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The Natures of Organization

Page history last edited by Mark 9 years, 8 months ago

 

Finding the Natures of Organization

 

Change

 

In his book, The Rise of the Network Society, Manuel Castells (1996) describes bureaucracies as, “organizations for which the reproduction of their system of means becomes their main organizational goal” (p. 171). By continually reproducing and refining their procedures and processes, bureaucracies characteristically strive to achieve stability and predictability in their operations, a state of being “near equilibrium [where] we find repetitive phenomena and universal laws” (Capra, 1996, p. 182). The honing of their “system of means” to (ideally) achieve near-perfect predictability stands in opposition to any sort of organizational richness, variety, or adaptive behaviours that would tend to effect organic or evolutionary change at the cost of their ability to accommodate the unexpected or exceptional.

 

Facing change

 

Thus, in the face of change, BAH organizations tend to favour systems and structures that have proven to be successful, irrespective of acknowledging possible changes in context. Organization A, for example, adheres to the “cargo cult” principle of adopting what are perceived to be so-called best practices as it acquires and assimilates new companies. Organization M, through its myriad formal, administrative procedures that are “more spelled out so it’s more rigid” (Mina-1-99), has become almost ossified over the past two decades. Those who might have been agents of change have been effectively blocked from doing anything other than “writing as directed” (Mary-1-67). Organization F, in transitioning to become more BAH, seeks the relative stability of functional stratification, that Jeff maintains is “a necessary evil” simply because it “is what we should do” (Jeff-1-253) compared to larger, more established organizations.

 

It is not that UCaPP organizations necessarily embrace change or deliberately seek change as a mandated process. Rather, Unit 7 and Inter Pares demonstrate how creating truly collaborative organizational dynamics enables change and adaptation to continually and organically emerge. Unit 7, for example, creates multiple venues in which people of various ranks from different functional areas of the organization collaborate so that new perceptions and voices are able to introduce new understandings of the organization’s greater environment. Inter Pares chooses to work primarily in coalition to accomplish the same effect.

 

Controlling change

 

Change is certainly managed in UCaPP organizations, although a better word might be accommodated—adapted to, provided for, held comfortably, and made suitable. The systems and structures, especially those that comprise the culture change venue, provide mechanisms whereby changes can become well-integrated into the organization’s day-to-day operations. Inter Pares, for example, describes how the values espoused in its social contract provide foundational guidance for its growth, and how that growth is slow and organic. There is a strong emphasis on acculturation whether the growth occurs among its own membership or is manifest in the effects it enables among its various coalition partners. At each turn and at every level, UCaPP organizations continually reflect on the advisability of both pursuing new directions and practices, and continuing old ones. The key question, as Unit 7 frames it, is, “for the sake of why?” (Loreen-1-9). New information and environmental influences that might spark change are invited from all quarters and socialized widely—change occurs where it occurs, without regard for the rank or status of the change agent.

 

BAH organizations create mechanisms that emphasize control and specific task focus which limit individuals’ interest and willingness to step beyond their bounds, save to achieve a direct, extrinsic benefit. As seen in Organizations M and A, and to an increasing extent, Organization F, members are strongly socialized to accept the status quo – the way things are done are the way things should be done – with questioning, challenges, and dissent strongly (if sometimes tacitly) discouraged. Changes that do occur come from the top of the hierarchy, limited to a privileged cohort within the organization specifically charged with being the “thinkers.” Consequently, knowledge exchange, particularly in the form of feedback and feedforward loops, is equally limited to those whose instrumental task it is to set direction, make decisions, and initiate change.

 

Coordination

 

Teamwork vs. collaboration

 

Teamwork, in the discursive sense of this analysis, is consistent with a primary-purposeful organization; hence, every member of the team is selected by virtue of what they can contribute based on a pre-determined understanding of the team’s requirements. It is based on the assumption that information and capabilities in a bureaucracy are fragmented among its component roles, and that the way to ensure complete information being brought to bear on a particular initiative is to identify and coordinate those necessary components.

