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Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
Strategic Consulting in Practice
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Strategic Consulting in Practice

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A personal reflection of my Strategic Consulting in Practice module.

A personal reflection of my Strategic Consulting in Practice module.

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  • 1. Word count: 2497 SKIP? SKIP? SCiP!Critical Reflexivity; smoke and mirrors or philosophy? Justin Moseley; 201162717. Professor T. Mullen and Miss C. Reid
  • 2. CONTENTSIntroduction ............................................................................................................................................ 2Adaptation .............................................................................................................................................. 2 Reflex action........................................................................................................................................ 2 Reflection in action ............................................................................................................................. 3 Reflection on action ............................................................................................................................ 3Application .............................................................................................................................................. 4 Reflex Action ....................................................................................................................................... 4 Reflection in action ............................................................................................................................. 4 Reflection on action ............................................................................................................................ 4Anticipation ............................................................................................................................................. 5 Reflex Action ....................................................................................................................................... 5 Reflection in action ............................................................................................................................. 5 Reflection on action ............................................................................................................................ 5Learning outcomes - Bridging the gap; Reflexive methodologies .......................................................... 6 Reflex action........................................................................................................................................ 6 Emotion ........................................................................................................................................... 6 Preconceived rationality ................................................................................................................. 7 Reflection on Action............................................................................................................................ 7 Journals ........................................................................................................................................... 7Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................... 8Bibliography ............................................................................................................................................ 9TABLE OF FIGURESFIGURE 1; SITUATIONAL COMMUNICATION (MOSELEY, 2012) 6FIGURE 2; PHILOSOPHY OF REFLEXIVE REFLECTION (MOSELEY, 2012) 7 1
  • 3. Critical Reflexivity; smoke and mirrors or philosophy?IntroductionMy life has been primarily spent within institutions. I attended boarding school and then spenttwenty years working in the Merchant Navy. Three years ago I came ashore to work on a largeoffshore construction project. During this latter tenure I met two MBA’s, both of whom wereinstrumental in my attendance of this course. Furthermore, they gave me pause for thought in twovarying different ways.I discovered John had an MBA. Through our discussions I began to form an idea of what it was andwhat it meant to achieve this qualification. However, one aspect I did not “get” during ourconversation was that he stated how incredibly frustrating it was working on the project. This wasdue to his cognizance of how things should be done, as opposed to how things were done.I now have an altered view of the project from time and spatial perspectives. I also have aperception of strategic tools and best practices, which prior to attending Strathclyde I did not evenknow existed. Through this insight I understand John’s frustration. Furthermore, I now see howissues could have been ameliorated or avoided if the project personnel were more open minded andnot involved in poor management practices which, in retrospect, were pervasive.My challenge is that I am not a naturally reflective person. Moreover, due to the nature of my actionorientated employment I was the quintessential “energetic problem