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Organizational Theory and Behavior Final

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1 - Equity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What one person sees as fair and reasonable another interprets as injustice. Like beauty, injustice is something that can grow on a person. Right now it may not seem that its “not really about the money” but tomorrow things may appear quite a bit different.
Equity theory is based on cognitive dissonance theory (where two contradictory ideas are held simultaneously resulting in feelings of discomfort) developed by social psychologist Leon Festinge. When a person feels that they are being treated unfairly, when they perceive that their work is rewarded differently when compared with others, they experience a form of cognitive dissonance. The theory suggests that he/she will take corrective action in order to return to a state of balance. When the perceived inequity is negative (when a person is doing more work for less pay than peers for example) these actions, which can be either overt or subtle, will result in counter productive work behaviors. The corrective action may not be conscious but it will be there regardless. Even if a person enjoys his/her job, work behaviors will begin to shift. If the inequity is negative these changes will likely take the form of subtle actions - tardiness, less enthusiasm, slower work, etc. - which will tend to reduce the inequity by lowering the reward to work, or outcome to income, ratio. Over time, these behaviors can do far more harm to a company than might have resulted had the inequity been resolved earlier. Eventually the changes will likely become noticeable and the employee will either resign or be forced to leave.
Perhaps surprisingly, companies are often unaware of these inequities. Since the inequities are perceptual and unique to each person, as is the threshold at which the inequity is motivational, managers are left largely in the dark unless employees offer the information themselves. Managers must learn to actively look for signs of inequity and then “take the pulse” of their people to find when the inequities are causing cognitive dissonance so they can take action themselves to balance out the equation.
Even if an increase in salary or some other primary motivator is not possible, there are things they can do to address the inequities. As an example, managers could either give employees something they desire (more time off, or flex time for example) or remove something that they dislike (not requiring expense reports, or timesheets might work for some) - these small things can help bridge the gap felt by their employees.
2 - The five people that have been assigned to work on the new marketing campaign are diverse in their experience, background, and, presumably, ideas. Diversity of thought can lead to extremely creative and effective solutions. Take IDEO, the design and innovation consultancy, for example; the mixture of people working on projects at IDEO is about as diverse as you are likely to find in the business world. They put together teams with incredibly divergent experiences and have attributed this process as one of the most critical factors of their success.
But diversity of experience and background is not the only thing to consider when organizing a team. Personality traits can be just as important, if not more, and the noted strengths and weaknesses of the five member team show signs of potential conflicts. Where one, Katrina, is “a poor communicator in terms of speaking up,” another, Paul, is “very domineering and intimidating.” These two styles are at odds with each other and it’s not difficult to imagine how Paul may inadvertently silence Katrina’s voice.
According to educational psychologist Bruce Tuckman, groups go through five stages during their development process - forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. A group is not usually considered a team until it is has reached the fourth stage, performing. Prior to this, the group is composed of a collection of individuals focused on a common task and they don’t come together as a team until they have aired their differences, tested each others competencies, and moved past individual egos to form a group cohesiveness (this comprises the storming and norming stages). The group truly becomes a team when, as suggested by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith of McKinsey & Company ;
•Leadership becomes a shared activity.
•Accountability shifts from the individual to both the individual and the collective.
•The group develops its own purpose or mission.
•Problem solving becomes a way of life.
•Effectiveness is measured by the group’s collective outcomes and products.
It would seem that the five members of the Dial Soap campaign will have some trouble getting through the storming stage as the personalities and characteristics of each member are stereotypical in their opposites as shown by the earlier example with Paul and Katrina. One way to help them through this stage might be to assign maintenance roles (relationship-building group behaviors) to team members. Katrina, with her communication deficiencies, might best serve the follower role while Paul, with his “great presence and command” would be most natural as an encourager or gatekeeper. Joe might make a good harmonizer while Sheila could do well as a compromiser, making quick decisions to help others meet “half way.” Finally, Maria’s enjoyment of mentorship might place her as another gatekeeper or commentator. Maintenance roles should help members of a group find where they belong as well as fostering and encouraging group cohesiveness.
It is important to understand that, unless self formed, groups do not often become teams on their own. It takes dedication and focus to bring people together as a team “with complementary skills... committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”
3 - When I first read about Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership Theory, I was immediately struck by how familiar the ideas were to my experiences in architecture. I suspect that this industry is pretty different from those of my fellow classmates. Architects typically start their careers with a surprising amount of responsibility and autonomy, though with very little authority. We are expected to self-manage to a large degree and to know when to ask for help. Architects are not typically trained in management theories or practices and it shows in their choice of how to manage their fellow designers. One manager at my firm recently suggested a link between the words managing and nagging insinuating that the only way to manage is to nag.
