Self Other And Social Context Management Essay

To help build Departmental capability over the medium and long term the identification of needs should be directly linked to the achievement of the Organisational goals as well as on the broader career development needs of individual employees.

Numerous studies have shown that individuals process information differently. In today’s educational environment the traditional educational delivery method of a professor standing in front of a classroom of students has been augmented, and in some cases supplanted, by various on-line, distance learning delivery methodologies. Studies have also shown that not all individuals learn at the same level when participating in courses which utilize different approaches.


A global revolution is taking place in the field of workplace learning. It is driven by the requirements of information explosion, increased globalisation, the changing nature of work and business as well as changing learner needs and aspirations. In the modern business environment, companies are forced to approach the way they conduct business activities with a more external focus. Not only the business partnerships extending across regional, national and continental borders, but international standards are also becoming the norm.

Preparing workers to compete in the knowledge economy requires a new model of education and training, a model of lifelong learning. A lifelong learning framework encompasses learning throughout the life cycle, from early childhood to retirement. It includes formal, non-formal, and informal education and training.

• Formal education and training includes structured programs that are recognized by the formal education system and lead to approved certificates.

• Non-formal education and training includes structured programs that are not formally recognized by the national system. Examples include apprenticeship training programs and structured on-the-job training.

• Informal education and training includes unstructured learning, which can take place almost anywhere, including the home, community, or workplace. It includes unstructured on-the-job training, the most common form of workplace learning.

Recent knowledge and the accumulated stock of human capital are inputs in the production of new knowledge and wealth. The speed of change in the knowledge economy means that skills depreciate much more rapidly than they once did. To compete effectively in this constantly changing environment and globally, workers need to be able to upgrade their skills on a continuing basis. Change in the knowledge economy is so rapid that companies can no longer rely solely on new graduates or new labour market entrants as the primary source of new skills and knowledge. Schools and other training institutions thus need to prepare workers for lifelong learning. Educational systems can no longer emphasize task-specific skills but must focus instead on developing learners’ decision making and problem-solving skills and teaching them how to learn on their own and with others.

Lifelong learning is crucial in enabling workers to compete in the global economy. Education helps reduce poverty; if developing economies do not promote lifelong learning opportunities, the skills and technology gap between them and industrial countries will continue to grow. By improving people’s ability to function as members of their communities, education and training also increase social capital (broadly defined as social cohesion or social ties), thereby helping to build human capital, increase economic growth, and stimulate development.

Social capital also improves education and health outcomes and child welfare, increases tolerance for gender and racial equity, enhances civil liberty and economic and civic equity, and decreases crime and tax evasion (Putnam, 2001). Education must thus be viewed as

fundamental to development, not just because it enhances human capital but because it increases social capital as well.


This article examines the organisational realities. The perspectives appearing in the literature, the structural, the perceptual and interactive are identified and examined. Additionally, a perspective termed the organisational culture, the change leader approach and organisational reframing will also be discussed.


Realigning processes and roles to fit a new organizational reality is daily work for leaders. Planning and implementing changes is a fundamental set of skills at which all leaders must excel to ensure their teams and functions are set up to do great work. Improving an organization’s success through aligning its culture became a popular focus of work in the 1980s. During this time, many behavioural science researchers acknowledged the power and importance of organizational culture. In the last twenty-five years, organization culture has become a frequent topic of discussion among a broad audience of leaders including operational managers and organization development, human resources, and training professionals. Culture is now a regular consideration – or it ought to be – during strategic planning sessions and throughout change management initiatives.

Changes that go against a work culture or that are initiated without regard to the culture are likely to fail whereas culture-consistent changes ensure better results while reinforcing the most important workplace values and beliefs. Sometimes it is the culture that needs to change to support a new reality. Determining how to change a culture without wrecking intrinsic motivation or losing top talent is a delicate matter, indeed. To begin examining this challenge, let’s first establish a common definition of organizational culture.

What is an Organization’s Culture?

Many definitions of organization culture can be found in behavioural sciences literature. A frequently cited definition comes from organization development pioneer Edgar Schein. In his book, Organization Culture and Leadership, Schein described culture as being deeper than behaviours and artefacts.

“I will argue that the term ‘culture’ should be reserved for the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate

unconsciously, and that define in a basic ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organization’s view of itself and its environment.” Schein emphasized assumptions and beliefs while others see culture as a product of values. In Culture’s Consequences, Geert Hofstede wrote, “I treat culture as ‘the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another.’ … Culture, in this sense, includes systems of values; and values are among the building blocks of culture. Culture is to a human collectively what personality is to an individual.”

Beliefs and values are linked. What about understanding? In the article, “Organizations as Culture-Bearing Milieux,” Meryl Reis Louis wrote that, “any social group, to the extent that it is a distinctive unit, will have some degree of culture differing from that of other groups, a somewhat different set of common understandings around which action is organized, and these differences will find expression in a language whose nuances are peculiar to that group.” These three descriptions of organization culture find root in collectively held individual thinking processes. In their piece titled, “The Role of Symbolic Management,” Caren Siehl and Joanne Martin argued that “culture consists of three components: context, forms, and strategies.” This description suggests a more systemic description of culture with both internal and external components. In Riding the Waves of Culture, Fons Trompenaars offers another systemic model and described three levels of culture:

1) the explicit layer made up of artefacts and products and other observable signs,

2) the middle layer of norms and values and,

3) the implicit layer, which is comprised of basic assumptions and beliefs.

