Framing Organizations

Aug 26

Having just finished the course for Organizational Dynamics, I wanted to summarize my main take away from the course. The material covered leadership, strength assessment and four frames through which organizations can be viewed. By far the most valuable insight for me came from exploring the four frames, which are: Structural Political Symbolic Human Resources Structural The structural frame focuses on the hierarchical structure of an organization. Who reports to who, titles, roles, responsibilities. The primary argument from this frame’s perspective is that organizational issues can be solve by changing the structure of the organization. Cases in which this can work include organizations which have well defined roles based on commodity skills, where workers with those skills are widely available. Some examples might include retail or manufacturing. Political The political frame views organizations as power structures where influence is gained by forming coalitions and leverage. The primary argument from this frame’s perspective is that success in an organization depends on one’s ability to navigate the complexity of political relationships and gain power and influence to drive key decisions. Organizations in which this can work include industries where there may be multiple successful solutions to a given problem or where the value of an outcome depends on human evaluation. Some examples might include a law practice or an advertising agency. Symbolic The symbolic frame views an organization from the perspective of symbols that emotionally drive and motivate the workforce. These can come in the form of stories, myths and other objects of significance that carry special meaning. Motivation and alignment with company objectives can be powerful and effective, often compensating for deficiencies in structure. This can be especially effective in organizations that have an emotional component, such as non-profits. Human Resources The human resources frame focuses on the human needs of the workers within the organization. These may include family, entertainment, acceptance and achievement. From the perspective of this frame, an organization is most likely to be successful when the needs of its workers are met. Conversely, workers whose needs are met are more fully available to address the needs of the organization. Some examples of this type of focus include companies that provide meals, transportation and access to gym...

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Throw Away the APA

Jul 27

Communication is a major emphasis of many MBA programs, at least as a matter of rhetoric. Business leaders should be skillful, effective communicators. It’s not a hard case to make, and I agree that a leader who can’t communicate his vision will not be very effective. What I can’t understand is the almost singular focus many universities have on “writing styles”, such as APA, MLA, etc. Benefit of Standardized Communication Standardized communication approaches can bring benefit. For example, when reviewing hundreds of papers to see if they may contain details related to some research, it’s helpful to have abstracts. In the process of diving deeper into published research it’s helpful to know that sources are located in the bibliography. It’s even helpful to have the same font, spacing and formatting so that transitioning from one paper to another is easier on the eyes. From a grading perspective, I can also see how a standardized format can make life easier for a professor. But that’s not really the point of a graduate degree, at least not as I see it. Leadership is about Creation Leadership should be about creation, not emulation. When my university sends me out into the world as a newly minted, card carrying business leader, capable of tackling any problem, what will the world expect of me? I’m pretty sure when I present a solution to a pressing business problem, no one will complain that it’s not in APA format. In fact, I’ve found professionally that when I publish solutions in a standard format, such as IEEE for electrical engineering, it actually works against me. I’ve observed that my peers were turned off by the format, since it reminded them of school and being forced to dig through hundreds of papers full of dry commentary on research all to often void of novelty. What worked then? I have found that creating a website for internal or group communication among peers is more accessible, shared more frequently, more easily found by my team and benefits more people outside my immediate organization as search engines direct traffic there. Google and Bing are the New Standard Above I mentioned some of the perceived benefits of standardized communication. Before search and...

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Proposal for an Ethnographic Study of Outsourcing through oDesk

Jul 20

For nearly four years I’ve done a good deal of outsourcing for my software company. In the process I have employed people from a half a dozen countries, on both an hourly and project basis. For the last year and a half I have almost exclusively used oDesk to source and manage workers for my business. There are both economic and communication drivers that led me to prefer oDesk to its alternatives and to hiring directly. That being the case, I still heavily supplement the communication tools provided by oDesk to hire, train and manage my outsourced workers. Mechanics of Communication In this ethnographic study I’ll first explore the mechanisms provided by oDesk to facilitate the hire, train and manage process. I’ll then review the ancillary systems I developed to supplement oDesk and improve worker productivity. oDesk Worker Profiles oDesk worker profiles include a combination of several different types of information including worker provided details, oDesk test results, timing, duration and payments from past jobs and¬†employer provided reviews. The amount of attention a worker gives to all of these information types directly impacts his prospects for getting hired. oDesk Interview Process Employers may post as many jobs as they want. Workers are then free to place bids on those jobs. When an employer is creating his job he can give guidance about the type of worker he wants, including the selection of thresholds related to the information on the worker profile. If an employer is interested in a proposal, he advances to the interview stage by sending a message to the worker. The interview then proceeds by way of messages through the oDesk site. Occasionally the interview communication process will expand to include the use of Skype or other chat or calling software. oDesk Messaging After hiring a worker, oDesk provides a messaging facility to enable communication. This functions very similar to email, but has the added advantage of retaining communications, including attachments, on the oDesk site. Changes to email or disputes about what was communicated can be proven through oDesk without relying on external tools. oDesk Work Diary oDesk provides a work diary tool that monitors the worker and tracks hours worked. It is installed on the workers...

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Anthologize for WordPress to Create PDF Reports

Jul 17

I’ve found that most of my course projects are best completed in segments. I publish most of those segments individually here on my site. This allows me to interlink between segments and to provide for a detailed and focused approach to each segment individually. By the end of a course, I have all the content ready to compile into a final report of some sort. The question comes up, how do I build that report. I could transfer everything into LaTeX and render an APA style report. I could probably copy and paste it into Microsoft Word too. Before I went to that much trouble, I instead went looking and found a WordPress plugin that would create a high quality PDF report comprised of a set a posts that I choose. I found Anthologize for WordPress. Creating Reports from Website Posts First I needed to identify the posts that should be part of the report. Anthologize made this easy. I can create as many Parts as I like. A Part is like a Chapter. I can then add to each Part as many Posts as I like. I can also sort the posts and even edit the content to better accommodate the printed output. The original post is left unchanged.   I then click Export and am able to choose items such as copyright attribution, authors, dedication and acknowledgements. I can also choose physical aspects of the output, such as page size (letter and A4), font face and size and where to put line breaks. ¬†Once complete, it is possible to export the posts in the following formats: PDF RTF ePub HTML Anthologize TEI The HTML output doesn’t seem very useful, since the original content is more or less HTML, and almost certainly online and available already. However, some programs, like Word, can open HTML for editing, so there may be a use case. The one I spent the most time with was PDF. PDF Output The PDF renders nicely, including images and tables. There was a quirk with the table plugin I use that rendered poorly when any cell was empty, so I had to make sure there was filler content in every cell that didn’t have data....

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