Definitions of Terms
I was researching how PAR curriculum projects can change how we design and deliver curriculum within the military profession. A large part of the change we generated concerned the preparation of leaders to engage with uncertainty in the world. Along the way we began to develop an understanding of the language used in both the practical and theoretical literature. I provide here our “terms of art”, with working definitions, and references to the source literature that informed our evolving judgment in hopes that it may speed your own search.
These terms became part of the common professional language used by stakeholders, project managers, leaders, faculty and students as they discussed their insights. The dialogue shaped the language they used and the language shaped the discussions because of the connection to the worlds of theory and practice. This summary reflects a broad set of common topics and themes found throughout the research. Unless otherwise specifically noted, the general sense of the words and their definitions as noted below will apply:
chaos, complexity, uncertainty, risk: a collection of terms that Army vision documents and curriculum developers use interchangeably to describe various aspects of the operational environment that are beyond pure rationality; these have technical and detailed definitions within their respective professional domains that go beyond the scope of this research and in the way they are used within the profession. (Pascale, 1999; Strogatz, 2003; Miller & Page, 2007)
concept maps: a visual representation of concepts, constructs, people and organizations, theory and practice that reflects the connections between the elements in a dynamic way. (Novak, et. al., 2006)
decision-criteria: (suitable, feasible, acceptable): the Army’s doctrinal evaluation criteria for evaluating all proposed change (US Army FM 3.0, 2011; HTAR, 2011).
design vs. planning: military design thinking reflects a holistic, systematic, open-ended inquiry into root causes, theories of action and problem framing in finding, whereas planning reflects a rational choice theory of structured decision making. (Dawes, 1988; Mintzberg, 1993; Dorner, 1996; Gigerenzer, 2005; US Army FM 3.0, 2011; Paparone & Tenant, 2011; McConnell, et.al, 2011)
doctrine: authoritative theoretical guidance, reflecting the accumulated wisdom and best generalized reflective practices of the military profession. (US Army FM 1-02, 2011).
emergence: a property of complex systems that describes features and qualities of systems that cannot be found neither in the individual components nor separately in the surrounding environment, and yet can be experienced as a holistic quality that is more than the sum of the parts. An example is the emergent quality of “wetness” of rain, which is found at the intersection on humidity, atmospheric conditions, the sensory organs of human skin and a consciousness that becomes aware of the sensation in that context. A more complex example is the self-organizing formations of Canadian geese in flight, who, without conscious design nor explicit direction adopt flight formations that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of group flying, resulting in sustained speeds of flight that cannot be achieved and sustained by even the strongest member of the flight as an individual (Klein, 2001; Strogatz, 2003; Scott & Wagner, 2003)
learning organizations: organizations that explicitly seek to manage knowledge, resources and processes in an informed way to improve operations. (Senge, et.al., 2000)
lines of action: a military term of art that describes a particular approach and supporting processes along a logical line of development and is usually considered to be part of a campaign plan of long duration (US Army FM 1-02, 2011).
milWiki & Army Knowledge online: Army wide knowledge management resources that are the centerpiece of the Army’s knowledge management strategy (Long, 2009; Richardson, 2010)
mindfulness: a multi-temporal conscious awareness of the moment and its dynamics within the context of an environment that acknowledges the influence of the past and the consequences of the future (Weick & Putnam, 2006)
network learning: an educational and learning theory and framework that explicitly considers the connections between agents and the various media by which knowledge can be created, disseminated, applied and adapted and in which various learning communities, both virtual and physical can be created (Siemens, 2005; Downes, 2007; Taylor & Lamoreaux, 2008; Richardson, 2010)
personal learning environment: the totality of the technology, environment, attitude of a learner in a digital and social learning context (Siemens, 2005; Downes, 2007, Richardson, 2010)
praxis: reflectively generated best practices from specific circumstances that favor a pragmatic assessment of utility. (Schon, 1990; Weick, 1993; Simon, 1997)
satisficing & bounded rationality: an approach to decision-making that acknowledges the limits of computability and the constraints of time, resources and forecasting on human decision-making based on the work of Herb Simon. (Simon, 1997; Henrich, et.al. 2001)
self-as-instrument: an emerging concept that explicitly includes the researchers actions, perspectives and paradigm as part of the research, including the effects of the research upon the researcher (Jamieson & Livingston, 2010)
sense-making: a cognitive function of creating satisfying narratives and meaning from a variety of data and knowledge (Weick, 1993; Klein, et.al. 2006; Boje, 2008; Watson, 2009).