In Corporate Culture and Performance, John Kotter and James Heskett acknowledge

internal and external components of culture, too. They see organization culture as having “two levels, which differ in their visibility and resistance to change.” The invisible level is made up of shared values that tend to persist over time and are harder to change. The visible level of culture includes group behaviors and actions, which are easier to change.

Is it important, or even possible, to sort out these definitions and decide which is most accurate? Schein, for example, argued that artefacts and products “reflect the organization’s culture, but none of them is the essence of culture.” The differences and

Inter-connectedness of assumptions, beliefs, understandings, and values could be studied further to determine which are more elemental to culture, but would that be time well spent? Which is most important, that a definition be right or that it be helpful? Although we cannot determine the right definition, each of these descriptions adds value to our approach to strengthening organization culture. Based on the work of these and other researchers, we could make the following conclusions about organization culture:

• Each company has a unique culture built and changed over time.

• Beliefs, assumptions, values and understandings and the actions and norms they produce

are important components of culture.

• We recognize culture by observing actions and artefacts (explicit factors).

• While some call it a sub-culture and others a climate within the larger culture, there may

be cultural differences within subgroups of an organization.

• Observable behaviours and actions are easier to change than are beliefs and values.

• The observable elements of culture affect the invisible elements and visa versa. Change in

one cultural element will impact other elements.

Although not apparent in the above offered definitions, it is also important to consider how cultures external to the organization impact and affect the organization’s culture. Employees sense their organization’s culture soon after they join the company. They might have a hard time describing the culture, but they know it when they feel and see it. There may be similarities in particular industries but each company will have unique cultural attributes.

Improving the Organisation’s Culture

A workplace culture can enable or hinder success. Leaders can impact the alignment of the culture with the company’s mission and strategies. How? Culture is socially constructed and leaders need to initiate great conversations that tie cultural norms to the organization’s goals. If the current culture is not in alignment with the new reality, leaders need to be the catalysts, or bridges, who create a new understanding and help individuals select new behaviours and, eventually, beliefs. Leaders must also define, clarify and reinforce understanding of the actions and beliefs that build the desired culture.

The organizational culture is particularly important when implementing organization-wide change. Many organizations are struggling to keep up – they layer new initiatives onto the work processes before previous initiatives have taken hold. A culture can either enable or be a barrier to nonstop changes. If the culture is nimble (in the habit of being re-aligned), change will be more fluid and effective. Most large-scale changes need to be supported by complementary changes in the organization’s culture. Change plans, then, should address current and desired cultural elements. Leaders can play a key role in facilitating change by aligning projects and development efforts to reinforce the desired culture.

A culture of Continuous Learning- Key to improving Organisational Culture

Many organizations say they want to build a learning culture. What does this mean? Generally, what they are saying is that they want people to grow and be receptive to

changes and willing to take on new tasks. A culture of continuous learning goes deeper than this, although these behaviours are certainly important. Employees value continuous self-development and choose to make learning a priority in the face of competing demands. Leaders, also, match their intention to seek coaching and development with the attention they give learning each day and week. A culture of continuous learning develops when there

is a collective understanding of the importance of personal and team growth backed up by actions a resolve to inject learning into everyday work practices.

Cultures of continuous learning tend to be more nimble, which means that they are easier to align and realign when new goals or new realities change how an organization must conduct its work. Resistance to changes – on an organizational level – is more common when team members are unaccustomed to learning and relearning new tasks, projects, and processes. Here are several important indicators of a culture of continuous learning:

People are curious and adventurous. They value mental exploration. Most people are naturally curious. To what degree does the work environment encourage people to be curious and adventurous at work?

• Team members are allowed and encouraged to experiment. It is safe to venture outside

of established practices and explore (within limits). Can employees try new ways and


• The work environment is stimulating – it is sensual. The sights, sounds, smells, and

textures are interesting and engaging.

• Employees at all levels seek and embrace learning in a variety of forms. This is the most

telling clue. What level of participation is there in development opportunities? Are

executives active learners?

• There is a healthy view of failure and mistakes. Employees are held accountable, but

productive recovery is also rewarded and mistakes are looked at as learning


• .The workplace is intrinsically rewarding. When employees are self-motivated, they

seek learning and development.

• The organization is proactive about succession. Talent is developed and promoted.

• The organization has a focus on innovation – in all functions and at all levels.

• The organization embraces Omni modal learning and communication in-person,

over the web, virtual, formal, informal, one-on-one, group, as part of regular meetings,

separate courses, on site, off site, etc…

Managers and leaders can help build these conditions by engaging team members in a diverse set of learning opportunities. Being a role model for lifelong learning is important, too. Leaders need to practice what they preach and ways to fit professional growth into their busy schedules.

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The organization’s culture is like a rudder under a large ship. To turn the ship, the rudder must move in the right direction. A nimble culture can help organizations explore and be successful while moving to meet new goals and seize new opportunities. Like an inoperable rudder, if the culture does not move, or moves in the wrong direction, it is hard for the organization to progress. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Every leader and manager should model the desired culture – and his or her actions should reinforce excellence.

