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中國經濟管理大學15年前 (2010-01-27)講座會議319


  • 亨利·明茨伯格《戰略過程》


    加拿大蒙特利爾麥吉爾大學管理研究領域克萊格霍恩(Cleghorn)講座教授。他的研究主要集中於一般管理和組織問題,特別是管理工作的性質、組織的形式以及戰略形成過程。著有《經理工作的本質》(The Nature of Managerial Work)  、《組織的結構》  (The  Structuring  of Organations)  、《明茨伯格論管理》  (Mmtzbergon Management)  《戰略規劃的興衰》  (The  rise and Fall Strategic PIanning)等。他發表於《哈佛商業評論》上的文章曾兩次獲得麥肯錫獎。




    Summary of Reading

    Major thinkers about management work seem to emphasize one aspect of the job to the exclusion of others. Peters emphasizes doing, while Porter stresses thinking. Zaleznik and Bennis say that the essence of management is leadership, but the classical writers Fayol and Urwick stressed controlling as the key part of the job.

    Some folklore and fact…

    Folklore: The manager is a reflective, systematic planner.

    Fact: Study after study has shown that managers work at an unrelenting pace, that their activities are characterized by brevity, variety, and discontinuity, and that they are strongly oriented to action and dislike reflective activities.

    Folklore: The effective manager has no regular duties to perform.

    Fact: In addition to handing exceptions, managerial work involves performing a number of regular duties, including ritual and ceremony, negotiations, and processing of soft information that links the organization with its environment.

    Folklore: The senior manager needs aggregated information, which a formal management information system best provides.

    Fact: Managers strongly favour oral media—namely, telephone calls and meetings.

    Folklore: Management is, or at least is quickly becoming, a science and a profession.

    Fact: The managers' programmes—to schedule time, process information, make decisions, and so on—remain locked deep inside their brains.

    The manager's job is characterized by brevity, fragmentation, and oral communication.

    A manager is defined as that person in charge of an organization or one of its units. This can be vice presidents, head nurses, hockey coaches and prime ministers. These diverse roles do have something in common if we build the image of the job from the inside out. People come to management jobs with five things: values, experience, competencies, knowledge, and mental models (the person in the job). At the core of the management job is its frame, which is strategy, vision, purpose, perspective and positions (the frame of the job). Frame gives rise to a first role in the management model, conceiving, which means thinking through the purpose, perspective, and positions of a particular unit to be managed over a period of time. The agenda of the work comes with an associated role—schedulingThe frame is manifested as a set of issuesIf the frame is loose, there may be many (perhaps too many) issues. If the frame is very tight, there may only be one “magnificent obsession.” The frame and the issues are manifested in a schedule, with its associated priorities. The core of the manager's job is the frame manifested by an agenda. This core may be placed in a context, which is split into three areas (i.e. the core in context): inside (the unit being managed), within (the rest of the organization), and outside     (the rest of the context that is not part of the organization).

    “ . . . Much of managerial work is clearly directed either to the unit itself, for which the manager has official responsibility, or at its various boundary contexts, through which the manager must act without that responsibility.”

    Managing on three levels

    From the outside in, managers can manage action directly, they can manage people to take action, or they can manage information to influence the people.


    Managing by information

    “Managers’ own activities focus ... on information as an indirect way to make things happen....Communicating refers to the collection and dissemination of information.” Managers scan, monitor, share and disseminate. They are nerve centres. Specialists may know more, but the manager has the broadest knowledge. In a more controlling role, managers try to use information to evoke action somewhat more directly. They can do this by developing systems, designing structures, and issuing directives. The manager as a controller is less an actor and more a reviewer. The controlling role is what people have in mind when they refer to the “administrative” aspect of managerial work.


    Managing through people

    The controlling role that dominated early management thought gave way to a greater emphasis on people. Much of this emphasis was on insiders, often called subordinates. But outsiders take up almost as much of a manager's time. The internal aspect of managing through people is the leader role. Managers play this role in three ways. They can lead individuals. They can lead groups. And they can lead units, especially with regard to the creation and maintenance of culture. The external aspect of managing through people is the linking role. With the proliferation of joint ventures, strategic alliances, and other networks, this role is performed more and more. Both the leader and linking roles result in managers trying to influence people but also having people trying to influence managers.


    Managing action

    “…[Managers] also manage actively and instrumentally by their own direct involvement in action.” The attention paid to controlling and leading has obscured this. Leonard Sayles has insisted that managers must be the focal point of action in and by their units. “Their direct involvement must, in his view, take precedence over the pulling force of leadership and the pushing force of controllership.” This is the doing role, but managers hardly ever “do” anything. They talk, listen, watch and feel. So doing really means getting closer to the action. “A ‘doer’ is really someone who gets it done.” Doing inside involves problems and projects, but sometimes it means doing regular work just to keep informed. Doing outside takes place when negotiations and deals are going on.

    A well‑rounded job at managing

    Too much doing can lead to centrifugal explosion—the job flies off out of control. Too much thinking can produce centripetal implosion—the job closes in on itself and loses connection to actions. The two must be balanced. Too much leading leads to lack of content, but too much linking detaches the job from its roots. Only communicating or conceiving means almost total lack of action. And too much controlling is an all‑too‑familiar trap. The manager must practice a well‑rounded job. Its elements may be conceptually separated, but cannot be behaviourally separated. Some of the most interesting aspects of the job fail on the edges between the component parts.

