Friday, June 22, 2012

Organizational Culture and Change

Meyerson and Martin (1987) view organizations as cultures in which organizational change incorporates "changes in patterns of behavior, values, and meanings (p. 624). From their research, Meyerson and Martin (1987) identified three paradigms of organizational culture: integration, differentiation, and ambiguity.

Paradigm 1: Integration

Integration views of organizational culture identifies with those views that are shared: "for example, a common language, shared values, or an agreed-upon set of appropriate behaviors" (Meyerson & Martin, 1987, p. 624). Through an exhaustive search of cultural studies and theories, Meyerson and Martin (1987) identified three common characteristics for integration cultural theories: "consistency across cultural manifestations, consensus among cultural members, and -usually- a focus on leaders as culture creators" (p. 625). An integration culture would be found in most organizations that operate in a traditional top-down, controllable, manner.

Paradigm 2: Differentiation

Differentiation theories of organizational culture espouse diversity, where attention is paid to "inconsistencies, lack of consensus, and non-leader-centered sources of cultural content" (Meyerson & Martin, 1987, p. 630). Where an integrated culture is more closed, a differentiation culture is more open, influenced from both inside and outside influences (Meyerson & Martin, 1987). A differentiation culture would be found in organizations that operate with a flat or horizontal hierarchy, allowing more decisions to be made from front-line employees.

Paradigm 3: Ambiguity

Where paradigm 1, integration, resists ambiguity due to its rigidity, paradigm 2, differentiation, is more open to ambiguity so that it can be managed. For paradigm 3, ambiguity is accepted as "the way things are, as the 'truth', not as a temporary state awaiting the discovery of 'truth'" (Meyerson & Martin, 1987, p. 637). An ambiguity culture would be found in organizations that operate on a network theory or a complexity theory model.

Organizations address culture differently, partly based on the type of environment they operate in. Weick and Sutcliffe (2007) recommended to make your organization as complex as the environment - the more complex the environment, the more complex the organizational system will need to be in order to function accordingly. 

No one organization operates completely in one paradigm, there are usually portions of each type of paradigm present in any organization. When addressing change, it is recommended to view the change effort from each of the three paradigms rather than solely from one paradigm. As Meyerson and Martin (1987) pointed out: "An awareness of all three paradigms simultaneously would avoid the usual blind spots associated with any single perspective" (p. 643).


Meyerson, D., & Martin, J. (1987). Cultural change: An integration of three different views. Journal of Management Studies, 24(6), 623-647. Retrieved from

Weick, K. E., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2007). Managing The Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Personal Learning Strategy

In becoming a leader, or a self-directed learner, one must be able to learn effectively.  Learning effectively not only requires learning in a classroom setting, it also entails learning from experience, learning while doing, learning from others, and being able to teach or mentor what you have learned. Thomas (2008) identified a personal learning strategy as: "something to be owned and enacted by an individual, driven by his or her personal vision, tailored to his or her learning style, aimed to extract insight from the broadest possible range of experiences, and dedicated to achieving meaningful results" (p. 86).

Personal Vision
Identify what your own vision is. This requires asking hard questions such as: why you want to do what you are doing (ex: why you want to lead), what type of leader do others perceive you to be, what type of leader do you want others to identify you as, what does a day as a good leader look like, and how do you get from where you are today to where you desire to be?

Thomas (2008) listed McClelland's individual motivation assessment to help one determine how best they are motivated to lead.  McClelland's types of motivation, based on an individual's specific needs, include achievement, affiliation, and power. An achievement motivated leader would be motivated by achieving excellence and doing things well, with an emphasis on performance. An affiliated motivated leader includes one who is concerned with social relationships, wanting to be liked, with preferences to being part of a group. A power motivated leader wants to influence relationships and be in charge. This exercise in determining your own personal motivation is first to identify your own personal type. Next you want be cognizant of the other types of motivating forces so you will be able to recognize them. By determining a person's needs you will be more capable to influence that individual.  Further information on McClelland's, and other motivational theories (Herzberg's Motivators and Hygiene Factors, McGregor's XY Theory, and others) can be found at and

Persoanal Learning Style
Thompson (2008) highlighted the importance of what he called adaptive capacity. Adaptive capacity refers to "an individual's ability to adapt and his or her ability and willingness to learn" (p. 103). Understanding how you learn best, and how you learn best in differing situations, will aid you in developing your personal learning strategy.  There are a number of learning style tests available.  One familiar test is Kolb's Learning Style Inventory consisting of four types of learners: converging, assimilating, diverging, and accommodating. Converging learners prefer practical applications and solving problems, assimilating learners focus on planning and creating models, diverging learners are more imaginative and open to new ideas, while accommodating learners use trial-and-error and are more prone to taking risks.  More information on Kolb's learning styles can be found at Clark's web page; other types of learning styles are also available such as the Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learning Styles (VAK), and the Learning Style Survey. Each of these learning style theories are designed to be used as a reference point for the individual, one's type of learning style should not direct the way one approaches learning. Rather, concentrate on the different types of learning styles, know your own style, and work on building your abilities in those styles that you are weaker in.  Broaden your learning spectrum.

Extract Insight & Learn from Experience

Developing a personal learning strategy also includes being able to extract meaning and purpose from your experiences. Being honest, having integrity to do whats right, taking the lead, or allowing others to lead, and engaging others through shared meaning provide opportunities to extract insight from experience. Thomas (2008) emphasized not only learning from experience, but also to learn while doing: "when you don't have time to practice and yet you seek to improve your performance, you have to learn how to practice while you perform" (p. 62).

Providing a personal learning strategy helps to provide one with a guidebook for their journey.  A personal learning strategy can be changed, it is not written in ink. Actually, a personal learning strategy should be malleable, allowing one to change it as they grow. One other benefit for having a personal learning strategy is that it helps prevent one from becoming stagnant: "Skills can stagnate from underuse; they can be blunted through misuse; and they can be superseded by advances in the field. They must, therefore, be renewed" (p. 222).


Thomas, R. J. (2008). Crucibles Of Leadership: How To Learn From Experience To Become A Great Leader. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Innovation - Organization and Human Resources

Traditionally, organizations designed their training and transfer of knowledge to their employees on an as-needed basis, or what management thought was needed for their employees.  This type of system has become to be known as a 'push' system, directions coming from the top-down.  As organizations are experiencing globalization, more complex working environments with an ever-expanding resource of information, they are being forced to adjust to what is termed a 'pull' system (Hagel III, Brown, & Davison, 2010), representing a flatter organizational hierarchical structure.  

This age of complexity has also been referred to as the knowledge economy (macro), or the knowledge organization (micro) as termed by Drucker (2007). This knowledge organization is designed to focus more on contribution rather than on power, is structured according to the flow of information, and is multidimensional - breaking traditional organizational silos (Drucker, 2007). 

With a flatter organizational hierarchy structure the organization fosters innovation from both top-down and bottom-up communications.  To better foster innovation from the bottom-up communication chain McFadzean (1999) recommended the following to motivate employees to think creatively:
  1. Motivate employees: reward employees for good practice.
  2. Motivate think: give employees time to think about their own pet projects.
  3. Motivate creative: train employees in how to think more creatively.
  4. Employees creative: encourage the use of creative problem-solving techniques during meetings.

When conducting team and/or collaborative activities for innovation, Hunter et al. (as cited in McFadzean, 1999) offered the following guidelines:
  1. Get to know the other people.
  2. Be clear about the group purpose, values, ground rules and practices.
  3. Contribute to discussions, group decision making and task allocation.
  4. Share thoughts, ideas, feelings and concerns.
  5. Listen generously to other people.
  6. Speak concisely and to the point.
  7. Maintain focus and ensure that the process will lead to the fulfillment of the meeting's goals.
  8. Be proactive. Make suggestions, propose alternatives, look at what's missing in the discussion and add it.
  9. Be flexible. Avoid taking a fixed position. 
  10. Ensure that you understand the conversation that you are contributing to.
  11. Do not avoid conflict. Disagreement and conflict are an important part of the development of the group.
  12. Keep to the ground rules and encourage others to keep to them as well.
  13. Fulfill the commitments that have been promised in the appropriate time frame.

