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Welcome to the Organization Management and Development Page

Featuring Useful OD Resources, Readings & Strategies

Evolutionary Learning Path

As an OD scholar-practitioner, I see the world differently than when I started my Masters degree program, with greater knowledge of theory and application, an appreciation of culture and difference, and a sense that there's a lot more to learn and integrate. But I do so with a maturity, comfort and ease not present in myself 18 months ago.

My professional work in an open, complex, self-organizing ecosystem called WikiEducator - has helped me to learn about OD both theoretically and experientially from different perspectives: (1) from the inside looking out; (2) the outside looking in; and (3) from within myself.

"OD practitioners see organizations as constantly changing open systems, which have important internal components (such as goals, tasks, technologies, structures, people, coordinating mechanisms, rewards, leadership, and culture) but also interact with their environments, incluencing them and being influenced by them. (French and Bell, 1998).

When I began my studies, Kurt Lewin's action research mantra reverberated loudly:

There is no research without action, no action without research.

At this stage in my development, I can refine Lewin's famous words in alignment to my own learning and experience )with community and project development within complex, rapidly-changing and self-organizing ecosystems):

There's no point in doing research without timely action and feedback, or action without timely feedback and learning.

A Mysterious Future Revealed

Whether leaders admit it -- to themselves, their core group of stakeholders (Kleiner, 2003), or their organizations -- the future is here. It's a complex, topsy-turvy mix where forces converge and repel, where everything and everyone is changing, adapting and and evolving on multiple levels and dimensions, further (self) organizing into familiar patterns and new, emergent forms. Consider the hidden and visible patterns that enable:

  • human skin to renew itself itself every 28 days
  • financial markets to tumble one day, and even further the next - triggered by mortgage credit default swaps!
  • General Motors shares to fall to a 75-year low
  • the first US black president to be elected
  • the Berlin Wall to fall, and Communism to go with it
  • mobiles become a dominant form of communication in Africa, and the world
  • weather forecasters, armed with all of their technology, to still get the weather wrong(!)
  • and on it goes...

Indeed, there's plenty of evidence all around us, that rich, diverse and complex patterns of organization, er self-organization, abound with unanticipated, unpredictable and unforeseen consequences.

A "New-Old", More Natural Form of Organization

Agile, adaptive and self-organizing networks and communities are a new reality in 21st Century organizations. Thanks to the explosion of accessible information and communications technologies (ICTs), there has been a proliferation of network-organizations with their own organizational culture and leadership style, different operating norms, and ability to function effectively independent of time and distance.

"People who are deeply connected to a cause don't need directives, rewards or leaders to tell them what to do." (Wheatley, 2006).

In my view, self-organizing ecosystems are a new, and more natural form of organization, vs. traditional organizational structure - top-down or bottom up. Many of the old 'proven' tools simply don't work, because they can't anticipate or control what's going to happen in this new form of 'organization'. I'm using the term 'natural' to make the link between naturally occurring biologic and adaptive processes that enable new behaviours, projects and activities to emerge, in a way that is not possible in more stratified, role-bound organizational forms.

WikiEducator: A Self-Organizing Ecosystem

WikiEducator as a collaborative educational development project (supported by the Commonwealth of Learning) is rooted in a confluence of critical interdependent and interrelated factors. One factor was the realization that Western business models could neither accommodate nor scale cost-effectively to meet the demands of developing nations for affordable and universal education. The reasons included: the dearth of instructional designers and teachers locally; the high cost of curriculum development and educational texts; and low wages / national incomes (as compared with developed countries). Another factor was that the lack of universal access to education was morally repugnant and indefensible: it just didn’t sit right.

“There is something fundamentally wrong with our world considering that the majority of our children will not be going to school. Consider, for example, that in Sub-Saharan Africa, 76% of the children in the age group for the last three years of high school will not have the privilege of attending school. We do not have enough money to train the teachers or build the classrooms needed to achieve universal secondary education.” (Mackintosh, 2007)

As a self-organizing community, WikiEducator has focused completely on its primary user group: active users adding value to the wiki. (Active users are defined as educators who are formal or informal educators, or individuals who support the aims and objectives of WikiEducator and free software, cultural and creative works). When observing SO behaviour, one gets a very real sense of the complex and unpredictable; the visible and the hidden energies, the competing forces and interdependent layers and patterns.