    Managers who do “outside,” but not “inside,” will get into trouble. Conceiving without leading and doing is what has got strategic planning into disfavour. Doing without conceiving is equally nonsensical. There are, however, legitimate styles of management that emphasize various roles: conceptual (focus on development of the frame), administrative (focus on controlling), interpersonal (concerned with leading and linking), and action (a style oriented toward tangible doing). There are also styles based on interrelationships among the components of managerial work. A deductive approach proceeds from the core out, as the conceived frame is implemented through scheduling and information. This is a cerebral, deliberate style. An inductive approach goes from the outer surface to the inner core and is much more emergent and insightful.


    Discussion Questions

    1. The author says that the four concepts of planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling tell us little about what managers actually do. What do you think of this assertion?

    This question is intended to stimulate discussion. Most students will have a hard time agreeing with Mintzberg on this. Almost all the introductory textbooks on management rely on this familiar four‑part classification. But Mintzberg was not interested in perpetuating Fayol's conceptual scheme. He wanted to examine what managers actually do, and to develop a descriptive classification. The resulting framework is what this reading is all about. Looking at it, it is difficult to classify what managers actually do neatly into Fayol's four categories. In that sense, Mintzberg's statement is correct; some students may agree with it.

    2. Perhaps, as the author says, managers aren't reflective, systematic planners. The question then is, should they be? What is your answer to this question?

    This question is designed to stimulate discussion. Some students will argue forcefully that managers should be more systematic, and should plan. Others will counter that the nature of managerial work is such that it is futile to push managers to be objective, systematic planners. There is a germ of truth to each position. Even Mintzberg recognizes that managers must often act rationally and systematically. But it is equally true that many times they cannot, and should not. The key may lie in what Peters and Waterman asserted in In Search of Excellence— like the organizations they manage, managers must be simultaneously loose and tight.

    3. In what way, if at all, is it surprising that the manager does have regular duties to perform?

    It is only surprising when juxtaposed with the typical view of managers, whether that view comes from textbooks or from popular ideas about management. The typical view holds that managers should delegate everything, and never do anything themselves. Mintzberg's empirical model proves that there are some things that the manager simply can't delegate. They must lead, they must link to the outside, they must allocate resources, and so on.

    4. The author says that managers don't, and shouldn't, make much use of MIS systems. What is your opinion on this?

    This question is intended to stimulate discussion. Mintzberg clearly believes that managers are better off using oral communication than written communication, especially computer printouts. Some students will agree with this. Others will disagree, saying that managers would do a better job if they systematically used aggregated data from an MIS. Each side of this argument has some merit. Oral media are clearly richer than written media. Research has shown that upper‑level managers need large quantities of rich data. Top managers may not benefit from the somewhat lean information provided by an MIS. On the other hand, lower‑level managers may be able to use aggregated data very effectively. They often need large quantities of lean information, the provision of which is a strength of management information systems.

    5. Do you agree that a firm's strategic data bank is in the minds of its managers? If so, should it be?

    Many students will disagree with this statement. They will assert that large, complex organizations will have their strategic databases in some codified form, either a strategic plan, a formal planning unit, or something along those lines. This position is valid for a small percentage of firms, mostly large bureaucracies. Since most of them are large firms, this view tends to dominate. Although most students will not think of this, it is also true that firms with a strong culture have their strategic data banks in their culture. Of course, the argument could be made that culture, being a non‑tangible thing, resides in the minds of the organization's members. Others will agree with the assertion in the question. They still argue that since most organizations don't bother to state their plans formally, the information that makes up their strategic concepts is held inside the minds of the top managers. This position is largely correct. Managers in small firms tend not to state their strategic intentions explicitly. Yet these managers often have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish. Similarly, even the managers of large firms often rely less on formal systems, and more on their own interpretations, to define strategies. This is particularly true during periods of crisis.

    6. Do you think that management is a profession? If yes, why? If no, can it ever become one?

    This question is intended to stimulate discussion. Many students, especially those who are very vested in their programs of study, will argue vehemently that management is a profession, one for which they are studying. They will point to the many skills in finance, marketing, production, and so on, that they are developing in their programs. They may refer to the often‑heard term “professional manager.” But, for the most part, it is difficult to characterize managerial work as professional. The term “professional” can usually be properly applied only to work which is complex yet able to be standardized. Managerial work is certainly complex, but it is not standardized. Yes, we do teach financial skills that help in the allocation of resources, but research has shown that political skills are just as important in determining who gets what. The parts of management education that come closest to professional deal with the application of quantitative skills to the solution of structured problems. But those kinds of problems make up only a fraction of the problems faced by managers. Most of the tasks that need to be done—leading, figure‑heading, communicating, disturbance handling, negotiating, resource allocating—are not structured tasks. Being a manager is not like being a doctor or a lawyer or a public accountant, all of whom can turn to the recognized references in physiology or constitutional law or financial accounting standards in order to resolve problems.

    7. How do the figurehead role and spokesperson role differ?

    The figurehead role is non‑verbal. Managers simply have to "be there" in order to fulfill that role. They show up at weddings, funerals, lunches, dinners, and other kinds of ceremonies. Even if they are called upon to speak, their utterances are usually pro‑forma, and not as important as their mere presence. The spokesperson role requires verbal communication, either oral or written. Top managers make speeches to stakeholder groups, they write letters to relevant publications, they address stockholders, they testify at legislatures, they write the letter to stockholders in the annual report. Lower level managers attend staff meetings, they report to their superiors (orally and in writing), they fill out reports that must be sent to staff people elsewhere in the organization.