 

The sports-originated team metaphor suggests a “captain,” a legitimated leader who assumes overall responsibility (that is, responsibility “over all”) for the team’s assigned objective, goal, or purpose. It is taken as axiomatic in a BAH environment that the right team, once assembled, with everyone delivering on their required responsibilities, will produce the desired outcome. Each team member works independently on their assigned tasks which are themselves interdependent so as to provide a sense of cohesiveness among the fragmented, individual, subtask objectives. If an individual fails in their assigned task, s/he is personally accountable for that failure to the BAH-style leader who him- or herself is accountable for the team’s failure to those higher in the hierarchy.

 

In a sense, primary-purposeful teamwork hearkens to the age-old story that recounts, “for the want of a nail,” the shoe, the horse, the rider, the battle, and the kingdom were all lost. There is a sequential, linear, (inter)dependency that lies at the heart of purposeful teamwork, as reported by various members of Organizations M, A, and F. Teamwork in this sense can be considered to be the fundamental unit of BAH coordination, and comprises its fundamental vulnerability. Not only do primary-purposeful teams possess many individual and generally uncontrollable points of failure. The extreme functional and linear-process foci do not necessarily ensure that the team’s product will actually produce or contribute to the intended ultimate organizational result.

 

Collaboration recognizes that there is much of which any organization is unaware. As I mentioned earlier, collaboration recognizes the limitations of knowledge, assessment, predictability, and anticipation of future need—in short, organization does not, and cannot, know what it does not know. Thus, collaboration depends on individuals having the agency to involve themselves in widely publicized initiatives, and the autonomy to undertake self-identified-as-necessary tasks. Individual autonomy and agency can only be effective when it is balanced by a sense of collective responsibility among the members who collaborate. Jean from Inter Pares identifies this as “parity—parity of responsibility, accountability, obligation” (Jean-1-43) among organization and its members. Being collectively responsible – one cannot succeed unless all succeed – means that the members of a collaboration viscerally experience mutually accountability among one another for the success or failure of the whole.

 

Game design at Unit 7, for instance, begins by inviting those throughout the organization who feel they can contribute to, or have a stake in the outcome of an initiative, to participate. Collaboration depends on a type of over-involvement that seeks to cover more than the initial, nominal, expected requirements, as those cannot precisely be known. Initiatives that have worked exceptionally well at Unit 7 – its relationship with Account R or the B-Roll Diabetes Initiative – are highly collaborative, each one demonstrating the three characteristics of individual autonomy and agency, collective responsibility, and mutual accountability. Collaboration provides more-than-required resources in a non-rivalrous environment where job competency is not considered an exclusive or limited commodity. Those endeavours that are more of a struggle for Unit 7 – the Workflow Process game design whose challenges exemplify the importance of creating a culture change venue – struggle because they retain some artefacts of dysfunctional teamwork mentality among some of the members. Redundancy, even if by design or self-election, suggests a lack of competency or ability to perform in those who believe they hold individual responsibility in a primary-purposeful team context. What is perceived as a threat in such a team is an asset in a collaboration. As Loreen reminds us, collaboration “is a very misunderstood way of working” (Loreen-1-95).

 

Checking-up vs. checking-in

 

The differences between BAH and UCaPP ways of working give rise to differences in the methods used to ensure that tasks will be accomplished. When a leader assumes individual responsibility for the success of his or her team, there is the concomitant responsibility to “make sure”: “The discipline of checking-in is different from the discipline of making sure. So, the making sure will have a pretty strong positioning of, I’m pretty sure you haven’t so I’m just here to make sure” (Loreen-1-281). A BAH organization’s control imperative and interdependent responsibility structure necessitate checking-up, making sure that no metaphorical nails are lost.