small worlds management games: a broad category of experiential learning games that propose to model an operational environment to a certain degree of fidelity to provide students an opportunity to explore the dynamics in a direct action and feedback mode (Thole, et. al,1997; Macedonia, 2001; Rice, 2007; Long, 2010)
social media channels: (blog, wiki, vlog, Tweet): a collection of emerging digital communications technologies, and frameworks that support and extend the development of connected list network learning environments (Richardson, 2010)
stakeholders: people and organizations that have direct and indirect interests or are affected by the outcomes of policy decisions taken at CGSC (Bradbury, 2008; Jamieson & Livingston, 2010)
transformational change: change that goes beyond routine evolutionary adaptation to include major restructuring and changes of mindset; approaches and can include a change of paradigm in the Kuhnian sense. (French & Bell, 1999; Cooperider & Whitney, 2005; Cummings & Worley, 2009)
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I work for money. I have managed to find 2 careers where i love what I do, but if they stopped paying me, I’d stop doing that because I am a father with kids to feed and work for money > work for satisfaction.
my resume at age 53:
unskilled labor in landscaping
unskilled machine operator in manufacturing
security guard (for 2 years to earn enough money to complete my education; had to take a break in undergraduate studies when i ran out of money, and wouldnt take a student loan)
HS teacher (1 year; a horrible experience: hell is other teachers in the teacher lounge)
enlisted in Army, truckdriver (3 years)
Army officer (22 years)
College professor 10 years (and ongoing)
Small business owner 15 years (and ongoing)
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am collecting data now in 3 different areas to support my research into the effects of using Participatory Action Research to conduct curriculum design that focuses on the experiences of faculty and students to drive the selection of topics, and the content of lessons that are satisfying to them, as opposed to the traditional method of awaiting fro policy guidance from Dept of the Army and then conducting pilots programs.
i am examining the effects in 3 dimensions:
1. comparing the PAR generated curriculum to traditional curriculum as measured on degrees of satisfaction in quant and qual surveys of students and faculty
2. comparing the cognitive maps produced by analyzing the policy pronouncements and white papers from DA, and the aggregate of collected faculty and student comments about what “ought” to be covered in the curriculum to identify areas of overlap and underlap
3. the effect of the PAR process on my own teaching practice by examining my learning journal notes, blog entries, email exchanges with trusted others
my challenge is the variety of mixed methods and protocols, and will ultimately involve an attempt at integration of insights from 3 varied perspectives
am just grinding it out, chunk by chunk
Dr Anders Ericcson’s life work offers insights into the importance of “grit” on getting things done: it appears to be much more important than natural talent or brilliance
This post is part of my effort to keep generating the psychic energy it takes to take the last few steps of a long journey, by committing in public to completing the task of my dissertation.
Ihate finishing things: i am much more prone to start something new to keep the inspiring energy of entreprenuerial activity going
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- Stephan Adig: sudo over ssh magic (shermann.name)
- My peers are not my tribe at Attempting Elegance (attemptingelegance.com)
- Librarian at HSL receives Chancellor’s Diversity Recognition Award for Faculty Leadership (hslnews.wordpress.com)
- Course Description of TMD (arifianunnes3.wordpress.com)
- Luke Sullivan, Now Savannah-bound (adpulp.com)
- Curriculum Planning Retreat, April 14-15, Federal Way (elearningcentralia.wordpress.com)
- US Soccer – New Curriculum (theoriginalwinger.com)
- Show Me The Code (computinged.wordpress.com)
- Dr. Anne Sheehan: A Well Earned Retirement (stroseenglish.wordpress.com)
- WSU College of Education announces three faculty awards: Fellowships Support Diversity, Mathematics Education Efforts at WSU (wsunews.wsu.edu)
our cohort is looking at trends in state level funding for higher education and saw Arkansas proposing a plan to tie funding to short term measures of performance like class completion %, which triggered the following reflection on my part during our weekly discussions
1. state legislatures are tied to the annual and biannual budget cycle and election cycle. Statewide educational funding is one of the most important priorities and largest budget line items and one in in which they can make the state competitive for outside business. So there’s a natural urgency to do something about education at the legislature level.