    8. What are the implications of the way the author describes the entrepreneur?

    Mintzberg's description of the entrepreneur has two components, having to do with the projects he/she develops. The first is that the development projects “emerge as a series of small decisions and actions sequenced over time.” The second is that entrepreneurs sponsor many (up to 50 in one instance) projects, at various stages of development, at one time. The implications of this (see also the earlier reading by Quinn), are that effective managers shouldn't be looking for large-scale achievements. Strategies for the organization will develop over time as the product of many small, seemingly unrelated, efforts by its members. The manager is in the unique position of being able to appreciate all these streams of action, of being able to integrate them. Another implication is related to innovation. Research on innovation has highlighted its probabilistic nature, i.e., it takes many attempts to get a few winners. Mintzberg's description of the entrepreneur role corroborates this; effective managers will juggle many projects at once, in the hopes that a small number of them will succeed.


    Summary of Reading

    To change corporations you have to change managers. All else is abstraction. Technocrats with ultimate authority will drive out artists and craftsmen. Technocrats like words, charts and graphs, and plans. Here are the words colleagues use to describe them: controlled, conservative, serious, analytical, no‑nonsense, intense, determined, cerebral, methodical, and meticulous. Artists are pretty much the opposite of technocrats. Descriptive words for the artist: bold, daring, exciting, volatile, intuitive, entrepreneurial, inspiring, imaginative, unpredictable, and funny. People trust craftsmen. Craftsmen see organizations as enduring institutions that have lives of their own, pasts and futures. Craftsmen see themselves as custodians of these institutions. Craft is rooted in tradition, experience and practice, al of which lead to judgment. Apprenticeship is long, frustrating and sometimes arduous. Craftsmen are patient and exhibit judgement. Descriptive words for the craftsman: wise, amiable, honest, straightforward, responsible, trustworthy, reasonable, open‑minded, and realistic.

    These three types of people have great difficulty communicating. They have different worldviews, values and goals. They ask different questions and give different answers. Their conflicts centre not on ideas, but on character. Technocrats' cost‑cutting programs often cut into what the craftsmen think is the core of the company. Craftsmen see technocrats as too distant and abstract. Technocrats often see profitability as a strategy. Profitability was not and is not a strategy and it can certainly not inspire anyone as an ultimate goal: 'What do you do for a living?' I make profit.' Losing . . . artists, [a] company [loses] vision. Losing . . . craftsmen, it [loses] its humanity."

    Technocrats make us feel secure when they use their analytical tools. When asked what a manager looks like, students will respond “calm, rational, well‑balanced, measured, analytical, methodological, skilled, trained, serious.” This is the liturgy of the technocratic school. The technocrat has become the definition of manager.

    The old ways no longer work. Organizations need to learn rapidly and continuously. To do this we need to rely on our visionaries—geniuses, poets, statesmen, leaders, artists. The common thread is "someone who breaks radically with conventional wisdom, someone who sees what others do not, someone who imagines a new order. This is discontinuous learning. We call it imaginative." There is also daily, continuous learning that transforms imagination into the concrete. This is the learning of the skilled craftsman. Codification of existing learning is done by technocrats. But technocratic knowledge alone can be dangerous. "If [technocrats] have no imagination, they will only mimic the competition— strategy as paint‑by‑numbers. It they have no skill, they will not understand their markets. If they have no wisdom, they will tear at the fabric of the organization.

    Leadership consists of knowing how to package these three ways of learning and integrating vision, continuity and control. The first step is to diagnose, but it is made more difficult for three reasons:

    1. Artists, craftsmen and technocrats rarely exist as such; they are archetypes. Real people come in complex packages.

    2. The task is made more difficult by masquerades. Artists and craftsmen rarely fool us, but brilliant technocrats are able to mimic the gloss of artists or craftsmen. We can be radically misled.

    3. Diagnosis is affected by our biases as one of the three types. For example, technocrats might see other, more-brilliant technocrats as artists.

    The recent call for charismatic leadership will not take the hard work out of managing a business. "You need artists, craftsmen, and technocrats in the right dose and in the right places. You need someone with vision, but you also need someone who can develop the people, the structures and the systems to make the dream a reality.”

    Discussion Questions

    1. What is your reaction to the three types developed by the author?

    It should be interesting to see how students react to the types. It is clear that the author likes craftsmen very much, artists a bit less, and technocrats not at all. Technocrats suck the lifeblood out of the organization. Artists are good for providing vision and imagination, but otherwise their heads are stuck in the clouds. Craftsmen are the only ones who seem to have the proper appreciation for the past, present and future of the business as an institution. It is certainly possible that some students will disagree with the author. As she points out, technocracy is almost a management religion, and it is likely that students enrolled in a business program will see the technocrat as the ideal.

    Perhaps older or more experienced students will see the value of the craftsman, a metaphor which almost directly evokes the potter in Mintzberg's Chapter 5 reading, “Crafting Strategy." Of course a good craftsman has a mixture of the technocrat (knowledge of a technology) and the artist (imagination). A good potter, for example, certainly would be skilled in the technique of “throwing" (potting), but would have to have some imaginative ideas about what to throw. That is Mintzberg's, and perhaps Pitcher's, point. And that is why the artist, much under-appreciated, needs to be appreciated more. Without the artist's imagination, the craft would not advance very far very fast.

    2. The author says, "Profitability was not and is not a strategy and it can certainly not inspire anyone as an ultimate goal." What is your reaction to this assertion?

    Some students may be stunned by this. Shouldn't a firm be interested in making a profit? Of course it should, but making a profit is not a strategy. It is not "a pattern in a stream of action over time." Profitability is an outcome, a goal, of strategic action. A strategy would be something like pursuing differentiation through quality, or price, or service, as we saw in Chapter 4. As for inspiration, even though many people are “turned on” by the prospect of making lots of money, very few people are actually spiritually uplifted by it. Inspiration comes from doing something great, making a distinctive contribution.

