Each one of us wants to work in a good work community. A good work community gives support, motivates and gives strength even in difficult working conditions. … …
Everyone can make a quick estimate of his own community by considering the following questions:
– What kind of mood am I in when I go to work?
– Do I feel welcome at the working place?
– Do my superiors and colleagues appreciate my work?
– How do I think that my own occupational category is appreciated in my work community?
– What do I think that other units or companies in the same line think about my work community?
– How do equality and justice materialize in my work community?
– Am I familiar with the financial situation and future prospects of my organization and work community?
– What are my chances to influence my work and my work community?
To bring about change is easiest when everyone profits relatively quickly from the change. At the moment development and changes of the private as well as the public sector are carried out with diminishing resources. Giving up acquired benefits as far as being threatened loses one’s job naturally causes strong resistance. Antti Karisto states that the cutting phase requires far more careful planning than the growth phase. About the social sector he writes in 1992:
”Now it is time to think about the whole and to analyze the welfare effects of the cutbacks, for otherwise they will strike those areas where they are technically easiest to perform or where the resistance is weakest.” (Karisto, 1992, 15)
Accepting mistakes and insecurity as necessary features of life in complicated and changing circumstances is a fundamental condition for people to learn to face change and insecurity in a constructive way. It is naturally necessary to differentiate between mistakes that are due to the unpredictability of circumstances or to insecurity, and those that are due to neglections and irresponsibility (Gareth Morgan, 1986).
Inventing organization development strategies has traditionally been the management’s task, because it is supposed to have the most reliable knowledge of the overall situation in the organization and its development needs, and the best expertise. Change strategies that have been planned and led by the top level have proved difficult to carry out and scanty in regard to their results in a quickly and unpredictably changing operations environment (Beer & Walton, 1987).
Schlessinger and Ostry (1984) as well as Jick and Ashkenaskin (1985) emphasize the fact that in order to bring about long term changes you have to start with little changes, the success in which should be connected to a wider change in systems and structures. This approach is very close to the idea of the process centered development strategy, where the basis of change is constant examination of the staff’s everyday life and experiences. To link up little changes with wider connections requires, however, that the staff has an updated overall view of the organization, i.e. common social reality.
”I don’t believe in slogans. The world changes so fast that declarations and slogans very quickly go out of date. …
I find it important, that each central business defines it’s know how factors, and knows how to form them into competition factors in order to make money with them. …
This is much more trivial than any solemn declaration. Concepts and strategies often simplify matters, they cover up the everyday life.
Important customers do not ask for declarations. They want to visit the factory, they want to see how it is lead, what kind of people lead it, what is essential in product development. The questions are commonplace. …
This is about going back to basic issues, to the fact that every oak has been an acorn. …A diligent and well motivated person does ten times, maybe a hundred times more (in brainwork/K.M.) than a badly motivated and organized person…
How you motivate him to make profit is tremendously interesting. It does not come about through declarations, it requires you to go to the factory floor and talk to people.
I think it is far more important than for instance talking to reporters.” (Jorma Ollila, 1992)
Living and learning as a model of developing
The rationalization of working life has aimed at and by far succeeded in the elimination of unnecessary movements and pauses, and has thus reduced the use of expensive labor. That is why those who remain are in a hurry. Work often allows only minimal brakes, and there is hardly time for conversation between the workers. Undeniably, the action does seem effective.
The effectiveness of work can not, however, be estimated by the amount of haste. Through haste it is possible to move towards objectives in the direction of the basic task, or away from them. That is why there has to be time to stop and examine together where you are, what you are doing and how, and what is achieved and what is not.
Many development projects follow the development of the community’s state with the help of annual situation surveys.
This kind of a survey – planning – realization – follow up -model is slow and does not function in swiftly changing circumstances. It does help to bring up problems, but the strategy is inadequate in creating a high standard community that can effectively solve problems. That is why it has quite often happened that the community has used up its resources already at the stage of considering the results and the means. There has not been enough consensus and energy to carry them out. The initial enthusiasm and great expectations turn into collective disappointment. The results of change strategies that have been planned in advance and programmed to be carried out in stages, have even in the light of research turned out weaker than had been expected (Beer & Walton, 1987).
