Action Science/Argyris


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RMIT MBA course on self-awareness in managment and leadership practices

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Action Science/Argyris

  1. 1. Action Science Helping to build better relationships at work
  2. 2. Aims • Remove barriers of change caused by defensive interpersonal and organisational relations thus reducing ineffectiveness • Improve problem-solving skills and make incremental changes to external environment, but not exclusively • Primarily focus on looking inward, learning new frameworks and establishing new routines
  3. 3. Points for Reflection on Learning Business success is highly dependant on the ability to learn. Argyris, C. Effectiveness was evident in the interrelationship between organisational learning and a balanced score card. Deem, J.
  4. 4. New Ways of Working Organisations can reverse the cycle and learn to understand the difference between their espoused and actual theories of action. ‘They can face up to the fact that they unconsciously design and implement actions.’ Argyris
  5. 5. Some Learning Barriers Leaders do not know how to learn Leaders fail to reflect on their own behaviour Single Loop vs Double Loop Espoused theory vs Theory-in-Use
  6. 6. Action Science is about Theories of Action Theories of action are the master programs, pattens, designs, sets of rules or propositions that people use to design or carry out their actions Underlying actions are the governing variables, values, theories, beliefs, concepts, rules, attitudes, routines, policies, practices, norms or skills
  7. 7. Theories of Action help us to develop skills of inquiry and reflection
  8. 8. Theories of Action Moving from Model 1 to Model 11 reduces ineffectiveness in resolving difficult problems Theory-in-Use Model 1 Governing Variables 1. Define goals to achieve unilaterally 2. Maximise winning, minimise losing 3. Minimise expressing or generating negative 4. Be rational and minimize emotionality Theory-in-Use Model 11 Governing Variables 1. Maximize valid information 2. Have free and informed choice for all concerned 3. Have high internal commitment to the choice and constant monitoring of its implementation
  9. 9. Single Loop vs Double Loop Single loop - not your fault, not my fault Single loop - a very defensive chicken not prepared to look at how it contributed to the problem Double loop - the monkey at least challenged its own process
  10. 10. Espoused Theory vs Theory-in-Use Argyris posits that most theories in use rest on the same set of governing values: • To remain in unilateral control • To maximise ‘winning’ and minimise ‘losing’ • To suppress negative feelings • To be as rational as possible by defining clear objectives and evaluating their behaviour in terms of whether they achieved them
  11. 11. Tools to implement change
  12. 12. Productive Reasoning Analysis of actions must be data driven as seen in theory-in-use model 2 Theory-in-Use Model 11 Governing Variables 1. Maximize valid information 2. Have free and informed choice for all concerned 3. Have high internal commitment to the choice and constant monitoring of its implementation
  13. 13. Data comes from Personal Dialogue How to write a case for personal dialogue, 2 columns. 1. he challenge or theme illustrated by this episode T 2. rief statement of context B My thoughts & feelings What we said 3.What actually happened 4. esults from this conversation that I would want to change. R 5.Questions I would like to address when we discuss this case. For more information see
  14. 14. Change Starts at the Top Ryan and Oestreich agree with Argyris: Behaviour change must start with self awareness by senior management.
  15. 15. A simple approach to learn technique: Connect learning with real life experience
  16. 16. Write a Live Case Study • Include all the possible outcomes • Allow participants to discuss the case study • Reason a way through it • Apply back to themselves in a safe atmosphere • Productive reasoning and self analysis lead to personal and organisational effectiveness • Real causes of problems can be addressed and overcome
  17. 17. Example of a Case Study $1.5 million loss Result - Glossy Weekly 360º Review Key Stakeholders
  18. 18. Please look visit Methods in Action on website for more examples.
  19. 19. Action Design Reflection Time & Will
  20. 20. Thanks for listening
  21. 21. References Arygris,C. (1991) Teaching Smart people how to learn, Harvard Business Review, 69 (3), 99-109. D. Oestreich, K. R. A. (1998) Driving Fear out of the Workplace - Creating the High Trust, High Performance Organisation, San Franciso, Jossey-Bass Inc. Deem, J. (2009), The relationship of organizational culture to Balanced Scorecard effectiveness, Dissertations & Theses: Full Text. Sostrin, J. (2008) Establishing and validating a conceptual framework of barriers to workplace learning and performance: A Q-method study. Dissertations & Theses. Action Science, <>, viewed on August 12, 2009.