    3. What are the three kinds of learning, and what is your reaction to the author's comments about them?

    The three kinds of learning are: imaginative, daily, and scientific. The first is bold, poetic, and discontinuous. The second is continuous, craft‑like, and skilled. The third is study‑oriented, diligent, and codifying. It is very clear that the author likes the first two, especially the second, but not the third. She talks about how “our religion” has eliminated the poetic and the craft types of learning. She also talks about how using only the last type of reaming will lead to “strategy as paint‑by‑numbers”. There will no doubt be some students who disagree with this assessment of learning, particularly the last kind. Surely there are contributions to be made by scientific learning. And it is not clear that craft learning has been eliminated, particularly with the resurgence of “continuous improvement” and its basis in experience and trying new things.

    4. What is your assessment of the author’s comments about the difficulties of diagnosis?

    It is good for students to hear that they are likely to find combinations of these types rather than pure versions of them. Most students will resonate to that. It should be interesting to hear their reaction to the author's second point—the one about “masquerades." The author seems to have a visceral aversion to technocrats, and this section in particular seems to indicate that technocrats are so evil that they can fool people into thinking they are one of the other types. The author's final point is a good one that what you see depends on where you sit. One's type is likely to bias one's perception of others. This is always a good thing to keep in mind. Perhaps the author should have taken her own advice when it came to technocrats.


    Summary of Reading

    The author’s metaphor of the manager is of sitting in a stream: operating problems float by, the manager quickly examines each one, hangs onto the good ones and after collecting a few begins to see ways in which they might relate, be perceived in the power structure, and move the organization toward its objectives.  He has identified five skills or talents which seem especially significant in distinguishing effective executives.

    Successful executives have a talent for keeping well informed about a wide range of operating decisions being made at different levels in the company. Superficially, they seem to fall into the trap of being lost in operating detail and making too many decisions. But they know that keeping well informed is the only way of avoiding the sterility (and excessive abstraction) caused by isolation. Boulding is quoted about how hierarchy is an information filter “with little wastebaskets all along the way.”

    Effective executives know how to focus their time and energy on relatively few issues. Recognizing that they can bring their special talents to bear on only a limited number of matters, they choose those which will have the greatest long-term effect.  

    Successful executives play the power game. They recognize the firm’s power structure and work though corridors of comparative indifference, i.e.,. that part of the response range to proposals where strong opposition is unlikely. “He seldom changes when a corridor is blocked, preferring to pause until it has opened up.”  Effective executives also rely on “trial balloons, floated by others, gauge relation to these, and recognize that strong support in some areas is likely to be accompanied by strong opposition in others.” A sense of timing is crucial: goals and their timetable are hazy, and the power blocs within the firm make decisions along the way, allowing the later executive to plot corridors of comparative indifference.

    Successful executives also cultivate an art of imprecision, satisfying their organizations so that they have a sense of direction while avoiding public commitment to specific objectives. This is necessary because greater specificity make it more difficult to shift when needed. Also, it is impossible to state objectives clearly enough so that they can be understood by everyone:  “Objectives only get communicated over time by a consistency or pattern in operating decisions.” And it is important to avoid policy straitjackets, as more time may be spent arbitrating disputes over policy than moving the company forward. MBO is unworkable above the lowest levels of management. Detailed objectives are communicated only in small doses.

    Effective executives muddle with a purpose, recognizing that it is best to try for partial programs and modest progress toward goals, piecing together parts of different proposals. This requires wide-ranging interests and he ability to see how things relate.

    Discussion Questions

    1. What is your opinion of the authors’ assertion that it is a mistake for top managers to get involved in operating problems?

    Some students may argue the mainstream view; top managers are “big picture” people only, and run too high a risk of getting bogged down in minor details if they try to be otherwise. Others may agree with Wrapp that top managers are like everyone else and need concrete experiences from which to build their business mental models. Finding the right balance between “big picture” thinking and involvement in operating details will facilitate this.

    2. Why should a manager want to transmit his or her know-how “short of giving orders”?

    Since power is a reciprocal relationship (you have only as much power as others are willing to concede to you) it is almost always better to exercises that power with discretion. Moreover, it is sensible to allow others to exercise your power for you as this empowers them, and contributes to organizational effectiveness.

    3. What do you think of the author’s contention that well-defined policies are not typical of well-managed companies?

    Wrapp offers some interesting reasons to support this assertion. First, detailed policies often give rise to time-consuming arbitration of disputes. Secondly, detailed statements of policy are often a sign of atrophy. Lastly, the policies of well-managed companies emerge from a pattern of decisions over time.

    4. What do you think of the author’s assertion that top management does not require intellectual brilliance or unusual creativity?

    This is consistent with his identification of five teachable skills; management is something that any diligent and reasonably intelligent person can learn how to do.


    Summary of Reading

    Human beings are designed for learning. But institutions seem more intent on controlling, rather than on encouraging, learning. People perform for others rather than cultivate their natural impulse to learn. Focusing on performing for others leads to mediocrity, since the only way to sustained success is learning. No one person can learn for the entire enterprise. There must now be "integrative thinking and learning at all levels...."

    Adaptive learning and generative learning

    Using learning to increase adaptivity is only the first stage. The true root of the impulse to learn is to be generative, to expand our capability. It is about creating, not just coping. "Generative learning, unlike adaptive learning, requires new ways of looking at the world, whether in understanding customers or in understanding how to better manage a business. U.S. businesses tended to use strict inventory controls, incentives against overproduction, and rigid adherence to production forecasts. The Japanese looked at things differently and worked to eliminate delays, which turned out to be a much higher‑leverage approach. They were able to do this because they saw the system. Generative learning requires seeing the systems that control events. When we fail to grasp the systemic source of problems, we are left to 'push on' symptoms rather than eliminate underlying causes."