solver” (Van Der Heijden et al.,2002, p.230). My challenge is how, or can, I transit through the managerial spectrum in order tobecome a reflective practitioner (Schön, 2007)?AdaptationReflex actionOn the initial morning of SCiP I was a little nervous about whom my team would be. My concern wasdue to my perception of some individuals within the cohort and the feeling that that they would notmatch my standards. However, my reflex thinking was counterproductive; sometimes as a manageryou may be placed within an unknown group and have to ensure high performance regardless ofcomposition. Ultimately the team was formed from two self-selected groups, and a part timestudent. My reaction to this was satisfaction; I had not worked with the other full timers, though Iwas aware of their high performing reputation. I was however, concerned about the unknownqualities of the part time member. The irony of this misperception is not lost on me, as Andrew 2
  • 4. performed very well. A salutary lesson is to be consistently open minded and to embrace theunknown.Initially in the syndicate room, I noticed that the two self-select teams reflexively sat together atopposite ends of the table. Using Bolman and Deals (2008) frames I was conscious of potentialconflict arising if we did not integrate. I altered my seating and sat with the other group thusreducing the potential of factionalisation.Reflection in actionThrough the course of the next few days it became apparent that the group created a richness ofdiscussion and were adroit at avoiding groupthink (Whyte, 1952). However, the counterpoint of thisrichness was that we were affected with “paralysis by analysis.” On one occasion Andrew, stepped inand “broke the fame” (Bolman and Deal, 2008, p.13) suggesting that we split into sub sets and weworked more successfully this way. This ability to reflect whilst in action suggested by Schön (2007)gives the practitioner an aptitude to manage ambiguous and unique situations. This was an excellentlearning process; sometimes I become entrenched in a feedback loop of non-optimal decisionmaking, where I am unable or not open to seeing better solutions.Reflection on actionMy tenure in the Merchant Navy training developed my leadership ability. This is not what would beconsidered a democracy due to the explicit hierarchy; it lies within the “structural” leadership frame(Bolman and Deal, 2008). My challenge is that I am no longer at sea and requirements ashore differ.Due to my training, background and strength of character there is a reflexive propensity for me todominate groups. Mckenna and Beech (2008) suggest it would be beneficial to utilise“tranformational leadership,” whereby I lead by example and empower others. However, due to myforce of character, leading by example can be detrimental as I can seem overbearing. Moreover,what I consider to be empowering people may be perceived as giving orders. I have developedstrategies to ensure all group members have an opportunity to give their input. For example, onemethod I applied was ensuring the group gave their opinion first. I found if I gave my perspectiveinitially, I felt people just agreed with me (or otherwise I am right, A LOT).On joining a new group for SCiP, I decided to take a step back and see how the group developed.This gave me a new perspective; I began to comprehend different types of leadership, the explicitwhere you lead from the front, or the leader who stands aloof from the action, but is more adroit atseeing holistically. Using Hersey’s (1984) situational leadership model, the SCiP group was generallywithin the “leadership through delegation” aspect. We were all self-starters driving towards thesame goal. However, after the inadequate trial presentation, the model had to be changed to“leadership through directing.” I pointed out that while we had excellent ideas, if we did not 3
  • 5. capitalise on them we would not achieve our goals. Specialised tasks were duly delegated to thegroup (Weber, 1947) which remotivated and refocused us and resulted in a much improvedpresentation.ApplicationReflex ActionI have noticed during SCiP and previous modules that there is a reflex action of bounded limitationswhich some of the cohort place around themselves. I have lost count of the amount of times I havebeen asked or overheard “are we allowed to do this?” The difficulty arises when this fear of failurecreeps into the group and stifles the innovative use of tools resulting in “satisficing” (Simon, 1957);whereby outcomes and behaviours are diluted (Cropper et al., 2009) resulting in mediocrity.Reflection in actionOur SCiP group had an older demographic, we had confidence in ourselves and each other to forgeahead and not follow instructions explicitly. For example, during the option wind tunnelling, ratherthan follow the process unequivocally we “self-wind tunnelled” using procedural rationality (Cropperet al., 2009). To achieve this we discussed whether the generated options were feasible and fittedthe client’s requirement, thus refining the options in a less structured manner, but with excellentresults.On one occasion however, the group became lost as we were “free styling.” Due to not following theinstructions we had missed a critical aspect of the tool and therefore had to reiterate the process.Reflection