M2-8 ANALYTICS * TEAMS o ORGANIZATIONS * SI(ILLS

M2-8 ANALYTICS * TEAMS o ORGANIZATIONS * SI(ILLS

introduction

In order to solve an organizational problem or take advantage of an organizational opportunity, it is help[\fl to have a rich understanding of tile organization and the issues. A good picture of an organization is usefill for probing more thor- oughly into the possible nature and sources of the issues and the range of approaches. It is easy to sldp this analysis in favor of f5miliar approaches. People o{‘ren summarize an organizational prob- lem in a way that suggests a singular source, such as, “The main problem we have here is a delay in mamtFacturing.” They leap into that line of inquiry: “OK, let’s see what we can do to speed tip the manuthcturing process.” In lVact, if they had a richer picture of the organization, they might learn that the p,’oblem is elsewhere, perhaps to do with the design-manufacturing intern:ace, or the rela- tionship with suppliers, or the way that overtime compensation is handled. It is helpfill to under- stalld that one can look at an organization in many ways and many illuminating features that can be observed. Different individuals will tend to focus on one set of problems or issues over others.

An often-told parable about three blind men and an elephant reminds us of the importance of an individual’s viewpoint:

a distinctive view of the organization. Bet’orc read- ing about how these three perspectives have devel- oped, it is helpful to think about how each of us brings our own personal views to organizations,

Our Personal “Schemas”

Each of us has certain ways of looking at the world. We have what social psychologists call schenza,ÿ; which \\,e use every day to navigate through con> plex situations. “A schema is a cognitive structure that represents organized knowledge about a given concept or type of stimuhÿs. A schema contains both the attributes of the concept and the relation- ship among the attributes” (Fiske and Taylor, 1984, p. 140). Social psychologists developed this idea upon observing that individuals construct their own maps of the social world.

Our informal diagnoses oÿ” organizations, based on bits and pieces of our experiences, are often partly right but somewhat incomplete and mis- guided, This mod, ule presents some more formal and complete models tbr looking at organizations that have been developed in the social sciences, Of course, none of these models is a complete theory of the world either. Rather, the challenge is for you to understand whether you tend to adopt certain approaches to organizations more naturally, whether you tend to overlook certain potentially usefifl approaches, and whether these two tenden- cies can be balanced and integrated to provide a more complete analysis.

This module introduces three classic perspec- tives on organizations. These three perspectives can be thought of as lenses, each of which presents

Three blhzd mcJÿ were mkÿd to describe what a,a elepham i’ÿ” like. One Mind ma,/ f!’lt the elephant’s tail amt obserÿ,cd, “Aÿl elqham is very much like a piece ÿ¢’ropc.” The second bli**d ma,afelt the ele- phant’s side mid observed, “AJl eleplmm is vel7 ml.lch like a wall.” The third blind man felt the e/epham’s trunk mÿd obsem,ed, “A11 elephant is veÿ7 mm’h like a pipe.” Each was right° AÿJd each vm” iÿcomplete mtd partly mi,ÿ,tuided.

What Is Helpful About Schemas?

Schemas help people function in cognitively effi- cient ways. As certain kinds of situations or data become [:amiliar, it is easier to rely on a tried and true model of how to react than to rethink the sit- uation anew, For example, someone who drives a crowded fi’eeway to work every morniilg may ahvays jump into the leftmost lane on approaching the toll plaza; it is her schema fbr dealing with traf tic. She hardly has to think about it–she just does it. When she started driving that route, she may have taken diff’:rent approaches and arrived at this one aÿYer trial and error. Even if it isn’t the fastest lane each morning, overall it may reduce stress to have this taken-R)r-granted strateg),, leaving her mind a little fi’eer to }bcus on the radio news. Schemas gÿve us an approach to repeated situations and fi’ee up our minds for other more complex and highly varying activities.

It is particularly helpfifl to develop schemas about organizations in which we work. It is the essence of becoming an “old hand.” The value of employees with seniority is that they have worked out a number of their own unwritten schemas fbr

. how to get things done. (In more formal terms, they have developed specialized human capital or tacit knowledge that makes the. nl particularly valu- able and difficult to replace.) Without schemas, every task would be a monumental new project.

