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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Effective Virtual Communication with Outsourced Workers

Aug 12

After completing my ethnographic study of outsourcing through oDesk, I put this short presentation together to give a high level overview of the study and it’s outcomes. Here I include the Prezi presentation and a YouTube video of me presenting it.   And here’s the...

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Ethnographic Study of Outsourcing through oDesk

Aug 10

This semester in Organizational Dynamics we were required to conduct an ethnographic study. That means a study of the methods and means that drive communication within a group of people. On the largest scale this can include an entire civilization. In our case the focus was to be a company of our choosing. I chose my own software company, and since I employ primarily outsourced workers through oDesk, I chose to focus on the online communication that drives my business and enables me to compete in an industry where I would otherwise be under-capitalized. I think you’ll find it a worthwhile read. You can download the study as in PDF format here: Ethnographic study of outsourcing through...

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A Symbol of our Cultural Decay?

Aug 10

The story of Joshua Bell playing in the Washington Metro during rush hour, only to be ignored by sores of uncultured commuters, has almost become cliché by the ever growing count of “me too” articles that highlight the same conclusions originally drawn by the Washington Post journalist and his art curator friend. Some attempt to map it on to some broader cultural decay, which they argue also affects them. Why is it that so many articles are being written about the same 60 minutes in a subway? Some feel they haven’t framed themselves properly for the world to appreciate their innate brilliance. Some feel they are the victims of an uncultured world where others aren’t sophisticated enough to recognize their great ideas. Some acknowledge that, within their current context, it is unlikely they will find opportunity to develop and showcase their talent. 1,000,000 Hours of Practice What I haven’t heard is any discussion of how that morning in MAY was no different than the many thousands of unapplauded hours of practice he devoted to making that musical selection part of his repertoire. Of the years in school, and community programs playing sub-standard fodder for musicals and concerts. It’s fun to repeat the contrast of a sold out and sophisticated concert hall to the low and earthy subway station and to conveniently skip past the hundreds of lesser venues, half full or nearly empty, in which every musician must play as a right of passage while working his way to the top. I suspect this event has become a mistaken symbol, an unfortunate snapshot of the one man’s ignored greatness, feeding an ever more entitled society who believe that somehow, without sufficient investment, they’re great, but unappreciated. Oh how I wish that we would see it as a clarion call to become uncelebrated heroes, unreimbursed contributors to the world we all dream about. No doubt we’ll all have our concert hall moments, filled with applause, but I would love to see a world where unapplauded practice was as prized individually as it is in montages in today’s popular movies. I would love to think that maybe those scores of people said in themselves as they walked by “good for you. That...

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The Paradox of Leadership

Jul 27

The reading this week in Organizational Dynamics focused on interpersonal dynamics and leadership. I find the text laborious and meandering as he attempts to distill the lessons of leadership from his professional experience and draw conclusions from past consulting projects. I am increasingly inclined to agree with Dilbert, that the only thing most leaders have in common is that they haven’t read all the books on leadership and that all the books on leadership are different. Going one step further, even if similar characteristics, environmental, personal or otherwise, could be found, there’s still the question of whether it’s a causal relationship. In other words, if I emulate all the qualities that are common among great leaders, will I be a great leader? Leadership Failures Among notable cases of leadership failures in recent news is the poor handling of sexual misconduct reports in the military. This affects the entire military culture, including a recently published article about poor handling of a sexual misconduct case at West Point. Each officer involved in the case wanted a different outcome, and almost none of them demonstrated objectivity and a willingness to use common sense. Another case that increasingly shows poor leadership is the state of China’s environment. China’s continued pursuit of economic gain at the expense of environmental responsibility is translating into real social problems for its people and its government. Domestically, we see cases every day, in congress, in the white house, in our communities and major corporations of leaders failing to accomplish the aims which they were chosen to solve. They’re falling short in execution, but that’s not the biggest gap. Vision Among all the virtues attributed to great leaders, vision is often overlooked. Even when vision is mentioned, it’s typically in the sense of having a mission statement or a long range goal. The type of vision that changes the world is singular, focused, passionate and probably psychotic. In order to drive people to question and even abandon their individual mission statements in favor of yours, you have to present a gap in reality wide enough that they question their own perception of reality. Passion and conviction need to be at a fever pitch in order to displace disbelief. True vision acknowledges that...

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