Making Sense of Organizational Change - PowerPoint

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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: /
                   “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.
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,
               » Coined the term “loose
                 coupling”, “mindfulness”,
                 and “sensemakng.”
       Topics/Key Words
•   1) Loose Coupling
•   2) Rationality /Assumptions
•   3) Ambiguity
•   4) Variability
•   5) Sensemaking
•   6) Action vs. Deliberation
•   7) Connections
•   8) Mindfulness
What is an organization?
• March and Olsen (1976) defines
  organizations as a “set of procedures for
  augmentation and imprecation” (p. 25).
       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).
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.
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
• In general, understanding an organization as
  a loose coupling can help us better explain
  how organizations adapt to their
  environments and survive in uncertainties.
What is Loose Coupling?
• 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”
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
• 5) Connections of variable strength produce ambiguity
• 6) Connections of constant strength reduce ambiguity
  (Weick, 2001: 34)
   “Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it
   does to survive in the future.”
   ~ Peter Drucker, The Father Of Modern Management

  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.
  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.
Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer
                » Thomas D. Dee II
                  Professor of
                  Organizational Behavior
                  at the Graduate School
                  of Business, Stanford
                » Earned his Ph.D. in
                  Organizational Psychology
                  from Stanford University
                » Considered as one of
                  the most influential
                  management thinkers
  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).
  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).
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
              » Recipient of the 1978
                American Accounting
                Outstanding Educator
  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.
Professor Barry Staw
               » Lorraine Tyson Mitchell
                 Chair and Professor of
                 Leadership and
                 Communication at the
                 Hass School of
                 Business at the
                 University of California,
               » Earned his Ph.D. in
                 Psychology from
                 Northwestern University
               » Founder of the
                 Research in
                 Organizational Behavior
  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).
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
               » Published more than
                 150 articles since 1958
  “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
   ~ Margaret Wheatley, writer and management consultant
 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).
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.
Professor James G. March       Professor Johan P. Olsen
• Jack Steele Parker           • Professor in Political
  Professor of International     Science and Director of
  Management, Emeritus at
                                 Research at the Centre
  Stanford University            for European Studies,
  Graduate School of             University of Oslo
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).
2) Organizations are segmented
rather than monolithic
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.
     “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

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
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).
     “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

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
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).

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

                    (Weick, 2001: 45)

    “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
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.
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).
       Comparison between Loosely
       Coupled and Tightly Coupled

“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
• 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
• Nowadays, educational organizations are
  mostly viewed as loosely coupled systems.
• The concept of organizations as loosely
  coupled systems can effect any existing
• The best way to handle ambiguity is to turn
  to another person and build some idea of
  what is occurring through social interaction.
• 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.
    Pros and Cons of Loose Coupling
Pros                              Cons
• Allows the organization to
  persist through rapid           • Lack of coordination
  environmental fluctuations
                                  • Absence of regulations
• Improves the organization's
  sensitivity to the              • Highly connect networks
  environment                       with very slow feedback
• Allows locals to quickly          times
  adapt to their environment      • Situations where several
• Provide more diversity to         means can produce the
  adapt to changing                 same result
  environmental situations
• Allows more self-
  determination by actors (like
  teachers, classes, etc.)
Further Readings
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
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
                                                                                            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
      Is University a Factory?                                                              exchange and critical dialogue.
Presenter: Dr. Anatoly Oleksiyenko
Date: Friday, 28th January, 2011
Time: 3.45 pm - 5.15 pm (followed by a tea reception)
Location: Room 206, Runme Shaw Building

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.
Questions? Contact me at:
• E-mail: /
• 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: