Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Understanding the success of J-Form of Organizations and related organization learning

In the last blog, we began a discussion on the relation between organizational learning and organization structure. We continue this discussion today to better understand the J-Form of organizational structures.

In order to really understand the source for success of J-Form of Organizations in innovation and learning, it would be good to begin with the larger economy and drill deeper into an organization.

Japanese economy is generally characterized by high level of cooperation and organizational integration. There exists extensive long-term collaboration of firms in business groups and networks. The smaller firms are very well integrated with the larger firms.

The knowledge embedded in organizational routines, team relationships and shared culture are what form the basis of the innovative capacity of the J-Form organizations. The shop-floor skills in problem solving, intensive interaction and knowledge sharing across different functional units create an "organizational community" which drives Learning and Knowledge Creation. New Knowledge is formed the fusion, synthesis and combination of the existing knowledge base. 

The J-Form of organizations tends to develop an orientation towards incremental innovation as a strategy and generally perform well in relatively mature technology fields characterized by rich possibilities of combinations and incremental improvements to existing products or components. The focus is on nurturing organizationally embedded, tacit knowledge and it emphasizes continuous improvement in such knowledge. This approach however has been found to be not as effective when dealing with radically innovative platforms where the knowledge might have to gain knowledge from external sources. 

The success of Japanese firms in mature industries like - automobile, electronics etc and it’s not so good performance in areas like software and biotechnology are what we could related to.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Relation between Organization Structure and Organizational Learning

In the last blog we continue the discussion on the challenges that are faced in creating a system for organizational learning. In today's blog we try to understand the link between organization structure and organizational learning. 

To understand the relation between structure and organizational learning, it would be extremely useful if we could put the forms of organizational structures on a continuous spectrum. At one end would be Adhocracy (Recollect from this blog the classes of organization by Mintzberg) where we have find the organization structure cutting across the normal structure lines of the organization to exploit the opportunities and solve problem. At the other end one could imagine a very "Japanese Organization" (J Form) where in formal teams etc exists and the learning is more of a cumulative exercise. 

J-Form of Organization does comprise of organizations that are good at cumulative learning, the innovativeness of these organizations is designed by the organization specific collective competencies and problem solving routines. 

Adhocracy - relies more on individual expertise organized in flexible market oriented project teams the individual expertise enables the organization to respond quickly to changes in knowledge and skills and integrating new kinds of expertise to generate radical new products and processes.

Understanding each of these would require a separate blog, so we just initiate the discussion today and would continue it over the next few blogs.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Interview with founder's of Edu-next

Edu-Next Ventures is a landmark initiative by NIT-IIM alumni in the education space started in the year 2009 offering services across under-graduate and post graduate courses aimed at enhancing employability and providing career guidance. Having has seen a steady growth in the number of institutions that it is working with since its inception and having established a proven model to bridge the gaps with industry

Interview Link: http://soentrepreneurship.blogspot.com/2012/01/entrepreneurs-interview-edu-next.html?spref=fb

Company Website: http://www.edu-next.com

  1. Srinivas  Swaroop
  2. Vivek Desai

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Challenges in creating a system for organizational learning

In the last blog, we looked at some of the definitions in the context of organizational knowledge creation. In today's blog we begin understanding the challenge of how the organization would have to balance the system when creating a process for organizational learning.

Organizational learning requires the organization to keep a sufficiently porous boundary that would allow the "flow" of new knowledge and ideas into the organization yet keep a strict internal focus for building on its current expertise. The fundamental issues for the organization at this point is that through existing processes they have a completely certain environment to explore, while the future for the organization lies only in exploring the new possibilities beyond what has been established already.

If one is to ask why the organization should allow external ideas into the current organizational learning, well here is an answer - Knowledge creation is a product of organization's capability to recombine existing knowledge and generate new applications from this existing base. However, radically new learning tends to arise from contacts outside the organization. These external contacts could be in the form of business alliances, network relationships, as well as new personnel into the company. 

To sustain in the long run, organizations would have to "creatively destruct" that would allow them develop firm-specific capability and renew or reconfigure its competencies to address environmental challenges. This balance between exploitation of certainty and exploration of the future is a continuous challenge that requires a very good balance and coordination to be successful for the organization.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Organizational Knowledge, Routines and Core Competency

In the last blog we looked at concept of "context" in organizational knowledge creation. In today's blog we continue understanding these terms and also learn a few new terms in the process.