2.2 Change Leader

To achieve their purposes, organizations must constantly learn, adapt, and grow, a process referred to as change. Research shows, however, that only a relatively few structured change efforts achieve great success-most just get by while the majority fail to reach predefined performance goals and objectives (Mansfield, 2010); ( Salem, 2008);

(Schneier, Shaw, & Beatty, 1992). At issue is what underlies this phenomenon of underperformance. Studies of complex social systems suggest that the major reason for failure lies in the way decision makers think about and execute the change process (Smith, 1999). If one looks at the typical change process, it is apparent most decision makers view organizations from an objective perspective-as an assemblage of parts that can be arranged and re-arranged to produce predictable outcomes; however, the magnitude of the failure of planned changes led us to ask the following questions:

Research Question 1: What factors facilitate or inhibit the change process?

Research Question 2: How do these facilitators and inhibitors evolve within an organization?

Research Question 3: What are the implications of understanding this evolutionary process relative to achieving a more sustainable level of performance?

The answers to these questions led us to propose an alternative approach to understanding and changing organizational performance, one that supposes that organizational learning and change involves understanding the organization from the objective and the subjective perspectives simultaneously. We call this the Full Dimensional Systems Model (FDSM), a perspective which draws heavily on the concepts associated with Complex Adaptive System (CAS). The FDSM perspective assumes there are multiple, interrelated domains of influence that impact change and that these domains must each be appreciated and addressed simultaneously to achieve sustainable performance improvements. The FDSM provides a valid and powerful rationale for determining how to implement meaningful change within

organizations as well as identifying probable outcomes and consequences from those changes.

Flaws in Traditional Approaches to Thinking About Change

The fact that organizational change frequently fails underscores the flaws inhering in traditional approaches to change. These approaches to change are flawed in four ways. First, the need for change is framed in almost exclusively objective terms, thus overlooking important subjective issues. Secondly, the change problem is viewed as a puzzle to be solved (Mansfield, 2010), and the challenge is collecting and analyzing enough data until all the pieces form the right solution. Thirdly, using this approach means that decisions are often based on flawed and/or incomplete information. Fourth, decision makers tend to develop detailed change strategies (often based on the data collected around the need for change), assuming that, if they follow the plan, the puzzle will be solved and the organization will come through the process better structured to meet the needs of their clients. This typical mental model leads to a misalignment of how decision makers perceive and respond to the “hard reality of reality itself” (Wolfberg, 2006).

Myths and Other Dangerous Half-Truths About Change

Adherence to traditional approaches to thinking has produced a number of myths, or dangerous half-truths, about how to make change happen (Kelly, Hoopes, & Conner, 2005); (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006).

Myth 1-Change starts at the top

Organizational change starts with a goal and a plan created by senior management. This approach is usually met by what is referred to as resistance and typically does not work in the fast changing systems of today because the change strategy reflects the same paradigm that created the problem in the first place. The truth seems to be that change depends on the participation of many system members (agents) in an essentially self-organizing process. It may also depend on change agents who consciously influence self-organization toward new and more adaptable patterns of relationship.

Myth 2-Efficiency comes from control

Change is possible only when every detail is mapped out in precise terms. This prejudice ignores the fact that every process improvement adds new and/or changes existing subsystems, which adds even more complexity to subsystems/systems that already have problems. The result is that many efforts to solve problems actually lead to more serious ones.

Myth 3-Prediction is possible

It is assumed by many managers that an action in one place will have a replicable effect in another. This, it turns out, is usually false, in part because a complex system consists of many agents, with different ideas, biases, prejudices, and expectations, and each of these concepts interact with many subsystems to determine outcome. Even small variations in the patterns of interaction can produce enormous variation in outcomes. In other words, complex systems are usually very sensitive to inconsistencies in mind-sets and processes.

Myth 4-Change is manageable

Assuming the course of change is predictable, many managers make a related assumption-that you can manage the change process by developing and then implementing complex plans. The fallacy of this myth was very clearly illustrated by the recent Gulf of Mexico oil tragedy that cost 11 lives and did untold damage to the Gulf’s ecosystem. The assumption was made that through design and control alone, the company could achieve the aim of hazard elimination-This turned out not to be the case.

The validity of these myths is not supported by the facts. Decisions made in the manner described above often produce unanticipated and unintended consequences. A typical occurrence is illustrated in one of the organizations we studied (Owen & Mundy, 2005) where a shared services human resources model was created to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of human resource delivery. Although the delivery model seemed very efficient, it produced the unexpected and unintended consequences of bringing about a loss

of direct contact with customers and direct accountability at the local level. The result was that the quality of service delivery actually declined significantly as did the level of customer satisfaction and, instead of saving money, costs soared as a quiet revolt of internal customers ensued.

An important effect of these flaws is the creation of what might be thought of as ripples of dissonance in an organization. These ripples, which represent the diverse patterns of self-interest (significant differences) that exist relative to the change, behave like attractors and exhibit all the properties associated with attractors, that is, the emergence of self-organized, adaptable networks, and so on. The “psychological mathematics” of how this region of dissonance is resolved, then, is at the root of much of the wasted energy observed when an organization tries to implement a large-scale (organization-wide) change or intervention. Any change that involves new patterns of relationships among members, new ways of behaving, and new processes requires a different mental model than the one that is typically used to understand and execute change.


