Enhancing organizational conflict consulting effectiveness


Published on

Wednesday, October 9, 2013
8:30am - 10am

Organizational conflict will enhance their effectiveness through their ability to help themselves and their clients fully understand the complex dynamics operating in difficult organizational challenges. By allowing ourselves and our clients to consider what is going on through 4 different lenses--structural, human resource, political, symbolic---we will enhance our diagnostic abilities as well as engage more effective strategies. In essence, this workshop will help us make sense of our client's conflicts, allow for more sophisticated judgment, and develop/implement more effective action.

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Enhancing organizational conflict consulting effectiveness

  1. 1. ____________________________________________ ©, Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. All rights reserved. This survey is based on ideas in Bolman and Deal’s Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey – Bass, 1991, 1997, 20013). 1 Name:________________________ LEADERSHIP ORIENTATIONS This questionnaire asks you to describe yourself as a manager and leader. For each item, give the number “4” to the phrase that best describes you, “3” to the item that is next best, and on down to “1” for the item that is least like you. 1. My strongest skills are: _______a. Analytical skills _______b. Interpersonal skills _______c. Political skills _______d. Flair for drama 2. The best way to describe me is: _______a. Technical expert _______b. Good listener _______c. Skilled negotiator _______d. Inspirational leader 3. What has helped me the most to be successful in my ability to: ________a. Make good decisions ________b. Coach and develop people ________c. Build strong alliances and a power base ________d. Inspire and excite others 4. What people are most likely to notice about me is my: _______a. Attention to detail _______b. Concern for others _______c. Ability to succeed, in the face of conflict and opposition _______d. Charisma 5. My most important leadership trait is: _______a. Clear, logical thinking _______b. Caring and support for others _______c. Toughness and aggressiveness _______d. Imagination and creativity 6. I am best described as: _______a. An analyst _______b. A humanist _______c. A politician _______d. A visionary _____ST _____HR _____PL _____SY ______Total
  2. 2. ____________________________________________ ©, Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. All rights reserved. This survey is based on ideas in Bolman and Deal’s Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey – Bass, 1991, 1997, 20013). 2 Leadership Orientations Scoring In a sample of more than 700 managers Structural Human Resource Political Symbolic 10% rated themselves at or above: 22 24 17 21 25% rated themselves above: 19 22 13 17 50% rated themselves above: 16 19 11 14 75% rated themselves above: 12 16 9 11 Interpreting Scores 1. Structural leaders emphasize rationality, and analysis, logic, facts and data. They are likely to believe strongly in the importance of clear structure and well-developed management systems. A good leader is someone who thinks clearly, makes the right decisions, has good analytic skills, and can design structures and systems that get the job done. 2. Human resource leaders emphasize the importance of people. They endorse the view that the central task of management is to develop a good fit between people and organizations. They believe in the importance of coaching, participation, motivation, teamwork and good interpersonal relations. A good leader is a facilitator and participative manager who supports and empowers others. 3. Political leaders believe that managers and leaders live in a world of conflict and scarce resources. The central task of management is to mobilize the resources needed to advocate and fight for the unit’s or the organization’s goals and objectives. Political leaders emphasize the importance of building a power base: allies, networks, coalitions. A good leader is an advocate and negotiator who understands politics and is comfortable with conflict. 4. Symbolic leaders believe that the essential task of management is to provide vision and inspiration. They rely on personal charisma and a flair for drama to get people excited and committed to the organizational mission. A good leader is a prophet and visionary, who uses symbols, tells stories and frames experience in ways that give people hope and meaning. Computing Scores: Compute your scores as follows: ST = 1a + 2a + 3a + 4a + 5a + 6a HR = 1b + 2b + 3b + 4b 5b + 6b PL = 1c + 2c + 3c + 4c + 5c + 6c SY = 1d + 2d + 3d + 4d + 5d + 6d
  3. 3. The Hospital Case You are the administrator of a major non-profit hospital, operating in a large metropolitan area. You have just received a notification report from the Ministry of Health that the hospital is in substantial violation of a variety of standards. If a plan of corrective action is not prepared and submitted in 30 days, the facility runs the risk of being found out of compliance with regulations and payment for admission will not be forthcoming from the government. This is a serious issue because the government reimburses hospitals for caring for the poor, and a large percentage of your patients fall into this category. As a result, a substantial amount of your payments is covered by the reimbursement program, which the government administers. The report cites faults with patient care systems, staffing, environmental conditions, and customer satisfaction. Staffing is a key issue; it has become increasingly difficult to find and keep nursing staff as a culture of crisis has pervaded the institution. Staff at all levels are stressed. As with most non-profit hospitals, your financial situation is precarious. The hospital has only 20 days of cash on hand and the loss of governmental payments would result in not meeting payroll. Clearly, you do not have sufficient resources, both in terms of cash and manpower, to address all the problems but there is a small pool (2 million dollars) available to invest. What do you do? Identify the first critical actions that the leadership team should take.
