Argyris & Schön

26 April 2004

I think this will be a long entry. I feel like there is a lot to write about. But perhaps, I’ll try and keep it brief.

The ideas of Argyris and Schön are central to MGMT 301–it is, after all, called management theory and practice. Of the three recommend readings, one imparts the language of theory-of-use (T-of-U), theory-in-action (T-in-A), etc., whilst the others show how much work/practice/skill it takes to ‘get it right’. For that reason, the two articles can seem like hard going, and not offering much to the reader. But, that’s the point, they aren’t about content – they’re about how to think and apply this ideas.

We could, and perhaps should, spend the whole of the rest of the course just looking at things in terms of T-of-U, T-in-A, governing variables, action strategies, consequences, single loop learning, double loop learning, the characteristics of Model I and Model II.

There probably isn’t time to get into organisational learning. Can we spot the Model I and Model I behaviours from today–and I’m using these illustratively–not because I’m fixated on them?

The BHAGs can be seen as an action strategy. Alas, the consequence (results) haven’t been what the proposers wanted (the class didn’t buy into them). What might be the unintended consequences of the BHA (Kim pointed that out quiet eloquently, as did Jeff)? So, will those affect re jig their action strategies (tweak the action strategies), or will they go back and look at the governing variables. Will they consider DPE’s governing variables?

Taking Brendan’s comment about valid (and full information), and in some ways Howie’s too, was the class actually being set up to operate under Model I conditions. Was I trying to structure things to win, not lose? How much was I con straining choice and being defensive?

How much (and how usefully) was I emphasising the ‘rational position’?

I think after a moments reflection most people, including me, would agree that I was very Model I.

And how was that different when the CEOs met together? (Sharing control?) How much of attribution making went on, how much public testing of evaluations went on.

Returning to Brendan’s comment about available information. I wonder what full and valid information would like? Would it include:

  • Who was involved?
  • What was their circumstances? (How critical is this paper to there situation?)
  • Precise details of how much was copied? (We don’t have that information, we only have what was noticed.)
  • What they’ve done to ensure they understand referencing?
  • How much work would be really involved in the BHAG? (To echo Gilbert & Sullivan, does “the punishment fit the crime”?)
  • What feedback and information have they received before about referencing

At first it seems like a lot (and I’m sure the list is still incomplete), and it is – it does require a lot of commitment (Model I) to do – then again, I’ve never thought that management is easy (despite rumours circulating that it is just ‘common sense’).

Thinking about Mike’s Bikes, I wonder what peoples individual governing variables and action strategies are. From memory, the typical governing variable are those given by Argyris & Schön.

To end I’d like to ask a question. Earlier today, I had a meeting with some colleagues in another department in Business & Economics. As always, we enquired about each others courses. At the start of their course they talked about the need to reference, cite, and quote correctly; and where met with yawns, and “Yes, we’ve heard all this before”. And now, they’ve handed back the first assignment in their course, and the incidence of problems is higher than in our course:

So, I’m curious to know, what would have to be different for us never to need to address this problem again. That is to say what could we (that means the class too) do differently that no one would fail to correctly reference, cite, and quote?