 

In contrast, UCaPP collective responsibility and mutual accountability create a different imperative—one in which all members take on an authentic concern for each other’s success via checking-in. The concern is genuinely holistic in nature, as Sam explains:

 

It is meant to be about how you’re feeling about your role in the organization, that’s certainly part of it. But how that has manifested in your work. Do you feel that you’re being effective … like your talents are being used in a way that are the most effective and productive, and do you see any challenges? (Sam-1-73)

 

Because checking-in originates in mutual accountability rather than in judgement or evaluation, there is no incentive to obscure problems or difficulties. It thus becomes a more effective way of ensuring ongoing and appropriate coordination throughout the organization.

 

Alignments

 

Matt clearly describes how he encourages competent, independent agents to act, while he “generally makes sure that their activities are aligned with those of the organization as a whole” (Matt-1-7), that is, “aligned with what we’re trying to get done” (Matt-1-95). BAH organizations, like Organization A, functionally decompose overarching objectives at each successive hierarchical level so that, to a person, individual goals and tasks are aligned with those of the organization. This model extends to the organization’s nominal values; individuals are asked to subscribe and conform to organizational values, sometimes even in their private lives (Adam-2-38). When one’s own values deviate from those expressed by the organization (or perceived by outsiders), an individual may hide their organizational association in social conversation, for example (Stan-1-144).

 

UCaPP organizations seek to align organizational values with those of their members. Jean expresses this as “be[ing] able to keep following what you think, rather than what you’re dragged into” (Jean-1-63), recounting Bourget’s warning about the danger of “thinking the way you live” (Jean-1-63). There is, of course, a strong connection between one’s personal, lived values and the way those values are expressed through one’s actions. By adopting UCaPP alignment of values, task coordination becomes less about control and checking-up, and more about enabling autonomous agency among members who collectively know what should be done.

 

Evaluation

 

Assessment

 

Setting and meeting objectives is considered important for organizational effectiveness. However, precisely how those objectives are set depends on how one frames effectiveness, a topic into which the thesis will delve in a subsequent chapter. BAH organizations set objectives that are quantifiable and (nominally) achievable. However, as we have seen among all the BAH organizations, quantifiable and achievable objectives do not necessarily reflect achievement of the desired, intended, or even nominal outcomes or effects. Stan, for example, reports several instances of metrics designed to demonstrate the organization’s success, without actually achieving the nominal public policy objectives. And Aaron claims that the metric used to measure Organization F’s key success criterion – customer satisfaction – is little more than a “meaningless statistic that we’ve used to puff out our chests and feel good about ourselves” (Aaron-2-68).

 

On the other hand, UCaPP organizations create objectives that create visibility for the intended effects and provide an ongoing reflection on the organization’s values in action. Assessments are qualitative, subjective, and highly contextualized; they are therefore neither easy nor quick to accomplish. Although there are specific standards for performance – Unit 7, for instance, creates both a “satisfactory and a wow area for each item that you [promise]” (Cindy-1-172) – UCaPP assessments are as much about contribution to the environment as contribution to results.

 

Particularly as I have framed organization as a distinct actant – an autonomous entity, agent or actor that has behaviours, characteristics, and externally perceived intent distinct from those of its members – any given organization can and should be considered for periodic reflective assessment for itself. One cannot simply take as axiomatic, for instance, the proposition that a BAH organization is always correct in its often arbitrary selection of goals and objectives. Thus, individual goals and objectives derived via functional decomposition may as well be contestable. Indeed, in a culture of inquiry characteristic of UCaPP organizations, individuals’ “promises” (Unit 7) or “workload issues” (Inter Pares) must always be negotiated and reasonably contested. For Inter Pares in particular, the annual review provides the opportunity for a “cultural ambient assessment” and “program check-in” (Jean-1-95) for the institution as an entity in itself.