  4. 4. Disclaimer: This case/role-play simulation is based on real circumstances. The names of the organizations and individuals are fabricated and detailed information herein may not accurately portray what transpired. It is for educational enhancement purposes only. ©Neil Katz & Associates. Thanks to Mark Lichtenstein. Page 1 Case Study/Simulation Woods Academy and Central School District Note: Italicized text represents some key points. Background The Woods Academy and Central School District (WACS) is located in upstate New York. The district is one of seven large public school districts (financed by taxpayer dollars) that provide education to the children in the 900 square mile area comprising an upstate New York county. The population of the district is mainly rural with a small village located in the center of the district (Village of Woods). The center of the district is about 30 miles north of a central upstate city. There are three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The majority of the students is white (95%) and from lower to middle-class economic backgrounds. Christianity is the predominant religion of choice in the area, with other religions having very limited participants. The schools are the major focus for the community since there is little else in the way of social and cultural opportunity locally. Events sponsored by the schools are well attended, particularly at the High School. In 1996, the WACS Class of 1999 and their two adult advisors (two high school teachers) proposed to the WACS Board of Education (BOE), a fundraising activity. The BOE is a seven-member committee, which is elected directly by the general public members that reside within the district boundaries. They serve for two-year terms and can be elected an unlimited number of terms. Many members had been on the BOE for a number of years, and all were well respected in the community. The Superintendent of the school district, Jeff Scales—the chief executive/operating officer of the district (top staff position)—is hired and supervised directly by the BOE. He also was very well respected by a majority of the community. The BOE sets policy and is responsible for governing the district. The Superintendent is responsible for carrying-out policy, advising the BOE, and administering all operations of the District. “Brick Program” Details The Class of 1999 proposed that the BOE authorize the sale of “red bricks” to anyone who wished to purchase one. The bricks would have an inscription chosen by the purchaser, and then be installed in the front walkway of the High School—a nationally recognized historic building. The idea was that a brick could be personalized with their name or names of those the purchaser wished to remember, but there were no guidelines other than “an inscription can be placed on the brick” (there was a maximum number of 30 boxes on the form where letters could be placed). Several BOE members knew of other communities that had initiated similar campaigns for fundraising. The money raised would pay for the cost of the brick, installation and administrative overhead. The net revenue would be deposited in the Class of 1999 student account. Funds could be used for authorized expenditures, such as dances and the Senior Trip. After the Class of 1999 graduated, addition revenue from the program would be credited toward the senior class of the years to follow. After a brief discussion of logistics and other issues that might come from such a campaign, a vote was taken at a BOE meeting and all in attendance were in favor of the idea. The Superintendent was
  5. 5. Disclaimer: This case/role-play simulation is based on real circumstances. The names of the organizations and individuals are fabricated and detailed information herein may not accurately portray what transpired. It is for educational enhancement purposes only. ©Neil Katz & Associates. Thanks to Mark Lichtenstein. Page 2 charged with implementing the program. He kept control of the logistics of the project in the District Office, of which he directly oversaw. Forms could be picked-up at the High School or District Office, and ultimately submitted to the District Office. After being processed there, support staff would order the brick from a local mason who would install it. The purchaser could request the general area for placement of the brick, and the District would accommodate the purchaser if possible. The program seemed to be a great success in its first few years, with most people purchasing bricks with inscriptions such as “Sally Smith, Class of 1986,” or “Good Luck, Class of 1998.” School kids were also very excited about the program, and some of the older students even bought tiles for themselves, their families and friends. The senior class did indeed make money from the project, which increased each year. The community loved the