As I reflect on my own experience (“observer-self”, Wheatley, 2006), today, I am even more sensitive to the nuances of complexity, change and self-organization. John Seely Brown's metaphorical ‘knowledge iceberg’, where 10 per cent of knowledge is explicit and visible, and 90 per cent is tacit and invisible is illustrative (Brown, 2002). Once I recognized that I could be aware of the existence of non-visible elements and interacting agents (within WikiEducator), I could expand my awareness -- and also more easily let go of trying to control the outcome of a given process. I was able to recognize that complex patterns did indeed exist, yet they were far less mysterious — whether they were visible or not.

A Complex, Self-Organizing Culture

WikiEducator is not about ‘no organization’ per se, rather, it’s about a culture of self-organization. There is no hierarchy or center in WikiEducator: rather, there is an innate capacity to develop capacity ~ which in itself is a true expression of participative democracy vs. representative democracy. Indeed, WikiEducator has enjoyed considerable success in just 2 years. WikiEducator’s initial success factors include:

  • 7,500 unique vistiors per day, 8,000+ users and a ranking in 115,000 of the world's top websites.
  • A specific, measurable and time-limited purpose aligned to a compelling vision (i.e., free and open educational content)\

Project focus and self-organising roles

  • A strategic catalyst / adaptive leader (i.e., Wayne Mackintosh, project founder and visionary)
  • An open, inclusive and user-focused community - * Few prescriptive rules or policies.
  • WikiEducator as a smaller, sustainable ecosystem operating within a larger sustainable ecosystem (which includes Wikipedia), with the potential to spin off new ecosystems
  • Using open, modifiable and emergent technologies to enhance collaboration
  • Abiding by the framework and lessons of the Linux development experience (as described in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric S. Raymond)

Few Rules Govern Self-Organizing Behaviour

WikiEducator’s success is more complex than it appears. While there have been few rules, there is no single factor responsible for its success, nor the development of its particle swarm culture behaviours. It is a Complex Adaptive System comprised of visible and hidden interdependent factors that dynamically respond to and leverage each other to facilitate(and even accelerate) free and open collaboration.

Cambridge mathematician John Conway’s ‘cellular automaton’, as manifested in The Game of Life. ( focuses attention on the beauty, elegance and emergence of self-organizing agents. Watching the Game of Life simulate SO complexity builds a peculiar confidence in a process that finds its own equilibrium, and is reminiscent of the behaviour of particle swarms (i.e., a loosely-structured collection of interacting agents within a system) in different cultures, where the patterns emerge from their interactions within the system, not by anything imposed on it. (Camazine, et al., 2001 as cited in Fontaine, 2005). The equilibrium lasts as long as the agents’ attention span. There are striking similarities to the WikiEducator experience —palpable dynamism, energy and complex emergent behaviours within a SO wiki system: interacting agents around the globe connecting via clearly shared values and common interests and collaborating and co-creating in the wiki.

Many organizations have a plethora of rules, policies and procedures which hinder and stall innovation, creativity and transparency. Organizations and project teams can learn from the WikiEducator model of one explicit rule (a user registration system) and several implicit ones (i.e., focus on community values) and its key success factors — and find the appropriate level of customization and adaptation for an organization’s environment, objectives, people and cultural identity. Wikinomics, YouTube and Facebook and the success of Linux also offers lessons for organizational success and market dominance in a world operating by new rules, accelerating change and a great deal of complexity and unpredictability. Every individual has the opportunity to lead, and WikiEducator’s projects grow and die according to individual motivation and the community’s interests. Throughout a project’s lifecyle, leaders morph into followers, and followers morph into leaders.

