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Organizational Behavior and Group Process in Consortia


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Title: Organizational Behavior and Group Process in Consortia

Organizational Behavior and Group Process in
  • June 28, 2006
  • Phillip DiChiara
  • Managing Director
  • The Boston Consortium for Higher Education

Objectives of 60 minute Webinar
  • Three issues to be considered when forming
    collective efforts
  • Structure
  • Group Process
  • Complexity
  • Our dialog will explore how achievement of
    consortium objectives requires different
    considerations and methodologies than those used
    at traditional hierarchical organizations e.g.
    Collaborative work systems attempt to imbed work
    processes and cultural mechanisms that enable and
    reinforce collaboration, not just vocalize
    support for teamwork and altruistic
    collaboration (Beyerlin, Freedman, McGee, Moran,
    Beyond Teams Building the Collaborative
    Organization, 2003).

Structure, Process, Complexity Considerations
for the Collaborative Enterprise
  • 1) Consortia are generally Heterachies, not
    Hierarchies. This is the structure most often
    observed, but the principles of which are often
    absent in practice.
  • 2) Group process in a voluntary,
    multi-organizational entity is more complicated
    than in a single hierarchical entity with a
    single culture. The impact of several different
    cultures attempting to solve the same problem
    often creates results at the extremes of the
    bell-curve either incredibly collaborative
    efforts with weak outcomes or highly
    conflict-ridden initiatives, with either no
    outcome or highly successful outcomes.
  • 3) Consortia may not give adequate consideration
    to the difference between complicated versus
    complex systems, resulting in a focus on sweet
    spot projects and initiatives. The result may be
    a failure to achieve significant change or
    fulfill the ennobling goals consortia should be
    focused on.

Impact of Structure, Process, Complexity
  • When forming collective efforts within most types
    of consortia, added consideration must be given
    to the underlying nature of collaborative work.
    Methods other than those typically offered or
    encouraged in current popular business literature
    do not consistently translate within consortia.

I Heterarchy and its Implications
  • Heterarchy is a network form consisting of
    elements (individuals representing
    college/university interests) that share common
    goals but have the same horizontal position on
    an org chart. Each has equal power, authority,
    responsibility and one vote. Decisions to
    execute are determined by shared knowledge,
    generally after inquiry/emergence techniques.
  • Often represented as a circle of elements
    (individuals or, in our case, colleges and
    universities (c/u)).
  • C/U themselves are hierarchies, but consider
    themselves enlightened or democratic within
    that broad definition.

World View, Our Mental Models and Hierarchical
  • The dominance of hierarchy, the degree to which
    we are conditioned to it, subtly orients us to
    behavioral processes that are often not
    compatible with the principles and mission most
    higher education consortia endorse, and
    ultimately undermines and lessens full
    achievement of our goals in support of our
  • Can we become more than sophisticated
    practitioners of optimized hierarchy, and move to
    learning of new approaches to management where we
    are less adept?

  • Not new term introduced 50 years ago by Warren
    St. McCulloch, Neurophysiologist.
  • U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research is currently
    applying it in new models for control and
  • Links well with advancements in social network
    analysis, which provides a means of making
    invisible patterns of information flow and
    collaboration in groups both visible and
  • Heterarchy promotes efficiency and flexibility,
    improving coordination through informal networks
    of relationships rather than through formal
    reporting structures or prescribed task processes.

(No Transcript)
Heterarchy Researchers
  • Karen Stephenson Quantum Theory of Trust,
  • Rob Cross The Hidden Power of Social Networks
    Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in
    Organizations, 2004
  • Gerard Fairtlough The Three Ways of Getting
    Things Done Hierarchy, Heterarchy and
    Responsible Autonomy, 2005
  • Eric B. Dent (University of N. Carolina)
    Organizational Development, 1993
  • David Stark (Columbia University) The 21st
    Century Firm, 2001

II Group Process Evolves
  • Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing
    (Tuckman, 1965)
  • Orientation, Conflict and Challenge, Cohesion,
    Delusion, Disillusion, Acceptance (Jewell and
    Retz, 1981)
  • Dependency and Inclusion, Counter-dependency and
    Fight, Trust and Structure, Work, Termination
    (Wheelan, 1990)
  • Evolving theories incorporate task nature, size
    of group, time-to-completion, and variability of
    the individual personality contained within the

