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Unit 7

Page history last edited by Mark 9 years ago

 

Unit 7: The Game of Organizational Culture Change

 

Unit 7 began its corporate life as an extremely BAH organization, enacting some of the worst dysfunctions of that organizational form:

 

In October 1996, a group of five partners … found[ed] LLKFB, an independent direct marketing agency. … Over the next four years, LLKFB attracted an impressive roster of clients and exhibited steady revenue growth. In November 2000, LLKFB was acquired by Omnicom [DAS division] for stock and a four-year earn-out[1]. Along with four of the five original partners, LLKFB’s eighty-five employees joined DAS. … After a disappointing financial performance in 2001, LLKFB … “ended 2002 with our highest revenue ever, a 110% increase over 2001, and we delivered a 46.4% profit margin before bonuses” [according to Loreen Babcock, one of the original partners. However,] “people were overworked and under constant pressure; there was little positive recognition. Our saving grace was that the quality of the work was excellent,” says Dr. Mark Spellman [then a consultant doing consumer behaviour analyses]…

 

“Our bottom-line focus was so stringent,” said Loreen, “that if you needed paper clips, you were asked how many you wanted … and a single digit was always the right answer. … Unfortunately, we had become a pretty unlikable company. As practitioners, we had become so focused on the numbers that we had lost sight of the client. … [Our process consultant’s] insight was that we had some of the best processes they had ever seen, but none of them were connected. The reason that we were disconnected was an absence of collaboration among the leaders of the firm…”

 

[Mark Spellman adds,] “There was a culture of fear in the agency, which showed itself at its worst as saying, ‘either fit in, or get the hell out of here.’ … And the belief that fear was a motivator cast a cloud over even those who did not fundamentally believe that. My experience with Loreen was that she had always tried to motivate people by pride in the highest quality work and in the highest quality relationships with clients. However, her enforcement of those high standards was sometimes interpreted negatively because it occurred within a wider culture of fear.” (Maher & O’Brien, 2007, p. 2-5)

 

A UCaPP Leader

 

During my initial conversation with Loreen, she identifies how the purchase of the company by Omnicom – and especially the ensuing financial incentive of the earn-out – distracted attention, focus, and effort from what were the original goals of the organization. At the time, ironically, what is typically an effective extrinsic motivator – linking individual financial performance and compensation to one’s sense of self-worth and relative value to the organization – was actually counter-productive.

 

Her epiphany came with the realization that recreating relationships among people, rather than maintaining an exclusive focus on objectives, goals, and outcomes, was the key to healing the organization’s many dysfunctional aspects.

 

While the company needed to rebuild, a strict focus on the revenue wouldn’t have put the health back to the company. So I sought out different views on how to rebuild cultures, or to create a culture. … The defining moments of that work were that the rules of the game really became about what would be acceptable behaviour and standards. It did lead to some revenue, the revenue goals, but the required moves of the game, and the forbidden rules that had dire consequences, [i.e., termination] had everything to do with the behaviour. (Loreen-1-27)

 

Loreen changed her own perception of what it means to be an organizational leader. Similar to Organization F’s CEO, Matt, Loreen understands her role to be an environmental enabler in the organization. Notably unlike Matt, Loreen does not see herself as being responsible for ensuring people are aligned:

 

How I perceive [my role] is the responsibility to create an environment where people feel like they can learn and prosper. So I feel that a big part of my responsibility is to help people know how to work in the environment so they can achieve those goals, they can feel good about the people they are working with, and those people are making a contribution, as are they, and those people are helping them learn as they are helping other people learn. (Loreen-1-5)

 

Loreen established the organizational ethos of Unit 7 that attaining objectives, achieving goals, and indeed, attaining overall business success all are emergent from the appropriate environment. This is not a surprising stance, considering that, “we didn’t have an environment to speak of, and we very much had an abrasive command and control way of running the business. There was a lot of induced fear” (Loreen-1-17). In enacting that ethos, Loreen describes how she continually and actively senses the organizational environment:

 

I’m often in sessions where I’m in collaboration with people, so I can observe the strengths of people and how they contribute, and that helps give me a gauge of where else they could contribute in the organization, and what challenges they would be valuable on. (Loreen-1-7)

 

What strikes me as noteworthy in Loreen’s reflection is how she views her role in terms of learning, of discovering individuals’ untapped potential, and of actively creating new opportunities to which individuals can contribute. This description is in stark contrast to the two organizations I identify at the BAH-end of the organizational spectrum. Additionally, in comparison to Matt, Loreen does not speak about setting the direction for the organization or coordinating (aligning) individuals’ activities or ambitions with those of the organization. Rather, she asserts,

 

We have a practice here of making sure that people are vested in this being a place that they want to come to and work in, and that they can grow in. … That it’s not all about what I create for them. It’s also about how they help create it. So we’ll often invite them in to design a way of working in an area they feel would greatly enhance their experience at Unit 7. (Loreen-1-7)

 

As a notable departure from conventional ideas of organizational leadership that suggest individuals align their values with the espoused mandate of the organization (Bass, 1990; Kent, Crotts, & Azziz, 2001; Krishnan, 2002), for Loreen, it is important that the more senior members of the organization understand how members’ personal values are mutually aligned as a way of creating the organization’s collective values. She expresses this idea in terms of what individuals wish to accomplish for themselves that the Unit 7 environment can facilitate:

 

Part of nurturing the environment is to allow yourself to understand what the needs are of all the individuals that come into your company. Why are they here. For a lot of people, it’s a job. But the bigger question is, why are they here then, because they could have a job in many places. What do they want to learn? What do they want exposure to? What are their goals? What are their goals in their life, that they think they’d like Unit 7 to satisfy? It’s a good starting place for us to make sure we can meet those expectations. But that understanding of what is important for them to accomplish – goals for their life versus strictly what we need them to accomplish – is nurturing. And they will in turn pass that on to the people around them. (Loreen-1-167/170)

 

Like many good leaders, Loreen seeks counsel for the myriad decisions that must be made. Unlike many other leaders, she takes counsel not from a select cadre of trusted, senior advisors. Instead, she extends the notion of trusted advisors to everyone who shares a vested interest in the success of the organization, irrespective of rank, status, or tenure. Loreen seeks out diverse opinions, not for the purpose of neutralizing dissent, but rather to prevent homogeneous thinking and the stagnation the comes from the predictability of the metaphorical echo chamber:

 

[You want to be] sure that you’re opening up to the perspective of a variety of people who have a much different perspective than you have. So it wouldn’t be uncommon for most major decisions, for me to be in a room with five to seven other people in a conversation. Sometimes they tend to be the same five to seven people, depending on the level of decision, but more and more I find myself making sure that I have a more appropriate diverse group in the room so I’m benefiting from much different ways of thinking. (Loreen-1-77)

 

Some of that diverse group comes from various seniority levels throughout the organization:

 

What’s non-traditional about it is the level of contribution [more junior employees] have in almost every decision of the company. They’re often amazed that they’re at the table in those kinds of conversations of these kinds of decisions. I’m starting to branch out beyond the typical five to seven because it’s occurring to me that pretty much I’m hearing the same thing, even from myself. So it is time to be true to a true collaborative model and be sure that we have enough diversity in the room, and so where those same five to seven people did make up that diversity for a period of time, we’ve become a little bit homogenous in how we think through all the decisions that have to get made on an organizational level. So now we’re benefiting greatly from making sure we create that diversity with different types of people. (Loreen-1-81)

 

In gathering together an ever-changing group of advisors drawn from all ranks and all areas of the organization, Loreen accomplishes two things. First, by changing the people who are involved in senior-level decisions in the organization, more members gain exposure to a wider breadth of organizational issues and concerns. Organizational knowledge is shared widely through active engagement with live, complex issues, rather than through passive acceptance of received wisdom. Equally important, diverse contexts and perceptions contributed by diverse members encourage a type of creative disruption of organizational status quo.