Being tied such a short timeframe though is a challenge for them because they have to come up with metrics that are meaningful in their timeframe but which may not be suitable for assessing the impact of new programs over time. And so we get caught up in this series of short term projects on the margin, chosen simply because they are measurable and not necessarily because they contribute to a theory of deep learning.
2. if this were medicine, you wouldn’t expect to see legislatures defining standards of performance and measures of effectiveness in legislation to tell doctors how to do their job, which is very technical nature. You would expect them to rely on the medical profession to define measure and enforce reasonable technical standards. But because everyone has a belief about what they think constitutes good education and good educational outcomes, you see these kinds of technical specifications creeping into the language of the law. That doesn’t help us create effective learning programs. Simply adds another set of constraints. I think we have to decide to engage with them rather than just react to them.
3. on the subject of tools changing the tool user, just consider the effect of twitter on our higher cognitive processes. Twitter limits you to 140 text characters. This acts as a forcing function to make you say what you mean in short sharp clear simple text. But an academic scholarly paper of 30 pages has approximately 10,000 words or 50,000 characters, using the averages of 300 words per page and 5 characters per word. That’s the equivalent of 600-800 typical tweets.
The problem of course is that few of us write 600 tweets in the form of a complex nuanced scholarly argument. Tweeters get locked into superficial stream of consciousness dialogues that are one idea deep. Because it’s so easy to tweet around all day, we lose the capacity for uninterrupted focused attention which is both the blessing and curse of consciousness. By focusing on certain things we neglect other things. Tweeters, much like digital culture, thrive on short attention spans and superficial feelings.
We are much more like a nation of American Idol watchers than Masterpiece Theatre watchers, sadly. I don’t see that trend reversing. This further contributes to the development of the haves and have-nots: with the haves, having a culture of excellence and refinement while the have-nots live amidst their feelings.
it’s the bread and circuses of the digital empire
proponents of twitter in the classroom point out that it is a way to get people writing in small bursts. My concern is that there needs to be equal attention given to the construction of arguments and the power of rhetoric to persuade and to deconstruct other people’s arguments. Rhetoric works in both ways. It helps us make better arguments but it also helps us analyze.
- Quote of the Day: Caveat Tweeter (abovethelaw.com)
- One more Christian in Support of Public Education (reyes-chow.com)
- Maggart sends letter to Sumner teachers (politics.nashvillepost.com)
- Emanuel promises cash for tweeter’s name (upi.com)
- Letters: Attacking teachers immature, cowardly (knoxnews.com)
- Tweeter pretending to be Rahm Emanuel disappears (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Avoiding Tweeters Block: 30 Things to Tweet Today! [René Power] (ecademy.com)
- MayorEmanuel, Rahm’s Twitter Imposter, Disappears Into ‘Time Vortex’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- Elect a superintendent, or not? (ridenbaugh.com)
- 19 Atypical Tweeters – From Social Media Tombstones to Tweeting Pet Devices (CLUSTER) (trendhunter.com)
- Health and Education (education.com)
- Tea party vision for Mont. raising concerns (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Who Are Your Real Followers on Twitter? (donnygamble.com)
- “Teachers Unions, ACT/SAT, and Student Performance: Is Wisconsin Out-Ranking the Non-Union States?” and related posts (studentactivism.net)
- China brings a high-speed train to California; Harriman and Carnegie roll over in their graves (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Reflections on Starobin’s Five Roads to the Future (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Innovation as a function of R&D investments? not so much; check your network first (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Excellence at work (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Reflections on food and education in geopolitical ju-jitsu (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Reflections on “Sonic Boom” by Greg Easterbrook (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Reflections on economy, China and education (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
In preparing these remarks I was struck by how our use of the word theory encompasses both theory and practice. There’ve been discussions in these threads already about various theoretical models which may be used to describe, explain and predict organizational behavior. Then there are references to theories – in – use where the sense of the word “theory” is one of practical application centered on results rather than on ideological purity.
In a number of posts there has been the suggestion that different people with different theories looking at the same organization can somehow blend the two and find the truth somewhere in between in either the intersection or the union of the theoretical insights. There is a natural social drive to get to certainty and consensus. We place a value on cooperation in peaceful coexistence in our organizations. We’ve seen some organizations that thrive on a certain amount of organizational tension, particularly in sales, where the strategy is to deliberately set teams against one another relying on aggressive spirit to achieve positive results at the expense perhaps of human spirit, integrity and teamwork.
