Archive

Archive for November, 2010

Thanksgiving reflection

November 23, 2010 6 comments

"Bridge of no return" in Panmunjeom ...
Image via Wikipedia

a friend of mine has a son in the Army stationed in Korea.

he called home last night to tell his mom that if he didnt call home on Thanksgiving day not to worry, just that he would be in the field

his dad (a retired officer) got on the phone to chew his ass for talking about operational information over an unsecured phone line

just a father and son, sharing the love ūüėõ

a lot of guys in my department are in that position

a number of the guys i was teaching this morning, upon graduation in 10 days will be assigned to duty in Korea next, in the normal course of events

i never have problems with my students being motivated to learn

It’s a real privilege to share classroom time and space with them

some folks don’t¬†understand why i dont just trade full time; it’s hard to explain perhaps. but not really

it’s my dharma to teach here

dharma = soul/life duty;¬† one’s “righteous duty” in the Hindu tradition

in 1985 on Thanksgiving Day, I was a 1st Lieutenant of Infantry, serving inside the DMZ in Korea, as the commander of Guard Post Ouellette, the most forward deployed unit in the Army, an arm’s length from N Korea; at 3AM, as was my habit, I was walking through the trenches (15 feet deep, carved thru rock) going around the perimeter to inspect all of my fighting positions, each one in the dark, filled with 1-2 guys on duty, on the lookout for infiltrators or whatever madness the N Koreans might be up to

in one of the bunkers i met my newest soldier, who had reported the night before, fresh from basic training; he was 17, and from Missouri, and this was the first time he had ever been out of the state except for attending basic training at Ft Benning

we watched thru heat-sensing night vision devices as a squad of N Koreans began infiltrating thru our sector; and per SOP, we reported it to higher and they began vectoring ambush squads and reaction forces to intercept

the rest of the night we spent in a pretty tense manner as the scene unfolded until just before dawn the squad returned to N Korea

the kid’s eyes were as big as saucers, and I thought about what it meant to me to be 28 yrs old, and in charge of 50 guys in that position, on Thanksgiving Day

that was the day i knew for sure that i was destined to be a soldier for as long as i could serve

never forgot that moment and what it meant to have that kid under my command and what my duty was

made all the hardships or sacrifices or whatever pretty easy to take

in fact made all sense of hardship disappear, because it was absorbed into the value of “duty” and service to others

so, I never ever saw service as a hardship or particularly difficult; it all seemed very natural as a part of my dharma

I will be praying in my own way for soldiers this weekend, as they live their own duty to self and others

The 8011 person crisis

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

U.S. Health Insurance Status (Under 65)
Image via Wikipedia

Hat tip to Ed Morrissey:

255 million: The number of Americans with existing health insurance coverage.

20 million: The number of Americans without any health coverage at all due to economic circumstances.

375,000: The number of Americans with pre-existing conditions HHS said would apply for coverage in the first year of ObamaCare, one of the main political arguments for its implementation.

8,011: The number that actually did.

 

The power of math and clueless Ben

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Buried machinery in barn lot in Dallas, South ...
Image via Wikipedia

John Allison, who for two decades¬†served as chairman and CEO of BB&T, the nation’s 10th largest bank,¬†told CNSNews.com it is a ‚Äúmathematical certainty‚ÄĚ that the United States government will go bankrupt unless it dramatically changes its fiscal direction.

Allison likened what he sees as the predictable future bankruptcy of the United States to the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose insolvency he also said was foreseeable to those who studied their business practices and financial situation.

A video clip outlining Bernanke‘s disconnection from ¬†reality

Reflecting on a strategic inflection point at CGSC in Army education

November 7, 2010 7 comments

CGSC students 1999
Image via Wikipedia

Each year, more than 1500 Majors from the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines,  along with more than 100 specially selected international officers of equivalent rank, are assigned to attend the United States Army Command & General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth Kansas.  In  2010, the vast majority of these officers are combat veterans with an average of 3 combat tours in the last 5 years, with more tours expected in the near future. This extraordinarily high rate of combat experience has been true of the student officer population for several years and is projected to remain constant for the next 5 years. This collection of student officers is more experienced in combat operations characterized by uncertainty, complexity and non-doctrinal solutions as any cohort of officers in the history of CGSC (Long, 2009).