The contention is that decision makers must shift from a puzzle-solving perspective (a typical fact-based approach) toward a mystery-solving perspective (a value-based approach). The puzzle-solving perspective rests on the assumption there is one right answer; as soon as it is discovered, events can be expected to flow in a predictable manner (Mansfield, 2010). The mystery-solving perspective rests on the assumption there is no one right answer or even a right way to get to an answer; rather, there is an array of possible outcomes, none of which is predictable. Because there are many possible outcomes and consequences associated with any organizational change decision, decision makers need to be able to anticipate and understand the implications of their decisions, and how to respond should the improbable outcome become a reality (Wolfberg, 2006). The only way to do this is for decision makers to create a fully transparent environment in which the many differences of potential relevance to a change are put in the open for analysis.

Although there are many organizational change methods available, few are based on such a mystery perspective. The result is that change efforts are generally disconnected from a significant pool of knowledge. The bottom line is that the way a change agent views the causes of change determines how she or he sees the world and, therefore, determines how she or he intervenes on behalf of the organization. If change agents see the organization as a machine, then they use interventions consistent with this view; if they see it as a complex, multidimensional system, then they use methods appropriate to that paradigm to change (Kim & Mauborgne, 1999).

Modern organizations are complex. Simply moving from the organizational chart to examining how work gets done in most organizations easily demonstrates this. Work is a complex process involving multiple interactions between the members of an organization and their teams, teams and other teams, teams and other organizations, and so on. Changes in one part of an organization will invariably have an effect on other parts of the organization-some obvious and others less so. As organizations grow and change through time, their complexity grows and changes as well. (Anderson, 1999) proposed integrating four attributes of CASs into our thinking of modern organizations: agents, feedback loops, self-organization, and coevolution. All human systems comprised numerous semi-independent agents, each of which is capable of autonomous action; such action follows that agent’s schema of the organization. A schema is a mental model of how the world works and how to interpret events in that world. These schema act like self-fulfilling prophecies and thus can have powerful and sometimes disruptive effects on a change.

A second concept is that agents are connected to one another by feedback loops. One agent’s behavior can affect the behavior of numerous other agents in self-reinforcing cycles of influence. These feedback loops underscore the importance of coevolution. Third, agents coevolve with one another. A given agent’s adaptations impact the efforts of agents to adapt, and these co-adaptations lead to patterns or waves of self-organization that flow throughout the organization. Finally, CASs evolve over time through the entry, exit, and transformation of existing agents, and new agents can be formed by recombining elements

of previously successful agents. Furthermore, the linkages between agents also evolve or coevolve over time, shifting the pattern of interconnections and their strength.


How can organizations hope to adapt to the ever increasing level of complexity and in the process remain vibrant, responsive, and healthy? The answer to this question lies in the principles of CASs. (Dooley, 2002) offers the following three principles about the nature of the CAS:

(a) order is emergent as opposed to hierarchical,

(b) the system’s history is irreversible, and

(c) the system’s future is often unpredictable.

The basic building blocks of the CAS are agents. Agents are semiautonomous units that seek to maximize some measure of goodness of fit by evolving over time in response to the environment. Rather than focusing on macro strategic-level changes, complexity theory suggests that the most powerful processes of change occur at the micro level (e.g., the individual and groups) where relationships, interactions, experiments, and simple rules shape emerging patterns.

As everything in an organization is interconnected, large-scale change occurs through the integration of changes that affect the smallest parts. Organization change occurs through the evolution of individuals and small groups. Like biological changes, these changes are sometimes not incremental but dramatic. From a complexity perspective, everyone can be a change agent if they are aware of options to help the organization adapt to its environment. A metaphor will serve to clarify these points.

A jazz ensemble is a CAS. Each musician is autonomous. They interact as they play. They bring their own intents, biases, levels of interest, experience, and aesthetics to the performance. A minimum number of rules are put in place regarding set, place, time, and so on. Usually, the players know one another very well, and they are all very competent in the

theory and practice of jazz music. The music is a balance of control and improvisation (in the moment changes or adaptations in the melodic and/or harmonic line). They listen to each other and adapt themselves to fashion their music. Their enthusiasm influences the other members of the band and the receptivity of the audience. The audience influences the

band. In the end, the quality and creativity of the performance is the result of the interaction of all these elements. These emerging patterns influence not only the current selection but also the next piece as well as successive pieces.

This metaphor illustrates how creativity and efficiency emerge naturally in human organizations. Some basic rules, positive contacts, and relationships among members allow solutions to emerge from the bottom up. In this CAS, the musicians and the audience all act as autonomous system agents; the setting, roles, rules, and duration of the concert constitute the container/context; the contribution of each instrument and the continuous change of melodies and harmonies are significant differences, whereas the influencing processes between musicians and their audience are transformative exchanges; the continuous successions of music are the self-organizing patterns. Each of these concepts is highly interdependent

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Reframing is about changing perception by understanding something in another way. (Bandler & Grinder, 1982) explained reframing in the following manner:

What reframing does is to say, Look, this external thing occurs and it elicits this response in you, so you assume that you know what the meaning is. But if you thought about it this other way, then you would have a different response. Being able to think about things in a variety of ways builds a spectrum of understanding. None of these ways are ‘really’ true, though. They are simply statements about a person’s understanding.


