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Organizational Traps

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Christina Tucholski

on 24 May 2013

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Transcript of Organizational Traps

Evelyn Pittas
Christina Tucholski Organizational Traps Chris Argyris
2010 Author's Background Organizational Traps Born in Newark, New Jersey on July 16, 1923

1947: B.A. in Psychology from the University of Worcester

1949: M.A. in Psychology and Economics from Kansas University

1951: Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from Cornell University Postgraduate Work Maintained career working in the world of education

After graduating from Cornell in 1951, Argyris became a faculty member at Yale University, serving as Beach Professor of Administrative Sciences and then Chairperson of the Administrative Services Department.

In 1971, Argyris left Yale to work at Harvard
Currently James Bryant Conant Professor Emeritus of Education and Organizational Behavior at Harvard University’s Business School.

Additionally, Argyris is the Director of the Monitor Company, a large consulting group based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Traps are when we feel stuck and trapped in "status quo" with our situation. Traps occur when we feel powerless to change something and don't always voice the truth/reality.

We say yes in a meeting and walk out, disagreeing and gossiping about it.

"My boss won't understand."

"They're too stubborn to hear me out."

"The company will never change, why bother?"

We are trapped by our own behavior and often cause these traps ourselves. Why do we create Traps? We create traps when, examining the problem, we perceive:

Threats - will we jeopardize our credibility, reputation for speaking up/admitting our faults/pointing out issues? Will we be unliked, or even embarassed?
Insecurity - am I right in my thinking, what do I really believe? Do others agree? Will I alienate my superiors and teammates?
A potential loss or failure - Have I lost the argument, am I shown in a negative light, could I lose my job/position/prestige? Example of LHRH Excercise Model I Theory-In-Use: Defensive Reasoning Left-hand - right-hand cases have been observed to follow either Model I or Model II of behavior.

Model I protects and defends oneself against fundamental, disruptive change:

1. Be in unilateral control
2. Win and do not lose.
3. Suppress negative feelings.
4. Behave rationally. Did I follow Model I? How often did I attribute negative motives/evaluations to the other person’s performance, and yet not say so?

Am I confident that I attributed those motives correctly? Can I see that I have used data very selectively and added other beliefs that are not necessarily appropriate?

Did I advocate my own position firmly to the exclusion of the other person’s?

Did I tell the other person that I care about his or her views, although I was not truly open?

Did I find a third party to blame for the overall situation, such as the boss, company, budget, government? Model II Theory-in-Use: Productive Reasoning Model II can be used to prevent the counterproductive consequences of Model I.

The values of Model II are:

1. Seek valid (testable) information.
2. Create informed choice.
3. Monitor vigilantly to detect and correct error. Did I follow Model II? Did I strive to make premises and inferences explicit and clear?

Did I develop testable conclusions?

While taking action, did I reflect and be aware of my own thoughts and feelings?

Am I clear about the position I am advocating and about any evaluations I make of others?

Did I check for unrecognized gaps or inconsistencies?

Was I open to any constructive confrontation of own my views and evaluations? What advice would those seeking to reduce traps get by reading the research on leadership
written by experts? Research is divided into two broad domains: quantitative and qualitative.

Quantitative approaches are associated with precision of measurement, experimental design, statistics, "hard" data.

Qualitative approaches are associated with ethnographies, interpretive techniques, and "soft" data. Quantitative Approach The primary method is the use of various types of questionnaires and surveys coupled with a secondary emphasis on interviews and documents that describe leaders’ actions.

Researchers (such as Bass and Riggio, Avolio, Avolio and Bass) seek to establish a high degree of validity by analyzing their questions before they are used in studies. They also focus on using appropriate sample sizes. The Qualitative Approach Idealized influence is defined as the leader emphasizing a collective sense of mission, and reassuring others that the obstacles they face can be overcome.

Inspirational motivation means that the leaders strive to motivate others by displaying enthusiasm and optimism.

Intellectual stimulation means that leaders educate others to what excellence means. Qualitative Approach (cont'd) Single-Looped and
Double-Looped Learning Developed alongside Donald Schön

Basis for much of Argyris’s work

Hypothesized that learning is composed of finding an error and creating a way to correct the error

Theory dealt with how we problem solve and correct errors

Many people look for another strategy that will address and work within governing variables Leadership and Traps So, to answer the question:

What advice would those seeking to reduce Traps get by reading the research on leadership written by some of our most celebrated and widely read researchers and experts?

Research argues that the advice provided by highly respected researchers is able to solve single-loop problems. Single-Looped Learning When something goes wrong or fails, many people search for another strategy that will address and work within the governing variables. This is single-loop learning.

Goals, values, plans, and rules are assumed and accepted rather than questioned.

Argyris sums things up in this statement:

“Single looped learning is like a thermostat that learns when it is too hot or too cold and turns the heat on or off. The thermostat can perform this task because it can receive information, the temperature of the room, and take corrective action.”

When something goes wrong or fails, many people search for another strategy that will address and work within the governing variables. Double-Looped Learning Alternative to single-loop learning involving questioning the variables of the problem themselves, leaving them open for criticism.

This leads to altering the variables, shifting the way outcomes and strategies are viewed.

This creates alternatives and solutions that were not perceived at first The focus of much of Chris Argyris’ research has been to explore how organizations may increase their capacity for double-loop learning.

He argues that double-loop learning is necessary if organizations are to make informed decisions in rapidly changing and often uncertain contexts. Part I:
Why We Act Against Our Own Stated Interests What is a Trap? Left-Hand Right-Hand Method In the left-hand right-hand methodology, the person recounts the conversation in their mind and puts the actual verbiage on the right, with their thoughts which were withheld on the left.