 

The fundamental evaluative concern of the UCaPP organization takes on a significantly different character from that of the typical BAH organization. In general, it asks a very different sort of question based in reciprocation or “parity”: In what ways did the individual contribute to enabling and creating the organization’s intended effects, and how well did the organization respond?

 

Reward and recognition

 

Reward and recognition are often constructed as rivalrous resources based on the premise of there being beneficial motivational value in creating internal competition among members of a BAH organization. However, the tacit but clear message received by organization members is that they are always and continually competing for their respective offices unless one has job security via a collective agreement, tenure, or other, similar arrangement. Teamwork, for example, becomes necessary in this environment, beyond its instrumentality for coordination, to establish concertive control (Barker, 1993) among its members in the absence of legitimated and explicit coercion.

 

Given that the UCaPP organization does not privilege one group or class over another, the espoused concept of personal success only being achievable through group success permeates among all organization members, irrespective of their nominal position, role, or tenure with the organization. When considering BAH organizations, however, the converse is perhaps more important: so-called collaborative efforts or teamwork that might be expected or encouraged among the workers cannot be contradicted by the organization’s formal or informal evaluation, compensation, and recognition systems that are typically based on rivalrous rewards.

 

The collaborative culture of a UCaPP organization decouples reward and status from contribution as much as is feasible in the organization’s practical industry or sector context. In a strong UCaPP environment, organization members contribute not only because it aligns with their personal values to do so, but because they feel valued in doing so. As Loreen reminds us, “give me a reason … that is meaningful to me, that I know I’m making a contribution; I’m in” (Loreen-1-203).

 

Impetus

 

Every organization has an intrinsic motive force – the ideation which provides the impetus for the organization to move. For many organizations, impetus is expressed as a mission statement that nominally captures the organization’s overall goals and objectives. For others – especially UCaPP organizations – impetus emerges from its members’ deeply held values that unify in the body of the organization. Regardless of its origin, impetus defines the processes of direction-setting and decision-making, and therefore informs and provides guidance to the mechanisms of management throughout the organization.

 

Christening a new leader-ship

 

Although they emerged as separate categories in this analysis, coordination and impetus are traditionally conflated in the role of “leader” and in the embodied-leadership persona. This conflation only applies in a BAH context; UCaPP organizations separate the coordination-oriented managerial functions that are enacted among various structures and behaviours (e.g., game design at Unit 7, or the practice of checking-in), from the creation and maintenance of impetus per se that tends to be emergent from individual and collective values. In contrast, BAH organizations spend considerable time and effort concerned with extrinsic motivation – usually closely integrated with evaluation processes – since the responsibility for impetus is tightly held, not coincidentally by the same “leaders” who control coordination.

 

By virtue of its ubiquity among BAH organizations, a leader’s coercive power via reward and punishment seems to be regarded as the most effective people motivator. In contrast, UCaPP organizations favour referent leadership that emerges organically from among a collaboration or coalition. As Cindy insists, at Unit 7, “all the other people in the group have to agree that you can lead and own it” (Cindy-1-15).

 

In a BAH organization, the leader atop the hierarchy has the job of knowing the direction and destination of the organization. S/he therefore has the responsibility of providing the necessary and appropriate impetus, both collectively and individually, through delegated authority via administrative procedures. Because BAH organizations coordinate activities by aligning individual task performance with overall objectives, the leader usually deems it important to align people’s directions and destinations with those of the organization. That felt responsibility often necessitates convincing dissenters to either fall in line (Organization A), or give up their dissent (Organization F).

 

In the collaborative environment characteristic of UCaPP organizations, diverse meaning-making contexts from which dissenting opinions emerge are well-explored and carefully considered. Inter Pares recognizes, for instance, that there is considerable value in being “willing to at least ask the same questions, even if we’re not coming up with the same answers” (Jean-1-13). The BAH view on contentious issues is that “you can disagree about stuff, but then once you decide to commit to it, you commit to it and you don’t look back” (Matt-1-25). In a more-UCaPP organization like Inter Pares, for instance, “the opportunity to talk about things more than once [occurs] naturally on their own” (Sam-1-27). BAH organizations consider leadership to be embodied in a person; UCaPP organizations consider leadership to be embodied in emergent, socializing processes. I will return to this topic in greater depth in the next chapter.