    The leader's new work

    We tend to see leaders as individualistic, non‑systemic heroes. Leadership in learning organizations is subtler and more important. “Leaders are designers, teachers and stewards”. New skills are required; building shared vision, surface and challenge prevailing mental models thinking more systematically. “Leaders are responsible for learning.”

    Creative tension: the integrating principle

    “Creative tension comes from seeing clearly where we want to be, “our vision,” and telling the truth about where we are, our “current reality.” The gap between the two generates a natural tension.” We can resolve the creative tension by either raising the current reality to the vision, or lowering the vision to fit the current reality. Creative tension can be a good source of energy for change, and will not occur without a vision, and vision will not come from analysis of current reality. No one will make the necessary sacrifices just to get out from under current reality. They need instead to hold a picture of what might be—that is where energy comes from. But there needs to be an accurate picture of current reality, too, or members of the organization will wallow in cynicism, not idealism. Leading through creative tension is different from solving problems. The latter is merely getting out from under some undesirable aspect of current reality. The motivation for problem solving is extrinsic, but for creative tension it is intrinsic, which mirrors the distinction between adaptive and generative learning.

    New roles

    Building culture and shaping its evolution are the unique, essential functions of leadership. Learning organizations have three critical leadership roles—designer, teacher, and steward.

    The leader as designer is a neglected leadership role. Being the leader of a poorly designed organization is fruitless. This design function is not "moving boxes and lines." It involves designing the governing ideas of purpose, vision, and core values. These have enduring impact. The second design task is of the policies, strategies, and structures to translate guiding ideas into business decisions. These tasks are now more distributed throughout the organization. This is particularly true of emergent strategies and "crafting strategy": "The key is not getting the right strategy but fostering strategic thinking." The third design task is the creation of effective learning processes. These are "meta­processes” that ensure that the other processes are continually improved.

    The leader as teacher means helping people get more insight. It includes helping them get a better picture of their mental models and to think systematically. “Much of the leverage leaders can actually exert lies in helping people achieve more accurate, more insightful, and more empowering views of reality.” Mental models are mental pictures we carry in our heads about how the world works. “[Mental models] have a significant influence on how we perceive problems and opportunities, identify courses of action, and make choices.” Mental models are deeply entrenched partly because they are tacit.

    But revealing hidden assumptions is only part of the work with mental models. "Leaders as teachers help people restructure their views of reality to see beyond the superficial conditions and events into the underlying causes of problems—and therefore to see new possibilities for shaping the future." Leaders can help people view reality at three levels: systemic structure (generative), patterns of behaviour (responsive), and events (reactive). "The key question becomes where do leaders predominantly focus their own and their organization's attention”? We tend to focus on events, especially short‑term ones. Patterns‑of-­behaviour explanations do occur, but are rare. But systemic, structural explanations address the question of what causes the patterns of behaviour, so they go much further. All the levels are “true,” but the structural level has the greatest power. Most current leaders focus on events and patterns, which is why most organizations are reactive, at best responsive, but rarely generative. By contrast, reaming organizations focus on systemic structure.

    The leader as steward is the subtlest of the roles, based almost solely on attitude. Greenleaf captured it best in Servant Leadership, saying, "The servant leader is servant first .... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. This conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions." Stewardship applies to both the people led and the purpose that underlies the enterprise. Since people in learning organizations can suffer emotionally, economically, and spiritually under inept leadership, stewardship of people is particularly important there. Stewardship of purpose is important for marshalling people's natural impulse to learn.

    New skills

    Building shared vision: how do people come together to create shared visions? The hologram is a good metaphor because each part contains a piece of the whole. In organizations, each person contains a part of the whole organization. When the pieces of a hologram are added up, the image becomes more intense. When many people share a vision, it becomes more real. Here are the skills needed to build shared vision.

    encouraging personal vision: shared visions emerge from personal visions.

    communicating and asking for support: share the vision, and ask for feedback.

    envisioning as an ongoing process: building shared vision is a never‑ending process.

    intending extrinsic and intrinsic visions: a vision predicated solely on defeating a competitor would eventually weaken an organization because it can become overly defensive, as opposed to innovative or creative.

    distinguishing positive from negative visions: “Two fundamental sources of energy can motivate organizations: fear and aspiration. Fear, the energy source behind negative visions, can produce extraordinary changes in shorter periods, but aspiration endures as a continuing source of learning and growth.”

    surfacing and testing mental models: new ideas often fall by the wayside because they conflict with existing mental models. Few leaders possess the skills to challenge assumptions without provoking defensiveness.

    seeing leaps of abstraction: our minds move at lightning speed and leap to generalizations that we never think of testing.

    balancing inquiry and advocacy: advocacy skills that helped a manager get promoted become counterproductive at higher levels where complex problems require collaborative learning.

    distinguishing espoused theory from theory in use: many organizations purport to believe in something, but their actions reveal something different. Deep learning requires that people in organizations see this.

    recognizing and defusing defensive routines: these are "Entrenched habits used to protect ourselves from the embarrassment and threat that come with exposing our thinking." These make it difficult to expose mental models and thereby lessen learning. One way to cut through this is to be more open about one's own defensiveness.

    Systems thinking: seeing the big picture requires systems thinking, which good leaders tend to do intuitively. The field of managerial systems thinking has emerged as a field of practice to suggest some skills:

    seeing interrelationships, not things, and processes, not snapshots: we see the world in linear, static images without realizing how connected we are to each other.

    moving beyond blame: systems thinking shows us that there is no outside—that you and the cause of your problems are part of a single system.

    distinguishing detail complexity from dynamic complexity: “Detail complexity arises when there are many variables. Dynamic complexity arises when cause and effect are distant in time and space, and when the consequences over time of interventions are subtle and not obvious to many participants in the system. The leverage in most management situations lies in understanding dynamic complexity, not detail complexity."

    focusing on areas of high leverage: "Small, well‑focused actions can produce significant enduring improvements, if they are in the right place."

    avoiding symptomatic solutions: quick fixes lead to temporary relief but even greater problems later on. Sometimes the most difficult leadership acts are to refrain from intervening through popular quick fixes and to keep the pressure on everyone to identify more enduring solutions.