“Effective self-organization is supported by two critical elements: a clear sense of identity and freedom. In organizations, if people are free to make their own decisions, guided by a clear organizational identity for them to reference, the whole system develops greater coherence and strength.” (Wheatley, 2006)

The Kiwi Wiki Cluster

A key ingredient in the project’s success is tied to the ‘Kiwi Wiki Cluster’ — the first self-organizing community cluster within WikiEducator, comprised of educators from Oceania, primarily from New Zealand. (‘Kiwis’ or New Zealanders are particularly proud of their ability to solve vexing problems, and their contribution to education/e-learning (they created the Moodle Learning Management Sytem). Also of significant pride is their ingenious use of #8 Wire, which can be configured and adapted for a variety of applications.)

The Kiwi Wiki Cluster benefited from a pioneering spirit, similar to systems thinker Ibn Khaldun’s asibaya (Hudson, 2000). As a nimble, close-knit group, the Kiwi Wiki Cluster developed many workarounds with the less-than-perfect media wiki technology environment. The #8 Wire cultural legacy played a prominent role too: it bolstered the Cluster’s sense of pride; ensured a high level of motivation (Fontaine, 2005 (1)); and informed the direct experience of NZ-based Otago Polytechnic’s learning designers (putting WikiEducator through its paces) in developing a practical business case for the institution to develop and publish open educational resources on WikiEducator. (Blackall, 2007). (As background, Mackintosh had strong relationships with NZ-based educational developers, hacker-programmers and learning administrators, when he began his unofficial WikiEducator journey began as professor of e-learning in New Zealand (1998). Back then, he was developing educational technologies with a collaborative focus: a precursor to today’s wiki and social networking technologies.)

Metaphorically Speaking...

"Metaphor encourages us to think and act in new ways. It extends horizons of insights and creates new possibilities....Metaphors lead to new metaphors, creating a mosaic of competing and complementary insights."' -- (Morgan, 2006)

Depending on one's perspective, organizations exhibit (a blend of) different characteristics and metaphors. For example, WikiEducator as an example of a self-organizing ecosystem is a blend of metaphors of culture, flux and transformation and how they impact change.

Morgan (Morgan, 2006) encourages practitioners to use specific strategies to facilitate meaningful organizational change. In learning how to use small changes to create large effects (which reminds me of Gladwell's Tipping Point ideas (i.e., where small pivotal changes can have dramatic effects on the larger whole. (Gladwell, 2000). By using well-chosen tipping points to tip-the balance in favour of a desired change or direction, a change effort can gel, gather momentum and accelerate. Consider the example of a merger or corporate change effort, where 10% of the people are truly on board, and 70% are waiting to discover which way the wind will blow, and 20% dead-set against it. Smart leaders will use all of the resources and communication tools available to them to strategically tip the balance in their favour, by building a strong team around them, having access to internal and external information and intelligence, and sending out trial balloons to see what happens. Then, they interpret and process the feedback - and can judge what the real risks are in challenging the process one way vs. another. By understanding Strategic Tipping Points, they can directly engage the opposition and fence sitters, in the move to build energy, movement and momentum for a specific change strategy and approach.

"And when mobilized, the opposition and fence sitters become engaged with the issues, provoked to work through the problems of loss, loyalty, and competence embedded in the change they are challenged to make. Indeed, they may continue to fight, providing an ongoing source of diverse views necessary for the adaptive success of the business or community." - (Heifetz, in Hesselbein & Goldsmith (2006) pp. 74-75)

Morgan advises leaders and organizations to live with continuous transformation and emergent order as a natural state of affairs. This is as applicable to conventional organizations as it is to the self-organizing environment of WikiEducator. Whether they acknowledge it or not, conventional organizations are bound by the samee laws of nature and environmental conditions as their self-organizing cousins. The only difference is, how they choose to use tools and techniques to embrace, adapt and/or resist change. For example, since the late 1990s, the banking industry in Canada has become increasingly sophisticated in its use of technology to increase market share and push out new banking and financial services products. This was against the backdrop of customers' increased ability to bank on the Internet, and move their money around more easily. While information missionaries like Gartner Group pump out technology forecasts, it was really hard to know exactly where the killer apps were ~ however, by being 'in the game' and leveraging marketing, sales and technology to capture market share and strengthen customer capture (loyalty), Canadian financial institutions were able to take a bigger share of the financial services pie, by offering multiple services (i.e., banking, loans, RRSPs, investments, mutual funds, mortgages) to an increasingly diverse clientele in Canada and abroad. Whether long tail economics or surfing changing market waves, smart leaders know that competitive advantages accrue to organizations that are in the water, vs. on the cusp on the wave. Surfer lore tells newbie surfers: 'You can't catch the perfect wave on the beach. You've got to be in the water.' Predicting how things will emerge is hard, but the fun is being in the water when the wave emerges ~ before you know it, you're on it, for the ride of your life. Organizations which recognize that the only constant is change - both internally and externally - are likely to be better intellectually positioned for what lies ahead. However, developing the agility and skillsets to capitalize on such change is an integral element of the challenge in mastering change...for the time being!

