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Useful Tools


It's Obvious!

I have a big problem when I delegate a task. Once I mention the topic of the task, I believe the needed result, the needed methods and resources, and the needed empowerment are all obvious. Part of my personality type (ENTP, for those who know Meyers Briggs typing), is that everything seems obvious to me. The problem is: what’s obvious to me isn’t obvious to others.
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Vision is Knowing Where You Want to Be

Some people have a clear sense of who they are, where they're going in life; they can see it clearly because they have a personal vision of what they want to achieve in their life. They're committed to it. They're at peace with it.
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Life Balance Corner

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Building an Effective Organization

The Organizational Effectiveness Pyramid

As managers build and use tools to support their decision making, they have a number of things to do and roles to play. The pyramid in the Figure includes a significant set of activities at each apex: comprehensive planning, leadership, continuous performance improvement, and culture management. Together, the four significant sets of activities contain the essence of the organization and what the organization does. What an organization does and believes in is displayed as values, norms, and traditions. Values are long-term beliefs that are hard to change. Traditions are established or customary patterns of action or behavior.  Norms are unwritten rules of behavior.  Together, the four significant sets of activities represent what the people in the business college call organizational effectiveness.

Leadership pyramid diagram with pyramid corners designated as Leadership (mental), Continuous Performance Improvement (physical), Culture Management (emotional), and Comprehensive Planning (forecasting). In the center of the pyramid is Natural Laws, Principles, Values, Norms, and Traditions.

Figure 1.1. The organizational effectiveness pyramid shows the strength, durability, balance, and interconnectedness inherent in balancing the activities for meeting a set of responsibilities. [Organizational effectiveness rotates around soft, human issues.]

I’m always concerned about a framework’s completeness. I look for indications that the entities in the framework form a closed set, because I believe when you have a closed set and apply the set properly you get a step function increase in synergy. I like the organizational effectiveness pyramid because of the raw strength, durability, balance, and cohesiveness of it. By its very nature, the pyramid shows strength, durability, and tight connections. In civil engineering, we learn what people have known since the pyramids in Egypt were built. In two dimensions, we gain structural strength through the triangle; and in three dimensions, we use the pyramid. Much research has been done at MIT on frameworks of leadership.  In Figure 1.1, I show the kind of elements MIT uses in their framework as apexes and see the center as soft, human issues like values, traditions, and norms. The pyramid doesn’t choose a central activity or responsibility of management, but does show cultural components as central.

I also like the pyramid representation because no apex is central. All apexes must be implemented. If one is ignored or not properly addressed, any short-term improvement will fade away. Since a manager can’t do everything at once or is usually more capable or interested in one or more apexes over the others, the manager usually leads out with one apex. The pyramid says that if the manager gets one apex too far out ahead of the others, the strength of the pyramid is threatened. I see a manager’s activities involving physical, logical, and emotional levels in dealing with an organization. I think the continuous performance improvement apex emphasizes the physical, in that we need to get to specifics and measure something for continuous performance improvement. Customers demand quality rather than an illusion of it. I think the leadership apex emphasizes the logical or mental, in that we need to logically move from the known toward the unknown in living up to a vision. I think the culture management apex emphasizes the emotional, in that we need to rally people’s emotions around beliefs and symbols to excite them in the mission, vision, and guiding principles of the organization. I think the comprehensive planning apex emphasizes a fourth level I’ll call the clairvoyant level, in that we need to forecast the future in all planning and have the vision to see things that don’t exist. (According to Webster, clairvoyance is “the power to perceive matters beyond the range of ordinary perception.” In the sense that Deming says management is prediction, perceiving beyond ordinary perception is necessary.)

In dealing with their responsibilities managers make decisions about broad sets of things— activities, tracks, fronts, or pursuits. The organizational effectiveness pyramid tells us how to deal with four types of activities the manager must work in balance to move the organization forward. If you’re doing continuous performance improvement, you make progress through physical means and arguments; whereas, if you’re doing culture management, you make progress through emotional means and arguments. If the issue is emotional, you address that issue with emotional means. A critical point in all this is that as you work two or more of the apexes of the organizational effectiveness pyramid, you discover strong linkages among them, as in the case of culture management and continuous performance improvement providing connections for learning how to change to a quality culture. Another critical point is that the physical level has its place; but you must not overdo it. The emotional level has its place; but, you must not overdo it. If you push one level, or apex, too far, the pyramid comes apart.

The manager wants to work his or her organizational effectiveness pyramid to take advantage of its strength. As you work one apex, use the management tools appropriate to that apex and based on the right level of effort. But be ready to bring along the other apexes with the right tools to meet the needs of each apex.

For more discussion on the Organizational Effectiveness Pyramid, see the full paper and click here.

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