Organizational Culture

29 03 2010

Organizational culture is a topic of interest, and it surround us all. To understand the organization you need to  learn about its culture.

Edgar Schein’s definition of culture is : ” A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaption and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, to be taught to new members as the correct way you perceive, thinking, and feel in relation to those problems.”

The culture in any organization is a complicated issue talking about all the aspects and levels. That is why leaders should be aware of it, and learn about the culture levels to gain understanding, otherwise it will manage them.

Some key factors of the  organizational culture would  be: communication style, behavior, socialization and values like knowledge sharing.

James Waldrop and Timothy Butler are talking about destructive behavior patterns. When they are talking about  “Bad  habits” they are not using the term to describe compulsions like smoking or, nail-biting. We are all wrestle with demons and make mistakes, and non of us is perfect. The authors are using the term to talk of employees who translates into consistently problematic behavior. Their “bad habits” reflects their personalities, and they create their own glass ceiling. This can end in limiting their own success.

Business psychologists and executive coaches Waldrop et al have identified twelve discrete patterns of behavior, or habits, leading to these career troubles.

Managers may be able to help people whose behavior fits the following six patterns :

“The Hero”, always pushes himself  – and, by extension, subordinates – to hard to do too much for too long.

“The Meritocrat” believes that the best ideas can and will be determined objectively and thus will always prevail because of their clear merit; ignores the politics inherent in most situations.

“The Bulldozer” runs roughshod over others in a quest for power.

“The Pessimist” focuses on the downside of every change; always worries about what could go wrong rather than considering how things could improve.

“The Rebel” automatically fights against authority and convention.

“The Home Runner Hitter” tries to do too much soon – in other words, swings for the fences before he’s learned to hit singles.

Waldrop et al is emphasizing that they are  not urging managers to get advanced degrees in psychology, but point out in their own words that: “managing today involves more than shuffling the right bodies on the assembly line; it requires knowledge of minds and hearts. Your only choice is between being a good “psychologist” or a bad one”.

Mintzberg poin out: “in the leading role , managers help to bring out the energy that exists naturally within people”.

When energizing individuals Mintzberg say that “managers spend a good deal of time helping to bring about more effective behavior on the part of their reports: they motivate them, persuade them, support them, convince them, empower them, engage them”.

“On the developing levels of individuals, managers coach, train, mentor, teach, counsel and nurture.” But as the author puts it: “the job of development is perhaps best seen as managers helping people to develop themselves”.

When he talks about building and managing teams this is how he describes it: “this involves not only bonding people into cooperative groups but also resolving conflicts within and between these groups so that they can get on with their work”. The leader is in this case responsible of organizing the experience of the group, whether it is a small group, larger or the whole plant.

A view from Hill (2003) cited Mintzberg (2009) talks about the difference between managing people who play on a team ( as in baseball) versus those who play as a team (as in football or an orchestra). Kraut et al likewise commented on successful athletics teams that have an “almost uncanny ability to perform as a single unit, with the efforts of individual members blending seamlessly together”.

Establishing a strong culture the author say: “culture is intended to do what other aspects of the leading role do for individuals and small groups, encourage the best efforts of people, by aligning their interests with the needs of the organization. In contrast to decision-making as a form of controlling, culture is decision shaping as a form of leading”.

Cognitive behavior and approaches is all about our thoughts, often we are caught in a pattern we have difficulties changing. We need to be open – minded for other peoples views, ideas and thoughts.

In 1996 Daniel Goleman wrote a bestseller book, “Emotional Intelligence”, in this book he say that emotional intelligent people has abilities in five areas:

– They know their emotions

-they manage their emotions

-they motivate themselves

-they recognize emotions in other

-they can handle relationships

These five areas will help you to be a winner and a star in your profession.

Twenty five years later, Goleman did an empiric research on emotional intelligence and success. “What every educated person needed to learn, General Motors Charles Kettering felt was; that it’s not a disgrace to fail, and that you must analyze each failure to find its cause……You must learn how to fail intelligently. Failing is one of the greatest arts in the world. One fails forward success”.

Inger Lise E. Greger/Master of Science in Change Management

Knowledge Sharing

19 03 2010

Knowledge in organizations is a key factor to survive in today’s world. The question is how we use it and in which way we share the explicit and tacit knowledge.

The people in organizations possess valuable knowledge, and they use their knowledge every day both in private and in their organizations. Not every one knows how to share it even if they would like to do so. On the other hand some individuals like to keep their knowledge for them selves.

To take care of these challenges people need to be stimulated in how to share and use the right tools.

“Knowledge Management ( KM ) is a compelling new information technology that can help organizations leverage their knowledge capital for increased competitive advantage”. ( Ref: Davenport and Prusak,1999 )

There are different views in this field, and one of them is about pitfalls within KM. Von Krogh et al ( 2000 )point out  that one problem involves fluid styles and too many messages from top managers. Get the right information to the right people in the right tempo,  this depends upon information technology. The writer argues that the main purpose should be on the human capital, feelings and social interaction. The authors try to emphasize the importance of serendipity and openness. When tools and methods get a dominating role in organizations, it reduces peoples attention.

Von Krogh et al, suggest to mobilize a knowledge activist who will provide some overall direction for knowledge – creation initiatives.

To make sharing happen we need to converse with each other, and find arenas where this is possible. You can arrange people in small groups, have a chat when having a cup of coffee, in a project, in a meeting, in a team , in a workshop and so on.

Organizations who invest in a knowledge sharing culture understand the value of their employees, and the importance of the human capital.

Back to how we converse and Von Krogh’s et al, point of view: “It is ironic that while executives and knowledge officers persist in focusing on expensive information – technology systems, quantifiable database, and measurement tools, one of the best means for sharing and creating knowledge already exists within their companies. Good conversations are the cradle of social knowledge in any organizations”.