 

They bring whole new ways of us looking at things. They’ll ask a question and we’ll say, gee, we’ve never thought about it that way. It might be somebody who joined the company two weeks ago as an account coordinator, an entry level position. They might have had an experience through a parent who has told their stories at work, or something they’ve learned at college, or they had an internship, or they’re very well-read or connected, and they put a question on the table that completely changes the way you think about it. And that’s what we’re working very hard not to dismiss, is how much we can learn from anybody, versus it has to be the same five to seven people, because they’re at a certain status. These decisions are no longer driven on status. (Loreen-1-83)

 

Collaborating on Common Sense Leadership

 

Leadership embodied in an individual faces the risk of homogeneity, predictability, and routine over time: knowledge, context, insight, ability, and specific skills are necessarily limited in any one person, or indeed, in any one group comprising a leader and a management board, steering committee, or the like—especially if such exclusive participation is “driven on status.” In contrast, one can consider leadership as an emergent process that involves environmental sensing via diverse perceptual sensors. Sensing a UCaPP environment means perceiving multiple, continually evolving contexts, from which resulting decisions are measured against emergent, organizational values that represent a mutual alignment of its members’ values. In addition, both the sense-making process and ensuing decisions must be open to continual scrutiny and challenge in what one could characterize as a culture of inquiry[2]:

 

If you’re not constantly willing to doubt that you have the right answer. If you’re not willing to ask yourself everyday, is there a different answer that I haven’t thought about, and a lot of times that’s going to require a different perspective around you. Now you may get a lot of that from someone you know consistently helps you get to new perspective. But, it was a big insight for me in the leadership team to realize at what point did that become a homogenous group. And it wasn’t that we’re homogenous people—we had gotten to a homogenous way of working through issues. (Loreen-1-101)

 

Diversity of voices, in Loreen’s opinion, is the way to counter this risk. “We just started to hear the same thing. It became very predictable how we would address an issue. It became very predictable. And I believe that true collaboration takes that predictability out of the equation” (Loreen-1-108). Whereas bureaucratic and administrative procedures, by definition, ensure consistency and predictability that would tend to be anathema to innovation, more-UCaPP behaviours – Loreen’s “true collaboration” – become the stimuli for new ideas, new insights, and innovation.

 

Loreen did not come to these realizations overnight. She, too, had to “unlearn” behaviours acquired during the LLKFB years. Cindy reports that Loreen transformed from a more forceful and directive approach to one that is more consistent with a culture of inquiry—a culture that seems to be a necessity in a more-UCaPP organization.

 

She’s really changed her way of leading by trying to lead with questions instead of by telling. Lead with questions and allow people the opportunity to think. It’s a slower process, but it was very effective. Having people understand why they wanted to do what they wanted to do. Why? Why are we doing this? What’s the end result you want, and then leading, beginning with the end in mind. (Cindy-1-108)

 

This, of course, makes sense. “True collaboration,” in Unit 7’s parlance, requires the type of deliberative, common understanding of contexts and meaning-making that only the authentic practice of inquiry can accomplish[3]. The ethos that Loreen encourages throughout her organization is to create authentic engagement among diverse groups of individuals. These engagements invite a sufficient range of environmental sensing to inform decisions and directions in ways that potentially discover new and innovative insights, understandings, and approaches to Unit 7’s business—predictability is “taken out of the equation.

 

In involving so many individuals in what is traditionally senior-level decision-making, there is a fine line to be walked between leading-by-consensus and enabling honest engagement with the issues. Even when an organization explicitly uses consensus decision-making (as we will see with Inter Pares), decisions are not taken simply by either calling for members to give up their positions, or working to convince others to give up theirs. The key element at play in more-UCaPP organizations is a fully realized sense-making – as distinct from decision-making – process. When an appropriate common sense[4] can be made of a situation with respect to the totality of its environmental context, the appropriate decision for the organization becomes a shared volition to action—evident to all, if not simply “obvious.”

 

Collaboration at Unit 7

 

Loreen asserts “that collaboration really has to become part of the fabric of the company and how the company works, as opposed to someone making sure that the collaboration happens” (Loreen-1-93). In draping that fabric, she draws a clear distinction between collaboration and the more commonly enacted construct, teamwork:

 

I think [collaboration is] a very misunderstood way of working. That if anyone were to look at that as a vernacular shift … it’s completely different from teamwork. I often will ask how we got to a strategy, how we got to the answer to the question. And they know that what I’m asking is, what is the process they used to get there? And so a typical response could be, oh we definitely collaborated—we had everyone in the room. Everyone from the team was in the room. That’s a meeting. It’s not a collaboration. This is also a realization of a more definitive definition of what collaboration is, it’s going to be through experience, not through words. If I walked into a space, and I saw five people who don’t work on that account routinely, and there wasn’t one person driving, or judging all of the statements they were making, that to me would be a true collaboration. (Loreen-1-95)

 

Teamwork[5], as Loreen distinguishes that term from “collaboration,” is consistent with a primary-purposeful organization in which the overall objective is functionally decomposed, ultimately into discrete, individual tasks. Hence, every member of the team is present by virtue of what skills, capabilities, and experiences they each can contribute based on a pre-determined understanding of the team’s requirements. Loreen sees that approach as limiting, if not problematic, since it often leads to stifling creativity, and precluding new ideas:

 

It’s very typical once they start giving their ideas that we’ll spend the majority of our time letting them know why that isn’t possible—let me give you the history of the client. But the purpose of actually inviting people into a collaboration is, well, to use some of your words, to let us hear what we haven’t been hearing. So maybe they don’t have the entire history, but if we allow ourselves not to get caught up in what they don’t know and listen to the contribution that they’re providing, it’s just a different place to live in, in terms of hearing what it is they’re really saying, and how it could contribute to addressing the challenge we’ve just been given. (Loreen-1-99)

 

When one is working to a tight timeline, with a hard deadline imposed by the client, it appears efficient to adopt a just-in-time mentality in which people become involved at precisely the right time for their (instrumental) contribution, and no longer. This is, for example, a typical mode of operation for a project team, or a classic BAH model of input-process-output workflow. Loreen sees this as problematic for her organization and explains how coordinating via a collaborative, as opposed to a(n ineffective) teamwork, model proves to be more efficient in the long run:

 

How do you mobilize the agency now to address that [client] challenge? So there are times, for example, that someone’s going to have a strength being at the front, helping them think through a way to approach the challenge. That may be their primary strength, and five minutes with them might set the whole thing on a course that could take half the time even of the deadline. Because that’s also going to give insight into who should be at the table, when should they be at the table. They’ve already got a running start on the best way to approach it. Now, unfortunately, that person may not be brought in until it’s time to approve something, which is the exact wrong time to get that person involved, because they’re probably not going to agree. (Loreen-1-121)

 

By involving more diverse people in various initiatives, collaborative thinking is explicitly encouraged as an organizational value. Roger observes the business benefits in hearing from unexpected individuals throughout the organization:

 

You kind of look at that person a little bit differently. Okay, maybe he’s just an account coordinator [one of the lowest ranks in the agency]. There’s some good processes going on there. How can we tap that now for other pieces of the business? So, it helps bring people in a room that normally we don’t hear from. … It allows people to contribute that don’t normally contribute. … It takes all silos out of the agency. (Roger-2-16)

 

Roger identifies one of the key elements that enables complexity and emergence in organizations: creating connections among people where instrumental situations that might otherwise create such connections would not exist. Just as Loreen identifies the value of creating heterogeneous consultation groups to inform and advise her own decisions, every aspect of the agency’s internal operations can be similarly informed. As Roger observes, “It’s bringing diverse people together. What I like about it most is I hear people speak that I never heard speak before. And I think that’s showing people, hey, we value what you’re thinking. Speak more!” (Roger-1-141).

 

Conflicts of a Collaborative Culture

 

An intrinsic aspect of Unit 7’s new culture is welcoming dissent and divergent opinions, but not as an opportunity to find the “strongest” idea in a competitive sense (Organization A), nor as a way of nominally espousing participation in decision-making while actually stifling opposition (Organization F). Rather, inviting diverse opinions “to the table” is consistent with holding the tensions of polarities (Johnson, 1992) and discovering new, integrative approaches (Martin, 2007), without feeling the need to resolve them to a single voice (Organization M)—clearly, a UCaPP distinction. This discipline appreciates the nuanced differences of various approaches. Loreen expresses it as follows:

 

When looking to create a culture of true collaboration, you have to be willing to be non-homogenous, which means you’re going to bring together a lot of people who think very differently, who are very different, and that it’s not about whether or not you’re going to have conflict. You’re going to have conflict. It’s about how you develop the skill to work through the conflict. (Loreen-1-47)

 

Thus, true collaboration is more than reaching agreement. Being honest and authentic in the process of resolving contentious issues is crucial both to enabling effective collaboration, and to creating a culture relatively free of ongoing enmity, petty power politics, and sabotage. “You try and get that stuff on the table at the moment so you’re not harbouring, and not agreeing to things and then walking out saying I can’t believe that person can even think that way” (Loreen-1-269).

 

In staking this claim on what has become a core value for Unit 7, Loreen acknowledges that the cultural change which promotes collaboration is threatening to some, and that fear has the potential to undermine the organization’s transformation: “it’s actually a challenge to their confidence in terms of their ability to fulfil their role” (Loreen-1-261).

 

Among the more challenging, if not obscured, issues for any organization attempting either to make the transition from more-BAH to more-UCaPP or to struggle with retaining UCaPP aspects under BAH-isomorphic pressures, is how to decouple status, responsibility, content expertise, and one’s sense of identity. Traditionally in the BAH mentality, status and organizational identity – one’s social station in the organizational hierarchy – is associated with the office one occupies. The right to that office originates in possessing, or being believed to possess, particular ability, content expertise, or both. That ability and expertise may be rooted in a technical subject matter pertinent to the organization’s specific purpose and needs, or it may originate in the subject matter of management itself.

 

The status ascribed to an individual holding any particular office is often jealously protected as a matter of individual identity. Since the office is inextricably tied to a set of skills and capabilities manifest in one’s responsibilities in the primary-purposeful organization, anyone else potentially impinging on those responsibilities threatens not only the status, but the identity of that office-holder. As well, in some organizational contexts, many people hold the belief that even the act of seeking or accepting assistance is a sign of one’s lack of competence—behaviours reflecting attitudes that Adam reports in Organization A.

 

Unit 7’s culture change means that one’s position is explicitly not in jeopardy if they seek assistance, support, or in any way demonstrate a lack of knowledge or skill—in fact, a primary qualification for a job at Unit 7 is precisely the willingness, ability, and mindset to seek collaborators for any endeavour. As Frances explains:

 

It leads to a question of who’s best for the task, and who needs support, and who can we each call on to team up with, because generally things are done as a team. And, sometimes saying that you’re not the right person for this job, do you want to switch out. (Frances-1-19)

 

Effecting a change in organizational culture requires a serious commitment from the organization’s legitimate leadership not only to enforce the change, but to actively participate in the change themselves, especially if it means changing their own behaviours with respect to the perceived threat to their hierarchical entitlements. Cindy speculates on the source of resistance to Unit 7’s cultural transformation:

 

People who have been resistant are the ones that want to hang onto the hierarchy. … I don’t know if it’s their jobs per se. Maybe it’s the pride. Ego. You know, sharing that [status]. Whoever wants to be a [game] leader has the opportunity to rise and claim that. … Why would [senior managers] feel threatened? Because they’re certainly not going to lose their job over it, by collaborating. Because the culture of the company is collaborating, their job will be more threatened by not collaborating, than by allowing the collaboration within each game design. (Cindy-1-94)

 

It seems that so-called resistance to change may actually be resistance to change of identity. In many organizations, repressed insecurity over one’s position often leads to gamesmanship as a form of manipulation. At Unit 7, the collaborative organization is all about gamesmanship.

