A Conference For, By And At The
Consultant Question and Answer
James D. Showkeir Responds:
The first step is taking the wraps off all the business information. The leaders of the organization typically possess critical measurement, market, financial, strategic and process information. This includes information typically seen as relevant only to specific parts of the organization (e.g. Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, Operations, etc.). Employees cannot maintain control of any operation without this. They must understand the interrelationships of the whole organization in order to manage their part. Paying attention to the whole has been seen as the role of top management.
The second step involves a "problem-posing" approach to the solution. This means posing your dilemma throughout the organization at the unit/team level while encouraging and supporting reflective action. The problem-posing approach involves constantly unveiling the reality at hand. Employees will determine what they need to make the correct decisions. This approach encourages freedom and promotes accountability for action.
The last critical step is leadership engagement instead of leadership installation. The resolution to your situation is not "some thing" that can be installed - it is a reflective learning process that must be engaged. Freire contrasts these different approaches as dialogic (engagement) and nondialogic (installation). The difference is fundamental and prepositional. A dialogic approach is leadership with people; a nondialogic approach is leadership of people. A more thorough look at the differences provides insight into strategy and action. I have taken some liberty with the language to provide relevancy to the business environment.
Leadership of People
Divide and rule - Adversarial toward people. Enacts dominion over people. Problems are specifically focused, not seen as parts of the total system. Leadership training exists only for a select few. Uniting occurs only in catastrophic circumstances.
Manipulation - Anesthetizes people to facilitate domination. Organization leaders alone structure power for domination. Leader's decisions are imposed, sold, bought-into, enrolled in - conforming the masses to their objectives.
Cultural invasion and determination - Mythicizes the contradiction between permanence and change. Leadership transmits their own values - which are often in conflict with actions taken. The underlying objective is control. Those dominated believe in their intrinsic inferiority.
Leadership with People
Unity for Liberation - Integrates the
cognitive, affective and active aspects of the
indivisible personality. Engages communion with people.
People are "dislodged" from a mythical reality and
"bound" to another reality. Articulates change as a
Cultural synthesis - Characterized by becoming not being. The relationship of permanence and change become the dialogue. Thematic investigation is the responsibility of all. Actors come to learn. Cultural synthesis is a form of action for confronting the culture itself. Leaders identify with the people's demands and pose those demands as problems.
If individuals and teams are to maintain solid business controls and own their jobs, then they must be as informed as those who currently do this (i.e. managers and leaders). Therefore opening the gates on all business information and supporting the creation of business literacy at all levels becomes an imperative. Strategies and methods that accomplish this are known and available.
In addition, the world that individuals and teams see themselves in is theirs to define. In essence leaders, managers and others cannot define this. The best case is that individuals define themselves and their contribution in the context of a business reality based on the inclusive information provided. This is why engagement is critical and installation does not work. Applying strategies and methods that foster building the characteristics of "engagement action" is central to this change. Posing your problem to individuals and teams so they may define both the world they are in and the avenues for success holds the greatest promise for change. In reality individuals are doing this anyway.
The change you are seeking is in fact a cultural/political one. Leadership and coreworkers alike must change the way they believe, think and engage. Distributing business information will begin this directly - informed people interact differently. Changing deliberations, conversations and management practices will concretely support this intended cultural/political change.