Being open to new metaphors that can facilitate processes of self-organization is also applicable to conventional organizations in being open to new metaphors which can assist the organization and its leaders, in seeing its relationship with self, stakeholders and other actors in the environment in a revealing manner. Consider the lessons of complexity, self-organization and emergence ~ everything is changing, yet hard to anticipate. Organizations which see themselves as a hybrid of Brain and Culture, can begin to tap into their own culture as a strengths-based alternative to a single metaphor. Similarly, organizations which are trapped by a psychic prison mentality, upon closer examination, can identify how this impacts on internal organizational processes, and the degree to which it enhances or detracts form their value proposition and business relationships. New metaphors are akin to a new lens, or a new way of seeing an old situation with a fresh pair of eyes.

A Cultural and Political System Metaphor

As shared in class, the social service agency I worked for can be viewed through the cultural and political system metaphor.

Steeped in 60 years of local history and experience, this organization sees itself as a tight-knit family that works together, stays together and socializes together. As most employees share a common religious and ethnic heritage, they often see each other in the community, with the expectation that s/he is a 24/7 representative of the organization. The staff members share similar values and beliefs about community service and the organization's vital role in the community.

There is a shared meaning and understanding of the 'family-ethos' of the organization: working there is a privilege to serve the community, and be in the inner circle: enabling a special opportunity to see and understand particular values, believes, stories, norms, and rituals in culture-specific ways.

There are blindspots of course, and a groupthink mentality akin to a psychic prison. While there are clear symbols of cultural relevance, these serve a kind of political myopia that insulates the organization and isolates employees from reaching out to out-group stakeholders, funding resources and supporters who don't share the same cultural affinity, attitudes or approaches. (Morgan, 2006). Moreover, in a 'family', there's a strong temptation to go-with-the-flow, and not give into conflict, fear or anxiety. At all costs.

"The inability to manage agreement -- not the inability to manage conflict -- is the essential symptom that defines organizations caught in the web of the Abilene Paradox:" a story about a Texas' family's day-long "106-mile trip across a godforsaken desert in furnace-like heat and a dust storm to eat unpalatable food at a hole-in-the-wall cafeteria in Abilene, when none of us really wanted to go." (Harvey, 1988).

In essence, the entire family did the opposite of what they wanted to do, and what they did made no sense at all.

"We frequently fail to take action in an organizational setting because we fear that the actions we take may result in our separation from others, or,....because we are afraid of being tabbed as "disloyal" or being ostracized as "non-team players". But therein lies a paradox within a paradox, because our very unwillingness to take such risks virtually ensures the separation and aloneness we so fear." (Harvey, 1988)

In organizations with a strong culture, the ability to manage agreement contributes to the organization's effective function and dysfunction, paradoxically.

(Comment.gif: Insert ED/Fundraising Director situation about importing US fundraising tactics into Canada, and the resulting financial disaster)

Socially Constructed Reality

  • "organizational design is contingent upon many factors, including the environment, goals, technology and people and effective organizations are those in which those various elements are aligned.
  • "the organization is a system comprised of four subsystems (technology, social structure, culture and physical structure) p. 39.
  • socio-technical systems

(Comment.gif: fears and anxieties, control, motivation, psychic prisons,)

Enabling others to act, is also about setting up the stages of success. Consider the African Village story: Technology & Social Systems, African Village & Tavistock

gain this highlights the importance of integrating, balancing, aligning all parts of org as system to reach intended outcomes (and behaviors). The technology can be used in so many ways. Good examples.