If you start to develop a community basically by talking about general objectives and principles, you may reach consensus, but that in turn may prove to be an illusion. Because of verbal misunderstandings and misinterpretations it is easy to end up in conflicting practices. In process centered development you don’t start out by learning a new language introduced by a consultant, but instead people learn the common language as a result of daily interaction, in common meetings and conferences.
Ccommon social reality is created in continuous interaction, it is clear that individuals and communities that have little mutual interaction also share little common social reality. Thus the highest hierarchy level in an organization has usually the smallest amount of common social reality with the basic level.
A good description of the state of common social reality in a Finnish insurance company is found in the dissertation of Katriina Perkka-Jortikka (1992, 108-109):
”Department meetings; those present were the department manager, the division manager and the clerical employees; in principle they met once a month, in practice whenever there was something to discuss; the manager was present when needed …
The principle of information flow was that in the unit’s management group meeting the department managers told the division managers the matters concerning them, and the division managers then told the employees the matters concerning them. Since the departments had common discussions very seldom (more seldom than once a month), and since there was no structure for the department managers and the division managers to form common views, the clerical employees received at least seven different official information versions (from two department managers and five division managers).
… in practice he (the department manager/K.M.) hardly knew very much of what was going on in his community.”
To fulfill the lack of common social reality between the decision-makers and the executors, Anton Makarenko and Maxwell Jones, both independent of each other, developed a same kind of solution: open forums for decision-making (Murto, 1991, 177-178).
Traditionally both private and public administration organizations have emphasized the limits of exercising power. With a special earnestness they have kept guard over the issue, who is allowed and who has the right to participate in, for instance, the meetings of the management or the board of directors, who is allowed to make proposals in them and who is not. In recent years there has been, now and again even heated discussion of the right of the staff’s representatives to attend meetings of the decision-making bodies.
Giving information of decisions or matters in preparation is seen as a question of power: who is allowed to give information, and of what matters, inside and outside the organization. The public administration has had the practise not to give information of matters in preparation, even though the municipal law already has a different content. As the basis of planning, statements are asked from chosen interest groups. Decisions prepared like this are often followed by a spiral of complaints, which may slow down the execution of the decisions and raise their costs. This kind of emphasis on hierarchism and the control of limits alienates the members of an organization, creates mistrust and insecurity, and promotes the formation of cliques. It is hardly difficult to find examples of cases like this. And there is nothing to be wondered at the fact that the flow of information is seen as the central problem of almost every organization and working place.
Organization development and research has paid a lot of attention to the social structure of an organization. Sometimes organization development has been seen merely as changing the social structure, as the rearrangement of the ”organization boxes” and as a new division of tasks.
The unpredictability and speed of social changes has led organization researchers to see development as continual action. This requires the creation of ’mechanisms’ within an organization and a work community that guarantee continual change and development.
Confronted with such a challenge, to use an outside consultant as a reorganizer is not enough. In the future the leader of an organization and a work community has to master and adopt the roles of consultant and developer. Also the community has to organize into its own daily routines the elements that enforce development. Development occurs through action, and continual development is based on proper functional structure.
At first I shall deal with leading an interaction process on the organization level, when the leader’s main responsibility is to lead the interaction and cooperation between units. The objective is to find a solution to leading independent units that have been created through decentralization. The utilization of the independence relating to units in a larger organization does not work by itself, but requires talent, skill and courage from the leader in leading the interaction of the cooperation forums that work on the basis of openness and equality. To establish cooperation forums usually requires agreement and support from the supreme management of the organization. I shall handle these questions towards the end of this chapter.
