions versus parroting what is believed others may wish to hear to greatly affect their organizational approach for common good.  

Suggestions:

Managers, to stay in track, need to consider some simple actions as:

  • Maintaining healthy working relationships with subordinates by routinely asking them for participation, because they are ultimately the ones that truly know what is going on down there and asking them for their input is an effective and ethical way to fix the silence which will eventually benefit both the organizational goal and the individuals that appeal to them.
  • Also, rewarding employees that come forward with sensitive or risky information, and creating formal mechanisms through which employees can speak up anonymously if they wish to do so.  

Job Dissatisfaction And High Turnover At The Lima Tire Plant

Wow, what an interesting case study on TTTC (The Treadway Tire Company), as it presents a vivid narrative, while also outlines the major issues that originated the job dissatisfaction and high turnover at nearly every level of the corporation from the plant manager; general supervisors, managers, line foremen, to lower levels in their 4 respective work areas: production, maintenance, material control, and quality assurance.

Having a system in place, as it is the case at TTTC, that does not promote high quality training on its workforce, especially on its new hires on how to deal with labor, administrative, resource, and personnel issues or instill an atmosphere of trust and respect among employees regardless the position they occupy in the company brings nothing but job dissatisfaction at all multiple levels, morale is down and so is productivity and profitability.

Additionally, The TTTC’s line foremen and new hires promoted from within, outside “college students”, or transfers were just thrown on the job with little knowledge and training of what it’s like supervising people and soon found themselves without the backup from their immediate supervisors who had come up from similar ranks and who held the we did so you can too “sink it or swim it” attitude.

Also, these untrained mangers, supervisors or line foremen responsible for personnel and administrative tasks and issues who held most of the responsibility and had little authority were a key component in the grain of the ever-growing quota at TTTC; a company that did so little in training and developing good managers for its future decades, and that was not able to deal with high-stress work environments due to not only the skyrocketing oil prices, intense competition, but also the high turnover faced on its workforce, especially on its line foremen positions.   

This case study was pretty interesting as it touches upon the importance of what can go wrong even in the most cutting-edge technological business environments as TTT’s Lima, Ohio, Tire Plant’s manager Brandon Bellingham spent tons of money in innovating and building its hub to make it look nice and neat, however he lacked the most important essence: to invest enough on its people who are ultimately the main capital.   

Ashley Wall, TTTC’s human resources manager, also tried her best to cope with this huge problem of turnover, had great intentions to do so however limited or no resources on her side to resolve a huge problem.  

At some point, I felt the authors Skinner and Beckham were describing the company’s situation for which I work as most of the stuff presented on this case study I see it happening on a daily basis, especially when it comes to the administrative duties foremen spent at the end of each shift completing such as: staggering employees, approving vacation requests, checking the time cards, and solving payroll issues, not to mention the variety of personnel and resource issues the management team at my work feels pulled in different, often conflicting directions by top management, the workers, and the union as well.

Skinner and Beckham did a phenomenal job presenting us with this case of job dissatisfaction and high turnover at TTTC in the end of 2007, so below please see my biggest takeaways from this reading:

  • Invest in the human element: such an invaluable and vital asset to the organization. This reminds me the Stanford article: Harrah’s Entertainment. The philosophy they implemented from their inception was: no fancy offices, buildings, machines, or what have them, what truly matters is the people both internal and external. And I totally buy this as the properties mean nothing if the people who are supposed to fill them or run them are unhappy.   
  • Money does not cure the organizational ills: more than a paycheck, people want to be respected and supported by their managers or stupidvisors and want to know that they are going to be there when needed, and empower them to make good decisions that are best for both their organizations and teams shared goal.
  • Win-Win agreements: people nowadays want to be presented with a win-win scenario, or else, otherwise job dissatisfaction and high turnover will start to be eminent in any company that doesn’t heed to this managerial dilemma.   

Success In A Declining Industry

This case study is tremendously interesting as The Men’s Wearhouse exemplifies a company that understands not only the concept of “Servant Leadership” in both spectrums: communal and business; but also serves as a model to other companies that want to implement this concept of Servant Leadership as it “suggests that in order to make a capitalistic system work, there has to be a democratization of everything- of effort and the fruits of those efforts….looking out for ways here to share the wealth and really make it win-win-win”. Something that people don’t fully understand yet, TMW’s founder George Zimmer pointed out.

Well, this case study kind of goes along with a previous article I blogged in earlier termed: Servant Leadership: “New wine, old bottles” by Stephen Covey in which he presented the ideas of what it takes to be an effective servant leader as well. And in both cases we see that a servant leadership taker forces a change of perspective from traditional boss/employee relationship to the service provider/customer relationship, what is better known as open facilitator(s) to both internal and external customers to become better people; people confident in themselves, in their abilities and potential to grow through excellence within the corporation.