There are two basic kinds of reframes: context reframing and content reframing. Both can alter our internal representations of events or situations, which permits us to experience the events in other, hopefully, more resourceful ways.

Context reframing

Bandler and Grinder noted that “every experience in the world and every behavior is appropriate, given some context, some frame” (1982,p.9) Context reframing offers an understanding of how we make meaning through the environment – physical, intellectual, cultural, historical, and emotional – in which a situation occurs. It can also provide a pattern of thinking that helps us see the value in every situation regardless of any perceived downside.

Context reframing is taking an experience that seems to be negative, not useful, and distressing and showing how the same behaviour or experience can be useful in another context. Children’s stories are full of reframes designed to show children how what might seem a liability can be useful in another context. For example, the other reindeer made fun of Rudolph’s bright, red nose; but that funny nose made Rudolph the hero on a dark night.

Context reframing can be used as a “perceptual filter,” taught and practiced until it becomes an integral and habitual way of organizational thinking. It is a very useful tool in business as it is the way of thinking that gives one the ability to make lemonade from those unexpected (and unwanted) lemons. Creativity, new visions, innovations are commonplace for those who know to reframe and re-contextualize problems and obstacles into opportunities and resources. The following illustration is the prime example of this ability to reframe and re-contextualize. An Executive Director at a human service agency was looking for inexpensive raw materials to make dried flower arrangements for the agency gift shop. He called up the local funeral parlours and asked what they did with flowers after the funerals. As expected, the funeral parlours disposed of the flowers. The parlours agreed to give the agency the flowers at no cost. The agency transforms the flowers into beautiful arrangements to sell in the agency gift shop at a good profit. Throwing away dead flowers many not seem like an opportunity to many, but when you can reframe them into another context, you have created free raw materials.

Viewing organizations, individuals, and the world with reframing tools opens us to potential rather than locking us into our perceived limits. An entrepreneur is fundamentally an expert reframer – that is, he or she is someone who can add value to resources and convert them into wealth.

Content reframing

The second type of reframing is content reframing. Content reframing is simply changing the meaning of a situation – that is, the situation or behaviour stays the same, but the meaning is changed. For instance, a famous army general reframed a distressful situation for his troops by telling them that “We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in another direction.” Another example is the reframing of death. Death is a life event that has different meaning in different cultures, and even many individuals deal with this event in vastly different ways. Some are forever grieving the loss, whereas others are joyous at the now eternal presence of the person’s spirit. In other words, different people attach very different meaning and interpretations to the concept of death.

A four-frame diagnostic model: issues, choice points, and areas of focus

As the above examples illustrate, each of the four frames offers a diagnostic lens on a distinct set of organizational dynamics. Each also points to a frame-consistent course of action for intervention and change. If the problem is structural, tweak the structure. If the problem is with the people, teach, train, coach, counsel, or hire new ones. Issues of power

and politics imply strategies to empower, renegotiate or share influence. Symbolic analyses focus on the meaning of organizational events to insiders and suggest ways to support the development of a healthy organizational culture. While any of the frames may account for what=s happening among those two co-workers, it is hard to know which really does without first looking at them all. Any one frame may over-simplify a complex reality or send

us blindly down the wrong path, squandering resources, time, and change agent credibility along the way.

A comprehensive diagnostic picture is better launched with four questions. What is going on structurally? What is happening from a human resource perspective? What=s going on politically? What is happening on the symbolic front? Taken alone, each question encourages deep consideration of a slice of organizational life. Taken together, however, the four offer a systematic yet manageable way to approach and examine a full range of organizational possibilities. It provides a checklist of sorts, identifying a range of possible frame-specific issues to investigate, as well as potential areas of focus for data gathering and intervention.


Potential Issues and Areas to Investigate


rules, regulations, goals, policies, roles, tasks, job designs, job descriptions, technology, environment, chain of command, vertical and horizontal coordinating mechanisms, assessment and reward systems, standard operating procedures, authority spans and structures, spans of control, specialization/division of labor, information systems, formal feedback loops, boundary scanning and management processes

human resource

needs, skills, relationships, norms, perceptions and attitudes, morale, motivation, training and development, interpersonal and group dynamics, supervision, teams, job satisfaction, participation and involvement, informal organization, support, respect for diversity, formal and informal leadership


key stakeholders, divergent interests, scarce resources, areas of uncertainty, individual and group agendas, sources and bases of power, power distributions, formal and informal resource allocation systems and processes, influence, conflict, competition, politicking, coalitions, formal and informal alliances and networks, interdependence, control of rewards and punishment, informal communication channels


culture, rituals, ceremonies, stories, myths, symbols, metaphors, meaning, spirituality, values, vision, charisma, passions and commitments

Figure 1.1: A four-frame diagnostic model

Finally, each frame can be understood as a unique set of central tensions that must be reconciled in making choices about structure, people, politics, and symbols. The tensions are universal and best thought of as two end-points on a series of continua with critical choice points in between that reflect tradeoffs and balance between competing forces. For example, the design of an appropriate system of rules, roles, procedures, and structural relationships to facilitate organizational mission and purpose requires addressing four on-going tensions:

differentiation and integration: how to divide up the tasks and work to be done and then coordinate the diverse efforts of individuals and groups

centralization and decentralization: how to allocate authority and decision making across the organization.

tight boundaries and openness to the environment: how much to buffer and filter the flow of people and information in and out of the organization.

bureaucracy and entrepreneurism: how to balance the requirement for consistency, predictability, and clarity with the need for autonomy, creativity, and flexibility.