 

Sharing a vision

 

Despite the figure-similarity in how “shared vision” is often expressed among very different organizations, the intent or effect of such expression is vastly different between UCaPP organizations like Unit 7 and Inter Pares, and traditionally managed, BAH organizations. Many organizations refer to constructing a shared vision among their members. Matt, for instance describes, “Organization F as a relatively organic organization, where there’s a series of small insights that lead one to a path, … and people work towards a shared vision of things” (Matt-1-13). As extensively described by Gee, Hull, and Lankshear (1996), contemporary, “fast capitalist” organizations strive to instill a common, corporate vision among all of their employees with the intention that each individual will, to a greater or lesser extent, give over their own identity and values, and assume those of the organization—even extending into their private lives, as reported by both Adam and Karen (Organization A). In contemporary BAH organizations, that process of vision colonization tends to be manipulative, occasionally to the point of becoming anti-humanistic, according to the cited authors and many among the BAH research participants.

 

In Inter Pares, members also have a mutually shared vision, one that emerges from shared values and deeply held principles. In fact, Inter Pares’s hiring process specifically selects for those commonalities, while the co-management process reinforces both vision and values in day-to-day operations. Ironically, the intent of expressing a vision is identical for both BAH and UCaPP organizations: one shared vision to be held among all members and the organization itself. The respective mechanisms for achieving that common vision, of course, could not be more dissimilar. A BAH organization develops its vision – often among a number of elite, top-level members – and offers it as a fait accompli for the rest of the membership to adopt as their own. In contrast, Sam describes the consequence of a UCaPP vision process, emergent from its common values, as it is accomplished at Inter Pares:

 

I’m completely biased, but I would argue that we’re far more successful because it is truly a shared vision. It’s not merely handing over an individual vision, it’s because there are inimical interests within that structure. You know, there’s class opposition, there’s this contradiction of a company wanting to get as much as it can out of its workers, whereas that’s not the case here, so it allows for people to truly participate in owning and contributing to that vision. (Sam-1-81)

 

Power Dynamics

 

A tale of two CEOs

 

Loreen and Matt each play the role of legitimate leader in organizations that are in transition, from BAH to UCaPP, and vice versa, respectively. They each regard themselves as responsible for creating an enabling environment for their respective organization. Unlike Matt, Loreen does not see that task as a sole responsibility. “It’s not all about what I create for them. It’s also about how they help create it” (Loreen-1-5). In Unit 7’s game design, there is an authentic empowerment process at work in which Loreen cedes a great deal of control to those who would, in a traditional organization, have very little influence, let alone autonomy, to create aspects of that environment.

 

There may be considerable similarity between the two organization leaders’ description of their roles. But, there is also a key distinction that reflects the considerable philosophical difference between them, and between BAH and UCaPP organizations, with respect to power. As I previously mentioned, Matt “set[s] the course … generally make[s] sure that their activities are aligned with those of the organization as a whole” (Matt-1-7). He sees himself as being singularly responsible for creating an environment that will facilitate the requisite instrumentality to accomplish the organization’s objectives which are, in fact, Matt’s objectives (Aaron-1-115, 2-24/28; Jeff-1-51). Loreen sees her exercise of control in terms of creating an environment in which people collectively participate, and are mutually responsible for both their own development and for the ongoing facilitation and development of the environment.

 

As a legitimated leader in a UCaPP organization invites multiple individuals to create an environment for collective participation, there is a deep, lived understanding of mutual responsibility for individual and collective development that pervades the culture. Leadership, as previously mentioned, transforms to become an embodied process in a UCaPP organization. It not only can be collaborative, it must be collaborative, even as it is enabled and facilitated by the nominal or legitimated leader.

