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Public Policies and Sense Making in Higher Education Institutions Name: Roy Chan Instructor: Anatoly Oleksiyenko, Ph.D. Date: January 24, 2011 E-mail:

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1 Public Policies and Sense Making in Higher Education Institutions Name: Roy Chan Instructor: Anatoly Oleksiyenko, Ph.D. Date: January 24, / Homepage:

2 “Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.” ~ Frances Hasselbein President of Leader of Leader Institute Weick, Karl (2001). Making Sense in Organizations. Found in Chapter 2 “Sources of Order in Underorganized Systems: Themes in Recent Organizational Theory.” New York: Blackwell Business.

3 Professor Karl E. Weick »Rensis Likert Distinguished University Professor of Organizational Behavior and Psychology at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. »Earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from Ohio State University »Originally from Warsaw, Indiana »Coined the term “loose coupling”, “mindfulness”, and “sensemakng.”

4 Topics/Key Words 1) Loose Coupling 2) Rationality /Assumptions 3) Ambiguity 4) Variability 5) Sensemaking 6) Action vs. Deliberation 7) Connections 8) Mindfulness

5 WHAT IS AN ORGANIZATION?

6 What is an organization? March and Olsen (1976) defines organizations as a “set of procedures for augmentation and imprecation” (p. 25).

7 What is an organization? Weick (2001) identify organization as a system of chains divided into four areas: 1) individual action, 2) organization action, 3) environmental response, and 4) individual beliefs (p. 41).

8 What is an organization? Organizations may be anarchies but they are organized anarchies; they may be loosely coupled, but they are loosely coupled systems (Weick, 2001: 34). Leaders can break many organizations into largely self-functioning subsystems, but loose coupling is really the "glue" that holds them together.

9 WHAT IS LOOSE COUPLING?

10 What is Loose Coupling? Loose Coupling is a metaphor that Karl Weick develop to help leaders better understand organizations and connections that are either marginalized, ignored or suppressed. In general, understanding an organization as a loose coupling can help us better explain how organizations adapt to their environments and survive in uncertainties.

11 What is Loose Coupling? Why? Because “Actors in loosely coupled system are often isolated, find social comparison difficult, have no one to borrow from, seldom imitate, suffer pluralistic ignorance, maintain discretion, improvise, and have less hubris because they know the universe is not connected to make widespread change”

12 SIX Themes of what organizations are like: 1) There is a less rationality than meets the eye 2) Organizations are segmented rather than monolithic 3) Stable segments in organizations are quite small 4) Connections among segments have variable strengths 5) Connections of variable strength produce ambiguity 6) Connections of constant strength reduce ambiguity (Weick, 2001: 34)

13 1) THERE IS A LESS RATIONALITY THAN MEETS THE EYE “Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future.” ~ Peter Drucker, The Father Of Modern Management

14 1) There is a less rationality than meets the eye ~ What is rationality? Weick (2001) divides rationality into three components: 1) Set of prescriptions that change as the issue change, 2) As a façade created to attract resources and legitimacy, and 3) As a postaction process used to invest reasons of action (p. 35). He believes that rationality are rare in organizations.

15 1) There is a less rationality than meets the eye ~ What is rationality? Pfeffer (1981) suggests that organizations use rationality as a façade when they talk about goals, planning, intentions, and analysis to ensure flow of resources in the organization (p ).

16 Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer »Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University »Earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from Stanford University »Considered as one of the most influential management thinkers today

17 1) There is a less rationality than meets the eye ~ What is rationality? Westerlund and Sjostrand (1979) identifies rationality as a “horrific label given to the individual or group acting in the manner the evaluator wishes” (p. 91).

18 1) There is a less rationality than meets the eye ~ What is rationality? Dyckman (1981) suggests that there are three types of rationale: 1) contextual-rationale, 2) process rationale, and 3) calculation rationale (p. 35).

19 Professor Thomas R. Dyckman »Ann Whitney Professor Emeritus of Accounting at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University »Earned his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan »Recipient of the 1978 American Accounting Association's Outstanding Educator Award

20 1) There is a less rationality than meets the eye ~ What is rationality? Staw (1980) illustrates that rationality is used by new theorist as a post hoc rationality device in which organizations justify their actions with threats, problems, success or opportunities (p. 36).

