How’s your organization?

Posted by jlubans on June 28, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

One of my most useful activities in class and in workshops is for participants to complete the Organizational Continuum, a one page chart. I got an early version of the chart from Jerry Campbell, my boss at Duke University, and I have adapted a few times since.
Here it is, in abbreviated form:

The Organizational Continuum: Where are you? On which side do you want to be?

Decision making:
Hierarchical …………………………………….....................Collaborative
Organizational structure:
Rigid ……………………………………............................Flexible
Information flow:
Limited (filtered)……………………………............Organization-wide
Work environment:
Boss: Worker ………………………………....................Team-based
Work process:
Procedure-based (“By-the-book”) ……..........Continuously improving
Response to change:
Defensive ……………………………………....................Open
Budget model:
Incremental ………………………………………....................Fluid

Most recently, I asked my Riga students to fill out this form. I explained to them that musically speaking, on the left is the conductor-led organization. We know who the boss is.
On the far right is the self-managing Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. They play without a conductor and they play very well. There is no obvious boss.
I asked my students to chart what their current organization is and then to chart the organization they want.
My 16 students – each of them – went from a line on the far left (where they are) to a line on the far right (where they want to be.)
What would your chart look like?
In my Klaipeda presentation about 90 or so librarians and university administrators took the exercise using a translated version of this chart. The end result was the same as for my students. The status quo is the command and control model on the left; and, seemingly everyone’s desired organization is on the right with more freedom and less direction.
Next time, I will stop talking and ask the audience to reflect about what they can do to move from the left to the right, clearly the direction they want to move toward.

NOT The Very Model of Attribution

Posted by jlubans on June 25, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

I came across an interesting feature of search engines and third party aggregators. While looking for new reviews of Leading from the Middle, I ran into a link.
That link pointed me to a 2007 Harvard Business Review case study "The Very Model of a Modern Senior Manager" on leader competencies by Mike Morrison, Reuben Mark, Rebecca Ray, George Manderlink, and Dave Ulrich. Their title sounded similar to my 2005 column," I Am the Very Model of a Modern Middle Manager".
Now, anyone is entitled to a little literary license in adopting a Gilbert and Sullivan piece for an eye catching title. In my case I borrowed with attribution from The Pirates of Penzance: "I am the very model of a modern major general." Hear and see it here.
Adding to my curiousity was another similarity between my 2005 work with the 2007 HBR case study. You see, the HBR case study is about leadership qualities (they say competencies) which is pretty much what my 2005 article was about.
So, I took a look at the online version of the HBR article. There is no attribution to Gilbert & Sullivan nor to my 2005 article. It is the aggregator that links my leadership qualities idea to the HBR case study. I make sure to acknowledge any use I make of someone else's ideas. I have seen some free borrowing of my ideas from time to time without attribution (one popular blog was especially egregious) but I think a third party's linking the two articles is quite remarkable.
Indeed, sloppy scholarship has something more to worry about!

Why teams?

Posted by jlubans on June 10, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

Why hierarchy? could be just as effective a lead-in title. Well, the Darwinists have something to say. (When don't they?) Their unruffled sea of "settled science" is now roiled up. The tempest is about recent comments from biologist, Edward O. Wilson as summed up in the April 21st Boston Globe. Mr. Wilson claims that:
The key (to goodness) is the group: Under certain circumstances, groups of cooperators can out-compete groups of non-cooperators, thereby ensuring that their genes — including the ones that predispose them to cooperation — are handed down to future generations. This so-called group selection, Wilson insists, is what forms the evolutionary basis for a variety of advanced social behaviors linked to altruism, teamwork, and tribalism.... (emphasis added.)

So, here we have a biological hypothesis about why we enjoy teamwork, and of course, why we may NOT enjoy teamwork.
I assume non-cooperators - there must be significant numbers - do not like teams because they do not want to cooperate or collaborate to survive. Whatever rationale given for why teams fail, it is interesting to have a biological suggestion. Some people really do NOT want a team to succeed while some people REALLY DO.

Of course, Adam Smith had something to say in 1759, about our instinctual wanting to help others:

“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.”

Women leaders in Latvia

Posted by jlubans on June 07, 2011  •  Leave comment (0)

My University of Latvia students interviewed 8 Latvian leaders - all women - in libraries and in commerce. The assignment was the second of 3 self managing teams projects for the Spring semester of 2011.
At the end of this post is the text of the assignment hand out. Immediately following are my conclusions about the interviews drawn from student verbal and written reports:
Gender difference is seen by most (of the women interviewed) as a plus in relationship and problem solving. Nevertheless, women take on a lot (the future of the country!) while men may get preferential treatment regardless of qualifications.)

Gender differences can be useful; while men may be seen as less effective they do have some redeeming qualities that balance out the female approach.

Most, if not all, have no mentor. They do stay connected to colleagues, especially ones they respect and admire.

Most leaders view themselves as democratic. They can be firm yet remain open and willing to allow others to participate in decision making.

E-mail me at in case you want the full text of this report which is a distillation of the student reports.

Below is the assignment I made to the two student teams early in February of this year:

Leadership research fieldwork: Latvian women as leaders
Due: May 20 Friday

Teams of 2 students - assigned April 15 - will interview a Latvian leader about her style of leadership. Our research is to find out how Latvian female managers (in and out of libraries) lead and how their ways of working set them apart from other styles of leadership.

For background information see my article:

Women as leaders: The Latvian Connection:

Two students will pair up and develop an interview process, select a subject, set up an appointment, and interview a woman leader for about an hour. Class time on May 13th has been set aside for the interview in case you need the time.

On May 20th, the two students will prepare and present to the class a brief oral findings report in Latvian, with a one page written summary in English for me. The summary should include the date and time of interview, the name of the leader being interviewed, names of the students and the questions that you used. Also, include your most important learnings from the interview.

Suggested interview questions (you may not use all of these depending on how the interview develops – be open to hearing unexpected comments. For example, stories are very important in our understanding of each other, so if your interviewee has stories to tell, apart from answering your questions, listen carefully):

What led you to become an administrator?
For example: Were you called upon to be a leader because of a work situation, or was it because a particular boss who either encouraged or discouraged you from leadership? Or, ….

What are the perceptions of other, non-administrator, women about managing? Did this encourage or discourage you? How about the perception that men have of women administrators?

Who or what has had the greatest influence on your way of leading?

Did you (do you) have a mentor?
If no mentor, did you have someone (spouse, colleague, friend) who encouraged you to seek a higher position, earn another degree or seek additional training?

What sacrifices have you had to make in leading? Would you encourage others to make the same sacrifices?

Do you as a manager lead differently from your male counterparts?
If yes, please describe a few of those differences. How would you characterize the way you lead? (e. g. a mother and her family, a queen and her court, a team, etc.)

What are your most significant strengths as a leader?

What areas of your leadership do you want to improve?

What are the most significant challenges for Latvian women leaders?

What have you found most and least rewarding about becoming an administrator?

Have ideas about traditional roles of Latvian women as leaders changed? What has caused those changes? In your generation, what changes in attitudes toward women as leaders have you witnessed, and what are your expectations for the coming generation?