Organization / Teamwork

Flawed Advice and the Management Trap – How Managers Can Know When They’re Getting Good Advice and When They’re Not

 

Chris Argyris has provided a buyer’s guide for management advice with this book. Using examples from several recent business books (many authored by his Harvard colleagues), Argyris explains in detail why the advice being offered is flawed and will result in unintended consequences. Chapter One leads off with an examination of advice being offered by the ever popular Stephen Covey. Argyris in short order shows why the advice being offered is inconsistent with the stated goals of Covey and ultimately provides unactionable advice to the reader. The reader will find this book very interesting if they are familiar with Argyris’s earlier works on organizational learning. This should not stop you from reading this book first because Argyris does provide a thumbnail sketch of his prior works to shed light on getting good advice.  After reading this book, you may feel the need to read more about Argyris’s ideas.

On Organizational Learning

 

From the Preface: The premise of this book is that organizational learning is a competence that all organizations should develop. This book is organized into four parts; Part I, Organizational Defenses, Part II, Inhibiting Organizational Learning and Effectiveness, Part III, The Counterproductive Consequences of Organizational Development and Human Resources Activities, and Part IV, The Inhibition of Valid and Usable Information from Correct Use of Normal Science. Argyris usually does a good job of provoking the reader into new thinking. This volume accomplishes the provocation nicely.  From these titles, there is something here for everybody who is involved with helping an organization change and transform to a learning organization. Several topics are covered in great detail in this volume such as single vs. double loop learning and Model One vs. Model Two learning organizations. If you want to know the basis of Argyris’s work, this volume is a great update to his original work from 1977 entitled, Theory in Practice.

Agile Competitors and Virtual Organizations: Strategies for Enriching the Customer (Industrial Engineering)


This book is the product of the authors' research with industry and government leaders that resulted in the 1991 report, "21st Century Manufacturing Enterprise Strategy." The book describes a new form of competition to replace the 20th century mass production model. Agility is an umbrella term encompassing customized products and services, arbitrary lot sizes in manufacturing, holistic design, organizations not constrained by physical facilities or geographical locations, leaders instead of managers, and a knowledge/skill-based workforce. The book includes appropriate strategic objectives for agile competition, new organizational structures, core competencies appropriate for an agile environment, the role of marketing and product development, and the definers of successful companies.

The Democratic Corporation: A Radical Prescription for Recreating Corporate America and Rediscovering Success

 

Ackoff has divided this book into two sections. First, he discusses the mess in which we find ourselves with some commentary on current management topics. In Part II, he provides some philosophy on what can be done about it. His discussion on the difference between growth and development is especially interesting. Ackoff draws the conclusion in the first part that we are reacting with first one program and then another,
without taking a holistic view of our situation. This book does a very good job of provoking thought for leaders and integrating systems thinking with the job of management.

Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge

 

This textbook offers some background on culture, what it is and how it is changed. The book provides good definitions and insight on how anthropologists understand and learn about a culture. These lessons can be used in the business organization. The chapter on Cultural Change would be of interest to leaders, managers and facilitators.

Workplace 2000: The Revolution Reshaping American Business

 

Boyett and Conn present the case that the American workplace is half-way through a profound revolution which will affect everyone. They point out the trend toward a flatter organization and explore why this is happening and what consequences this will bring. The book explores the positive as well as the negative consequences of the changes to come. One major change will be in the compensation systems, which will be increasingly pegged to achievement, often of the group. The changing roles of unions and managers are explored in depth. This book includes many case studies and reports from companies of all sizes and industries. Because the book is making a number of predictions regarding the future workplace, it has a slightly speculative nature. Time will reveal how accurate these predictions are.

Organizational Behavior

 

This is a textbook that updates ideas on organizational behavior concepts such as group dynamics, group think, motivation, etc., with references to research conducted in the 70's and 80's. The book is filled with definitions, models and pictures to bring life to some established theories of how organizational behavior impacts performance.