21 Professor Barry Staw »Lorraine Tyson Mitchell Chair and Professor of Leadership and Communication at the Hass School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. »Earned his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from Northwestern University »Founder of the Research in Organizational Behavior

22 1) There is a less rationality than meets the eye Therefore, Starbuck (1983) believes that rationality is an action. An action is seen as a response to a threat. Organizations justify their actions with threats, problems, success or opportunities (p. 94).

23 Professor William H. Starbuck »Professor in Residence at the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon and Professor Emeritus at New York University. »Earned his Ph.D. from the Carneige Institute of Technology »Published more than 150 articles since 1958

24 2) ORGANIZATIONS ARE SEGMENTED RATHER THAN MONOLITHIC “In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.” ~ Margaret Wheatley, writer and management consultant

25 2) Organizations are segmented rather than monolithic No organizations is monolithic; rather, organizations are unified actors operating in more homogenous environments (Weick, 2001: 37). Organizations relies heavily on deliberation in order to avoid risks of being judged too impulsive, erratic, or unpredictable (Weick, 2001: 37).

26 2) Organizations are segmented rather than monolithic March and Olsen (1976) believes that people normally exaggerate the orderliness of organizations through bias. Bias involves assumptions about reality, intention and necessity.

27 Professor James G. March Jack Steele Parker Professor of International Management, Emeritus at Stanford University Graduate School of Business Professor Johan P. Olsen Professor in Political Science and Director of Research at the Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo

28 2) Organizations are segmented rather than monolithic Additionally, universities act like organizations because lower level segments act like top management. Questions of author, legitimacy, and insubordination are found in both universities and organizations. Moreover, both are loosely coupled and are primarily delegated to groups rather than individuals (Weick, 2001: 39).

29 2) Organizations are segmented rather than monolithic Example: In schools today, teachers often give students all kinds of tasks, responsibilities and actions as a way to loosen the teacher- student relationship (Weick, 2001). Weick (2001) believes that many teachers are treating students as them working in an organization than the school or a school (p. 39).

30 3) STABLE SEGMENTS IN ORGANIZATIONS ARE QUITE SMALL “One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself I could not change others.” ~ Nelson Mandela, 1918 Nobel prize winner, South African statesman and President since 1994

31 3) Stable segments in organizations are quite small Small organizations are necessarily not disorderly; rather, small organizations find more coherence than large organizations. When organizations become larger, there orderliness, predictability and sensibleness decline (Weick, 2001: 41). Small organizations may be better than large organizations

32 3) Stable segments in organizations are quite small In large organizations, people have limited thinking capacity, managers do little reading, and managers can work for about nine minutes before they are interrupted (Weick, 2001: 40). Many people in large organizations find it difficult to maintain more than ten solid relationships (Weick, 2001: 40).

33 4) CONNECTIONS AMONG SEGMENTS HAVE VARIABLE STRENGTHS “Leadership is not about changing the mindset of a group, but in the cultivation of an environment that brings out the best and inspires the individuals in that group.” ~ Arthur F Carmazzi, author and international speaker on leadership

34 4) Connections among segments have variable strengths Weick (2001) believes that longer chains with larger connections are more looser than shorter chains (p. 41). Organization with connections among segments typically have a variety of strengths

35 4) Connections among segments have variable strengths There are four features that affect organization strength of connection: 1) Rules, 2) Agreement on rules, 3) Feedback, and 4) Attention (Weick, 2001: 42). It is important to note that most organizational segments contain a mixture of both tightness and looseness. An organization cannot be entirely tight or entirely loose (Weick, 2001: 43).

36 5) CONNECTIONS OF VARIABLE STRENGTH PRODUCE AMBIGUITY “I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don't think that's quite it; it's more like jazz. There is more improvisation.” ~ Warren Bennis

37 5) Connections of variable strength produce ambiguity ~ What is ambiguity? According to Weick (2001), he sees ambiguity slows down communication/feedback, creates more learning difficulty, and increase the number of people giving up and quitting. It is normally found in changing/complex environments, non- routine tasks, and networks with dense interdependencies (p. 44).

38 5) Connections of variable strength produce ambiguity ~ What is ambiguity? Organizations dislike ambiguity, determination, delegation and differentiation because each one is associated with loose connections, which is a form of ambiguity (Weick, 2001: 44). Loose connections are a source of ambiguity.

