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103,189 Words On:
A Practical and Creative View of
Management and Organizational Behavior
This e-book contains practical as well as theoretical information about Management And Organizational Behavior
Website Created in August 2008
By David Alderoty
Phone (212) 581-3740
E-mail is RunDavid@Verizon.net
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Incidentally, the sound recordings were produced with text-to-speech software, but the voice you hear sounds like a professional announcer. However, you might occasionally hear a slight pronunciation error.
To read the footnotes in this book, left click on the numbers that appear in the sentences with footnotes. After left clicking, you will see words highlighted in green. That is all the words in the footnotes section are highlighted as follows: To return to the main text after reading a footnote, see the instructions below.
Quotations are highlighted in light blue in this book, and they generally contain quotation marks as well, with an indication of their original source, such as the following: “Abc abc abc”
The ideal way to use this e-book is to read the topics of your choice, and then do an Internet search with Google, or Yahoo, to determine the latest expert opinions about the topics. If you want to access information from the scientific journals, do your searches with Google scholar. To access the three search engines mentioned above, click on the following hyperlinks.
If you want to carry out sophisticated searches for websites and Internet videos on management, and related psychology, the following web link will be very helpful for you. When you left click on this web link it will take you to one of my websites that contains a number of unique search strategies, many conventional and specialized search engines, directories, and search pages, including Internet videos, for the psychological sciences, which includes theories and principles of management.
Some of the material in this e-book is in a rough draft format, and portions are study notes that I created for college studies. This material was modified and converted into a website in August 2008.
The following table of contents consists of a series of hyperlinks, and it serves as a good outline of this book. Left click with the mouse on the link to go to the section of the book you are interested in reading.
Table of Contents
This book deals with organizational behavior and the practice of management, from a practical and creative view, with an emphasis on problem solving. The principles in this book are valuable for anyone who will be involved with a managerial position or an organization. However, the ideas in this book have a much wider application than is suggested by the above. The principles and methods of organizations and management can be applied to daily life, even if you are not a manager. We are managers of our own lives and some of us are managers of a family. The book is written in a way that illustrates this type of practical utility, which makes this book unique. In some cases the principles are actually applied to non-organizational situations to demonstrate their value in everyday life. These general applications will suggest new insights into the problems of individuals and organizations.
The current convention is to use he or she, him or her, his or hers, when referring to a hypothetical individual. This can result in very cumbersome sentences. Thus, I will not follow this style. As a more functional alternative, I will use the female pronouns, such as she, her, hers, in odd numbered chapters and the male pronouns, such as he, him, and his in even numbered chapters.
In the social sciences, especially in organizational behavior and management theory, concepts are not always defined well. This suggests the question, what constitutes a good definition? There is no simple answer to this question, but there is a very precise complex answer, which is presented in the following five paragraphs.
A good definition contains the necessary properties and components to define the concept. That is, a good definition should not delineate properties that are not a necessary condition to distinguish the concept from other entities, ideas, principles or words. For example, if we define an automobile as a passenger vehicle that has four wheels and a gasoline engine, we have unnecessary information in the definition. If a car has an electric engine, it is still an automobile. If a manufacturer built a conventional size car with six wheels, for extra traction it would still be an automobile. In addition, the above definition does not distinguish an automobile from a bus or a van. Based on these ideas we can create a more precise definition for an automobile, which is a vehicle that can hold approximately two to six people, and has an engine. However, this definition is still deficient because it does not distinguish an automobile from a small airplane, boat, or a small passenger car of a train. A better definition is a vehicle that can hold approximately two to six passengers and moves along the road, without the aid of tracks, by means of an engine. This and most definitions become more understandable and less confusing if they are followed by a paragraph length explanation delineating the definition and providing additional information. For example, explaining that most modern automobiles have gasoline engines, usually travel in the general range of 5 to 65 miles an hour, are driven and controlled by one person, and can usually seat four passengers, would provide additional information that would clarify the concept in relation to most modern automobiles. Discussing unusual types of automobiles, such as cars with electric engines, racing cars, and very large or small cars would provide more clarification of unusual variations of the concept.
Another problem that is often seen, in less than perfect definitions, is defining an ideal version of the concept. I will use Montana & Charnov definition of planning, as an example. "The management function consisting of forecasting future events and determining the most effective activities for the total organization to achieve its objectives." It is certainly wise to try to forecast future events before making plans, but if plans are made without any forecast, they are still plans and the process is still planning. Perhaps it is not good planning, but that is beside the point. The phrase "determining the most effective activities for the total organization" is also not a necessary condition to define planning. For example, if a manager creates a set of plans that will maximize his personal gain at the expense of the entire organization, his destructive efforts are still a type of planning. Thus, Montana & Charnov did not really define planning; they defined good planning. That is, they briefly described a highly functional planning strategy that has general application for managers and organizations. This could have been achieved in a more precise way by first defining planning. Then the properties of good planning could have been described.
Another problem that often manifests with inadequate definitions is the result of explaining what the concept or entity is made of, instead of defining it. This can lead to very confusing definitions, unless you are thoroughly familiar with the concept that is being defined. A good example is found in the glossary of Management by Hellriegel & Slocum, which is an attempt to define the Internet. Their definition is "A loosely configured, rapidly growing web of 25,000 corporate, educational, and research computer networks around the world." The above is obviously a description of some of the primary components that make up the Internet, as it exists in the 90s. Obviously, if someone did not know what the Internet was, they would not be helped by the definition provided by Hellriegel & Slocum. A reasonable definition of the Internet is a computer related service, which is usually accessed through telephone lines, that allows an individual computer user to communicate with other computers throughout the world, to obtain or send data, which can be in the form of text, graphics, motion video, audio, software, or any combination of the above.
Another definitional inadequacy involves defining a concept with words that are more difficult or abstract than the concept that is being defined. This inadequacy is quite common, and it is even found with some of the definitions in the dictionary. I will use a definition of a television set as an extreme example. A television set is an electronic device that receives transmitted signals, of audio and video, in the form of electromagnetic radiation in the radio frequency range, and converts the signal into a form that can be perceived by human beings, by means of a loud speaker system and a cathode-ray tube. If a person did not know what a television set was, or if they were learning English as a second language, this definition would not be of any value. If you are familiar with a television set and basic electronics, the definition might sound perfectly clear. This idea can be generalized. That is, a definition that is incomprehensible to most people might be highly comprehensible to knowledgeable individuals, who are familiar with the technical terms and principles that comprise the definition. This makes it extremely difficult for the person who defines terms. He is not likely to spot such inadequacies, unless he asks an individual that has no knowledge of the concept to evaluate the definition for comprehensibility.
Thus, it should be apparent from the above paragraphs that it can be quite difficult to define a concept in a proper way. I am sure that some readers will find some imperfections in my definitions also. It is probably not possible to create a definition that is perfect. One of the reasons for this is the perception of imperfections is partly a matter of the perspective of each individual. Another reason is that words are used to define a concept, and each individual may have a slightly different understanding of the words. And still another reason is each individual has unique experiences and knowledge about a given concept. For example, a person from a culture without large modern organizational structures will have a different concept of an organization than an average American.
Organizations are a primary part of our lives. We live in a society of organizations. Our family is an organization. The schools we attend are organizations. Our religious institutions are organizations. Most of us earn our living by working for an organization. If we put our money in a bank or borrow money from such an institution, we are dealing with an organization. We obtain food and almost all the other necessities and luxuries of life by purchasing various items from organizations. We obtain information and entertainment from organizations, in the form of television programs, movies, video cassettes, audio CDs, tapes, newspapers, books, etc. That is, all of these items and most products in our society are produced by organizations. The government and all its agencies are organizations. We even start life and usually end life in a hospital, which is an organization. After life ends we are buried by a funeral service, which is still another example of an organization. Thus, we live in a society of organizations.
A primary part of an organization is its managerial structure. That is, essentially all organizations have one or more managers. Many of us, as we get involved with organizations, will be faced with the management of an organization. A few of us will be chief executive offices. Some of us will be upper or middle managers. Some of us will be foremen. Many of us will be, or are, managers of a family. All of us are managers of our own lives, in relation to the people who provide services for us.
Whether we become managers or not almost all of us will have to deal with managers. Thus, this study can help us understand and communicate better with organizations and their managers. This will help us function better in our society of organizations.
From the above paragraphs it is apparent that our society is essentially composed of organizations controlled by managers. Question, is this unique to our American society? The answer is obviously no. Modern societies throughout the world are basically composed of organizations controlled by managers. Even most primitive societies are structured in a similar way. Perhaps these simpler societies have fewer organizations than modern societies, but most of them are still essentially composed of organizations controlled by managers. This becomes apparent when we consider the family as an organization and the head of the household as a manager. Thus, a general statement can be made about all, or almost all, societies in relation to organizational structure. Specifically, all, or almost all, societies are primarily composed of organizations controlled by managers.
An interesting analogy can be made with a higher living organism, such as the human body, and society. The living organism is composed of organs and society is composed of organizations. The organs perform specific functions for the organism and organizations perform specific functions for society. The organs are composed of individual cells and organizations are composed of people. The cells of an organ must be controlled and coordinated (managed) to produce the products and functions of the organ. The same is true of organizations. The people that work in an organization must be controlled and coordinated (managed) to produce the products and functions of the organization.
Thus, the study of organizations and their management can be thought of as a study of the organs of society. The understanding gained by such a study, if it is applied correctly in daily life, can be a practical and powerful tool in dealing with our society of organizations controlled by managers.
Some interesting questions to consider include the following. What is management? What is a manager? What is the process of management? What do managers do? What skills do managers need? There is no single or simple answer to these questions. If you asked managers these questions, you might get different answers, because different types of managers perform different functions. These questions will be answered in the following paragraphs.
The best place to start is with some definitions of the concept of management. The definition used by the American Management Association is as follows. "Management is working with and through other people to accomplish the objectives of both the organization and its members." (As cited in Montana, P. 1991 p. 2.) Perhaps there were political considerations in the formulation of this definition, which is suggested by the words: “both the organization and its members" This definition of management, essentially expresses an ideal, which is: the goals of both the organization and members should be considered in the practice of management. Such an ideal is certainly highly commendable, but the definition may not quite represent the concept of management as it is often carried out. A simple dictionary definition is: "the function or duty of watching or guarding for the sake of proper direction or control." (Franklin Language Master electronic dictionary) This definition does not even mention people. A definition from a book on business defines management as "The process of setting objectives and coordinating employees' efforts to obtain them." (Lutbans & Hodgetts p. G7) A definition from a textbook called Management is: "management Planning, organizing, leading and controlling the people working in an organization and the ongoing set of tasks and activities they perform." (Hellriegel, & Slocum p. 765) This definition was probably formulated to emphasize primary functions of management, such as planning, organizing, leading and controlling.
The above leads us to the question, what is a manager? Essentially a manager is a person that performs the functions mentioned in the above definitions. However, it can be argued that all managers do not necessarily perform all of the functions mentioned above. A definition from a typical textbook on organizational behavior is "Managers (1) Individual who achieves goals through other people." (Robbins, p G-4) A more descriptive definition from a textbook on management is: "manager A person who allocates human and material resources and directs the operations of a department or an entire organization." (Hellriegel, & Slocum, p 766)
Obviously none of the above definitions of management or manager are perfect, which is usually true of most definitions. Thus, I will offer my own definition in the following paragraphs.
Management can be defined as a four step process as follows. Management is the process of: 1) creating instructions, 2) transmitting the instructions to others, 3) motivating others to carry out the instructions, 4) supervising to ensure that the instructions are effective and are properly carried out. The word instructions is used in a very general sense in this definition. It can be any of the following: detailed step by step directions, a general advisory, and a general or precise set of rules, information that relates to the processes of planning or organizing, or any other information that relates to the work environment. Often the instructions are goal related. That is, the instructions often are about plans on how to carry out goals, sub-goals or how to perform work related tasks. The word transmitting means communicating with others, which involves conveying the instructions. Motivating in this definition means any method used to get the workers to carry out the instructions, such as paying them a salary, giving them bonuses, advancing their occupational position, complimenting them when they do good work, making the work interesting, implying that they may be fired if they do not carry out the instructions, etc. The word supervising means in this definition observing and correcting the actions of others, especially in relation to how they are carrying out the instructions. That is, supervising means here a feedback and correction process, especially as it relates to the instructions conveyed by the management process.
Incidentally, the above definition is very similar to the definition previously discussed, which was taken from Hellriegel's book on management. We can see this if we examine it as follows: "management Planning, organizing, leading and controlling the people working in an organization and the ongoing set of tasks and activities they perform." Planning and organizing are equivalent to creating instructions in the definition I provided, because instructions were defined in such a way to include these processes. The word leading in my definition is represented by the words transmitting (communicating) instructions and motivating. In fact the word leading is defined in Hellriegel's book (p.765) on management as: "The managerial function of communicating with and motivating others to perform the tasks necessary to achieve the organization's objectives." The word controlling is defined in the same book (p. 760) as: "The process by which a person, group, or organization consciously monitors performance and takes corrective action." In my definition the word supervising means the same as the word controlling, as defined in Hellriegel's book.
Thus, we have precise definitions of the word management. Now we need to develop an exact definition for the word manager. A manager can simply be defined as an entity that performs the process of management as defined in any of the previous definitions. However, I will provide a definition that has three related components, which is as follows. A manager is an entity that: 1) transmits instructions to others, 2) motivates them to carry out the instructions, 3) supervises them to see that they properly carry out the instructions and maintain the behavior required by the work environment. (The general way the words instructions, transmits and supervises were defined for management, also applies to this definition of manager.) The manager may or may not have created the instructions. If the manager is a top level manager, he probably created the instructions he conveys to others. If the manager is a lower level manager, and the instructions he conveys are the primary goals of the organization, he probably did not create them. However, a lower level manager might create his own instructions that relate to the basic achievement of tasks, that he supervises.
If you examine the above definition of manager, you will notice that the word entity was used instead of the word person. However, entity in the definition usually, but not always, means a person. The reason the term entity was used, instead of a more specific word that relates to a human being, is theoretically the manager can be one of the following:
· A computer that has sensing equipment and software needed to perform the managerial functions This might be quite feasible even with current technology in situations where the managing process is relatively simple.
· A group of people who collectively perform the managerial function as a single unit This might be useful in situations where the managing task is too complicated for one individual, or where there is no person available who has all the skills needed to manage a department.
· One or more individuals and a computer system, which may have sensing equipment, that performs the managerial function as a single unit This can be applied to situations where the managing task is extremely complicated.
Of course, a manager is usually one human being. However, it can be potentially useful to know that other entities besides a person might be able to perform the managing function in some cases. Under certain conditions, one of the three alternatives on the above list might be more efficient, effective and economical than one human being performing the duties of a manager. This will probably be more the case in the future as a result of the advanced development of computer technology.
Although, the term manager can be defined as a general concept, as with the above definitions, managers do not perform the same specific functions. There are many different types of managers, who perform jobs that are not the same. Managers can be divided into at least three or four basic categorical levels, which are as follows (Hellriegel & Slocum pp. 6-7 The fourth item on the list is my addition.):
· Top Managers These managers direct the operation of the organization. They define the goals and plans for the rest of the organization. They generally serve on the board of directors of the large organization. Examples, of top managers are the chief executive officer, president and vice-president.
· Middle Managers These managers are usually only needed in relatively large organizations. These managers receive the general policies and goals set by the highest level of management. Their primary job is to carry out the policies and goals of top management by translating them into specific objectives and plans for the first-line managers to carry out. Examples of middle managers are department heads and plant managers.
· First-Line Managers These are the lower level managers that supervise the employees who are involved with production of goods and services. The first-line manager primary concern is production. Examples of first-line managers are sales managers and production supervisors.
· Workers that perform some management functions as part of their regular job These employees may not actually be considered managers, but they perform some of the functions of a manager. These individuals generally supervise a few workers and they also perform the same or a similar job as the people they supervise. For example, a foreman who supervises a group of carpenters on a construction project will also do carpentry work.
None of the above really describes what the process of management involves. This will be discussed under the next heading.
What are the basic functions of the process of management? There is no single answer to this question, but most textbooks would suggest that planning, organizing, leading, and controlling, are the primary functions. These concepts are described in the following list:
· Planning This involves setting organizational objectives and assessing ways to reach them. This includes the creation of the specific steps needed to obtain the organizational goals. This can involve the allocation of resources in relation to the goals and the related plans.
· Organizing This involves the managerial process of creating the structure needed to carry out the goals and plans of the organization. It includes bringing workers, machinery, tools, and supplies together in an orderly way to achieve the goals of the organization. This includes creating departments and jobs that are needed to carry out the organizational objectives.
· Leading This process involves communicating and motivating workers to carry out the tasks necessary to obtain the organizational goals.
· Controlling This process involves monitoring the performance of the organization, its departments, its employees, and any other relevant factors, and initiating actions to correct problems or make improvements.
A six step description of the management process is found in Study Keys to Management, (Montana, P. 1991 page 3) which is as follows:
"1. Set objectives."
"2. Assign responsibility and delegate authority."
"3. Allocate resources."
"4. Design controls and ways to monitor progress."
"5. Solve problems as they occur."
"6. Evaluate performance and outcome."
In the following paragraphs there is a version of the management process that is slightly different from the previous lists. This version is worded in terms of a six-step methodology, which is as follows:
1) Setting Goals: This involves creating and choosing goals. The goals can be improvements, such as increased production, greater profits, the development of new products, improvements in old products, improving organizational structure and efficiency, etc. The goals can also be connected to a problem, such as how to reduce a high accident rate in the primary production facility, how to end a strike, how to settle a law suit, etc. The goals can also be how to avoid a problem that has not occurred, such as how to avoid strikes, accidents and law suits.
2) Determining the Feasibility of a Goal: When management sets a goal it can cost a considerable investment in effort, money and time. Choosing inappropriate or unrealistic goals can put an organization into severe financial difficulties. When choosing or creating goals, it is necessary to consider the risks involved, which could involve the possible loss of large sums of money. Certain goals can also increase the risk of physical injury to personnel. Thus, this process should include excluding goals that are not likely to lead to a significant gain for the organization and goals that have a high risk factor associated with them.
In general, the cost in terms of money, risk, time and effort should be evaluated to determine the desirability of setting a specific goal. That is, it is necessary to determine the feasibility of a goal. For simple goals feasibility can often be estimated by careful thinking. For more complicated objectives some testing and evaluation of test results are necessary. For very complicated goals a team of experts might be required to obtain a reliable estimate of feasibility.
3) Developing the Plans Needed to Obtain a Goal: It is easy to set many types of goals, such as increasing productivity, increasing profits, reducing costs, etc. The difficult part is to devise a good set of plans on how to reach the goal. That is, when a goal is set, it is necessary to work out a set of plans that indicate what steps to take to obtain the goal. This will usually involve breaking the goal into many smaller goals, which are sub-goals of the primary objective. Then plans in the form of instructions and other information are created for each sub-goal. Then the instructions and related information are transmitted to the personnel that are to do the jobs necessary to obtain each sub-goal.
This might be a relatively simple task for very simple goals, but it can be a very critical procedure for major organizational goals. Even if the goal is highly feasible and potentially highly beneficial, a poor set of plans can result in severe consequences for the organization. A poor set of plans can result in failure to obtain the goal, severe disruption of the organization, financial problems for the organization, etc. Thus, it is often advisable with major organizational goals to postpone the goal until adequate plans have been created. This is because in general, the better the plans, the greater the chances of obtaining a successful outcome. That is, the better the plans the greater the chances of obtaining the goal without excessive costs in terms of money, time, risk and effort.
The quality of the plans will most likely be greater if experienced personnel work on the plans; if much expert information is used in devising the plans; and if the plans are developed, tested and evaluated over an extended period of time. Often the quality of the plans that are ultimately achieved will be determined by the knowledge and experience of the experts that can be obtained to work on the plans.
Of course, with simple goals the situation is much easier. That is, the plans can be created in the mind and tested and evaluated in a commonsense fashion.
If good plans cannot be created, it might be advisable in some cases to abandon the goal, rather than to try to reach it with inadequate plans. This is especially the case if the goal involves much money, risk, time, and effort.
NOTE (The above three steps results in a set of instructions as the term was defined in my definition of management. Essentially, the above is the process of creating instructions as I defined the concept earlier in this text. The above process can also be defined as planning. Thus, the methodology is consistent with the definitions previously discussed. This will become more apparent in the coming paragraphs.)
4) Transmitting (Communicating) the Instructions and Other Information to the Specific Individuals that Are to Carry Out the Work Needed to Achieve the Various Sub-Goals: That is, the plans that were worked out in step 3 consist of instructions and other information needed to achieve specific parts of the primary goal. This information must be sent to the specific individuals who have the inclination, abilities, skills and knowledge needed to carry out specific segments of the goal.
This process involves a high degree of communications skills. There are many areas where this communications process can fail. The information can be transmitted to the wrong individuals, the instructions can be misunderstood, the information transmitted from managers to workers can be insulting or threatening in some cases, etc. When the information is transmitted in written form, it may not be read or only partly read, it may be considered unimportant by the reader, and when written material is misunderstood there is no immediate feedback that would suggest the need for further explanation. However, failures in communications can often be corrected if the misunderstanding is spotted by noting the responses of the listener or reader.
NOTE (The above was defined in my definition of management as one of the major functions, which was transmitting the instructions to others.)
5) Motivating the Workers to carry Out the Instructions and to follow the Rules of the Work Environment: This motivating process is primarily done by paying people to do a job. That is, the employee is made aware that he will obtain money, if he follows the directions of management, and he will not obtain money if he does not. That is, he will lose his job. For this reality to operate adequate supervision is required. However, there are many employees that will do excellent work with little or no supervision, because of their interest in the work or because of their self-discipline and ethical standards. Employees of this type are highly desirable, but in general relying on the employee's own motivating forces and nothing more is quite risky. Such reliance can result in paying employees for doing little or no work, in some cases.
Another method of motivating workers is to give them bonuses if their work has been fruitful for the organization over a fixed interval of time, such as a year. Bonuses are probably most effective as a motivating technique, when it is not easy or possible to determine if the employee is doing adequate work in terms of a day by day output. Examples of such occupations are traveling sales work and certain types of occupations that involve experimental research.
Another method that involves money as a reward is a fixed commission for a specific quantity of work completed by a worker. Some workers only work on a commission basis, which might reduce the need for supervising the worker. If the worker does little work, he gets little pay. This method is probably best when supervising is very difficult or impossible, such as with traveling sales.
In general, money is not the only motivating force used by management. There are many other ways of motivating people to follow the directions of management and properly perform their jobs. This becomes apparent when we examine volunteer organizations, which do not pay many or all of their workers. Basically, the job itself and various factors associated with a work environment can be a strong motivating force in some cases. That is, jobs can be structured in such a way so that they are self-motivating and rewarding.
There are two ways that jobs can be made more self-motivating and rewarding, one way is to remove undesirable components and the other way is to add desirable components. Undesirable components are factors that essentially reduce motivation, and generally include anything that makes the workers uncomfortable or discontented. Such components might include uncomfortable levels of stress, failure, a hostile work environment, critical responses associated with hostility, excessive levels of work, tasks the worker finds boring or uninteresting, high temperatures, high humidity, high noise levels, etc. Desirable components are motivating forces and include tasks the worker finds interesting, enjoyable and pleasantly challenging activities or challenges that lead to successful outcomes. In addition, a friendly environment can also be a strong motivating force in many situations. Some people even work as a volunteer because they have an opportunity to work in a friendly environment, which can offer the opportunity of finding friends and potential mates.
Of course, the components listed in the above paragraph as undesirable and likely to reduce motivation, might in certain cases have the opposite effect. For example, some individuals might work more efficiently in an environment that is somewhat hostile, because a friendly environment can distract some people from doing their job. And the same idea of course would apply to the components listed as desirable and motivating. Certain factors that may increase motivation to do a good day's work might have the opposite effect under some circumstances.
A technique, which was briefly implied, two paragraphs above, which can motivate, is the setting of challenging goals that are likely to lead to a successful conclusion. This is most likely to be effective if specific goals and/or sub-goals are set for each worker by the manager. If goals are set for an entire group the technique may be less successful. If the goals set constantly lead to failure, the most probable result will be frustration and a reduction in motivation in relation to the work defined by the goal.
Another method of motivating people to carry out the instructions and follow the rules of the work environment is to threaten them with punishment. This method is often implied in most work environments. As already stated, most workers are aware that they will be fired if they do not do their jobs. Of course, there are other ways of punishing workers that fail to carry out their job related roles and duties. Often bosses and managers simply scold workers who fail to carry out all their responsibilities.
There is a major difficulty with the technique described in the above paragraph. Punishment can often lead to hostility and/or serious conflict between management and the workers. This is more likely to result if the worker believes the punishment was unfair, and in fact the punishment may sometimes be unfair. When there is one person judging the behavior of another, which often happens without having all the needed information, there is a good chance of a manager misjudging a worker. This is likely to happen if the manager has some prejudicial beliefs about the worker's sex, race, religion, age, etc. Even if the manager does not have any such prejudicial beliefs, the worker who is punished might believe that the punishment is partly or totally the result of a prejudicial attitude of the manager. Thus, punishment as a method of motivating can often be quite dysfunctional. Hence, when punishment is used it should be used with extreme caution.