Situational Leadership Theory’s (SLT) focus on a person’s ability and willingness to complete a task seems an ideal philosophy for architects and I would imagine, by extension, other professionals as well. Architects don’t want to manage people, they’re too busy managing projects. SLT allows a manager to take management cues from the team. In a way, team members demonstrate their own readiness (their ability and willingness to complete a task) making the manager’s job little more than a task assigner or delegator. SLT, thought of in this way, is managing without managing, perfect for a task-oriented architect.
Situational Leadership Theory is not without its faults nor is it popular with researchers who have “concluded that the self-assessment instrument used to measure leadership style and follower readiness is inaccurate and should be used with caution.” Architects have big egos and often think they are capable and ready long before they actually are. A “fake it til you make it” strategy is pervasive in the industry and since SLT to work properly requires a person to know where he/she stands, mistakes are often made. Most young architects with a year or two under their belt think they are in a selling or telling phase of SLT when really they are too green to be much past the delegating or participating phases. For some, however, this works out well. Pushing themselves to achieve things they might not otherwise be ready for gives them the experience needed to succeed. Even those who fail learn valuable skills they can apply towards the next opportunity. SLT is far from perfect but it does seem to work well in architecture.
Looking back, the first time I saw an example of Situational Leadership Theory in practice was about 8 years ago. I was working in Kansas as a fairly new employee in a local firm and felt I was comfortably in the selling phase for what I was doing at the time (though in hindsight I could have remained in the participating phase a bit longer). I had been communicating with our client and contractor on my own with minimal input from the managing principal, John. As happens, a problem arose that I did not handle well and it came to John’s attention. As a result he requested that I send him every email for review before it went out. I took it in stride as best I could and did as he asked. About three weeks later John asked why I was sending him emails asking for his approval. Either he had forgotten what he said or had developed enough comfort with my correspondence to no longer warrant his direct supervision. Fortunately for me, in this case it was the latter. In effect John realized I was ready to begin explaining and persuading, cornerstones of the selling phase of SLT.
4 - It is often said that “people are our most valuable assets.” If true, then the selection of new hires is one of the most important tasks a company can focus on. But how do you know if the person sitting across the table from you is the right person for the job? What criteria should you, or could you, use to help in the determination?
For some it comes down to the age-old debate of nature vs. nurture. Are leaders born or developed? There certainly appears to be evidence for both sides. Some come to leadership so easily that it would seem they are born to it. Others work constantly on their communication and leadership skills and continue to struggle. Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book, Outliers, suggested that people aren’t born to greatness but rather come to it through a series of early life events and opportunities that are largely outside of their control. If we accept his rather compelling theory it would put a serious dent in the nature argument. Whether genetic, happenstance, or upbringing, some people are remarkable leaders; finding them is the challenge as they are exceedingly rare. Rather than a protracted search for the seemingly mythical leader, perhaps it is better to start with someone who has ability and help them realize their potential through nurture and development.
Tom Kelly of IDEO, the design and innovation consultancy, argues that companies should hire for cultural fit first. Art Gensler, founder and chairman of Genlser, “can vouch for the fact that a great culture has [proven] to be the most important element of [their] success.” He goes on to suggest that; “Even after hiring great people with great talent, it is critical that they work in unison.” Cultural fit is elusive and difficult to define. It can’t be codified on a resume but is instead something that is felt or sensed during an interview or meeting. IDEO will often send a new applicant to lunch with a dozen or so people in order to get a read on him/her. They ask themselves, “Would we want to travel with this person? What will this person be like at dinner, or during a brainstorm, or during a conflict?” Others, like Jason Fried of, suggest companies “take potential new team members out for a ‘test drive’” in order to discover if the candidate has the right “vibe” for the company. John Mackey of Whole Foods says the first thing companies should look for is character, someone with “classic virtues such as integrity, honesty, courage, love, and wisdom.” He also suggests that the candidate should have a “high degree of emotional intelligence, a high capacity for caring” suggesting that leaders are interested in and care about the people they are charged with leading.
Determining cultural fit is not an easy task but it is often more important than deciding if an applicant has the necessary technical abilities. Skills can be taught but values, the basis of culture, are a part of the person and can’t be faked.

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