 

Game Design: A venue for culture change

 

As an explicit mechanism to signal change from the LLKFB way of operating to the new culture of Unit 7, Loreen adopted the vocabulary of designing a board game based on consultation with a business anthropologist. Loreen describes the discursive and practical mechanics of what essentially became an exercise in organizational redesign:

 

It involves a set of questions, including the point of the game, who the players are, how they are expected to behave, what moves are allowed, and what happens if the rules are broken. I decided to apply the approach to LLKFB in April of 2005, so I brought five people together for three days to design how to play our game. We started by understanding the game we had been playing, which was a necessary, but painful, exercise. After that, we designed the game for the organization that we wanted to become, and identified what learning we would take on that year in order to win our game. (Maher & O’Brien, 2007, p. 10)

 

Game design is now used to define appropriate and inappropriate behaviours for the agency as a whole, and to direct individual, mostly infrastructure, projects. Cindy, an Executive Assistant at Unit 7 and a game “owner,” describes the game-design metaphor:

 

It’s fun for people to participate and make change happen, and the idea was to get everyone’s involvement. Those people, you know, complainers, can get involved in a game, and help design and make the change in Unit 7 that you want to see. Invite people in, and within the game, you do check-ins, and you learn how to plan. You learn what’s really involved in trying to carry out an initiative. You use the same principles as you do in a task force, except in the game design, there’s no hierarchy, and that’s kind of fun. Anyone can be a leader, and so you’re in there with very junior people, and then very senior, and then people like me, an executive assistant is able to [laugh] lead the group. (Cindy-1-15)

 

The specific behaviours that game design enacts correspond not only to those that are desirable in the new culture. They also represent behaviours that are consistent with UCaPP organizations: collaboration, elimination of traditional rank and status hierarchy, inclusive and full participation among heterogeneous participants, a sense of personal responsibility for effecting collective change, referent as opposed to legitimated leadership, and the use of checking-in as a coordinating practice. Cindy sums up the effect of game design on Unit 7’s members: “It’s empowering. Anyone can get involved and work with senior management and get something done in the agency. Their voice matters—they’re contributing” (Cindy-1-76).

 

In Unit 7, the game-design metaphor is a critical element in effecting cultural change. It serves as a transitional change mechanism from traditional, hierarchical leadership to a non-hierarchical, non-status, participatory model that parallels the existing function-oriented managerial roles in the organization. A large part of organizational change must necessarily be discursive, modifying and evolving the behavioural and cultural vocabulary that creates one’s social location in the organization, and therefore informs expected normative behaviours. For example, the nominal purpose of the game-design metaphor is “a way to make getting things done at Unit 7 fun” (Cindy-1-5).

 

Perhaps of greater importance, game design resocializes organization members by subverting the common, division-of-labour expectation that management is solely responsible for ensuring that things get done, or more generally, initiating change. In doing so, it provides a coherent structure in which the effects that some feel over the loss of legitimated hierarchical status can be mitigated. For example, Frances describes what became a major initiative throughout the agency—for organizational members to experience, as closely as possible, what it feels like to live with Type 2 Diabetes[6]:

 

It also strikes me, as I say, it was not delivered top-down. You know, it wasn’t something that Loreen worked on, or that Loreen and I worked on, and said here’s the program. It was an idea she had. It could bubble up, and it wasn’t the leadership, or people perceived as leadership. The beauty of it was, the traffic manager, a production manager, a creative guy, you know, a bunch of people involved, me. And, it was seen as—How do I say this? You know, the working class, a bad phrase, but it wasn’t imposed. It was created. (Frances-2-90)

 

Game design’s initial use on organizational infrastructure issues means that the transitional leadership model can be rehearsed in the context of the business without directly or indirectly risking, or adversely affecting, the revenue-producing aspects of the business. The game-design metaphor includes language describing required, permitted, and forbidden moves for various undertakings and initiatives throughout the organization. For the all-encompassing game of Unit 7 itself, called Collaborative Invention, Loreen describes how seriously they consider playing the game:

 

We have three forbidden moves, and the forbidden moves have a consequence of dismissal—that they could not be tolerated within the organization because they were the very moves that got us to where we were. … So, suddenly I did find myself making decisions about very senior people, C-level people, not on performance – some of them very high performers – but because they were not playing by the rules of the game in effect, playing the forbidden moves[7]. (Loreen-1-29)

 

When taken in the context of the rules of game design, one can see that in Unit 7’s game structure which prescribes inclusiveness, check-ins, elimination of hierarchical privilege, and referent leadership within the group, impetus is emergent from the processes rather than from an individual leader. This form of emergent, collaborative leadership is neither anarchic, nor is it strictly democratic in the sense expressed by Organization F’s Jeff. As Cindy explains,

 

…the rules are that the customer and owner[8] have to agree where they’re going. So they have to go together, and then everyone, even the co-collaborators, we all have to agree on where we’re going. So we can disagree, but we have to wait until we all agree before you just go ahead. That’s why I know how important it is to bring people on board. And it was such a new initiative, such a different way of thinking, that people had to let go of their regular, their normal way of getting things done. And because it was a slower process, people are impatient with that. They want to just get things done quickly. But this process requires thinking, taking a little more time, and so, learning something new. (Cindy-1-52)

 

A critical risk to the ultimate success of this process – and indeed, a risk to effecting a transformation of organizational culture overall – is an appeal to efficiency and expediency—a deadline-focused, time demand that seemingly cannot tolerate inclusive deliberation and consensus. Such a risk seems to be evident in Organization F, for example, that is moving away from inclusive consultation to a form of representational consultation in which permanently installed representatives are exclusively those with higher rank and status. Additionally, as I described in that case, achieving consensus seems to be taking on characteristics of either subtle coercion, or backing away from approaches that differ from those of the boss.

 

Another risk to the type of transition represented by the game-design metaphor lies in individual resistance among those who previously held – or, in the context of a more conventional organization, would expect to hold – legitimated power and authority. The resistance is typically manifest through individuals expressing their hierarchical entitlement through what could be characterized as passive-aggressive behaviours directed towards the game owner.

 

A foundational operating theory of BAH is that the formal organization structure represents a form of meritocracy—an individual occupies an office and assumes its status and rank by virtue of being qualified for that office. Having a responsibility that may “rightly” belong in one’s legitimate bureaucratic domain usurped by a game owner of lower corporate class may well be perceived as a punishment or chastisement for inadequate performance. The usurped person may act out if s/he feels unjustly treated. Such inappropriate acting out can be exacerbated when that person is supported by another, hierarchically senior individual in ways that undermine the game design process:

 

Some people are having a very hard time operating within the game because they want to operate from their position and title. And so, what I ran into was someone in a position who wanted to protect a position of a person who really should be over that area. … She took it from me. Didn’t even want to operate within the game. But the thing is, she would never have started the project if it hadn’t been for the game design. But now, she’s wanting to take it over, and take it out of the game design. She could accomplish it within the game design, but she’s taken it over, for her own purpose and personal accomplishment. (Cindy-2-2)

 

The Culture Change Venue

 

As we have seen in Organizations M, A, and to an increasing extent, Organization F, traditional inclusion criteria for team membership focus primarily on individuals’ functionally determined or hierarchically privileged roles. In contrast, among other things, Unit 7’s extraordinary ethos of inclusion, irrespective of nominal rank or role, encourages unanticipated contributions in the construct of its game-design metaphor. The game venue therefore enables unexpected influences in organizational interactions to occur that encourage continual emergence, from which innovation is born. More important, Unit 7 actively demonstrates how it values its members’ contributions through enacted process in the culture, rather than by a more perfunctory, formal acknowledgement—for example, through an exclusive – and often exclusionary – recognition event. At Unit 7, full participation in game design and embracing its underlying ethos is a form of organizational currency—not only an expression of values, but an embodiment of one’s recognized value.