One of the most important tasks of a manager is to create a well functioning work community. Research concerning work communities and organizations has ever since the 1930’s showed that the delegation of power to the basic level is an effective factor in increasing work motivation. Later studies on organizations emphasize the effectiveness of small independent units in producing new ideas and in adjusting to changing circumstances. Managers that are used to the traditional line organization are in a puzzling situation: How can you lead an organization if you delegate the power to the basic level, and the units are allowed to work independently?
The study by Coch and French, for example, shows how important in planning and realizing organizational and communal changes it is to negotiate with all those individuals and groups that will be affected by the change. It is paradoxical that facts that have been verified half a century ago, and many times after that, are not yet a part of everyday life. The most common model in the public sector is probably cooperation based solely on informing or representative participation, where people think they can control change only by the expertise and overall view of the management.
The task of a unit leader or superior is to create a well functioning work community. He usually has sufficient authority, even the responsibility, to do that. But how is it done in practice? Since community development has been described in the former chapter, I shall concentrate here in the methods that serve to create a good community. The first requirement is to organize common forums (meetings and discussions). It is not enough if the manager himself has got good relations to each member of the staff, if the relationships between the staff members are in a bad way or cliquish. That is why it is necessary to take time regularly and often enough, once a week for example, to stop to examine and discuss together what has been done and lived through. This is the most important part of developing the functional structure of a unit, a structure that guarantees open communication and emergence of conflicts that bring forward the community development.
To support open interaction in these meetings and discussions is what the manager has on his responsibility. People’s ability and courage to talk and act in a large group is very modest. They need time, practice, and most of all, the manager’s active encouragement to venture to participate and to bring up difficult topics. Since we are dealing with a very demanding task, it is necessary to set aside time to learn it. Sometimes the commencement is burdened by previous negative experiences, as the personnel in an insurance company reports in a study by Perkka-Jortikka (1992, 124-125).
”The clerical employees had, however, a reserved attitude towards open and confidential discussion with the superiors, because the negative feelings caused by previous discussions were still on people’s minds.”
The importance of the value of American managers which Chris Argyris(1981) describes, is remarkable to the operation of an organization. If individuals internalize the values of intellectual rationality and getting the work done, they consciously emphasize the intellectual side of problems. More or less consciously they repress interpersonal and emotional sides, especially those that seem less important as regards to performing the task.
If conflicts between people are put aside, the problems connected to them will come up elsewhere, for instance as intellectual or technical problems. Under these circumstances, individuals will not learn to handle their emotions and mutual relations in an open and constructive way. They rather learn to develop personal and organizational defense mechanisms, that will suppress emotional expressions of their own and of the others. This leads to the rejection of also such ideas and thoughts that might bring up the repressed emotions.
The rejection of interpersonal conflicts probably impedes the utilization of the community’s creative capacity. People learn to stick to safe limits, which reduces their openness towards new ideas and values. They do not dare to try anything new nor to take risks. The fear for putting oneself at stake grows. Unnoticed they will end up in a vicious circle, which suppresses creativity and vitality.
In a culminated conflict situation and in a clustered community, the discussions with the superior seldom solve the situation permanently. If either one of the parties feels defeated, he and his supporters will bring the matter forward in the official way, to his superior’s superior, to the management board, or they will leave it in the hands of the trade union. This kind of handling estranges the conflict from its original context and expands it by bringing in new interest groups. At the same time, chances to genuine conciliation become smaller, gaps between the clusters become deeper, and economical and psychological costs of the conflict increase.
In the starting stage of common meetings it often happens that people feel, especially in larger groups, as if they were restrained by the group. Instead of being able to act and speak freely, people are nervous, distressed, they monitor themselves and the others, and they are afraid to open their mouths. According to an observation by Wilfred Bion, a British group analyst, in any group whatsoever, 20 % of the participants are active and talkative, and 80 % are more or less passive, acquiescent and silent. Instead of acting as a tool for the present community members, the group seems to form functional chains.