The village one also brings out the realtionship between technology and social systems. This is the whole arena of socio-technical systems brought forward originally by researcher from Tavistock in England in the 50's & 60's.

African Village Story: Socially Constructed Reality
  • One of my previous supervisors told me an interesting story, that when do-gooder North American types went to an African village, and persuaded the local townsfolk to locate their water well (a new technology) right in town – so that the women didn’t have to walk 3 miles each way – it upset social harmony. Why? Because it was not just about getting water ~ the daily ritual was about women getting together – away from their husbands, so they could share a relaxing, albeit essential and caring experience for themselves and their families. Introduce a new technology, and there are all types of externalities that one could predict, and never know either.

Organizational Leadership, Language & Culture

Leadership in inextricably intertwined with context, culture and history ~ organizationally and individually. One organization's great leader, is another organization's has-been. Could Moses' authoritative plea to 'Let My People Go' have freed US mortagage holders from the shackles of grinding debt? Or Sony Corporation's founding chairman of Sony Corporation be successful running a construction firm in Mississippi? Could Donald Trump withstand the internal politicking and conservative, bureaucratic nature of public service? The answer, of course: it depends. However, there is a consensus about universal leadership qualities, particularly as espoused by the Five Exemplary Practices of Leadership (Kouzes & Posner, 2008):

(1) Modelling the Way

Mackintosh has modelled the way as both strategic catalyst and adaptive leader (Kouzes & Posner, 2008). He talks-the-talk, building on his Ph.D. interests in innovation and transformation, and painting a vision to attract key people and resources to the project (and sub-projects), and in guiding WikiEducator in its evolution. Working with him makes is exciting, unpredictable and freeing: just about anything seems possible. To paraphrase Heifetz (2006):

'He proactively seeks to clarify aspirations and the values of the WikiEducator community, develop new ones; and then involves the very hard work of innovation, experimentation and cultural development -- utilizing scenario planning not strategic planning.'

He continuously sets an example by walking-his-talk: only using open-source software; teaching wiki skills to newbies and techies alike; initiating consensus- and community-governance building efforts through participatory engagement; promoting an action learning culture; and modelling potential scenarios of a future that doesn't yet exist.

(2) Inspiring a Shared Vision

Mackintosh has set in motion a self-motivated army of passionate educators, and provided the means for their own goal achievement and positive interdependence. (Johnson & Johnson, 2006) Bolstered by clearly-stated values of freedom and openness from the Free Software Movement; a specialized language for communication (the Mediawiki syntax of the wiki - the same language' that powers Wikipedia); an appreciation of the technical challenges to achieving the vision; and an adaptive approach to responding to environment He has strategically orchestrated international recognition and credibility for the project -- so that it is more than simply a powerful means of production, but provides a cohesive global community identity and ethos. Double loop learning is the norm, and there is considerable experimentation within this self-organizing ecosystem; there are no mistakes, simply more opportunities for greater learning, integration and incorporation into subsequent versions.

"As double-loop learning diffuses throughout an organization, organizational stability disappears and new organizational orders -- such as self-organizing systems (or ecosystems) -- emerge from the internal dynamics of the organization rather than at the behest of top management." (Hatch, p. 316.)

The reality though, is how Mackintosh interprets ideas conveys a specific socially-constructed meaning. His 'language' is imbued with shared values and meaning; similarly, in the wiki, symbolic-interpretative influences aboound. As Sassure suggests, "the use of language and other signs to make meaning is community-specific, and that particular communities have their own sign systems." (For example, the word "sustainability" means one thing to the WikiEducator community, and another in an environmental context. (Hatch, p. 48). A groundbreaking meeting between HIV AIDS Treatment Literacy experts and Community Media practitioners at the World Association of Community Broadcasters conference (April 2009), will have a similar challenge: to ensure that they both communities are speaking the same language, to ensure shared meaning, understanding and a basis for future action and collaboration. This is in line with the challenges posed by Wittgenstein's 'language games' where words take on a specific meaning in relation to the values, culture and expectations of the specific community. This has implications for inspiring a shared vision, because if two groups or silos are hearing the same word, but referencing a different meaning, then there will be little common ground. Leaders need to 'check' and verify that their preferred meaning is being received properly -- or they risk disaster, division and conflict