way the new bricks accented the appearance of the historical high school, and people would frequent the area in front of the high school simply to read the inscriptions. It was a “win-win” program! There was no shortage of space for bricks, as it was a very large area, so the program had a very bright future. At least that’s what everyone involved with the School District thought… The “Program” Evolves As time went on, the nature of the inscriptions on the bricks changed, with sayings such as “NAPA Auto Parts Supports WACS,” or “Don Jones, Don’s Supermarket.” Later, a brick was installed with the inscription, “God Bless Father Sampson” (the local Catholic Priest). Still, no one took notice of the subtle changes taking place with the program, and no one was offended. This changed when in early 1999 bricks were purchased with inscriptions such as “Jesus is Lord,” and then later, “Jesus Christ is Lord of this School.” These were purchased by local parishioners of an evangelical Christian Church. While these bricks raised the eyebrows of the administrators and staff in charge of the program, they were still placed in the walkway; although, Superintendent Scales placed these bricks “under bushes” so they could not easily be seen. This caused the purchasers to complain to the Superintendent, but no action by either side was taken. Very soon thereafter, a local Jewish family (the Lieberman’s) brought their serious concern to the Superintendent about these two “Christian” bricks (which revolved around the issue of separation of church and state—they felt that the bricks being placed on public/government property and administered by a government entity (the school) was, de facto, an endorsement of Christianity by the Woods School District and thus, a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause). Since Ms. Lieberman had a long history of expressing numerous concerns to the District about alleged School District “wrong-doings,” Superintendent Scales basically ignored these new concerns. The Lieberman family was very upset at what they perceived as lack of attention by the Superintendent to their concerns. In particular, Ms. Lieberman was concerned that as her four young children entered the High School for various functions, that they would see these bricks and feel that Christianity was subjugating their religion. They would perceive the school as “a Christian school.” In addition, Ms. Lieberman’s husband was (is) a teacher in the High School; thus, he also felt ostracized by this sectarian religious sanctioning in his place of employment, a public institution.
  6. 6. Disclaimer: This case/role-play simulation is based on real circumstances. The names of the organizations and individuals are fabricated and detailed information herein may not accurately portray what transpired. It is for educational enhancement purposes only. ©Neil Katz & Associates. Thanks to Mark Lichtenstein. Page 3 The issue did not immediately rise to the level of the BOE, in fact, the BOE found out about the concern later, through the community “rumor mill.” Before the BOE could discuss their concerns with the Superintendent, Ms. Lieberman addressed the BOE at one of its regularly scheduled monthly meetings. (Members of the public can address the BOE early in the nightly meeting.) At this meeting, there were a number of citizens and students in the audience. Many BOE members were upset at the Superintendent for not informing them of these new bricks or about the concern expressed by this family, and they felt blind-sided as a result of “officially” finding-out about this concern in a public way. Superintendent Scales took no ownership for the lack of communication, and in fact, chastised the BOE for questioning his decision-making in public. Tensions were very evident between the BOE, Superintendent and other School District Administrators. The BOE Reacts Ms. Lieberman continued addressing the School District administration and BOE over the next few months, through a serious of appearances in the District Office and at monthly BOE meetings, and with formal written letters to the School District. It was clear that a “threat to sue” was a potential if the bricks were not removed. Ms. Lieberman was also very effective at gaining media attention. Headlines in the local newspapers expressed statements such as “Woods School Violating the Constitution?” and “School District Endorsing Religion.” The BOE was forced to seek specialized legal advice on the matter, since no one on the BOE or on staff, nor the School’s locally retained attorney, were experts in constitutional law. From 1999 to 2005, legal fees would soar to over $100,000 (and they continue to escalate, even today). Many community members expressed concerned that this expenditure took resources away from educating children. During mid-1999, and after considerable debate and