It’s important to remember Thomas Kuhn’s insights into paradigms and theories however, because there are times when competing theories cannot be reconciled and there may not be objective measures by which to favor one or the other in the moment of decision. In those cases an additional theory, political theory, power theory come into play in order to find a resolution that allows decision-making to occur. Coombs insight into paradigms was that they truly do not permit compromise.
Paradigms are complete explanations of the world and how it works, what the important values and concepts are, the appropriate directions for research, the interesting questions to ask and they define measures of performance and success. Philosophers of science called this quality ”incommensurability”; in other words both cannot exist simultaneously in the same space. A choice must be made. If you go very far at all into the philosophy of science, you’ll come across Paul Feyerabend , who basically was of the opinion that there is no objective basis by which one theory may be universally preferred over another in any circumstance, and that all we are left with is a need to take action based on some justification which makes sense to us in our frame of reference with the consequences being our responsibility for choosing. He had a very strong influence on Kuhn, and yet also had a good working relationship in his early career with Karl Popper, who is often seen as being diametrically opposed to the Kuhnian “paradigmatic” point of view
Here’s an example from organizational theory of that very idea: the behavioral theory of the firm is a set of models and constructs that analyze organizations on the basis of the functions and interrelationships that they perform. The resource theory of the firm, on the other hand is concerned with the allocation of resources among components and sub organizations and with the economic value- add, and reward to risk ratios, and total portfolio performance. Politics is a component of both theories, but the political dimension takes a different form. Politics in the behavioral theory of the firm is concerned with rules of order and explicit power relationships. In the resource theory of the firm, the tacit and social dimensions of politics are even more important than the formal explicit structure. A consultant seeking to conduct an intervention can’t really pick and choose elements of both to find some blend that is satisfying, because the compromise would lack the coherence, integrity and fundamental logic of either theory. Since theories are like models and thus neither true nor false but only useful or not, the consultant would have to make it choice about which theory to apply and then be true to the process and take it to its conclusion. Efforts to compromise would only muddy the water and lack a solid foundation and satisfying explanatory power.
It might be possible to iterate among competing theories at different times in conducting an analysis and intervention, but the possibilities of confusion and consistency would argue against that general strategy. Change management is hard enough in the practical world without bouncing back and forth between theories. We’ve all seen cases where a series of fads and buzzwords generate more heat than light. This kind of behavior gives theories a bad name.
And that’s another sense of how theory is commonly used, as something that is “just a theory”with the implication that it doesn’t have real practical value. Kurt Lewin of course famously observed that there is nothing quite so practical as a good theory. He was using theory in the sense of an efficient and simplified model of the world that allows us to take organized and effective action based on the common framework of understanding it provides. In this case simplicity and clarity in the theory is a virtue. That aligns nicely with the value of simplicity in theories of physical science, in which the power of the theory is a combination of its simplicity and explanatory power. It is common for practitioners to disparage theory and research as if it is only appropriate for ivory tower eggheads and yet there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a good practical theory can be a rallying point for effective organizational operations.
So when we talk about organizational theory it does not just include notions of a theoretical model used to analyze a firm, but it can include a theory of just what the organization is. To echo Mel’s comments, organizations are interesting units of study because they manifest so many components of our own social experience in a microcosm of reality that seems on the one hand practical enough to study and yet generalizable enough to expand our knowledge about other organizations. And because we need organizations to be able to leverage the variety of skill sets and resources required to compete in global markets, organizations seem to be a robust social, political, economic and cultural grouping and therefore worthy of study. My sense is that large political organizations like nations and states and alliances are less robust than value creating organizations that span boundaries. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that there is a blurring of these kinds of boundaries.
On the subject of theory-in-use, there is an emergent concept of theories of action in the world of design thinking. Design thinking is concerned with wicked problems that are not solvable by routine rational planning processes. They are the kinds of problems that require both creative and critical thinking skills with teams of multicultural learners in a cooperative knowledge creation setting.
IDEO, the design company, is an example of an organization committed to exactly this kind of thinking. Design thinking begins with an attempt to appreciate complexity of the moment in finding a tentative problem framing that allows us to begin to explore different sets of problems statements. Experimentation is performed in the real world to see which of the problems statements seem to allow us to make progress towards an improved next state. Theories of action are created that provide just enough cause and effect relationships and process models to allow us to take action in a situation covered by uncertainty. In this case theory is used in a tentative and limited fashion and is only related to the local circumstances. Later on, if success is achieved, the theory of action may expand into a more formal rule set that allows us to routinely exploit future situations of this type.
