013 What is an effective university?

IMG_0516[1]In this episode I interview Dr. Michael Grillo, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Assistant Professor of Political Science at Schreiner University (Kerrville, Texas). We explore institutional effectiveness within the context of a university.

Charles G. Chandler, Ph.D.

University Website: Schreiner University
Office of Institutional Effectiveness: Student Outcomes
Accreditation agency: SACS/COC

Blog: Organizations will save the planet, or not

tAoOE_FBToday is Earth Day, April 22, 2016.

I recently heard a podcast episode from Radiolab entitled “Cellmates”.  It tells a strange story that starts some 4 billion years ago with single-celled organisms floating in a primordial sea.  It puts forth a theory about how life on Earth emerged from tiny bags of chemicals floating in this early sea, to the vast menagerie of creatures that came after. The theory is based on a book entitled The Vital Question, by Nick Lane.

A key event in the story was said to have occurred about 2 billion years ago when two types of single-celled organisms merged, seemingly by accident (one gaining internal hardware and software from the other) to make possible the large multi-celled organisms that came later.  Present-day mitochondria within all of our cells provide the evidence that this early merger took place.   Much later, early human-like creatures appear on the scene, use fire to cook their food, and develop big brains as a result.  The rest, as they say, is history. A link to the RadioLab episode is provided below.

Inspired by the story, it struck me that organizations can be thought of as the next logical step in this lineage if we take a long-term view.  Consider what organizations represent:  within them, humans are encased within a super-organism (if only during part of their day), gain an energy source, ban together with other like-minded individuals to find purpose, and accomplish things together that they could not do on their own. A successful organization is a form of super-consciousness, often endowed with considerable power and resources over time.  It is no wonder that organizations large and small dominate the world around us.

We no longer live in the heady days of free market capitalism that Adam Smith wrote about in the 1770’s.  Almost all organizations were very small at that time.  No firm was large enough to require middle management. Owners managed, and managers owned.  From the 1840’s on, free market capitalism was gradually replaced by managerial capitalism.  Firms grew by bringing more and more transactions under their control (inside themselves) rather than conducting them in the free market.  As the century progressed, the railroads grew, middle management was born, and bureaucratic forms flourished, all part of the economic forces bringing stability and efficiency to the production and distribution processes of larger organizations after the US Civil War (i.e., after 1865).

Now some 150 years later, we are still under the spell of managerial capitalism (managers are largely in control, not the market), and many firms have grown to very large size, serving domestic and international markets. Yet an organization can be viewed as good or bad for our world, depending upon which values are expressed in its processes. The ‘bad’ category would include terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al Qaeda, and the seemingly ever-present drug cartels.  These are types of organizations that do not embody positive human values (e.g., honesty, respect for the law, peacefulness, the environmental conservation, etc.).  Even where so-called ‘good’ organizations operate, the world as we know it may be threatened by negative externalities that are the byproduct of global economic activity (e.g., Global Warming, sea level rise, depletion of scarce resources, etc.).  What to do?

Well, where organizations create problems, only organizations can solve them.  Organizations will save the planet, or not. Most of us expect to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Just as DNA provided a biological code to replicate and evolve organisms from the distant past to the present, new management theory and practice is needed to provide a template for the coming age (one of organizational effectiveness?).

If you have followed the podcast available on this site (www.AgeofOE.com) you will know that effectiveness in our view is about converting an organization’s supply-side intentions (to serve its environment with it offerings) into demand-side behaviors (uptake, adoption or use of those offerings).  To fix the world, we need organizations that search for and demonstrate positive causal chains that work, then help replicate them elsewhere through other organizations.

Serve your environment & be rewarded in return.  It can be a motto for business, government, or nonprofits in the coming age.
Charles G. Chandler, Ph.D.

Link to Radiolab episode: “Cellmates”

012 What is an effective library?

IMG_0514[1]In this episode, I interview Ms. Laura Bechtel, Library Director at the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library (Kerrville, Texas) to discuss the concept of excellence in library management, and what it means to be an effective library.

Charles G. Chandler, Ph.D.

Website for reference: Butt-Holdsworth Library

011 The benefits of organizational effectiveness

IMG_0594[1]In this episode, I discuss the benefits of organizational effectiveness, and in particular, examples of benefit exchanges at the supply/demand interface (i.e., between the organization and its environment).

Charles G. Chandler, Ph.D.

010 Why ‘efficiencyism’ holds us back

DSC02576In this episode I discuss the widespread prevalence (but low recognition) of ‘efficiencyism’ in organizations, that is, a belief in the tenets of efficiency without questioning its assumptions and consequences in specific circumstances. ‘Efficiencyism’ often holds organizations back from realizing their true potential for three reasons: 1) systems theory tells us that an efficiency improvement in one part of an organization does not necessarily provide an improvement in the performance of the organization as a whole; 2) elevating efficiency to a sacred value (to be pursued at all costs) often leads to counterproductive actions at the first sign of financial trouble, such as layoffs, downsizing, and general efforts to do “more with less”; and 3) ‘efficiencyism’ seldom works, because organizations are complex human systems that can react in unpredictable ways when disturbed.

The stories offered by this episode illustrate that organizational dysfunction may be a common emergent phenomenon under ‘efficiencyism’. To overcome ‘efficiencyism’, organizations need to understand and monitor their effectiveness in real time before undertaking efficiency improvement efforts.  See episode 009 for an introduction to the concept of effectiveness.

Charles G. Chandler, Ph.D.

Blog: The purpose of every organization is the same

IMG_3164The purpose of every organization is to be effective within its environment. That is the underlying principle of a new theory of organizational effectiveness, called the outcome-focused model (OFM). In the new theory, an effective organization serves its environment and is rewarded in return (through benefit exchanges).

Effectiveness is about converting an organization’s supply-side intentions (to serve its environment through its offerings) into demand-side behaviors (uptake, adoption, or use of those offerings). Because the demand-side behaviors of uptake, adoption, and use are visible (and measurable), managers can actually verify and monitor indicators of effectiveness in real time. In the past, organizational effectiveness has been called an enigma and a wicked problem. The new concept of organizational effectiveness is as applicable to police departments as it is to fast food restaurants, thus providing a unifying principle for management thought in business, government and nonprofit sectors alike. In fact, effectiveness confers all that an organization needs to survive and thrive.

Looking for a new way to give your organization a sense of purpose? You don’t have to look far, just take a look at your environment and re-imagine how you can serve it. Not only is it a way to achieve your purpose, it is a way to do well by doing good. Serve your environment & be rewarded in return.

Charles G. Chandler, Ph.D.

Chandler, Charles G. 2015. “Organizational Effectiveness: Replacing a Vague Construct with a Defined Concept”. Academy of Management Proceedings. 2015: 11023.


009 What is organizational effectiveness?

DSC02684In this episode I discuss a question that is central to this podcast, “What is organizational effectiveness?”  It is an interesting story, and you will want to tune in.

Models of organizational effectiveness that are discussed:

  1. The goal model
  2. The system resource model
  3. The internal congruence or efficiency model
  4. The human relations model
  5. The multiple constituencies model
  6. The outcome-focused model

Charles G. Chandler, Ph.D.

Reference:  Chandler, Charles G. 2015.  “Organizational Effectiveness:  Replacing a Vague Construct with a Defined Concept”.  Academy of Management Proceedings.  2015: 11023.