Research Findings & Design
We focused on discovering research that would help provide some of the answers to the to help answer some of the questions below.
1.) How has management within organizational communication and learning evolved?
For the last century, selected management theories and fads have been developed to help organizations compete in a contently evolving and complex world. The first recorded set of management theories were developed by Frederick W. Taylor in the early part of the century. Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911 and created the first modern management craze known as Taylorism. His theories were inspired by the rise of the industrial age within the United States and encouraged managers to think of employees as specialized and replaceable components of organizations. Benefits of Taylorism were that it functioned as a certain ruthless effectiveness within the organization, however it does not take into account that employees have feelings, which can affect their performance and can turn the workplace into a socialist hotbed (Byrne, 2005).
In the midst of this, another influential management theorist developed his own ideas about management. Drucker is regarded as the most influential and wide-ranging management thinker of the 20th century. Many executives of Fortune 500 companies use these early theories as a modern day blueprints for their corporations. These blueprints are used within human resources, to research and development, and to finance and manufacturing. Peter Drucker's theory of decentralization and simplification suggests that organizations tend to produce too many products, hire more employees than needed, and try to expand into economic sectors that they should not. Therefore, organizations should aim to decentralize and simplify the way in which the organization operates in order toachieve maximum success (Bryne, 2005).
Between the years 1927 to 1932, the National Research Council co-funded the Hawthorne Experiments, which were a series of studies to find out what motivates employees. George John Elton Mayo is known for his research with the Hawthorne Experiments and his book The Human Problems of an Industrialized Civilization (1933). These studies discovered that Taylorism is not an effective way to manage organizations because employees are not machines and are not solely motivated by wages. Rather, employees have emotional needs that must be met in order for them to successfully operate within their job functions. The studies also discovered that employees value group-decision making; which became a norm within organizations and led to the creation of the Human Relations Movement. In turn, workers were happier because their needs were being addressed and a more humane treatment of employees was established.
The next major selected management development was in 1950 by W. Edwards Deming and his concept of Total Quality Management. The basic idea of his theory was that organizations generate profit from repeat customers; therefore, every person with an organization should be focused on making the highest-quality product possible. Not meeting management-mandated sales quotas and any resemblance of management that is top-down should be abolished. The benefits of this theory were that organizations were more concerned about making or offering the best product possible, rather than relying on reaching certain measures such as meeting quotas.
Total Quality Management paved the way for the birth of the Transformational Leadership theory that was developed in 1978 by James MacGregor Burns. This theory suggests that it is the organizations’ leader that determines how a company and its employees can benefit society. Leaders of organizations are not just money hungry capitalists, but are people who can change the world. Many executives today still believe in the benefits of Transformational Leadership to help organizations achieve their full potential.
In 2001, Daniel Pink published his book Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself. In his book he discusses how over 25 million Americans are now self-employed, and less than one in ten work for a Fortune 500 company. Pink discusses the shift in attitudes and patterns of work in the economy from 1950 to the modern day. This has severely impacted how individuals manage their own organizations and what implications this has on their overall success and ability to survive in the future.
As you can see, these selected management theories have been constantly evolving to suit the needs of organizations. Based on the selected theories that have been developed, we have been able to better understand what management techniques were successful within organizations.
2.) What are the limitations of past management styles and theories? How were they overcome in current and future trends of management?
Past selected management theories were innovative and accommodating to organizations when they were developed; however, they all lack longevity and fall short as time goes on. For example, Peter Drucker’s idea that organizations should be decentralized and simplified suggests that organizations tend to produce too many goods or services, hire more employees than necessary, and expand into economic sectors that should have been avoided. These ideas were created during a time when technology did not play a role in the overall success of an organization, and globalization had not yet reached a point where boundaries were practically eliminated within the business world. Today, organizations are growing at a rapid pace, and in order to survive, organizations must be able to create a variety of good and services, have many employees able to carry out multiple job functions, and expand resourcefully into economic sectors that can generate additional profit for the organization.
The Principles of Scientific Management, otherwise known at Taylorism, was the first modern management craze. Although it provided a strong framework for labor productivity, this theory did not value employees. Everyone works differently and this theory does not take that into account. In addition, management and employees have different economic interests and are rarely identical. Taylor’s methods have been often resented and sometimes sabotaged by organizations’ workface.
The Hawthorne Experiments provided management researchers with information about how employees wanted to be treated and what motivated them in the workplace. Although this study was useful in providing researchers with information about the employee work environment, this idea can result in turning an organization into an unproductive environment that lacks structure. Management must find a fine line between developing a work environment that is suitable to the needs of their employees while still maintaining the same quality standards needed to compete in a competitive market.