Most o,ÿJlmlizadom provide comph:v mad ÿloisÿ, il,gbrmatio**al cmdromncm.v i*t IJ,hid, olÿjanizÿ- tional ptrrtic&ams gather iJJfiÿrmatioÿ abo,ÿt other individuals at*d releva**t Ivork tasks, which

Module E , 77.wcc l,¢nscs on O&anizational Analysis and/lotion M2-9

tho’ must then in.tcqratc with thdr own thoujfl:n:b .f?cliTÿqs, tÿnd work bchtzviors. To n.uÿmÿgT¢ thesc nHtltiph’ inJbrrmÿtion-processin]l dcmtÿnds,, people ttccomplish mtÿ10, ccLsnixivc activities mithout con- sciotts tÿwarcncs6 attentiouÿ or srHÿCh forethotqÿht. bt other mords peopk” rely on hiÿqhO, structnred, prc-r;v#tit& I’nomlcdgle .Wtems to interpret their mÿlÿnizntiom.ÿl ii,orht and ]lore’rate nppropritttc bchal,imw. Such a knolvlcdglc O,stÿ’m . . . # q’tcn ctÿlled tÿ schema. (Lord tÿnd Foti, 1986, pp. 20-21)

This cognitive processing is helpt’ul because it helps indMduals find recurring patterns in com- plex everyday data. But schelnas are not meant to be hard and f’ast rules. Without some conscious examination of them, wc nlight be led astray.

How Do Our Schemas Lead Us Astray?

People may especially need to change their sdaemas in times of’organizational change, but may be reluctant to do so. Resistance to organizational change usually does not come [i’onl a thilure to come up with the right blueprint IBr fimn’e prac- tices. It more of’ten comes fi’Oln people’s reluctance to give up their comtbrtable old approaches. A fhmiliar refi’ain in organizaticms is “But we’\’e almtoJs done it that way.” People may not simply’ be, saying that the old way was wonderful. They may be saying that they had come up with ways of cop- ing with the old system—some schemas fbr getting around the bugs, the red tape, and the obstacles ….. so that they could fimction in the old system with- out ha\’ilÿg to reinvent c\’erything every day and get a headache fi’om the stress. A new system requires building new schemas; it takes a lot of energy and thoughd:uhmss to update old schemas.

Schemas Become Outdated Although our per- sonal schemas may initially seem efficient, they can become outdated. People can be stubbornly at- tached to their schemas. Schemas need updating. Our schelnas derive from our experiences, but over time they can also come to shape our experi- ences in self-fulfilling ways.

For example, in the past, textbooks included mostly examples of men in prol;essional roles. On the one hand, these pictures were a fhirly accurate representation, statistically, of who was most likely to occupy protÿ:ssional roles s0mc years ago. A per- son with a schema that “you should ask tbr Mister so-and-so if phoning the manager” may have had an accurate, tilne-saving schema. On the other hand, schemas do not just reflect organizational life, they help to shape it. It has been difficult fbr women to move into traditionally male professional roles precisely because most people’s schemas have not included a picture ofwolrmn in those roles.

The entrance of “WOlllel] into prol?ssional roles may help some people change these particular schemas. At the salne timcÿ changing schemas may make it easier for women to enter professional roles. People who do not update their schemas may find themselves in embarrassing situations, such as the students who asked the woman stand- ing in the department office fbr some help with photocopying, thinking she must be the secretary, only to discover they had just asked the chair of the department to photocopy their assignlnents.

Schemas Are Resistant to Change It is both a beauty and a weakness of schemas that they become Familiar and difficult to change, Even if we know our old schemas are not perfÿct–dae leffmost lane is not ahvays the |hstest moving in ‘the morning commute–sometimes it is easier to stay \\’ith them than to experiment;’ it may be enough to have a schema that works out pretty well on average.

Schemas Become Universal Rules Schemas encourage us to react tO types of situations or types of people in certain ways. Because it is difficult to collect additional, thorough data as each situation or person comes along, the Ulfi\,ersal rules embod- ied in our schemas save time. They arc helpfifl to overworked people. However, much of organiza- tional (it;e is not universal (“always do X to make a business travel reservation”), but instead is contin- gent (“do X to make domestic travel arrangements and Tto make international travel arrangements”). What you do depends on some more specific, dis- tinguislaing intbrmation about the situation.

