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Changing Others Through Changing Ourselves December 3, 2009

Filed under: BADM 720 — aacaesar @ 6:08 PM

Changing Others Through Changing Ourselves: The Transformation of Human Systems by Robert Quinn, Gretchen Spreitzer, and Matthew Brown

So the ACT system or the Advanced Change Theory was the main focus of this journal article, it essentially challenges  leaders to have personal change – as this is the only way to truly have system change. Many of the blogs I have written for my OB class this semester talk about how systems at work must change in order for their to be real productivity and innovation -this article addresses the most important aspect of change- changing self. New systems are put in place everyday and fail- because the people who have to negotiate these systems do not change.

The ACT system calls for personal evaluation, personal sacrifice, and the eventual ability to truly focus on the needs of others and the system. There are traditional change strategies per this article page 150, they are: logical arguments for change, using forms of leverage to force change, using win-win strategies. ACT includes these three in some way, but calls for deeper inspection of self and essentially throwing away one’s own self interests to help and inspire others.

The  summarized principles of ACT as I read them are below:

1. Learn, adapt, and be open for personal growth always

2. Face hypocrisy not only in others but in ourselves- See yourself for who you really are- look at your actions, choices and the patterns that moved toward those actions and choices.

3. Find your values- keep them at the forefront of your mind and align your behavior with those values and if you deviate work to get back in line.

4. Become an External Deviant- let yourself be guided by those right actions and values- even if the culture around you will reject you- sanction you as an outlier, as wrong. Be able to look yourself in the mirror- be true to yourself- the values you hold true and know that in the work setting this might make life difficult as people are used to people adapting to work cultures that call for team players and people to be guided by the office systems- deviation from this course will raise eyebrows- you may even lose your job.

5. Once you are able to set aside your own self interests, be guided by values you hold true, know your limitations and patterns that take you off course to avoid – now you are to start thinking about the “common good.” This is the stage of possibilities – the stage where the needs of others on micro and macro levels can be explored. New innovations and new systems can be created.

6. These new systems can be introduced as new behavior from the top that is positive and innovative can lead for others to align with the new system- new direction.

7. Always appreciate the work of others, don’t let old patterns of self-interests and self-focus derail your new system. Remember the people making the new system possible have had to make changes as well- they may be emulating you, but it is not about only you- the inner personal and interpersonal work they have done must be valued.

8. A leader that has identified their values, is showing self-reflection and self growth can inspire those around them to do the same – hopefully leading to true innovation, openness, and productivity in the work place.

9. Think outside the box- model that it is okay not to conform. Let people know that they are safe to express themselves and recognize that the lack of sameness- of avoiding and breaking boxes is okay.

10. When you change yourself the hope is that your new paradigm causes shifts in the world around you. Your new behavior leads to positive changes in the relationships you have and in the systems that you create, manage, and foster.

This article used Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King as models for the ACT system- and these historic figures, who set aside many of their self interests for the greater good caused real change and suffered greatly, they  were flawed individuals (per this article) and thus they cannot be models of action. All human beings are flawed- it is the ability to look into who we are, identify our values, and patterns and realign when needed that make the ACT system actually possible.  

The ACT system in the extreme may lead to personal harm, but in the work environment it may be lead to real positive change and interactions. It is about becoming the best person you can be even if it means deviating from the norms held in high esteem by others. It is about real action and not just espousing.

For myself I think the basic principles listed are things that I would love to say that I have mastered but I don’t and don’t know when I will and though it may take some time to get there – I think the actual process will be beneficial to me as a person and a leader.


Sounds of Silence

Filed under: BADM 720 — aacaesar @ 5:22 PM

Sounds of Silence by Elizabeth Wolfe Morrison and Frances J. Milliken

In the Article by Morrison and Milliken, Sounds of Silence the key environmental and individual mistakes that lead to employees feeling that they cannot voice their opinions and ideas are discussed. “Organizational Silence is a potentially dangerous impediment to organizational learning and change” (Morrison, 32).  How can one fix a problem they have no idea exists or is brewing- this epidemic of silence may cause serious issues as top management is making decisions without having all the facts, but they are not getting the facts due to the systems that they have put in place. Silence can cause problems to build to the point where stakeholders begin to be affected negatively – loss of productivity, loss of revenue, etc. Changes have to come from the top for the silence to end.