"Because meaning is embedded in human interactions and in symbols and artifacts that may be interpreted differently by different people, we need to address multiple interpretations and the role context plays in shaping how situations and events are interpreted by those who experience them. In doing so, we need to be particularly sensitive to language because it is through language (both verbal and written forms) that we construct, modify, make sense of and communicate reality." (Hatch, 2006, p. 43)

(3) Challenging the Process

Social and business entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs are always scanning their environment (internally and externally) to find ways to innovate and find opportunities to add value, and create opportunities within systems. Whether it's called stretch-goals, Big Hairy Audacious goals, or superordinate goals, the focus is the same: to achieve something innovative by taking risks and challenging the status quo, for a much bigger and more sustainable payoff than considered possible.

Vancouver-based Amarok Society is on a mission to scale an innovative neighbourhood teaching model/ pilot project to train 8,000 teacher-mothers and 50,000 of the poorest children in Bangladesh, in basic literacy and numeracy skills. Leader Tanyss Munro is challenging the process by collaborating directly with grassroots mothers in Dhaka and women's cooperatives and leveraging the trust developed after years of family service in the slums of Dhaka, and succeeding in a place where most other approaches have failed.

In another example, maverick, rabble rouser and education-insider, Wayne Mackintosh is on the cusp of a global movement to collaboratively develop open education resources (OERs) built on open source values, in line with the UN's Millennium Development Goal. An Education Specialist for E-Learning and ICT Policy with the Commonwealth of Learning, he is a persuasive leader (and future Executive Director of the International Center for Open Education/OER Foundation based in NZ), who fervently believes that current models of education are insufficient to meet global demand for affordable education). Indeed, the WikiEducator project is in direct response to the reality that even if all of the schools required in Africa were constructed, there wouldn't be enough teachers to staff them. Even if there were enough teachers to staff them, there wouldn't be enough money to pay them, and they likely would not be adequately trained. Scandalously, approximately 75% of kids in Africa will never see the inside of a secondary school.

In some ways, the WikiEducator project is about redistributing power within a self-sustaining ecosystem, to be used to maximize benefit to the masses, not the few. Consequently, there is likely to be resistance to the 'better-mousetrap', as some groups have something to lose; indeed, it's natural to resist the erosion of one's power base and meal ticket, even if there's a much better model in town. For example, while collaborative peer production of open education resources typically results in a 30% increase in performance, many educational institutions are reluctant to formally climb onboard for reasons that include a lack of awareness, copyright concerns, lack of training, investment in other systems and technologies. Within this context, a leader has to remain steadfast, clearly focused on his/her vision, and dedicated to developing to customised value propositions that makes sense to the first members that join up, and in turn serve as a 'tipping point' (Gladwell, 2000) and references for member recruitment and success.

Changes Cause Resistance, Transitions

"...changes cause transitions, which cause losses, and it is the losses not the changes, that they're reacting to; and... it's a piece of their world that is being lost, not a piece of ours, and we often react that way ourselves when it's a part of our own world that is being lost. Being reasonable is much easier if you have little or nothing at stake." (Bridges, 2003)

With the Internet, affordable access and social learning Web 2.0 tools, online learning has taken off as a credible learning model, and in the process has created a vast array of global educational choices previously unavailable. Educational institutions are struggling to catch up to the competition posed by an alternate delivery format, and the prospect of generating additional revenue, particularly from existing educational materials and faculty. Challenges and uncertainty abound too, for faculty who require different skills (i.e., facilitating vs. teaching) to operate effectively within an online environment.

"Differences include a generally higher ratio of adjunct faculty, smaller course sizes, higher training costs and sustained investment, and a requirement for greater flexibility in managing salary and development costs." (Olson, 2002)

This new reality can be very threatening to faculty and professionals alike, who may be reticent to embrace new technologies and learning models: after all, they have already proven themselves in the old academic system which still works. Underlying this however, is a deeper fear around their own capacity to learn about new technology and blended learning approaches; concerns about divided loyalties; feelings of discomfort about participating in an environment where students are more adept technically; and having to adjust their style from teacher to facilitator.