 

Equivalently, in a BAH organization, leadership must be embodied in an individual who, in the best instance, embraces an almost parental caring for those who inhabit his/her environment, designed with as much cognitive, emotional, and social intelligence as can be mustered. At its worst, of course, paternalistic care reverses into a not-so-benign dictatorship, with ambitions for a totalitarian iron grip of control over employees, customers, suppliers, and its market as a whole. Loreen herself admits that the precursor organization to Unit 7 resembled this worst case: “We very much had an abrasive command and control way of running the business. There was a lot of induced fear in the environment” (Loreen-1-17).

 

As legitimated leaders in their respective organizations, both Matt in Organization F and Loreen in Unit 7 possess, and have exercised, an absolute veto and exclusive decision power. Their reactions reveal key differences in their fundamental philosophies with respect to: creating systems of authentic collaboration; enabling mechanisms that tend to divest absolute power rather than concentrating it in a privileged group; and encouraging a culture of inquiry rather than a culture of advocacy for the leader’s point of view. Loreen reserves her veto and laments having to use it. Matt sees his veto as his legitimate and exclusive right as the founder of the organization.

 

Knowledge is power

 

Whether power is legitimated through rank status, or conveyed through knowledge authority, BAH organizations consider it acceptable, if not essential, to establish and maintain power and control relationships among their members. This becomes especially true when a hierarchy of privileged and legitimated knowledge is supported by the discourse of the so-called knowledge economy. For environments in which exercising overt class privilege might be deemed unacceptable, creating knowledge hierarchies is considered quite permissible, without necessarily probing how the processes that legitimate specifically privileged knowledge simply remap the prior class hierarchy. Unanimously in the BAH participant organization, academic credentials convey status and grant power through legitimizing an individual’s contribution (or conversely, delegitimizing it sans credentials).

 

The working assumption in Unit 7 is that there is considerable potential value and insight to be gained from less formally qualified members; hence they are granted considerable power through their invited influence. Analogously, Inter Pares values indigenous knowledge in the context of international development, and does not privilege Western knowledge authority as do many other international development agencies. UCaPP organizations remain true to their ethos of eschewing power and status hierarchies, be they organizationally structural or constructed by the authority proxy of privileged knowledge.

 

Sense-making

 

BAH organizations’ dependence on systems and procedures to minimize discretionary judgement means that their instrumentation must necessarily focus on verifying the correctness of those systems and procedures. As I discussed in an earlier chapter, Karl Weick suggests that the generally accepted and entrenched justification for any action or social behaviour reflects the sense that people have made of the world. It is that justification, and its supporting logic, that is given preference above any other. Thus, metrics that validate existing systems – both process systems and systems of meaning – inform the sense-making apparatus in BAH organizations as the interpreted environment increasingly resembles the preconceptions from which the systems and associated metrics emerged (2001, p. 15-23).

 

Thus, for example, Organization M creates budget-vs.-actual bonus targets for managers that track a minute fraction of a year’s fiscal management, and chooses to report program fulfilment based on intentions rather than actual delivery (Stan-1-94/39). Organization A members almost unanimously report that there is no post hoc review of business cases once a justified initiative has been implemented to verify whether the nominal benefits were actually realized. And Organization F’s CEO simply maintains that, “you commit to [a plan] and you don’t look back” (Matt-1-25). This defensive-routine (Argyris, 1994) approach to sense-making that seems to be rife throughout the corporate world and public sector precludes double-loop learning (Arygis & Schön, 1996), that would involve submitting underlying assumptions to critical scrutiny, and questioning the validity of plans and objectives. As Stan observes:

 

In the government when they do performance measurement, they do it just to get the funding. And what happens, say two or three years from now, no one goes back and looks at that performance measurement, and [asks], what happened? There’s no continuity. (Stan-1-47)

 

One of the fundamental values in UCaPP organizations is encouraging a culture of inquiry that supports comprehensive sense-making. Loreen frames this as reflexively considering “for the sake of why” a particular initiative is being undertaken or continued. Aaron succinctly summarizes the simple sense-making philosophy underlying a culture of inquiry: “if nobody’s asking questions, that implies to me that there’s not enough thinking being done” (Aaron-2-20).