NOTE (Steps 4 and 5 (together) can be defined as leading. That is, these two steps involve communicating and motivating to perform the tasks needed to achieve the goals of management, which is defined as leading in the glossary of Hellriegel's book on page 765 as follows. "The managerial function of communicating with and motivating others to perform the tasks necessary to achieve the organization's objectives.")
6) Feedback and Correction of the Goal Related Activities: Work associated with obtaining the goal, as well as all the steps mentioned in this list, should be carefully monitored and evaluated as the goal related tasks proceed. This will provide information that will indicate: if the goal is being achieved, if the goal can be reached in a more efficient way, if there is excessive risk involved with the goal, if the workers understand their instructions, if the workers are doing their jobs, etc. If there is an indication of a difficulty, the objective should be to try to make appropriate corrections. That is, one or more of the following may have to be modified slightly, greatly, or totally changed to obtain success: the goal plans to obtain the goal, the methods of communicating the plans, equipment, techniques, workers assigned to the project, the amount of money and other resources invested in the project, etc.
NOTE (The above, step 6, can be described as: supervising to ensure that the instructions are effective and are properly carried out. This terminology was used in my definition of management. Step 6 of this methodology can also be defined as controlling, which is defined in Hellriegel's book on management on page 761 as follows. "The process by which a person, group, or organization consciously monitors performance and takes corrective action.")
The six steps can be represented and summarized in an abbreviated form as follows:
1) Goal setting
2) Determining feasibility
3) Creating plans (on how to obtain goals)
6) Feedback and correction
The six steps can be used to define the concept of management as follows. Management is a process that involves: 1) setting goals, 2) determining the feasibility of goals, 3) creating plans to reach goals, 4) communicating with workers about the plans, 5) motivating the workers to carry out the plans, and 6) supervising to obtain feedback and make any needed corrections. NOTE (One can argue that managers do not always follow these six steps, but the definition does not say that they do. The definition says management is a process that involves: This is of course one of many possible idealized definitions of the concept of management. It is obvious that many organizations, especially smaller ones, do not always follow all these steps. This is especially true with step 2, determining the feasibility of goals, especially if the goal is a minor one. However, a careful examination of the definition and the way the six steps were defined will reveal a very close agreement with the other definitions of management presented in this text. But the unique wording probably would offer a somewhat different perspective and insight into the concept of management. This is probably true of all the definitions that were presented. Each one offers a somewhat different view and set of insights into the process of management.) END OF NOTE
NOTE (This section contains a problem solving method for both problems and goals, which is based on the management methodology discussed above. The method that is described should be carefully read at least two times, because it may seem somewhat complicated at first.)
The above methodology can be put in a simple form, consisting of a series of questions, which are presented in a list at the end of this paragraph. The idea here is to answer the relevant questions on the list when developing a management related goal or solving a managerial problem. This is to be done with the aim of obtaining your goal or a solution to your problem. The questions on the list that are not relevant to your efforts should be ignored or changed so they are relevant to the goal or problem that you are working on. You should add your own questions to the list that relate specifically to the goal or problem that you are working on. Each question that is answered should be done with writing. Each answer should be one paragraph or more in length, with the question serving as an introductory topic sentence. This method is best done on a computer, with word processing software, this permits organizing and reorganizing of the information that is derived with the methodology. The questions are as follows:
1) Goal setting: What is the goal? How can you describe the goal so others will understand it?
2) Determining feasibility: Is the goal feasible? How can you determine the feasibility of the goal? What are the risks associated with the goal? How much will it cost to reach the goal? What is the most optimistic estimate? What is the most pessimistic estimate? What is the most realistic estimate? What are the most likely benefits that will be obtained if the goal is reached?
3) Creating plans (to reach the goal): What are the sub-goals that relate to the primary goal? How can these sub-goals be used to create a plan to obtain the primary goal? How can you work out a set of plans that will lead to the goal? What information will help you work out a good set of plans? How can you obtain expert information or advice to create the plans? (The following questions must be answered after the plans have been worked out.) Can the plans be improved? If so, how can the plans be improved? How can the plans be expressed in terms of specific steps or job related tasks, which are needed to obtain the goals? Which employees can carry out these goal related steps or tasks?
4) Communicating: Are the plans in a form that can be understood by others? Are the plans ready to be transmitted to the employees? If not how can the plans be modified so they can be successfully conveyed to the appropriate employees. Who are the individuals that are to carry out specific tasks designated in the plan? Do they understand the instructions and other information that relates to their tasks?
5) Motivating: How can you motivate the workers to carry out the plans? Are the workers paid or are they volunteers? Are they paid enough for the work you are requesting of them? Can you make the work you want the workers to do, less stressful and more rewarding? Can you make the work more interesting? Can you make the work pleasantly challenging? Can you set any challenging goals that can be successfully achieved by the workers? Can you offer any additional rewards, such as bonuses for workers that effectively carry out the plans needed to achieve the goal?
6) Feedback and correction How are the goal related tasks progressing? Is the monitoring of these tasks adequate? If not, how can the monitoring be improved? Are there any difficulties related to the goal or the goal related tasks? If there are any difficulties, how can they be corrected? Can the goal be improved? Can any of its sub-goals be improved? Can the plans needed to reach the goal or sub-goals be improved? Can the communications related to achieving the goal be improved? Can the method of monitoring progress be improved? Can the method of evaluating progress be improved?
From the above paragraphs we can get a fairly good idea of the skills that a manager should have. Some general skills are technical, interpersonal, conceptual, communication, and critical thinking. (Hellriegel, Don & Slocum, Jr, John W. 1996 pp. 26-27) The list at the end of this paragraph contains a more detailed set of abilities and skills that under the most ideal conditions a manager would have. Keep in mind that if you do not have one or more of the items on the list they can most likely be developed with study and practice. The list is as follows:
· The skills needed to work well with people are required. That is, human relation skills are necessary.
· Knowledge of human behavior in relation to the work environment is needed.
· Good communications skills are required.
· Good writing skills are of great value, especially in relation to explaining needs, problems and solutions in written reports.
· Knowledge of the structure and lines of communication of the organization in relation to obtaining funding or other resources for a department or project that you are managing is needed. This will differ from one organization to another. However, the basic idea is to have the knowledge of organizational behavior needed to figure out the best lines of communication for your proposal for resources.
· Technical skills that relate to the specific area and type of workers that are to be managed are required.
· Problem solving skills are needed.
· A good understanding of how the organization functions, in relation to its members, its employees, its lines of communications, its facilities (physical layout of the buildings, machinery, tools), etc.
· An understanding of the economics involved with the organization is required.
· An understanding of the product(s) and/or services produced by the organization is needed.
· A good understanding of organizational behavior and theory is needed.
· A good understanding of the principles of management are required
Thus, in this chapter much was covered. The chapter started with definitions of management and manager, and proceeded to a problem solving methodology, and ended with some of the skills needed by a manager. This chapter was essentially centered on the concept of management. In the next chapter the primary focus will be centered on the organization. And just as was done in this chapter for management problems, a problem-solving methodology will be developed that focuses on difficulties from a perspective of organizational behavior.
(This paper was originally submitted for a course on Organizational Behavior, but it is included here, in a slightly modified form, because it fits in well with the theme of this book.)
This chapter starts with some definitions of the term organization. Then a complex organization is defined and it is compared and contrasted with a living organism. The comparison and contrast resulted in thirty-one factors that relate to a complex organization. The factors suggest a multidisciplinary perspective. A problem-solving methodology was created with these factors, by producing a set of questions that relate to each factor. The idea is to answer the questions that are relevant to a specific organizational problem. This is done in writing with a computer with word processing software. The answers are then arranged into a report, which contains possible solutions to an organizational problem. Then the solutions are tested, and modified if necessary, to produce a truly effective solution to the problem.
What is an organization? A simple and rather general definition from the glossary of Organizational Behavior, by Stephen P. Robbins is "Organization (1) A Consciously Coordinated social unit, composed of two or more people, that functions on a relatively continuous basis to achieve a common goal or set of goals." This can be reworded into an even simpler definition as follows. An organization is, people working together on common objectives on an ongoing basis. Working together implies a consciously coordinated social unit in this simplified wording. The above definitions are quite general. They would include the family, a social club with a common set of goals, a small business comprised of two or more people and a giant corporation. With these general definitions even a nation can be defined as an organization.
The general definitions do make sense, because there is a common set of principles that apply to all of the above. For example, a giant corporation and the family both involve the following factors: management, communications, motivation, economics, purchasing goods and services, etc. And many of the same basic principles of psychology, social psychology, and sociology apply both to the corporation and the family. Thus, the general concept of an organization is quite valuable, but it might be useful and interesting to create some new definitions and elaborations, which is done in the following paragraphs.
What most people probably think about when they hear the term organization is a corporation that employs 50 or more people that work on a common or related set of goals. This can be called a corporate organization. However, most organizations, including corporate entities are more than just an organization of people. Our society functions with organized units of people, machines, tools, physical workspace and a constant input of energy and materials to produce a product or service. The above defines a concept that is potentially quite useful. I will call this concept the complex organization. That is, a complex organization involves people, machines, tools, and the physical workspace, which is organized to perform a set of goals, on an ongoing basis. In the following paragraphs I will discuss some of the properties of the complex organization. (Keep in mind the definition described above. I will use the word organization for a synonym for complex organization in the remainder of this chapter.)
To achieve its goals the complex organization must have a constant input of energy and materials. To obtain the energy, materials and to compensate the workers a constant input of money is needed. Obtaining enough money for the above is usually one of the primary goals of the complex organization. If energy, materials or workers, or the money to pay for these entities are scarce, the organization will go into a state of disorder. If this state of disorder reaches a certain level the organization will in effect die.
The complex organization, in certain ways is similar to an organism, but of course it is not in any sense a living entity. However, making a detailed comparison with an organism is quite interesting and serves as a mnemonic device for the properties of a complex organization, which will be seen in the following paragraphs. When reading these comparisons think of a nonhuman organism, such as a chimpanzee, living in a primitive environment that is not influenced or contaminated by civilization. Think of the organism in terms of a set of organized cellular structures (such as cells or organs) forming the living entity.
The complex organization must have an input of energy and materials to maintain its existence, just like a living organism. The entities that comprise a complex organization, the people, the machinery, the tools, the workplace, do not define its existence. If all of the above were changed over an extended period of time, the organization would still exist. For example, the Ford Motor company changed most, if not all, of its equipment, personnel and physical work sites since it started in 1903, but it is still the Ford Motor company. This principle is seen in living things also. A organism gradually changes its structure over time. The original material that the organism was made of is gradually excreted and replaced with new material, but it is still the same organism. The complex organization, just like a living organism, excretes waste products.
Living organisms are sensitive to their external and internal environments and so are complex organizations. This sensitivity is the result of various types of sensing devices. In the living organism the external sensing devices include the: eyes, ears, nose, and skin. The internal sensing device of the living organism registers variations in glucose, oxygen, carbon dioxide, blood pressure, body temperature, etc. The sensing devices of the complex organization include both human beings and machines that monitor the various components and dynamics of the organization. For example, the chief executive officer, board of directors, marketing analysts, managers, and foreman are workers that perform this sensing function (as well as other functions). The marketing analyst senses the external environment. The board of directors, or individuals assisting them, might perform internal and external monitoring of the complex organization. The managers, foreman and other workers monitor the internal functions of the complex organization. The functions of the complex organization can also be monitored by various types of electronic equipment. This can include such devices that electronically measure sales and keep track of inventory, to equipment that measures pressure and temperature in a chemical production chamber.
Both the living organism and the complex organization do much more than just monitor their internal and external environments. They sense variations in factors and respond to the change in very precise ways. The living organism will change its behavior in response to light, sound, and the smell or sight of food. If its glucose level drops, the organism might feel hungry. This will motivate a search for food. If its blood oxygen level is too low its heart rate and respiration level will increase. If the oxygen level is too high, its respiration will be lowered. These cycles are called feedback control cycles, or cybernetic cycles. The cybernetic cycles are also a primary component of complex organizations. That is, the chief executive officer, board of directors, managers, and foreman do not just perform a sensing function. They respond to the information they sense in such a way as to control various subsystems of the complex organization. And the same is also true with certain types of equipment, which monitor and automatically control certain operations. For example, computer equipment and electronic senses that keep track of the amount of sales of specific items, will electronically order more of the quick selling items and less of the slow selling items. The electronic mechanisms in a chemical plant might not only monitor the temperature and pressure of the chemical chamber, but it also may automatically control both of these variables. Generally the complex organization has human cybernetic systems (such as supervisors, managers, marketing research personnel, etc.) and may also have one or more nonhuman (such as electrical) cybernetic systems.
The cybernetic system and other components of both living organisms and the complex organization are controlled by some type of intelligence. (The word intelligence is used here in a very general way, and it includes, neurological, electronic and chemical data processing.) The intelligence in the living organism includes the obvious behavioral functions associated with the higher brain centers. However, there are a number of other types of intelligence on different levels, which control internal functions. This includes the lower brain centers, which evaluate and control of heart rate, blood pressure, carbon dioxide level, etc. There is also a primitive type of chemical intelligence on the cellular level, which is involved with cellular mechanisms and operations. This chemical intelligence is involved with reproduction, enzyme manufacturing, the building of cellular structures and the destruction of invading bacteria and viruses. The complex organization also has a number of types and levels of intelligence. There are obviously different levels of managerial intelligence, ranging from the chief executive officer, down to lower level management, and there are also different types of expertise. And just as each cell of a living entity has its own individual intelligence, each worker has its own independent intelligence. The complex organization also has intelligence from machines such as computers. The computer can in some cases even perform some managerial functions. Just as is the case with the living organism, the different types of intelligence interact with each other to make the complex organization function. And of course, a part of the intelligence of the living entity and the complex organization is the ability to learn.
Thus, both living organisms and the complex organization contain many intelligent subsystems. The components of these intelligent entities include programs, which are a set of instructions needed to carry out a task. The subsystems also obviously have a memory, which retains the instructions. The programs on the cellular level of the organisms are stored in chemical structures such as DNA and RNA. At a higher level there are programs stored in the nervous system, the brain, which is also probably stored in a chemical form. The complex organization usually stores its programs, sets of instructions, in the mind's of its workers, on paper, and on computer software. The interactions of the many intelligent subsystems of a living entity and a complex organization involve communications. That is, the communications process is a primary component of both the living organism and the complex organization. There are two basic types of communications, internal and external. The internal communications are between the individual cells and organs of the living entity. The external communications involve the receiving and transmitting of information from one organism to another, such as two animals sending mating calls to each other. With the complex organization the internal communications consist of information transmitted between people. The internal communications process also involves the exchange of information from one machine to another and from worker to machine, and vice versa. The external communications include the organization's marketing and public relations programs. In addition, correspondence, or any other information exchange from individuals, computers, or any other source outside of the organization are external communications.
A very important component of most of the intelligent subsystems, of living organisms and the complex organization, is that they have their own goals, which are often independent of their function in the system they serve. (The word goal is used in a very general way in this text.) For example, each pancreas cell has a goal of maintaining its own internal metabolism, structure and its enclosing membrane, which is independent of its function of producing insulin for the organism. Of course, if the cell does not maintain itself in a high level of functionality it cannot do its job of producing insulin. A similar situation exists between the workers of the complex organization. They have their own needs and goals that are independent of the job they do in the organization. In both the organism and the complex organization the intelligent subsystems, such as the cell and worker, are maintained by the larger system they work for. Without the larger system they would not be able to obtain their individual goals. For example, the pancreas cell could not maintain its metabolism, structure and surrounding membranes and the worker could not pay her bills or by that new car she wants. Another important idea to examine is both the cell and worker can have behavior patterns or goals that interfere with the well-being, functioning and goals of the organization. A pancreas cell can become cancerous and a worker can become an alcoholic, a sabotager and a thief.
Both the organisms and organizations are influenced by many psychological factors, which include emotions. Emotional responses in the organism can motivate it to fight as with anger, or run as with fear. Various psychological factors, including emotions can cause an organization to make inappropriate decisions. A major part of managing the organization is a good insight into the psychology of people in the work environment. Understanding the psychology of the consumer is also a major determinant in success for most organizations.
Both organisms and complex organizations are in competition with similar entities. Organisms often must compete for food with other living things. They must escape from their enemies to survive. Complex organizations are usually in competition with other companies, for business and top level workers. In addition, the living entity must be strong enough to fight off disease and the organization must be strong enough to survive organizational dysfunctions, such as strikes and internal conflicts. Both the organism and organization must also deal with adverse environmental conditions. Only the strongest will survive. The weak organisms and weak organizations become extinct entities. This process is a Darwinian selection process that selects for certain survival traits, which are determined by the environment and all that it contains.
Thus, we can see that the organism and the complex organization have many general processes and factors in common. However, we can obtain some additional insight by seeing how the complex organization is different from a living organism. The organization functions with money; it is governed by the legal structure of the government. A major set of factors that organizations must deal with is the law, which can change from favorable, too unfavorable and vice versa, in a matter of months. Organizations can be taxed heavily, be given government subsidies or lucrative contracts. This is greatly influenced by the political climate, and the resulting legislation, which is a concern for the large complex organization. Organizations must plan their internal course of action to survive and obtain their goals. This process generally involves some risk taking, such as how much money must be invested in tools, machinery and new facilities.
The primary factors that determine the functioning of a complex organization are economic, legal, technological, psychological, sociological and cultural, as well as biological. (The health of its workers and the production of certain raw materials, such as plant and animal products involve biology.) Thus, the complex organization is more complicated than a living entity. The organism is essentially governed by biological and psychological factors only. And of course the organization is partly composed of the most sophisticated living entity that ever existed, human beings.
The above can be summed up as follows. From the comparison and contrast of a living organism and a complex organization the following thirty-one factors are revealed: (The first twenty- three factors are common to both a living entity and an organization.)
1) A need for an input of energy
2) A need for an input of materials
3) Its identity is independent of the entities that comprise it (The employees, machines, tools, and land that comprise a complex organization can all be changed over time without destroying the organization. And the molecules that comprise a living organism will be replaced over time without killing the organism.)
4) It excretes waste products
5) It is sensitive to its internal environment
6) It is sensitive to its external environment
7) It has cybernetic cycles (feedback control cycles)
8) It has different levels of intelligence (This refers to the various types of expertise found in an organization, such as different levels of management. In the organism the higher brain centers are one level of intelligence, the lower brain centers are another level, and a type of primitive intelligence is found in its cells.)
9) It has the ability to learn
10) It contains many intelligent subsystems (The intelligent subsystems in an organization are its workers, and the intelligent subsystems of the organism include the primitive intelligence of cells.)
11) Its intelligent subsystems have their own goals, which are often independent of their function in the system they serve.
12) Its subsystems can become destructive to the system (A pancreas cell can become cancerous and a worker can become an alcoholic, a thief or a saboteur).
13) Its subsystems are often dependent on the system to obtain their individual goals
14) It contains programs, which are a set of instructions needed to carry out a task
15) It has a memory, which retains programs
16) It uses internal communication
17) It uses external communication
18) It is generally in competition with similar entities (Organizations compete with other organizations and living entities compete with other organisms.)
19) It must be strong enough to deal with dysfunctions (That is, the organization must be strong enough to avoid or survive major problems, and the living entity must be strong enough to survive or resist disease.)
20) It must be strong enough to deal with adverse environmental conditions
21) The strongest entities survive and the weakest become extinct (This process is essentially a Darwinian selection process that selects for certain survival traits, which are determined by the environment and all that it contains.)
22) Biological factors and dynamics are involved
23) Psychological factors and dynamics are involved
(From 24 to 31, do not apply to the organism, in the sense that the comparison was made. That is, the following factors only apply to the complex organization.)
24) It is governed by the legal structure. A major set of factors that organizations must deal with is the law, which includes preventing and resolving legal problems.
25) Organizations are often changed (in desirable or undesirable ways) by the financial policies of government, such as taxation, government subsidies or lucrative government contracts.
26) Complex organizations are often changed (in desirable or undesirable ways) by the political climate, and the resulting legislation.
27) Organizations must plan their internal course of action to survive and obtain their goals.
28) Economic factors and dynamics are primary components for the complex organization.
29) Technological developments and related factors are primary concerns for some complex organizations.
30) Sociological factors and dynamics are important for most organizations.
31) Cultural components and dynamics are important for most complex organizations.
If something goes wrong with any of these thirty-one factors the complex organization might go into a state of disorder. That is, it can develop serious problems, behave in dysfunctional ways, go into bankruptcy, etc. If such a disorderly state reaches a relatively high level the organization might cease to exist.
Most organizational problems involve one or more of the thirty-one factors. This suggests that the above can be used to create a problem-solving strategy for organizations, which is illustrated in the following paragraphs.
The problem-solving methodology that is presented here involves answering a list of questions. The questions were created from the thirty-one factors discussed above, and are presented after these instructions. Then some additional questions were added to the list to make it more useful. The idea is to answer all the questions on the list that might be relevant to a specific organizational problem that you are working on. The questions must be answered in writing. A computer and word processing software should be used for this writing process. Each statement on the list with a question mark should be used as a heading. Underneath this heading there should be one or more paragraphs answering the question. Questions that are totally irrelevant, or are confusing, should be either modified so they are relevant to the problem or skipped. However, the idea is to try to relate as many questions on the list to the problem you are working on, even if the question is not totally relevant. The reason for this is that such an effort may stimulate the creative process, which can result in insight and unforeseen solutions to the problem. (In a practical situation it may be necessary to limit the number of questions answered because of time limitations.) Even if a question on the list appears useful to the problem consider modifying it to make it more relevant for the organization and the problem you are working with. Consider creating additional questions that are especially relevant to your problem. These questions should be answered in the same way as the other questions on the list.
When the questions are answered as stated above (in writing) the result is a written report with possible solutions to the problem. Additional data should be added to the report to improve the information it contains. The entire report should be edited, and rearranged with the computer functions, if necessary, to conform to the customary style of the organization that you are working for. The paragraphs can be rearranged into a more appropriate form with the cut, paste and copy functions found on word processing software.
An additional use for this problem-solving methodology is simply to write a document about an organization, such as a term paper, a chapter on organizations for a book, etc. Writing a document is a type of problem in itself, with the completed document being the solution. The method is used the same way as described above, except the final editing and rearranging of the document is done to conform to the appropriate style, such as a term paper.
Whatever the type of problem you are working on, the solutions derived with this methodology should be tested to see if they solve the problem. If none of the solutions work effectively they should be modified so they produce the desired results. This process of testing and modifying should be continued until the problem is solved. If no solution is obtained the entire process can be repeated.
It should be understood that this methodology is designed for fairly difficult problems. The simpler difficulties that are commonly faced by an organization can most likely be solved more efficiently by conventional methods.
The following are the questions used with this methodology, but there are many additional questions throughout this book that can be used with this methodology. The numbers in the following list start at -1 because the first two sets of questions were derived independently of the original thirty-one factors. The remainder of the questions was created with the use of the thirty-one factors as can be seen from the number and the underlined heading. The underlined heading is only provided for theoretical purposes and can be ignored when the questions are answered.
-1) Defines the problem and possible solutions what is the problem? Why is it a problem? How can the problem be precisely defined? Can the problem be broken up into smaller problems, which might be easier to solve? Can several problems be combined into one large problem, which might be solved more efficiently? What is your goal in relation to this problem-solving effort? What would you consider to be a solution to the problem? How many tentative solutions can you think of?
0) Official and unofficial purposes of the organization What is the official purpose of the organization? What are the actual needs that the organization satisfies? Are there any problems with the above? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)? What are the possible solutions to the problem?
1) A need for an input of energy What are all the sources of energy that the organization uses? Are there any problems with these sources of energy? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)?
2) A need for an input of materials What are the materials needed by the organization? Are there any problems with the materials that the organization needs? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)?
3) Its identity is independent of the entities that comprise it In what ways are the organization changing? Are there any problems resulting from the changes? If so, how can these problems be remedied. How can the changing structure of the organization be controlled (channeled) to produce a more effective and/or profitable system?
4) It excretes waste products What are all the waste products that the organization produces? Are there any problems with the waste products? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)? What are the possible solutions to the problem?
5) It is sensitive to its internal environment What sections of the organization must be watched? Which personnel require the most supervision? What processes require supervision? Are there adequate supervisory personnel? Can any of the monitoring be performed electronically?
6) It is sensitive to its external environment How can the awareness of the officials of the organization be increased, in relation to the needs of people outside the organization? How can the organization improve its awareness of its environment? Does the organization have a way of monitoring the needs and responses of its consumers and potential customers? Can the above be improved?
7) It has cybernetic cycles (feedback control cycles) What are the cybernetic cycles of the organization? Are there any problems with these cycles? If so, what are the problems and the possible solutions? Can additional cybernetic cycles solve any of the organization's problems or increase its efficiency? If so, what are all the details that relate to the new cybernetic cycle(s). What is the nature of the new monitoring and corrections that would be involved with the new cybernetic cycle(s)?
8) It has different levels of intelligence Who are the individuals that guide the organization? How is the managerial structure organized? Who are the experts in the organization? Can these experts help you solve the problem you are working on? Should the organization hire additional experts to help you solve the problem?
9) It has the ability to learn Are there any problems that could be solved with training programs? If so, what are the problems? And what type of training program is required to alleviate each difficulty?
10) It contains many intelligent subsystems Who are the workers and/or members of the organization? Are there any problems with any of the above? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)? What is (are) the solution(s) to the problem(s)?