Finally, I am examining 4 different theories of curriculum which derives from four different appreciations and beliefs about the nature of people, their learning styles, and their educational needs. These four different theories are independent, complete, comprehensive and incommensurable in that they do not permit ready compromise between proponents of the different schools of thought. Most of the educational wars of the last 50 years can be traced to differences in the implications that can be derived from these different theories.
They connect very strongly to Cresswell’s for worldviews and really serve to illustrate how theory can influence our understanding and interpretation of reality and shape the choices that we think are available for action. I am engaged in trying to shift my colleges culture and educational process to accommodate more than a single educational and curriculum theory and I’m discovering just how powerful a theory can be in practice. I have a ton of references available if anyone else is working in that area.
My sense therefore is that we have to be very clear about what we mean by theory and how we propose to use it and be ever mindful of how our coworkers understand and use the word themselves. It is so rich and varied in meaning that it almost, like strategy, cannot be simply understood. I am glad to see the level of our discourse beginning to rise as we make more connections between theories, in all senses of the word, and our direct experience.
Buono, A. & Savall, H. (2007). Socio-economic intervention in organizations: The interviewer-researcher and the SEAM approach to organizational analysis. Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, NC.
March, J. (1994)/ A primer on decision making: How decisions happen. The Free Press. New York.
Reynolds, P. (2007). A primer in theory construction. Pearson Publishing. Boston, MA.
Schiro, M. (2008). Curriculum theory: Conflicting visions and enduring concerns. Sage Publications. Thousand Oaks California.
Smith, P. Theory and reality: An introduction to the philosophy of science.
- Call for Papers – Firms as Political Actors (kauffman.org)
- Review notes on Garrett Jones text on organizational theory, sixth edition (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Eric Logan “Team Frank”: Friedrich August von Hayek – Prize Lecture – The Pretence of Knowledge (nobelprize.org)
- Brother, can you spare a paradigm? (energybulletin.net)
- Mindreaders (psypress.com)
- Overview of Lewin’s Three Stage Change Model (brighthub.com)
- The psychology of change in organizations (psychologytoday.com)
- On Competency or Behavioral Based Interview Techniques (socyberty.com)
- The Big Brand Theory Whitebook: Digital Insights From Industry Leaders (compete.com)
- Underappreciated economists: Eric van den Steen (marginalrevolution.com)
- More reflections on Mintzberg on planning (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- A thought experiment in military logistics and visualization (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- An inquiry into operational logistics (theater distribution and JRSOI) (usacac.army.mil)
- Reflections on strategic leadership (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Thinking is hard, leave it to the professionals, saith Obama (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Looking behind the curtain of global warming onc emore (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- Army budgets and programs under severe environmental (budgetary)pressure (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- A reflection on Panasonic’s annual plan for 2010 (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
- More on the science of learning, social constructionism, language and teaching (kansasreflections.wordpress.com)
a very important read about crony capitalism by an acquaintance; i think the co-opting of politicians by business interests is a stain on our former republic. Finance has joined what was once an exclusive club of the military indutrial complex, which was joined by energy consortiums, exemplified by halliburton which was a combination of the 2.
Financiers have always been part of the mix, but at least in the era of JP Morgan had the decency to be reasonable in their appetites and one can point to their productive impact on industry and society. The naked greed and lack of respect for decency lately is sinful.
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Highlights from Mintzberg ‘s The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning
Ch 1: planning and strategy. Mintzberg offers definitions in this chapter. He asks “Is strategy making simply a process of planning or is it simply an oxymoron? Should strategy always be planned, never be planned or sometimes be planned? What’s the relationship between strategy and planning?”
- Mintzberg begins by explaining planning: he reminds that planning is used so broadly and in so many different contexts that it almost cannot be defined. He says scholars have been failing to define planning since the mid-60s. He thinks this is because scholars have been more concerned with what planning might be than what it actually is. He has made a career of classifying approaches and methods, inputs and outputs, perspectives on planning. As an example he takes issue with the idea that “planning is future thinking” because it cannot be bounded. It’s a definition that’s too fuzzy. He also takes issue with the idea that planning is controlling the future because it too is unbounded. He disputes that planning is simply decision-making, because if it were you wouldn’t need a separate word. The Chapter 1 discussion really illustrates the challenge of trying to get a set of operationally defined concepts that are used with rigor in order to approach the subject systematically.