So the above case study on TMW (The Men’s Wearhouse) outlines the essence of servant leadership, and truly TMW is a vivid example of a company that is able to prosper when servant leadership is mastered and carried out properly through the company. So, below please see the most important components on servant leadership I took away from this case study:

  • Mentoring people: as George Zimmer noted: “I have always looked at the key to the success of the company as being in mentoring. So, training or mentorship, were key points on TMW’s success.
  • “High Touch” organization: Zimmer strives to maintain the personal contact and connection in the organization regardless of its magnitude.
  • Five stakeholder groups: employers, customers, vendors, communities, shareholders. These five groups were ranked in order of importance by Zimmer. He truly believes in building cohesive and loyal groups from within first to value their people as recognizing that making them feel valued and supported will eventually lead to everyone winning. So building these relationships among their employees and staff will create a spirit of fraternity and solidarity to help each other out in times of extreme situations to go above and beyond their call of duty in the end.
  • “I guarantee it”: pledge  by Zimmer’s working in the stores and realizing that adding value to your business, while also providing exceptional service is fundamental to take your company to the next level “greatness”- that is add value to internal and external customers, this includes the five stakeholder groups, to, through the service, win their loyalty. As Zimmer noted: “value is the untapped human potential”.
  • Promotion and career development: it is from within which instills a long-term career in the workforce, stable, and with great advancement potential.
  • Compensation and staffing: based on salary and commission.  

In summary, I enjoyed reading this case study a whole lot, because to me the biggest key takeaway from this reading is that instilling a servant leadership model in the company prepares future leaders to be servant leaders in your absence. As we have discussed that same statement in class, “The way we are led, that is how we are going to lead”. So, whether leading or following, let’s encourage those around us to be purposeful and servant leaders.

This is certainly a pretty good case study that I enjoyed reading it which outlines some common managerial dilemmas that companies could potentially face at some point of their career: for instance Astrigo Holdings, yet the case study offers concrete solutions from experts which we can benefit from if we ever see ourselves into difficult decisions such as The Layoff case study.

Although this HBR case study was merely fictional, it provided a pretty good insight into the struggles faced at all multiple departments of the Astrigo Holdings’ company when the layoffs started to be eminent.

This case study starts off with Morris Meyers who is the CFO and Lisa Warren who is the head of legal. They both realize that if Astrigo is to remain competitive, 10% of its workforce must be cut. So they both face a dilemma: who goes and who stays, and so they suggest several policies or systems to solve the conflict:

  • First in, first out policy: to get rid of the “deadwood” as these folks are so close to retirement that they no longer have anything to contribute to the company, and offer them not expensive retirement packages because they have done so well with the company that they must have a good stash, Morris points out. That is unethical as these folks “deadwood” are the ones who built the company to its current position so they should be compensated for all the hard work they put into Astrigo.  
  • Rank and yank system: Lisa comes out with the idea about cutting the bottom 10% based on performance evaluations. This is the worse idea as we have discussed throughout the entire class that performance evaluations systems just don’t work because companies do them badly, “ratings often vary wildly depending on the effort put into the process, whether the evaluator likes or dislikes the person evaluated, and whether the manager is tough or lenient” Sutton points out.
  • Last in, first out: Marzita Vasquez who is the head of HR and Bob Slater who is the executive director of strategy give their approach about adopting the simplest layoff policy possible, and that is last in, first out; “that way, you don’t have to pay a lot of severance” I cannot believe this absurd idea coming from Bob, as it reflects a complete detachment from their perception of their workforce. Even worse, Bob exhibits a single-loop learning personality trait when he says: “ Marzita, let’s just focus on what we need to do to cut costs right now, and we can worry about tomorrow tomorrow”. Bob’s idea is totally unfounded and off base, while one of the main functions of an executive director of strategy is to keep an eye on the long term because tomorrow will come!!
  • The best plan of action to me is the one Sushil Bathia presents. It consists of implementing a 5% pay cut across board for everyone in the company to take as this will show generosity as an organization and will enhance morale. Better yet, this strategy will alleviate the tension that layoffs seem to cause among new and old employees and will also set up the company for long term success as it will help Astrigo get back the commitment, trust, and respect from both its workforce and customers which will lead to productivity and productivity equals profit.

While none of the policies discussed is ideal, the latter option seems to be more feasible as it could give Astrigo the time to figure out the root causes that led to the decline and develop some strategies to counteract the layoffs problem.

This is another great example of leadership model by Michael Leven, former chairman and CEO of US Franchise systems, Atlanta, and who owned and operated three hotel brands. Yet, this article is all about integrity. Integrity is my biggest key takeaway from this reading. Leaders, managers, supervisors, subordinates, they all need to know that they are entrusted with confidential information of the company they work for, so they must be honest with themselves and communicate when things are not going in the right direction so they don’t put their integrity in risk and adopt a whistle-blower behavior when they see some dishonest activities within the organization- that is the case with Mr. Leven.