    Systems thinking by leaders is very important. Managing at the level of events (as many charismatic leaders do) can lead to an organization whose decision-making is dominated by events and reactiveness. People become burned out and cynical. "Visionary strategists" who see both patterns of change and events do a better job, but can end up creating a responsive rather than a generative orientation. Many leaders with intuitive systems approaches cannot articulate their thinking. They often seem authoritarian. “I believe that [a] new sort of management development will focus on the roles, skills, and tools for leadership in learning organizations”.

    Discussion Questions

    1. “Human beings are designed for learning”: is this true?

    The author makes a persuasive case. Infants don't need lessons to walk, talk, or master spatial relations. In short, as he puts it, "Children come fully equipped with an insatiable drive to explore and experiment." Many students will find this compelling. But others will disagree. Perhaps for many of them, sitting in their university classes, "learning" has lost its joy and become a chore.

    2. What do you think of Deming's assertion that “Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people”?

    It should be interesting to see how students react to this. Deming gives a lengthy list of good things that people are born with—intrinsic motivation, self‑esteem, dignity, curiosity to ream, joy in learning. Perhaps some students will argue on some of these points. Many students feel, for example, that workers can be motivated only extrinsically. Some may even argue that there is little joy in learning. But in making that argument they may be thinking of the very things that Deming mentions as “forces of destruction.” In schools those are things like prizes for Halloween costumes and gold stars for good grades. In organizations, people, teams and divisions are ranked and rewards are given to those on top. Those on the bottom are punished. Other organizational practices that destroy intrinsic motivation and the joy of reaming are MBO programs, quotas, incentive pay, and business plans. Some students will balk at this list, but others may come to see the deleterious effects of some of these items.

    3. In what way can it be said that performing for someone else's approval leads to mediocre performance?

    This is one of those systems thoughts for which Senge is well known. According to Senge, others are concerned mostly with controlling. Performing for those others therefore means being controlled by them. Being controlled by them means making sure not to deviate from dictated standards. This need for surety leads to lack of desire to experiment, lest one make an error. Failure to experiment means that learning will suffer. If learning suffers, performance will suffer (if not in the short run, then in the long nun) because superior performance depends on superior learning.

    4. The author says that no one person can learn for the enterprise. Do you agree?

    This may violate the assumptions of some students who still cling to the “commander model” of strategic management. The planning and design schools of strategy are based on the idea that some very smart person or small group of people can learn enough to form the strategy of an entire corporation. But, as Pascale says in the reading “The Honda Effect,” this "big brain" approach may no longer work. The "little brains" approach, where everyone in the organization joins in the effort to implement (and learn), is the way to go as complexity increases.

    5. How is generative learning important for organizations?

    Many students will answer, "In no way." The adaptive learning mentioned by the author is what dominates most conversations about organizations. The "job" of the organization is to fit with (i.e., adapt to) its environment in such a way that it succeeds. The idea of generative learning is too soft for many people, students and otherwise. But the author makes an eloquent case for “generativity.” "The impulse to learn, at its heart, is an impulse to be generative, to expand our capability." Expanded capability is strategically a good thing because it requires looking at the world in a different way. With all the evidence that one cause of failure is the firm's inability to change its business model (its way of thinking about how to do business), anything that helps to change thinking, like generative learning, is good. The author's contrast between Japanese and American manufacturing systems is very apt on this point.

    6. What is your reaction to the author's description of the typical Western view of leadership and his suggestions for a new approach to leadership?

    The author characterizes this view as individualistic, non-systemic and prone to hero worship. Many students will resist this characterization, but it is probably an accurate one. The author first mentions here a new approach. Leaders must be teachers, designers and stewards. They must build shared vision, encourage systemic thinking, and surface mental models. At this point in the reading, most students will likely be confused because this approach is so different from the prevailing one. But Senge elaborates on each point and in the balance of the reading makes a compelling argument for his new approach to leadership.

    7. What is your reaction to the author’s concept of “creative tension”?

    This is one of the more mysterious ideas in the reading. Essentially, creative tension is the gap between the desired future (vision) and the present state of affairs (current reality). Senge and his colleague Robert Fritz assert that the mere existence of this gap is enough to motivate behaviour toward change. The main job of the leader here is to articulate both ends of this concept. He/she must clearly state the future vision of the organization, but also help its members be honest about current reality. Just doing these things should be enough to motivate change, if the theory of creative tension is correct. It's not clear how students will react to this, but they should be encouraged to keep an open mind about it.

    8. How does the principle of creative tension differ from problem-solving?

    At first glance it may seem not to differ at all. Problems are typically defined as a gap between a desired state and what currently exists. Since creative tension is the gap between future vision and current reality, the analogy seems airtight. But there is a distinction—that the impetus for problem solving loses steam as the problem approaches solution. In other words, the motivation is extrinsic. But in creative tension, there is always a possibly better future vision, so there is no loss of impetus as one moves away from current reality. The motivation is intrinsic. It is to create. This distinction mirrors the distinction between adaptive learning (problem solving) and generative learning (creative tension).

