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Subject:

Re: learning organizations

From:

pat schutz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

pat schutz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 19 Apr 1995 15:40:32 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (75 lines)

Sandy --
 
Please accept my apology for not writing sooner re: your message about
learning organizations.  Just too doggone busy these days! Know what I mean?
 
1.  Yes, our institution is extremely hierarchical, with top down
communication, and departmentalization by school and by function.
 
2.  How do I get those to whom I report to understand and accept what we
are doing?
 
It is imperative that you know that my boss, Vice Pres. of
Academic Affairs, thinks that it is a good thing when I attempt to
combine my HRM background with my higher ed. background in order to solve
a problem, revise an innefficient system, or create a new system within
my department.  I have been explaining my philosophy about organizational
culture and structure to him for several years now, and I believe that he
recognizes the significant gains that we have made are the result of our
changes.  He is a mathematician and appreciates the positive numbers
 we have been able to produce, as well as their impact on retention.
 
The fact that we ARE departmentalized by function and by school here has
become a blessing in disguise:  When we interact with other faculty and staff
from other departments, we always try to leave them with the
accurate impression that we
have learned something from them during our encounter, and we always try
to keep them apprised of our activities in relation to our reason for
meeting.  We try to become their eyes and ears on campus whenever we can.
Since nearly all of the  departments and schools seem to work diligently at
being as insulated as possible from the other schools and departments, we become
important to each of them.  It is important to note that this is by
design; I don't believe in chance, although lately I find myself becoming
more and more enamored of the primary hypothesis of chaos theory.
 
Our department walks, talks, and exhudes teamwork and the value inherent
in the PROCESS of attempting to achieve synergistic results.  We do not
overtly attempt to convince our colleagues of the righteousness of our
philosophy and departmental culture, but we do engage in unabashed
self-promotion when we are extremely successful in some endeavor such as
implementing a new state-wide proficiency test for teachers, or by
designing and implementing a different type of tutoring/study session
designed around a specific course.
 
So much to say to someone who is obviously a kindred spirit...  At times I
think I know how the original designers of the atomic bomb must have felt
when they attempted to explain their rationale to their colleagues.  I
realize that that sounds self-aggrandizing, but you must admit that
employing state-of-the-art HR principles and techniques in our type of
overall org. structure is an exercise in paradigm construction.
 
It seems to me that structure can certainly follow strategy, as well as
the adverse.  What we are trying to design here is a structure that is
akin to the "fishnet structure" described by Johansen and Swigart
["Upsizing the Individual in the Downsized Organization"].  "...Imagine a
net laid out on a dock.  If you grab a node and lift, the rest of the
naet lattices nicely under it.  A temporary hierarchy appears as long as
you hold up the node, with layers consistent with how high you lift the
node and the width of the mesh.  The hierarchy disappears when you lay
the net down.  Pick up another node, andother soft hierarchy appears."
 
In our department, we have created a structure where we are composed of a
team, which is made up of temporary, intra-divisional teams which form
and dissolve according to changes and mandates.  The greatest challenge of
this restructuring is not explaining to the departmental employees HOW we
are doing this, but rather explaining WHY we are making this drastic
redesign.  Teaching systems thinking, synergistic methodologies, decision
making and group communication dynamics are all part of the redesign.
Explaining the concept of increased responsibility and the granting of
corresponding authority alone requires significant time-away-from-work
for the team, so we can only do a little at a time.
 
Where are you at?  Are you attempting similar things?  Are we mad?
 
Pat
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