on actionWeick, (1998) suggests that a balance is required to ensure that the bounds of rationality do notstifle innovation. From the aforementioned examples it can be seen that dependent upon groupcomposition, the use of tools may vary; there is no “right” way (Weick, 1995). Creativity should benurtured wherever possible (Drucker, 1954) and mistakes which occur should not be dwelt upon. If ateam member is lambasted for errors, they are unlikely to engage and propose ideas again.Whilst there are benefits from being creative, cognizance should be given to the inherent pitfalls ofnot explicitly following procedures, as demonstrated by our free styling efforts. Utilisation ofreflection within double loop learning (Argyris, 1991) means that whilst mistakes may be made, thenext time the cycle is completed there should be no reoccurrence of that particular mistake andcreativity is able to flow unimpeded. 4
  • 6. AnticipationReflex ActionPrior to the client interview, the group reflexively decided to don business attire, style the room in aparticular way and offer coffee and biscuits. This decision felt like the right thing to do, as it gave astatement of intent; that we were serious and committed. It was refreshing when the client arrivedin a hoody and was relaxed. This however, shows that our perception of the situation may not havematched the clients.Reflection in actionAndrew, (the warm blanket) was the spokesman for the team. His style of communication wassomething unique, if in my opinion, a little too acquiescent (which I did tell him). His ability to talkgently in an amenable manner was very different to the forthright and possibly abrasivecommunication I use, this challenged my perception of what I consider normal.Reflection on actionOn my last project there were huge issues between us (the principle contractors) and the client. Ihave wondered whether cultural differences were at fault as the organisations were American andScottish respectively. In retrospect, I think it may have been something more fundamental; theinability to communicate in a reasonable manner throughout the organisation. I remember theProject Director commenting that this type of project commenced well, but once the contract wassigned, the client and contractor were at loggerheads. If this was the communiqué that the Directorwas sending, it is unsurprising that at the contracts termination there is still a three hundred millionpound legal claim between the organisations (Blackwell, 2012).One of my favourite paradigms is “communication is key.” Seeing how different methods ofinteraction were utilised to advocate varied perspectives in this module struck me (Wittgenstein,1980). Referring to situational leadership theory (Hersey, 1984), the model could also be utilised forcommunication. Whereby the practitioner changes their voice, pitch and language dependent uponwho their audience is. In the Navy, instructions were issued in a clear, concise and unambiguousmanner. Whilst this method has its practicalities in certain forums, I have seen people wince at mytone or directness. Observing Andrew allowed me to understand how I could ameliorate mycommunications to suit the audience. I have utilised the quintessential MBA two by two below todemonstrate this. 5
  • 7. Figure 1; Situational Communication (Moseley, 2012)Learning outcomes - Bridging the gap; Reflexive methodologiesThroughout this year, we have been told that we should be more reflective, have a sense of beingand that we should embrace new ways of practicing. However, no one elucidates on how to achievethis. Cunliffe (2004) suggests that reflexivity is a philosophy, Gray (2007, p.496) states reflexivity is“more than learning,” while Argyris (1991) highlights the challenge “smart people” find in beingcritically reflexive. How then can I, an action orientated practititioner, moderate reflex, engenderreflection, thus becoming a practitioner of reflective philosophy?Following a review of methodologies, I have composed a subjective model of reflective philosophy.This considers the aspects of reflex and reflection previously discussed, with additional internal andexternal trigger points.Reflex actionEmotionGoleman (2004) suggests that humans are driven by emotional reflex due to the evolution of thehuman brain; layers of intelligence and rationality overlay primal strata. Due to this composition theprimal can overpower the rational (Goleman, 2004). Luft and Ingham (1950) suggest thatappreciation of feedback ensures the pratitioner’s cognition of how their actions are percievedexternally.Knowing oneself, internally and externally, enables the practitioner to be cogent of emotionalmanifestation and rationalise it, thereby reducing the negative, whilst enhancing positiveresponses. 6