Mr. Leven realized that his company’s “Days Inn” financial performance was not going to meet the standards “projected numbers” due to huge inconsistencies by the owners of his company that were siphoning some funds. Although he was not required by law to communicate the ongoing financial problems his company Days Inn was facing, he did so and made it public. He demonstrated to be a very plucky and capable leader to do the right thing and for those around him- his people and shareholders as he promised to serve well and honestly. He confronted the true and was even able to resign to what once he loved the most, cared for, grew, and had put years into- his beloved company.

Mr. Leven put his self-interests and needs last, he didn’t want to put his neck on the line, made the tough decision to quit to his job, which meant a little demotion to his prestigious professional career and accepted a 25% pay cut.

In summary, this article is a pretty vivid example for future leaders to realize that one day in their professional careers they will be put into difficult situations and decisions and will be challenged in going against the grain, decision that might cost them lose their jobs but will help them keep their integrity and self-respect which in fact it is more important than monetary rewards. So this reading does exhibit a model of integrity that is a learning tool for future leaders.

“New wine, old bottles” that is a very interesting component that strikes me the most in this reading regarding servant leadership as it reminds me a lot the work teams and groups dynamics we discussed in chapter 8, especially the  comparison between the new team environment versus the old work environment, in which the former comparison exhibits a new and more effective leadership approach as it promotes an active participation at all multiple levels; instills an open culture to initiatives where people truly can bring into the organization fresh ideas with different insights to solve problems, and where true leaders serve as facilitators to provide to their teams not only the tools, but also the guidance and support to rock and work together for the shared organizational goal by helping each other out; whereas the latter comparison brings nothing but a more authoritarian management style where “I am the boss and you are the subordinate” kind of attitude that we see it in companies all the time, companies that seethe with “yes-man” people that do nothing but help grow admiration, recognition, influence, and the worse “diseases” of abuse of power on leaders and managers which make them feel good about every situation when they enjoy the ranks of their positions. This is not an effective way to improve the systems whatsoever; on the contrary challenging their ideas will benefit both the organization and the employees who appeal to it. 

Covey also touches upon the importance of engaging our employees in a two-side, reciprocally accountable, performance preview versus the old performance appraisals we discussed in Culbert’s article, Get rid of performance evaluations” Performance preview instead of performance review: this is great as you really need to provide transparent feedback to your subordinates on a daily basis in regards to the operation results, individual’s performance, projected plans, and so on and so forth to foment a teamwork spirit where everybody is on the same page and is held accountable for the job.

Thus, in Covey’s article we see that in order to implement a servant model of leadership managers and leaders have to consider three aspects to transformation:

  • Build relationships: two-way communication system: boss-subordinate; so we have authentic conversations for the betterment of the operation systems- that is how can we work together better as a team by airing out the issues, clear them up before they become hindrances, and the best to contribute to team development which leads to productivity, and productivity equals profit. Yet, to foster a healthy atmosphere of trust and respect between boss and subordinate, as it is amazing how far one can go with that!
  • Win-win performance agreements: to encourage a citizenship behavior in individuals in the team work, to create more loyal and committed employees toward the organizational goals which will eventually lead to productivity and profitability yet servant leaders need to provide to employees a preview of expectations which should include 5 areas:
    • Purpose
    • Guidelines
    • Resources
    • Accountability
    • Consequences
  • Being a source of help: better known as facilitators, as I mentioned earlier, true authentic leaders really need to facilitate the right tools and guidance to their employees so that they perform effectively and know what is expected from them, that way both bosses and subordinates will be held accountable to perform their work tasks according to the lineaments of job during which four questions need to be asked:
  • How is it going?
  • What are you learning from this situation?
  • What are your goals now?
  • How can I help you?

In summary, servant leadership is not soft or touchy-feely; it is much tougher style as it empowers the employees to realize their absolute potential yet servant leadership is a less problematic management style, a more effective system that future organizational leaders need to embrace to set companies up for long-term success.

How a marine lost his command in race to Baghdad  

Wow, another great article based on Marine Col. Joe Dowdy’s performance. Col. Dowdy really was a man who watched over the benefits of his team, accomplished his mission as colonel in the battlefields in the Iraq war, and it was after effectively completed his mission when he was removed from command- that is unethical.

The article states that under Col. Dowdy’s supervision there was only one lose of a human live. This tells us how well he did lead and command his battalion and the great battle strategies he implemented to accomplish such success of his mission even though the other two men Mattis and Kelley did not think so. These latter really wanted to find an excuse to get rid of Col. Dowdy, and they did so. They used a few reasons to fire Dowdy such as the lack of speed, the time he fell asleep, and so on. However, to me this is unethical. Mattis and Kelley showed unprofessionalism as they were so quick to discard Col. Dowdy. They did not even have a talk with him nor give him an opportunity to work things around and see what he could bring to the table, on the contrary when the three had the talk it was just to remove him from his job.