W. Edwards Deming’s theory of Total Quality Management is still being used today to provide assurance and control of processes and to develop goods or services to achieve a more consistent quality. Total Quality Management breaks down barriers between departments, requires management to learn their responsibilities and take on leadership roles with diligence, and improve consistently by instituting education and self-improvement programs. Although this theory has many benefits for organizations and is still heavily used today, a drawback is that this all-or-nothing approach may require organizations to turn over operations within the organization, which can result in major shortcomings.
Transformational Leadership has several implications for managers in order to successfully apply this theory. According to Yukl (1994), managers must first develop a unique vision for the organization together with employees. Next, managers need to tie this unique vision with strategies to achieve the vision. Both managers and employees need to express confidence, decisiveness and optimism about the unique vision and its implementation within the organization. Finally, managers and employees must understand the vision through a series of small planned steps to achieve optimal performance. This grandiosity can be seen as a weakness because it requires a lot of pre-planning and time on behalf of the managers and employees, but the results that can be produced may be remarkable.
The changing definition of employment that Daniel Pink summarized in his book, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, described the economic and psychological forces that he believes have shifted within organizations, which in turn, have resulted in a growing number of self-employed Americans that began during the dotcom revolution. Pink’s theory seems to apply best to those who feel that workers are no longer needed by companies, which has been a growing trend. Due to the current economic situation, many have found themselves out of jobs and returning back to the workforce in order to survive. Organizations are a way to help people achieve long-term success, both for themselves and for the company they work for.
The management theories and trends that have emerged over the last century have predominantly helped organizations succeed. Although they also had their limitations, new theories have been developed to overcome the previous restrictions of the past. Our job now is to identify a management style that can transcend time and can continue to help organizations succeed in the next generation.
3.) How do current management styles address the field of organizational communication and learning? What is the impact of using these suggested styles?
Selected management styles still used in organizations can be broken up into four distinct types according to Robert Tannenbaum and Warren H. Schmidt (1973). These management styles include autocratic, paternalistic, democratic, and laissez-faire approaches to leadership styles within organizations.
Managers who believe in an autocratic style of organizational leadership feel that they are the ones who make all decisions and prefer to keep major decision making amongst senior executives. Autocratic leaders can be broken up into two sub units that include Directive Autocrats and Permissive Autocrats. Directive Autocrats favor unilateral decision-making and closely supervise lower level employees whereas Permissive Autocrats also favor unilateral decision-making, but they tend to spend less time supervising lower level employees when carrying out their job functions.
Both types of autocratic managers create objectives for the workforce and expect them to do exactly what they say. Communication in autocratically structured organizations is primarily downward, from the top leader down to the lower level employees. George John Elton Mayo, an organization theorist, has said that the autocratic style of organizational leadership tends to decrease employees’ motivation, which is a major flaw of this management style. Lower level employees may develop dependencies on management and need additional supervision to ensure quality and success. However, in theory, autocratic management is said to ensure consistency within organizations and produce positive long-term growth.
Paternalistic approaches to management are authoritarian in nature; however, the decisions produced are said to be in the best interest of employees rather than the organization. Paternalistic leaders explain why decisions were made to employees to ensure that their collective needs are consistently met. The benefit of this management approach is that it can aid in the development of employee motivation with organizations. Organizational structure is still top-down; however, feedback between lower level employees and senior executives are a two way street and highly advantageous in ensuring employee loyalty and lower turnover due to the emphasis placed on meeting employees needs. Disadvantages of this management style are similar to autocratic management in the sense that employees are very dependent on their leaders. However, if poor decisions are made, then employees become dissatisfied and lose credibility in their leader and their organization.
Democratic management styles encourage employees to work with management to make decisions based on a majority consensus. Communication within democratic management styles is top-down, down up, and horizontal from lower level employees to managers and vice-versa. This style of management is best used for making complex decisions that require the help of a wide array of skilled employees. In addition, this style of management is believed to improve employee satisfaction within the organization. While this is a very positive characteristic of this style of management, the decision-making process may be slowed down due to the need for a consensus that involves all members of the organization. Also, what may be the best or ideal decision may be overlooked because decisions are made as a whole and not by someone or a group of people who possess a greater responsibility within the organization.
Organizations that use a laissez-faire approach to management seem to view the roles of senior level executives as less important. Employees take charge over their job functions and in a sense, become their own managers. Communication within this style of management is horizontal and puts all members of the organization on the same level. This style of management is very effective for employees that are highly creative and work well in groups. However, a lack of supervision may result in employees lacking focus and direction in their work. These employees express feelings of dissatisfaction and can lead to an overall poor image of the organization. These varied management styles have various implications within organizations. Modern organizations do not stick to one particular style of management, but rather a combination of each. It would be unrealistic for organizations to base their management structure on one particular style because it would be very limiting. This is why there is a need for management adaptability. Successful organizations can understand which management styles will be most effective to achieve their goals and ensure their longevity in the future.