11) Its intelligent subsystems have their own goals, which are often independent of their function in the system they serve What are the primary goals of the employees and/or members of the organization? What are the secondary goals of the people involved with the organization? Do any of the primary and secondary goals conflict with the functioning or objectives of the organization? If so, how can the conflict be eliminated?
12) its subsystems can become destructive to the system Are there any employees who are causing problems for the organization? If so who are they? Can their behavior be corrected? Can they be fired?
13) Its subsystems are often dependent on the system to obtain their individual goals What are the primary and secondary goals of the various categories of employees? Does the organization successfully satisfy the needs of the employees and/or members?
14) It contains programs, which are a set of instructions needed to carry out a task What are the methods used (instructions) used to perform various tasks in the organization? Are there any problems with the methods used? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)? What is (are) the possible solution(s) to the problem(s)?
15) It has a memory, which retains programs Are the record keeping methods of the organization adequate? If not how can it be improved? Are computers used to store information in your organization? How effective is the storage and retrieval of computerize information? Can it be improved?
16) It uses internal communication What are the different types of communications in the organization? Are there any problems with communications within the organization? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)? What are the possible solutions to the problems?
17) It uses external communication What are the methods used to communicate to those outside the organization? Are there any problems with the methods of communication? If so, describe the problem(s)?
18) It is generally in competition with similar entities Who are the organization's competitors? Is the organization having trouble competing successfully? How can the organization become more competitive?
19) It must be strong enough to deal with dysfunctions Does the organization have an adequate capital base? How much is the net value of the organization? How much money is available to handle problems that may develop in the future? What types of problems can the organization successfully handle? What types of problems might destroy the organization? How can these problems be avoided?
20) It must be strong enough to deal with adverse environmental conditions What environmental conditions might cause a problem for the organization? What are the chances of such problems occurring in the next five years? Can the organization afford to deal with these problems? Can the organization be made stronger so it can deal with these problems?
21) The strongest entities survive and the weakest become extinct What are the survival requirements of the environment that your organization is in? What survival characteristics does the organization have? What are the survival characteristics of organizations (similar to yours) that have been in existence for more than 50 years? Does your organization have these characteristics? If not, can your organization change in such a way as to incorporate the missing survival characteristics?
22) Biological factors and dynamics are involved What are the relevant biological factors and dynamics for the problem you are working on? Are there any problems with the biological factors or dynamics, associated with the organization? Are there any health problems that are affecting the functioning of the organization? If so how can the problems be remedied? Does the organization cause any health problems as a result of stress, pollution, accidents, etc.? If so, how can these difficulties be remedied?
23) Psychological factors and dynamics are involved What are the relevant psychological factors and dynamics for the problem you are working on? Are there any emotional difficulties causing problems in the organization? Are there any stubborn people in the leadership position causing problems or preventing progress? What is the explanation(s) for the problem(s) you are working on? What are the possible solutions to the problem(s)?
24) It is governed by the legal structure. A major set of factors that organizations must deal with is the law, which includes preventing and resolving legal problems. What are the laws that relate to your organization? Are there any legal ramifications associated with the problem you are working on? If so, how can these legal problems be solved?
25) Organizations are often changed (in desirable or undesirable ways) by government financial policies, such as taxation, government subsidies or lucrative contracts. Are there any taxation problems with your organization? Are the there any tax loopholes that your organization can legally use? Are there any government grants available for projects that your organization plans to carry out? What are all the (possible) subsidies, grants or contracts that your organization might possibly obtain from the government?
26) Complex organizations are often changed (in desirable or undesirable ways) by the political climate and the resulting legislation. Is the current political climate causing a problem, or worsening a preexisting problem? If so, are there any alternative methods of effectively dealing with these problems under the adverse political climate?
27) Organizations must plan their internal course of action to survive and obtain their goals. What are the organizations long term plans? Are these plans sound? If not, how can they be made into realistic and constructive plans? What are the deficiencies in the plans? What additional plans would you suggest for your organization? What are the primary and secondary goals of the organization? Are there any problems with these objectives? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)?
28) Economic factors and dynamics are primary components for the complex organization. How much financial risk can the organization safely tolerate? What is the debt of the organization? What is the net worth of the organization? How does the business cycle influence or change the functioning of the organization? What is the estimated cost to solve the problem you are working on? How can this sum of money be obtained? Can the organization finance the cost to solve the problem? Are there any government grants that can provide funding for your problem-solving effort?
29) Technological developments and related factors are primary concerns for some complex organizations. Can the problem you are working on be partly or totally solved with technology? If so, what is the technology? How much does this technology cost? Are there any technological problems in your organization? If so, how can these problems be solved?
30) Sociological factors and dynamics are important for most organizations. What sociological factors and dynamics are involved with the problem you are working on? Is the problem you are working on primarily of a sociological nature? What are the current trends that may affect your organization? Will these trends hurt or help your organization? How can your organization make the best of the current trends?
31) Cultural components and dynamics are important for most complex organizations. What type of cultural climate is your organization surrounded by? What culture are the workers from? What culture(s) does your organization serve? Are there any problems that relate to culture in your organization? If so, what is the explanation(s) for the problem(s)? What are all the possible solutions to the problem?
Note: As already stated, there are many other questions throughout this book that are designed to be used with this problem-solving methodology. The questions that relate to your problem can be found under the relevant chapter headings.
The above problem-solving methodology and the entire discipline of management theory and organizational behavior can be made more useful by conceptualizing certain entities (which are not usually considered organizations) as organizations. For example, the family can be conceptualize as a complex organization, because it is an organized set of people, tools (such as cooking utensils), machines (household appliances) and workspace (the house). Even a single individual living alone, can be conceptualize as a complex organization, because most single individuals have an organized group of people, such as friends, relatives, doctors, employers that they rely on. And of course a single person is likely to have the physical possessions that relate to the complex organization. Thus, the above problem-solving methodology and much of the discipline of management theory and organizational behavior can be used to solve some of the problems we all face in life.
The last chapter, which illustrated the similarities between a living organism and an organization, is essentially a systems perspective. That is, both living organisms and organizations can be conceptualized as a system. Hellriegel and Slocum describe a system in a similar manner (p.55):
"A system is an association of interrelated and interdependent parts. The human body is a system with organs, mussels, bones, nerves, and a consciousness that links all the parts. An organization also is a system with many employees, teams, departments, and levels that are linked to achieve the organization's goals. It also is linked to suppliers, customers, shareholders, and regulatory agencies."
It should be apparent from the above; that this chapter is primarily dealing with complex systems, such as is found in the biological and social sciences. There are systems that are relatively simple, such as the systems that are studied in chemistry and physics, which will only be briefly discussed for comparison with complex systems. Thus, the systems viewpoint that is presented here applies to the complex entities, such as organizations.
A definition of a systems viewpoint, which applies specifically to management theory, is found in the glossary of Hellriegel, D. & Slocum's book (p. 771), Management:
"systems viewpoint One of the five principle viewpoints of management; solving problems by diagnosing them within a framework of inputs, transformation processes, outputs, and feedback."
The factors mentioned in the above definition, inputs, transformation process, outputs and feedback will be discussed later in this chapter. However, first I will discuss a perspective on systems that is more general and detailed than is usually presented in a book on organizational behavior and management theory. The general systems perspective presented here does not only apply to organizations. It applies to many complex entities.
I will start this discussion by defining the word system for this book as follows:
A system is a set of interrelated components that work together in a unified way, as perceived by an observer studying the components.
It is important to understand that this concept is based on the frame of reference of the individual studying the components that make up the system. That is, a system is defined by the individual that is studying or working with a set of components that appear to him to work together in a unified way. The examples in the following paragraph will clarify this idea.
A manager working with a
single isolated department of a large organization might define that department
as a system. A top level manager,
working with the entire organization might define the organization as the
system. An individual studying the
production of goods and services throughout the
Thus, it should be apparent that each of the above hypothetical individuals will probably develop different values, goals and solutions to problems, because each defined the system differently. Or perhaps, the values and goals influence the way people consciously or unconsciously define a system. Most likely both of the above alternatives are partly true, under various conditions. However, the primary idea is that the behavior, emotions, thinking and resulting conclusions of an individual might be influenced by the way he perceives the world in terms of systems. For example, an individual that defines all human beings as one system might be against military actions of any kind, because he will see the enemy as part of the same system that he and his countrymen comprise. Such an individual might be quite sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, because he sees himself and others as part of the same living system.
It should be noted, that physical and social scientists, and similar intellectuals define systems intentionally to study and solve problems. However, most people from early childhood throughout life unconsciously or inadvertently define various entities as systems. A person that defines himself as an independent system might be less sensitive to the needs of others, than an individual that defines a larger unit as a system, such as his: family, neighborhood, country or world. The individual that sees himself as an independent system might be more aggressive toward other people and society in general, than an individual that sees himself as part of a larger system. Most people behave as if they conceptualized themselves and their family and/or nation's society as one system.
The values people hold determine the way they define a system and the way they defined the system reinforces their values and goals. The primary idea to keep in mind is that people in organizations can define the system differently. This might result in different values, goals, and views as far as problem-solving and the operation of the organization is concerned.
The above paragraphs suggest another important term, which is subsystem. I am defining subsystem for this book as a system that is part of another system. Usually complex systems are made up of many smaller systems. These smaller systems are subsystems of the larger system. However, a subsystem is not always small. For example, the oceans, rivers and lakes, can be thought of as a subsystem of the earth's surface. This subsystem is larger than the remainder of the surface area of our planet.
It is once again, important to realize that a subsystem as applied to a specific entity is not an absolute. It is the result of the frame of reference of the observer who is studying the subsystems. One individual might define the subsystems comprising a larger system very differently than another. For example, a physician might define the organs of the body as subsystems, but a microbiologist might define each cell of the body as a subsystem. Whether a department or an organization is a system or subsystem is a matter of perspective. One individual might see all organizations as subsystems of the world production system. Another individual might see the organization as the system and its departments as subsystems. And still another individual might see each employee as a subsystem of the department and/or organization.
The idea is to realize that the concepts of system and subsystem are the result of a frame of reference. The system and subsystem should be defined in such a way that it facilitates the objective that you are trying to obtain. If you are managing or studying an entire organization, it might be efficient to define the organization, its customers and suppliers as one system. If you are managing or studying a small isolated department in a large organization, defining the department as the system and the employees as subsystems might be the most useful perspective. In such a case the larger organization might be defined as the external environment of the system (the department).
Systems exist in an external environment. The external environment is everything that is external to the system and is potentially relevant to the functional and dysfunctional aspects of the system. The system's external environment is also a matter of perspective to some extent. An organization exists in a specific geographic area, which is its physical environment. However, the organization might also have other relevant external environments, such as the geographic areas where it sells its goods or services. The locations and surrounding areas where its suppliers, consumers and competitors exist can also be considered the external environment of the organization. Such environments can be just outside of the gates of the organization's headquarters or hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
Systems also have internal environments. This is perhaps obvious, especially if we examine a living organism or an organization. The internal environment is essentially covered by a real or imaginary enclosure, where the internal dynamics of the system take place.
The preceding two paragraphs suggest another concept. Systems carry out internal and external behaviors. Internal behavior is any behavior that takes place in the internal environment of the system. For example, the heart of the human body displays an internal behavior pattern that is involved with the pumping of blood. Another example, is the internal thought processes that take place in the human mind. Examples of internal behavior involving organizations and management, include meetings of the board of directors and the planning, organizing and controlling processes. Production of any product produced in a factory is still another example of internal behavior. External behavior is any behavior that the system performs in its external environment. Examples of external behavior, involving organizations include, marketing of products, public relations efforts, and employee recruitment efforts aimed at bringing in new workers to the organization.
There are two basic types of systems, which are closed and opened. Closed systems do not display any significant external behavior and may or may not display significant internal behavior. I am defining a closed system as a system that has no relevant or significant exchange of information, matter or energy with the external environment or with any other system. The concept of the closed system has little, if any, relevance to management theory or organizational behavior. The reason for this is organizations almost always have significant exchanges of information, matter and/or energy from the external environment, which is an opened system. Since truly closed systems are generally not relevant to management theory or organizational behavior, I will use the word system to mean opened system in this book.
Perhaps one can make an argument that opened systems can vary in the degree of openness. That is, some systems exchange a relatively small amount of matter, energy and/or information with the external environment. Such systems maintain their internal structure with only a moderate dependence on the external environment. Other systems are just the opposite of the above, and they may change dramatically as a result of small variations in their environment. In general the more opened a system is the more it is likely to be affected by changes in its environment, and the more closed a system is the less likely it is to be affected by its environment.
The above idea can be applied to organizations. Some organizations are simply more dependent on obtaining raw materials, new workers and energy from their environment, which can be thought of as a highly opened system. An organization that is less opened, by definition, may have less worker turnover, may own its own sources of raw materials and may even produce some or all of its own energy.
At this point, it probably becomes apparent from the previous two paragraphs that some systems are more stable than others. Stable systems tend to maintain their structures in a high degree of order and functionality, as the concept is defined for this book. Unstable systems tend to fall into a state of disorder, a state of dysfunction, which is true by definition. The relative degree of stability of a system can be the result of its internal structure and/or its environment. For example, all of the following will increase the probability that an organization is stable: organizational members, managers, workers and other relevant individuals that interact in a harmonious way; good management; good budgeting; good marketing strategies; appropriate technologies of high quality; good employees; abundant financial resources; an adequate supply of needed raw materials at relatively low prices; an adequate supply of energy at relatively low cost, a product that is highly profitable, a product that is in demand, no threatening competition from other companies, and an environment that facilitates the well-being of the organization. Just the opposite will most likely increase the level of instability in most organizations.
From the above paragraphs, it is apparent that systems have inputs and outputs, which can be information, energy and matter, as the concepts are used in this book. For example, a living organism takes in food (which is used as a source of structural matter and energy) and releases (outputs) waste products, waste energy, useful energy in the form of external work, and offspring. Most organizations take in, information, matter in the form of raw materials and energy and produce a product, which is the output. Also most industrial organizations produce an undesirable output along with their product, such as gaseous, liquid and solid waste products.
Another concept is suggested from the above paragraph, which is transformation. That is, systems transform the input. For example, a steel production facility takes in iron ore and transforms it into steel, which is the product (output) it sells. Organizations also take in members and new employees and transform them into functioning components of the organizational system.
I will add my own concept at this point. For systems to carry out the input, transformation and output processes they must have some method to guide them. That is, most complex systems have one or more programs guiding the input, transformation and output process. Programs are essentially instructions stored in some type of mechanism, which allows the system to utilize the instructions. For example, a computer stores instructions in a magnetic form in the hard drive. Living organisms store programs in the form of chemical structures in the nucleus of cells, such as the genetic code in the form of DNA. Organizations store programs in many forms, such as in the minds of its employees (especially managers and engineers) on paper, in computers, etc. These programs include all the information needed to operate the organization, such as goals, plans, formal and informal rules and technical production instructions.
The above paragraphs define, what I call, a programmed system. That is, all living entities including human beings, organizations, as well as societies, governments and computers are programmed systems.
Some systems such as living entities and organizations are sensitive to their internal and external environments. They react to their environments in various ways. This sensitivity is related to a very important concept, which is feedback.
What is feedback?
In response to feedback an organization might change its structure, its methods, its personnel, and its behavior. The organization might also modify or completely change its product in response to feedback. Thus, in some cases the response to feedback can lead to the modification or change of the input, transformation process and output of a system.
However, sometimes complex systems, such as animals, people and organizations do not respond to certain aspects of highly relevant feedback. In other situations the response to the feedback may be irrational or highly dysfunctional. Such a situation can put the system into disorder and lead to the destruction of the system, in some cases. A better understanding of the feedback process can probably reduce the chances of the above.
Feedback as it takes place in complex systems, such as organizations, can be described in terms of a four step cycle. This involves 1) taking an action, 2) waiting for the result of the action, 3) studying and analyzing the result of the action, and then 4) the next action taken may be modified in a way suggested by the feedback. There can be problems with all four of these steps. I will discuss the difficulties with steps 2 and 3 first, because it is most relevant to organizations, in the following two paragraphs.
Steps 2 (waiting for the result of the action) and 3 (studying and analyzing the result of the action) can often result in problems. In some cases the waiting period needed to receive the results of the action, which is information, is too long to provide a satisfactory correction. In addition, in certain situations, it can take too long to study, analyze and understand the feedback related information to make a timely and satisfactory correction. For example, an organization involved in manufacturing, might spend many millions in the production and marketing of a new product, and it might take many months before its managers find out that the product is not of significant interest to the consumer. The organization might have invested many millions in production facilities and produced a large quantity of the product, before they obtained the bad news. If they received the feedback (bad news) at an earlier point in time they would most likely have saved a considerable amount of money. A simpler example is an intoxicated driver. Such an individual will need more time to respond to the changing road conditions than a sober driver. Thus, the intoxicated driver might not have enough time to make adequate corrections, which can obviously result in serious accidents. Thus, the timing involved with the various components of a feedback cycle can be crucial.
The above suggests that it may be advisable or necessary to consider the delays involved with obtaining feedback related information. For example, a company can deal with this difficulty in relation to introducing a new product by doing market research, which will provide quick feedback, with a relatively small investment. Another method, which can be done after favorable market research, is to produce the product in relatively small quantities and sell it in representative markets. This method might not speed up the attainment of feedback related information, but it will minimize any losses if the product is not in adequate demand.
The possible problems with step 1 of the feedback cycle include the following. If step 1 (taking an action) is totally incorrect, the resulting feedback will generally not provide the information needed to make a correction. It will only indicate that an error has been made. For example, if a ship's captain makes a small error, which results in the ship being half a mile off course, feedback from land sightings will be adequate to make the needed corrections. However, if the ship is 2000 miles off course the feedback from land sightings will only indicate an error. Such feedback will not indicate how to correct the course of the ship. Feedback works best when the action is moderately incorrect or entirely correct. When the errors are extreme, other information, besides feedback, must be obtained to correct the errors, such as from: experienced individuals, experts, computer programs, books and/or experimentation. If we return to the hypothetical ship that is 2000 miles off course, the information needed to make the course correction can come from a radio transmission from a navigation expert on shore.
The difficulties associated with step 4 (which is the next action taken may be modified in a way suggested by the feedback) includes the following. The corrective modification associated with step 4 might result in over correction. An example is a driver that drastically tries to avoid an obstacle on the right dyes as a result of striking a stone wall on the left. Another problem that can manifest with step 4 is the corrective action can be more incorrect than the initial action, which can result from totally misinterpreting feedback or from an error in operating the corrective mechanism. The solution is to be aware of the potential errors associated with step 4 of the feedback cycle, and try to make every effort to avoid such errors.
From the above paragraphs it is probably obvious that feedback can be divided into two separate categories, internal and external. I am defining external feedback for this book as feedback that can be used to control external behavior of a system, such as the marketing efforts of an organization. I am defining internal feedback as feedback that can be used to control internal behavior of a system, such as managerial strategies used to plan, organize and control the efforts of employees within an organization.
With complex systems there is usually a considerable amount of internal and external feedback taking place simultaneously. This is obvious in both organisms and organizations.
Another important systems idea is related to the internal pipe lines of a system, which guides the flow of inputs, transformed products and outputs. That is, the various types of matter, energy and information, including feedback are routed through structures to specific subsystems or sections of the system, where they are processed or used in various ways. This is apparent in living systems, where there are a huge number of such routes. For example, oxygen is taken in and carried through the bloodstream to each cell of the body. In complex organizations, as in living entities, there are a large number of routes for raw materials, energy, completed products, information, etc.
As implied above, systems have specialized components that perform various functions. Examples are, in higher living organisms, the heart, liver, brain, eyes, etc. In organizations, the chief executive officer, board of directors, middle level managers, the first line managers, engineers, lower level employees, various departments, computers, machinery that used to make the product, etc. An understanding of the subsystems and components and how they are connected is important in understanding the functioning and malfunctioning of a system.
To understand the functioning of a system and/or to solve systems problems it can be extremely helpful if a schematic diagram is drawn. Such a diagram can show all the relevant routes of the various types of matter, energy and information and what components they enter. On the diagram the type of matter, energy and/or information involved and precisely where it enters a subsystem should be indicated. How it is transformed and where it is routed after it is transformed should also be indicated. Time intervals of the transformation process and the rate of flow can be indicated, such as 100 gallons a minute, 50 kilobytes per second, one client per hour, etc. This can also involve the rate of expenditures, costs and profits or losses, which can be represented in dollars per hour or similar units.
The subsystems that carry out the transformation process can either be represented as smaller schematic diagrams showing internal routing, or as black boxes. However, if there is a specific problem with the subsystem it is of course necessary to study the subsystem and draw a detailed schematic of its internal components and routes for the relevant matter, energy and information.
If the system is a complex organization, and you are interacting with it as an employee, outside consultant, consumer, etc., it might be useful to include yourself in the schematic diagram, indicating your relative power position and the lines of communication that are available to you. The lines of communication and power position of other relevant individuals should also be included. If your lines of communication and your influence are not adequate to deal with the problem you are working with, try to create new lines of communication with relevant individuals. Finding influential people in the organization and developing a positive relationship with them can increase your influence in the system.
Creating an accurate and detailed schematic diagram of a system, as suggested in the previous three paragraphs, is easier said than done. An organization can have many thousands of relevant components and routes for the transfer of information, energy and matter. A more practical solution might be to draw a schematic that is simplified and only includes the information needed to deal with a specific problem.
Many of the components of a system, including internal and external feedback, can be quantified in mathematical terms, as indicated above. With simple systems it is usually quite easy to create a reasonably accurate mathematical model of the system. Most systems, especially organizations, are complicated. These systems have many different types of inputs, transformations and outputs. The user of mathematical models might find it necessary to simplify the problem or ignore factors that appear to be irrelevant. For example, an manufacturing organization can be thought of as a system that takes in raw materials at a certain rate, transforms the materials into a product at a certain rate, then markets the product at a certain rate, which hopefully results in an adequate rate of profit. The efficiency of the inputs, transformation, and outputs of the system might be evaluated in terms of money. This might include the percentage of profit made with a given investment of money in a specific period of time, such as in a year. (This is the method banks use when they calculate interest, such as 5% per year.)
Mathematical systems models, in relation to industrial organizations, can also include the price of raw materials, the cost of transforming the materials into a product in terms of money, human labor, materials and energy. It can also involve multiple inputs such as how much energy and or money is needed to transform the inputs into the desirable output.
A risk with a system
approach that involves simplified mathematical models is expressed by
"Despite its success at solving complex production problems, operations research has been criticized for its focus on production and lack of focus on the worker and the human dimensions of the management function. Also, many problems in modern business, however complex, require an even wider perspective than that offered by an operations research system wide approach, which often fails to account for unanticipated opportunity or environmental threats. Finally, operations management skills of analysis and solution determination are often viewed as operational skills, not management skills. There is often a gap between the technical expertise of the management scientist and that same scientist's managerial skills. Management science solutions to production problems, which make sense on paper and in computer printout, do not make the same sense on the factory floor. However, operations research has made and will continue to make a valuable contribution to management practice and its techniques have been proven useful."
The problems associated with mathematical models, which are usually simplified representations of very complicated realities, are they often lead to the neglect of highly relevant factors. A system that involves human beings, such as an organization, involves a large number of sociological, psychological, and biological factors, as well as production related actions and economics. In addition, in the production process there can also be physics, chemistry, computer technology and other scientific disciplines involved. It is often extremely difficult or impossible to represent the first three factors mentioned, in a meaningful and accurate way in a mathematical model.
However, a systems
representation of an organization and its problems can certainly involve more
than the relatively simple components that can be easily represented by
simplify mathematical models. That is,
it is certainly possible to conceptualize the organization and its problems in
terms of a system that includes the sociological, psychological, and biological
factors. Such a conceptualization may
involve simplified mathematical models, but it also would include the more
complicated human factors. Thus, a
sophisticated systems perspective is a complex approach to understanding
organizations and solving management problems.
"systems thinking a contemporary and complex approach to problem solving that assumes that problems are complex and relate to a situation; that solutions not only solve the problem but will also impact on the rest of the organization; that solutions should be evaluated on how well they solve the problem (intended results) and how they affect the total organization (unintended results); and that neither problems nor solutions remain constant: situations change, problems change, and new solutions are always needed."
The above definition of systems thinking suggests two principles that relate to systems, which will be discussed below.
An important principle is the tendency for each component of a system to affect other components of the system. This means that if one component is changed (intentionally, inadvertently or spontaneously) in a system there is a tendency for other components of the system to be affected. Systems essentially behave as if they are machines, and if you change a component in a machine, you would expect the entire operation of the machine to be affected. For example, if a person has a toothache, it may affect their job performance, their social interactions, their overall psychological state, and their overall health. Their physiology will be modified in certain ways, to deal with the pain and infection in the tooth.
If the change in a system is
deliberate, it can affect other components of a system in unanticipated ways,
in some cases. Often in an effort to
solve a problem, modifications are made in the system that solves one problem
and causes one or more new problems. The
new problems that result can range in severity from insignificant to more severe
than the original problem. For example,
the hypothetical person mentioned above, with a toothache, might be relieved of
the problem by having the tooth extracted.
This might result in deterioration in appearance, difficulties in
speaking, and related social and psychological problems. The more complicated the system is the more
difficult it is to anticipate the result of changing one factor on other
components of the system. Organizations
are probably the most complicated systems that exist, because they involve many
subsystems, people, lines of communication, machines, and many other
"Systems approach: Management Science views an organization as a unified but complex system composed of interrelated subsystems. Systems theory states that the activity of any subsystem of an organization affects all other subsystems of the organization."