39 1) Nature of problem 2) Information 3) Multiple Interpretations 4) Different Value Orientations 5) Unclear Goals 6) Lack of Time and Money 7) Contradictions and Paradox 8) Responsibilities Unclear 9) Success Measures Lacking 10) Poor Cause-Effect Relationships 11) Symbols and Metaphors 12) Decision Making Fluid (Weick, 2001: 45) Weick (2001) highlights twelve different characteristics of ambiguity:

40 6) CONNECTIONS OF CONSTANT STRENGTH REDUCE AMBIGUITY “As we, the leaders, deal with tomorrow, our task is to create organizations that are sufficiently flexible and versatile that they can take our imperfect plans and make them work in execution. That is the essential character of the learning organization.” ~ Gordon R. Sullivan & Michael V. Harper

41 6) Connections of constant strength reduce ambiguity The best way to reduce ambiguity is to act as if loosely coupled events are tied in a cause map (Weick, 2001: 48). Cause maps create some order.

42 6) Connections of constant strength reduce ambiguity Connections of constant strength can be stabilized by action. Action can simplify environments, can make environments more orderly, can create linkage, and can construct feedback (p. 50).

43 Comparison between Loosely Coupled and Tightly Coupled Systems “A new leader has to be able to change an organization that is dreamless, soulless and visionless... someone's got to make a wake up call.” ~ Warren Bennis, American scholar and organizational consultant

44 CONCLUSION/SUMMARY

45 Conclusion/Summary Loosely coupled systems probably are easier to coordinate, but are very difficult to systematically change. Understanding an organization as a loose coupling will help better explain us to understand how organizations adjust to their environments and survive during uncertainties.

46 Conclusion/Summary Nowadays, educational organizations are mostly viewed as loosely coupled systems. The concept of organizations as loosely coupled systems can effect any existing organizations.

47 Conclusion/Summary The best way to handle ambiguity is to turn to another person and build some idea of what is occurring through social interaction.

48 Conclusion/Summary The concept of a “loosely coupled” organization is more of a way for us to think about organizations. It is not intended to describe the quality of an organization. Loose coupling creates assumptions about organizations, creates novel functions, creates stubborn problems for methodologists, and generates intriguing questions for scholars.

49 Pros and Cons of Loose Coupling Pros Allows the organization to persist through rapid environmental fluctuations Improves the organization's sensitivity to the environment Allows locals to quickly adapt to their environment Provide more diversity to adapt to changing environmental situations Allows more self- determination by actors (like teachers, classes, etc.) Cons Lack of coordination Absence of regulations Highly connect networks with very slow feedback times Situations where several means can produce the same result

50 Further Readings

51

52 Final words….. “Managing is more like surfing on waves. People who surf do not command the waves. Instead, surfers do their best with what they get. They can control inputs to the process, but they can’t control outcomes. To ride the waves as if one were in control is to act and have faith” (p. 54). ~ Karl E. Weick, Rensis Likert Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

53 Discussion Questions?: 1) In your opinion, do you agree with the Professor Weick method of Loose Coupling? 2) Why and how do organizations seek and identify change? 3) From your experience, how can implement change in your organization today?

54 Is University a Factory? Presenter: Dr. Anatoly Oleksiyenko Date: Friday, 28th January, 2011 Time: 3.45 pm pm (followed by a tea reception) Location: Room 206, Runme Shaw Building Abstract: Are universities really becoming performance-obsessed and value-biased, as some critics claim? This seminar will draw on the analyses of the evolution of Berkeley’s “knowledge factory” metaphor to illustrate how “ideoscapes” in higher education mutate with the change of stakeholder influences on academic roles and responsibilities. Exploring the currency of powerful catchphrases such as “ivory tower”, “academic revolution”, “the university in ruins”, questions “research enterprise”, “degree mills” and “academic capitalism”, the researcher whether this range of “ideoscapes”is truly sequential and/or relevant across cultures. The seminar will probe the validity of “market-smart and mission-centered” university strategies in the context of the isomorphic prestige-driven trends shaping the architecture of global higher education. Hosted by the Community for Higher Education Research (CHER). CHER in Hong Kong is designed to bring together researchers in any area of higher education research for exchange and critical dialogue.

55 Questions? Contact me at: / Or visit my office at: Room 407, Graduate House The University of Hong Kong Pokfulam, Hong Kong * Powerpoint slides can be downloaded via online at:


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