Col. Dowdy, as many great purposeful leaders out there, made some mistakes unfortunately that cost him his honorable post. A married man with a family, who wanted for each of his troops to return safely home, who always cared for his people, who chose men over his mission, who was consider a star by his men, and who was well liked by the men that served under his supervision, really made a difference in his job by doing nothing but the right thing as safeguarding the lives of his people.

In summary, the dynamic revealed in this article was amazing, as it helps us understand that managers and leaders really need to put forth the people’s needs and wants and cater to the organizational goal, and most importantly, authentic leaders need to bring their bodies, minds, and souls into the organization to find a balance between the worldly and spiritual, that will help to the effective decision making process.

Wow, what a great article by Brian Gruley, it really hit me on the head. This article does exhibit an extraordinary leadership style by an Army lieutenant John Withers putting his wants and needs last to assist and help the needs and wants of other human beings in the battle of “World War II”. Touchy stories we never see happening in today’s business organizations, much less in the battlefields.

U.S. Officer, as the article stated, broke the rules to let the two men, Salomon and Peewee, join his group of black people by hiding them.  It is amazing what Lt. John Withers did,  he really risked it all as he could have lost everything, not only his honorable job but also the Ph.D. he wanted so badly. Better yet, he helped the two men by giving them the protection that they needed, fed them and prepared them good enough so that they both were able to go their own way, otherwise they could have lost their lives in the war.

This incredible decision Lt. Withers made in 1945, near the end of World War II, demonstrates a real powerful life-changing leadership as he did not overrule his conscience-based decision, instead he was moved by some wonderful parts of the power of love, compassion, and forgiveness, such unseen and unspeakable characteristics that can foster great healing in the organizations nowadays. Therefore, I do applaud the leadership style Lt. Withers portrays in this article, which I love it since his generous personality give us a great insight of what it takes to be an authentic leader. So his generosity side was the greatest key takeaway from this reading.

So, I found this reading to be pretty touchy and interesting one as it embraces really good guiding principles that managers do need to consider now and in the future to lead their organizations effectively, so see below the key points I took away from it:

  • Put others before yourself
  • Have a seed of generosity within us to give freely without coercion or being rewarded in return so that we go above and beyond our call of duty.
  • Have a mindset of love, compassion, and forgiveness to set our organizations up for long-term success.
  • Peewee was cared for and protected by Lt. John Withers, now he cares for others, so this is the culture we really want to instill in our organizations: Be generous to help each other out!       

The Triumph Of Humility And Fierce Resolve

Similar to his previous article titled Good to Great, or just Good? Jim Collins delight us again with another pretty feel-good article yet embellished with interesting Level 5 leadership ideas; powerful ideas, truthful ideas he asserts will shift an organization from good to great, ideas that will likely become not only essential, but also will lead to sustained great results “what a delusion”, Collins pointed out.

“What catapults a company from merely good to truly great? A five-year research project searched for the answer to that question, and its discoveries ought to change the way we think about leadership”

We clearly see his ideas are still kind of unfounded. I personally believe that what makes Collins’s own work; articles, researches, and books good to read is just the mark; his personal brand, and the way he advertises it, which I do applaud. Of course he’s got more than 20 years of professional experience looking to find the good to great disciplines to move the organizations in the right direction, however he still recognizes “there is no guarantee that doing so will turn executives into full-fledged level 5 leaders, but it gives them a tangible place to begin with, especially if they have the seed within”.

Reaching level 5 leadership requires that you have a seed ingrained in you which you can then grow. For others you must have a significant life event change your ego to humility, and personal humility + professional will = level 5 executive “the perfect dose to reach level 5 leadership”.

In reality we know that causation is almost practically impossible to prove. Of course correlation exists when he attempts to prove that a level 5 leader along with his 5 principles and some other researches he’s done lead a company from good to greatness (pure commonalities among the top 11 hedgehog companies he analyzed on his study), however it is almost impossible to prove any causation because of so many different environmental and financial considerations.

I do applaud Collin’s good effort to discuss about leadership and its differences in style yet I will never attribute performance of a company exclusively to the leader, that would enable leaders grow admiration; ego, influence, and power, such negative symptoms we discussed in the article “the dean’s disease”.  

In summary, Collin’s greatest mistake of his work presented in this case was his tendency to make specific evaluations based on a general impression, principal flaw of his study, and which is also stated on Phil Rosenzweig’s book titled “The Halo Effect”, such business delusions of correlation and causality, single explanations, lasting success, etc. which we clearly see them in this article and which Phil uncovers them in his book as well. So, Collins’s research would still remain flawed.  http://www.the-halo-effect.com/book/index.html

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