In reality, a factor that may not be thought of as a subsystem can affect the operation of the entire system if it is changed. For example, if the illumination level in a factory is changed, it might affect production. It does not matter whether you conceptualize the illumination as a subsystem, but it is important to understand that changing it can affect the entire system. The precise way it affects production might be the result of simple visual dynamics and/or complex psychological and social dynamics. That is, the beliefs of the workers and the resulting psychological and/or social dynamics can be highly relevant, components of the system. This was seen in the Hawthorne Studies. Any change that takes place in an organization can have significant psychological and social impacts, which can affect the entire organization. Thus, an important consideration is what will: the managers, workers, customers, stockholders, and the general public think of any change, and how will this affect the organization?
Of course, changing a component of an organization does not automatically mean that it will affect the system in significant, meaningful or measurable ways. The idea is that caution is necessary. It is necessary to try to anticipate the impact of a planned change on the entire system. Even with careful assessment, changing an organizational component can have unpredictable results. This suggests that experimentation might be highly advisable when faced with such uncertainties.
Difficulty in precisely predicting the result of changing a component of a complex system is essentially a property of all intricate systems. Complex systems are often unpredictable. Simple systems are usually highly predictable, but organizations are highly complex entities.
Another major idea is that systems and their environments have a tendency to change with time. This is obvious if we examine living organisms or organizations. As a result of the tendency for systems and their environments to change, problems and their solutions may also change with time. A solution that worked well in a specific system, at a specific point in time, may or may not work at another point in time, as a result of changes in the system or its environment. A factor that was not a problem at one point in time might become a problem at another point in time, as a result of time related changes. Even a successful solution to a problem, might eventually become a problem itself, as a result of a changing the system. Thus, it is important to remember methods and solutions that worked in a functional way for a complex system may be dysfunctional at a later point in time, or vice versa.
Another property of complex systems is they tend to be unique entities. That is, they are usually one of a kind. This becomes obvious when we look at human beings, which are extremely complicated systems. When we look at the organizations human beings create, we can see that these larger systems are essentially one of a kind. As a result of the uniqueness of complex systems a methodology, technology, philosophy, solution or anything else, that is functional for one system may or may not be functional for another system. What works for one system may not work for another system, even if the systems appear to be similar. Of course, this is not always the case, but it is necessary to understand this principle when dealing with complex systems, such as organizations.
The ideas presented in the above paragraph, suggest that the accepted or preferred management strategies and techniques will not work in all organizations or with all employees. Thus, formal experimentation, informal trial and error, and sensitivity to feedback, are necessary when applying management theories and methodologies to an organization. This is especially the case when managing an unfamiliar cultural group, or when applying organizational principles to an organization functioning in an unfamiliar cultural environment.
It is interesting to note that simple systems tend to be highly predictable. In general, the simpler the system the more predictable it is, and vice versa. The systems that physicists and chemists work with are good examples of simple systems. They are extremely predictable. However, when such systems contain only a few molecules or atoms they are unpredictable. What appears to make systems predictable are a large number of similar components, such as many trillions of molecules of the same type. That is, a statistical averaging process takes place as a result of a huge number of similar components, which results in predictability. This statistical averaging does not take place to a significant level when a system does not have a large number of identical components. Molecular systems containing only a few particles, and organizations, do not have a huge number of identical components, so the statistical averaging does not take place, to the same extent that it occurs in the highly predictable systems.
Systems can also be predictable as a result of the precise arrangements of components in a structure or force field that does not allow any random motion of its components. Such systems can be extremely predictable even if they only have a few components. Examples are the solar system, a clock, most electrical devices, gasoline engines, etc. Of course, organizations do not fall into this category, because they involve a structure and environment that involves human beings. People each have their own desires and goals independent of the organization, and thus display relatively random behavior from the perspective of the organizational system. Perhaps an organization will be more predictable and stable if it has good employees and many consumers that are predictable, and if it is functioning in a stable environment. This suggests ways of making an organization more stable, but of course it could never become as predictable as the solar system or an electric clock.
Another tendency of many types of systems is they grow or become smaller with time. This is especially apparent with organisms and organizations. The growth process involves taking in additional components (inputs) and adding it to the already existing structure of the system. This process can happen in a functional or dysfunctional way. Some examples are as follows. An animal might increase its muscle mass and become stronger and healthier or it might increase its mass as a result of a cancerous tumor. An organization can grow and become more profitable or it can go into debt and even bankruptcy as a result of dysfunctional growth. The same general principle of functionality and dysfunctionality applies when a system becomes smaller. When a system becomes smaller components are removed from the structure. This can happen in an orderly, (functional and constructive) way, or in a disorderly (dysfunctional and destructive) way. An example involving functionality is seen when an organization becomes more profitable as a result of eliminating unneeded employees, unprofitable divisions or products that are not profitable. An example of dysfunctionality is when an organization becomes smaller and less profitable as a result of losing its market share, losing good employees and when downsizing is done in a dysfunctional way.
A general principle related to dysfunctionality of complex systems becomes obvious if we examine living entities. Plants, animals and human beings tend to get sick. Sooner or later an internal structure, subsystem, or programming mechanism malfunctions. Some of these system sicknesses are analogous to physical illness and relate primarily to structural components. However, some of these sicknesses primarily relate to the behavior of the system and are analogous to mental illness.
A systems sickness can put the entire system in a state of disorder, which may cause further structural breakdowns and/or dysfunctional behavior. This phenomenon can be seen in most, if not all complex systems, including organizations. That is, organizations in effect can get sick. One or more components of an organization can dysfunction, and/or its behavior can be dysfunctional. Some general examples relate to dysfunctions or breakdowns of the following: subsystems of the organization; lines of communication; feedback mechanisms; programming mechanisms; machinery; inputs, etc. More specific examples of organizational sicknesses are:
· A chief executive officer or other high officials that lead the organization in a way that advances his own personal interests at the expense of the functionality of the organization
· An organization that has dysfunctional goals that are partly or totally destructive to its long term well-being
· An organization that has functional goals, but behaves in ways that is inconsistent with achieving the goals
· An organization that has a significant number of employees that behave in a way that is inconsistent with the well-being of the organization
· An organization that is not sensitive to internal and/or external feedback
· An organization that is not sensitive to market demands and is producing a product that is not profitable
· An organization that is losing money, because it is loyal to its employees, and will not fire employees that are no longer needed
Thus, in conclusion, the systems perspective is one of many ways of viewing organizations and dealing with management problems. The following list of questions can help you use the systems perspective to understand and solve organizational problems. You should ignore the questions that are irrelevant to your problem, or you should modify the questions so they are relevant to your problem-solving efforts. You should also add questions to the list that relate specifically to the problem you are trying to solve. (This list of questions should be used with the computer methodology described in chapter 3.)
· What would be the best conceptualization of the system in relation to your problem solving efforts?
· Is the system you defined, a subsystem of a larger system?
· What would be the most useful way to divide the system you defined into subsystems, in relation to your problem solving efforts?
· What is the relevant external environment(s) of the system? Are there any problems with the external environment? Where are the consumers of the organization's product located? Where are the potential consumers of the organization's product located? Where are the suppliers located?
· What is the nature of the internal environment of the system? Are there any problems with the internal environment of the system?
· What are the relevant external behavior(s) of the system? What are the relevant internal behavior(s) of the system? Are there any problems with the external behavior(s) of the system, such as marketing, public relations, etc.? Are there any problems with the internal behavior(s) of the system?
· How opened is the system you are studying? How dependent is the system on external environmental factors? To what extent does the system depend on its environment?
· How sensitive is the system to its internal environment? How sensitive is the system to its external environment? What is the nature of the internal and external feedback mechanisms, in relation to the problem you are working on? What are the actions related to the feedback cycle? How long does it take to determine the results of the action? How long does it take to study the data obtained from the feedback? How can you use the feedback related data to modify the actions of the system or subsystem so it is more functional and efficient? Are there any problems with any of the feedback mechanisms? Can the feedback mechanisms be improved?
· How is the system responding to the feedback? Is the system responding in a functional or dysfunctional way to the feedback?
· What information do you need to draw a good schematic of the system and its problems? Which systems components are involved with the problem? Would it be helpful to draw a schematic of the relevant or malfunctioning subsystems?
· Is it possible to create one or more mathematical models that represent the system or subsystem you are working with? Can you create such a model using costs, profits and losses as units of measurement? Is there any way you can represent the sociological, psychological or biological components with your mathematical model?
· How will the changes you are planning affect other subsystems or components of the organization? Are there likely to be any significant or meaningful affects on other components of the system if the planned changes are made? If a given factor changes or is removed from the system how will it affect other components of the system? What is the relationship between the various subsystems of the organization? How does one subsystem affect the other subsystems in the organization?
The above questions and the entire chapter can be summed up with the following twelve questions. If the twelve questions are answered in relation to a specific system, in written detail, the result will be a good description of the system you are studying.
1) What is the functional purpose of the system, you defined?
2) How many subsystems are there in the system and what are there functions and problems.
3) What is the structure and dynamics of the internal environment of the system?
4) What is the nature of the membrane, barrier or outer structure that separates the system from its external environment?
5) What is the nature of the external environment of the system?
6) What is the nature of the internal feedback cycles of the system?
7) What is the nature of the external feedback cycles of the system?
8) What is the nature of the programming mechanism(s) and program(s) of the system?
9) What is the nature of the input(s) of the system, such as what type of matter, energy, and information enter the system?
10) What is the nature of the transformation processe(s) of the system, in relation to matter, energy, and information?
11) What is the nature of the output(s) of the system, such as what type of matter, energy, and information leave the system?
12) Is the system sick or healthy; is it operating in a functional or dysfunctional way?
What is planning? Most people would probably answer this question by stating: deciding what you want to do and how and when you want to do it. The word has a more or less similar meaning in organizational theory and management, but there are some differences. This can be seen in the following definitions of the word planning taken from the indicated sources:
1) "The management function consisting of
forecasting future events and determining the most effective activities for the
total organization to achieve its objectives."
2) "The formal process of (1) choosing an organizational mission and overall goals for both the short run and long run, (2) devising divisional, departmental, and even individual goals based on organizational goals, (3) choosing strategies and tactics to achieve these goals, and (4) allocating resources (people, money, equipment and facilities) to achieve the various goals, strategies, and tactics." Hellriegel, D. & Slocum, Jr, J. W. (1996) Management, (7th ed.) p. 768.
3) "Setting objectives and formulating the steps to attain them." Luthans F. & Hodgetts R. (1992) Business (2nd ed.) p. G9.
4) "Includes defining goals, establishing strategy, and developing plans to coordinate activities." Robbins, S. P. (1996) Organizational Behavior (7th ed.) p. G-5.
All of the above definitions are useful. Some of these definitions give more information than is needed to define the term planning. The first definition, 1, appears to be defining good planning strategies, but poor planning is still planning. The longest definition, 2, is describing the different types of planning that take place in an organization. The simplest definition, 3, is short and clear, but planning does not always involve "Setting objectives and formulating the steps to attain them." Of course, this is a good formula, but it is not the best definition, which will become more apparent later on in this text. The last definition, 4, on the list indicates what good organizational planning often involves. However, planning does not always involve these components. The definition, 4, also is somewhat deficient because it uses the word plan in defining the word planning, which is a different verb form of the word being defined.
In all fairness to the above authors, it is extremely difficult to define a term in a perfect way in one or two sentences. The above definitions were taken from textbooks that explain the process of planning in detail. Thus, the intended meanings of the less-than-perfect definitions become clear after reading the text.
I believe it will be helpful, if I give my own definition. To minimize deficiencies, I will use an entire paragraph to define and explain the definition, as follows.
Planning is the process of delineating a set of actions that may be carried out in the future: to obtain a specifically defined goal, to deal with contingencies, or to focus efforts toward a general direction without a specifically defined goal. The delineated set of actions may be represented by: a general statement, a diagram, a set of instructions, a series of written steps, or even by the goal itself when the needed actions to obtain the goal is obvious. The word may was used in the definition, because in some types of planning, such as contingency planning, the set of planned actions may or may not be actually carried out. The set of actions can include: allocating resources, working out a precise budget, appointing individuals to manage or carry out the specific tasks, setting up machinery needed to make a product, marketing the product, or just about any action that an individual or organization can carry out. The word future in the definition can relate to time intervals as long as many years to less than a few minutes. That is, certain types of planning, are carried out years in advance, and other types of planning might relate to the sequence of events that are going to be performed in the current work shift. (This will be discussed in detail later on in the text.)
My definition of planning differs slightly from the descriptions taken from the sources, which imply that setting a specific goal is an essential part of planning. My definition implies that the planned set of actions does not necessarily have to relate to a predefined goal. Individuals, including managers can plan activities without setting specific goals. This can involve a general set of scheduled activities that are directed toward a general direction. This idea was expressed by Michael B. McCaskey in Organizational Behavior and the Practice of Management (pp. 487-488, Hampton D.) as follows:
"Most descriptions of organization and individual planning assume that setting goals is basic to any planning worthy of the name. In some important planning situations, however, it is difficult or impossible to set goals, and conventional descriptions of planning do not seem to apply. In fact, many managers realize that some of their most important planning takes place without ever explicitly considering specific goals."
McCaskey explains that in situations where the circumstances are unpredictable planning without setting specific goals might be desirable. Such planning might also facilitate creative solutions to the problems that relate to the unpredictable situation. This type of planning might move toward a general direction, but not toward a specifically predefined goal. McCaskey called this directional planning. However, in situations that are predictable, according to McCaskey, planning that is based on a predefined goal might be more functional than directional planning. Thus, both of these planning strategies have their utility and their disadvantages, which are outlined below.
The disadvantages of planning with predefined goals, imply advantages in directional planning. The disadvantages of defining goals include all of the following. It can result in an excessive focus on the goal, which can result in missing opportunities that were not part of the defined goal. It can interfere with or prevent creativity. The excessive focus on the goal can even interfere with good health habits in some cases. A failure in obtaining predefined goals can be discouraging to all concerned. When goals are obtained earlier than the planned time frame, the result might encourage employees to take it easy and not do much work, until the next goal is defined. And as already stated, it is often not possible to define any realistic goal when the situation is unstable or unpredictable. Of course, the above disadvantages do not manifest in all cases.
The primary disadvantages of directional planning, without predefined goals, imply advantages in defining goals. The disadvantages of this type of planning include all of the following. The planned activities, of directional planning, might add up to a zero or negative result. That is, all involved can be working with maximum effort, performing many tasks, but the actual accomplishment might have little or no value, or the final result can be highly dysfunctional. It can be difficult to measure efficiency in a meaningful way without a predefined goal. It can be difficult to make corrections and improvements based on feedback. Feedback is likely to be most effective when it is based on a predefined goal, which involves assessing how close to the goal the individual or organization came. Thus, partial and even total failures as well as success, in relation to a predefined goal, can indicate valuable information in making improvements in performance. This information is only obtained if a goal is defined.
Thus, plans based on precisely defined goals and directional planning are both valuable tools. Both of these tools have their specialized utility in specific situations.
Many of us might know the basic ideas of directional planning from personal experience. When our lives were in a predictable state, we were more likely to set goals that we were able to achieve. When our circumstances were not in a predictable state, we were not able to plan specific goals that we were able to achieve, or if we did obtain the goal it was at a point in time later than we planned. People who are undergoing a crisis are probably less likely to engage in goal directed planning, unless it is essential and the outcome of the goal is predictable. They may plan the basic activities they intend to carry out, without defining specific goals.
Of course, one can argue that every type of planning relates to a goal. Such an argument would be based on the assumption that the goal has been defined by the planned actions or on an unconscious level. One can further argue that the direction that McCaskey discussed is a type of goal. Such an argument is based on a generalized definition of the word goal. The argument is basically a good one. However, it misses the very important and useful idea expressed by McCaskey. (It is not always feasible to define and successfully obtain specific goals under certain unstable conditions. Under such conditions it might be more functional to plan without specifically defining a goal.)
A modification of the ideas expressed by McCaskey can be based on a continuum. That is, planning can involve goals that range from extremely specific to goals or general directions that are extremely general and undefined, with respect to: the nature of the goal, the sub-goals that make up the goal, the time of completion of the sub-goals and goal, the work involved to obtain the goal, the cost involved, the time investment involved, the effort involved, risks involved, the employees involved, etc. The more predictable the situation is the more precisely the goal and the other factors mentioned above, can be delineated in the plans, and vice versa.
An alternative to the ideas discussed by McCaskey, in relation to not setting specific goals under certain conditions, is as follows. Create a set of plans, including a specific goal that can be easily modified based on feedback. That is, set flexible goals and plans, so they can be modified as required by circumstances. This method can involve defining a precise goal, but it is understood that the goal might have to be modified, based on the feedback from various components of the system, such as the response from the internal and external environment of the organization.
Another basic idea can be added here in relation to goals. Generally when the term goal is used, especially in relation to planning, it relates to an objective that an individual or the organization is trying to achieve. There are also situations or results that we want to avoid. This includes: accidents, fires, sickness, financial problems, litigation, and failures of any type, conflict, strikes, and many other undesirable situations. These undesirable situations can be thought of as negative goals. They can be defined in the same way as desirable goals. Planning can then be carried out to avoid the negative goal. Planning can also be created to deal with a negative goal in the event it manifests, such as planning for the possibility of: an accident, sickness, a strike or a fire.
When a desirable goal is defined, there are often significant possibilities of negative goals manifesting. That is, there are often risks involved with the goal or the set of actions needed to achieve the goal. It is a good idea to define these negative goals and devise a set of plans to avoid them. It is also advisable to develop contingency plans to deal with the negative goal in case it manifests. This is contingency planning.
Contingency planning can also apply to positive situations that might manifest. Examples are, a high demand for a product that was unexpected, or an unexpected development of a new invention by the engineering department of the organization. This type of planning deals with the necessary actions to deal with the desirable situation, in the event it manifests. For example, if there is a high demand for a product or a new invention, the planning must relate to obtaining the resources needed to produce and distribute the product in a timely manner. If there is a failure or delay in this action the company might lose an opportunity to make a high profit.
Now I will return to the specific subject of planning. There are three basic types of planning, which are strategic, long-range, and operational. These concepts are discussed in the following six paragraphs.
Strategic planning is a process of creating a general set of plans that outline general objectives or directions of the organization. Strategic planning is carried out by upper level management, such as the CEO and board of directors. Examples of strategic plans are the mission statement of the organization, what type of products or services should be produced, what type of organizational culture should be officially fostered, or just about any long term major planning effort, carried out by higher level management, that is general in nature and significant to the entire organization. The time frame involved with such planning is usually more than 5 years. (Montana & Charnov p 100) Some strategic plans can even last the entire life span of the organization.
Strategic planning is not really limited to organizations. individuals engage in strategic planning when they set general goals for themselves that relate to how they want to live their lives. Some examples are: the general area of employment that an individual plans to engage in; general educational goals that a person chooses which will affect employment and social opportunities; whether to stay single or find a marriage partner and raise a family, etc. In individuals, strategic planning may also develop on an unconscious level, when an individual develops an image of herself and her future. Also the development of the basic philosophy, values, morals, and personality of an individual, is also a type of strategic planning that takes place more or less on an unconscious level. The culture and subculture of our environment, and the people we interact with during the developing years influence the development of our strategic plans.
Long-range planning is more specific than strategic planning. It also has a shorter time frame associated with it, which is usually one to five years. (Montana P. & Charnov B. p 101) This type of planning is done essentially under the general guide lines that were set by the strategic planning. Long-range planning deals with: major long range financial goals; the specific products that are going to be produced over the next one to five years; major investments in machinery, land and labor; etc.
Long-range planning is also performed by people as they live their lives. When an individual decides to purchase a major appliance, furniture, a car, a boat, she is engaged in long-range planning. When an individual accepts a specific job it is also a type of long-range planning. Such planning is usually controlled or influenced by the strategic plans of the individual, in relation to such factors as self-image, overall type and quantity of education, and general occupational category.
Operational planning usually
has a time frame of one year or less. (
The above suggests that operational planning can be thought of as a number of different types of planning, such as the planning that deals with the month to month, week to week and day to day activities. Thus, it is possible to look at operational planning on a continuum, ranging from year to year down to the smallest relevant time interval. This also relates to the planned activities or steps, which can range from the completed goal, down to a delineation of the smallest second by second steps needed in the production process. This perspective might help with problem solving and understanding failures. A failure in operational planning can take place at any where in the continuum, such as on a month to month basis, on an hour to hour basis or on a second to second basis. For example, all the operational planning in relation to the production of a product might be perfect, accept for the second by second actions of the workers on the assembly line, which can result in serious problems.
Just as with strategic and long-term planning, operational, planning is highly relevant to the activities that people carry out in their personal lives. When we make a schedule for the month, week, or day, we are engaged in operational planning. When we try to achieve any personal goal, there are individual activities and steps that we must carry out. The planning of these steps fit the category of operational planning. If our long-range planning involves college studies our operational planning will involve choosing specific courses and going to class, and studying on a day to day basis. If our long range planning involves losing weight, the associated operational planning will involve delineating low calorie breakfasts, lunches, and suppers, and scheduling specific time periods for exercise. Thus, operational planning is a primary part of any self-improvement effort. It deals with the day to day, and the hour to hour, minute to minute, and second to second steps needed to obtain a self-improvement goal, such as completing a college course of study or losing weight. Most failures in self-improvement efforts involve failures in good operational planning or a failure to carry out the operational plan. The, failure usually takes place at the hour to hour or minute to minute, or second to second level. This becomes obvious, if you know a student that does not do her homework or an overweight individual that fails in her dieting efforts.
From the above paragraphs, it should be apparent that the planning process is complex and can involve many steps. Luthans & Hodgetts presented a simplified, five step list, which clarifies the planning process, which is as follows:
1) "Become Aware of Opportunities" In general this includes, looking for any changes in the system's internal or external environment that might lead to an increase in profits or an increase in the overall functionality of the organization. This includes looking for consumer needs that can be satisfied with new products or services that can be supplied by the organization. It can also involve looking for new methods and technology that can increase profits or overall functionality of the organization.
This step can be applied to the personal life of the individual. Most people are faced with many opportunities throughout their lives. However, such opportunities may or may not be recognized. Examples include, opportunities related to higher education, job offers, opportunities to make friends, chances to form relationships with members of the opposite sex, opportunities to purchase unique products and services, etc.
2) "Establish Objectives " This involves the creation of long-term and short-term goals that relate to an opportunity, as discussed in step 1). For example, if there is an unsatisfied consumer need, the company can set a goal to create and market a product that will satisfy the need.
This idea can obviously be applied to the personal life of the individual. When we see an opportunity, such as a chance to attend a good college, we might set long-term and short-term goals that relate to the opportunity, such as plans: to apply to the college, to obtain high grades, and to graduate from the college.
3) "Choose from Alternative Courses of Action" This involves choosing the various methods and alternative ways of obtaining the goal(s). Such choices can be based on what would work best for the organization, given its strengths and weaknesses, and the circumstances of the internal and external environment of the system. For example, if the goal involves marketing a new product, the executives would have to choose the marketing strategy that would work best for the company. This might depend on the size and reputation of the company. If the organization was small with a reputation for high quality and specialized services, it might sell its product at a higher price, to a relatively small number of customers that need or value the high quality and special service. If the organization was large and it had a reputation for low prices, it might mass market its product all over the world, without any specialized services.
This step is of course commonly used by everyone throughout life. That is, when an individual sets a goal, she must choose from alternative methods to achieve the goal. People generally choose the method or alternative that is best for them or easiest for them to carry out.
4) "Formulate Derivative Plans" A derivative plan delineates a series of steps or actions that convert the more general long-range plans into specific operational plans.
We all do this step in our daily lives, but it may be carried out in our minds on a conscious or unconscious level. We convert our long-range goals and plans into specific steps that constitute an operational plan. If we fail to do this or if we do it inadequately, which often happens with self-improvement goals, we will fail to obtain our objective.
5) "Budget the Plan" The budget is a written statement indicating how much money will be spent to carry out the plans needed to obtain a goal. It might be detailed to the point that it indicates how much money will be spent by each department working on the goal and it might also indicate how much money is needed to achieve each of the sub-goals of the main goal.
The individual often does not make a written budget when dealing with plans and goals. However, a budget based on rough estimations is probably created in the minds of most people. That is, we may estimate how much money it will cost to achieve a specific objective.
I will modify the list Luthans & Hodgett created, by adding six additional steps. These steps apply to organizations and individuals, which will be apparent without specific examples. The additional steps are as follows:
0) Create and look for opportunities. (I marked this with a 0 because it should be the first step on the list. However, if there is an apparent opportunity, this step can obviously be skipped.) This step implies an interesting question how do you create or find opportunities? As will be apparent from the following paragraphs, there is no absolute way of obtaining opportunities. Basically, all of the following techniques are more or less based on chance, trial and error, and creative thinking. However, if the techniques are repeated over a period of time new opportunities are likely to manifest.
Opportunities can be created by experimentation, which can be formal laboratory research or informal trial and error. Even experimental manipulations without any specific objective, can sometimes reveal valuable information, that can reveal opportunities, such as trying to determine what would happen: if you poked a jellyfish, if you mix two chemicals together, if you put an electric current through an entity, if you compliment the consumers for using your product, if you try to sell portable telephones to people in underdeveloped countries, etc. Such experimental manipulation can occasionally reveal interesting information that can lead to opportunities.