Reasons organizational silence persists in the work place per this article:

1. Managers use silence as an indication that everything is okay.

2. Managers take negative feed back personally – and tend to then dismiss that staff member as a complainer, to protect their own egos.

3. Managers are human- their first instinct is to go to people just like themselves on their teams- so the opinions or ideas of a team member that is  different may get disregarded.

4. Managers make key decisions that affect staff but do not ask them their ideas- they want staff to just accept it.

Basically an environment of fear, avoidance and threatening occurs which make it extremely difficult for the right environments and systems to be in place for employees to feel that they can share, be heard, and positive changes to occur. In fact many employees start to feel resentment at having to be “silent” and this can affect their performance in a negative way- they make start to become office deviants in retaliation to the silence. This article also mentions how the silence can cause employees stress and anxiety- make them physically sick. But the fear of being penalized or negatively labeled makes people shut up.

So  some of the fixes that stood out for me to stop the silence can be found below:

1. Diversity forces managers to deal with different perspectives and communication style- the hope is that diversity will stem the stream of silence from the managers “yes” people.

2. Managers have to separate their feelings from the feedback and think of the greater good of the company and team.

3. Managers should never penalize the person who tells them the “bad” news.

4. Hiring new managers from outside the company will allow for new ideas and hopefully openness to new ideas to be brought into the company.

5. Managers need to set up systems to address issues and concerns regularly and in a way that allows for staff to feel safe – possibly allow for even   back.

Overall I thought the points in this article were valid. I especially like that it brought up how diversity and personal issues can cloud managers judgements and even direct who they turn to for advice. Managers need to change so that the systems that perpetuate the silence dissipate.


The Treadway Tire Company November 19, 2009

Filed under: 1 — aacaesar @ 5:55 PM

HBS:  The Treadway Tire Company: Job Dissatisfaction and High Turnover at the Lima Tire Plant by Wickham Skinner and Heather Beckham

In the above case written by Skinner and Beckham the high turnover rates of the Treadway Tire Company Lima Plant’s Line Foreman have become a problem for a plant that had the potential per the article to be one of Treadway’s top producers. Ashley Wall, the Lima plant’s human resource manager believed, “once the turnover problem was solved, Lima could become Treadway’s number one plant for productivity and its lowest cost producer in North America.” This article was truly interesting as it is a great example of what can go wrong even in the most modern and technologically savvy business environments; essentially Treadway spent tons of money on making its building nice, but did not invest enough in its people.

The Line Foremen found themselves in non-union positions, responsible for ever-growing production quotas, untrained managers responsible for personnel issues, and administrative tasks. They held most of the responsibility and had little authority; as personnel issues with their crews of hourly workers were handled by the unions. Treadway did little to train the people in this position to deal the high stress environment and found itself faced with high turnover numbers in this pivotal position- a clear hindrance to the modernized Lima plant taking a number slot in productivity. 

Additionally, the line foremen found themselves without support from upper management who had come up from similar ranks- who held the we did so you can to attitude. Also their was a hierarchy that didn’t allow for upper management and the line foreman to mingle or be friends- thus making social situations awkward and adding additional strain to the management team/ line foreman relationships.

Line Foreman were thrown on the job with little training- many left the company and some even took demotions to avoid the stress of the position. There were few opportunities to move up in the company and training for advancement opportunities were not to be as cost cutting at this site due to profit loss when the price of oil basically tripled- prevented human resources to invest in leadership building- basically – Ashley Hall,  Human resources manager had great intentions but few or no resources to resolve a huge problem with her site.

What I took from this reading and plan to utilize in the future are the following:

  1. Invest in people- not fancy offices, not fancy machines- they mean nothing if the people who are supposed to fill the offices and run the machines are unhappy.
  2. You get high turnover when you don’t present “everyone” wins environments to your employees- especially the frontline- they have to deal with the brunt and the most real aspects of the job. In this reading the foremen had all of the responsibility, but little authority and even less promotion possibility- they were never presented with a win scenario.
  3. Money isn’t everything! People want to go to work in healthy environments- environments that can be high- stress due to the narure of the job, but not the people they work with. They want open and supportive relationships with their managers and supervisors. They want to know they are respected an supported – and want these things more than the paychecks- no matter the mone if someone is unhappy with the atmosphere they will leave eventually. Turnover based on problems with system will eventually lead to productivity and profit loss.




