Increased consideration is being directed on the value of critical approaches to promote leadership and management growth. This report details how CAL perspectives can be applied to provide valuable learning and growth by way of critically reflective activities. CAL models do not only explore primary power and control problems but also actively incorporate tests of political as well as cultural activities influencing company life. These perspectives allow progression above instrumental ways to value complexity of management and leadership development. The aim of this paper is to explore importance of CAL in problem identification, assessment and development of solutions along with determining criteria applied in the process, challenges encountered and the nature of outcomes.
Role of Critical Action Learning
Critical Action Learning attempts to demonstrate the role management power interactions play in action learning. As such, the emphasis of Critical Action Learning is diversified to among others, enlighten of individual learner and ways in which learning is encouraged, avoided and prevented within groups and in companies through power relation. According to Stacy (2011), CAL is a model commonly used in numerous leadership and management growth activities. Action learning is a diversified activity that has been applied to explain numerous approaches. In practice, CAL is based on the fact that learning is an activity that can develop when individuals or groups are assisted to reflect on perceptions and actions taken when dealing with real company issues.
According to Volberda and Lewin (2003), action learning is a model of developing individuals in companies which takes the activity as a vehicle for learning. It is based on the assumption that there is no learning that can occur without action and that there cannot be a good and deliberate activity without learning. He infers that the method can only be accomplished on integration of several commodities. Such commodities include people who take responsibility for action on a given issue or challenge and problems that they face (Watson, Buckley & Mills, 2011). They also include a group of individuals to challenge themselves in order to enhance development on a particular issue.
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Workplace Problem Identification
The research touched on a problem in which the CEO of an organization where I work could not deal with various complexities that were emerging within the workplace. The CEO could take time before making decisions on any issue that affected the company and led the company to lag behind within the industry. According to (Volberda and Lewin, 2003), CEOs and other managers of organizations have a central responsibility in developing learning models to be used by employees and management in order to keep the organization on toes to any emerging affair that may affect the organization.
Furthermore, a manager who is not adaptive to various aspects that influence operations of an organization can translate to a big blow on the general activities in terms of productivity, sales and ultimately, profitability. Such was the case with our company. Since the company owners could not allow activities to flow the way they were supposed meant that something had to be done. It was through these issues there was a need to come up with solutions by exploring other possible business structures that could offer advantages of quick reaction to all departments of the company.
Steps Taken to Assess and Address Workplace Issues
The major model that was dealt with in this case was Complex Adaptive System (CAS). For the last 3 decades, the speed with which business cycle is done has increased dramatically. There are significant changes that are taking place faster than the past product cycles while markets have turned out to be nearly unpredictable such that traditional management paradigms are not capable of maintaining a stable rate (Joiner & Josephs, 2006). At our company, this had been a notable issue in that transforming from traditional to modern organizational management styles, which are currently applied in our company, was quite slow. CAS was suggested and proved to help the management solve the problems that it was facing.
In this case an organization is reviewed as an adaptive system that should match to complexities of its surrounding. In this organization, employees complained about difficulties of coordination between departments and, consequently, several other activities of the company. Anderson (1999), infers that this kind of workplace problem may sometimes emerge after an organization starts its operation or when executing a strategy because is caused by changes in technology and other managerial aspects in the workplace. The CEO has to be keen in order to incorporate such challenges into the organization culture since not all of these challenges can be eliminated.
Maguire and colleagues (2006), recognized that a choice has to be made between maintaining the norm of complexity reduction and adopting an appropriate mechanism for current issue of several competitors. These policies are examined coupled with their merits and demerits to determine the most appropriate and convenient way in arriving at timely decisions to solve such workplace problems.
The problem was also identified under the premises that in any organization customers are taken to be the pillars of the company success. Stacy (2011), recognizes that decline in customer base is a clear indication of a firm’s negative growth. This major problem was accomplished by some other minor issues which can be routed from customer dissatisfaction such as reduced returns due to disloyal customers diverting to competitor’s products and services. In order to deal with such a problem in the workplace, Anderson (1999), recognizes two modes of adaptation to such complex environment namely; complexity absorption and complexity reduction (Simon, 1962). He notes that complexity absorption creates choices and risk controlling techniques through alliances.
Most importantly, complexity reduction advances directly after it has been comprehended. Simon (1962), recognizes that there is other organizational information space, also referred to as I-Space approach to the two models mention above. The approach includes abstraction, codification and diffusion of information as an attribute of organizational culture. Abstraction refers to reduction in the total amount of data to be assigned for particular phenomenon (Boulding, 1956). Codification, on the other hand, entails giving form to a particular phenomenon by assigning its data. Lastly, a diffusion aspect occurs when information is spread through population of data dispensation agents. Simon (1962), recognizes the strength and structure of algorithmic information complexity in a manner that equates its levels of abstraction and codification. Fabric of information diffusion is only realized through identification of system sections and richness of cross coupling (Maguire, McKelvey, Mirabeau & Oztas, 2006).
Role of Literature in Informing the Process
Literature played a huge role in informing the whole process of problem identification, Assessment, evaluation and formulation of solutions. Volberda and Lewin (2003), proposed that analysis and its practical application can be used to enable CEO make quick and rational decisions that will consequently enhance timely and appropriate response to consumer complaint and, thus, retain them in the organization. Gone are the days when little number of competitors in the market, hence, organizations operating in current environment have to adapt a system of timely and right decision making. The CEO will, therefore, have to incorporate any or the four approaches with the right mode of complex theorist mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Another issue concerned poor planning and strategy development methods in the workplace applied by the CEO. With this problem, there is a vital need for a holistic paradigm to run and ensure consistency in responsibility of changing and complex environment for community, business, and individuals. According to Highsmith (2013), when future research is joined with workplace theory, there can be increased comprehension of complex and dynamic nature of a workplace. This investigation contributes to knowledge by showing the way future studies can assist the CEO think, plan, and act creatively to offer better workplace strategies. The model also offers another contribution to knowledge and growth of future oriented framework which can be applied in the workplace to show how the CEO can use future studies in such situation. Anderson (1999), recognizes that the workplace today is different from the past and that it will keep on changing. . The change is attributed to not only external forces like economic, societal, demographic, technological and environmental but also the internal institutional trends and real estate industry change.