    9. How is the role of “designer” to be carried out?

    It is really an organization‑building activity. The first step is to design the organization's governing ideas—purpose, vision, and core values. The second step is to put in place the policies, strategies and structures that translate the guiding ideas into action. This used to be viewed as the bailiwick of top management, but is increasingly seen, with the greater emphasis on emergent strategy, as the work of everyone in the organization. The third design responsibility is to put learning processes in place. In this phase, planners realize that their task is to foster learning, not devise plans. This is where they end up with their greatest impact.

    10. In what way is the leader a teacher?

    Since so many students see the role of teacher as one of imparting knowledge, many will misinterpret Senge here. He does not mean that at all. Rather, he means that leaders help people with their mental models. Events are driven by patterns of behaviour, which in turn are driven by systemic structure. Most people, and most managers, deal with the events of the world. A few better leaders focus on patterns. Both types of leaders create reactive or at best adaptive organizations. But the best leaders must teach their organization's members to see the systemic structure underlying behaviour and events. These are the organizations that are generative. It is in the context of discussing this question that the notion of systemic structure needs to be driven home to students.

    11. In what way is the leader a steward?

    Many students will be intrigued by Greenleaf's idea of the "servant leader," someone whose motivation to lead stems from a desire to serve. Other students will be puzzled, because this way of thinking about leadership is so at odds with the traditional, hero‑oriented view of leaders. But the case for servant leadership is strong. Senge says that such a person must serve two things. First, he or she must serve the people who belong to the organization. Leaders' decisions can have profound effects on the people who inhabit organizations. This may be particularly true in learning organizations. Second, he or she must serve the organization's larger mission. It is only through a compelling mission or vision that people will be intrinsically motivated.

    12. What do you think of the author’s comparison of the organization to a hologram?

    Since few students are familiar with holograms, they may not know how to react to this comparison, which is also used in Gareth Morgan's classic Images of Organization. In a hologram, each part contains an intact image of the whole. The analogy in an organization would be that each member would carry an intact image of the organization around in her or his head. This would be a personal vision. When the partial images in a hologram are brought together, the image is sharp and intense. Similarly, when the personal visions of the organization's members are brought together, the shared vision becomes a culture or a strategic intent (a la Hamel and Prahalad). This shared vision is compelling and helps propel the people in the organization away from current reality and toward their shared vision of the future.

    13. Did any of the “visioning skills” surprise you?

    Of course students' answers to this list will vary, but there seem to be some new items mixed in with items that have become "common sense." Among the latter are the ideas that visions must be supported and must be constantly rebuilt. More surprising is the notion that personal vision should be encouraged. Too much of the literature on vision emphasizes the common nature of it, but Senge points out that shared vision must almost by definition involve the blending of personal visions. Another surprising one is the notion of the need to blend extrinsic and intrinsic visions. This relates to his earlier point about the distinction between adaptive and generative learning. People may be compelled for a while with the goal of beating a competitor, but in the long run they will be driven further by their intrinsic desire to create something new. Related to this is the final skill, distinguishing positive from negative visions. Fear is, in the long run, less of a motivator than aspiration. Too many leaders wait until the organization is facing a crisis before pulling the organization together. Once the threat has passed, the urgency to act decreases. This does not happen when the organization's vision is an aspiring, creative one.

    14. How do you react to the four skills of “surfacing and testing models”?

    This will be new and unfamiliar material to any student who has not read The Fifth Discipline or the work of Chris Argyris. The first point, "seeing leaps of abstraction,” is related to what Argyris has called the ladder of inference. Human beings are "sensemaking" creatures who are able to make interpretations of even the most puzzling phenomena. The problem is that frequently our sensemaking gear jumps well ahead of "real" data. The antidote to this is balancing inquiry and advocacy. Managers must get themselves and their members to ask questions about their assumptions (inquiry) while they are stating them (advocacy). The recent interest in dialogue is an attempt to do this. Distinguishing espoused theory from theory in use is analogous to the difference between intended strategy and realized strategy. Talk is cheap; we can state that our philosophy is such-­and‑such, but it is our actions that speak the loudest. Good leaders give us the insight to see such inconsistencies. Lastly, groups of people in organizations limit their collective insight into mental models by using "defensive routines." These are highly skilled, entrenched habits designed to protect us from the embarrassment and threat that would accompany honest sharing of our views. Defensive routines are what make the "hallway conversations" that follow meetings more meaningful and honest than the meetings themselves. Developing skills in balancing advocacy and inquiry (perhaps through dialogue, mentioned earlier) helps tremendously to overcome these routines.

    15. What are the lessons of systems thinking?

    This material will be unfamiliar to students who have not read The Fifth Discipline. "Seeing interrelationships, not things, and processes, not snapshots" relates back to Senge's points in the section on the leader as teacher. People in organizations must begin to see events (snapshots) as emanating from patterns of events that are rooted in systemic structures (interrelated processes). Moving beyond blame stresses the point that actors are part of the systemic structure they inhabit. Until they and all other participants in the system design a newer, better one, the results are likely to remain the same. The two sides who are part of an escalating arms race are equally responsible for the perpetuation of their system of escalation. “Distinguishing detail complexity from dynamic complexity” means becoming more aware of how causes and effects may be distant in time and space. Problems an organization is having today may be rooted in decisions it made long ago in locations distant from those experiencing current problems. A good example is the decline of IBM, which can in part be traced to its success in the mid- 1960s. That success so enlarged IBM that decision stakes went up, driving the company to a conservative, bureaucratic decision‑making style that ultimately hurt it in the 1980s and 1990s.