Another way of creating opportunities is to form new relationships with foreign nations, organizations, and/or individuals. The relationship that is formed usually must be positive in nature, if it is going to lead to opportunities. Forming relationships with organizations or individuals that have more money or power than you have is one way of creating opportunities. A more precise way is to form relationships with specific organizations and individuals that can supply the opportunities you are interested in. Developing relationships with people with a specific need can result in opportunities to satisfy the need, in relation to selling a product or service. Creating relationships with people that can satisfy your needs or the needs of your organization can also lead to opportunities. In general, forming relationships with organizations or individuals that have qualities, strengths, weaknesses, and needs that are different from yours, or your organization, will increase the chances of obtaining new opportunities.
Often there are opportunities that already exist, but it is necessary to find them. This can sometimes be achieved, as stated above, by forming relationships with organizations and/or individuals. Another way is to evaluate the needs and requirements of society an its various market segments. This can include various types of questionnaires and market research.
Note: The following numbers start at 6 because they are meant to follow the fifth step in the list created by Luthans & Hodgetts, which was presented above.
6) Estimate the time involved to achieve the various sub-goals and time needed to complete the entire project. The time needed to carry out plans are sometimes crucial. In some cases, it might not be possible to obtain the goal if the plans cannot be carried out within a specific period of time.
7) Consider the risks involved, in relation to obtaining the goal, and derive a set of plans to avoid the risks. It is possible to find or create many business and general life opportunities, but often there is an excessive risk involved. This is especially true with business opportunities that involve a considerable investment of money.
8) Consider the unlikely positive and negative outcomes that might manifest, and derive a set of contingency plans to deal with them. If highly functional contingency plans can be developed, it may increase the desirability of attempting to obtain goals that have a significant risk associated with them.
9) Create a simulation model to test the actions and goal that comprise the plan, and make appropriate corrections in the goal and overall plan as suggested by the simulation. The simulation can indicate ways a making better plans, and it can reduce the chances of serious errors and adverse consequences. The simulation model could be done in one or more of the following ways: in the mind, on paper, in a computer simulation, and in a small scale test project.
10) As the plans are carried out, evaluate the feedback and make needed modifications in the plans, to correct errors or to increase overall functionality. When the situation is unpredictable or unstable, many corrections in the plans might be necessary. Thus, when the circumstances are unpredictable, it is best to make a set of plans that can easily be modified.
In conclusion: It should be apparent from the above paragraphs, that the planning process is involved and complex. If plans are inadequate, there is a high probability of a failure in relation to goal attainment. There are many problems that can manifest in the planning process. The following is a list of questions that can help with planning and solving related problems:
· What type of plans are you working on, such as strategic, long-range or operational? What time interval does your plan relate to, such as many years, less than 5 years, a year, a month, a week, a day, an hour, etc.?
· What are your objectives or hopes in relation to your planning effort? Is the situation stable and predictable enough to define precise goals? Is it more feasible to create plans without specifically defined goals?
· How flexible are your plans? Are the circumstances predictable enough to use precise plans that are not flexible? Are the circumstances unpredictable enough to necessitate the use of flexible plans?
· What are all the negative goals, risks and undesirable consequences, that you want to avoid? How can you create a set of plans that will minimize the chances of the manifestation of the negative goals? What type of contingency plans do you need to deal with the negative goals, in the event they manifest?
· What are all the unexpected and positive outcomes that might manifest? What opportunities might result from the manifestation of unexpected positive outcomes? What plans would be required to avoid losing such opportunities?
The process of organizing is a major component of the management process, and it is based on the planning process, which was discussed in the previous chapter. However, this does not define or explain the process. Thus, the question remains, what is organizing? If you ask most people this question, they might say putting things in order or arranging things in an orderly way. The definition for organizations and their management is similar, but it is not exactly the same. This can be seen in the following definitions of the word organizing taken from the indicated sources:
1) "The process of developing an orderly way for
bringing together the physical and human resources that are essential to
accomplish the goals of the enterprise."
2) "The managerial function of creating a structure of relationships that will enable employees to carry out management's plans and meet its objectives." Hellriegel, D. & Slocum, Jr, J. W. (1996) Management, (7th ed.) p. 767.
3) "Efficiently bringing together human and material resources to attain objectives." Luthans F. & Hodgetts R. (1992) Business (2nd ed.) p. G9.
4) "Determining what tasks are to be done, who is to do them, how the tasks are to be grouped, who reports to whom, and where decisions are to be made." Robbins, S. P. (1996) Organizational Behavior (7th ed.) p. G-5.
The definition created by Montana & Charnov is the best on the list, because it includes both human and physical resources. Physical resources are an essential part of most organizations, and include such items as raw materials, tools, machinery and the buildings and land where the employees perform their work. The second and fourth definition leaves out all of the physical components in the organizing process, and only includes human resources. The definition created by Luthans & Hodgetts includes human and material resources. However, material resources is vague terminology. It obviously includes raw materials, but does it include tools, machinery and the buildings and land where the work is performed.
I will give my own definition of organizing. To minimize deficiencies in my definition, I will use two paragraphs to define and explain the concept, as follows:
Organizing is the process of arranging components in a specific way to obtain a goal. If we modify this definition so it specifically applies to organizations and their management, we obtain: Organizing is the process of arranging human and physical components to achieve organizational objectives. The word arranging means in this definition the physical arrangement of tools, machinery, raw materials, people, or other components as well as all of the following: obtaining appropriate managers, experts and workers; making raw materials, tools, and/or machinery available to workers; finding qualified employees, organizational members and customers; the creation of personal contacts; the development of human relationships, such as with employees, suppliers, expert consultants; creation of communication channels between individuals and/or machines; the creation of feedback channels; coordinating different components of the system, delegating authority, creating departments to carry out specific tasks, creating the overall structure and hierarchy of the organization; etc. The word goal in the definition is used in a very general sense and it means one or more of the following: a specifically defined objective, a loosely defined objective, an objective that was never precisely defined, efforts to reduce overall risk, efforts to reduce a specific risk, efforts to increase overall functionality of a system, efforts to reduce dysfunctionality of a system, etc.
The concept of organizing, as defined above, has two primary steps. The first step is to, create plans that delineate the specific nature and shape of the organizational structure you are trying to create, with your organizing efforts. This may be considered part of the planning process that was discussed in the previous chapter, or it certainly overlaps the planning process. Such plans can be created in the mind in simple situations, or on paper when the circumstances are complexed. The second step is to create the organizational structure as indicated in the plans. This involves the actual process of arranging physical and human resources that relate to the attainment of organizational or personal goals.
Another way of looking at organizing is from an abstract systems perspective. Organizing is the process of reducing entropy (disorder) in a system. This can be restated as organizing is the process of increasing order in a system. A orderly system is predictable and a disorderly system is unpredictable, especially in relation to predefined functions of the system. That is, an orderly system is likely to carry out its intended function, and a disorderly system is likely to behave in a random or chaotic way, and not carry out its intended function. In general the greater the degree of order in the system the greater the predictability and functionality, and vice versa. Thus, the systems perspective suggests that there can be a great value in organizing for the purpose of reducing disorder and increasing predictability and overall functionality of the system. That is, rearranging the components that comprise a system into a highly organized structure can have great practical value.
If we examine organizational structures, it is apparent that organizing takes place at different levels, just as the planning process does. There is organizing that relates to the permanent or semi-permanent organizational structure. This is analogous to strategic planning, and in some cases may be the result of such planning. I will call this strategic-organizing. There is organizing that relates to the creation of a specific product or service produced by the organization, which is likely to exist only during the life of the product. This is analogous to long-term planning, and can be directly related to long-term planning. Thus, I will call this long-term organizing. There is also a type of organizing that relates to the month to month, week to week and day to day goals and activities. This is analogous to operational planning, and in some cases may be the direct result of such planning. And finally, there is a type of organizing that relates to short-term activities, events and goals. I will call this short-term organizing. An example of this type of organizing is seen in special events, where the organize structure is temporary in nature, such as an organized Christmas celebration, the organizing of a temporary committee, etc.
Thus, it is apparent from the above paragraph that organizing can be thought of in terms of a continuum, ranging from organizing that is meant to be permanent to organizing that is meant to last a very short interval of time.
Organizing can be broken up into internal and external categories. Internal organizing is the organizing process that takes place within an organization, and it involves the employees, tools, machinery, and raw materials owned by the organization. Most of the organizing process that managers are involved with is internal in nature. External organizing is any organizing that an organization carries out in its external environment. This can involve developing relationships with other organizations, organizing distribution channels for the organization's products, developing relationships with customers, etc.
The organizing process can also be divided into categories based on the type of organizing. That is, there is the organizing of people and their efforts (which are usually employees), organizing of physical resources (such as tools, machinery, raw materials, and work space), and organizing of information. The manager is likely to organize employees to perform the other organizing processes mentioned.
Luthans & Hodgetts presented (pp 1922-200) a five step list, which provides additional insight into the organizing process. This list is as follows:
1) "Formulate Goals and Objectives" This can be thought of as an extension of the planning process. That is, organizing is based on the goals that were set in the planning process, such as goals that relate to the production and marketing of a new product. In addition, there may be a specific set of goals that involve the organizing process, such as goals that relate to the organizing of the chain of command or how to organize the assembly line for maximum efficiency.
This step can be applied to the organizing process that individuals carry out in their daily lives. People obviously make plans and set goals. However, people sometimes make plans that are specifically related to organizing. For example, an individual might plan to rearrange his furniture into a more organized arrangement during his vacation. A student might plan to reorganize his social life after he leaves school.
2) "Develop Coordination” This involves synchronizing the various components of the system so it functions in a harmonious way to produce the goals of the organization. That is, the efforts of individuals, departments, suppliers, and every other component of the organization should be synchronized to obtain the goals. If they are not synchronized various actions will happen at inappropriate points in time. For example, when a new product is produced, the marketing department must be ready to market it. If the efforts of production and marketing are not coordinated the new product might have to be stored until the marketing department has developed an effective advertising campaign and lines of distribution.
This step sometimes applies to the individual. For example, when people organize parties, weddings, and similar events, it is important that efforts of all involved are coordinated. The food must be delivered, prepared, and arranged at a certain time. This means the efforts of the individuals involved in food preparation must be coordinated. The guests must arrive on time. In the case of the wedding, the efforts of the bride, groom, and priest or rabbi must be coordinated.
3) "Delegate Authority" This involves giving: decision making power and various tasks to others, who are usually subordinates. If the manager does not delegate enough authority to others, he will have to perform many of the tasks himself.
Some organizational structures automatically delegate a considerable amount of authority to lower level workers. This allows workers to make many important decisions themselves. Such workers might manage their own work and each other. This structure can eliminate the need for a large number of first line managers. However, this might require the hiring of workers who are highly responsible and skilled. This can be more expensive than hiring workers who are less responsible and less skilled.
There are organizational structures that are just the opposite of the above. The officials of such organizations do not delegate much authority to workers. Their employees must consult with their superiors who make the final decisions in the work environment. The employees in such organizations may have to communicate with superiors by detailed verbal explanations, filling out forms, or by written reports. This structure will generally require considerably more managers, than the example discussed in the previous paragraph. However, it might be possible to hire less skilled and less responsible individuals, than would be required with other structures. With this structure the organization might save money by utilizing workers with low skill and reliability, but more money would probably be required to hire the additional managers needed to supervisors the employees.
Question, do individuals in their personal lives delegate authority? The answer is yes. People generally organize a set of professionals, such as physicians, surgeons, dentists, lawyers, repair personnel to make some limited decisions and perform certain procedures. Usually, before such authority is delegated to the professional, the individual is informed of the procedure, and a consent form is signed. It might be different from the process that takes place in organizations, but it is still a process of delegating authority to another individual. A more extreme example of delegating occurs when an individual becomes severely physically or mentally disabled. The entire responsibility for the well-being of the individual might be delegated to others.
4) "Shape the Structure" There are various ways that an organization can be structured or shaped. The best structure will generally depend on the circumstances. Some of the primary components that can be involved in the shape of an organizational structure, include: the relative degree of flexibility of the organization, the number of managerial levels, the span of control. I will briefly discuss these components as follows.
Flexibility: Some organizations are organized in a way that allows them to deal rapidly with changing circumstances. Flexibility, allows them to take advantage of opportunities and to adjust to adverse changes in their circumstances. There are of course organizations that are just the opposite, rigid. In addition, there are many organizations that are in-between the two extremes.
The number of managerial levels: The simplest organization can have one manager supervising a few workers, such as in a small privately owned business. Larger organizations usually require a hierarchy of managerial control, which might involve a CEO supervising several top managers, who supervises middle level managers, who supervise first line managers, who supervise the workers. In very large organizations there can be many more levels of managers than expressed in the above example. In general, an organization should try to function with the least number of levels possible, because it is more efficient. The efficiency relates to the financial cost of hiring managers. However, there are other factors that relate to efficiency. It might be more difficult for people to communicate with the various segments of the organization, when there are many managerial levels.
The organizing process often involves the creation of departments, primarily in
large organizations. Departments are
created to achieve sub-goals that relate to main goals of the
organization. For example, a large
organization might create an engineering department to design new products; a
production department to manufacture the product; a marketing department to
advertise, distribute, and sell the product.
This departmental division is obviously based on function. Another example, is a departmental division
based on geography. That is, a large
organization can have different departments that serve the needs of specific
geographical locations, such as the East Coast division, the
In the smaller organizations, such as a small to medium size privately owned business, there are generally no departments. In these businesses, individuals might serve the function of a department. That is, there might be a division of labor based on any of the above examples, such as a division based on function, process, type of customer, etc.
Most of the ideas expressed in the above paragraphs apply to individuals as well as organizations. This is seen when the ideas of strategic, long-term, operational, and short-term organizing are applied to the individual, as follows.
Individuals engage in strategic organizing, just as organizations do, when they form relationships that are meant to be permanent or semi-permanent, such as marriage, and close personal friendships. If an individual arranges the structure of his house in a permanent way, such as by means of construction, he is engaged in a type of strategic organizing, which is based on the way the term was defined above. Long-term organizing is seen when an individual arranges his furniture, and forms relationships that are likely to last only a couple of years, such as college friendships. The individual engages in operational organizing when he organizes the smaller items in his house, such as small electronic devices, kitchen utensils, books, important papers, etc. When an individual arranges a party, he is engaged in a type of short-term organizing. When the individual cleans his house and rearranges it, he is engaged in short-term organizing.
In relation to the individual, the organizing process can be divided into three general types, which are mental organizing, social organizing and physical organizing. These categories can also be highly relevant to people who want to manage others in an organizational structure. I will discuss each of these categories in the following nine paragraphs.
Mental organizing is a process that might not take place on a totally conscious level. It involves organizing thoughts, emotions, experiences, and other information in such a way as to increase the mental health and overall functionality of the individual. A general example of mental organizing is when an individual incorporates recently learned material with experiences and ideas learned in the past. Another general example is when an individual adjusts to a new life situation, which will most likely involve the organizing process. New situations, especially if they are disruptive or unexpected in nature, such as death of a relative, divorce, suddenly obtaining a huge some of money, becoming extremely successful in a short period of time, can cause mental disorganization. This will necessitate reorganization to maintain prior levels of mental health and overall functioning. The organizing or reorganizing process can involve assessment of the new situation, the reassessment of past experiences, the emotional acceptance of the new situation, the learning of new material and skills needed in the new situation, and then organizing all of the above in a functional way.
The mental organizing process might facilitate learning and the retention of information. That is, when individuals organize material they learned, they are probably more likely to develop a deep understanding of the material, and they are probably more likely to retain what they learned. This is especially the case, if they organize the new material with their own ideas and with information they previously gained through the learning process.
The mental organizing process, in the individual, can take place when people discuss their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and experiences with others. The writing process can also result in mental organizing, in relation to the material that is being written.
The above suggests the opposite question. What factors might interfere with the mental organizing, or reorganizing, processes? Probably all of the following: high levels of prolonged anxiety; lack of sleep; over work; poor nutrition, a hostile boss, manager, supervisor, instructor, parent; any type of unfriendly, unfair, or cruel treatment; many life disrupting experiences; a serious accident; any type of illness; etc.
The mental organizing process applies to organizations, because they are primarily composed of people. When an individual first enters an organization there may be a readjustment process required, which involves adjusting to the organizational culture, subculture, and learning the new skills required by the job. This requires mental organization and/or reorganization.
Managers can use the ideas expressed above and the general principle of the mental organizing process, in a practical way. They can understand that people must go through a mental organizing process, especially when they first become involved with the organization. The manager can do everything possible to avoid interfering with the mental organizing process. They can also do everything possible to facilitate the process.
Social organizing is the process, carried out by the individual, when he forms various types of relationships, at various levels of closeness, with people. This process includes: getting to know people, rejecting some people, keeping certain individuals at specific social distances, forming a closer relationship with certain individuals at a certain point in the development of the relationship, distancing the self from certain individuals at a certain point in the relationship, scheduling intervals of time to work or socialize with certain individuals, etc. This process is important for the individual, because the nature, quality and extent of his social organizing may affect his overall success. The process of social organizing is also relevant to the organization, because when people become involved with organizations they inadvertently or intentionally organize their own social network, within the organization.
Physical organizing is the process that individuals carry out when they arranging physical entities in their environment. This includes arranging: furniture, small portable items, papers, kitchen utensils, tools, etc. The ability for an individual to organize such items can have relevance to the manager. That is, employees might have different abilities or skill levels in relation to physical organizing, which might affect certain types of work performance.
As is apparent from the above paragraphs, the organizing processes that the individual carries out are extremely important. The level of organization in a person's life and the ability he has to organize, in relation to mental, social and physical organizing, is likely to affect his overall life chances, in all areas, including: education, occupation, finances, physical and mental health.
The different types of organizing can probably affect each other to some extent. For example, a mentally disorganized individual, is likely to behave in a way that will cause social disorganization. Social disorganization is also likely to cause mental disorganization. This suggests that a vicious cycle can develop that might maintain a high level of disorder in the life of some individuals. And just the opposite is probably true with some people. That is, there are individuals who are highly mentally organized, which can lead to a socially and physically organize life, which can facilitate a high level of mental organization.
In conclusion: It should be apparent from the above paragraphs, that the organizing process is involved and complex. If organizing is inadequate, there is a high probability of a failure in relation to goal attainment. There are many problems that can manifest in the organizing process. The following is a list of questions that can help with organizing and solving related problems:
· What are your plans and goals? How do you have to organize to carry out your plans and obtain your goal(s)?
· Do you have a set of plans that specifically relate to the organizing process? How do you plan to organize the system? What are your specific goals in relation to your organizing efforts?
· Is there a high level of entropy (disorder) in the system you are trying to organize? How can you reduce the entropy in the system? How can you increase the overall level of order and functionality in the system? What components would you have to obtain or rearrange to achieve a high level of functionality in the system?
· Is your organizing effort related to strategic plans? Is your organizing effort related to long-term plans? Is your organizing effort related to operational plans? Is your organizing effort related to one or more of the above? Are you involved in short-term organizing?
· Are you involved in an internal or an external organizing effort? Does your organizing effort involve internal and external organizing?
· Are you organizing people, physical resources, or information? Are you organizing all of the above?
· Are your organizing efforts related to coordination of human and/or physical resources? If so, how can you schedule the related tasks, which must perform, in the most efficient way?
· Do you plan to delegate authority, in your organizing efforts? If you delegate more authority can you increase your work efficiency? If you delegate authority to subordinates will any significant problems result?
· How do you expect to shape or structure your organization? How flexible, will your structure be? How many levels of management will there be in your structure? Is it possible to reduce the number of levels in your organizational structure, without the loss of productivity?
· Are you going to create departments with your organizing efforts? What functions will each department perform?
· Are your organizing efforts related to an organization? Are your organizing efforts related to your personal life? If it is related to your personal life are you engaged in mental organizing, social organizing or physical organizing?
· How can you increase the level of your mental organization? How can you increase the level of mental organization of the people that work with you? How can you reduce stress and disruptions, which cause mental disorganization, in your life and in the lives of the people that work with you?
· Do you have any social organizing goals? Are these goals related to friendship or the work environment? What is the primary purpose of your social organizing efforts?
· Do you have any physical organizing goals? How do you expect to carry out these goals?
· What organizing efforts would be required to increase the overall functionality and success in your life?
What is leading? If you ask most people this question, they might say leading is the process of guiding people in a controlled way toward an objective. The definition for organizations and their management is essentially similar, but it is not exactly the same. This becomes apparent from the following definitions of the word leading, which were taken from the indicated sources:
1) "The managerial function of communicating with and motivating others to perform the tasks necessary to achieve the organization's objectives." Hellriegel, D. & Slocum, Jr, J. W. (1996) Management, (7th ed.) p 765.
2) "Includes motivating subordinates, directing others, selecting the most effective communication channels, and resolving conflicts." Robbins, S. P. (1996) Organizational Behavior (7th ed.) p G-4.
3) "Induce (another or others) to accept the validity of something (as a belief, course of action, or point of view)" Franklin Language Master electronic dictionary LM 5000. This definition is apparently not from a book on management or organizational behavior, but it provides some insight.
The first definition is the best because it clearly defines the process of leading. The second definition contains the phrase "selecting the most effective communication channels" which defines an ideal form of leadership. That is, if the most effective communication channels are not selected, and the other components mentioned are present, the process is still leading. Perhaps this is not good leading, but that is besides the point.
We might be able to gain further insight into the process of leading, if we examine the related concept of leadership. Most people would probably define leadership as the ability to lead others. The following definitions, taken from the indicated sources, reveal the organizational and managerial perspective of leadership.
1) "Leadership is the process by which one
individual influences others to accomplish desired goals."
2) "Influencing others to act toward the attainment of a goal." Hellriegel, D. & Slocum, Jr, J. W. (1996) Management, (7th ed.) p 765.
3) "The process of influencing people to direct their efforts toward the achievement of particular objectives." Luthans F. & Hodgetts R. (1992) Business (2nd ed.) p G7.
4) "The ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals." Robbins, S. P. (1996) Organizational Behavior (7th ed.) p G-4.
5) "Leadership is social influence in an organizational setting, the effects of which are relevant to, or have an impact upon, the achievement of organizational goals." Saal, Frank E. & Knight, Patrick A. (1995) Industrial/ Organizational Psychology: Science and Practice (2nd ed.) p 320.
The first three definitions define the concept adequately. The fourth definition inaccurately implies that the leadership process is limited to a group. This is not accurate because leadership can involve one leader and one follower. The fifth definition is also quite good, but it is a general organizational psychological definition, and it is not specifically focused on the management process. Thus, leadership can be defined from many different theoretical and philosophical perspectives. Bass stated, "There are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept." (Saal, & Knight p 319.)
I will give my own definitions of leading and leadership. To minimize deficiencies in my definitions, I will use two paragraphs to define and explain the concepts, as follows:
Leading is the process of guiding the actions of one or more individuals to obtain a goal. Leadership is the ability to perform the process of leading, as defined above. The word guiding means in this definition one or more of the following: influencing, controlling, or limiting an aspect of behavior. The word actions in this definition means behavior that is in some way relevant to obtaining the goal. The word goal in the definition is used in a very general sense and it means one or more of the following: a specifically defined objective, a loosely defined objective, an objective that was never precisely defined, efforts to reduce overall risk, efforts to reduce a specific risk, efforts to increase overall functionality of a system, efforts to reduce dysfunctionality of a system, etc.
The concept of leading as defined above, involves observing others, motivating others, and communicating with others, in relation to obtaining a goal. This can be represented in a series of seven steps. Incidentally, these steps also generally apply to the process of influencing friends, family, volunteers or anyone else to carry out your desires. The steps are as follows:
1) A plan, a goal, or set of tasks are delineated, which can be on paper or in the mind of the manager.
2) A set of instructions are created that relates to the above (step 1). This can be done in a precise way on paper, or in a general way, on a conscious or unconscious level, in the mind of the manager.
3) The employees who are to carry out the instructions are selected, based on availability, relevant abilities and motivational factors. This can be a tentative list created in the mind of the manager, or an actual selection and evaluation of the employees.
4) The manager considers how she can increase the motivation of the individuals who are to carry out the required Instructions.
Note, the manager's power to motivate the workers, can be represented by the Bertram Raven model, which involves: reward power, coercive power, expert power, referent power, information power, and power based on legitimate authority. Reward power means giving rewards to the employee for proper work performance, such as money, extra bonuses, promotions, praise, promises for compensation in the future, etc. Coercive power is just the opposite of the above. It involves punishment and/or threats of punishment, if the worker does not do the work in the manner required by the manager. This punishment can include: firing the employee, harsh criticism, demotion, etc. Expert power is the ability to influence others based on expert knowledge. That is, the manager with expertise might be able to influence the workers simply because she knows more than they do; as a result they follow her orders. Referent power is the ability to influence others based on positive personal traits, which result in admiration or liking. This might be based on a social and/or emotional desire to be identified with or obtain such traits. However, referent power might work because people want to be liked by an individual or manager with certain positive traits. They might simply obey the manager with positive traits simply because they like her. That is, people want to please individuals they like. Information power is a process of influencing others with specific information. For example, a manager might be able to persuade her subordinates to obey the rules if she provides relevant information, such as there are hidden surveillance cameras on the factory floor. Power based on legitimate authority involves following orders simply because the individual giving the orders is in a formal position of authority. Thus, employees might obey their manager simply because she is in charge, and was given the formal position and authority of manager by the organization.