The Army uses capstone vision documents to describe the characteristics of current and future battlefields as a means of determining requirements for curriculum and pedagogical methods in all Army leadership schools(Long ,2009).  The current crop of visionary documents describe an Operational Environment (OE) that will place a premium on leaders who are both creative and critical thinkers, have exceptional initiative, are capable of building and nurturing multi-disciplinary teams, and who can treat doctrine as wise advice without being bound by its strictures.

Consistently emerging from satisfaction surveys and focus group interviews is a student and faculty frustration with the current curriculum and methods which in practice do not live up to the standards of the visionary documents.  This dissatisfaction is echoed by field units and senior leaders , who are of opinion that our graduates need to have much more proficiency in critical thinking, creativity, collaborative learning, negotiations, emotional intelligence, problem framing and multicultural perspectives.

Over the past two years, the Army has published five capstone vision documents, which are used to describe future requirements to succeed on the modern battlefield. The most recent of these vision documents is entitled TRADOC Pamphlet 525-8-3: The US Army¬† Functional ¬†Learning Concept: 2016 ‚Äď 2028. It describes nine core leader and soldier competencies which should be the focus for the educational outcomes of all Army schools. CGSC finds itself at a transition point where we must make strategic decisions about our organization and processes in order to shape our implementation strategy for the next 15 years.

There is an abundance of alternatives available to the leadership, including revolutionary change, evolutionary change, diversification into experimental programs, increased emphasis on digital and distance learning, restructuring of teaching teams and teaching departments, partnerships with Allied and other service schools along with various combinations of these choices. It is clear that any choice will represent significant change from the status quo and require a full measure of faculty and student body input into shaping our practical change program. Because so many change programs are bearing on this problem, the college has the opportunity to conduct a thorough and timely review of its mission, processes, structure and environment in order to set the course for the next decade.

The purpose of this paper is to describe the environment, the context,  the organization, the stakeholders, the existing curriculum and policies,and  the shaping values which will be used to evaluate any decision, and the processes by which change is managed in the college. By providing a theoretical construct from Jones (2010) and Worley(1996) I will provide a framework for understanding the problem/opportunity space in the context in which decisions may be made.

Worley’s four step integrated strategic change model is a nice fit for the current situation (Worley, 1996). The college has recently completed a strategic review ¬†(S1 in the Worley model)and an organizational redesign over the last three years which has created a stable base of policies, procedures and supporting organizations to accomplish the current mission (O1 in the Worley model). At the same time, a new strategy for the future (S2) ¬†has been described by capstone Army vision documents (TRADOC, 2008, 2010). The two pieces of the Worley model that need to be filled in are the organizational design (02) and the strategic change plan which migrates the organization from present state to desired future state along a suitable, feasible and acceptable path.

The US Army’s change management model searches for solutions that are suitable, feasible and acceptable (Long, 2008). Suitability is the effectiveness of a solution across a range of foreseeable environments. Acceptability is the willingness of stakeholders to support the proposed solution with respect to their culture, tradition and professional judgment. Feasibility is the economic affordability of the proposal in terms of life-cycle costs, implementation and project management. These three concepts will be among the criteria of any strategic change plan, per the Worley model.

Worley  (1996, p. 19) recommends that models of strategic orientation are better suited for analyzing strategic change plans then classic OD functional models because of their strategic perspective.  I will use the framework offered by Jones (2010) to describe the essential elements of the organizational and strategic context.

Jones (2010, pp.60-61) describes the specific environment as ‚Äúconsisting of forces outside stakeholder groups that directly affect an organization‚Äôs ability to secure resources‚ÄĚ . The CGSC specific environment includes:

  1. Government: directives from Congress specifying educational outcomes in the joint force
  2. Customers: field units and high level Army and joint headquarters
  3. Distributors: human resources command and high-level headquarters who assign officers to key and developmental positions
  4. Competitors: other service schools, civilian educational institutions and opportunities, training with industry, independent study, graduate programs, military colleges of other nations.
  5. Suppliers: Army branch proponents who are responsible for the content of functional area knowledge and procedures. High-level headquarters who specify staff officer requirements; Department of the Army who validates unit an officer capabilities and requirements.