It is always good to understand and look at an organization as a cognitive enterprise that learns and develops knowledge. In this direction there are some interesting terms that have been coined by management theorists. Understanding these is quite intuitive:
Organizational Knowledge: This term refers to the shared cognitive schemes and distributed common understanding within the firm that facilitate knowledge sharing and transfer
Organization Routines: A kind of collective knowledge rooted in shared norms and belief that aids joint problem solving and capable of supporting complex pattern of action in the absence of written rules
Core Competency: Implies that learning and knowledge creation activities of a firm tend to be cumulative and path dependent.

While all these talk about how organizations are learning environment, it is also true that in some cases, the same earning could be difficult to unlearn past practices and explore alternative ways of doing things - this many a times leads to what some management experts call as "competency trap".

At this point again it would be interesting to reiterate the importance of decision making in management. There is an inherent difficulty when organizations try to learn - to draw the boundary between external and internal knowledge flows is extremely crucial. We shall continue to discuss this in the next blog and it is pretty interesting to understand this.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Designing the right context for organizational knowledge creation

In the last blog we began understanding the concept of organizational innovation pretty closely - it also involved a very good commentary from one of our readers which enables us gain a significant insight into the way organizations foster innovation. In today's blog, we look at the "context" of knowledge creation, how this functions and in the next blog, we look at what are the essential ingredients that would have to be taken note of to get this context to be working for an organization.

In this blog we significantly refer to one - Nonaka - a management theorist who has done some significant work in the area of organizational knowledge creation. It is important to acknowledge that "tacit" knowledge is the origin of all human knowledge, and organizational knowledge creation essentially the process of mobilizing individual tacit knowledge and fostering its interaction to the explicit knowledge base of the firm.

Nonaka, also illustrates the importance of a context for knowledge creation called "Ba", this context provides the shared social and mental space for the Interpretation of Information, interaction and emerging relationships that serve as a foundation of knowledge creation.

"Ba" is very similar to another concept "community of practice" that suggests that organizational members construct their shared identities and perspectives through "practice" that is shared work experience. This practice enables the sharing of practices and cognitive repertoires to facilitate knowledge sharing and transfer. 

Hence a group placed at the intersection of the vertical and horizontal flow of knowledge within an organization, serves as the bridge between the individual and organization in the knowledge creation process. Thus even a semi-autonomous project team play an extremely crucial role in knowledge creation. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Understanding Organizational Innovation

In the last blog we defined the terms - Innovation and Cognition. In today's blog we begin looking at organizational innovation in the context of Knowledge Creation.

Innovation is a learning process by which new knowledge is created to solve the new problems that are defined. The core concept of study in all theories of Organizational Learning and knowledge creation is that of how organizations translate individual insights and knowledge into collective knowledge and organizational capability.

Such collective knowledge could be the accumulated knowledge of the organization stored in its rules, procedures, routines and shared norms which guide the problem solving activities and patterns of interaction among its members. It resembles the "collective mind" or "memory" of the organization, it could also be the hard data that is "static" or could be "flowing" in the interactions. It exists between the individuals of the organization, rather than within them. 

In some cases it could be more than the sum of the individual's knowledge and in others it could be less than the sum, it’s a matter of how the mechanisms to translate the individual knowledge to collective knowledge are designed. Both Individuals and Organizations are learning entity and it is important to understand that any learning takes place in a social context and this is what makes every learning outcome different.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Entrepreneur's Interview - Transitainment Ventures

Today's Interview with an Entrepreneur - Nithin Chandra of Transitainment Ventures

Transitainment is nearly an year old company, operating in the space of entertaining the traveling customers. Founded in late 2010 while a student at IIMB, Nithin speaks to us about his challenges in team formation, and opportunity identification. Hope you enjoy reading the interview.

Link to the Interview: http://soentrepreneurship.blogspot.com/2012/01/entrepreneur-interview-transitainment.html

Company Website: http://transitainment.com/

Interview with founder:

Nithin Chandra G S

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Innovation, Organizational Cognition - definitions

In the last blog, we looked at the Industrial Economics angle of Organizational Innovation. In today's blog, we begin looking at the relation between Organizational Cognition, Learning and Innovation. Since these terms sound too "BIG" for a first time reader, the attempt would be to really set the context in this blog and build on it over the next few.