4.) What are the dynamics of a manager-employee relationship and what factors of that contribute to successful managerial goals?
Prior to the 1980s, managers have concerned themselves with productivity within our field (Van Voorhis, 1974). Our past field has dictated that managers concentrate on translating organizational practices into productivity goals (Bullis, 2005). However, productivity goals did not consider the employees that strived towards these goals nor did they regard the type of work environment that employees worked in. As the field of organizational communication progressed, managers started to understand that communication was foundational (Bullis, 2005). Thus it became important that managers relate their expectations and goals to employees, which undeniably made communication a key part of the relationship. Argenti (2004) stresses the importance of two-way communication for managers to employees and vice versa. In addition, past Public Relations and Corporate Communication scholars advocated for strong internal communication to achieve organizational adaptability to the environment and gain a strong corporate identity and favorable external reputation (Yeomans, 2008). Managers also needed to make people feel committed to the organization and connected to organizational goals by providing clear information and being able to listen to them (Argenti, 2004). As employees understand management expectations, they can better contribute to management's goals (Gilsdorf, 1998). They will also get excited about their work and be able to connect with the organization’s overall vision for the future (Argenti, 2004). In addition, managers needed to look onto themselves; managers should use their own attitudes and reflect onto their employees the commitment they have towards the organization. They should also reward their employees for demonstrating that organizational commitment (Schatz, 1988).
Argenti (2004) also stresses creating an employee care program to maintain strong manager-employee relationships throughout the organization. By creating an atmosphere of respect and cultivating two-way communication, managers can have a direct impact on the people that work for them (Argenti, 2004). In addition, it is vital to treat employees as insiders, which will build their loyalty to the organization and to the management as well. A solid organizational culture also correlates with strategically managed internal communications (Yeomans, 2008). When employees are closely tied to an organization’s informal communication network, they are likely to view the organization's climate as positive and possess allowance to take risks, gain access to information, and hope for their decisions to be accepted (Gilsdorf, 1998). Solid internal communication also can contribute to employee commitment, promote a positive sense of belonging, develop awareness of environmental change and develop employees’ understanding or the organization's need to adapt in response to environmental change (Yeomans, 2008).
5.) As new organizational forms emerge and the workplace is filled with new generations of workers, how should management practice be modified/redesigned and what would this imply for organizational communication?
In many organizations today, the veteran employees not only have the wealth of knowledge but also incoming young professionals, especially those that are well versed in new technologies and trends. Thus, a current trend known as knowledge management and transfer has emerged among management and organizations today. This ultimately means that managers have to reevaluate their outlook on training and development for the new generation of workers. By focusing on specific knowledge transfer training, new employees can gain exposure and expand their skills and expertise. Veteran employees can gain insight to current technologies and interaction with the incoming employees (Hyde, 2009).
Clever managers should implement knowledge transfer cycles that can capture the right knowledge from the right people, to be able to store it, and can be transferable through initial or ongoing learning (Rosenheck, 2009). This is especially beneficial for training purposes and achieving organizational tasks and goals. Many organizations have to either recognize and acknowledge that knowledge should be transferred or risk losing a wealth of knowledge and time when veterans leave the organization. As for the future of organizations, long-term success is linked to how knowledge is transferred within an organization, but many traditional knowledge management practices fall short in terms of capturing the right knowledge, keeping it current and translating that knowledge into proficient job performance (Rosenheck, 2009). Thus, it would be unsustainable for an organization to not consider this in their practices, whether it is their current or potential future.
6.) How do organizational and managerial goals foster a positive work environment? How do you create management directives, which encourage employee input and collaboration in developing solutions?
Learning from past history, effective communication was understood to be enhanced by the general atmosphere, which management controlled (Van Voorhis, 1974). Thus, it became pertinent for management to impact employees’ work environment as well as communicate effectively. Ways to create the positive work environment include reducing uncertainty and communicating rules on how to make decisions, which align with organizational guidelines (Gilsdorf, 1998). Employees should be incorporated in decision-making processes, which will lead to a high level of motivation and enthusiasm for their hard work (Clinton, 1998). However, it is up to the managers to facilitate this process through effective communication. Argenti (2004) stated that when there’s no upward communication from employees to managers, a feeling of isolation and ineffective communication could occur. Learning new communication rules can be challenging for new employees but also for long-time members as well (Gilsdorf, 1998). Thus, a strategy that managers can employ would be to communicate through informal discussions between employees and supervisors. “Employees should need to feel secure enough in their positions to ask questions and offer advice without fear from top management” (Argenti, 2004, p. 44). If disagreement does occur, it should be purposeful and congenial. Decision-making should occur in a democratic manner, where there is a collegiality and openness of the group to disclose their responses and to seek feedback from others without embarrassment or apologies (Clinton, 1998). In addition, managers should use "outcome focus thinking" to respond in alignment with what the manager desires as the eventual result (Warfield, 2002).