Jones (2010, pp.63) describes the general environment as “consisting of forces that shape the specific environment and affect the ability of all organizations in a particular environment to obtain resources. The CGSC general environment consists of:

  1. Economic forces: the national economic interests of the United States that rise to the level of national security objectives, such as energy independence and building multinational coalitions and partnerships and supporting stability throughout the world for the conduct of normal in peaceful trade and cooperation. Economic performance of the nation also directly and indirectly affects the resources available to Department of Defense all the way down to CGSC itself. As one of the elements of national power, economic knowledge becomes an educational outcome for all officers so that they can participate intelligently in a whole of government approach.
  2. Technological forces: these include the information technology processes and infrastructure of the college to support learning directly, distance learning and outreach to field units.
  3. Environmental forces: these include climate change, pandemics, global financial network, food and water shortages, natural disasters, ecological crises like oil spills in the golf.
  4. Demographic and cultural forces: this includes the rise of religious and cultural megatrends, population demographic shifts, international megatrends like religious fundamentalism and expansion of human rights initiatives:
  5. International forces: including things like multinational alliances and partnerships, competition for regional resource and power centers and the military political and economic forces of other nations.
  6. Political forces: these include both domestic political megatrends and those of the international community which should be expanded to include those of semi-state and private organizations whose effects have political consequences.

Jones (2010, pp. 28-29) describes stakeholders into parts: inside and outside. He defines inside stakeholders as ‚ÄĚpeople who are closest to an organization and have the strongest or most direct claim on organizational resources: shareholders, managers and the workforce‚ÄĚ. In the CGSC these would reflect: senior leaders, staff and admin, departments and their faculties, and student officers.

Jones (2010, p.30) defines outside stakeholders as people who do not only organization, are not employed by it, but you have some claim or interest in it. The CGSC outside stakeholders include: other schools, field units, high level Army and joint headquarters, Congressman, allied partners, sister services, the local community, officer families, and the nation at large.

Part two of the Jones text is concerned with organizational design, and he describes a set of four challenges and a number of dimensions along which an organization must make trade-offs as informed by the environment, stakeholders and their purposes. In this section I will describe the CGSC organization and environment in light of the most salient of these challenges and trade-off dimensions. The four challenges are: differentiation, communication and coordination, centralization and decentralization, standardization and adaptability.

  1. Differentiation: this is concerned with the division of labor. CGSC is organized into six functional teaching departments, with each department responsible for the hiring and development of faculty, the preparation of detailed lesson plans, the delivery and evaluation of lessons and participation in an integrated curriculum design process. CGSC is also organized as a matrix organization in which selected senior faculty lead teams of integrated instructors from the six departments to deliver integrated lessons. On top of the departments and the teaching teams is the school senior administration and leadership within operations group tasked with the daily integration of all lessons and external requirements. Challenges in this area are concerned with competing values and overlapping areas of responsibility in the gaps that sometimes occur when lines of authority are not clear.
  2. Communication and coordination: this area is concerned with the way in which groups of stakeholders and elements of the workforce coordinate their work in progress and their operations and receive and process feedback to adjust future events and shape future policies. In CGSC, this is conducted through a vast number of stove piped functional meetings, a bewildering array of software project management systems, e-mail, phone calls, drive by discussions and a robust random event generator. Disciplining the information management system and working off of single coordinated operational picture is every bit as challenging in our educational environment as it is in a combat zone.
  3. Centralization and decentralization: this area is concerned with the locus of control for authority. Army doctrine calls for ‚ÄĚmission command‚ÄĚ, defined as maximum initiative to subordinate commanders to operate within the discipline constraints of centralized guidance. There is tension at CGSC concerned with the desire to standardize best practices and provide the best possible lesson plans to all faculty and with the recognition that graduate-level education is robust to the extent that individual classrooms can define, move towards and manifest their own sense of their educational needs and purposes in a rich developmental environment. These two tensions are at the center of all our organizational design discussions because we want to retain our reputation as a world-class military college and retain our graduate school certification, and yet treat our classrooms as learning laboratories for the development and integration of new ideas given the rich talent base that our students bring with them from the field, seasoned by decades of experience resident in the faculty. Finding the efficient frontier is perhaps our greatest challenge.
  4. Standardization and adaptability: this is strongly related to the previous issue which was concerned with authority. This has more to do however with the relationship of the stability of the curriculum to a dynamic world. Our assumption is that the world is changing at an ever-increasing pace and that this dynamism should somehow be reflected in an adaptive curriculum that stays in harmony with the changing environment. This is related to the discussion of organizational fit with the environment, although in this case we are really discussing the relevance and adaptability of our product which is the curriculum and the environment. Those who favor standardization want to see the benefits of familiarity and refinement of high quality existing curriculum that asked to preserve the goodness of the past. These are stakeholders who respect the power of good doctrine to act as an authoritative guide for future operations. Those who favor adaptability respect the dynamic nature of the global environment and recognize that we may need to sacrifice feelings of certainty for the ability to rapidly generate effective change that is aligned with new environmental circumstances. This is often described as the tension between exploitation and exploration in complex adaptive systems theory (Mller & Page, 2007).