Psychiatrist R. N. Hinshelwood (1987), a British therapeutic community researcher, has analyzed community meetings from the point of view of a psychodynamic frame of reference. According to Hinshelwood, the treatment of fantasies and anxieties that arise in a large group and often remain unconscious belongs to the aspect of verbalization and dramatization. By dramatization Hinshelwood means treating threatening emotions and fantasies with the aid of collective, functional defense. This means clothing individuals’ fantasies in ‘drama’, in which they get involved without their noticing it, without a conscious decision. Since what we have in question is a defense mechanism, dramatization does not bring a solution to a community’s problems, but it most often makes them worse.
The ability to verbalize the feelings and experiences aroused by a situation requires not only courage but also ability to detach oneself from the suction of the situation, to see it from a distance, from outside, listening to and understanding one’s feelings. It is good to notice that dramatization also comprises talking like telling jokes. Verbalization means talking expressly about feelings and experiences aroused by a situation.
After the meeting people gather in pairs and in small groups, and very fluent and lively discussion commences. The progress of the meeting, the addresses, and the decisions are commented on and evaluated. Differing opinions and even dissatisfaction are regrettably often brought up only afterwards. This kind of review that is done afterwards in small groups, a postmortem, cannot, however, change what has been done undone nor can it help the community as a whole to learn from its experience. As for the individuals, letting the feelings out even afterwards has got therapeutic meaning that decreases frustration and pressures. That is why it is essential as well.
In order to make the meetings work most efficiently as forums for ideation, discussion, decision-making and evaluation, as many participants as possible should be able to feel secure and that their opinions are valuable. Moreover, when we are talking about a meeting at the working place, the community or the group should feel that it has value and abilities as a whole. In the foregoing I have already emphasized how important, as regards to interaction skills and the security of the community, it is that the meetings are regular, that they meet often enough, and that the manager has an active, encouraging attitude towards open talking and responsible listening. In addition to these requirements, communal learning requires examination of what has been done and lived trough. That is why each discussion and meeting should be closed twice (Murto, 1989).
When we discuss and solve the problems of everyday life together, when we agree on common rules and principles of actions, and when we make plans and set goals, gradually the members start to form a common view of the community, of its strengths and weaknesses, of the basic task as well as of mutual relations and of the division of tasks. This kind of a common view of the community and its state can be considered a result of the development of communal identity.
The most central area of communal identity is the amount of common social reality. The more incoherent the community is, the less common social reality is shared by its members. A community without an identity, a defiant community, and a community with identity describe certain kinds of ideal types between which most communities can be placed
A community with an identity knows its weaknesses and strengths.Goals, principles and practices of actions have been internalized, and the communal culture is estab-lished so far, that the community does not have to guard its limits as inflexibly and stiffly as a defiant community.
A community with an identity is by no means without problems and conflicts, but its members have courage, ability and skill to handle the difficulties they meet with, and they also have, based on experience, a confidence in getting over them.
Despite their good results, the democratically controlled and led cooperatives have met with quite many difficult practical problems that threaten the survival of the principles of equality, democracy and cooperation when the community grows older. Democracy is threatened by the members’ uneven participation, which on the one hand is due to structural obstacles in the community, and on the other hand to obstacles connected to the members’ personality, interests and skills. The size of the community and the time reserved for the meetings are the most important structural factors. When the size of the community grows, the time needed for common meetings is longer. In larger communities also the proportion of those who participate actively is smaller than in small communities. Personal differences are connected to the intensity of commitment, educational backgrounds, knowledge, skills and thirst for power. The materialization of democracy calls for preventing power to be concentrated in the hands of a few.
The community’s cooperation can be endangered by such social psychological processes like specialization, attachment and accommodation to the group. Specialization can lead to a formation of a group of specialists that concentrate on their own interests. People’s attachment for each other can create a system of special favorites and cause cliques. Accommodation to the expectations of others or to the pressures of the group prevents the utilization of individual creativity and causes inner dissatisfaction
The central elements of leading the process and process centered development are presented in a nut shell.