deliberation over a number of months (most during closed—“executive sessions”—with attorneys (these executive sessions, by the way, incited more disdain and public outcry from Ms. Lieberman and a number of her supporters)), the Board decided to install a bronze plaque on a granite stone near the walkway with the inscription, “The Views Expressed Here Are Not Sanctioned By, Nor Do They Represent Positions Of The Woods Academy and Central School District.” This was deemed as a valid compromise, and it was hoped that it would put this dilemma “to bed.” This did not appease Ms. Lieberman and her family. The request to remove the bricks stood, and in fact, the Lieberman’s campaign to remove the bricks magnified in intensity. Also during this period (after the “granite stone”), additional bricks were ordered by members of the evangelical Christian Church with a number of inscriptions quoting Christian scripture. More Decisions—The Conflict Escalates During the Summer of 1999, the BOE received a few new members as a result of elections held in May. This changed the political dynamics regarding leadership decision-making (as noted below). For instance, this new leadership team did not accept the purchases of the new Christian bricks. While this new BOE and Superintendent Scales deliberated over this issue (for months), many groups from outside the District started to align with the two-sides in this issue. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent the District letters supporting Ms. Lieberman and chastised the District for
  7. 7. Disclaimer: This case/role-play simulation is based on real circumstances. The names of the organizations and individuals are fabricated and detailed information herein may not accurately portray what transpired. It is for educational enhancement purposes only. ©Neil Katz & Associates. Thanks to Mark Lichtenstein. Page 4 violating the Establishment Clause (in fact, Ms. Lieberman was honored by the ACLU—at a very public event in the City of Salt—for her stalwart efforts promoting the “separation of church and state”). The Rutherford Institute in Virginia (a conservative, Christian organization) aligned with the evangelical Church’s efforts to help promote “freedom of speech” and encourage the District not to remove the bricks. Also during this period, the National Council of American Atheists sent the School District books on atheism to be placed in the Woods Middle and High Schools, requests came in to the BOE for the use of the High School pool for baptisms, and students asked approval to hold prayer circles in classrooms after the school day. Early in 2000, with input from new BOE members, and additional legal advice, the BOE voted to remove the “religious bricks” (but not the one that generically referenced God—“God Bless Father Sampson”—since it did not reference a particular religion). The BOE was unanimous in its decision, and expressed its belief that it could be argued that these bricks do indeed make it look as if this public school was endorsing a specific religion. This new BOE also approved some guidelines and specific criteria regarding what could and could not be placed on the bricks. It is interesting to note, that just before the BOE publicly voted to remove the bricks, but had already made an internal decision to do so, Ms. Lieberman requested a brick with the inscription, “Keep Abortion Legal.” This was leaked to the community, causing a firestorm of letters to the editor of the local, hometown newspaper chastising Ms. Lieberman. Like the other bricks with Christian sayings, the Board did not accept the payment for this brick, so it/they were never installed. After the bricks were removed, the evangelical Church, with The Rutherford Institute, sued the District to have the bricks put back. Also, the local Council of Churches (representing most churches in the District) encouraged a major community-wide propaganda effort with the mantra, “Jesus is Lord.” Large signs were erected throughout the district proclaiming this belief. Signs were placed in many local businesses and homes, and a large sign went-up directly across the street and facing the High School that said, “Jesus IS Lord of This School!” Student groups held prayer-circle vigils on property adjacent to the High School, and a number of students wore buttons to school proclaiming their allegiance to Jesus. The pinnacle of this effort was a huge billboard that was place near the main entrance to the Village of Woods that said, “Welcome to Woods, The Place Where Jesus is Not Welcome in the Schools.” In the middle of all this, Superintendent Scales, a well-respected hometown “boy,” shocked the BOE and Community by resigning his position to take a similar post at a Western New York School District. (There were conspiracy theorists in the community who attributed this move to the controversy over the bricks. For