- He settles on the idea that planning “is a formalized procedure to produce an articulated results, in the form of an integrated system of decisions”. The emphasis here is on formalization and systematization of the phenomenon to which planning is meant to apply. This is an operationally feasible definition and identifies planning as one means among many of developing a strategy.
- justification for planning: he notes that organizations must coordinate their activities; account for the future; be rational in their approach; develop control plans. All of these lead us inevitably to planning.
- the difference between planning and strategy: he points out that just as there are many different definitions of planning so too are there many definitions of strategy. Various writers consider strategies to be plans, patterns, positions, perspectives or some combination of these. Mintzberg believes strategy is different than planning and that there is a difference between planning and strategy formation. In Chapter 6 for example he will describe strategy formation as an output of an ongoing dialogue between managers, leaders, operators with many feedback loops that seek to capitalize on rapid adaptation to changing environments, which is considerably different than the idea of strategy formation as the result of a rational forecasting process.
Chapter 2: introduces multiple models of planning. A masterful analytical treatment of the complicated human process that includes rationality, process control, perspectives, worldview and many distinct schools of thought regarding planning.
- the basic planning model comes from the design school and treats strategy as a bringing together of competing values, environmental considerations a process of evaluation and choice with a notion of implementation. He offers an alternative view with the Ansoff model which is as complicated as a wiring diagram of your motherboard. He shows the connection of Ansoff and Steiner’s models to what has become known as the PPBE ( planning, programming, budgeting, and execution) model within the Department of Defense. This is a cold war era relic of rational planning taken to the logical extreme.
- conventional strategic planning: he analyzes the various stages of conventional strategic planning, decomposing them into their components such as: objective setting, external and internal audits, strategy evaluation and implementation.
- He sorts out 4 hierarchies in typical strategic planning: objectives, budgets, strategies, programs and shows the linkages between these which are usually taught in management by objective courses.
- He concludes the chapter with a discussion of what he calls the great divide of planning which groups two sets of activities: performance control and action planning as separate and distinct groupings of actions
- finally he uses the 4 hierarchies to look at 3 different types of planning: conventional strategic planning, analytical planning, and capital budgeting
Chapter 3: evidence on planning
- anecdotal evidence: he acknowledges that there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence that supports the notion that planning pays off. He demonstrates convincingly the problems with anecdotal stories as a combination of survival bias, selection bias, confirmation bias, and a failure in the design of experiments
- literature review of systematic studies: he concludes that systematic studies do not support the efficacy of most planning regimes
- typical planners response to the literature: Mintzberg says these come in five different forms and are all acts of rationalization in some way
- denying the problem
- trusting that the process will work even if specific results the workout
- developing ever more complex modes of planning
- reverting back to simpler planning strategies
- believing that it’s different in their organization
- he highlights Col. Harry Summers indictment of the Department of Defense’s supremely rational Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) system which was an attempt in the 60s to rationalize preparations for war in the conduct of war itself. Summer says “the rationalistic approach is characterized by the pretension to universality of its solutions, its intolerance of tradition and authority, quantification, simplification and lack of flexibility. It’s very efficiency prevents flexibility by eliminating what does not contribute to achieving the current objective so that alternative means are not available if the objective is changed”
- he concludes the chapter by observing that conventional strategic planning typically is a conservative process that undermines both creativity and strategic thinking. He thinks it’s inflexible and breeds resistance to major changes. He thinks it discourages creativity in favor of extrapolating from the status quo which emphasizes a focus on short-term rather than long-term
Chapter 4: pitfalls in planning. In this chapter Mintzberg describes the importance of commitment of an organization to its planning and strategy making process, it shows why this can be a problem. He has an extended discussion on the intersection between planning and change management. He doesn’t actually job of demonstrating why politics in organizations inevitably effect what is usually considered to be a rational process. He observes that in a session with control can prevent a strategic planner from containing a set of flexible options suitable for an emerging and dynamic environment.
Here are assumptions/tribal wisdom that Mintzberg (p195) calls into question about planning and commitment for example:
why do we assume that:
1. planning is committed to management?
2. Commitment to planning produces a commitment to strategy making, and a commitment to the results the strategy produces, and an effective implementation plan?