Encouraging and fostering ideas from employees will be required more as the organizational hierarchy changes from a top-down structure to a more bottom-up structure.  Drucker (2007) described that innovation needs to come from "the places that control the human resources and the money… from the existing large aggregate of trained people and disposable money" (p. 152).  The guidelines presented above will assist with the human resources portion of innovation.  Innovation is an organization function, consisting of all employees, stakeholders, and shareholders. "The innovative organization manages to innovate as an organization, that is, as a human group organized for continual and productive innovation (Drucker, 2007, p. 154).


Drucker, P. F. (2007). People and Performance: The Best of Peter Drucker on Management. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Hagel III, J., Brown, J. S., & Davison, L. (2010). The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. New York, NY: Basic Books.

McFadzean, E. (1991). Encouraging creative thinking. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 20(7), 374-383. Retrieved from Emerald. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Learning and Performance Quarterly

There is a new open access journal now available from the Department of Learning Technologies at the University of North Texas titled; Learning and Performance Quarterly. The student-lead team, faculty supported, that has put this publication together has done some great work. This peer reviewed publication is worth checking out for information relating to learning and performance. Plus, this publication takes an international perspective to learning and performance issues.
The primary goals for this open access journal are stated as follows:
  • Create interdisciplinary partnerships between scholars, scholar practitioners, and practitioners;
  • Provide a platform for emerging and established scholars and scholar practitioner to dissemination research in the area of learning and performance;
  • Serve as an incubator for learning and performance innovation;
  • Nurture future scholars and scholar practitioners;
  • Decrease the gap between theory and practice;
  • Increase exchange of knowledge between education and business;
  • Develop knowledge solutions platforms to increase learning and performance; and
  • Servie as curators of knowledge solutions for organizational systems (Retrieved from

For more information on the journal you can access the following links.  Additionally, if you are interested in submitting an article feel free to follow the link provided.
LP Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 is Published
Stay connected with up to date call for submissions at:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Team Learning - Psychological Safety

One key internal mechanisms that aids teams to operate effectively is the psychological safety that team members gain while operating within the unit of the team.  Edmondson (2012) identified the general premise of psychological safety: no one team member can perform perfectly in every scenario. Team members vary on their knowledge and experience, additionally work places and tasks vary on levels of complexity.  As the level of complexity increases psychological safety becomes an even more critical team construct.

Kostopoulos and Bozionelos (2011) identified psychological safety where team members are safe for interpersonal risk taking, meaning that teams and team members are able to take risks without any repercussions if they fail.  The learning process, rather than the results, is what is important to the team - as long as the team members continue to learn by trying new methods to solve problems they should feel free to explore without being penalized in any manner.  Psychological safety provides a healthy learning environment by facilitating exploratory learning and creating an environment conducive to critical thinking and open discussion (Kostopoulos & Bozionelos, 2011).

Edmondson (2012) identified some benefits provided by psychological safe work environments for teams:

  • Encourages speaking up
  • Enables clarity of thought
  • Supports productive conflict
  • Mitigates failure
  • Promotes innovation
  • Removes obstacles to pursuing goals for achieving performance
  • Increases accountability (p. 126, Exhibit 4.2)

Schein (2010) identified that a change leader "must reduce learning anxiety by increasing the learner's sense of psychological safety" (p. 305).  Schein (2010) identified eight activities that a change leader must empliment to provide a psychological safe team environment:

  • A compelling positive vision
  • Formal training
  • Involvement of the learner
  • Informal training of relevant "family" groups, and teams
  • Practice fields, coaches, and feedback
  • Positive role models
  • Support groups in which learning problems can be aired and discussed
  • Systems and structures that are consistent with the new way of thinking and working (pp. 306-307).

When each of these eight activities are created, simultaneous, a clear psychological safe work environment will be provided for teams to operate in - providing a safe learning environment for team members to function in.


Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.    

Kostopoulos, K. C., & Bozionelos, N. (2011). Team exploratory and exploitative learning: Psychological safety, task conflict, and team performance. Group and Organization Management, 36(3), 385-415. dpi: 10.1177/1059601111405985

Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational Culture and Leadership (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...