Corporate Culture and Performance

 

The book is based on four studies conducted by the authors beginning in 1987. The purpose of the studies was to examine the relationship between corporate culture and long-term performance of organizations. The term "culture" taken from social anthropology, represents the qualities of a group of people that are passed from one generation to the next. The authors' use of culture includes both shared values and beliefs, as well
as behavior patterns and styles of an organization. The book concludes that culture does impact long-term financial performance, culture will be even more important in the future, "negative" cultures arise easily in organizations, and cultures are tough to change, but it can be done with strong leadership. The book is well-documented, with useful graphic summaries and data tables.

Self Directed Work Teams: The New American Challenge

 

This book provides a practical why, what, and how for understanding and implementing the concept of self-directed work teams. Self-directed work teams are presented as a way to boost productivity, improve quality, and become more competitive. The book is organized into three parts:

Part 1- Facing the New Challenge (is this team concept appropriate for your organization?)
Part 2- Special Work-Team Issues
Part 3- Tools and Techniques for Implementing Teams

The book includes a good history of the movement to self-directed work teams, beginning with the South Yorkshire, England coal miners in 1949. The book does a balanced job of presenting the pitfalls as well as expected payoffs from this type of organization.

Purpose-Driven Organization: Unleashing the Power of Direction and Commitment

 

Deming states that "creating constancy of purpose is the job of top management." This book gives guidance to top management in fulfilling this very important responsibility. The authors make a strong case for the importance of "purpose statements." More importantly, details are given on how they should be developed, communicated, and used. This book also gives definition to what a "purpose statement" includes--a mission,
values and beliefs, and a vision statement (p.10). Chapter 6 suggests development of measurements of the purpose statement (vector of measures). The role of leadership is discussed in chapter 8.

The Team Handbook Third Edition

 

This well-illustrated book on how to use teams to improve quality discusses the principles of leadership and the basic tools of quality improvement. The topics include selecting a project for improvement, getting a quality improvement team started, a five stage plan for process improvement, fourteen improvement strategies, learning to work together as a team, and team-building activities. This book has practical tips for team meetings and working through team problems. Teams using the Model to Improve Quality as the roadmap for their improvement efforts may need help in adapting the material in this book to their activities.

Productive Workplaces Revisited: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century

 

Weisbord provides an excellent history of the development of various organizational behavior theories during the last seventy years. With this look backward, he provides some practical advice for today's work environment. Systems thinking is also tied to the behaviorist movement throughout this text. This is a must-read for any manager, anyone working with teams, or anyone introducing change into a workplace.

Theory Z: How American Business Can Meet the Japanese Challenge

 

Theory Z came to the attention of American managers at a time when productivity was a key fixation. This book was read with the idea of discovering the secret to the Japanese miracle. Ouchi insists that the miracle is the result of the way people are managed, " ... a style that focuses on a strong company philosophy, a distinct corporate culture, long-range staff development, and consensus decision-making." Of particular interest are the various company purpose statements in Appendix 1.

Knowledge for Action: A Guide to Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change

 

Chris Argyris lays out the purpose of this book in his preface to this volume; Knowledge for Action is about two of my lifelong goals. The first is produce actionable knowledge that individuals can use to create organizations of any type, in which the search for valid knowledge, a commitment to personal responsibility and stewardship, and a dedication to effective action and learning are paramount…My second lifelong goal is to design the research methods that will produce this valid actionable knowledge. This book is organized into three parts, 1) Uncovering Roadblocks to Improvement, 2) Diagnosing and Intervening in the Organization, and 3) Using Key Learnings to Solve Problem Situations. People who are consulting, facilitating or working with other to bring about change will find the ideas in this book refreshing and actionable.

Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness

 

Argyris and Schön present their fundamental ideas in this book around the theories and methods to build what has become known as the learning organization.  The ideas presented in this book have been improved in later additions of Organizational Learning. The reader will find the Introduction to this book refreshing which was written in 1991 as an introduction to the classic 1974 work. Argyris and Schön spend some time
discussing what has worked and not worked since this book was first published. Their candor and self-critique is refreshing and insightful. The book is organized into three parts, Theory, Action and Practice. Here the reader will find the original ideas around single and double loop learning, Model One vs. Model Two organizations, and much more.

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