"Leadership in online education is new terrain for many administrators and faculty. As educators and leaders, we are working toward development of a new context for leading and connecting in a relational non-hierarchical structure. "We are trying to expand our leadership behaviors and actions by applying them in radically new contexts that require us to unlearn and relearn new rules of leadership." (Olson, 2002)

With adequate resources including training, time and the appropriate leadership, an education institution can reconfigure itself to survive, thrive and adapt in a more open ecosystem.

(Comment.gif: Use Example from BCHRMA Mergers and Acquisitions article (2008)....communications, communications, communications)...

(4) Enable Others to Act

  • foster collaboration
  • strengthen others
  • provide the tools

In the open source wiki, anyone can be a leader, and individuals and clusters of individuals bring different and valuable knowledge, skills and abilities when the situation calls for it. In organizations, there are significantly greater limits on who can lead when, and what they can do. In either case, it is important to ensure a supportive and accepting environment where people are valued for their talents and contributions. For example, the recent donations of organization development materials by members of a community media community of practice, on WikiEducator, will enable community radio stations in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean to collaboratively build organizational capacity to develop localised materials, improve governance and leadership capacity. It has also strengthened morale, by creating a living repository of open education resource, which they can use, re-use and adapt.

Barack Obama's recent victory ride to the White House is also instructive: he gave common people the tools to mobilize others, and develop a collective sense of pride and empowerment. His smart use of Web 2.0 / social learning / crowdsourcing tools, enabled him to leverage the power of mass participation -- supported by strategic messages of support, from both the top and the grassroots.

(5) Encourage the Heart

Smart leaders recognize that they can't do the work all by themselves, and they have to support others by recognizing their contributions, investing and supporting the organization's leaders and celebrating victories. (Kouzes and Posner, 2007)

Henri Fayol's observations (as described by (Hatch, 2006) that the unity of sentiment and harmony contributes to the smooth functioning of an organization (or team), is reminiscent of the Three Musketeers credo "all for one, one for all".

In the late 1990s, I was engaged by a forward-thinking project director in a high tech firm, to coach a young and diverse team of software engineers, web designers and IT specialists to collaborate effectively. As Generation Xers, they were new to the workforce (and to each other), and learning the ropes of a new corporate culture. This engagement had many unique characteristics: a brilliant, finely-tuned Chinese/Canadian project director - who understood and operated in both Chinese and Canadian cultures; an in intrapreneurial business unit set up to be Xerox-PARC-like (i.e., a serious-play center of creativity and experimentation and innovation and possibility); strategic project vision combined with a leadership style that buffered the young team from top-down pressure about project timelines and completion dates. I was able to help the team gel, and find its inner strength: by facilitating skill development, self-confidence and self-mastery among and between key individuals. 'By directly interacting with one another to achieve their common goals, the members of a group fulfilled themselves through the process of the group's development' (as described by Mary Parker Follett in Hatch, pp. 34-35). Over time, the team's 'esprit de corps' helped it to win a coveted Codie Award, for best Internet Commerce Software.

Human Motivations & Roles

The phenomenal success of Wikipedia has turned the tables on traditional economic and business models which suggest that most people will only do serious and useful work when they are paid at the highest market rate. In both Wikipedia and WikiEducator, there are many examples where highly-competent educator-authors have contributed their time, talent and resources for seemingly less-than market rates of compensation ~ financial or otherwise. Indeed, a vast majority of WE educators receive financial compensation from educational institutions as a condition of their employment/service.

Increasingly, a small, growing cluster of educators perceive WE as a place to jump-start their own projects and collaborations, for activities required in their job descriptions. On an individual, self-managing basis, these educator-authors are choosing to develop OERs on WE to satisfy their own needs for power, achievement and/or affiliation. (Mclelland, 1976) Part of what makes WE so compelling to users is how they are able to control their own destiny: with a freedom to experiment and learn, succeed and fail, and share the experience openly in a way that (1) serves their own private and professional interests; and (2) that their employers may or may not support. Experimentation, observation and reflection in a supportive environment, are seeding individual innovation, creativity and connection.