 

In contrast to a BAH organization like Organization M, for example, in which Stan laments that his potential cannot be perceived, and therefore he is not provided the opportunities to contribute as he might desire, conditions in a more-UCaPP organization enable and encourage impetus to emerge from anywhere in the organization. In Cindy’s case, for instance, being owner of Unit 7’s workflow process game enrols her prior expertise in project management and current enthusiasm; she can both perceive the opportunity and avail herself of an enactment venue.

 

Thus, the game-design metaphor strongly and visibly embodies the attributes that characterize the cultural change that Loreen initiated in creating Unit 7 from LLKFB. Game design is a venue of performative behaviour that encompasses the new ethos and organizational cultural norms to which the organization aspires. The organization’s legitimate leaders not only support this venue through tangible commitment; they also fully participate, thereby reducing the traditional, hierarchical power differential in the eyes of other members, being seen as willing to learn.

 

In effect, game design at Unit 7 creates a quasi-artificial environment within which traditional hierarchy is set aside in favour of in-game roles in a way that is not dissimilar to online gaming environments with its concomitant effects on construction and expression of self-identity (Williams, Hendricks, & Winkler, 2006). In a sense, it can be considered a transitional structure that enables class-diverse collaboration without suddenly disrupting the expected power dynamics among traditional actors—it is a venue of culture change.

 

The importance of a specific, structured, culture change venue – a performative social location in an existing organization in which new cultural practices can be enacted – is often overlooked, or dismissed as time-consuming, distracting, irrelevant, or gimmicky. Simply announcing new cultural practices is insufficient to effect sustainable culture change. Conversely, even simple enactments may be effective, so long as they are valued and sustained. For example, with the departure[9] of the Chief Strategy Officer, Loreen was able to signal the end of hierarchical structure by deliberately not naming a replacement to that position. Instead, as Frances relates, “nobody is the boss, myself included, and we’re all practice leaders, and yet, all of us have different areas of expertise. So the issue is calling on one another for support” (Frances-1-19), an obvious encouragement towards collaboration.

 

However, as both Loreen and Roger point out, collaboration is not an intuitive skill for most people. Collaborative practices must be deliberately enacted, and their value must be accepted by all participants in the collaboration for the restructuring initiative to work. Perhaps not surprising in retrospect, but unexpected at the time, the suddenly leaderless strategy group did not automatically adopt new behaviours. By leaving the strategy group to its own devices in attempting to create a collaboration out of a team, the content part of people’s individual work truly becomes more individual and isolated from the other members of the group. The process aspects that mandate collaborative coordination through checking-in and offering mutual support in a specific venue of knowledge-sharing were largely ignored among the strategy staff. The lack of knowledge sharing – referred to as “socializing information” by Inter Pares, another UCaPP participant organization – precludes emergent collaboration, especially in the absence of specifically mandated cooperation. As Frances observes,

 

…the group’s not functioning as a traditional group, so I feel like I have to do all my work alone. … The weekly meetings were sort of discarded. … There’s a dynamic where, in a traditional sense, if people are expected to be cohesive, they figure out a way to be. If you’re not expected to be cohesive, then some people will and some people won’t. … When I reached out to help, there’s a feeling like it will take so much time to bring me up to speed, it’s not worth it. (Frances-2-32)

 

The weekly meetings, newly instituted by Frances, could be considered as a simple form of culture change venue for the strategy group. However, they quickly fell by the wayside because they appeared to be extraneous when compared to exigent client demands and deadlines. It was never understood that these meetings coordinated activities, socialized information, and began to create the particular form of relationships among the group that are necessary for changing to a more-UCaPP model for the strategy organization. On the contrary, deadlines and similar demands impose an instrumental focus that tends to reinforce long-engrained, BAH practices. Combined with an inability to recognize and appreciate the value of a form of culture change venue that would inculcate collaborative practices within the group, the meetings appeared to be superfluous and an unaffordable luxury of time. The result is a less effective group.

 

When a venue of cultural change is endorsed, it must take precedence over other concerns to truly effect lasting and sustainable change, lest it be marginalized in the name of expediency to support the comfort of the status quo. Persistence in pursuing the effects of creating change is necessary, but not necessarily sufficient; strength is often required. It is perhaps ironic that coercive, legitimated, and hierarchical leadership is occasionally needed to enforce the transformation away from coercive, legitimated, and hierarchical leadership.

 

Unit 7’s game-design metaphor is disruptive to traditional, BAH power dynamics not only because it eschews traditional hierarchies and the ascribed superior abilities of those who hold particular job titles. More important, it mandates processes that actively undermine the forces that provide BAH structures their coherence, their circular logic, and the dominance of individual, independent performance and task-orientation over almost any other consideration. In addition, game design reinforces referent leadership as the working assumption in Unit 7. As Cindy notes, “people like me, an executive assistant, is able to lead the group. But all the other people in the group have to agree that you can lead and own it” (Cindy-1-15).

 

Game design brings an interesting polarity tension to light. Loreen identifies a number of behaviours required to enact true collaboration: questioning, offering advice, and eliminating hierarchical status. For collaboration to occur these must be offered in the context of a safe environment that neither tacitly nor explicitly impinges on individuals’ competence and ability. However, the person who may be less confident – perhaps someone who is more junior in nominal rank – often feels very unsafe because of these very behaviours that are strongly encouraged in the environment. Thus, a paradox arises in the minds of people whose nominal hierarchical positions construct them as more junior, and therefore more vulnerable to traditional power dynamics. Unless appropriately mitigated, the polarity tension creates an insecurity that inhibits collaborative dynamics and processes. Cindy explains:

 

They don’t want to think they’re doing something [for which] maybe they’re going to get in trouble. You’re a real junior person, and you think that person has kind of power over… or maybe being able to approve a raise for you, or someone who could fire you… So, because a junior person doesn’t have enough experience, emotionally and intellectually, to handle that kind of problem-solving skill, where you’re open to looking at how you’re doing things, and working with someone in authority to work something out, because you’re not really equal. Even with true collaboration, you’re always going to have people with perceived status. (Cindy-2-64)

 

Therefore, to reduce the inhibitors to collaboration that are introduced from previously socialized, power-oriented behaviours, there need to be legitimated, very visible, and explicitly valued resocializing constructs to reinforce the desired transformative behaviours. In Unit 7’s case, the game-design metaphor, and how it has been integrated into the cultural vocabulary, the day-to-day way of working, and even the employee evaluation process serves this reinforcing purpose. As a culture change venue it has the effect of transforming the extant organizational culture, as well as providing guidance and reassurances for more-junior staff via its explicit rules and roles. Even those who have had limited employment experience nonetheless have grown up learning that hierarchical privilege and power are the context of the working world—questioning suggests incompetence, ignorance, or both, and therefore begs the question of one’s worthiness for the position. In the traditional, BAH world, a culture of inquiry is misread as a culture of inquisition.