  • 8. Preconceived rationalitySchön, (2007) discusses tacit knowledge and Weick, (1993) suggests contextual reality. Both termssuggest a preconception of rationality, whereby the practitioner has situational knowledge andreacts reflexively. This preconception may mask contextual reality, the practitioners reactionbecomes routine, reality is not percieved and over learning occurs (Schön, 2007). Weick, (1993)suggests that intersubjectivity allows for synthesis of opinions and minimising subjective errors.Being open to intersubjectivity will not only strengthen groups I am part of, but also the decisionmaking process – thereby engendering a rationalised synthesis of reality.Reflection on ActionJournalsCunliffe (2004) and Gray, (2007) advocate the use of journals as a tool for reflection on action. Froma personal perspective I forsee two challenges arising from this. The first being I am overly selfcritical, this aspect of my character can be destructive. To alleviate this, I should use the “cognitionof emotion” facet of my model, allowing objective self evaluation. Secondly, thought should be givento writing in a critically reflexive manner, (Cunliffe, 2004, p. 415). This leads to evaluating oneself in asubjectively critical style, which, due to defensive reasoning (Argyris, 1991) could be challenging tothe holistic nature of the reflexive philosophy. However, since I have precognizance of thesepotential downfalls, I should now be capable of avoiding these negative processural aspects.Furthermore, journal use should enable me to differentiate the reality of my actions against my ownsubjectivity, thus promoting self awareness and a reconceptualisation of reality. Figure 2; Philosophy of Reflexivity (Moseley, 2012) 7
  • 9. ConclusionThe final MBA vignette;During my previous role the second person I met with an MBA was the Chief Executive of a port. Fromhim I gained understanding of the time and energy commitment required to complete an MBA. Onone occasion I asked him what aspects he used from the MBA, he paused, looked stricken, turned tome and said quietly “nothing.”This is my biggest fear; I spend this year absorbing strategies and skills, then do not use the tools,knowledge or best practices, due to either my own non-reflective personality, or perhaps exigenciesof work. This meeting has been at the forefront of my mind throughout this year and its negativityand potential occurrence still concerns me.It is perhaps ironic then, that over the last two weeks whilst having no modules or assignments tocomplete (save this one) I have enjoyed writing this reflection. I found myself walking aroundBrighton contemplating this essay and as I looked at particular things I decomposed them into MBAterms; the queue at airport security became a normal distribution curve, advertisements becamemarket strategies, my thoughts on my actions during the day were reflective and critical rather thana stick to beat myself with. They acknowledged my failings, but saw positives and how Icould/should/would improve.Finally, utilisation of the trigger points and acceptance of external inputs within the philosophymodel will, I hope, further open my personality and allow for more collaborative working. Embracingthe rational will, in turn, make me a better manager and person.Perhaps there is a new trick in the old sea dog? 8
  • 10. Bibliography ndAckermann, F. and Eden, C. (2011) making Strategy, 2 edition, London: SAGE.Argyris, C. (1991) Teachingsmart people how to think, Havard Business Review, vol. 69, no. 3.Blackwell, B. (2012) Greater Gabbard dispute rolls on as project nears finish, 17 March, [Online], Available:http://www.rechargenews.com/energy/wind/article313762.ece [1 June 2012]. thBolman, L. and Deal, T. (2008) Reframing Organisations, 4 edition, San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons.Cropper, S., Eden, C., Gunn, L. and K, v.d.H. (2009) Principles of Rationality, in Managing, Glasgow: Universityof Strathclyde.Cuncliffe, A. (2004) On becoming a critically reflexive practitioner, Journal of Management Education, vol. 28,no. 4, August, pp. 407-426.Drucker, P. (1954) The Practice of Managment, Harper and Row. stGoleman, D. (2004) Emotional Intelligence, 1 edition, London: Bloomsbury.Gray, D. (2007) Facilitating Management Learning: Developing Critical Reflection Through Reflective Tools,Management Learning, vol. 38, no. 5, November, pp. 495-517.Hersey, P. (1984) The Situational Leader, New York: Warner.Jun, J. (1994) Philosophy of administration, Seoul: Daeyoung Moonhwa International.Lindblom, C.E. (1959) The Science of Muddling Through, Public Administration Review, pp. 79-88.Luft, J. and Ingham, H. (1950) Proceedings of the western training laboratory in group development, LosAngeles: UCLA. ndMckenna, E. and Beech, N. (2008) Human Resource Management: A Conscise Analysis, 2 edition, Harlow:Pearson Education. stSchon, D. (2007) The Reflective Practioner, 1 edition, London: Ashgate. ndSimon, H. (1957) Administrative Decision Making, 2 edition, Macmillan. stVan Der Heijden, K., Bradfield, R., Burt, G., Cairns, G. and Wright, G. (2002) The Sixth Sense, 1 edition,Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.Weber, M. (1947) The Theory of Social and Econmic Oganization, New York: Free Press.Weick, K. (1993) The collapse of sensemaking in organizations: the Mann Gulch disaster, AdministrativeScience Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 4, December, pp. 628-652.Weick, K. (1995) Sensemaking in Organizations, Sage.Weick, K. (1998) Improvisation as a mindest for organisational analysis, Organizational Science, vol. 9, no. 5,pp. 543-555.Whyte, W.H. (1952) Groupthink, Fortune Magazine.Wittgenstein, L. (1980) Remarks on the philosophy of psychology, Oxford: Blackwell. 9

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