Men’s Suits and Servant Leadership

Filed under: 1 — aacaesar @ 5:39 PM

Stanford: The Men’s Wearhouse- Success in a Declining Industry

I blogged in an earlier post about servant leadership in my life- see blog on old wine in new bottle- about how it became important to me to be a giver to in my community and university- someone to add to the betterment of my society, to lead others in this endeavor…blah blah- and then I started and my MBA program and found out that servant leadership has a more specific business meaning that it essentially meant for leaders and managers to serve as resources to their employees/ staff. To be servant leaders meant in the business world for leaders to serve literally as open facilitator(s) for those around them to become better employees, better people- people confident in themselves and their potential to grow. So the above article on The Men’s Wearhouse (TMW) and its founder George Zimmer made my day- absolutely because it outlined the essence of servant leadership to me in both spectrums – communal and business. This reading clearly shows how a business can prosper when servant leadership- the giving and building in people is undertaken and mastered. I am big on bullet points- so see below on all the great servant leadership ideas and quotes I got from this reading:

  • Guarantee it: TMW’s founder George Zimmer clearly defines value in business in this reading, “value is the untapped human potential.” Essentially value is your employees, your staff  – they are who you should invest your money in and time. They are the ones to bring you return customers and eventually profits. This is what Zimmer and others call the “win-win-win,” if your employees are happy, then they make your customers happy, and then you build a customer base that makes corporate happy through increased revenues.
  • Serve Everyone: TMW emphasized that servant leadership meant that everyone must be served – that managers must service their staff; these staff being the key customers to service and woo- it is essentially the extreme of internal marketing. ” The people you manage and work with are your customers, as well as clients of the store.”
  • Mentorship and touching: Managers need to be mentors to their staff- not dictators, they need to develop the staff through training and modeling. Employees need to be connected at all times to a “higher purpose,” no matter the size of the business employees need to feel aligned and in tune with a shared purpose- that they all understand and respect.
  • Energy: “We all believe that part of touching people, training people, interacting with people in a meaningful way creates energy in the recipient.”  This quote stuck with me. To me it is saying that once a person is in tune with the objective at hand and feels supported they can do anything. They feel confidence within themselves to push themselves further than they ever thought they could go- whether it is more sales, new jobs, new friends- it is about igniting something within that is lasting that benefits an individual in all spheres of their life.
  • TMW’s 5 Stakeholders:  This list is essentially why The Men’s Wearhouse was so successful in a time when their competitor’s were folding: 1) Employees, 2) Customers, 3) Vendors, 4) Communities, and 5) Shareholders.  The order that these stakeholders were listed is extremely important- it emphasizes this company’s determination to value their employees- recognizing that making them feel valued and supported would eventually lead to everyone winning. TMW invests per the 1997 date of this reading millions in trainings and social experiences to build friendships and relationships among its staff and across the hierarchy strata, they even encourage nepotism, where most company’s have rules against it and fraternization. Even as it got bigger TMW’s brought all levels of their staff together to be trained – promoting growth and to keep the fuel lit on their joint purpose.
  • Respect:  In this reading George Zimmer stresses respect for all positions within his organization. TMW stressed the importance of professionalism for every position from clerk to upper management. In fact they valued human potential so much that most of their upper management started out on the sales floor and never lost sight of that and were proud of it- thus their staff from clerk on saw their positions with the company, positions anywhere else- as far from dead-end jobs- they saw their positions as places for growth- opportunities for promotion.
  • Team Incentives: Even if you have a top performer if they cannot see beyond their own sales or benefit it is okay to let them go. The prosperity of the team, stores, and company was put first. Sharking was not tolerated (the stealing of customers.) Essentially, they found that even when getting rid of top sellers a store would increase in overall productivity and profits because the negative element was no longer hindering those around them.  They also stressed compassionate listening from upper management down to customers.
  • Covenant:  ” A covenant is an informal, extremely important agreement that has a higher quality to it than a legal contract,” the Men’s Wearhouse corporate and employees essentially enter a convenant- the company entity promised to help their employees reach their potential to be better, “I don’t simply mean selling more men’s clothing…I mean becoming a better spouse or significant other, becoming a better parent, becoming a better friend, becoming a better person for yourself.” I found it interesting that the cornerstone to TMW helping reach this goal was promising to help them have a positive work environment and to show on all levels from financial to personal that The Men’s Wearhouse cared and what they asked in return was not only great profits through great sales, based on great customer service – which has its foundation in happy employees- but that their employees from cashier’s up gave more than 100%, see themselves as constant professional, stay focused and in touch with the company philosopy/ purpose and to be a source of positivity and serve as a boost for their teammates and the company as a whole.