Working through these choices to achieve the right mix for any organization is important and hard work. But the four tensions listed above are only one piece of the larger work to be done. Again, each frame has its own central tensions. A look within the symbolic frame, for example, identifies different, yet equally significant concerns:

innovation and respect for tradition: how to foster newness and creativity while honoring the power and wisdom of the past.

individuality and shared vision: how to get the whole herd moving roughly west without sacrificing the originality and unique contributions of talented individuals.

strong culture and permeable culture: how to nurture shared values and norms while avoiding organizational repression and stagnation.

prose and poetry: how to balance an organization’s needs for accuracy, objectivity, and accountability with its requirement for beauty, inspiration, and soul.


Central tensions


differentiation and integration

centralization and decentralization

tight boundaries and openness to the environment

bureaucracy and entrepreneurism

human resource

autonomy and interdependence

employee participation and authority decision making

self-regulation and external controls

meeting individual needs and meeting organizational needs


authority-centered and partisan-centered

similarity and diversity

empowerment and control

individual and collective


innovation and respect for tradition

individuality and shared vision

strong culture and permeable culture

prose and poetry

Figure 1.2: Frame-related Central Tensions

In working with these four sets of competing forces, it is important to remember that there is value for organizations on both sides of each continuum. The challenge for any organization is to find the balance between the two extremes that best fits its mission,

purpose, values and circumstances. All organizations need to divide up the work and integrate employee efforts. They foster individual and unit autonomy and the

interdependence to accomplish common goals. They build on shared experience, skills and values and utilize diversity to stay cutting-edge. They stay grounded in reality and embrace artistry and soul.

The challenge for OD professionals then is to stay cognizant of the full range of universal dilemmas and tensions and open to working with each. We all have values or emotional preferences for one side of a continuum or the other. And as change agents, we may regularly push in only one direction. Those personal biases, however, do organizations a disservice.

Organization development work, for example, has historically favored values like flexibility, autonomy, self-regulation, personal agency, and decentralization positions that support individuality and entrepreneurial values and cast a negative shadow on the tight and bureaucratic. OD has historically preferred the poetry more than the prose. At the same time, we know that organizations require predictability, regularity, and consistency, and that people are empowered and more productive with clarity of purpose, means, and contribution.

Rules, roles, policies and standard operating procedures are a route to that needed clarity. Effective organization development work is aided by an appreciation of all the options and choice points along the road to improved effectiveness. Attending simultaneously to the tensions in examining structure, people, politics and symbols reminds change agents that there are multiple facets to organizing, each with its own contribution and promise. The four frames provide a map of the organization development terrain that aids practitioners in knowing where they are, where they might go, and what they might gain or lose in choosing one direction or another. They also remind change agents that an important part of their job is reframing.

Reframing: using and teaching reflection and cognitive elasticity

Thus far, this chapter has looked at the four frames as a device for bringing all that we know about organizations to the work of making them more effective. Using them well, however, means engaging in a process of reframing the practice of deliberately and systematically examining a complex situation from multiple perspectives. Reframing is a skill that requires both deep knowledge of alternative frames and practice in applying them to make frame-flipping second nature.

Schon & Rein (1994) identify the important linkages among self-reflection, frames, and effective action. In the same way that a picture frame outlines and highlights a limited image from a larger visual landscape, our personal frames delineate and bound our experience. But we often don’t realize this for a number of reasons. People don’t automatically think of themselves as choosing to take a personal and limited slant at the larger reality. They implicitly assume that what they see is what is and that any other perspective is distorted or wrong.

The tacit nature of our preferred frames keeps us from seeing how they shape our perceptions and preferences. In addition, the nested nature of frames B frames can be individual, institutional, or cultural compounds the issue. Individual frames are shaped by personal experiences with institutions which in turn have been influenced by a larger social and cultural milieu and vice versa. These reciprocal influence loops reinforce and sustain each other. Schon & Rein (1994) believe that individuals can develop a “frame-critical rationality:” personal capacities and strategies for understanding the content, impact, and limitations of their particular frame in action. This is a crucial first step on the road to reframing.

Reframing is a multi-step process. Recognizing our preferred frame is important. But individuals also need knowledge about alternative perspectives, appreciation for their potential contribution, opportunities to practice looking at the same situation through

multiple lenses, and strategies for cross-frame diagnosis and reflection. The multi-frame model developed in this chapter offers that. It also expands the contributions of change agents beyond traditional diagnosis and intervention.

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In working with organizations to explore their structure, people, politics, and symbols, OD professionals are also assisting organizations in identifying their dominant institutional frame the shared assumptions and logic that tacitly drive organizational actions and underpin reward systems and strategies. While all organizations simultaneously function as machines, families, jungles, and theaters, few are skilled in regularly monitoring and managing the ongoing tensions and needs in all four areas. Recognizing this and understanding the content and contribution of each frame enable organizations to expand their institutional lenses, identify areas and issues historically ignored, and better balance attention across frames.

