Richard D. Miller richardmiller@kc.rr.


(816) 569-6252 September 4, 2008

Leadership and Design of Effective Organizations OB 63012
Fall, 2008

Course Purposes and Objectives: Alfred North Whitehead noted in his book The Aims of Education that “Education is the acquisition of the utilization of knowledge. This knowledge is an art very difficult to impart.” This course deals with the skills required of effective leaders. It does so by examining the territory and the class of problems that leaders face in their ongoing, daily responsibilities. Each case and reading approaches behavior from an unusual perspective compared to almost all other academic offerings. In this effort, we examine the concrete, ordinary and everyday world that actual leaders engage on a daily basis. This course has a particular focus on behavior and the workplace. Throughout this course, the student will find that the behavior and actions of people and groups are systematically treated as arising solely and invariantly from living systems, alive and functioning in the fullest sense of the word. These living systems are observed to be attempting to respond simultaneously to the demands and requirements of two quite different worlds (external and internal). These demands significantly shape and determine the behavior and functioning of these systems. Therefore, we treat all behavior as systematically arising from concrete, identifiable forces deriving from the observable and predictable processes required for system functioning, survival and growth. As Chester Barnard noted, “The world seen is moved by forces unseen.” These cases present actual managers and/or leaders working in living organizations faced with the everyday, complex behavior of real people. Much of this behavior is unseen or unrecognized by the unskilled. These cases engage the circumstances that managers are confronted with when dealing with human beings and human groups in the workplace. Reflecting the real world, they are rich in issues affecting and controlling performance on the job. Like the real world, dealing effectively with these issues requires significant, in-depth observational abilities, analytical skills, sensitivity and diagnostic capabilities to see the unseen, but pivotal processes controlling human behavior and forces which control performance on the job. These skills are of critical importance for as Miller’s Law #1 notes, “you cannot fix what you do not see”. The cases engage the student’s observational ability, knowledge and experience of three of the four “spaces” that determine human behavior and performance in living organizations. We follow the observations of George Homans, Prescott Lecky and others who demonstrate that all living systems behave so as to maintain balance and equilibrium with the unrelated demands of their external and internal environments. This balance is required for these systems if they are to move toward a state of health known by the system’s capacity for increasing self-determination and autonomy. This course will introduce and examine in some detail two of four “spaces” that shape, affect and determine a great deal of human behavior at work. These two spaces we will call “social space” and “personal space”. We will introduce a third and fourth spaces that we will call “organizational space” and “technological space” in the next semester.

The cases and readings in the beginning of the course focus upon phenomena and functioning of social systems (or “social space”) as group processes shape and control the behavior of people and their performance in the workplace. The astute student will be confronted with compelling and extremely useful data that suggest that group processes control far more than just performance on the job. Close examination will raise compelling questions regarding the dramatic way and degree that social systems shape and determine much of what people believe to be true, real, relevant and important about the work place as well as the world as a whole. The cases and readings in the middle of the course deal with issues in “personal space”. Here again, we treat individuals as whole, living discrete systems functioning in an organized, systematic way attempting to respond to the twin demands of the external and, more subtly but more importantly, internal requirements of their self. We follow the ideas of Prescott Lecky, Tony Athos and Carl Rogers who suggest that the functioning of individuals qua individuals, is the product of the attempt of each individual to maintain an internal balance and order i.e., consistency of the individual’s self-concept. The student will be confronted with trying to see and understand individuals and the forces operating on and within them that shape and determine what they see and understand of themselves and the world around them. In “personal space” the student is confronted with the difficult, but extremely helpful skill of understanding another person as that person experiences himself or herself as he/she tries to organize and maintain order and control of his/her life and functioning. Development of the ability to see and respond to these forces, particularly the internal, is of great importance for the development of personal and professional competence.

Finally this course is assembled and offered as evidence of faith and opportunity for the serious student. Faith that despite the apparent disorder, chaos and ineffectiveness of people and organizations, there exists a remarkable, beautiful and powerful orderliness to people and organizations. This beauty and order are seen and known only by those with the courage, honesty and curiosity to look at people and their processes and ask Alexander Leighton’s compelling question, “What gives rise?” For the courageous student wanting to change and fix the world, Leighton’s profoundly simple, but powerful concept of the functional point of view provides a powerful and necessary tool to see, and thus control, parts of the world unseen by others. Curiosity and courage to explore the unknown are paramount requirements for those who wish to undertake the actual world and thereby make a real difference in it. Finally, this course advances the faith that intelligent people, committed to engaging truth and reality can make enormous differences in the lives and functioning of ordinary people, ordinary systems and the world as a whole. This course presents concrete evidence of the immense potential that this intelligence has when exercised by those with the courage and responsibility to engage management responsibilities and to perform executive processes. This capacity has the power to lift whole organizations beyond prejudice, ignorance, selfishness, moral judgment and ultimate ineffectiveness to the pinnacle of humanness. Text: We will read parts of George Homans’ The Human Group and other readings. We will also analyze a number of intriguing cases (and yes,- at least one movie) involving leaders and managers facing problems of trying to determine whether their organizations

are being effective (doing the right job and/or doing their job well) and what needs to done to fix these. Grading: Grading for this course will be based on one written analysis and daily classroom participation. The criteria for effective performance in this course will be based on the written paper and classroom participation that is notable for; (1) observing and recognizing central and critical behavior and attitudes of important actors in a given situation, (2) ability to dig below the surface to raise important “What gives rise?” questions, (3) searching for critical forces that are often unseen or unrecognized, (4) clearly seeing and identifying patterns and uniformities in critical behavior of key actors and (5) exploring the effects of these patterns and forces on the motivation, effort and performance of key actors in the situations presented. Because much of the material in this course will be novel and unknown to the vast majority of students, effective search for the underlying forces which shape and determine critical events will require the student, of necessity, to engage a significant degree of ambiguity and uncertainty. Because this course will introduce original ideas and world views for many students and will stretch and challenge most student’s paradigms, courage will often be important in order to explore one’s own thought processes and belief systems regarding how people and organizations function, what controls behavior and determines organizational performance. The courage to examine and challenge one’s world views and mind-sets will have a powerful and positive effect on the evaluation of student performance for this class. The paper will be written individually and be a maximum of ten pages long in a type font on 11 or larger, double spaced, with two inch top and bottom margins and one inch minimum margins on each size, fully proofed and thoroughly spell checked (NO EXCEPTIONS ACCEPTED).

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