5) The instructions are prepared for the process of communication, in such a way as to be understood and accepted by the employees who will carry out the instructions. In this process the instructions are broken up into tasks that can be understood and successfully performed by the employees.
6) The instructions are communicated to the employees. This can be done orally, in writing and/or through another person. In modern times, recordings or video can also be used. Ideally, at least two of the above should be used, especially if the instructions are complicated.
7) The manager observes the performance of the employees and makes appropriate corrections. The corrections might include changes and/or repetitions of one or more of the above steps.
The above paragraphs suggest an interesting question. Are managers leaders? The answer to this question is partly based on the perspective and definition of the word leader. It also depends on the manager and her specific job. Most managers engage in the leading process to at least a minimal extent. In fact most human beings engage in the process of leading to at least a minimal degree at one time or another during their personal or professional lives. Thus, a manager is not necessarily a leader, but she is a person that generally provides at least some leadership. Some managers are truly leaders and they may change the course of the entire organization. They may spend a considerable amount of their time influencing others in a manner of a leader.
Thus, since most managers perform at least some leadership functions, and some managers are truly leaders, it is worthwhile to discuss leadership. This is done in the following paragraphs.
Are some people born with genetic predispositions to be leaders? The genetic theory of leadership and its variations is an old theoretical perspective. However, most modern sources disagree with this theory. (Montana & Charnov p 221.) The evidence suggests that leadership involves a set of learned skills that are specific to the leadership situation. In general, leaders tend to have the following acquired (learned) abilities, skills and traits.
1) The leader should have the specific expertise and knowledge required for the specific leadership situation. For example, an individual leading a team of electrical engineers in the production of a new product, should have expertise in electrical engineering.
2) Leaders usually have the necessary: social status, prestige and/or power to gain the respect and control of their followers.
3) The leader should have the necessary cultural knowledge and experience to deal with the individuals she is leading. That is, the leader should be knowledgeable with the customs, language, style, etc., of the people she is leading. It is also often important to be knowledgeable of the subculture of the individuals being led. Ideally the leader should be a member of the culture and subculture of the people she is leading. However, in the work environment, where people get paid to follow orders, this might be much less important than in other types of leadership.
4) The leader should have a good set of skills (interpersonal skills) in relation to dealing with other people. This includes the ability to control the self as well as the ability to control others. This also includes the capability to project confidence, enthusiasm, friendliness, etc.
5) Leaders are often high self-monitors and they adjust their behavior to the specific situation. That is, they monitor their own social behavior, such as style of communication, body language, and adjust it to deal with the individuals and circumstances they are faced with at a specific point in time.
6) Leaders usually have good communication skills, in relation to the people they are leading. This includes an ability to explain instructions and other information to followers. The leader should know how to communicate verbally and nonverbally to the followers. It also includes the capability to understand the verbal and nonverbal communication style of the people being led.
The above list is based on a general assessment of leaders from an anthropological, sociological and social psychological perspective. Thus, the list does not specifically deal with managers as leaders, nor does it deal with what organizations look for in a managerial leader. Hellriegel & Slocum present two lists (pp 25-27 & pp 446-448) that are specifically aimed at what the modern organization wants in a managerial leader. Their list is more specific in relation to leadership in modern organizations, but it does not contradict the general list presented above. The lists created by Hellriegel & Slocum are combined into one list and are presented below:
1) "empowerment When a leader shares influence and control with followers." This is a process of sharing power with employees, such as the power to control their work, the power to take responsibility, the power to manage some of their own work, the power to perform some leadership functions, etc.
2) "intuition The ability to scan a situation, anticipate changes, take risks, and build trust." This is an intuitive ability to evaluate a set of circumstances and respond in the most functional way. It probably is based on specific knowledge, experience and thinking skills that allow the leader to make highly functional decisions when dealing with changing circumstances.
3) "self-understanding The ability to recognize a person's own strengths and weaknesses." It is important to know your strengths, because that is what you will offer the organization. Knowing your strengths is also a primary component of self-confidence. It is also important to know your weaknesses, because it makes it easier to compensate for the deficiencies, such as by delegating tasks that you cannot do well to subordinates.
4) "vision The ability to imagine different and better conditions and ways to achieve them." This is the ability and willingness to visualize improvements in organizational functioning and create realistic plans and goals that relate to such improvements.
5) "value congruence The ability to understand the organization's guiding principles and employees values and reconcile the two." This idea is based on the reality that employees and the organization are likely to have at least some values that are different. The skilled leader can deal successfully with these differences, such as by structuring organizational tasks, sub-goals and rewards in such a way that it does not contradict the employee=s values. An example can be an employee that has religious values, and wants to take a vacation on a religious holiday. Such values can easily be dealt with by allowing the employee to have the vacation, providing she works extra hours on other days of the year.
6) "technical skills The ability to apply specific methods, procedures, and techniques in a specialized field." This was already mentioned in the previous list, and it is very important for the modern manager who is in a leadership position.
7) "interpersonal skills The ability to lead, motivate, manage conflict, and work with others." This was also mentioned in the previous list, and it is necessary for all types of leadership.
8) "conceptual skills The ability to view a problem, an issue, or the organization as a whole and its interrelated parts." This is important for all types of problem solving. It is especially important to see the organization as a whole system with interrelated parts, because this can avoid undesirable and unanticipated outcomes of problem solving.
9) "communication skills The abilities to send and receive information, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes." This was already mentioned in the previous list, and it is essential for all types of leadership.
10) "critical thinking The careful consideration of the implications of all elements of a problem." This is also important for all types of problem solving.
It should be apparent from
the above paragraphs, that a person that is a skilled leader in one situation
might be totally inadequate for the leadership position in another situation. For example, a leader who has an excellent
technical and cultural background to lead a team of electrical engineers in the
In general, leaders can be divided into two basic categories, which are informal and formal. Informal leaders are individuals who are unofficially treated as leaders by members of a group. Informal leaders are found in friendship groups, informal discussion groups, and in the work environment. Formal leaders are individuals who are officially designated as leaders, such as managers, elected officials, individuals of high military rank, etc. These two categories of leaders are discussed in the following paragraphs.
The informal leader in the work environment, generally is an employee without any formal power. She might be an ordinary worker on the assembly line, but other workers are influenced by her verbalizations and actions. This has relevance to the work environment, because informal leaders can influence workers in both positive and negative ways, from the perspective of official management. These leaders might be primary elements in the formation of unofficial organizational subcultures, which can sometimes interfere with productivity. This can be seen in the chapter on the Hawthorne Studies, which is presented later in this book.
A possible useful strategy to deal with informal leaders in the work environment, can involve identifying the informal leaders, and than educate and persuade them to assist in working toward official organizational goals. Making some of these individual’s official leaders, such as foreman or supervisors may also be of value. Informal leaders that are truly disruptive or hostile to the organization can be placed in situations where they have no power to influence other workers. This can involve a job that involves working with employees with more official or unofficial power, or a job that is isolated from other workers. Of course, another alternative is to fire the disruptive informal leader.
Formal leaders, managers, in the work environment are of course individuals that have official power to lead, and they do not lead with the same techniques or in the same way. The difference in leadership style found amongst managers is based on variations in their intellectual and psychological makeup. However, as will become apparent from the following paragraphs the leadership strategies that are used by a specific manager might be more often based on her personal psychological tendencies, such as a desire to be liked and accepted, or personally held prejudicial beliefs about workers.
One theoretical perspective of leadership is the managerial grid model created by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton. This model consists essentially of a two dimensional graph, similar to the X Y graphs we used in math class. With the managerial grid model the X-axis is the managers concern for production. The Y-axis is the managers concern for people, which is a concern for the emotional and personal well-being of employees. Thus, a manager can be rated on these coordinates (production=X, people=Y). The scale for both the X axis and Y axis is from 0 to 9. The model identifies five stereotyped leadership styles, with the following coordinates: (1,1), (1,9) (9,1), (5,5) and (9,9). These leadership styles are discussed in the following five paragraphs.
The coordinates (1,1) obviously represent a leader that has little concern for people or production. This type of leadership style is called the impoverished style. According to the model, a manager that accepts this style is probably just concerned about keeping her job. She does not want to make waves, and she passes orders down from upper management to employees.
The coordinates (1,9) represent a low concern for production and a high concern for people. This type of leadership is called the country club style. Manages who choose this style focus on creating a friendly atmosphere, with a concern for the well-being of the employees. This is likely to be done at the expense of production, unless the employees are highly self-disciplined and do their jobs without managerial discipline. The manager that uses the country club style of leadership probably has a strong emotional need to be accepted and liked by others.
The coordinates (9,1) represent the produce or perish style of leadership. As can be seen from the coordinates, this type of leadership involves a high concern for production, and a low concern for people. Managers that use this style of leadership are likely to use disciplinary measures and their authority to motivate employees. They probably do not like the workers, and probably believe that the employees they are managing can easily be replaced.
The coordinates (5,5) represent the middle-of-the-road style. This type of leadership involves a moderate concern for people and production, which is apparent from the coordinates. Manages, that use this style of leadership try to create a reasonable compromise between the needs of employees and the requirements of the organization.
The coordinates (9,9) represent the team style. As suggested by the coordinates, this leadership style involves a high concern for both production and people. The leader that uses this style tries to create a team like commitment in the employees. She might try to make them feel that the organization, and its goals, and its employees are one and the same.
The above suggest an interesting question: Are not the needs of employees and the needs of the organization two separate factors that cannot both be satisfied to a maximum level? This is probably true with some employees, jobs and organizations. There are situations where the needs of the employees contradict the needs of the organization, and vice versa. The most extreme case is seen in military organizations during war. This can involve placing military personnel in situations where they are likely to get wounded or killed. Less extreme examples can be found in certain civilian jobs that are extremely unpleasant, dull and perhaps even dangerous. In such cases, the employees might prefer to do as little work as possible, and the manager may try to make than do as much work as she can obtain from them.
As is probably apparent from the preceding discussions, the style of leadership adopted by leaders is often based on their attitudes and beliefs in relation to other people. Especially important is their attitude toward themselves and the employees they supervise. Douglas McGregor formulated a basic concept that relates to this idea, which he called theory X and theory Y, which is discussed below.
A manager that believes in theory X has a negative attitude toward the employees she supervises. Such a manager believes that most employees tend to dislike work, are lazy, have little ambition, will avoid doing their job if they can get away with it, are intellectually limited, and generally lack creative potential. Thus, the manager that believes in theory X, concludes that employees must be carefully supervised and threatened with punishment to motivate them to do their jobs. Managers with this belief generally will not consult with the employees they supervise; they will just give orders. Managers that believe in theory Y, think in a way that is essentially the opposite of the above. They believe that employees basically like work, can learn to accept and like responsibility, are relatively intelligent, are potentially creative, are capable of self-discipline, and can manage their own work. Thus, managers that believe in theory Y conclude that employees need to be treated well; they need relatively little supervision, and do not need much guidance. These managers are likely to consult with the employees, before making final decisions.
Professor William G. Ouchi delineated a theory Z, which is essentially based on the way Japanese managers tend to treat employees. This is based on a cultural perspective of the Japanese, which places a high value on the group. That is, when managers believe in theory Z, they consider the capabilities, judgment, and power of groups to be of utmost importance and utility. They believe that generally a group has more knowledge, experience, and creativity than an individual manager. The manager that believes in theory Z tries to create an environment of openness, trust, and group involvement in organizational affairs. The employees are treated as valuable members of the organization and group and are generally not fired. Thus, managers that believe in theory Z will consult the group to deal with managerial problems. They often have regular meetings with a group of workers to improve production quality and cut costs. This is called a quality control circle. The managers who accept theory Z are also concerned with the quality of the work environment and its impact on the employees.
In general, theory Z is the most humanistic, followed by theory Y, with theory X being the least humanistic. We can perhaps gain further insight, if we attempt to place the leadership styles that relate to theories X, Y and Z on the managerial grid model, which was discussed above. If we do this, we obtain the following: theory X leadership style is approximately (9,1) produce or perish, theory Y is approximately (1,9) the country club style or perhaps a little more concentration on production than the country club style, such as suggested by the coordinates (5,9). The group oriented style of theory Z is approximately (9,9), which is the team style.
The above does not necessarily indicate which is the more accurate theory or what is the best management style. The answer is it depends on the, work-related task, the employees, the cultural beliefs held by the employees, the specific nature of the organization, the internal and external environments, and many other factors. There are situations where workers fit the stereotype that is outlined in theory X, they dislike their jobs, they are truly lazy, not intelligent, not self-disciplined, and thus need intensive and strict supervision and guidance. This can be especially true if the employees are working in a situation that is critical, requiring a constant work pace, and high quality, without errors. In situations where the workers are truly intelligent, self-disciplined, basically like their work, and have work ethics that are consistent with organizational goals, the philosophy suggested by theory Y may be the best approach. If you have such individuals, (truly intelligent, self-disciplined, etc.) who also work well in groups, theory Z might suggest the best managerial strategies.
Most of the ideas mentioned in the above paragraphs, including theories X, Y, and Z apply to individuals in their personal lives. Some individuals believe in a type of theory X. That is, they have a negative attitude toward people, which is likely to be reflected in the way they interact with others, especially with family, friends, coworkers, and employers. There are individuals that have attitudes that are positive and similar to theory Y. Such individuals are likely to have confidence in the trustworthiness and abilities of others. They are likely to treat people, with respect, understanding and sympathy. And there are people that have the positive attitudes and are group oriented and may have behaviors that suggest the philosophy of theory Z.
Perhaps the most well adjusted and effective individual or manager is a person that does not have any fixed set of beliefs, such as theories X, Y, or Z, limiting her behavior. Such an individual will adjust to the external realities that she is faced with at a specific point in time. This involves using the most appropriate theories, information, and actions to deal with the current set of circumstances that you are faced with. This approach is likely to be the most effective approach in business and in your personal life.
The entire process of leading also applies to the individual as well as managers. That is, to some extent most of us engage in some type of leading in our personal lives. We may have led our friends in social activities at one point in time. People that are raising children are constantly engaged in the process of leading. However, most of us engage in a type of leadership that is even more subtle than the above. When we exercise control over our lives, we often have to communicate and motivate others in specific ways, which is often equivalent to the process of leading, as outlined in the list of seven steps that were presented in the beginning of this chapter. This is especially apparent when we have goals that involve other people. When we are dealing with such goals, our leadership effort might be very similar to the leadership provided by a manager in an organization.
In conclusion: It should be apparent from the above paragraphs, that the process of leading is involved and complex. If the leading process or leadership is inadequate, there is a high probability of a failure in relation to goal attainment. There are many problems that can manifest as a result of such inadequacies. The following is a list of questions that can help with problems of leading and leadership:
Note, the following seven questions are numbered because they represent a series of connected ideas in relation to the leadership process.
1) Do you have a plan, a goal, or set of tasks that relate to your intended leadership efforts?
2) Did you change your plan, goal or set of tasks into instructions that can be understood by the employees you expect to lead?
3) Did you select the employees or individuals that are to carry out your instructions? Are the individuals you selected qualified and motivated to carry out your instructions?
4) How can you motivate the employees or individuals you selected to carry out your instructions? What types of power do you personally have to increase the motivation of the employees or individuals who are to carry out your instructions? Do you have reward power, such as the ability to pay money? Can you reward the individuals involved with praise? Do you have any legitimate coercive power over the people that will be following your instructions? Can you motivate the employees or individuals with expert power? Can you motivate with referent power? Will the employees or individuals help you because they like you? Can you motivate by providing information? Can you motivate others because you are in a position of authority?
5) Did you prepare the instructions for the employees or individuals who are to carry out your orders? Did you put the instructions in a form that can be understood by the people who are to carry out your orders? Did you divide the instructions into sections that are relevant for each worker or team?
6) Are you ready to communicate your instructions to the employees?
7) Did you observe how the employees were carrying out your instructions? Do the employees need any guidance? Are any corrections necessary? What changes can you make to improve the performance of the employees? Are any changes or corrections necessary in your instructions or style of leadership?
Note, the following six questions are numbered because they represent a series of connected ideas in relation to the skills that are usually needed by leaders.
1) Do you have the necessary knowledge and skills for your leadership task? If not, how can you compensate for this deficiency? Can you obtain a co-leader who has the necessary knowledge and skills to help you with your leadership task.
2) Do you have the necessary social status, prestige and/or power to gain the respect and control of the people you are trying to lead? If not, how can you compensate for this deficiency? Can you obtain a co-leader, who has the necessary social status, prestige and/or power, to help you?
3) Do you have the necessary cultural background to perform the leadership task you are about to attempt? If not, can you obtain a co-leader who has the necessary cultural background? Is there any other way you can compensate for a relative cultural deficiency in relation to your leadership task?
4) Do you have adequate interpersonal skills for the leadership task you are about to attempt? If not, is there any way you can compensate for this deficiency, such as by appointing a co-leader who has the necessary interpersonal skills?
5) Do you have the ability and inclination to adjust your behavior to the leadership task you are about to attempt? If not, how can you compensate for this deficiency? Can you appoint a co-leader who can help you compensate for this deficiency?
6) Do you have the best communications skills for the leadership task you are about to perform? If not, can you compensate for this deficiency in any way, such as by appointing a co-leader with good communication skills to help you?
· Who are the informal leaders in the organization? Are these informal leaders interfering with the proper functioning of the organization? Are the informal leaders interfering with your leadership? How can you deal with problems that are cause by informal leaders?
· Are you having any difficulty with a formal leader in your organization, such as a manager, supervisor or an instructor? If so, how can you deal with this problem?
· Do you have a negative attitude that is similar to theory X, in relation to the people you are leading? Is your negative attitude justified? Can you temporarily change your attitude to a positive one, to see if it works better?
· Do you have a positive attitude that is similar to theory Y, in relation to the people you are trying to lead? Is this attitude justified?
· Do you have a positive attitude about groups, that is similar to theory Z. Is this attitude justified in relation to the groups you or working with? Are there any elements in theory Z that can help you achieve personal or organizational goals?
· Do you have any beliefs or ways of thinking or acting that limit your behavior in undesirable ways? If so, what are these beliefs, ways of thinking or acting? How can you circumvent these dysfunctional elements in your psyche?
What is controlling? If you ask most people this question, in relation to one person controlling others, they might say it is manipulative behavior. When this concept is applied to organizations, it is a functional requirement of the management process. This can be seen in the following definitions of the word controlling taken from the indicated sources:
1) "The managerial function of evaluating employee
effort and taking corrective action to better ensure the accomplishment of the
2) "The process by which a person, group, or organization consciously monitors performance and takes corrective action" Hellriegel, D. & Slocum, Jr, J. W. (1996) Management, (7th ed.) p 760.
3) "Comparing actual results against expected performance within a predetermined time." Luthans F. & Hodgetts R. (1992) Business (2nd ed.) p G3.
4) "Monitoring activities to ensure they are being accomplished as planned and correcting any significant deviations." Robbins, S. P. (1996) Organizational Behavior (7th ed.) p G-1.
All of the above are moderately good descriptions of the controlling process, except for the third definition. Luthans & Hodgetts (the third definition) defined the term without including the correction process.
I will give my own definition of controlling. To minimize deficiencies in my definition, I will use two paragraphs to define and explain the concept, as follows:
Controlling is the process of monitoring the performance of employees or a system and taking corrective action when the performance deviates from a goal or set of standards. The word goal in the definition is used in a very general sense and it means one or more of the following: a specifically defined objective, a loosely defined objective, an objective that was never precisely defined, efforts to reduce overall risk, efforts to reduce a specific risk, efforts to increase overall functionality of a system, efforts to reduce dysfunctionality of a system, etc. The words set of standards means any: criteria, mathematical data, benchmark data, rules, norms or customs that are considered relevant to the controlling process. The word employees means in this definition anyone that is being controlled in the management process. The words system means the entire organization or any component that relates to the organization, such as a department, team, group, individual, supplier, distributor, the internal or external environment, the consumers, or any subsystem.
The controlling process is essentially the feedback and correction process. That is, a system or subsystem is monitored and corrections are made based on information obtained from the feedback, in such a way as to reach a target goal or to maintain or achieve a set of standards.
The controlling process is also found in daily life outside of the organizational setting. That is, when people interact they consciously or unconsciously are involved in the controlling process as described in the above paragraphs. It is insightful to realize that we all give off controlling signals, which could be in a form of verbalizations or nonverbal cues, such as direct statements, requests, body movements, frowns, smiles, angry expressions, etc. We in effect, manage the behavior of the people we interact with to at least some minimal degree, and vice versa. If someone deviates from the generally accepted set of standards he is likely to get feedback from others that will indicate a correction is required. If someone deviates from the wishes of an individual that he is dealing with, he will also get feedback suggesting a deviation from their desires. Of course, such feedback might be ignored. That is, in daily life, the individual is not always obligated to follow the controlling efforts of others.
The controlling process can be better understood if it is broken up into a series of steps, and these steps generally will apply to both the management process and daily life activities. There are a number of ways that this can be done. Montana & Charnov delineated a four step controlling process (p 237) as follows:
1) "setting performance standards" Management must decide what to measure and how to measure it in relation to performance. This can involve setting goals and subgoals that relate to quality and quantity of performance. It can also involve the use of any criteria for a standard of comparison, such as mathematical data or benchmark data.
2) "measuring the performance" Management must decide, when and how the performance related measurements or evaluations are to be carried out. In the simplest case, this can be done by a manager observing the employees and making judgments on his performance. In more complex situations, it can involve quantitative measurements of production rate, profits, increase in sales, automatic computer assessment of work output, etc.
3) "evaluating the performance" The performance is evaluated by comparing the performance standards set in step one, with the measured, or observed, performance of an entity that are involved in the controlling process. (Note, the word entity means here one of the following: an employee(s) a group, a department, the entire organization, or any relevant system or subsystem.)
4) "making effective use of feedback and taking corrective actions when necessary, when there has been a failure to meet the performance standards." This involves studying the feedback related information and making corrections to maintain or reach the performance standards.
Another, way of presenting the controlling process is as follows:
1) A goal, or set of standards
are delineated for the controlling process.
This can include setting mathematical standards that can be
measured. For example, if a goal was
already set in the planning process to make a new product and market it
This step, 1), can happen on an unconscious level, in situations that are simpler than the above, such as in simple management activities or in daily life interactions. When the situation is relatively complex, as described above with the production of a new product, the goal or standards may involve much conscious deliberation, and it might be written on paper in great detail and/or it might be clearly stated verbally to the employees.
2) The entities that are to be controlled are delineated or selected, which can be individuals, a group, a department, a system, or the entire organization. In the management process, as it takes place in organizations, this will usually involve conscious deliberation. In daily life, when the situation is relatively simple, the individuals that are available may be selected with little or no conscious evaluation.
3) The behavior and work performance are monitored. In the simplest situations, such as in daily life, this step may take place on an unconscious level. In more complicated situations, such as the management in organizations, this step is carried out on a conscious level. It can include actual mathematical measurements of work performance in some cases.
4) Corrections are made based on work performance or behavior that deviates from the goal or set of standards. These corrections are usually made by verbal communications in simple situations, which may be coupled with explanatory hand movements, and other body language. In daily life situations that are relatively simple, body language might be used. For example, if someone violates a minor social standard, people might frown at him.
A concept very closely related to the controlling process is represented by the word controls. Hellriegel & Slocum defined this concept as the "Mechanisms used to ensure that behaviors performance conform to an organization's rules and procedures." (p 760)
Hellriegel & Slocum, in their book Management divide controls into two categories, which are "preventive and corrective controls." These ideas are discussed in the following two paragraphs.
Hellriegel & Slocum defined preventive controls as "mechanisms intended to reduce errors and thereby minimize the need for corrective action." (p 586) I am defining the concept with slightly different words, which perhaps slightly widen the concept, as follows. Preventive controls are techniques, equipment or feedback and correction methods, intended to prevent problems. Examples are: methods of preventing errors; strategies to prevent loss of market share; methods of protecting machinery from unexpected breakdowns; methods of monitoring plant personnel to prevent employee theft; methods and equipment to prevent fires; any technique to prevent failure; any method used to prevent employees or customers from breaking rules; etc.
Hellriegel & Slocum defined corrective controls as "mechanisms intended to reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors or results and thereby achieve conformity with the organization's regulations and standards." (p 586) I am defining this concept with different wording, which perhaps slightly widened its meaning, as follows. Corrective controls are techniques, equipment or feedback and correction methods, intended to deal with problems that already exist. For example, methods of controlling shoplifting, methods of controlling insect infestations, methods of controlling employee absenteeism.
I will add to the above the concept of Performance controls. I am defining this concept as: techniques, equipment or feedback and correction methods, intended to maximize human or systems performance, including the physical or tangible results of the performance, in relation to obtaining a goal. The easiest example is a dancer trying to maximize his performance, in relation to a specific dance sequence. A similar example is an employee trying to maximize his job performance in relation to a specific task. Another example, is the feedback and correction process carried out by the engineering department when they are engaged in designing and testing a new product. A manager that is trying to maximize the efficiency and productivity of his organization, with the goal of increasing profits, is still another example, of performance controls.
A fourth type of control is destructive controls, which I am defining as any control mechanism that is dysfunctional or destructive to the organization. Destructive controls can sometimes be of personal value to specific individuals, such as the unionized employees. An example of destructive controls is a union that monitors the performance of the organization and overestimates the profits, and then demands high salary increases that eventually put the organization out of business.
