Reflection on Management in Complex Adaptive System by DR. LESLIE KLIEB, LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT
– In administrative leadership credits go to the top. But in enabling leadership, how should credit be given? To the enabler who is open and smart enough to generate enthusiasm and recognize new ideas? To the emergent leader who generated the ideas but missed the skills to carry them out? To the followers who actually brought it to completion? Performance measurement is very hard but it only gets harder when the environment is less structured.
– Many managers feel indeed that informal exchange is mainly geared towards negativity and is hindering the goals of the organization instead of supporting them. There are several answers possible
o When employees feel that their own norms and values are violated by acts of the organization, they will experience cognitive dissonance to reconcile their allegiance to the organization with their disagreements with it, and sometimes try to close the gap. This leads to stress, job dissatisfaction, turnover, and similar. Such violations will be the topic of informal exchanges, whether management likes it or not.
o Maybe such informal exchange can only be handled well if all stakeholders have the feeling that they are treated fairly? The Uhl-Bien, Marion and McKelvey’s (2007) argument is basically that there is a lot of positive potential brewing and so why not use it instead of trying to stifle it?
o Obviously this leads to a need to channel the unused energy. Most ideas will be discarded. That means that managers would need to convene meetings in which participants get the opportunity to vent also half-baked ideas and to get explanations why they would not work.
o Stay aware that enabling leadership and adaptive leadership is conditional on a knowledge-based organization with empowered employees. Stay also aware that the issue of how to organize this in a multi-level way is swept under the rug by Uhl-Bien et al (2007). Uhl-Bien et al. are smart enough to mention that a large organization is multi-level and that it is impossible to treat this as one homogeneous system, but how to ensure that on one hand ideas from any level are not stifled and on the other hand that still the system does not become unwieldy is, I think, an unsolved problem. They do not have a good solution. Maybe an Apple store employee has indeed terrific ideas and would be an asset for the team that sets out Apple’s strategy, but the costs of filtering out the millions of messages from all store employees and sift through them and see if there are paradigm-changing life-changing messages is just too big. In practice it is just assumed that such employees are not one-time wonders but shoot off a steady stream of excellent suggestions which makes them rise through the ranks and slowly will give the more influence. An informal (or half-formal) mechanism that helps sometimes is the “mentor”. A young and promising starter gets “adopted” by somebody higher in rank.
– Most organizations have many informal organizations. The same people can be in the soccer organization and in the annual trip to a movie organization. It is possible, even probable, that a person will play a different role in the different informal organizations.