Group Dynamics Developing Consensus Techniques
(Pyzdek, 2003)
  • Step 0 Assume that creative or destructive
    conflict is NOT repressed, but encouraged. When
    conflict is present, explore reasons why.
    Personality disputes should be handled outside
    the group.
  • Step 1 Create a rule of consensus decisions. No
    judgment should be incorporated into the group
    decision until it meets at least the tacit
    approval of every member.
  • Step 2 Meet the minimum conditions listed below
    for group movement i.e. adopt the following
  • 2a. Avoid arguing for your own position.
    Present it lucidly and logically, but be
    sensitive and consider the impact of subsequent
    presentations on the same point.

Consensus Techniques, or How to Manage Conflict
Without Suppressing It….
  • 2b. Avoid win-lose proposals. Look for the
    next-most-acceptable decision for all.
  • 2c. Avoid changing your mind only to avoid
    conflict and reach harmony. Strive for
    enlightened flexibility but avoid outright
  • 2d. Avoid conflict reducing techniques such as
    majority vote, averaging, bargaining,
    coin-flipping, trading out, etc.
  • 2e. DO view differences of opinion as indicative
    of an incomplete sharing of relevant
    information, including emotional data and
    intuition as well as task issues.
  • View differences in opinion as an advance in
    data gathering rather than a hindrance in
    decision-making. (Ready, Fire, Aim)

Consensus Techniques continued
  • 3. Question apparent agreements to be sure people
    have arrived at the same conclusion for basic
    or complementary reason.
  • 4. Avoid subtle forms of influence and decision
    modification e.g. when a dissenting member
    finally agrees, dont feel that he must be
    rewarded by getting his own way on a subsequent

Consensus Techniques continued
  • 5. Be willing to entertain the possibility that
    the group can achieve all of the above and
    actually excel at the task.
  • 6. Dont tighten control or force conformance.
    Set up new procedures instead.
  • 7. Probe for the true reason behind the conflict
    and negotiate a more acceptable solution.
  • 8. Serve as mediator/facilitator, not leader or
  • 9. Confront counterproductive behavior.
  • 10. Continue to move the group toward
    independence from any single leader.

How Is This Different from a Typical Business
  • Multiple cultures, groupthink, go along to get
    along, job security. Lots of incentives to agree.
  • These techniques are for self-managed teams, not
    process improvement. Consortial teams often have
    delegated responsibility often reserved for upper
  • The best consortia groups emphasize two-way
    communication that is honest, frequent and
  • The best consortia groups are not expected to
    share glory, but to revel in hard-won outcomes
    (intrinsic reward vs. extrinsic). Corporate teams
    are expected to share glory. One organization is
    essentially static, where consortial work is
    constantly re-forming with new players from
    multiple entities.
  • For many consortia, the learning of collaborative
    skills is a primary outcome, with successful
    project outcomes a collateral benefit.

III Complicated Versus Complex Systems (Adopted
from Jones, Wendell Complex Adaptive Systems,
  • If the multi-institutional nature of a
    consortiums mission inevitably results in some
    conflict, and if we are not to be conflict
    averse, how do we know if we are making progress
    on often intractable problems?
  • Does the work of designing solutions or
    interventions often feel more like art than
  • What is the true nature of the system in which we

Deeply Imbedded Assumptions Our Western Mental
  • These assumptions make it difficult for us to
    understand or deal with complexity
  • Every observed effect has an observable cause.
  • Even very complicated phenomena can be understood
    through analysis. We do this by taking the
    phenomena apart and studying the pieces.
  • Sufficient analysis of past events can create the
    capacity to predict future events.

Reductionism Is Inadequate to Solve Complex
  • Worked well in understanding the physical world.
  • Was applied to the social sciences in the 20th
  • Even a complex system such as weather became more
    predictable, but notoriously impossible to
    predict in detail.
  • Originally termed Chaotic System Analysis, it is
    now matured into Complexity Science.
  • Human communities of all types and sizes must
    address conflict of all varieties.
  • Not all systems are complicated and determined.
    Many are complex and adaptive, and resistant to
    traditional analysis.
  • Consortia are actually well-positioned to help
    our communities to learn to deal with and
    understand complexity.