There are a number of entities that serve as control mechanisms for the organization, its subsystems and employees. These controlling entities can be divided into two categories, which are internal and external. Internal control mechanisms are entities created by the organization and its personnel, such as organizational rules, and production standards. External controls are controlling entities that exist in the external environment of the organization, such as the preferences of consumers or government regulations.
Hellriegel & Slocum, listed four basic entities that serve as sources of control, which are the first for items on the following list. I added an additional eight items that are significant sources of control:
· "stockholder control Pressure from outside sources on organizations to change their behaviors." This is an external control, as described in this quotation. This type of control is usually constructive in nature, but under some conditions it can, be destructive. It can go against the interests of one or more of the following under certain circumstances: the people running the organization, the employees, the consumers, and the overall well-being of the organization. When stockholder control is functional, it can be either, corrective, destructive, performance, or preventive controls.
§ In small and medium size organizations, the stockholders are often the people that run the company, such as the chief executive officer and board of directors. In such cases, the control from stockholders is obviously internal in nature.
· "organizational control Formal rules and procedures for preventing and correcting deviations from plans and for pursuing goals." This is obviously an internal control mechanism. This can involve corrective and preventive controls. If the formal rules and procedures of the organization are highly dysfunctional, the control can be destructive in nature.
· "group control The norms and values that group members share and maintain through rewards and punishments." This is obviously an internal control mechanism, which can be formal or informal in nature. That is, the norms and values can be the result of official or semi-official organizational rules and procedures. Alternatively they can be unofficial norms and values created by the employees, which can be functional, neutral, or dysfunctional for the organization. Thus, group control can be corrective, destructive, performance, or preventive controls.
· "individual self-control The guiding mechanisms that operate consciously and unconsciously within each person." This is a type of internal control, but it is generally not created by the organization. It is the result of the internal beliefs, values, and psychological makeup of the individual. Such controls can help or hinder the organization, depending on how the controls manifest. For example, if the individuals have strong actualized values that relate to honesty and hard work, it will help the organization. However, if the employees have values that relate to maximizing their personal gain, at the expense of the organization, the controls would obviously be dysfunctional for the employer. Thus, individual self-control can be corrective, destructive, performance, or preventive controls.
· Managerial control is usually one of the primary controlling entities in a well‑run organization. This can involve corrective, performance, or preventive controls. If management or a specific manager is behaving in a dysfunctional way, it can also involve destructive controls.
· The consumer can serve as a powerful source of control over the organization. That is, a company that serves consumers can be controlled by consumer demand. This is obviously an example of external control. The control can be corrective, destructive, performance, or preventive controls.
· The city, state, and federal governments and their laws and regulations can exert considerable control over organizations and their management. This is obviously an example of external control. Such control can be corrective, destructive, or preventive controls.
· When organizations deal with international trade, foreign governments can control the organization and its management. Such controls can be corrective, destructive, or preventive controls.
· Technology can serve a controlling function. This can involve electronic technology controlling machines. It can also involve computer technology monitoring the performance of employees, which serves a controlling function because workers are aware that their job performance is being monitored.
· The organizational culture can serve as a source of control, with its related set of norms, values and beliefs. This is obviously a type of internal control, which can be corrective, destructive, performance, or preventive controls.
· The unofficial subculture of an organization can serve as a source of control. However, the unofficial subculture can control employees in ways that are counterproductive to the organization in some cases. For example, restrictive production norms can be a primary component of the organizational subculture of the factory workers. This can be seen in chapter 12, on the Hawthorne Studies.
· Unions are another source of control. This type of control can be classified as external or perhaps in-between external and internal. The control provided by unions is generally focused on the well-being of the employees. As far as the entire organization is concerned, such controls can be corrective, destructive, or preventive controls.
Thus, it is apparent, that controls do not always work in favor of the organization, and they are not always intentionally created by management. In some cases the controls evolve from daily interaction of people involved with the organization, or they can be created by external agencies or outsiders. This suggests the question: how do you create effective controls that work in favor of the organization? Hellriegel & Slocum (p 588) suggest the following:
1) "For what desired behaviors and results should organizational controls be developed?" What are the factors that should be controlled?
2) "What are the costs and benefits of the organizational controls required to achieve the desired behaviors and results?" How much will it cost, and what will be the benefits, if the factors listed from step one are controlled.
3) "What are the costs and benefits of utilizing alternative organizational controls to obtain the desired behaviors and results?" Are there more effective or economical alternatives, that can be used to achieve the controlling objectives?
The general idea of the above can be stated by asking the questions: what do you want to control; why do you want to control it; how do you want to control it; what will be the cost benefit ratio for the control mechanism(s); are there more economical ways of achieving the same objective.
An interesting idea is suggested from the above paragraphs. The organization and its management apparently does not always create the controls. Some are external and have different interests than management. Three of the primary controlling entities, besides management, involved with organizations, are 1) the stockholders, 2) the employees, and 3) the consumers. These controlling entities are stakeholders that generally have different interests; they may be in conflict with each other as well as with management. The primary objective of the stockholders, of most profit making organizations, is they want to maximize their return on their investment. That is, they generally want to make as much money as possible. Employees generally want good working conditions, good benefits, and they usually want to make as much money as possible also. The consumers usually want to get products and services of the highest possible quality at the lowest possible prices.
Thus, the production and economic gains created by an organization must be divided amongst three primary stakeholders. How such a division takes place is likely to be the result of the relative power position of the stakeholders. This idea is discussed in the following four paragraphs.
If the stockholders have maximum power, the employees will probably get relatively low wages and little benefits, and working conditions will be based on maximizing financial gain, even if it puts the employees at a personal disadvantage. In addition, the consumers will have to pay relatively high prices for the goods or services produced by the organization. This situation is likely to manifest when there is an excessive labor force available to the organization and when there is little or no competition from other organizations, and the product or service is in very high demand.
When the employees have maximum power, profits might be reduced and the prices for the products or services produced by the organization might be relatively high. This can happen because employees salaries will be high, working conditions and benefits will be greatly influenced by the desires of the employees. Employees may be retained even if they are not really needed. The costs that result from high salaries, benefits, unnecessary employees, will be passed on to the consumer. This situation might manifest when the employees are in short supply. If the product is also in high demand and there is little competition, it will give the employees additional power, because it will be easy to pass on the costs to the consumer.
Employees can also have much power as a result of an organizational philosophy and culture that favors employees, or as a result of the controlling dynamics of unions. This can cause financial problems for the organization, if market conditions do not permit the passing on of the costs to the consumers.
The consumers have maximum power when there is a very large amount of competition between organizations providing the same product or service. In addition, if there is an over supply of the product or service, the consumer will even have greater power. This situation is often seen in contemporary organizations in certain manufacturing industries, and in the farming industry when there is a surplus of a specific crop. When the consumer has maximum power, prices are relatively low, and profits and salaries might be kept at a lower level than they would be otherwise. Under such conditions many companies may fail because they cannot obtain an adequate return on their investment. The companies may reduce their work force, to prevent bankruptcy.
In conclusion: It should be apparent from the above that there are many potential problems associated with the controlling process and with control mechanisms. If the controlling process is inadequate, there is a high probability of a failure in relation to goal attainment. There are many problems that can manifest as a result of such inadequacies. The following is a list of questions that can help with such problems:
(Note, the following six questions are numbered because they represent a series of connected ideas in relation to the leadership process.)
1) What is your primary goal, as created in the planning process? What performance standards or criteria you have to achieve, in the controlling process to achieve your primary goal.
2) What do you have to control to achieve your primary goal? Is it an employee, a group of employees, a group of volunteers, a group of friends, a department, a system, a subsystem, the entire organization? Do you have the capability and power to control this entity? Can you obtain help from a co-leader, if you do not have a capability to control the entity?
3) What type of performance do you have to measure or evaluate to control the relevant entity? Will simple observation of behavior be an adequate measure of performance?
4) Are you ready to compare the performance standards you set in step one, with the performance standards you measured? Do the standards match the actual performance? Are the performance standards achieved? Are the standards you set realistic, or are they too high or too low?
5) What corrections are required based on actual performance, when compared to the standards you set? Can you improve the performance? What changes would be required to improve the performance? If the performance remains the same will you reach your goal?
6) Based on the actual performance how long will it take to reach your goal? How much money will it cost to reach your goal based on the actual performance? Is the performance adequate from the perspective of time and money? Is there any way you can speed up progress or reduce costs?
· Are there any preventive, corrective or performance controls that you can use that will help you with the situation you are dealing with? If so, what are these controls?
· Are there any destructive controls interfering with your well-being or the well-being of the organization? If so, what are these destructive controls? What are all the possible ways of neutralizing or circumventing the destructive controls? What is the best way to neutralize these controls?
· What are the relevant controlling mechanisms involved with your problem? Are these controlling mechanisms intentionally created by you, your representatives or the organization? Are there controlling mechanisms that evolved over time? Are the controlling mechanisms functional? Are there any dysfunctional controlling mechanisms involved with the system?
· What type of controlling influence is provided by the stockholders? How can you deal with this controlling entity?
· What is the overall affect of the organizational controls, including formal rules and procedures? Can they be improved?
· Are there any group related controls involved with the system? Are these controls functional or dysfunctional?
· Are the individuals involved with you and/or the system self-controlled? In what way are these controls functional? In what way are they dysfunctional?
· What types of controls are provided by management? In what way are these controls functional? In what way are they dysfunctional?
· What is the quality of the controls offered by each individual or manager involved with the system? Do any of these individuals produce exceptionally functional controls? Do any of these individuals produce dysfunctional controls? How can you remove the dysfunctional controls?
· What is the specific nature of the controls produced by the consumers of your product? How can you respond to these controls in such a way as to satisfy consumer demands, and make a good profit?
· What types of controls are provided by the government? Are these controls functional or dysfunctional from your perspective, or from the point of view of your organization?
· Is your organization controlled as a result of foreign trade? How can you deal most effectively with these controls and the related set of requirements?
· Do you or your organization use any technological controls? Do these controls serve their function well? Can they be improved?
· Does your organization's culture offer functional controls? How can you improve these controls?
· Are there any subcultures involved with your organization? Are these subcultures functional or dysfunctional from the perspective of organizational well-being and goal attainment?
· What is the controlling affect of union members on your organization? How can you deal most effectively with this controlling force?
· What controls can you create that would increase the overall functionality of the system? What needs to be controlled in the system, and how can you create cost-effective controls?
· Is there any conflict between controlling forces, such as management, employees, stockholders, consumers? If so, how can you alleviate these problems? Which stakeholders have the most power? Is it management, the employees, the stockholders or the consumers? Can you list the stakeholders in descending order of power?
There are many types of problems in organizations, as well as in daily life. Solving these problems can result in a more functional organization and an enhanced quality of life. Some problems require a considerable amount of creativity to solve, and some are routine difficulties with obvious solutions. The above suggests the questions: what precisely do the words problem and creativity mean? This will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
A definition of the word problem from Franklin Language Master electronic dictionary LM 5000 is: "something requiring thought and skill to arrive at a proper conclusion or decision." A definition from Robbins' Organizational Behavior is: "A discrepancy between some current state of affairs and some desired state." The first definition is not precise. Robbins' definition is a fairly good delineation of the concept. However, this chapter is dealing with problem solving, which implies obtaining a goal, which is the solution. Thus, I will provide my own definition, based on a goal, in the following paragraph.
A problem is a state of reality that an individual would like to change in such a way as to obtain a goal. The word goal means the solution to the problem. The words state of reality means in this definition any real or hypothetical set of: circumstances, entities, geometric relationships, factors, mathematical representations, situations, structures, symbols, etc. The word individual in the definition is used in a general sense and it means any entity that can engage in the problem-solving process, such as your self, a person, an organization, a computer, or even an intelligent animal. The words would like to change implies that a problem exists as a result of a desire for a change in a reality state. If there is no recognition of a specific reality state and/or no desire for an improved reality state by an individual, there is no problem, from the frame of reference of that individual. There might be dysfunctional circumstances, but such a condition might not be recognized or defined as a problem by the individuals involved with the situation.
The word problem can also be defined as: a set of circumstances that one would like to change to a more desirable reality state. The more desirable reality state is the goal or solution to the problem in this definition.
Problem solving often involves creativity, which suggests the question: what is creativity? Hellriegel & Slocum defined creativity as: "The ability to visualize, foresee, generate, and manipulate new ideas." The Webster's dictionary defines it as: "1: the quality of being creative 2: the ability to create." I am defining creativity for this book as the ability to create new entities, such as new: methodologies, ideas, theories, structures, solutions to problems, works of art, etc. The word new in this definition means: new to the creator. For example, if an individual created an entity that was already invented with her own creative thoughts and efforts, the process would still be creativity.
A concept closely related to the above is the creative process, which is defined by Luthans & Hodgetts (p G3) as: "Generating new or unique ideas, involving four steps: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification." There are other definitions and models of the creative process besides the above. I will present some of this information later on in this chapter, including a general model of the creative process. However, I believe it will be interesting to examine the four steps presented by Luthans & Hodgetts, as follows:
1) "preparation" Is the process of preparing yourself for creative activities. This involves studying material that relates to your creative or problem solving efforts. This can involve formal learning, casual reading, discussions with others to gain information, asking questions, informal or formal experimentation to obtain data, etc.
2) "incubation” This step involves an incubation of the information that was obtained in step one and from earlier periods of study and experience. The theoretical idea is that the subconscious mind needs time to process the information into new forms that can be used in your creative efforts. During this period the mind arranges and rearranges the information into a form that might result in new insights or a new solution to the problem you are working on.
3) "illumination" This is the point where insight develops. The person might suddenly become aware of a new idea, solution, theory, structure, etc.
4) "verification" This involves testing of the new idea, solution, theory, methodology, structure, entity, etc, that became apparent in step three.
This four step creative process suggests a question, and some limitations of the method. That is, what if the incubation period, does not result in illumination, or if it results in insights that are not adequate to solve the problem you are working on? The answer is there are more sophisticated and effective methods of creativity and problem solving than the above. However, the above four step creative process sometimes works and these steps are often incorporated into more sophisticated methods.
Incidentally, I found from experience that, during the incubation period if I deliberately arrange and rearrange the relevant information with the writing process on a computer screen, I obtain many insights and potential solutions to problems (illumination). A method based on this idea, which is meant for very difficult problems and goals, is outlined below, in five steps:
1) Define the goal. The goal can be to solve a problem, insight into a specific area of study, the creation of an entity, or any objective. In the process of defining the goal, you should consider the feasibility of dividing it into smaller goals, which can be achieved easily. This idea is especially useful for very difficult problems. Sometimes a problem that cannot be resolved with conventional techniques can be solved if it is divided into smaller problems, which can be worked out individually.
This step, defining the goal, can be greatly facilitated by writing the information that you have on a computer screen, with appropriate software. This can include dividing the goal into sub-goals and estimating the cost and time involved for each of the subgoals. This can also be done at a later point in time.
2) Study the relevant material that relates to the goal you defined in step one. This can involve any type of study, such as reading, experimentation, formal classroom study, tutoring, learning from the experience of others, etc. The study should include material that directly relates to your goal coupled with information that is only indirectly related to the goal. This study should include a check with experts and/or the literature to see if there is an established formulation to obtain your goal. It is often useful to study the same goal from the perspectives of different disciplines, such as studying a human behavior problem, from a psychological, social psychological, a sociological, anthropological, and a psychiatric perspective. In general, the more detailed and prolonged the study the greater the chances of obtaining your goal, especially if it involves solving a difficult problem. (Keep in mind that this is the most important step on the list.)
After extensive study, you might want to go back to step one, and redefine your goal. This is especially useful if the information you obtained indicated that the goal cannot be obtained with the time, money, and expertise you have available.
3) Write what you know and have learned in relation to obtaining your goal, which should be done with a computer with word processing software. The writing process can start as soon as you start your problem solving efforts. However, it is especially important to write what you learned, and your thoughts and ideas after step two. This process can include writing questions that relate to your goal, and answering them in detail. Writing questions that have many answers can be especially useful, such as the following: What are all the possible causes for this problem? What are all the possible solutions to this problem? What are the names and telephone numbers of all the experts that I might be able to contact, who can help me obtain my goal? What are the names and numbers of all the people I know who can help me with this problem? What are all the methodologies that might help me obtain the goal? Can mathematics help me obtain relevant information? Will statistical analyses provide information I need to reach my objective?
When you start this step (step three) you can write with little concern for grammar, punctuation or organization. However, as you continue the process, you should put the most relevant information into an organized form. When the writing process, is coupled with arranging and rearranging information into a highly organized form, insights are likely to develop. This sometimes happens as a result of noticing one or more inconsistencies or failures in the theoretical framework you are developing. Such inconsistencies or failures, suggest questions. When you write out such questions and answer them, new insights may result.
4) Select the relevant information you obtained in the first three steps, and put aside the information that is not useful. Take this information and try to create a step by step plan to obtain your goal. This can be done in writing. It can be useful to estimate the time and cost needed to achieve each step of your plan.
5) Check the final solution or evaluate the goal that you obtained. If the outcome is satisfactory you solved your problem or obtained your goal. If it is not satisfactory repeat the above steps. Try to find out what went wrong with the plans and try to make the needed corrections.
The above, is an example of a problem solving formula that incorporates the creative process. There are many types of problem solving formulas, some of which involve the creative process and others that do not involve creativity. Some of these formulas are specialized for specific problems and others have general application. In general, there are probably far more problem solving formulas than there are human beings. Most people have many formulas in their mind that they consciously or unconsciously use to solve problems of various types. That is, most people, including managers and organizations go through a series of specific steps when they are trying to solve a problem or obtain a goal.
The relative capabilities of individuals, groups or organizations to solve problems or obtain goals, is very much determined by the appropriateness and effectiveness of the problem solving formulas that they are using. (The word your in the following sentences, means all of the following: yourself, your group, your department, your organization, etc.) Becoming aware of your formulas and their limitations can lead to an increase in your problem solving capability. You might find that some of the formulas you have been using unconsciously are ineffective or counterproductive, or cause significantly more problems than you started with. You will probably also find that some of your problem solving strategies work fine, and some of your formulas might work fairly well, but require some improvement. Thus, it will be helpful if we continue with our discussion of problem solving formulas and creativity.
The simplest problem solving formula can involve only three easy steps, without any creative process. Formulas similar to the following are probably carried out on a more or less unconscious level when most people face relatively simple problems.
1) problem recognition: This involves becoming aware that there is a problem.
2) planning a series of steps to solve the problem, and carrying them out: This is often done in the mind with simple problems.
3) testing to see if the problem was solved: This can be done with observation with simple problems.
A more complicated formula than the above can include one or two additional steps, such as searching for expert assistance and/or obtaining information to solve the problem. Perhaps the most useful formula for conventional problems can be represented in five steps, as follows:
1) Defined the problem or goal.
2) Study the problem or goal and related information that you need for your objective.
3) Consider expert assistance to help you solve your problem or goal. There are of course situations where much expert assistance is essential. There are other situations where expert help is totally unnecessary. The idea is to determine whether there is or is not a need for expert assistance in a particular situation.
4) Create a plan that will solve your problem or help you obtain your goal.
5) Evaluate the outcome to see if you solved your problem or obtained your goal. If you failed, evaluate all the above steps and other information and make appropriate corrections. This can involve repeating all of the steps one or more times. Difficult problems may require many repetitions of the above steps, or a more sophisticated problem solving formula.
A more complicated problem solving formula is presented in The Handbook of Problem Solving by Stephen J. Andriole, which he calls the problem-solving process. This formula is outlined in the first chapter of Andriole's book. It is apparently meant for very difficult problems that could not be solved in the mind of one individual. Andriole describes it in the glossary of his book (p 179) as follows:
"PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS. The process of tool assessment, organization, documentation, and defense, and the selection and implementation of descriptive, explanatory, predictive, prescriptive, and evaluative analytical methodologies-all in an effort to solve a specific analytical problem."
Chapters 2 through 10 of Andriole's book explains each element of the formula, ("problem-solving process”) which is summarized as follows:
1) "PROBLEM-SOLVING TOOLS. Problem-solving talent, data and information, methods, approaches, time, and support" This refers to the resources needed for problem solving, such as: personnel with the needed abilities, your own problem solving skills, relevant information, knowledge of the methodology needed to solve the problem, and the time to do the required work to solve the problem. A deficiency in these tools can greatly reduce the chances of successfully solving the problem. Thus, this step includes a search, which can be internal or external, for individuals with the needed skills to carry out the tasks needed to solve the problem, unless you have all the required skills and time to do the work yourself.
2) "PROBLEM-SOLVING ORGANIZATION. The aggregate process comprised of requirements analyses, problem identification, problem structuring, constraint analyses, and project management." This includes defining the problem or problem identification, analyzing the structure of the problem, collecting relevant information, and managing the problem solving effort.
3) "DESCRIPTION. The process by which events and conditions are profiled in order to determine similarities, differences, ranges, variations, and interrelationships." This involves a description of the problem, which can be in the form of one or more memorandum, letters, reports, etc. The description can describe the problem and related data. This can include mathematical data that relates to the problem and its solution.
4) "EXPLANATION. The process by which events and conditions, often expressed as variables, are linked to one another in measurable relationships whereby the changes in one set of variables can be related to changes in another set of variables." This includes explaining how and why something happens or happened. The explanations can include mathematics and detailed written descriptions.
5) "PREDICTION AND FORECASTING The process by which future events and/or
conditions are identified and assessed." This involves an
assessment of the information available with the goal of determining what will
happen in the future. The probabilities
of various positive or negative outcomes might be estimated in mathematical
terms. To obtain this insight, the
problem solver might look at current trends, use subjective judgment, use the
6) “PRESCRIPTION. The selection from competing alternatives of a single option. Recommendations made on the basis of analytical steps taken to resolve uncertainty in a decision situation." This step involves the decision-making process, which can be important in the problem solving process. It includes choosing between alternative possibilities, entities or courses of action, in relation to the problem solving effort. This step deals with choosing how something is going to be done, such as the following seven questions presented in Andriole's book in "Chapter 7 Prescription":
"1. How is the information that comes to the attention of decision- makers gathered and processed? 2. How are recommendations made and promoted? 3. How are general rules prescribed? 4. How are the general rules provisionally invoked in reference to conduct? 5. How are general rules applied? 6. How is the working of prescriptions appraised? 7. How are the prescriptions and arrangements entered into within the framework of such rules brought to termination?"
7) "EVALUATION. The process by which entities and processes are evaluated against sets of explicit evaluative criteria." This involves the assessment of various entities that are involved with the problem. For example, if the problem involved inadequate production, the relevant machinery and employees might be evaluated to determine what is the primary cause of the problem.
8) "DOCUMENTATION. Reports, memoranda, presentations, videotape, videodiscs, tape recordings, slides, viewgraphs, and all other written or audiovisual means by which analytical results are described." This step involves explaining the problem, the actions needed to solve it, and the solution, in some recorded form, such as a written record, a tape recording, a video, etc. This step is important to obtain funding and other resources, including the assistance of experts.
9) "DEFENSE. The process by which analytical solutions are explained, communicated, and defended usually via briefings, argumentation, and negotiation." The ideas, theories, and plans that relate to a problem solving effort often have to be defended. This step is important when the explanations for the problem, the plans, and proposed solution are to be evaluated by others. This can be done to interest experts in the problem solving effort or to obtain funding. Thus, without a successful defense the assistance and resources required to solve the problem may not be obtainable. The defense is especially necessary because people do not always read or understand all of the documentation. Such individuals can inadvertently create erroneous arguments against the proposed problem solving plan. A good defense will explain the relevant information and demolish invalid arguments, without insulting others. If there are any valid arguments against the plans or other documentation, involved with the problem solving effort, the course of action to take is to correct the deficiencies, and continue the defense based on the corrected material.
Andriole's problem solving formula is fairly extensive, but its structure is not convenient and it is not in a highly logical form. For example, problem identification should be the first item on the list. There are also certain steps that are often irrelevant for many types of problems, such as 9) defense. Of course, when steps are irrelevant in a specific problem solving situation they can be ignored. However, Andriole's problem solving formula, and his book, does not emphasize the most important components of problem solving, which are the: studying and learning process, the creation of a detailed step by step plan to solve the problem, obtaining financial resources for the problem solving effort and a feedback and correction procedure. The formula and book do not emphasize creative thinking either, which is important for very difficult problems that do not have apparent solutions. However, the book is written on a fairly sophisticated level, and the author probably assumed that the reader would be quite aware of the above, which are obvious necessities for difficult problems. However, I will present a twelve step formula that emphasizes the essential components of problem solving a little later in this chapter. As previously stated, one of the factors that determines problem solving capabilities is the formulas that are used to solve problems and obtain goals. Another factor is people, groups, and organizations have variations in their problem solving power. Specifically, there are variations in the expertise and financial resources available to solve problems and obtain goals. Highly educated people working at wealthy organizations with great technical resources and many experts, generally have much problem solving power.
