ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

November 1999

Articles

Boeing Flies High

Fostering Creativity: An Early Start

Are We There Yet?

If It Ain't Pretty - I'm Outta Here

 



Columns

Large Ideas Expressed In Small Amounts
by Peter Block


Features

Brief Cases

Diary of a Shutdown

Views for a Change

Pageturners

 
Views for a Change
Consultant Q & A

Jamie Showkeir responds:

First, an "organizational culture" currently exists, which you have characterized by some "autonomous operators", "union groupthink" and others "promoting . . . quality programs". There are values, norms, a social construct, administrative practices and individual actions that support and perpetuate this culture. The individuals in these "culturally diverse groups" participate in the manner described because their life-world experience makes relevant the facts they choose to support their points of view and actions.

"Programs" cannot alter these life-world experiences. The nature of programs puts the first person life-world experience into objectified theories, models and processes and applies these to individuals from a third person perspective. In other words, programs are aimed at changing "them" - those currently not getting with it. We can never change them - all we can change is "me". The dilemma is how to create situations that allow the "me's" to explore their life-world in connection with others and tie that to being accountable for the success of the whole university.

Individuals choose how they engage. Each person is an actor in the scenario. Each finds him/herself in a social and historical setting which was not of their making that provides them with typifications (a set of characteristics) and recipes for behavior (modes for acting) which allow them to act in various situations. These make up the individual's stock of knowledge. The stock of knowledge also contains solutions to problems from past experience. If a new experience in a similar situation can (without contradiction) be categorized into a type formed from previous experience then it confirms the stock of knowledge. Even when there is a contradiction we try to make things fit. This explains the set of diverse behaviors in your question. The "culture" is a collection of these phenomena - changing it is difficult.

Engaging life-world experiences through new forums for deliberation and conversation holds promise. Creating real contextual reasons for changing is the first area for focusing attention. Convening large system-wide groups of individuals interested in exploring possible reasons for change is useful. Large group events (200-300 or more people) bring a microcosm of the larger organization into the room. They connect the organization in real time and unique ways. Including all constituencies in these events is critical.

For conversations in these events to be relevant a reality based conceptual framework must be created. Publishing and disseminating factual information about the university and its marketplace situation is essential. Financial information, student/faculty dilemmas, goals and objectives, future plans, relationships, curricula, etc. all reveal the external world in which the university exists. By doing this people create different typifications of both the university and what it means to be a part of it. This leads to new recipes for behavior, individually and collectively and adds to their stock of knowledge for future engagement.
Deriving unique forms of deliberation and establishing conversations that allow individuals to explore their life-world experience in the university engage the reality that individual's experience. Through this engagement and attending to typifications and recipes for behavior that expand and reform the stock of knowledge encourages action. It is only from this first person perspective that real changes occur. This is primarily essential to continuous quality improvement.

David Farrell responds

November '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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