Exploitation consists of creating value from known processes where you have a competitive advantage. This is ‚Äúmaking hay while the sun is shining‚ÄĚ ¬†and ‚Äúgetting it while you can”. Exploration consists of environmental scanning and entrepreneurial behavior designed to identify potential areas of future value creation that will serve to maintain the organizations health and relevance in the future. It looks beyond the immediate gains of the present. This is ‚ÄĚthe only thing constant is change ‚Äú and ‚Äútomorrow is a new day”. Andy Grove of Intel describes the dilemma in uncertainty associated with maintaining a proper balance between these two competing values in his slogan and book entitled ‚ÄĚOnly the Paranoid Survive‚ÄĚ (Grove, ) .

Jones (2010) suggests that there is a relationship between the degree of environmental uncertainty and appropriate choices in each of these dimensions (Jones, 2010, p.115). Environments of low uncertainty favor: simple structures, low differentiation, low integration, centralized decision-making and standardization. It is fair to describe CGSC historically as favoring this approach, which corresponds with high reliance on doctrine and institutionalization of best practices. These values are easy to understand in light of the reality of 50 years of Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union in which a black-and-white world was easy enough to understand from a Defense Department perspective. On the other hand, environments of high uncertainty favor: complex structures, high differentiation, high integration, decentralized decision-making in mutual adjustment. It is clear from emerging Army vision documents that senior leaders favor a move in this direction because of an era of perceived increasing uncertainty stretching ahead for decades as a function of changing dynamics in all elements of national power: information, politics, economics and military.

These tensions manifest in two interrelated ways at our current transition point. I think of these as related research questions:

  1. 1. What should our curriculum be to prepare officers for success in a complex world?
  2. 2. How should we design, develop and deliver our curriculum in order to stay in alignment with and adapting environment?

Stakeholders seeking to emphasize the values of certainty, simplicity, standardization and conservation will seek to answer question one in the best manner possible and then stabilize around the new, best curriculum. Stakeholders seeking to emphasize the values of adaptability and initiative will seek to answer question two first and maintain a dynamic adaptive process that keeps curriculum in alignment no matter which way the environment shifts. Both of these questions must be answered in our college strategy before moving into Worley’s steps three and four of the integrated strategic change model, because three distinct groups of stakeholders are forming around these two questions.