Let’s begin with the most familiar term - Innovation. While we all intuitively we all understand "innovation", management theorists like to define it as "a process of bringing new, problem-solving, idea to use" some also look at it as "non routine, significant, and discontinuous organizational change that embodies new ideas that is not consistent with the current concept of the organization's business". Innovative output is a product of prior accumulation of knowledge that enables innovators to assimilate and exploit new knowledge - hence organizational learning and cognition begin to play a significant role.

"Cognition" or "Cognitive" refers to the idea that individuals develop, mental models, belief systems, and knowledge structures that they use to perceive, construct, and make sense of their worlds and to make decisions about what actions to take - I refer here to another theorist Weick and also to Walsh. One could also extend this analysis to the level of group and organizations and we would find out how organizations & groups would behave. 

Organizations develop collective mental models and interpretive schemes which influence the decisions the organization takes as well as the actions it performs. - We could call this Organizational cognition. It however differs from Individual cognition in terms of the social dimension. 

Hence we would talk about socio-cognitive connected, and understand how it accounts for the social processes in the formation of collective cognition and knowledge structures.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Industrial Economics angle of Organizational Innovation

In the last blog, we did look at the concept of organizational innovation using the classification of Contingent Theories. In today's blog we look at organizational innovation using the lenses of Industrial Economics.

The micro-economists in the field of strategy consider organization structure as both cause and effect of the managerial strategic choice in response to the market opportunities. The central argument here is that - certain organizational types or attributes are more likely to superior innovative performance in a given environment because they are more suited to reduce transaction costs and cope with alleged capital market failure.

The theory of "the innovative enterprise" focused on how strategy and structure determine the competitive advantage of the business enterprise. The theory postulates that over time, business enterprises in the advanced economies have to achieve a higher degree of "organizational integration" in order to sustain competitive advantage. The model most supported by the success of the Japanese against the American companies.  However it is important to note that such an integrated approach would be best suited in case of incremental innovation, but there isn’t sufficient proof that it works well in the cases of radical innovation as a means to competitiveness.

Another theory by Teece suggests that the formal (governance modes) and informal (culture and values) structures, as well as firms' external networks powerfully influence the rate and direction of their innovative activities. He classifies innovation into "autonomous" and "systemic" and relates it to the organizational structure. The definition of these 2 innovations is itself pretty clear and helps understand the relation:

  1. An Autonomous innovation is one that can be introduced to the market without massive modification of related products and processes. - A classical example is that of introduction of power steering where no much modification had to done to the existing set up to introduce this change.
  2. Systemic Innovation on the other hand, favors integrated enterprise because it requires complex coordination amongst various subsystems and hence is usually accomplished under one "roof" - The introduction of front wheel drive requiring the complete redesign of many of the automobiles is an example of such systemic innovation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Organizational Innovation in the context of Contingency Theories of Management

In last blog we began our discussion on organizational innovation and also mentioned about the 3 classifications of the study one could do. In today's blog we look at the first category of the classification the one relating organizational structure to innovation and specifically the group of theories under "contingency theories"

The contingency theory generally argues that the most appropriate structure for the organization would be the one that best fits the operating contingency in terms of scale of operation, technology, or environment. Mintzberg is one of the most noted of the contingency theorist and we have already discussed him in this earlier blog. We have also discussed about the Mechanistic and Organic models in this blog. 

Just to summarize and complete the discussion relating organizations it could be said that Organic structures would be a more fluid set of arrangement, adapting to conditions of rapid change and innovation. It would be interesting to note that both mechanistic and organic structures can coexist in different parts of the same organization depending on the demand from the functional sub-environment. We could also call such structures as "ambidextrous structures".

In the next blog we move on to the next class of theories - Industrial Economics and see how they relate to organizational innovation.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Organization Innovation and streams of thought

In the last blog, we talked about some of the tests that anyone who intends to redesign his organization would have to take note of. In today’s blog, we begin our discussion on one of the common reasons for forcing an organization redesign - Organization Innovation.