3. planning will produce loyalty and commitment from management?
as an example: consider the 5 goals that our board have for us: do you believe that these appropriate objectives and further, that they CAN be managed? and further, that having a 3 year strategic plan is the best way to achieve them (if we believe there can be a causal connection between our actions and those goals)
example: do you really think that “stock price” is an appropriate object of management by our company? and that we can actually affect stock price according to a plan?! this would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Think of all the short term manipulations required to be able to influence analysts, brokers, the press etc in order to spin quarterly and annual earnings. Its pointless and counterproductive. In fact, an excessive concern with stock price is a clear indication of an unsuitability in your corporate management. There are many studies that show that between 75 and 90% of the variation in a company’s stock price is attributable to the sector and market dynamics, ie beyond a company’s control. The fact that BSG uses this as a measureable part of managerial performance raises serious questions to me about its suitability in educating young impressionable managers. (Ken’s opinion only)
Chapter 5: fundamental fallacies of strategic planning (see Brenda’s detailed notes below)
Chapter 6: a new framework for thinking about strategy and planning. Mintzberg offers a behavioral framework for planning based on his belief that planning as it actually is conducted should inform our understanding of it as a process that can help us integrate our operations and visions. I’ve summarized the topics that he describes in Chapter 6 below in case you find these subjects interesting
- synthesizing analysis and intuition
- planning as strategic programming
- plans as a means of communication and control
- planners as finders of strategy
- planners as analysts
- planners as catalysts
- planners and strategists
- a short summary of planners in context
Ken’s conclusion: a superb piece of scholarship that remains central to any understanding of the broad topics of planning and strategy. You may not agree with his recommendations are insights in Chapter 6, but you have to take his analysis of the state of planning and a deep theory of strategy making into account if you’re concerned about organizational strategy.
Deeper look at Chapter 5 and 2 discussion questions:
Within chapter five of our selected book, Mintzberg (1994) discusses scenarios instead of forecasts. The discussion maintained that the future is unknown but with assumptions you can question what and when to make decisions by utilizing scenario building. With the business strategy game, we are using this type of activity to make our strategic decisions because as we make our decisions those decisions build upon the future structure of our company. Mintzberg explained scenarios as “focused less on predicting outcomes and more on understanding the forces that would eventually compel an outcome; less on figures and more on insight” (p. 248). Team B’s focus is on letting our products speak for themselves as expressions of our inner quality and spirit and to use our business as a force for growing a sense of global community and interconnectedness. This chapter focused directly on finding the “right fit” to how many scenarios to build. The focus is on the vision. The business strategy game provides for uncertain times but our company is not concerned with the bottom line but is concerned more with the people within our organization.
Mintzberg’s passion is not in the planning but in the collaborative effort of including all information into the decision making process to include others within the organization.
Question to consider:
- What have been your experiences when “planners” have made decisions without the consideration of others within the organization?
Mintzberg discussed strategic thinking is a reflective systematic activity where creativity must be used as you break down the vision of the organization into pieces to come to a final decision. He explained it as an experimental activity where one might have to “think to act and act to think” (p. 293).
- How does strategic planning obstructed strategic thinking at your organizations?
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Coaches must be concerned with the development of their players both on the field and off the field. In order to build strong young girls who can stand on their own 2 feet in life, we can leverage the insights from the field of positive psychology and specifically appreciative intelligence. Appreciative intelligence in girls youth soccer can help you build the emotional strength in young girls that they need to compete on the soccer field, in school and in life.
Appreciative intelligence simply means that we choose to focus on the positive elements of our most successful experiences as individuals and members of the team. By focusing on these areas we set the tone and shape the agenda for the emotional development of our players. By emphasizing the positive we ensure that we don’t backslide into thoughts of negativity and regret.
Appreciative intelligence has a long history of success in many different areas of business, government and education and is a proven technique for getting the most out of your people and your teams. It began with studies of the emotional reselling its emotional intelligence found in high performing entrepreneurial enterprises and business startups and has broadened into a wider appreciation of positive psychology.
Try this technique after your next game and see if it doesn’t work wonders on your teams attitude, whether they won or lost. Gather the girls in a circle and ask each one of them to think about their favorite memory on a positive note about one of your other players. By doing so, each girl is emphasizing the positive and each girl gets to hear their friends and teammates praising them for something that they did that was worthy of recognition.