instance, a month prior to Superintendent Scales announced departure, the Pastor of the evangelical church purchased a full-length advertisement in the local newspaper that was critical of the Superintendent’s personal affairs; Superintendent Scales fired-back a complaint of slander in the local paper. There was “bad-blood” between these two.) A new Interim Superintendent was hired, Dave Zapello, who was a previous Superintendent at local City school district—an urban, very diverse district. Local, regional, and even national media feasted on this situation. There were numerous letters to the editor posted in regional newspapers, expressing many divergent views of this issue. Two local faith leaders proclaimed their support for the action of the BOE, saying that it was blasphemous and
  8. 8. Disclaimer: This case/role-play simulation is based on real circumstances. The names of the organizations and individuals are fabricated and detailed information herein may not accurately portray what transpired. It is for educational enhancement purposes only. ©Neil Katz & Associates. Thanks to Mark Lichtenstein. Page 5 disrespectful for Jesus’ name to be “trampled upon with sodden soles.” The BOE received a letter from one of New York State’s U.S. Senators chastising it for its “sanctioning of religion” and allowing this situation to spin out of control. Still more letters from a variety of groups and individuals encouraged the BOE to put the bricks back in the spirit of “freedom of speech.” One School Board member, a devout Christian (who voted to remove the bricks), willingly left office allegedly because she had difficultly dealing with her decision, which she knew was the correct choice, but which violated her deeply held values. It was assumed she could not grapple with her conscience. A Challenging Future What had been an effective and successful fundraising campaign turned into a major confrontation between various factions in the community and beyond. It was tearing-apart this once homogenous, cohesive and quaint community, and it was clear that outside groups, many with national political agendas, were capitalizing on this situation and using this as their battleground for issues with national implications. Leaders in the community were very concerned that this “issue” would give the larger community a “black-eye” that would never heal—thus, affecting economic development in the area. Ms. Lieberman shared with the BOE an anonymous and threatening letter she received after the BOE removed the bricks. (It is important to note, that years before, her family home had been broken- into, and swastikas spray-painted on her walls). Some in the community were afraid; many were confused. A new Superintendent (Don Smithe) was hired late in 2000 to replace the Interim Superintendent Zapello. Mr. Smithe was hired as a result of a statewide search, and hailed from a school district over 200 miles away (a suburban, diverse school-district). He did not have great familiarity with the Woods area, and along with the BOE, he was immediately saddled with a Federal lawsuit (to replace the bricks), pressure from Ms. Lieberman to help her deflect criticism she was receiving from the community, a community divided and injured, and national exposure (scrutiny under a microscope). Both sides, and the larger community, looked to this new Superintendent and the BOE for leadership— for an end to the conflict, and a continuation of the “way things used to be.” Other Important Considerations: In determining whether there is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution (which calls for a “Separation of Church and State”), the test of “public forum” is applied. This test entails the following question: “Does the government entity (in this case, the Woods Central and Academy School District) have a history of ‘open forum’ or one of ‘closed forum’.” What this refers to is whether the district has set a precedent where it has allowed a variety of free speech and open use of its facilities—where it didn’t have specific criteria for limited use of facilities. If it can be proven that the District was fairly open, it would be more difficult to disallow bricks of this type to be installed. The District argued that it did not have a history of “open forum,” using examples of turning down requests for pool baptisms (even before this case, the District did not allow this type of activity)
  9. 9. Worksheet for Woods Brick Case Analysis: What has led to this crisis and what is going on from the perspective of each of the frames? How does the use of multi-frames and reframing help make sense of the situation that now exists? Structural Human Resource Political Symbolic Options : What options for strategies and action plans emerge from the analysis? Consider options from each of the frames. Structural Human Resource Political Symbolic