Organization's ability to innovate is a necessary precondition for it to successfully utilize the inventive resources and new technologies. It could also be seen that many a times, by introducing a new technology, the organization is often pushed into complex puzzle of opportunities and organization challenges. These in turn lead to change in management practices and sometimes lead to the emergence of new organizational forms. Clearly organizational and technology innovations could be seen as being intertwined.

A simple generic that the term "organizational innovation" could refer to would be - the creation or adoption of an idea or behavior that is new to the organization.

Broadly as a field, the study on Organizational Innovation could be classified into 3 broad streams of thoughts

  1. Organizational Structure and Innovation
  2. Organizational Cognition, Learning and Innovation
  3. Organizational Change and Innovation. 

Over the next few blogs we shall talk bout these and some of the constituent theories these streams might find.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Entrepreneur's Interview - Permeative Technologies

Today's interview with Entrepreneur - Permeative Technologies Pvt Ltd

Founded in 2008, Permeative has been one of the early entrants into the iPhone Application development arena from India. The company has since seen a lot of ups and downs and has completed 3 years in operations. The interview with the founder of the company attempts to get some of the challenges in this journey of entrepreneurship. Hope you enjoy reading the Interview. 

Read the Interview athttp://soentrepreneurship.blogspot.com/2012/01/entrepreneur-interview-permeative.html

Company Websitehttp://www.permeative.com

Company Logo:


Basavaraj Pujar

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tests for Organization Redesign

In the last blog, we looked at the classification of management theories and their variations across the policies and expectations. In today's blog we refer to an HBR tool kit by Michael Goold and Andrew Cambell that deals about how to test if we have a well designed organization. While the details may be looked at on purchasing the links, I would only summarize what the article intends to talk about.

Any person looking at redesigning the organization would have to make some essential tests before really getting on with the change and here are a few of the suggestions.
Again it is a continuous process and like any management, it’s more an art in these cases of organization redesign than having a standard way to handle this. We would encourage you to read the original article at the following link to get a more comprehensive understanding of these tests.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Classification of Management theories continued...

In the last blog, we looked at the ways we could classify the various theories of management into different buckets. In today’s blog we summarize the basic assumptions, policies and expectations that the managers who follow these 3 styles of management use. Please refer to the table below.

The diagram is an adaption from Raymond E Miles, Theories of Management (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Classifying the Management Theories

In the last blog, we looked at how the “analyzers” category of organizations perceives the adaptation cycle challenges. In this blog, let’s take an independent look at how the various organization theories itself could be classified and how the view the relation between strategy and structure where the discussion about adaptation cycle actually began.

If we look at the way management theory has evolved over the timeframe of the early 1900 to late 1900s, we could categorize them into the following sections 

  1. Traditional Model
  2. Human Relations Model
  3. Human Resource Model

The Traditional model suggests that there are a select group of owner-managers who would ably direct larger number of employees by careful standardization and routinizing the work and by placing and planning functions completely controlled by the top managers. Under such a system, only few employees could be expected to perform to outstanding levels but most of them would perform to certain minimum standard.

The Human Relations model agreed to the Traditional model but went ahead emphasizing the universality of social needs for belongingness and recognition. This model argued that, it was interpersonal treatment that was the source of subordinate resistance to managerial directives. Managers would have to engage the organizational member's feeling of involvement and importance in order to improve organizational performance.

The Human Resource model approach though is debated to be a contingent theory, looks at the organization as having decision making in the pursuit of organizational objectives widely dispersed and that most organization members represent the untapped resources which if properly managed could considerably enhance the organizational performance. 

In the next blog we shall have a graphical comparison of the same for clarity purpose.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Characteristics of Analyzers when attempting to handle adaptation cycles

In the last blog, we took a closer look at the approach taken up by Prospector to handle the adaptation cycle challenges. We shall today move to the next of the categories -  Analyzers .

Continuing to understand our classification and their characteristics better we move on from Prospectors to Analyzers. The Analyzers in contrast to the prospectors have a constant challenge of handling 2 cores simultaneously. The following diagram is a summary of the characteristics of a Prospector.

[do download the pic and read the complete text.. apologies for the small font]
The diagram summarizes the characteristics of defenders (adapted from Miles and Snow - Organizational Strategy, Structure and Processes)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Entrepreneur's Interview - Planmyhealth

Today's interview with Entrepreneur - Plan My health

Company Name: Plan My health

Company Mission: Healthcare at your Doorstep!