David Mclelland's elegant theory of human motivation provides a useful foundation for explaining why people are motivated to provide their time, talent and resources in the workplace. He applied his theory to many situations, including managerial motivation and effectiveness in large, complex bureaucracies. (Mclelland, 1976)

Mclelland focused on three needs underlying human motivation:

  1. Need for Power (n-Pow) - the desire to control others, to influence their behavior, or to be responsible for others.
  2. Need for Achievement (n-Ach) - the desire to do something better or more efficiently to solve problems, or to master complex tasks
  3. Need for Affiliation (n-Aff) - the desire to establish and maintain friendly and warm relationships with others.

In Power is the Great Motivator (Mclelland & Burnham, 1976), the authors explore the relationship between motivation and managerial effectiveness for what constitutes a good manager. A manager's motivation comes from the need for achievement, but an achievement-motivated manager is not necessarily in the best interests of the organization. The authors contend that top-level institutional managers who desire organizational clarity and effective management of their direct reports, require a high need for power and influence -- because they simply can't do every task or project by themselves. With power and influence comes the political clout, economic power and moral suasion to persuade subordinates, assign roles and responsibilities and delegate tasks in line with strategic and operational objectives.

Their research showed three kinds of managers:

  1. Institutional Managers = high in power motivation, low in affiliation motivation, and high in inhibition;
  2. Achievement (or Personal-Power) Managers = the need for power is higher than the need for affiliation but with a low inhibition score.
  3. Affiliative Managers = the need for affiliation is higher than the need for power

Culture Clash in the Making: Flat Wikis Meet Educational Hierarchies

In the WikiEducator community, there is a vast range of people who comprise the WE Community, who perform roles on a self-assigned basis depending on a motivational need for power, achievement or affiliation (Mclelland, 1976). They include: educators, learning designers, multimedia and technology support individuals from learning organizations and institutions. At Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, NZ, an educational institution in its own right, the 'people' are similar, plus a complement of administrative and executive support people. On official Otago projects, they perform roles on the basis of personal/professional assignment and delegation by a supervisor/manager (with a need for power and/or achievement)

As educational institutions embrace WE as an educational content development platform, they do so with an organizational motivational need expressed by power, achievement or affiliation, but perhaps not as Mclelland's defines. They also experience a kind of organizational learning between a clash of cultures. The established hierarchical, academic and predictable organizational culture meets the complex, unpredictable and self-organizing WE operating culture.

The open WE community is comprised of people with a high need for achievement (i.e., individuals who want to make a difference, learn new skills and share OERs). They attain this through pursuing a wiki skills certification, as well as thought-leadership and performance within the community. There are few top-down institutional managers, other than project leader Wayne Mackintosh, and a distinct emphasis on active participation vs. active influence. 'Those who do' (with an emphasis on quality), are accorded the highest status in the community.

Within the context of Otago Polytechnic, it is far more complex: there is pressure from supervisors / managers for timely results, an concerns about recognition, workload, job role and compensation; and the the limits to freedom within a wiki/organizational context.

For example, an Otago supervisor / manager may be less interested in the the care-free wiki ways of Otago innovators, and focus on strategic and operational imperatives. In the merging and mixing of the self-organizing wiki-culture and the established academic organization culture, some form of transition coaching in tandem with wiki skills education may be required, with judicious expectations and timelines for satisfactory implementation and results. (Bridges, 2003)


  • global leadership, culture and communication; Globalisation
  • Culture Metaphor...., and other metaphors, for communication and globalisation on the same page
  • globalisation / localization - dichotomy - local leadership practices, pervasiveness of 'culture


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Randy's Links

Icon objectives.jpg
Synthesis Paper
  • Compare, contrast and synthesize different theories of leadership, motivation and power/authority within this paper
  • This paper should effectively synthesize or explore many of the themes, metaphors and areas of interest in this course.
  • Reflect concepts of theory and practice and incorporate the notions of organizational systems and leadership, again drawing from the readings, discussions, and your own experiences.