Are these negative and potentially self-limiting thoughts? Theory of Action Human beings create designs for action that specify the actions we need to undertake to get what we want.

Espoused theory: what we use to explain or justify our actions (what we say)

Theory-in-use: in practice, we use this at a variance with the espoused one (what we do) We self-protect and therefore deny an issue, and "deny our denial".

We make issues undiscussable, and make the "undiscussability undiscussable".

In other words, we get deeper and deeper into the trap. Examples Dean Rusk, State Dept - asked specifically for input, people agreed publicly in the meeting and later denied that the proposal could work. They did not speak up, as they did not want to be contrary or career-threatening.


Andrew Grove, Intel - used "hard power" and direct managerial approach; however, people couldn't address his style and had to sense his mood. Although he openly offered people to challenge him, it was apparent to his employees his mind was made up, though they had to pretend it wasn't so. Part II:
How Conventional Approaches Bypass Traps - and What to Do About It To improve effectiveness, these researchers advise leaders to develop skills at using idealized influence, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation. Bennis and his colleagues use a primary research methodology that is more qualitative in order to provide more opportunities to get “closer” to understanding the respondents.

The authors advise that leaders develop leadership competencies such as adaptive capacity, engaging others by creating shared meanings, voice, and integrity. The authors advise that innovative learning is key to effective leadership.
The authors distinguish between managers and leaders.
The managers represent a copy; the leaders are original. The problem may be that the originals act in ways that require their managers act as if they are copies.
Indeed, these originals are copies of Model I and defensive reasoning. The advice is inadequate to reducing traps.

The researchers do not make such inadequacies clear because they do not present theory-in-use methodologies that distinguish between Model I theory-in-use and defensive mind-set from Model II and a productive reasoning mind-set.

Without such distinctions, reducing Traps is unlikely. Given the research methods described in the chapter, the executives will not be aware that they have been bypassing important problems. Different situations require different methods for problem solving.

Argyris did find organizations lacked double-looped learning.

Argyris felt double-looped learning was essential in making informed decisions in situations which change rapidly. Which is better? Argyris and Schön continued to develop methods to enhance or inhibit specific types of their learning theories.
Model I was designed to inhibit double-looped learning
Model II is used to enhance double-looped learning.
Argyris’s research attempted to move people from Model I to Model II. How do we control this? Defensive relationships

Low freedom of choice

Little public testing of ideas

reduced production of valid information Model I Consequences Model II Consequences Minimally defensive relationships

High freedom of choice

Increased likelihood of double-looped learning
(will be explained in detail later) Argyris and Schön further operationalized their theory.

Felt each worker needed to build their own view of the theory-in-use of the entire organization.

This gives workers a better understanding of their “piece of the puzzle” to complete the image of the company.

Compared to a cell, if one cell does not complete its role, the entire organism fails. Organizational Learning Argyris suggested the following steps to convert an organization from single-loop to double-loop:

- Mapping the problem
- Internalization of the map
- Test the model
- Invent solutions
- Produce the intervention
- Study the impact Phases of Converting Organizations This chapter argues that you cannot separate the individual from the sociological level.
Attempts to reduce Traps will not only fail, they will actually strengthen Traps.
This, in turn, will result in inconsistencies and gaps that will strengthen the perseverance of Traps and the flawed generalizations about them. Culture, Leadership, and Traps Schein defines culture as having three levels:
artifacts (visible organizational structures and processes)
espoused values (strategies, goals, philosophies)
basic underlying assumptions (unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings). Sackman defines culture as a set of commonly held cognitions that are held with some emotional investment and integrated into a logical system or cognitive map that contains cognitions about descriptions, operations, prescriptions, and causes.

They are habitually used and influence prescription, thinking, feeling, and acting. Both researchers agree that:
the components of culture become attached to emotion and degrees of importance
the components are relatively stable over time
Therefore, this provides a sense of order and makes the world predictable.
Schein and Sackman suggest that culture is used to answer characteristic questions, such as ‘what is’, ‘what exists’, ‘how are things done’ or ‘should be done’, and ‘why things are done the way they are’. Unlike culture, Traps are the same over time and in different contexts. The primary causes of Traps are the use of Model I theory-in-use and the defensive reasoning mind-set.
All Traps are characterized by denying personal causal responsibility, and covering up the denial by making it undiscussable.
Leaders who create Traps by their top–down actions and policies are matched by the inferiors creating their own Traps.
The difference is that in most cases the inferiors drive their actions underground. They design and execute them with skilled transparency. Cultures vs. Traps How to reduce Traps? by educating individuals to use Model II theory-in-use and productive reasoning
by replacing old restrictions with more functional ones.
by building consensus
taking action This chapter examines new approaches that are supposed to solve organizational problems and bring new levels of performance.
It argues that although they all have something of value to offer, they all also fall short in so far as they fail to address the existence of Traps.

The crucial reality that these approaches overlook is that they must all be implemented by human beings, who although they often support Model II values, usually fall back on the safety of Model II values and a defensive mind-set in action. Strengthening New Approaches In order to reduce Traps, we must begin by addressing Model I theories-in-use and defensive reasoning.

Traps cannot be reduced by focusing on environmental factors such as new structures and reward policies.

Individuals operating in such structures or under such policies will use the theory-in-use that they already hold and defensive reasoning to protect themselves.
The chapter then turns to the effect that barriers have on our ability to deal with serious human problems. Conclusion: Traps and the Human Predicament
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