Consider a busy manager who was stressed about writing perl-brlnance evaluations [br his employees and documenting aspects of their per tbrmancc. He came up with a simplilÿ,ing schenla to determine who his strongest employees were, a rule of thumb that he thought had been lhirly accurate: “The people who ate here the latest at night arc the best workers.” He began to wÿ)rry, however, that his pertbrmance cvahmtions were demoralizing some excellent workers and praising some less productive workers, His schema was leading him astray. Employees who worles fi’om small immvators on the margin, not fi’Oln central competitors. The findings fi’om a more formal model might help this manager to update her schema. She may read about networks to under- stand her company’s environment better and how ideas travel among researchers of this environment.

Of course, social scientists have their own fÿ\,orite personal schemas for how to study the social world and how to construct a research proj- ect. Theretbre, the insights and tindings that we gain fi’om social scientitlc research can be clustered

Three Class Notes follow that describe the three classic perspectives. Think of each perspective as a different lens through which you can view the organization. These approaches re[lect years of studies, interviews, observations, and participation in organizations. The Class Notes highlight the important features of each lens, the history of the development of that lens, and the kinds of ques- tions about organizational processes that each lens might guide you to ask in order to get a richer pic- ture of an organization or to conduct an organiza- tional analysis. The three lenses are:

• The Strategic Design Lens • ‘ The Political Lens • The Cultural Lens

The Strategic Design Lens People who take this perspective look at how the flow of tasks and information is designed, how people are sorted into roles, how these roles are related, and how the organization can be rationally optimized to achieve its goals. What if you consid- ered the problem mentioned in the opening para- graph of this introduction, about delays in manufacturing, fi’om this perspective? Just one possibility is that you might decide that looking at the designqnanuFacturing interface is a good place to start to chart the flow of information and detect any disconnections between roles.

The Political Lens People who take this perspective look at how power and influence are distributed and wielded, how multiple stakeholders express their different pret?rences and get involved in (or excluded fi’om) decisions, and how conflicts can be resolved, What if you considered delays in manufacturing fi’om

Module 2 * Three Lenses on Owauizationa/ A Jtalysis aJÿd Action M2-11

:dais perspective? Just one possibility is that you might decide that suppliers are critical stakelaolders who must be considered, and you might explore wllether they are influencing the delays to display their control over a crucial resource and gain influ-

ence in pricing.

are taldng place–or being thwarted–in organiza- tions today.

Analyzing Organizations

F5

What Lens Do You Favor?

As you read about these lenses, try to surtaace your own implicit views of organizations. You might see whether you instinctively align with one of these three lenses. Compare and contrast what they say about organizational processes with what you have come to believe about organizational processes based on your own experiences.

The Three Lenses in Action

Think about how you might use the three lenses differently to understand some of” the changes that

The Cultural Lens People who take this perspective look at how his- tory has shaped the assumptions and meanings of different people, how certain practices take on spe- cial meaningfulness and even become rituals, and how stories and other artitCacts shape the fi:el of an organization. What if you considered delays in manufacturing fi’om this perspective? Just one pos- sibility is that you might decide that overtime pay has a symbolic meaning to workers, that norlns about who gets how much overtime have devel- oped over the ),ears, and that what look like delays might be attempts to spread out the overtime in ways that are valued as being more fair.

An organizational analysis often begins with an intuitive sense of where to look to understand an organization and describe its character to others. An organizational analysis is guided by an idea of how organizations work. Each of us has schemas that affect what we pay attention to and what we ignore. The three lenses provide a number of pos- sible ways to expand your views of organizations and enrich your organizational analysis.

Balancing Multiple Perspectives

You will have a chance to use all three lenses as you conduct the organizational analysis that is de- scribed in the last Class Note in this module, which begins on page 83. At the same time, it is important to understand that SOlnetimes these lenses suggest contradictory, not complementary, approaches or actions.

Througlmut the term, you will have opportuni- ties to work with other people who look at organ- izations differently or prefer a different perspective than you do, based on their dift’erent organiza- tional experiences and standpoints.

We emphasize that problems don’t have a single clear, correct, optimal solution. It does not mean that any analysis is a good analysis. Some analyses are better than others—more thoughtful, more complete, more attentive to contingencies and trade-oftiq or more able to balance and integrate multiple perspectives. A failure to consider multi- pie perspectives represents all incomplete analysis.

References

Fiske, Susan T., and Shelley E. Taylor. 1984. SociM CogMtiom New York: Random House.

Lord, Robert G., and Roseannc I. Foti. 1986. “Schema Theories, infbrmatioll Processing, and Organi- zational Behavior.” In H. P. Sims, Jr., and D. A. Gioia (eds.), The Thiukiltg OrjTaÿzizatio*l (pp. 20-48). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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