  • Systems are an assembly of elements linked to
    produce a whole in which the attributes of the
    elements contribute to a behavior of the whole
    e.g. cities, ecosystems, the human body.
  • Determined systems consist of inputs and outputs
    that are exact and reproducible e.g. an airplane.
  • Determined systems are linear, e.g. small inputs
    provide small outputs large inputs, large
  • Adaptive systems are governed by simple rules
    that are characterized by each agent of the
  • Adaptive systems follow the rules, but often
    imprecisely, e.g. ant colonies, flock of geese
  • From simple rules come adaptive responses that do
    not repeat themselves and are not entirely

Complicated Versus Complex Systems
  • Complicated
  • Elements and connections are equally important.
  • Simple algorithms produce simple and predictable
  • Component response is fully determined.
  • Complex
  • Connections are critical individual agents less
  • Simple rules result in complex and adaptive
  • Agents have latitude of response within the rules.

Emergence a phenomena where the application of
traditional analytic tools can explain the
systems behavior. The whole cannot be studied by
a study of the parts.
  • Human systems are emergent. Our self-awareness
    allows us to choose how we interact with one
    another or a group.
  • Marching bands are linear, determined systems.
  • Jazz ensembles are non-hierarchical, adaptive and
    thus complex.

Implications of Using the Lens of Complex Systems
to Look at Difficult or Even Intractable Conflict
  • The not-so-good news
  • There are no neutral observers. Observers affect
    the system.
  • There is no single objective reality to describe
    the system in conflict.
  • Our definition of the system is arbitrary since
    the interconnectedness of people in contact with
    other people is pervasive.
  • Discoveries regarding complex systems will never
    produce a deterministic set of formulae to create
    a resolution.

Better News
  • Since agents in the system adjust to stimulus in
    ways that are not linear, small input changes can
    produce very large output changes.
  • By creating enlightened experiments, we can over
    time alter various aspects of the intervention,
    and over time experience changes that will be
    beneficial, or less so, and adapt accordingly.

Great News
  • Making a difference in the midst of intractable
    conflict will not come from a reductionist
    analysis of the system.
  • Evolutionary progress to resolution of conflict
    through mindful experiments within the conflict
    is possible. Then move with the self-organization
    that follows.
  • The impossibility of predicting and controlling
    conflict need not result in a sense of
    hopelessness or resignation.
  • Rather it can propel us to a deeper exploration
    of the nature of complex adaptive systems and the
    possibilities that reside within such
    self-organizing systems for constructive change.

Reflections on Emerging Management Methods
  • The mission/vision of many ACL-member consortia
    would appear to be so broad as to be strong
    candidates for collaborative efforts beyond
    projects, programs, cross-registration, faculty
    development, procurement, etc.
  • They can become incubators/learning laboratories
    for new approaches to management of the academic
  • We are well placed to become a safe space for
    experimentation of non-traditional collaborative
    enterprise, and growing beyond our current
    (individual organizational) limits.
  • This can break the perception of consortia by
    some as overwhelmingly altruistic entities.

Opportunities to Leverage our Unique Position in
the Higher Education Community
  • Everyone has a slightly different library of
    knowledge or intellectual capital. Social capital
    is the sum of all capacities that staff bring to
    an organization. Consortia can readily add to the
    perception and reality as safe spaces for
    development of solutions to problems that are
    intractable. What cannot be solved individually
    may only be solved collectively.
  • The old aphorism If you are not part of the
    solution, you are part of the problem is
    essentially moot. What is now held to be true is
    If you are not part of the problem, you cant be
    part of the solution. (Bill Torbert, Action
    Inquiry, 2004). Consortia should be where we
    send the really difficult challenges.

Opportunities to Leverage Our Unique Position
  • Fear remains from previous hierarchical
    mismanagement. Often, our fear of failure
    constrains us to work in the sweet spot of
    collaboration where the success is reasonably
    predictable and where our limited financial
    resources are easily translated into financial
    return on investment. This is another case of
  • Ennobling goals can be motivational. Incremental
    improvement in work systems will remain dominant,
    but transformational change in individual
    commitment and enjoyment is the new social
    contract. (Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind Moving
    from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age,

  • Do these issues confront other consortia?
  • Do we need to change our focus more aggressively
    in the current environment?
  • Is there a constraint that we face in considering
    positioning our consortia?