 

Realities, Responses, and Challenges

 

As one might imagine, the reaction to such a drastic change in organizational culture is not overwhelmingly positive, especially among those who value status and hierarchical rank as an expression of self. Roger explains:

 

We actually had a lot of staff leave because of the process[10], which is fine, because they weren’t right for this process. … I had an employee come to me. This person was an excellent employee, and we miss the value that they bring, but they said to me, I need the spotlight to be on me. (Roger-1-189)

 

A large part of effecting change throughout the organization involves appropriate recruiting. The large turnover that accompanied Loreen’s introduction of Unit 7’s new, collaborative, and non-status culture created an opportunity to repopulate the organization with those who more intuitively embody the new values. Roger explains: “I’ll interview people where I’ll have no experience in what they do, but just getting to know who they are for the cultural fit. That’s really important for us, obviously” (Roger-1-205). Loreen describes how new employees receive some orientation in Unit 7’s culture expressed as game design:

 

We are making sure that everybody who walks in the door is personally presented with the game, and explained the game of Unit 7, so they understand, what are the required moves, what constitutes doing well at Unit 7. We need to fine-tune this, because it’s clearly an area that we need to put some attention on. The Human Resources director will facilitate it, but it will be a combination also with myself. I think it would be important for them to hear it from the very senior levels of the company, because it is important for people to understand the level of commitment throughout the entire organization. (Loreen-2-68)

 

Despite best intentions at orienting new members, it is one thing for a person to hear about the organizational values embodied in the concept of game design explained by one or more senior people within the organization; it is quite another to experience those values during the hiring process and initial orientation period in the organization. Senior members must especially be cognizant of the delicate balance that exists in the intersection of espoused and in-use theories with respect to hierarchy and status. New employees who might hold a hierarchical/status model of management must understand the commitment to Unit 7’s organizational values held by senior members. Additionally, it is equally important for them to actually experience that commitment. As Loreen observes:

 

One of the things that I have learned is that it just takes a lot of repetition and patience—it is very new to people, and they need to hear it a lot. But also importantly, they need to see it demonstrated, actively demonstrated on a daily basis. Let’s take very veteran, senior people, [at the] top of their game. [We have experienced] some new learning [about] what it’s like to take those into the company and have them sign up for a way of working that is completely different than they’ve been trained most of their career. (Loreen-2-82)

 

Cindy agrees:

 

I think there needs to be more done in the hiring process to get people up to speed on what the culture is. Unit 7 itself has a game that outlines the whole culture of the agency. Unless a new employee gets that so they understand right up front when they’re interviewed, this is what's expected of me, they're going to have a problem. (Cindy-1-142)

 

The embodied experience of being inculcated into the organizational culture from the beginning of the hiring process, more than just the initial orientation period, seems to be essential to acculturating new members. This seems to be true irrespective of whether the organization is on the BAH (Organization M) or UCaPP (Inter Pares, as will be seen in the next section) ends of the spectrum. Organizations must be deliberate about representing their intrinsic nature and values through both the hiring and orientation processes.

 

As one might expect, cultural values are fundamental to the annual review process. Like many contemporary organizations, the annual review at Unit 7 situates achieving specific accomplishments as its foundation. That one’s goals and objectives are set by individual members (rather than by top-down decomposition) is not particularly unusual. What is telling is the specific vocabulary used—goals and objectives are framed as “promises.” Cindy explains:

 

You say you’re going to do something, or maybe you want to grow in your position, and then you set up promises that the employee will make, that I will do this and this and this by a certain date. So Loreen will give these people an opportunity within the company to do something. Maybe take an initiative and make something happen. There are check-ins, and people might be given a raise based on this new initiative. (Cindy-1-170)

 

The process of sense-making for individual evaluation is consistent with sense-making throughout the organization. Key to making sense at Unit 7 is gaining a holistic appreciation of the total context of the environment in which the individual finds him/herself. Thus, one makes promises in relation to that total context, rather than simply setting objectives that are a strict subset of the organization’s overall objectives delivered from on high. In addition, the language itself is indicative of a relational orientation in the organizational psyche: one makes promises to other individuals; goals and objectives are institutional, and therefore impersonal. Compared to more-BAH organizations, such as Organization A, for which goals and objectives are defined quantitatively, “keeping promises” can be evaluated using a more descriptive, subjective, and qualitative form.

 

Promises are a way of having your mind think in terms of setting goals and milestones in a fun way—it’s not a checklist at all. In fact, it takes a lot of work, because you have to write a story in the front. What the story right now has to do with your situation, where you’re at. What you’ve accomplished in the past. Where are the opportunities for growth? Where are areas of improvement you need to make? And Loreen will craft these beautiful written stories … and she’s helping teach some people how to write these things. … It’s a very different way for a goal process—more time consuming, and it takes a lot more thought. (Cindy-1-172)

 

Beyond conventional metrics and more than delivering on promises, employees are evaluated on the basis of spontaneous, peer-reported assessments of collaboration and group contribution:

 

We’re very clear with people what the expectations are for them in the environment. So a lot of the measurements become what myself and others hear about these people, and from who[m]. Are we hearing, on a routine basis, this person is, valuable to me, they’re a great contributor, they’re always willing to do whatever. Do I hear from five to ten people, in a six month period that, wow, I’m so glad that they’ve committed, that they’ve joined my collaborations on X occasions because they always provide such great value. Am I hearing enough that the person is a good collaborator? That’s the primary metric. (Loreen-1-155)

 

This particularly reflexive assessment of team leaders’ performance is considerably different – and sometimes unsettling – to more (conventionally) experienced individuals. Especially in the advertising industry, people are measured quantitatively, according to their business and fiscal performance relative to predefined organizational objectives. Loreen explains how she translates Unit 7’s values of a relational, rather than instrumental, view of people into the evaluation process, especially among more senior members:

 

High performance for them is, you know, they have good relationships with clients, they’re bringing revenue into the company, or sustaining more organic growth of the current clients. That’s what they’re going to consider performance. It’s all important, and I factor that into performance, but the performance of how they’re nurturing the environment, and the people in the environment is equally, if not more important, than the financial performance. (Loreen-1-162)

 

It comes as a surprise to those who might nominally hold a higher organizational rank that members at a relatively low rank may rate them poorly, and this ranking carries more weight with the CEO than does their business performance:

 

That is a difficult place for people to live, especially very senior people. They could be very high performers, but when the conversation is on the table – to work with you is not inspiring, they’re not learning, they don’t have exposure in developing client skills – that takes us to a place of, I must hear from your team that they’re feeling different about your leadership or you may need to seek a new environment. It is completely unsettling to some people that I wouldn’t take their performance over what they would consider very junior people on their team to be saying about them. (Loreen-1-161)

 

Although Frances was not a member of LLKFB, she expresses the simple rationale behind embedding collaboration in the formal evaluation process:

 

Companies where it’s all revenue-based, and decisions are made purely based on revenue, can be very unpleasant at times. So, in my experience, collaboration is the way things work best. … I think it’s interesting reframing it as a business objective—something that I think is really good to elevate and make really clear. (Frances-1-147)

 

With a primary relational view of people, the value of collaboration predominates at Unit 7 as it becomes both the de facto way of working and an explicit business objective. However, this relatively unusual orientation presents an interesting and challenging dilemma with respect to engaging the clients. Advertising agency clients in general are socialized to expect a purely instrumental view of people—a person’s value is strictly calculated in terms of a (usually high-priced) hourly worker. However, unlike the conventional teamwork model, instrumentalism is incompatible with true collaboration. Hence, there is an inherent contradiction in creating a collaborative environment internally while maintaining the existing economic (billing/value) model externally. As Frances asks,

 

…if five people from Strategy are involved in one account, how does it get billed? Why does the client pay the five-times premium to educate five people, when in the normal course of events, there’s only one person. … And it’s a legitimate concern on their end. … You know, that can’t work in the traditional model, because clients are trained on a value-per-person basis. (Frances-2-52)

 

Nonetheless, she can identify at least one instance in which the client has been “invited in.” In an example of how the boundaries between nominally distinct organizations can be dissolved, Frances describes some of the coordinating activities between Unit 7 and its client, Account R:

 

It’s actually a fantastic example, one of the healthiest examples that I’ve seen. The account team is really enmeshed with the client. Two of the team spend at least two days a week out there, and I think the account executive at least as much. And the client has been here quite a bit as well. … Account R treats us as full partners, and that’s terrific—a fantastic example of the way it can work. (Frances-1-172)

 

The emerging practice of consistently aligning organizational behaviour with respect to both internal and client (external) matters demonstrates the growing pervasiveness of the collaborative culture at Unit 7. Roger notes that the transition away from people working independently, calling for assistance instrumentally, was slow:

 

It was definitely gradual because we all had to learn it. I mean, I had to think about who to invite in, and by now it’s more natural for me for most things. I think we all have to learn how to collaborate, who do we talk to, and how to really think about other people’s feelings, what they would want. (Roger-1-139; emphasis added)

 

Notably, Roger identifies the importance of “thinking about other people's feelings” in the context of collaborative behaviour—whether someone else would want to be invited to participate, rather than whether the project leader would want them to participate. This framing represents a significant reversal in one’s typical organizational orientation – of self in relation to the organization – that will be explored in greater depth in a later chapter.

 

Checking-In on a Culture of Inquiry

 

A large aspect of individuals’ perception of caring is entwined with the culture of inquiry—a distinguishing characteristic of a UCaPP organization, and central to Unit 7’s transformation. An important consideration in establishing a culture of inquiry involves distinguishing the practice of checking-in from the discipline of checking-up:

 

The practice of checking-in is different than the discipline of making sure. Making sure will have a pretty strong positioning of, “I’m pretty sure you haven’t [done something] so I’m just here to make sure.” But checking-in is a sincere checking-in—so, where are we at? Where are you at? Do you think you’re on track? Do you not? What else would you need? So, that sincerity of checking-in for the sake of helping versus of judging. And also, taking assumption off the table. I’ve just learned that, if you do it consistently, checking-in is just one of the most powerful behaviours for yourself and for everyone involved. [It is] the core to collaboration. (Loreen-1-281)

 

As espoused in the organization’s values, the emerging culture of inquiry requires a leader to approach checking-in from a place of humility, opening her/himself to learning. Checking-in behaviour stands in opposition to checking-up that originates in a place of authority, power, and wearing a mask of omniscience. The common socialization of checking-up is manifest in the assumption that the boss will fix the problem – even if it means “fixing” the employee – when things go wrong:

 

How [checking-up] will be construed is when you act on that, it will be easily perceived as, you’re going to fix their problem. That I’m going to just come and fix their problem. That I’ve concluded that they can’t do it… Now maybe they can’t do it the way they’ve been doing it. But, the action’s probably going to be swifter, it’ll probably be more higher-profile because there will be a reason that we have to be in that place, and there will be people brought to the table now. But instead, those people [could have been] brought to the table before the breakdown, which is very proactive, that we can catch by checking-in. (Loreen-1-285)

 

At the core of a culture of inquiry is how power differentials must be decoupled from the act of inquiry through this process of checking-in rather than checking-up. People of unequal power in an environment of insecurity perceive questioning as a challenge or threat, thereby hampering collaboration. In response, individuals – and occasionally entire organizations – enact what Chris Argyris calls “defensive reasoning,” “defensive rationalizing,” and “organizational defensive routines” (Argyris, 1994) to prevent embarrassment. “So it is important to have the ability to let go of hierarchy—where the power is coming from on the questions” (Loreen-2-112).

 

Check-in provides a non-judgmental, relatively safer way of notifying that a project is going off the rails, to enable more resources to be brought to bear in collaboration. BAH organizations regularly implement checking-up disciplines that theoretically prevent errant human judgment from damaging systematic processes, or impeding progress towards achieving the organization’s objectives. But equally, they have socially built-in protection mechanisms that tend to obscure problems before they reach breakdown and then hide, minimize or otherwise obfuscate the breakdowns themselves—the previously mentioned “organizational defensive routines.” Collaboration in an authentic culture of inquiry works in the converse, acknowledging as axiomatic the limitations on human judgment, knowledge, and the reality of unpredictability, mitigating the ensuing effects through a genuine practice of checking-in.

 

What’s the Matter With Kids Today?

 

The fundamental change in power dynamics that Unit 7 has enacted through cultural transformation is consistent with the expectations demonstrated by people who have recently entered the workforce. What may appear to be an inflated sense of entitlement among some younger people, I characterize as having a refreshing sense of empowerment that rejects the hegemony of traditional BAH practices and expectations. Loreen brings an intuitive understanding of this principle to her reflection on the generation newly entering the workforce:

 

If you were to take some of the newer generation coming through, they want responsibility and exposure beyond their primary function. So, they seem to have a respect and understanding they’re going to come in at entry level. While they accept that, they don’t want to be isolated to the scope of that role. They want to have exposure, they want to make a bigger contribution than what that role will require. I’ve been paying a lot of attention to that, and that’s why the game design has become very powerful here, because it’s a way for them to contribute to the environment, which they like—a lot. It’s actually the younger generation that gets much more engaged in that proposition than most people. (Loreen-1-171)

 

Loreen’s insight provides considerable guidance in negotiating between the received reality of a traditional corporate environment, and the lived reality of a generation bringing a context of collective life-experience in the connected world. Many among contemporary youth have already experienced being valued for contributions unrestricted by externally and (in their view) arbitrarily imposed structures. Unit 7’s game-design metaphor enables these individuals to satisfy their life-expectation of not being arbitrarily restricted to the limitations of a predefined role, while simultaneously being able to accept entry-level task responsibilities delimited by actual experience, knowledge, and expertise. In effect, Unit 7 has decoupled specific subject matter expertise and the ability to contribute to, and fully participate in, the organization’s operational infrastructure. As Roger confirms,