Planned change now includes a useful meta-curriculum on reframing and developing cognitive elasticity, with change agents modeling the process and benefits of cross-frame discourse (Kuhn, 1996). As a result, organizations enhance their capacities for multi-framed analysis and action while building new levels of organizational awareness and learning. There are parallel gains for the individuals who lead and staff them, as well. Reframing demands a tolerance for ambiguity, an appreciation of the social construction of reality, and skills in relative thinking B developmentally sophisticated capacities (Gallos, 1989). Teaching the art and craft of reframing actually encourages developmental growth. Change agents then play a significant role in individual, as well as organization development. William Torbert’s chapter in PART VII of this volume illustrates well the concept of simultaneous individual and organization development (Torbert, 2006).


Learning styles is a generic concept that frequently includes cognitive styles, personality styles, learning styles, sensory modes, and typologies like those associated with the work. Learning style may be determined to provide guidance to a

student who is struggling academically or to modify delivery methods to better suit the diversity of learning styles in a typical classroom to ensure student learning.

Lemire (1996) postulates that students’ learning styles are comprised of three

categories. Learning style or modality describes how information enters the brain: visually, aurally, or tactically. Cognitive style refers to how the information is processed once the information gets to the brain. Finally, personality style refers to the primary characteristics of the individuals that are expressed in general ways through the personality.

While the term ‘learning style’ has common-sense appeal, an investigation of the field reveals that it is characterised by considerable conceptual confusion and the lack of any generally accepted definition of what these ‘styles’ may be. As (Cassidy 2004) noted ‘there exist almost as many definitions as there are theorists in the area’. A multitude of models exists, vying for prominence in a very crowded field. (Coffield and colleagues 2004) reported finding 71 different theories of learning style in current circulation. Models are also based on a dizzying variety of perceptual, cognitive and physiological factors, including a preference for working alone or in groups, in the evening in the morning, when the temperature is high or low, while eating or otherwise, and so on. Not surprisingly, in his overview of learning styles theory, Cassidy described the field as ‘fragmented and disparate’

A few prominent examples of theories in current use include (Kolb’s, 1984) four-way typology (converger; diverger; assimilator; accommodator); Mills’s (2002) four-way typology, based on the work of Anthony F. Gregorc and Kathleen A. Butler (concrete

sequential; abstract random; abstract sequential; concrete random), and the Felder-Silverman (1988) four-dimension model. In Australian schools, the most popular models are those that derive from Fleming’s VARK theory, which originally divided learners into four but now most commonly uses three groups: visual, auditory or tactile/kinaesthetic. One is tempted to note that these categories are reassuringly concrete, unlike the others already mentioned, and apparently discernible by simply observing children.

Attempts to discover commonality across the many models are rare but the results of those efforts that have been made lead to the conclusion that they are not accessing the same constructs. Ferrell performed factor analytic studies on four commonly used instruments: the Grasha-Riechmann Student Learning Style Scales, Kolb Learning Styles Inventory. (Dunn,1983). Learning Style Inventory, and Johnson Decision-Making Inventory and concluded that ‘the instruments were clearly not measuring the same thing’ (To speak of ‘learning styles’ is thus to attempt to shoehorn an eclectic mix of theories, models and notions into one category in which they patently do not fit. Those who promote the concept routinely ignore this caveat and speak as if there is but one accepted model: theirs one assumes. In such a context, even if empirical evidence for the effectiveness of basing pedagogy on one discrete model of learning styles could be found, this cannot be said to provide proof of the efficacy of ‘learning styles’ as they are currently conceived, or misconceived.

Scanning the literature also demonstrates that learning styles are frequently conflated with other ways of categorising human mental function: for example, personality typologies and cognitive styles. As an example, (Ford & Chen, 2001) claimed to have found support for matching learning style to teaching method, but the construct they used-field dependence/independence-is commonly regarded as a measure of cognitive style: that is, a person’s habitual way of perceiving,

thinking and remembering.

Measurement properties of learning styles scales

It would be surprising if a field so riven with conceptual confusion generated measurement instruments with respectable psychometric properties. Investigations of the properties of a variety of scales have revealed that even the most widely used are inadequate in this regard. Garner noted, of the studies of the psychometric properties of Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory published from the 1970s through to the late 1990s,’results indicated that test retest measurements for the LSI did not reliably assess the learning styles of any learners.’

Duff & Duffy ( 2000), Investigated Honey and Mumford’s Learning Style questionnaire (LSQ), Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI) and a later refined version (LSI-1985) and reported that: Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis failed to support the existence of the two bipolar dimensions proposed by Kolb, and four learning styles hypothesised by Honey and Mumford. An item analysis and pruning exercise failed to raise the internal consistency reliability to a satisfactory level, or provide adequate model fit to the data. The results of a structural equation model find no consistent relationship between scores on the four learning style scales, two bipolar dimensions and academic performance. ( Kappe & Boekholt, 2000), den Rooyen and Van der Flier (in press) conducted a study of the predictive validity and reliability of the Learning Styles Questionnaire with a sample of Dutch students. They reported that: Although learning styles were matched to correspondingly suitable learning criteria, the LSQ revealed no predictive validity; however we can report good test-retest reliabilities over a two year time period. Given the lack of positive findings, using the LSQ to stimulate learning in college students is debatable.