This reading was extremely interesting as The Men’s Wearhouse truly embodied a company that understands servant leadership and serves as a model to other companies.


HBR Case: The Layoff November 5, 2009

Filed under: 1 — aacaesar @ 7:54 PM

In the HBR Case Study by Bronwyn Fryer, “The Layoff,” The executives of Astrigo Holdings are faced with a 10% layoff of staff due to declining sales, as cheaper retailers take their market share. Several options are offered by Astrigo’s executives from selling off business units to dipping into the company’s savings so that noone has to get laid off.

I feel that the best plan of action after reading this case is the one given by Sushil Bhatia, which was for everyone in the company  to take the 5% pay cut across the board, with possibly the top executives to take more. It would show solidarity as a company and boost morale  in the long run. It would ease the tension that possible layoffs seemed to cause employees new and old. It would also give Astrigo more time to identify the patterns that led to the decline and develop new strategies to get back their market share and regain profits.


Putting Others Before Yourself

Filed under: 1 — aacaesar @ 7:31 PM

WSJ: For Lt. Withers, Act of Mercy Has Unexpected Sequel

In the above article by Bryan Gruley the lives of two men- Army Lt. Withers  and Mr. Weigen are paralleled and crossed to teach a few human lessons about integrity  in the face of horrors, about putting one’s needs and wants last to benefit fellow human beings, and it most importantly describes how one kindness can lead to many others…

The lives of these two men cross paths after the horrors of World War 2 and the injustice of Americn segregation, each man treated as second class beings – become friends under trying circumstances -it would make a great movie- if it hasn’t been made into one already- and I don’t say that lightly or in jest. After both suffering humiliations that could have caused them to be hateful or selfish- they both in turn chose to be  “bigger people” – better people than those around them, who oppress them- in Lt. Withers’ case, he allowed two freed Holocaust survivors to stay with his all black – segregated unit- though if caught he could have been kicked out of the army and miss an opportunity for  further education. In the case of Mr. Weigen- he saw friends and neighbors die and waste a way in front of him- he saw unspeakable things but when he had an opportunity to go into business- he chose a business that called for him to take care of  others – others that could no longer care for themselves – as once someone took care of him. These two men exemplary in their actions, integrity and most of all show a love for others that we should all have- now as I mentioned earlier in the blog- this article and story reads like a movie- I did cry when I read it by the way- but what struck me as a  future manager was the following lessons each man’s actions represented:

  • Put someone else’s needs before your own- Lt. Wither’s thought about the men in his unit and about how Mr. Weigen and the other victim had suffered- he put aside his opinion for the betterment of others.
  • Don’t be so quick to discard someone- to assume that they have nothing to bring to the table. Take a chance on someone- they might be a brother or sister in spirit- someone who makes your life better. As a manager that person that seems the least likely fit might become your team star.
  • Take a chance and don’t give up when faced with hardships.

Good Leadership

Filed under: BADM 720 — aacaesar @ 7:02 PM

In the April 20, 2004 article, ” Good Leadership Requires Executives to Put Themselves Last, ” the decisions of Michael Leven, former chairman and CEO of US Franchise Systems, Atlanta who notified shareholders when he was not going to meet projected numbers and essentially resigned when he felt the owners of his company were siphoning funds. Leven put his neck on the line to tell the truth though by law he did not have to – he did it because it was the right thing to do. He resigned when he could have stayed on making millions more than he would get from his  new job because he knew it was the right thing to do. Michael Leven as stated in this article made tough decisions but made decisions that allowed him to get up in the morning guilt free. He made decisions that meant a title demotion and leaving a company he had put years into, suffering depression over it,but he did it because his wants and needs came last over those of the shareholders he promised to serve well and honestly. This model of integrity is a tool for learning managers and future Executives that will one day be put into difficult decisions and be challenged with going against the grain even if it means they might lose something they care about like a company or monetary gain. I think waking up with his integrity and self-respect is more important than money or any title.