When the author talks about tacit knowledge, it is important  when held by individuals participants, has to become shared in an atmosphere of high trust.” Such open – ended conversational interaction, in which members learn to trust each other and have established a caring atmosphere, generates new concepts”.

Zeldin, say’s: “Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards”. (Zeldin 1999)

Zeldin is explaining the meaning of conversations in a perfect picture.

Let us share knowledge.

Inger Lise E. Greger/Master of Science in Change Management


16 03 2010

Emotions in organizations.

To conduct an orchestra you need to know your people. But first the conductor has to be aware about his own reaction’s before he/she can learn about others. It will then be easier to gain understanding and insight in people’s need’s and wishes.

John Elster ref: Fineman say’s:

“Most simply, emotions matter,if we did not have them nothing else would matter.

Creatures without emotion would have no reason for living nor, for that matter,

for committing suicide….Emotions are the stuff of life. Emotions are the most

important bond or glue that links us together”. (Fineman, 2004 ref: Inger Lise 2006)

To gain the right picture of emotions, Fineman continues to say: ” There is the subjective element of emotions; what we feel. And there is the displayed feature of emotion, what we show.

What we show of our feelings, our emotional performance, is heavily influenced by social conventions and the impressions we wish to convey to others. It is socially constructed.

Feelings and emotions are usually short – term and attached to a particular object or occurrence: “angry with Jane” “jealous of John”, “delighted with the gift”. They come and go fairly quickly. Some are intense and hard-driving ( like rage, spite, terror ), others more subdued. Many will be mixed, uncertain, ambivalent – love with hate, guilt with excitement, anger with embarrassment.

Moods are feelings that linger ( such as being in sad mood, depressed mood, cheerful mood ). They are not linked to any particular object or event; the cause or trigger is often obscure. They typically undulate gradually over time. We may feel gloomy all morning, but cheery by mid – afternoon, only to feel down again when we arrive home in the evening. Some people have fairly steady moods, while others are “moody”, experiencing more frequent shifts in feelings. Moods are often hard to disguise. There is one further term mentioned by writers on emotion: affect. This is an all – encompassing expression for any emotional or emotionalism activity. It is sometimes used instead of “feeling” or “emotion”. ”

Our day-to-day life , both in private and professional, will affect us emotional. To conduct an orchestra or manage a group in organizations you need to be aware of peoples emotions.

How is the culture in your organization, and how well do you know your colleague ?

Emotions is always there, that is for sure.

Inger Lise E. Greger/Master of Science in Change Management


15 03 2010

Storytelling is a good tool when talking about knowledge sharing and experience transfer. It is motivating when you listen to a good story, and in my mind more fun.

Stephen Denning is saying : ” Storytelling gets inside the minds of the individuals who collectively make up the organization and affects how they think, worry, wonder, agonize, and dream about themselves and in the process create – and re – create – their organization”.

He also say: “Storytelling is natural and easy and entertaining and energizing. Stories help us understand complexity. Stories are inherently non – adversarial and non – hierarchical. They bypass normal defense mechanisms and engage our feelings”.

” When the story does it’s job, the listeners minds race ahead, to imagine the further implications of elaborating the same idea in other contexts, better and more intimately known to the listeners. In this way, through extrapolation from the anecdote, the recreation of the idea of knowledge management can be successfully brought to birth, with the concept of it planted in listener’s minds, not as a vague abstract inert thing, but an idea that is pulsing, kicking, breathing, exciting – and alive”. ( Denning 2001, referred from Inger Lise 2008)

Denning say’s; ” If the storyteller has the reader’s full attention and can refer to a world with which the reader’s are intimately familiar, they can be transported quite quickly to the new mental habitat”.

Good stories are an important inspirational source for people, it could for example be implemented in knowledge sharing or to gain new wisdom . People can recognize episodes from stories and they can draw their own pictures from them.

David Gurteen say’s that we should tell people the true story and let them  find the essence from the story in their own picture. It is all about in how you engage people to come up with their own thought’s and idea’s. ( D.Gurteen, pers. from Inger lise 2007)

“It’s now become a huge issue, knowledge and learning; it’s THE issue for a firm – I can’t imagine anything more important: how do we learn and where do we learn and in what form ? Information is an article in a book or paper – it’s frozen knowledge. Knowledge is what a person knows, an individual, or maybe what groups of people linked together know. It aggregates into capability, the capacities of organizations”. (Brown, Denning, Groh, Prusak; referred from Inger Lise 2008).

Inger Lise E. Greger/Master of Science in Change Management


15 03 2010

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

Think Conversation

11 03 2010

“Talk less, work more!

Today work increasingly consists of talk”

Theodore Zeldin

In the knowledge/information age, increasing productivity and effectiveness is difficult because something has changed. What has changed is the very nature of work. People used to say “Talk less, work more”. Not now, because for most people their work is a conversation. Working means talking. And the effective organisations and individuals are the ones who are adept talking. We truly are living in McKinsey’s Interaction Economy.

The most powerful idea in the world today, is the idea of a real conversation.  Real conversations can create insight, influence thinking and bring people together to solve problems. Three conversations matter:

  1. Conversations with ourself, which shape our thinking and behaviours.
  2. Conversations with important others that aim to influence, inspire, negotiate, coach and facilitate.
  3. Conversations that surround our own and provide the context and meaning to our own conversations. This is culture.

To make these conversations real, we need to bring greater consciousness to what’s happening in the conversation – who are we, what are we trying to achieve, who is our audience, what do they want to achieve, how do we tailor our conversation to different people/situations.

Those are the moments that count!

Once we understand the importance of conversation, we can use conversation to build trust.

Inger Lise E. Greger/Master of Science in Change Management


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