Role of Dialogue and Activities
Dialogue and activities throughout the module played a huge role in informing the whole process. Major lessons learned through conversations and practice engagement enhanced corrective steps to be followed. Watching videos and reading literature including class conversations enhanced the entire process. In his video, West (2011), recognizes that the workplace of yesterday has been replaced by the networked office, which seems to be the best concept for a company in changing and complex environment of today. According to Maguire (2006), there are other alternative space concepts that can be incorporated in the networked office such as distributed, sustainable and collaborative workplace. Therefore, for our and other similar CEOs and managers, Stacy (2011), recognizes that the same office will be there in future but it will have changed in that the city and virtual environments will be the order of the day. When such managers embrace the futures theory, it will be easy to adapt to the ever changing complexities in the workplace environment. There are various approaches and models that deal with complex adaptive systems (Narendra & Annaswamy, 2012). Depending on the situation to be addressed, the use of the right theory or model can prove essential in assisting managers comfortably adapt to changes that occurs in organizational dynamics and complexities.
Dialogue and module activities also informed of another approach to critical action learning that is collaboration and engagement. Maguire et al. (2006), highlighted that critical action should be perceived as a group process for personal problem solving and at the same time, a collective process in a particular context for inquiring into real organizational projects and actions. Underpinned in critical action learning should be learning groups and society that are fundamental in creating collaborative relationship. They also assist in providing adequate chances to develop skills necessary for working in partnerships, associations and cross organizational boundaries. Uniqueness of collaborative relationship is that it offers a means for self-governance, shared decision making and problem solving which enable individuals to possess and be accountable for their actions (McKelvey, 2002).
Solutions were developed after keen reference to literature and module activities. Referring to the company of interest, Highsmith (2013), proposed that the management should allow employees to contribute in strategic discussion. Being engaged in decision making process, within their organizations, employees feel the urge of responsibility for their actions since they know that they are decision makers. Even if they may not be punished in case of failure of action that they proposed, they tend to feel directly accountable to the decisions adopted in which they had played a role in their adoption and implementation.
Therefore, the CEO was advised to emphasize on patterns of communication and encourage a culture that promotes collaboration and sharing within the organization departments. Knowles and Gilbourne (2004), further the collaborative and engagement approach and says that it enhances open and iterative nature of learning. Critical learning societies offer a platform where comparatively intellectual ideas can be discussed and applied (Knowles & Gilbourne, 2004). She exemplifies the manner in which politics and organizing associate in the context of open platform and experimentation by examining the notion of engaging insights (Volberda & Lewin, 2003). According to Senge (1990), collaborative insights offer a synergy with significant learning since both the management and employees can interact about important for the organization matters and come up with practical way of solving issues in question.
Another vital approach in critical action learning is a concept of creation of an open environment identified by Highsmith (2013). The concept entails ability to deal with unexpected circumstances. When the organization operates on flexible procedures such that it can shift to effective terms of operation when they occur; probably because they did not exist, the company is bound to overcome numerous challenges compared to a company which operates in closed environment. Stacy (2011), describes an open environment as that which runs on a broad vision of going for nothing but the best. This implies that even the employees have freedom to bring on board any suggestions which they think may increase organizational productivity, sales and ultimately profits (Highsmith, 2013). Moreover, such organization operates in a transparent environment where communication is not restricted to any specific direction. Management of the company was advised to adopt an open environment management to overcome the workplace problems it was experiencing (Beach, Bird & Gibbs, 1987).
The company was able to develop a vibrant physical as well as virtual environment that creates transparency and openness apart from investing in communication systems. According to William (2007), the way communication is done matters more than the subject of communication itself. The organization succeeded in adapting to unexpected occurrences by abandoning narrow communication paths that do not achieve communicating expected information and set up unstructured, open communication paths like open space events that enable an open exchange for knowledge and ideas.
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Plan for Action
In professional practice, one should be able to develop skills in problem solving and effective decision making. In the case, it is clear that critical reflection and change are central features of complex problem solving. Preparing for professional practice will need me to have the idea of reflection, especially on experience that is vital to the theories of learning which have come in handy to inform action leaning practice. Anderson (1996), argues that reflection enhances depth and relevance of organizational learning to deal with emergence of self-insight and development to enhance transferable ideal of reflective practitioner. I will also need to engage in effective conversations and dialogue in order to enhance company learning and change.
I will also need to understand that critical reflection is not only about problem solving but includes comprehending the whole organization or individual as mediated through experience. I have also realized that there is a connection between how an individual manages his personal life and how he manages an organization. Such realizations will assist me to be a change agent within my organization.
In conclusion, it is evident that the sense of reflection should be part of an action plan. The CEO natural life is that of slow but sure. He likes doing his activities without haste and with great meticulousness. This character shows how he involuntarily fined himself running the company. Before, he was a slow decision maker as he took his time pondering on consequences of his actions. However, considering the fact that the organization is surrounded by numerous competitors, any delay in appropriate action may result into loss of business and reduced margins. Thus, his slow character ought to be improved by the appropriate critical learning approach. Critical reflection into experiences within and outside the organization will play a huge role in enhancing formulating solutions to the problem. Solving complex problems within an organization requires a complex approach as well.