Innovation Extracts provides a quick look at current thought regarding leadership and management of planning and improvement initiatives.

If you have any questions or comments about what you read here, or if you would like to suggest items for future Innovation Extracts, please contact Barbara Sherlock, Senior Planning and Improvement Associate in the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment, at 814-863-8721 or psupia@psu.edu.

Quality Endeavors Issue No. 158 April 2013

Johansson, Frans, The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World

In The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World (2012. Portfolio/Penguin), Frans Johansson provides suggestions on how to deal with a world which has become much less predictable. While there are some areas where hard work, skill, and knowledge can lead to success, these tend to be areas where the rules are clear and they change slowly – most sports, for example. On the other hand, many areas we deal with on a daily basis have become unpredictable, and logic and analysis do not guarantee success. What will communication, transportation, entertainment, or education look like in five years? There are many variables involved, the Internet enables the instantaneous, worldwide transfer of information, technology changes rapidly, expectations change, and success appears to be random. How do we operate effectively in these areas?

Johansson believes that while planning will motivate us to act, we must incorporate randomness into our plans and activities. We cannot predict the direction of rapid change, so we need to be always exploring new options not directly related to our goal. We need to do things that will help us to see things differently. This can include rejecting the predictable path, ensuring that we bring together diverse teams, cultures, and fields, and following our curiosity. Activities like these can produce what Johansson calls ‘click’, or ‘aha’ moments, when we see something new or make a decision that takes us in a different direction.

Once we see new directions, or identify new options, Johansson encourages us to launch many small initiatives rather than only one or two large ones. Test options of the ‘smallest executable size’ that are low risk, investing what we can afford to lose. When a pilot is successful, expand in that direction with another round of small options, and continue the cycle to maximize successes. Passion and belief in what we are doing will maintain us through the failures that come before and between the successes.

Quality Endeavors Issue No. 157 March 2013

de Wit, Frank R. C., Greer, L. L., and Jehn, K. A., “The paradox of intragroup conflict: A meta-analysis”

We tend to think of conflict as a general, all-encompassing term. There is the assumption that conflict in groups and teams has negative consequences. In “The paradox of intragroup conflict: A meta-analysis” (Journal of Applied Psychology. 2012. Vol. 97 Issue 2 pp. 360-390), Frank R. C. de Wit, L. L. Greer, and K.A. Jehn define and explore the different types of conflict and how they can impact the work of a group or team.

For their research, De Wit et al identified three types of conflict:

  • Task - content, outcomes
  • Relationship - values, norms, personality
  • Process - logistics, tasks, responsibilities

and two categories of impact:

  • Short term (proximal) - group viability (trust, cohesion, satisfaction)
  • Longer term (distal) - group performance (innovation, productivity, effectiveness)

The authors conducted a meta-analysis of 116 empirical studies (with 8,800 groups) of published and unpublished research completed between 1990 and 2010 that measured relationship, task, or process conflict, and also measured short term or longer term outcomes. In addition to the three types of conflict, and two categories of impact, they identified four possible moderators on impact:

  • Multiple concurrent types of conflict
  • Type of task
    • Creativity - innovation, idea generation, new services or products
    • Decision-making - need to reach consensus, no obvious answer
    • Production tasks - routine tasks to meet standards
    • Project tasks - problem solving and plan generation
  • Organizational level
  • Culture

Based on a review of earlier research, the authors expected that:

  • While task conflict can be shown to have a positive impact on group outcome, as it facilitates the exchange of ideas, when combined with either relationship or process conflict the impact would be negative.
  • The impact of conflict would be a function of the type of task the group was working on - conflict would have less impact in a group working on new approaches than one working on routine tasks.
  • The impact of conflict would be influenced by the organization level of the group - groups higher in the organization are more skilled at handling interpersonal issues.
  • Cultural context might have an influence on how conflict impacted a group.

The authors found the impact of conflict on groups to be complex.