 

…being involved in things that [young] people aren’t normally involved in, having strategy sessions for the direction of the company, and having lower-level people, like really getting rid of that hierarchy. Making people feel that the company is there for them and cares about them. (Roger-1-135)

 

Involving people who are at junior levels in the company provides an especially strong reinforcement of the organization’s values and ethos. Not only do people feel valued and appreciated; people who, by virtue of their rank, are not typically involved in strategic decisions become involved at the earlier stages, thereby facilitating the common sense of organizational “ownership”—people care about an organization that demonstrably cares about them. Loreen continues:

 

What I’ll hear routinely that I think is very powerful is, yeah, I’m going to go home at five o’clock. I’ve been here since nine o’clock. I’m going to go home at five unless you give me a reason to stay. But if you think that I’m going to stay because you think I should know to stay, because that’s the way the game is played until I get to a certain place, no, I’m not going to do that. But if you give me a reason to stay that is meaningful to me, that I know I’m making a contribution, I’m in. It’s not about, I have to leave at five. It’s about, is it worth me being here?" (Loreen-1-203; emphasis added)

 

This sentiment contrasts with the resentment-building controlling attitude that Loreen identifies as explicitly problematic, but embedded in the BAH hegemony:

 

I think where the problem is, and I think not just our company but many companies have to work through, is how to get out of, we paid our dues so you have to pay your dues. And how we stay very conscious of, what is the value to them for them being here, not just what is the value to me? (Loreen-1-205).

 

Loreen frames these considerations in the distinction between the “boomer” concept of work/life balance – “how many hours you’re not at work” (Loreen-1–197) – and what I call work/life integration. For the generation that has been socialized in the BAH-workplace world, ‘what I do defines who I am.’ In contrast, for the generation socialized in the UCaPP world, ‘the effects I create, and how those effects are experienced by others, define who I am.’ As Loreen has experienced, for these newer members of the organization, work is but one aspect that is to be integrated into the entirety of their lives, based on how they experience and perceive being valued by the organization.

 

In this case, that experience is facilitated by a UCaPP culture premised on a well thought-through, well-enacted collaborative culture:

 

When it’s real collaboration, when people have real creative freedom – the authority – to make decisions that have a potential of living, there’s air. There’s air and light that comes into that. And you feel it. You feel the difference. (Frances-2-138)

 

 


[1] A financial arrangement for the acquisition of a company in which a significant amount – often 40-60% – of the purchase value of the target company is earned over a period of time based on meeting certain financial performance targets.

[2] The term, “culture of inquiry” is widely used among those exploring education reform, the history and philosophy of science, and the so-called learning organization, among others. Several of my participants among multiple organizations use the term to suggest an organizational culture in which questioning and inquiry is specifically invited and welcomed as a means of introducing diverse standpoints, interpretation of events, and reflective analyses of both current and proposed courses of action. The concept is integral to Senge’s (1990) work as the basis of organizational learning, and Bohm, Factor, and Garrett’s (1991) proposal for the process of dialogue. It is explored in the context of required skills for contemporary managers by Thompson (1993) who suggests, “the twin challenges of exploding complexity and mounting diversity require us to become experts at inquiry” (p. 101).

[3] Balancing inquiry and advocacy in order to reach a collaborative understanding (although not necessarily agreement) is intrinsic to the process of dialogue as described by Bohm, Factor, and Garrett (1991); see also Laiken (1997).

[4] I use the term common sense here in its original, Aristotelian connotation. The sensus communis was considered to be an integrative, perceptual sensibility, the meaning-making sense that unites perceptions from the five other senses to provide consolidated meaning that, in turn, enables cognition (Gregoric, 2007).

[5] Laiken (1994a, 1994b) distinguishes between effective and ineffective teamwork, whose behaviours correspond closely to what Loreen calls “collaboration” and “teamwork,” respectively. Many people use the two terms – collaboration and teamwork – interchangeably despite, for example, Loreen’s astute observation of the discursive difference between the two. In personal conversation with Marilyn Laiken (January 11, 2010), she agrees that the vast majority of people neither practice effective teamwork, nor are able to distinguish between effective and ineffective teamwork, despite the importance of understanding and enacting that  distinction to create a “high-performing team” (1994a). Because several of my participants draw that distinction using the differentiating language of teamwork vs. collaboration, and because it has also been used in the cited literature (Adler & Heckscher, 2006), I have chosen to use that terminology throughout this thesis to distinguish a BAH model of purposefully – if sometimes only nominally – working together (teamwork) from a UCaPP form of consensus-based cooperation, often with an emergent purpose (collaboration).

[6] The “B-Roll Diabetes Initiative” was a 3-month project, named after a recently deceased, and well-liked, member of Unit 7 whose nickname was “B-Roll.” Over half the agency voluntarily modified their diet, adopted exercise regimes, and attended lunch-time education programs to experience the lifestyle changes necessitated for those diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Not only was it an education about the disease, but also about advising their pharmaceutical clients. As Loreen explains in some amazement, “I can’t believe how instantly I felt like I knew nothing. And how many years I’ve been actually guiding clients on how to create useful behaviour interventions to help people be more successful. Suddenly I find myself not knowing a thing” (Loreen-2-54).

[7] The forbidden moves are, “triangulation,” that is, going behind someone’s back to undermine them; enacting command-and-control by “pulling rank”; and physical, verbal, or non-verbal abuse, or failing to respond when made aware that such abuse is occurring.

[8] Although “customer” and especially “owner” might be considered as being analogous to a team leader or project manager, suggesting an implicit status hierarchy, the rules of the game design preclude acting on that hierarchical implication. As they are enacted, owner and customer are more akin to subject-matter coordinating roles for the game’s theme, be it for coordinating client workflow through the agency, or redesigning the lunchroom facilities.

[9] One of the casualties of playing “forbidden moves.” Loreen holds very real coercive power that seems to negate the UCaPP ideals of no enacted hierarchical rank. There are two considerations that mitigate the exercise of that power so as not to undermine Unit 7’s BAH to UCaPP transition. First, the rules of the game are explicit and well-known among all members; in effect, it is not the legitimated leader doing the firing, but the result of an individual deliberately defying the rules in a contemporary recollection of Mary Parker Follett’s “orders given by the situation” (1926/1992, p. 153). Second, Loreen’s use of executive power – a BAH artefact – was accompanied by significant and severe misgivings (personal correspondence, October 8, 2007) that effectively checks its arbitrary or authoritarian use.

[10] Turnover between 2005 and 2006 was 59% as those unwilling to play the new game were encouraged to move out of the company at considerable cost in severance, recruiting, and maintaining client relationships (Maher & O'Brien, 2007).

 

 

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