About the Company:

Apartment Services - Apartments can book a day convenient for all their residents. Our paramedics will come to your place at the requested time and collect Blood & other samples and deliver back the reports. 

Corporate Services - We conduct employee wellness programs in company premises. Our range of services include Health Risk Assessment, Customized Body Checkups, Organizational Risk Profiling based on the data of body checkups, Expert doctors and dietitians consultations based on checkup results.

You can customize your diagnostic service depending on your age, living habits & diet. We partner with only leading diagnostic service providers and give you the best diagnostic services.


Abhay Paliwal

Sandeep Raj

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Characteristics of Prospector when attempting to handle adaptation cycles

In the last blog, we took a closer look at the approach taken up by Defenders to handle the adaptation cycle challenges. We shall today move to the next of the categories - Prospectors.

Continuing to understand our classification and their characteristics better we move on from Defenders to Prospectors. The prospectors in contrast to the defenders have a constant eye on new products and attempt reaching there cautiously. The following diagram is a summary of the characteristics of a Prospector.

[do download the pic and read the complete text.. apologies for the small font]

The diagram summarizes the characteristics of defenders (adapted from Miles and Snow - Organizational Strategy, Structure and Processes)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Characteristics of the Defender when handing an adaptation cycle

In the last blog we categorized organizations based on their response to the various stages of the adaption cycle. In today's blog we take a closer look at the approach taken up by Defenders to handle the adaptation cycle challenges.

We began understanding the nature of a Defender organization by the way they perceive the various phases of the adaptation cycle. Given that they perceive the situation at hand very differently, it is pretty evident that the solutions they use to handle the challenges in each phase would also vary. Given the solution also varies across the actual intent of the organization at every phase would be pegged at a different level. 

The following diagram summarizes the characteristics of defenders (adapted from Miles and Snow - Organizations Strategy, Structure and Processes)

[do download the pic and read the complete text.. apologies for the small font]
The points in here are pretty encrypted but if we think about this from the angle of how a defender would look at the problems in the phase, it would become pretty evident how this spans out.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Classifying organization based on their perspective of Adaption Phases

In the last blog, we looked at how the organization could manage the adaptation cycle by considering the leading and lagging variables of the phase at hand. In today's blog, we would do the pretty famous skill of what an analytical manager would do - categorize base on the patterns. 

Based on the organization's unique strategy to relate to its chosen market and its configuration of technology-structure-process that is consistent with the market strategy, we can classify the organization into 3 classes:
  1. Defenders
  2. Prospectors
  3. Analyzers
Instead of defining these categories, I shall use the following table to increase our understanding about these:

Since we have classified the categories for their behavior the environment, I think this would be the best way to understand the classification.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Managing the Leading and Lagging variables in an adapting cycle - Rationalize and Articulate

As mentioned in the last blog, we discuss today about "Rationalization" and "Articulation".  

An old adage in Kannada says - "You cannot get a wooden pole standing if you are in deep slush!". This reminds us constantly the importance of having a strong foundation and good bedrock to support any new initiative that one may take. The currently blog in many ways tends to communicate the same lesson to the reader.

If one sits back and looks at the possibility of having an administrative system that could smoothly manage the organization's current activities as well as allow the system to become ingradined with further innovation, it wouldnt be hard to realize that this is always a challenge. Having such an organization is definitely every manager's love. To a large extent 3M does maintain this in its culture of intrapreneurship. One could also look at what needs to be done in the current context to move ahead addressing the challenge at hand, instead of only talking about innovation.

If an organization is really serious about something like this, it needs to look at the system as having both the "lagging" and the "leading" components in the adaptation process. The organization would have to "rationalize" the lagging variable of the adaption process by developing appropriate structures and processes to materialize the strategic decisions taken up in the earlier phase of the adjustment process. As to take care of the leading variable, the administrative system must facilitate the organization's furture capacity to adapt by "articulating" and reinforcing the path along which the innovation would have to move. 

If we look at the TV case, the management revamped its approach towards planning, coordination and control processes to handle the "lagging" component, while to address the  challenge of "leading" variable the management got in a storng team for marketing and related activites.