  • Overall, the three types of conflict had a greater negative impact on group satisfaction than on group performance.
  • Overall, the impact of task conflict on group performance was neutral.
  • When multiple types of conflict existed, examined incrementally, process and relationship conflicts had a negative impact; the impact of task conflict was positive.
  • Task, relationship, and process conflict each had a negative impact on trust and group member commitment.
  • Process and relationship conflicts had a greater impact on both group satisfaction and group productivity than did task conflict.
  • Process and relationship conflicts had a negative impact on group productivity.
  • Task and relationship conflicts, but not process conflict, were positively related to counterproductive work behavior.
  • While relationship conflict generated negative feelings and had a negative impact on group cohesion, task conflict did not.
  • Task conflict had a more positive impact on the outcome for top management groups and when groups had a more quantitative outcome, such as a financial measure, or the quality of a decision.
  • For teams lower in the organization, process conflict had a negative impact on group performance.

The bottom line: Take the time in setting up a group project to review relationships among the group members. Clarify task and process expectations with the group at the start. In working with a group experiencing conflict, first take the time to analyze the type(s) of conflict. Then give some thought to the impact the conflict is likely to have on the group and its outcome before you decide how, or even whether, to address and attempt to resolve it.

Quality Endeavors Issue No. 156 February 2013

Hargrove, Robert, Masterful Coaching

In Masterful Coaching (2003. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer), Robert Hargrove uses the concept of triple loop learning to point out the different levels at which change and improvement can be made.

  • Is the change that new skills are needed in the current process? Should you be looking at training?
  • Is it that the actual process should be improved? Should you be looking at the sequence of steps and the location of resources and individuals involved in getting a task done?
  • Is it that relationships should be changed? Should you or those involved in the process have different roles? Should you be delegating and coaching rather than directing?

Consider each of these approaches to determine which approach for improvement will be the most effective.

Cain, Susan, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012. Crown Publishing), Susan Cain describes and challenges American perspectives on our styles in interacting with others. Cain focuses in her introduction on the commonly accepted characteristics of extroverts. Extroverts are typically characterized as talkative, assertive, dominant multitaskers who think out loud, work well in teams, make quick decisions, take risks, take action, and like external rewards. Introverts are commonly seen as deliberate analysts who listen more than they talk, ask lots of questions, dislike conflict and small talk, work more slowly, are quiet but firm, make meaning of events, and may prefer writing to talking.

In Western culture we tend to think of the extrovert as the ideal, the model for leadership, both rewarding the behavior and developing it in training environments. In contrast, Cain points out that many Eastern cultures think differently. Additionally, in Good to Great, Jim Collins found that his ‘Level 5 Leaders’ were ‘quiet leaders’. Research shows longer thought leads to more success in identifying opportunities and implementing change.

In actuality, both introverts and extroverts are needed to make quality decisions and implement them effectively. However, while introverts can make substantial contributions to organizational decision-making they might be overlooked because of their tendency to be quiet in large groups. Where is the responsibility for including the introverted, thoughtful perspective in decision making and planning? Cain cautions that only with some interaction can an extrovert tell whether a quiet person in a meeting is an introvert with thoughts to contribute. But as she quotes Jack Welch (p. 173), “the extroverts would argue that they never heard from the introverts.” Introverts may also need to be better at making their case or developing alternative ways of being heard.

Quality Endeavors Issue No. 155 January 2013

Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans, Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Getting Good People to Stay (4th ed.)

In the fourth edition of Love ’Em or Lose ’Em: Getting Good People to Stay (2008. Berrett-Koehler) Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans provide an alphabet of approaches and tools - 26, from A to Z - to become a ‘retention-focused manager’.  The pointers are based on exit interviews and observations made over more than 25 years in talent management.

Approaches range from the A of asking a person what is keeping them on the job and would entice them to a different job, to the Z, the zenith, a manager’s self-test to determine the manager’s retention/engagement index, with references back to a specific one of the previous 25 chapters for each question on the test. Between the A and the Z, Kaye and Jordan-Evans address career oriented topics such as growth, goals, job enrichment, alternative career paths, and planning. Additional chapters address wellness and work-life balance. Others address fit in the job, passion, and values. Finally, there are chapters on the supervisor’s role and responsibility in retention, information management and sharing, policy making and flexibility, delegation, networking, mentoring, respect, and recognition.

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