Typically, though, conflicts do arise, which is why interpersonal communication skills need to be utilized to address conflict issues. It is important to note that there is not a single rule, strategy, or guideline that can effectively foster a positive work atmosphere. "One set of rules will not fit all organizations" because it is impossible to create a strict set of guidelines which address every possible situation (Gilsdorf, 1998, p. 197). Managers also need to recognize that there are many varied and innovative answers to any given situation that they might not perceive as correct but are (Warfield, 2002). Thus, organizations should disperse a set of pervasive organizational values for employees to consider when they make decisions. This allows employees to consult different channels for information and advice, and offers flexibility and autonomy in decision-making. However, today’s leaders should not be the “decision-maker” but leaders of organizational culture, climate, identity, and processes responsible for clarifying shared vision; enriching culture; aligning vision, strategy, organizational design, and human resources; and promoting understanding of events (Doktor, Tung, & Von Glinow, 1991).
7.) How will organizations employ sustainable managerial practices that will take into account the increasing complexities of the constantly changing business environment?
According to Edward Stead (personal communication, October 25, 2009), current management theories are "quite adequate for the sustainability challenges facing business organizations now and in the foreseeable future." In many ways, the question of creating sustainable managerial practices relates to an organization's willingness and ability to adapt. To ensure survival, organizations must have tools and processes to facilitate the adaptation. Stead believes the greatest current barrier to sustainable organizations is the underlying assumptions of economics. When people work under the assumption that the economy can grow forever, resources are unlimited, and the selfish pursuit of individual wealth is the most direct route to the common good of mankind, sustainable practices cannot take root. Managers must take upon themselves the responsibility of creating "strategies, actions, and decisions to more sustainable economic assumptions" (Stead, personal communication, October 25, 2009) consumers and organizational management need to take responsibility to "change their operations and consumption patterns to include concern for nature and society" (Stead, personal communication, October 25, 2009).
In order to create management directives, which encourage employee input and collaboration in developing sustainable solutions, managers have to incorporate sustainability into corporate culture. Management directives dealing with sustainability "have little success unless they are consistent with the organization's culture" (Stead, personal communication, October 25, 2009). Sustainability needs to become ingrained in corporate culture, and must be led by upper-level management. Steps to be taken will require management to "instill sustainability-based organizational visions, establish sustainability-based value systems, install processes of continuous transformational change aimed at achieving sustainability, and develop self-renewing organizational structures capable of adapting to the rapidly evolving sustainability environment" (Stead, personal communication, October 25, 2009). This requires altering an organization's reward structure to recognize and appreciate the implementation of business practices, which take into account the "triple-bottom-line.” Making sustainable business decisions can no longer be simply a public relations ploy to improve reputation. In many respects, making sustainable business decisions will positively affect an organization's profit margin.
Businesses are operating in a constantly changing and increasingly complex business environment. Sustainability is one of the issues, which increases the complexity. Stead (personal communication, October 25, 2009) notes, "the business environment will be in a state of continuous flux caused by resource scarcity, institutional change, competitive dynamics, and changing technology.” Organizations are forced to participate in this continuous cycle of adaptation, or will quickly become obsolete. Sustainability is one of the crucial issues, which will determine whether an organization survives, or not.
8.) If we are in a supposed global market, why are management theories from other countries/cultures not being shared?
Stead (personal communication, October 25, 2009) believes sustainability is "truly a global issue. It will happen worldwide, or it won't happen at all.” Crucial to the success of business is a sharing of information, ideas and technology. One of the challenges of spreading sustainability worldwide is cultural difference. Globalization facilitates spreading both the positive and negative business practices across international audiences. Intellectual conversations are being held worldwide about the best ways to create sustainable solutions. Reward systems and discussions must be developed which encourage these conversations, and enable the solutions to be implemented. Many times, sustainable solutions are simpler than people believe. As in organizations, sustainable solutions should be developed with input from individuals at the grassroots level. Just like at the organizational level, having bureaucratic sustainability directives from government bodies does not ensure implementation and adoption. Organizations must understand the cultures they operate within, and create solutions, which involve native individuals.