     "Focusing on areas of high leverage" sounds easy, but it actually requires somewhat sophisticated modeling of the system in question. Once all the interrelationships in a system have been mapped by the members of the organization, it is possible to simulate the system to discover where the least effort or smallest change will provide the greatest benefit. This is leverage. "Avoiding symptomatic solutions" is related to a "systems archetype" that Senge discusses at length in The Fifth Discipline. The gist of this is that quick fixes (i.e., symptomatic solutions) often produce good results; that is why quick fixes are so often used. The problem is that the quick fix works for only a while. When it stops working, the usual response is to use it again, only more so. This creates the archetypal system of "shifting the burden,” so called because the repeated use of the quick fix weakens the organization's ability to find and implement a fundamental solution. In effect, the burden of solving the problem has been shifted away from fundamental solutions to ever‑increasing quick fixes.

    16. What is the point of the Lao Tsu quotation, "The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves’’?

    In some ways this related back to the point on leader as servant. What is important is not that the leader achieve power or gain adulation or reverence. What is important is that he or she steward a compelling vision, design a healthy system and teach people to throw off defensive routines and otherwise be able to see mental models and systemic structure. In doing this the leader will harness the immense collective power of the organization's membership. If he or she is very skilful, the members of the organization may not fully appreciate the leader's contributions because of their subtlety. Of that leader, the organization's members will say, 'We did it ourselves'. That would be the ultimate in humble, self‑effacing servant leadership.


    Summary of Reading

    The approach is similar to that of the Pitcher reading (three ideal types of manager: artist, craftsman, and technocrat), but differs in focusing on four ideal types of roles (entrepreneur, communicator, therapist, and tight-rope artist) that can be played by any given manager, rather than different managers.  More explicitly than any of the other readings in this chapter, however, this reading focuses on the middle manager’s – and in particular the long-standing middle manager’s - various roles in strategy-making, and more particularly strategic change.  These roles are essentially a function of the middle manager’s position in the hierarchy, which gives him or her exposure to both the rich information flowing from front-liner workers and the “big-picture” abstractions of senior management such that middle manager are crucial to tying the two together.

    Long-standing middle managers, especially ones, are a crucial source of well-grounded new business ideas that they are able and willing to realize: they are entrepreneurs. And it is through their ability to leverage extensive informal networks within, but also outside the company – rooted in years of job rotation and promotion in the company - that crucially enable middle managers to get new ideas and change implemented role: they are communicators of the need for change. A third crucial role played by these middle mangers is that of creating a climate of reassurance in the midst of change: in this role of therapist the middle manager, through direct and personal relationships, addresses the emotional needs of subordinates. Finally, in times of strategic change an organization needs to continue with a business as usual to a significant degree – serving established customers in well-understood while simultaneously navigating the move to a new way of doing business. The hands-on attitude and deep-rooted understanding of what makes the organization work that typifies the middle manager means that as a group they execute this tight-rope role, with some middle managers emphasizing the continuity aspect of change, and some the novelty aspect.

    Discussion Questions

    1. One way to think about whether a given level in a hierarchy creates value is to determine whether it helps subordinate level to better understand their work, i.e., gives context to that work. What does this test imply for the role of middle managers, as identified in the reading?

    The author asserts that the role of middle managers has been under-rated, and that close attention to what they do reveals how they contribute. And we can see their contribution as essentially giving context to the work of their subordinates: they draw upon front-line information and make conceptual leaps with it to innovate; they help re-channel the work of individual subordinates so that it collectively flows in a new direction; they help reassure subordinates about their future through helping them manage the anxiety-inducing aspects of changes in their work, marrying continuity with the past to a changed future. Therefore middle managers add value by addressing the innovation, integration (across tasks and across time), and psychological contexts of their subordinates’ work

    2. One uncommon aspect of this reading is the attention it gives to the interaction between emotion and strategic change. What do you think are some sources and consequences of this interaction?

    In general we can say that change creates uncertainty, and uncertainty creates anxiety, and this anxiety may be especially profound when the uncertainty is about one’s continuing income or career. The author therefore correctly identifies the value-added contribution of those (i.e. middle managers) who can help mange this anxiety throughout the organization in times of change. However, a more specific approach to this question would be to recognize that strategic or radical change refers to a fundamental change in the firm’s core identity. Consistent with notions of configuration and fit developed in Ch. 1, this deep change in core identity often requires concurrent shifts in organization structure, systems, and personnel. This implies a major and pervasive redistribution of resources and power, which is already highly upsetting in itself, but also a shift in fundamental mindset such that organization members’ most basic assumptions about the nature of the organization are challenged. These assumptions are crucial in how people make sense of their work, their place in the organization, and indeed in society:  members have “emotionally invested” in these assumptions. Challenging this source of cognitive and emotional stability, which is what strategic change does, is tantamount to attacking core identity and, thus, could trigger strong defense mechanisms, such as anxiety, defensiveness, and resistance. 

    3. Is identifying distinct roles that mangers play a good way to understand managerial work?

    This is the third of three readings in this chapter to adopt this approach (the Mintzberg and Pitcher readings being the others). Interpreting managerial work in this way provides a language that defines different aspects of the job in a general sense. This is useful because it helps us understand that, for example, middle managers in marketing or manufacturing or finance have much in common, though the operational detail of their work will be significantly different. This helps illuminate the capabilities an individual needs to have to occupy a managerial position. This can inform hiring and training efforts, and the “portfolio” of managers (e.g. a particular mix of Pitcher’s three types; or of old-timers and new hires as the Huy reading would suggest). individuals that an organization needs to maintain at each level of the hierarchy, or at certain periods (e.g. of major change). This “role typification” approach can also help managers become more aware of their own approach and the alternatives available to them. The downside is that thinking in such a way can result in either fragmentation of thinking or thinking in terms of categories and stark but simplistic caricature, where an individual is typecast as being, say, “just a technocrat” and his actions and potential





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