I’ve tried this dozens of times after games and we invariably finish the experience on such a high note that it carries us through the rest of the week and into the next game. This positive result occurs whether we won or lost. We all leave the field with a very positive feeling and of thankfulness for the quality of the members of our team who we support and to support us in good times and bad.
Give it a try and see if appreciative intelligence will work for you in the same way.
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Usefulness of survey feedback (when it is effective) (Cummings & Worley, 2009, pp141-2):
- Motivation to work with the data: organization members have to believe in the purpose and efficacy of the feedback system, We are finding it extremely important for the surveyed population to get feedback on HOW the data is being used
- Structure for the meeting: Because of the challenges and possibilities of interpreting data and connecting it to action plans, there needs to be a thoughtful and satisfying means of examining discussing, interpreting and then acting on the data, in a process that satisfied all the tiers in the organization
- Appropriate attendance : people affected by the interpretation of the data should be represented in the meeting: This can validate the assessment of the data and the legitimacy of the action steps decided upon
- Appropriate power: feedback process must have the authority to get the data needed for action, but also the authority to act as suggested by a fair reading of the data
- Process help: Because the sense-making of the feedback process stakeholders is a political process with connections to the deepest values of the organization, it is necessary that the process be above board and managed/led properly. Social & political justice is an important part of legitimizing the decisions that come out of the feedback process. We don’t have to agree with every decision but we must be satisfied by the process that got us to the decision.
These elements are timely as we are conducting a process action team project for the college’s feedback system this month.
Limitations of survey feedback (Cummings & Worley, 2009, pp 147).
- Ambiguity of purpose: If the purpose of the feedback process is not clear, then it stands to reason that the design of the experiment, the survey questions, the interpretation and the focus of action steps. Having an explicit plan that is clearly understood upfront seems non-negotiable before we proceed any further along the feedback path.
- Distrust: it seems to me that distrust could come from either purposeful or accidental circumstances. We might distrust the leaders’ true purpose or the skill of the practitioner in achieving the technical standards of designing and administering the survey properly. Either source of the distrust will clearly sabotage the ultimate actions that derive from the feedback.
- Unacceptable topics: Culture, tradition, values, leadership-imposed constraints, or perhaps even an agreement among stakeholders to hold certain areas off limits may give us only par5tial insights. These off limits areas may not be critical to the system, but in complex social organizations it may prevent us from achieving a holistic and satisfying understanding. My experience has been that the off-limits areas really degrade the usefulness of the survey.
- Organizational disturbance: we know from science that the act of measuring alters the system in some way so we must take into account how, so we must make trade-off decisions about how much to measure and how often, and in a manner that minimizes the cost of querying.
Key Issues/problems: It seems to me that whether your survey data and feedback processes are useful or problematic depends on how your system “scores” on the 9 qualities of the survey data identified in Cummings & Worley,( 2009, pp139-141). I think that the organizational members perceptions of these are as important as the technical merits of the survey/experimental design.
- Relevant: do the data connect with the area under study?
- Understandable : are the stakeholders satisfied with the clarity?
- Descriptive : do the data give us meaningful and identifiable characteristics
- Verifiable: are the data reliable and repeatable?
- Timely: can we get the data quickly and within a timeframe that they remain valid?
- Limited: is the scope is narrow enough to allow focus and analysis?
- Significant: are we working on important issues concerning core processes and values?
- Comparative: do the data allow us to make meaningful distinctions? And infer cause and effect so that we can take actions?
- Unfinalized : do the data lead us towards significant action? Or dlo they leave us at a dead end?
(Cummings & Worley, 2009).
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Think about the last time you worked with a consultant in your organization: looking back at what the consultant did and said, were there any specific behaviors that surprised you? Did she do something that you and the faculty were not already capable of doing?
If they did something new, is the new behavior something you think your staff can now perform on their own war will it be necessary to continue to have a consultant to achieve the freedom to state the insights?
If they didn’t do anything new, what did the presence of the consultant really contribute to the process? Did they help create a safe space for discussion and reflection? Did they encourage fresh thinking that you couldn’t get to in the normal conduct of meetings with the staff?
Did you find yourself nodding as he or she spoke and saying “of course! I knew that all along!”
did the consultant offers specific opinions or insights or were they like a lawyer asking leading questions or Socrates guiding the team indirectly to the truth? Or did they simply put the question out there and let the answer go where it may?
Did they do anything that you now think “I have to add that to my skill set!”
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