Thus, it is probably apparent from the above, that two of the primary limitations of problem solving and goal attainment are financial limitations and lack of technical knowledge. In the case of an individual, her problem solving capability will probably be limited by her social class. If the individual comes from a poor and uneducated social class, she will have little problem solving power. Such an individual will not have the financial resources or knowledge needed to solve certain types of problems or obtain difficult goals. An individual in this category could probably not obtain useful assistance for difficult problem solving or goal attainment from her family or friends, because they most likely would have the same financial and educational limitations as she does. The situation, of course, would most likely be just the opposite with an individual that was from a wealthy and highly educated social class. However, even wealthy and educated people, groups, and organizations can be limited at times in problem solving and goal attainment because of lack of expertise or financial resources.
The above suggests the question: Is there a problem solving formula that can circumvent limitations that result from deficiencies in expertise and financial resources? The answer is yes. Even Andriole's formula (which was presented above) indirectly suggests some ways of circumventing these difficulties. (This involves obtaining personnel with appropriate skills, and documentation, which can be used to obtain resources.) The following twelve step formula is focused on obtaining expert assistance and resources, as well as suggesting a method of solving a problem or obtaining a goal. The twelve steps are presented after the delineation of the instructions for the formula, as follows:
General Instructions: The twelve steps in this formula are primarily meant for difficult problems and challenging goals. For less challenging objectives some of the steps will appear irrelevant and can be skipped. The steps are numbered from 1 to 12, which is the most convenient order to follow when using the formula. However, there are likely to be many situations where the formula will work better if the steps are performed in an order that differs from 1 to 12, such as 3, 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. In addition, with certain problems and goals it might be necessary to repeat a step or return to it one or more times after other steps were completed. If there is a difficulty completing a step return to it after completing other steps on the list.
There are questions in this formula, which you are to answer. Type the questions and your answers into a computer with word processing software. Each answer should ideally be at least one paragraph long, with the question serving as an introductory topic sentence. Questions that are irrelevant to the problem solving effort should be either ignored or modified so they are relevant. In addition, all the writing that is done, in relation to this formula, should be typed into the computer with word processing software.
The formula contains the words you and your, but this does not imply that its application is limited to the individual. In addition, several people, a group, or even one or more departments of an organization can be using the same formula, simultaneously while working on the same problem. This is possible because the following formula utilizes computer technology, which allows a number of individuals to add information to the system simultaneously.
1) What is your objective; is it to find a solution to a problem, create a new entity, or some other goal? Write about your objective in detail, and explain why it is important.
2) Can you divide your goal into smaller and simpler problems or goals, that can be more easily obtained? If this might be possible, try to do it. That is, try to break your goal or problem into smaller units, and define these units in written language.
3) Study the information you need to obtain your objective. Determine the information you need to learn by answering the following questions. What information relates directly to the problem or goal you are working on? Is there any information that relates indirectly to your problem or goal that might be helpful in your efforts? Will it be helpful to study your problem or goal from many different disciplines, such as management theory, organizational behavior, sociology, anthropology, psychology, social psychology, political science, economics, etc.? That is, can a multidisciplinary approach help you solve your problem? Can you obtain the information you need from: books, documents in your organization, discussions or tutoring with experts, formal study in a school environment, informal study methods, practice, formal experimental techniques, informal experimentation, the computer, the Internet, the library, discussions with employees, observations, questionnaires given to experts, questionnaires given to a sample of consumers or other relevant individuals, etc? In addition, make a written list of questions you want answered in relation to your study efforts. Place your questions in the computer in order of importance. When you obtain answers write them up in detail under the appropriate questions. Study all the information you obtain and place your notes in the computer. Keep in mind the primary objective with this step is to learn how to solve the problem you are working on.
Prolonged study is usually the most important factor to solve very difficult problems or to obtain an extremely challenging goal. For easier objectives, it might only be necessary to spend several minutes to study a few simple facts.
4) Use questions to help obtain your objective. Type into the computer a series of questions that relate to your problem, your goal and your studying efforts. If you are dealing with a difficult goal or problem, try to create as many questions as you can, and than answer them in detail. Your list should include the following questions, which can be modified to make them more relevant to your objective. Based on your knowledge, experience and the material you studied in step three, what are all the possible methods that can help you solve your problem or obtain your goal? What are all the possible causes for the problem you are working on? List the answers to this question in order of significance. Can the problem be represented in terms of a cause and effect diagram? Is there any testing method to determine what the real cause for the problem is? What are the names and telephone numbers of all the experts and knowledgeable individuals that might be able to help you solve your problem or obtain your goal? What are all the methodologies that might help you obtain your objective? Will mathematics or formal logic help you solve your problem or obtain your goal? Can inductive or deductive reasoning help you solve your problem or obtain your goal? Can statistics help you solve your problem? Can computer technology help you obtain your objective? Can a simulation model help you understand or solve your problem? Can a simulation model help you test possible solutions? Are there any possible risks involved with your problem solving efforts? If there are risks, how can they be eliminated or reduced? How might your problem solving effort affect the system? Are there any risks of unanticipated or unwanted consequences associated with your problem solving efforts? Did you study enough to solve your problem? Should you return to step three and continue studying? Are there any gaps in your knowledge as far as your problem solving efforts are concerned?
5) Type your ideas, and thoughts, into the computer. Feel free to write as much as possible if you are attempting to obtain a difficult objective. At this point, it is not necessary to focus on grammar, organization, punctuation, or spelling. However, try to avoid unnecessary disorganization or errors, because that will make your work more difficult later.
6) This step involves a selection process. Before beginning this process, make a copy of all the data you compiled on another file. This process starts by examining all the data, including the questions and answers, you typed into your computer. Select the information and ideas that appear to be most useful for your objective. You will probably have much useless information, including many ideas that are not feasible. Before rejecting ideas that are not feasible ask yourself why they are not feasible? Then ask yourself how can they be made feasible? If possible, ideas should be tested out before they are rejected. It is important to exclude useless data, but it is necessary to be extremely cautious not to exclude information that might lead to a unique solution or path to your goal. If you are not sure if information is useful or useless save it, until you are sure that you cannot use it. If you still have information and ideas that are not useful, repeat the above a number of times, until you have removed most if not all of the useless data.
7) Put the information and ideas you selected in step six, into an organized form, and remove any grammar and spelling errors. This can be done with the word processing software functions, such as the copy function, the cut and paced function, the delete function, etc. Rewrite any ideas that are not clearly delineated. As you rewrite look for inconsistencies in your logic, hypothetical or theoretical framework, because correcting such inconsistencies can lead to valuable insights. In general, the process of rewriting, organizing and removing errors can lead to a great deal of insight, which can help you reach your objective. The above can be repeated one or more times if necessary, to obtain a highly organized document.
8) Try and create a plan to solve your problem or obtain your goal, which should be primarily based on the information you organized in step six. However, you can still use information from other sources if it is helpful. Refine the plan you created. Write it out in terms of a series of steps, if possible. Try and estimate the time and money involved in completing each step. Try to determine the materials and assistance needed to complete each step. Try and estimate the possible risks involved with each step of your plan. Try to determine the total cost of completing your plan and obtaining your objective in terms of time, money, effort, risk, materials, etc. Make any needed modifications in your plan as a result of the above estimates.
If you have created a good plan that is likely to lead to your objective, go on to step nine. However, if you were not able to create a satisfactory plan, consult experts or other knowledgeable individuals for assistance and repeat the steps of this formula. Step three is the primary item to repeat and focus on, because it involves the studying and learning you need to obtain your objective. That is, an inability to create the plans needed to solve a problem or obtain a goal suggests lack of relevant knowledge, which might be remedied by further study.
9) If you need to obtain resources, to reach your objective, such as workers, machinery, tools, workspace, money, consider writing a report. A report can sometimes be used to obtain funding from your company, another organization, or from a government agency. Take your refined plan and any other information you wrote for the above steps, and rearrange it into a report, with the word processor functions. You can add any additional information or ideas if it is needed to create a good report. The report should have a summary on the first page. It should be written so it can be easily understood by the people who will read it. Your report should be created in a way that shows the benefits of your project from the perspective of the people who may provide the needed resources.
10) Try and obtain support for your plan from experts and people with power. This should include signed correspondence supporting your plan, your objective, your character and abilities. If you have to modify your report, your plan, or even your objective, to obtain such support, it will probably be worthwhile. In addition, be prepared to explain and defend your plans and other documentation, which may be necessary to win the acceptance of experts and other people with power.
11) Try and win unofficial acceptance of your project from the people that will supply the resources, before you officially submit your plan. This can be done with informal discussions and short letters from yourself and your prestigious supporters. It may be best to do this over a period of days, weeks or even months, which will allow the officials the time needed to become familiar with you, your plan, and your objective. If an official intentionally or inadvertently expresses some doubt about your efforts and plans, it can suggest one of the following: they need more information; you have to modify your plans or objectives to meet their requirements; you have to improve your proposed solution, goal or plans; you are discussing your project at the wrong point in time; you are requesting help with your project from the wrong source. In general, the time to submit your report officially is when the feedback suggests that the officials understand your plan, solution or goal, trust you, and appear to be willing to accept your project.
The procedures suggested in this step are generally quite important, because top officials often do not have the time needed to read and evaluate every project that is submitted to them. They may make a decision based on whether or not they know and trust the person that submitted the plan.
12) The final step is feedback and correction. This involves checking and testing every aspect of the plan you created to reach your objective. It also involves evaluating your efforts in relation to every step in this formula. The final and most important evaluation is to determine if your plan led to the solution or goal you were trying to obtain.
If any of the above failed, modifications and corrections are needed in: your plan, your methods, or any other component that was involved with your efforts. Before such changes are made, it might be necessary to determine what went wrong, and to do additional studying. In addition, requesting assistance from experts or people who have the needed experience can be helpful. It will probably be necessary to repeat most or all of the twelve steps in this formula, especially step three, which involves studying and learning how to obtain your objective. If you are dealing with a fairly difficult problem or trying to obtain a very challenging goal, it might be necessary to repeat the twelve steps and related work a number of times before you achieve success.
The above formula incorporates all of the components needed for difficult problem solving, including the creative process. At this point, I believe it will be useful to return to a discussion of creativity. We already discussed the creative process, as delineated by Luthans & Hodgetts. I will now present a more fundamental model of the process, which is a series of steps that are usually involved with the creation of a new entity, new methodology or new solution to a problem. The creative process, as described in the following model, is not a problem solving formula, but it can be part of such a formula. The process, as presented in the model that follows, can be carried out consciously or unconsciously by an individual, group, organization, a computer, as well as by a society or nature in an evolutionary sequence. This will become apparent from the five fundamental steps involved in this model, which are as follows:
1) A general search, which is not very selective, is carried out for factors that might be useful in obtaining a goal. The factors can be ideas, structures, geometric relationships, entities, methods, or just about anything else that might be useful in obtaining the goal. (At this point the goal may or may not be precisely defined. The goal can be to solve a problem or obtain some other objective, such as the creation of a new entity.)
2) The factors that were obtained in step one are evaluated for usefulness in relation to the goal. The useful factors are selected and the remainders are discarded.
3) One or more factors that were selected are applied to achieve the goal. This can involve placing the factor(s) in specific arrangements, or combining them to a preexisting entity. In addition, it can sometimes involve using a selected factor in a new way, such as using a carefully selected stone as a hatchet.
This step can also involve the further evaluation of the usefulness of the factor(s). There can be a trial and error process to see if the factor(s) fit(s) physically, logically, or functionally into an arrangement that relates to the goal.
4) Tests are carried out to see if the goal has been achieved. In some cases a number of possibilities may have been created, and the testing is used to select the most feasible or effective solution or prototype. The selected solution or prototype might be further improved and/or tested before it is finally used.
5) If the solution or prototype is reasonably effective it might be applied in a practical way, which might include duplication of it on a relatively large scale. Examples are the mass production of a new product, the mass acceptance of a new cultural component (such as style of dress), and in a biological evolutionary system, the natural selection of a new animal species, which results in proliferation of the species.
The above model fits the various categories of brainstorming. It is also interesting to note that the model also fits the evolutionary processes that take place in nature and in societies. At this point it might be useful to discuss this process in a general sense. The evolutionary process is a trial and error process that takes place spontaneously, over a period of time. It involves reducing or eliminating certain entities (which are unfit, weak, undesirable, or useless) and facilitates the development of other entities (which are fit, strong, desirable, or useful). This idea will be discussed in the following paragraphs, which will lead to a discussion of the evolutionary process in relation to organizations and problem solving.
We first learned about the
concept of evolution in relation to biology, from
Social evolution is more or less similar to biological evolution. It involves the selection by society of entities, ideas, or any component that fits in well with either its main culture or one or more of its subcultures. Any component that does not fit in well, even if it becomes popular for a while, will eventually be rejected, removed from the society, or greatly reduced in number.
My primary reason for discussing this topic relates to the evolutionary processes that take place in organizations. Ideas, thoughts, beliefs, methods, cultures and subcultures that exist in organizations can develop as a result of the evolutionary process. In addition, solutions to problems, and improvements in methods can also develop as a result of an evolutionary process. This suggests an interesting idea. Is it possible to (deliberately) start an evolutionary process that will lead to a solution to a problem, an improvement in a methodology or product? The answer is yes. For example, it is possible to produce many variations of a product, and see which variation sells best over an extended period of time. It is also possible to make gradual product improvements over an extended period of time, and see which modification improves sales. The product variations that are not selling well can be discontinued, and money and effort can be put into the product variations that are selling well. This can involve further gradual improvements in the product.
In general, a number of variations, which involve potential improvements, can be created gradually over an extended period of time, in relation to an entity or method. These variations can be evaluated over a period of many weeks, months or years in regard to utility. The variations that are less successful are likely to be gradually rejected as a result of inferior utility. The variations that are more successful are likely to become highly accepted or popular as a result of superior utility. The superior entities can replace the inferior entities and they can be gradually improved further, with a repetition of this evolutionary sequence.
Many of us, including people involved in the management process, carry out an evolutionary process in our occupational roles and in our daily lives. However, we are generally not aware of this process. If we become more aware of the evolutionary process in our business and personal lives we might be able to control the results to our benefit. Some examples might be insightful. We might choose our friends without careful thought. We might become acquainted with the people in our environment, and we may select the individuals that we find satisfying or ethically acceptable over a period of time. We might inadvertently or intentionally reject or maintain a distance between other individuals that do not meet our selection criteria. We select many of our behavior patterns, including bad habits, by an evolutionary process. We might smoke one cigarette as an experiment, because our friends smoke, and if we find it enjoyable we might eventually start to smoke on a regular basis, and become addicted to nicotine. If we find smoking undesirable, we might develop a no smoking behavior pattern. Another example is the manager that hires her own employees might have selection criteria that relate to personality traits and work performance. Employees that do not meet the criteria might not be hired, or if they are, they might be encouraged to quit or they might be fired. Employees that meet the criteria might be encouraged to stay on the job. Such employees might be given compliments, raises and promotions.
The previous example can be extended to certain organizations that have a specific set of requirements for employees, and a clearly defined culture. (See the chapter on organizational culture.) When this is the case, the requirements of the organization and its culture are likely to act as an evolutionary selection process for employees. Over a period of time certain personality types that fit the organizational philosophy and culture will remain with the organization, and other personality types will be rejected.
Thus, it can be helpful to understand the evolutionary processes that take place in our environment. We do not want to be rejected. We also do not want to select inadvertently, such as the inadvertent selection of undesirable: friends, habits, ways of thinking, etc. In addition, if we truly understand the evolutionary process we can sometimes use it for problem solving and goal attainment.
Another creative process is brainstorming. This is a fairly popular technique that involves the basic creative model that was previously discussed. Brainstorming is defined in the glossary of Robbins' Organizational Behavior, as: “An idea-generation process that specifically encourages any and all alternatives, while withholding any criticism of those alternatives." Hellriegel & Slocum defines the term (p 759) as: "An unrestrained flow of ideas in a group with all critical judgments suspended." Brain storming involves a group of people, usually numbering from five to twelve, who are instructed to verbalize their ideas, without critical evaluation, in relation to a specific problem or goal. The ideas are recorded by the group facilitator or other individual. The recording is best done on a blackboard or similar device, so all the group members can read the ideas that have already been suggested. This is an important component of brainstorming, because the ideas that were already presented, and placed on the blackboard for all to see, may stimulate the creative thinking of each group member. The members of the group are instructed by the facilitator as follows (as outlined by Alex Osborn, the inventor of the brainstorming technique):
1) "Criticism is ruled out. Negative evaluations of ideas must be withheld until later." If this rule was not followed it would inhibit many of the group members from contributing ideas, especially original thoughts. New ideas can sound nonsensical and impractical, especially before the idea is modified for application. Thus, many group members would be inhibited if they thought their ideas would result in criticism.
2) "Freewheeling suggestions are welcomed. The wider the ideas, the better. It is easier to tame down an idea than to perk it up." Wild ideas can sometimes be modified into practical solutions or they can stimulate creative thinking. If the wild idea is funny, it can put the group in an uninhibited state. That is, once a few wild ideas are voiced, the group members will most likely feel free to present their thoughts, without fear of embarrassment.
3) "Quantity is wanted. The greater the number of ideas, the greater the likelihood of winners." This is a primary component of the basic model of creativity that I presented earlier. It is part of natural evolutionary systems. That is, a huge number of genetic variations of both plants an animals have been produced by nature, and a relatively small number of species are selected by environmental conditions for long term survival and reproduction. The same principle is involved with brainstorming. That is, a huge number of ideas are produced, and after the brainstorming is completed, only a few good ideas are selected.
4) "Combinations and improvements are sought. In addition to contributing ideas of your own, you should suggest how the ideas of others can be turned into better ideas or how two or more ideas can be joined into still another one." As suggested above, often new ideas are impractical, but they can be modified into practical ideas. This rule can focus the group's attention away from criticism, toward attempts to improve the ideas offered by the group members.
To facilitate creative thinking, Alex Osborn created a list of seventy-five questions, which were meant to be voiced by the facilitator, when needed in the brainstorming session. A sample of these questions is as follows: 
· "How can this issue, idea, or thing be put to other uses?" Finding additional uses for an entity can sometimes result in true innovations. For example, microwaves were originally used in radar and high frequency radio transmission systems. Someone came up with the idea of using microwaves for heating and cooking, which resulted in a new type of oven.
· "How can it be modified?" Modifying a useless idea can sometimes result in an excellent solution to a problem. Even good ideas can sometimes be modified into ideas that are even better.
· "How can it be substituted for something else, or can something else be substituted for part of it?" When a new product is created, its utility and potential market is often determined by what it can be substituted for. A good example is the steam engine was substituted for the power produced by horses.
· "How could it be reversed?" Sometimes reversing the way an entity functions can result in a new product. For example, a steam engine is essentially a pump working in reverse. In addition, sometimes attempting to reverse an idea, even if it cannot be reversed in a sensible way, can stimulate the mind, which can result in totally new insights and ideas.
· "How could it be combined with other things." To use many inventions it is necessary to figure out how it can be combined with other entities. An example is the gasoline engine, which was essentially combined with a horse carriage to create an automobile.
A brainstorming session can sometimes result in the development of good solutions or innovations. However, most of the ideas that develop are likely to be impractical, unworkable, unrealistic or in a raw state requiring further development. Thus, a primary task is to sort out the useless ideas and select the few ideas that can be developed into useful solutions or innovations. This selection process is carried out after the brainstorming session has been completed. It might be carried out by upper management, the management of a specific organizational department, or another group or individual. In theory, it could also be carried out by the participants of the brainstorming group after the brainstorming session has been completed.
The above discussion suggests the obvious question; does brainstorming really work? Is it an effective strategy to develop new ideas and solve problems? The use of the technique sometimes results in the development of highly useful ideas. The simple brainstorming technique, as presented above, is probably more effective in nontechnical creative tasks, such as developing advertising slogans. In fact, it was created primarily for that purpose. The inventor, Alex Osborn, was an advertising executive.
The above suggests the question: what does research indicate about brainstorming? The answer is, it is more effective to develop creative ideas by working alone. For example, if you have five people, you can obtain more ideas from them, in a given period of time, if they work alone. However, this does not mean that brainstorming groups do not work, it means that an equal number of individuals brainstorming alone will be more efficient. This, is probably especially the case when working with technical material that involves complicated logical and/or mathematical relationships, because it requires much time and a high level of concentration.
The superior creative capability of people working alone is no mystery to individuals who are familiar with group dynamics. Most people are somewhat inhibited by a group structure. They tend to be influenced and limited in their verbalizations by a relatively small number of group participants who do most of the talking. Another limiting factor of brainstorming groups is: most people, especially in the work environment, do not want to present ideas that might be misinterpreted, and which night reflect negatively on them as employees or coworkers. They do not want to offend people who have more power than they do, such as their supervisor or boss. If they neglect this concern, they might be risking their relationships with their employer and coworkers as well as jeopardizing their employment. Thus, a participant in a group might only want to present ideas that would not be offensive and would please her boss. This can severely limit the creative production of a brainstorming group. Another dynamic that might limit the effectiveness of brainstorming groups was suggested by Michael Diehl and Wolfgang Stroebe in 1991, which is as follows. When an individual is a group member, she cannot talk until she is called on. If she gets an idea, she might have to hold it in memory, until she is permitted to speak. During this time, she cannot engage in creative thinking, because her memory and her efforts are focused elsewhere. That is, her efforts are focused on retaining the idea and getting the attention of the group facilitator, which wastes time and effort. When working alone, the individual simply writes down ideas as soon as it comes to her. She does not have to waste time and effort to get the attention of the group facilitator.
In spite of the relevant inefficiency of brainstorming it is still frequently used. Brainstorming groups probably perform additional functions besides creative thinking. Bringing people together, in a group when they are faced with a difficult task or a threatening problematic condition can sometimes be very reassuring and emotionally satisfying. When people are given an assignment to work alone, to create new ideas, there is always the possibility of procrastination, especially if the task is difficult or anxiety provoking. The brainstorming group eliminates this type of procrastination problem.
A fairly good alternative to the brainstorming group is suggested by the above paragraphs. One or more individuals brainstorming alone can be quite effective. This technique is probably most effective if there are no time limits placed on the brainstorming individual(s). They can carry a pad with them to write down their ideas, as they come to mind. They can even use information from a large number of sources, such as books and friends, to stimulate their creative thinking. This technique allows the individual(s) all the time needed to work on problems that might be too difficult or technical for a conventional brainstorming group. Brainstorming alone is also excellent for personal problems, where the use of a group might be impractical. Of course this technique does not really replace the conventional brainstorming group. It is apparent that brainstorming groups have their special advantages as well as limitations.
The above discussion
suggests the question: Is it possible to circumvent the difficulties with
brainstorming groups and create a more effective methodology? The answer is found with modern computer
technology. There is a variation of the
technique called electronic brainstorming, which is defined by Hellriegel &
Slocum, (p 761) as: "Use
of technology to input and automatically disseminate ideas in real time over a
computer network to all team members, each of whom may be stimulated to
generate other ideas." This
method involves a number of computers connected together. The physical location of the computers and
the group participants is irrelevant.
That is, the group members and their computers can be in the same room, spread
throughout the building, located in different areas of the
There are software packages that were specifically created for electronic brainstorming. One package is made by Group Systems and it is called Electronic Brainstorming. This software is especially created to conceal the identity of the group participants. When an idea is typed into the computer system it appears on the computer screens in random order.
Thus, electronic brainstorming appears to eliminate the difficulties associated with conventional brainstorming. With the electronic technique, it is even possible to extend the group meeting, for hours, days, weeks, or months, or even to have it as a continuous ongoing process. This is possible, because at any point in time an individual can enter the system and type in her idea(s). The group members do not have to be concerned about what others will think of their ideas, because the identities of all the participants are concealed. This is a great advantage, but it also is a highly significant disadvantage, because the brainstorming participants do not get credit for good ideas.
Obtaining credit for innovative and creative ideas is extremely important in most fields, especially in engineering and science. Thus, the employees might refuse to submit their best ideas into an electronic brainstorming system, because they might not get credit for it. It is also important for management to know who is submitting highly useful or profitable ideas, because that is the individual that should be consulted on an ongoing basis, and that is the individual that the company would want to promote. This disadvantage might be circumvented if the individual that is submitting a potentially valuable idea, documents her submission by submitting it in writing (before it is inserted into the electronic brainstorming system) to another individual who can act as a witness.
Most of the benefits of electronic brainstorming can be achieved with written statements, which can be anonymously submitted to a group facilitator, such as by mail or a suggestion box set up specifically for the purpose. The group leader=s task would be to place the suggestions on a blackboard or bulletin board, so all the participants can see the ideas that were developed by other group members. This technique, which I will call, brainstorming by documentation, would be much slower than electronic brainstorming. However, this method can be set up in such a way that one person records who submitted each idea, with the understanding that there names will only be associated with the idea, if the submission is accepted and used by the organization.
A modified version of the above can be used to obtain ideas from individuals that are not employed by the company on an ongoing basis, such as experts, suppliers, wholesalers, retailers customers and potential consumers. This can be done through the mail, and I will call it brainstorming by mail. To use this method, you only have to explain a problem in writing, provide appropriate instructions about brainstorming, and supply a series of general questions or statements such as the following:
What are all the possible solutions you can suggest for this problem? What are all the possible ways that this problem might be solved? List all the possible solutions to this problem. List all the things that are wrong with our product. List all of the ways that our product might be improved.
To stimulate the creativity process, with brainstorming by mail you can
send the responses of the participants back to them, requesting more ideas, and
improvements in the already submitted ideas.
This can be done a number of times, until you have achieved your
brainstorming objective. Hence,
brainstorming by mail more or less resembles the
Thus, there are potentially a limitless