  1. Stakeholder group 1 (status quo): believe that no change is necessary beyond the routine micro product improvement of existing curriculum with existing processes.
  2. Stakeholder group 2 (Re-engineering): believe that significant changes necessary to respond to a new environment, and that what is required is a single iteration of re-design to update the curriculum to reflect the new reality in order to become expert in the new lessons and then standardize them into the future until such time as a new environmental shift requires a major rework. This is similar to Lewin’s plan change model of unfreezing-movement ‚Äď refreezing (Cummings, 2009).
  3. Stakeholder group 3 (Transformation): believe that significant changes are necessary now and will be in the future and that the processes by which we assessed the environment, design and adapt curriculum and remain in alignment need to be changed to reflect the new environmental dynamism. This can be thought of as a participatory action research inquiry that remains open ended an adaptive, consisting of four phases: plan, act, measure, and reflect (James, 2008). It also aligns with Cummings description of a four step general model of plan change: entering and contracting; diagnosing; planning and implementing change; evaluating and institutionalizing change (Cummings, 2009, pp 29-30).

In part 2 of this paper, I will be examining several organization design possibilities using criteria of  suitability, acceptability, feasibility, in light of theoretical and practical insights from our texts, as a way to inform steps 3 and 4 of the Worley model: designing and implementing Integrated Strategic Change. In particular I want to examine the utility of Keeney’s value focused thinking model as a path to creative decision-making (Keeney, 1992), particularly because of the power contained in the Army learning concept vision document which identifies nine top level educational outcomes for all soldiers and officers. Keeney asserts that values focused thinking helps in nine ways to improve the alignment between strategy and planning:

  1. guiding information collection
  2. facilitating involvement in multiple stakeholder decisions
  3. improving communication
  4. evaluating alternatives
  5. uncovering hidden objectives
  6. creating alternatives
  7. identifying decision opportunities
  8. guiding strategic thinking
  9. interconnecting decisions

The nine top level soldier and leader educational competencies that will guide the US Army’s learning concept for the next 15 years are:

  1. moral and ethical dimension
  2. multicultural perspective
  3. agility and initiative
  4. problem-solving and problem framing
  5. tactical and technical competence
  6. full-spectrum operations and JIIM proficiency
  7. whole of government approach
  8. ambiguity and uncertainty
  9. critical thinking and creativity

At a minimum our organization must consider the following dimensions:

  1. 1. How do our existing educational outcomes map to the new nine top level requirements?
  2. 2. How does our existing curriculum reflect these nine requirements?
  3. 3. Does our current process support the identification and development of curriculum to support these nine requirements?
  4. 4. Does our current organizational structure reflect a theory in use of these nine requirements?
  5. 5. Do these nine requirements demand a change in the construct of our top level educational mission?

After answering at least these five initial shaping inquiries, our organization must be concerned with implementing a strategic change plan that derives from our assessment of the answers to these five questions. An appreciation of that strategic change context will be the focus of the second paper.

References

Cumming, T. & Worley, C. (2009). Organizational development  & change (9th edition).  South-Western CENGAGE Learning.  Mason, OH.

Grove, A. (1996). Only the paranoid survive: How to exploit the crisis points that challenge every company. Doubleday.  New York.

Jones, G. (2010). Organizational theory, design and change (6th ed.).  Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Keeney, R. (1992). Value-focused thinking: A path to creative decisionmaking. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Long, K. (2009). Participatory Action Research pilot study notes. Ft Leavenworth, KS: CGSC (unpublished).

Long, K. (2008). A reflection on Army force structure decision making from 1995-1996: Passing on the BCT based Army. [webpage, blog essay] URL  http://usacac.army.mil/blog/blogs/dlro/archive/2008/11/24/a-reflection-on-army-force-structure-decision-making-from-1995-1996-passing-on-the-bct-based-army.aspx

Miller, J. & Page, S. (2007). Complex adaptive systems: An introduction to computational models of social life. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ.

TRADOC Pam 525-5-500. (2008).  Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design.

TRADOC  Pam 525-8-3 (2010). US Army Functional Learning Concept: 2016-2020.

Worley, C., Hitchin, D.,& Ross, W. (1996). Integrated strategic change: How OD builds competitive advantage. Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.  Reading, MA.

Late night reflections on theory

November 3, 2010 9 comments

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 ‚Äď in ‚Äď use where the sense of the word ‚Äútheory‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĚincommensurability‚ÄĚ; 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 ‚Äúparadigmatic‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äújust a theory‚ÄĚwith 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.