 

More than questioning, UCaPP organizations embrace complex, non-deterministic processes that inform their sense-making and strategic direction. They incorporate diverse voices and views, as expressed by both Unit 7 and Inter Pares. In the latter case, Jean describes how they approach making sense of complex issues:

 

We start from where we are. There’s a history. There’s a present. And, there is, I think, versions of futures that we then have to decide among. But it is based on our history, and our present. … Some ideas gain traction and some ideas don’t so much. It’s based on a lot of people here who do a fair amount of reading, or are themselves involved in various policy or political organizations, or whatever. (Jean-1-15)

 

UCaPP organizations value heterogeneous and diverse participation to enable the widest scope of information and insights being brought to bear on an issue. In contrast, BAH organizations reserve participation in organizational sense-making as part of the instrumental role-contribution of an elite few; such participation is generally considered an indicator of one’s privileged status and rank.

 

View of People

 

One of Henri Fayol’s (1949) management principles speaks to placing organizational concerns above those of the individual. In the eyes of a BAH organization, people are relatively interchangeable and replaceable so long as the requisite qualifications of the office are met. The functional bureau in a bureaucracy sustains, irrespective of the individual occupant, as does the organization as a whole. Multiple offices or functions can be combined or divided in a variety of configurations with no deleterious effect. In fact, because of supposed (or predicted via assumptive, deterministic sense-making) efficiencies and synergies, such combination or division of functions are typically framed as being beneficial to the organization. Any particular individual is as irrelevant to the overall operation of an organization as a specific, replaceable machine part is to the factory machine. People are considered as instrumental by a BAH organization.

 

UCaPP organizations recognize that membership changes in an organization have the potential to damage the “social contract” that binds, and creates values-based cohesion. As Jean states, “when the social contract begins to break down because there’s turnover in this organization, or that organization … you have to start saying, is this something we actually want to continue to be part of?” (Jean-1-13). Unit 7 realizes that there is more to be considered than a person’s instrumental contribution to an organization’s production—their contribution to, or undermining of, the cultural environment is a paramount consideration of that organization’s CEO.

 

The instrumentality with which BAH organizations regard their people leads to a fascinating phenomenon. The experience of some in Organization M notwithstanding, participants in BAH organizations report that their immediate supervisors seem to care – express warm, human feelings and emotions – towards their direct subordinates. However, when considered as a group by managers several levels higher in the hierarchy, this individual humanity scales to collective callousness: “Employment at will, and we own you. You do what you need to get done to keep the company going,” according to Adam (-2-70). Every other BAH-organization participant agrees.

 

UCaPP organizations tend to scale individual humanity consistently throughout the organization, including up through the ranks of any nominal hierarchy. The caring is reciprocated, especially by those who have not yet become jaded by the working world, as reported in Unit 7. Work/life balance – that Loreen identifies as a baby-boomer concept, comparing the amount of time one spends away from work relative to time spent on the job – flips in a UCaPP organization to become a consideration of work/life integration. The more an organization demonstrates that it cares about an individual and her/his contributions, the higher priority an organization’s needs will garner in that individual’s integrated life.