Coffield & Colleagues ( 2004), investigated the 13 most popular learning styles models and concluded that these models, their measurement and application have little to offer as guides for the design of instruction. The authors noted the considerable conceptual difficulties in the field and continuing issues with the reliability and validity of existing measurement instruments. They also commented that, even within the one model, the diagnosis of a learner’s style can depend on which instrument is used, which makes

organising teaching around the results at best a hit-and-miss affair, even if there were evidence for the effectiveness of this strategy.

Most recently Hattie, in his compendium of meta-analyses of studies of effects on student learning, meta-analysed results from 411 studies on learning styles and found that many were characterised by conceptual confusion (frequently conflating learning styles with learning strategies, for example) and significant measurement and methodological flaws. He summed up the evidence thus: The argument defended in this chapter is that successful learning is a function of the worthwhileness and clarity of the learning intentions, the specifications, and the success criteria; the power of using multiple and appropriate teaching strategies with a particular emphasis on the presence of feedback focussed at the right level of instruction (acquisition or proficiencies); seeing learning and teaching from the students’ perspective; and placing reliance on teaching study skills and strategies of learning.

Models of Learning

David Kolb has defined one of the most commonly used models of learning. As in the diagram below, it is based on two preference dimensions, giving four different styles of learning.











—- Processing—-








Abstract conceptualization


Figure 1.3: Four different styles of learning

Preference dimensions

Perception dimension

In the vertical Perception dimension, people will have a preference along the continuum between:

Concrete experience: Looking at things as they are, without any change, in raw detail.

Abstract conceptualization: Looking at things as concepts and ideas, after a degree of processing that turns the raw detail into an internal model.

People who prefer concrete experience will argue that thinking about something changes it, and that direct empirical data is essential. Those who prefer abstraction will argue that meaning is created only after internal processing and that idealism is a more real approach.

This spectrum is very similar to the Jungian scale of Sensing vs. Intuiting.

Processing dimension

In the horizontal Processing dimension, people will take the results of their Perception and process it in preferred ways along the continuum between:

Active experimentation: Taking what they have concluded and trying it out to prove that it works.

Reflective observation: Taking what they have concluded and watching to see if it works.

Figure 1.4: Kolb’s Learning Cycle

Four learning styles

The experimenter, like the concrete experiencer, takes a hands-on route to see if their ideas will work, whilst the reflective observers prefer to watch and think to work things out.

Divergers (Concrete experiencer/Reflective observer)

Divergers take experiences and think deeply about them, thus diverging from a single experience to multiple possibilities in terms of what this might mean. They like to ask ‘why’, and will start from detail to constructively work up to the big picture.

They enjoy participating and working with others but they like a calm ship and fret over conflicts. They are generally influenced by other people and like to receive constructive feedback.

They like to learn via logical instruction or hands-one exploration with conversations that lead to discovery.

Convergers (Abstract conceptualization/Active experimenter)

Convergers think about things and then try out their ideas to see if they work in practice. They like to ask ‘how’ about a situation, understanding how things work in practice. They like facts and will seek to make things efficient by making small and careful changes.

They prefer to work by themselves, thinking carefully and acting independently. They learn through interaction and computer-based learning is more effective with them than other methods.

Accomodators (Concrete experiencer/Active experimenter)

Accommodators have the most hands-on approach, with a strong preference for doing rather than thinking. They like to ask ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?’ to support their action-first approach. They do not like routine and will take creative risks to see what happens.

They like to explore complexity by direct interaction and learn better by themselves than with other people. As might be expected, they like hands-on and practical learning rather than lectures.

Assimilators (Abstract conceptualizer/Reflective observer)

Assimilators have the most cognitive approach, preferring to think than to act. The ask ‘What is there I can know?’ and like organized and structured understanding.

They prefer lectures for learning, with demonstrations where possible, and will respect the knowledge of experts. They will also learn through conversation that takes a logical and thoughtful approach.

They often have a strong control need and prefer the clean and simple predictability of internal models to external messiness.

The best way to teach an assimilator is with lectures that start from high-level concepts and work down to the detail. Give them reading material, especially academic stuff and they’ll gobble it down. Do not teach through play with them as they like to stay serious.


Proposed learning and development plan













Implementation Detailed Timeline: Training Implementation and Management

Phase Tasks, Milestones and/or Deliverables

Start Date

End Date

Responsible Role

Implement Readiness Activities (as necessary)




Secure Training Facilities




Purchase or Print Session Materials



SDF/ Trainers

Contract Trainers



SDF, HR Manager

Create Training Schedule




Register Participants



SDF/ Trainers

Create Rosters, Tent Cards, etc.




Hold Training Sessions




Evaluate Training (Levels 1-3) at intervals



SDF, , Trainer(s), Direct Supervisors


So what?

So design learning for the people you are working with. If you cannot customize the design for specific people, use varied styles of delivery to help everyone learn. It can also be useful to describe the models of learning to people, both to help them understand how they learn and also so they can appreciate that some of your delivery will for others more than them (and vice versa).

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