 

The problem with softball

 

The question of work/life balance compared to work/life integration manifests in another, interesting way in UCaPP organizations with respect to creating strong, affective connections among members. Often, venturing outside the workplace to have fun, and thereby creating positive affective connections among participants, is a characteristic behaviour of BAH organizations attempting to rebalance the often out-of-balance, work/life balance. Creating opportunities for social engagement is an important catalyst for healthy interpersonal dynamics. However, creating such opportunities in a way that is not holistically integrated into the work environment and the organizational culture reinforces the notion that one’s work is distinct from one’s life. To coin a phrase, what happens in Vegas may well stay in Vegas; to a large extent, what happens in the infield (or even the outfield) stays out in the field and rarely translates to the office in a way that effects cultural transformation and the healing of organizational dysfunctions.

 

In contrast, Unit 7’s Frances reports on how the B-Roll Diabetes Initiative created strong social and affective connections among members in a way that is well-integrated within the context of the organization’s business operations.

 

As a department, I was feeling like we were isolated from other departments, and it was hard to build bridges. What’s happened with this initiative is, we created a kind of a research lab that everybody in the agency was invited to take part in for fourteen weeks, to walk in the shoes of a diabetic—a type-2 diabetic. And, what happened as a result is, a few key people worked on developing the initiative with me from departments that I don't really work much with. Production, for instance. Some people from the creative team that I normally might not really get to know that well. And then, when we announced the initiative – it was to the whole agency – people got to see me like they hadn’t seen me before... And I had the chance to talk to people from a very different capacity, and I really started feeling, unlike before, I really started feeling like part of the fabric of the company, and it felt really wonderful. (Frances-2-8)

 

This succinctly captures the idea of “the problem with softball.” Although it is useful to create affective ties with co-workers, the activities that are typically employed are almost exclusively outside of normal work activities, like softball games, other social outings, company retreats, facilitated workshop events, and the like. In Unit 7’s case, the B-Roll Diabetes Initiative recontextualized typical, work-related activities throughout the agency so that they are engaging and fun, enabling people to collaborate in ways that defy the typical organizational separations imposed by formal structure, hierarchy, and workaday processes.

 

Enabling these sorts of social connections in the work context eliminates the dissonance and disconnection of being “buddy-buddy” on the ball field or bowling alley, while maintaining fragmented, bureaucratic structures and internal rivalries in the office proper. Consistent with having a fundamentally relational view of people, integrating affective and instrumental aspects of organizational life is an important aspect of a UCaPP environment. As Frances notes, “it’s not just information. It transcends the normal day-to-day business purpose for being here and connecting.” (Frances-2-12).

 

The contemporary reframing of the classic chicken-and-egg question – which takes priority, the individual or the organization? – plays out in consideration of an individual’s personal development. In BAH organizations, personal development is justifiable and supported when there is an identified business need; the need drives the potential for contribution as Robert reports in Organization A, for example. In a UCaPP organization, individual contributions drive the business potential and opportunity. Thus, personal development is a means to expand an organization’s horizons, so to speak, consistent with valuing diversity and heterogeneity.

 

What is clear above all else in an instrumental (BAH) versus relational (UCaPP) view of people is that in a UCaPP organization, someone disrupting collaborative relationships and the organization’s social fabric is equivalent to not performing one’s assigned job requirements in a function-oriented, primary-purposeful, BAH organization. This observation, as it turns out, can provide the basis of a unifying theory that connects BAH and UCaPP organizations, and informs an understanding of their respective processes of transition from one type to the other. This, too, will be extensively explored in subsequent chapters.

 

Simply Put

 

BAH organizations replace the complexity of human dynamics in social systems with the complication of machine-analogous procedures that enable interdependence through interdependent action, individual responsibility, and hierarchical accountability. UCaPP organizations encourage and enable processes of continual emergence by valuing and promoting complex interactions, even though doing so necessitates traditional, legitimated leadership ceding control in an environment of individual autonomy and agency, collective responsibility, and mutual accountability.

 

Neither approach is universally appropriate; nor should an organization fall blindly into one or the other without understanding the ramifications and desirability of becoming less (BAH) or more (UCaPP) consistent with contemporary society in the organization’s own complex context.

 

 

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