April 28, 2005

Vector of Organizational Change: Values

A vector is both a force or influence and a course or direction. There are four of what Dick Buchanan calls "Vectors of Organizational Change;" four "things" that can be used separately or together to affect organizations. The fourth of these are values.

Designers can use strategic conversations to figure out what values an organization holds. Values, being deeply and collectively held, are difficult to change, and usually do so only slowly, but it can be done. This entry was from my last class at CMU. Fittingly enough, it was in Dick Buchanan's class, which was also my first class at CMU.

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April 26, 2005

Design and Organizational Decisions

For Organizational Design class, I read Herb Simon's seminal book Administrative Behavior and wrote a paper (72k pdf) on how designers can help organizations make decisions.

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April 23, 2005

Designer as Moral Agent

Notes from discussions on ethics, politics, and organizations from Dick Buchanan's organizational design class:

The first formal discussions about ethics in design were in the mid-90s, but ethics has become a matter we just can't not discuss. It's how we can distinguish between well-done design and design that shouldn't be done. It's about what can be done when we're asked to do work that is questionable. It's about consequences; if there were no consequences to what we design, there'd be no need for ethics.

In discussing ethics, we need to make the distinction between preferences and values, although this can be very difficult. Preferences reside in us. They are personal choices that range from whether one likes chocolate ice cream to whether one believes in the death penalty. Most of the things we run into in the world are preferences, and they have their roots in psychology and culture. Values reside in things in the world. Values spring from two sources: faith and reason.

This of course, brings us to the problem of pluralism. We know there is a pluralism of preferences, but is there a pluralism of values? Is there one truth with many ways of saying it?

Values and preferences gives rise to judgments, and design is about making judgments. Not judgments after the fact, but before. To be a moral agent means to make choices informed by ethics. Thus, designers should be moral agents.

There are four parts to being a moral agent as a designer:

How does one talk about or evaluate a moral act? By looking at three things: the nature of the act, the circumstances of the act, and the motives for the act. Motives can be personal or ethical.

How do designers deal with the clients they serve? Do designers adopt the client's preferences? Nazi design was both exquisite and horrible. How then do we relate to clients and the organizations that hire us when we have a responsibility to create a world that is better and does less harm? There needs to be a balance between the designer's personal ethics and the company's ethics. And if a balance cannot be struck, a designer may have to change the values of an organization.

One of the roles design can play is to draw out operating values. Designers can encourage conversations that help identify what values the group really holds. When a value is held collectively, it's no longer a preference. How do you find the common values between people? You can do what designers do: visualize them with diagrams, images, words. Seeing them makes people less cynical and can help facilitate the workings of people.

Ethics is about how we deal with emotions in the workplace: how we handle our own emotions and the emotions of other people. What emotions are appropriate, and when and why. Emotions are a central part of our work.

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April 18, 2005

Readings in Ethics, Politics, and Values in Design

For the last section of Organizational Design class we're reading chapters one and two from Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research by Caroline Whitbeck and "Design Ethics" by Dick Buchanan from the Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics.

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April 03, 2005

Vector of Organizational Change: Interactions

A vector is both a force or influence and a course or direction. There are four of what Dick Buchanan calls "Vectors of Organizational Change;" four "things" that can be used separately or together to affect organizations. The third of these are interactions.

Within organizations, people need to work together to get things done. But people have trouble working together; the Social needs to be created. Designers can create special products to do this, products that support and facilitate human interactions. By changing the way that people relate to each other, how people relate to the organization, and how the organization relates to people and other organizations, designers can change the organization.

Of course, you need something to do this--a product--but the product itself often isn't enough; it needs the art of design to bring it to life. And not just the art, but the art put to a particular purpose: to guide collective (inter)action. This requires focusing on both the tasks at hand and the goals of the organization and individuals. It is a summation and an integration of these things.

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March 30, 2005

Vector of Organizational Change: Design Attitude

A vector is both a force or influence and a course or direction. There are four of what Dick Buchanan calls "Vectors of Organizational Change;" four "things" that can be used separately or together to affect organizations. The second of these is the design attitude, a way of thinking and doing.

The Design Attitude is about the way designers think. It's about rising above analysis and "paralysis by analysis" to find solutions, not compromises. It's not about the facts, but the connections between the facts and this is where design comes in: making connections. It's about synthesis, about not being mechanistic and bloodless. It's about re-animating what has lain dormant in organizations for the last 50 years, smothered by too much analytics. And this vector is about people; it is people who possess the design attitude.

And, since this is Dick Buchanan's class, the design attitude is also about rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion through invention. It is not the decoration of messages, but the creation of arguments. The model of rhetoric (speaker/audience/speech) is also the model of design (designer/user/product). Products are arguments about how we should live our lives.

Products have three characteristics: Ethos, the voice of the product, or its desirability; Pathos, which addresses the values and expectations (physical, cognitive, and cultural) of the audience; and Logos, the technological reasoning, or how the product works. We are persuaded by all three aspects, sometimes one more than the others, sometimes all in balance. Good products and good arguments combine all three.

People in organizations should be involved in rhetoric all the time. When every person in an organization participates as a speaker or audience, creativity permeates the organization.

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Vector of Organizational Change: Products

A vector is both a force or influence and a course or direction. There are four of what Dick Buchanan calls "Vectors of Organizational Change;" four "things" that can be used separately or together to affect organizations. The first of these is products.

Products are the baseline of what a designer contributes to an organization; they create opportunities and allow change. But we're not talking products as an end to themselves; organizations use products to do things. Products in this sense are commodities, material, stuff. They aren't a final goal; they are a means to an end.

Products provide many things to organizations. They can provide physical support for work, create or augment the skills of workers, provide a new language to think and do, instigate structural changes to create new products, reduce costs, and change the company's vision and operating values. The product itself can be an expression of the company's values and vision.

The iPod is a great example of a product as a vector of organizational change.

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Design and Its Products Readings

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March 28, 2005

Design Inquiry for Organizational Change Reading

"Interaction Pathways in Organizational Life" by CMU's own Richard Buchanan.

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March 23, 2005

Management Perspective on Design Reading

"Rethinking Organizational Design" by Karl Weick.

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March 17, 2005

Tony Golsby-Smith

We had a visit from former Nierenberg Chair Tony Golsby-Smith. He's a design consultant in Australia, facilitating what he calls "strategic conversations" with "big organizations that don't usually hire design firms or even know about design." One of these is Price Waterhouse Coopers, and he brought along a client, Luke, from PWC.

Tony has these conversations so that by thinking together with him, the organization can better design their worlds. They are a way of turning on design thinking in organizations. During these sessions, they tackle big, strategic issues, examining them in a designer-ly way, not just an analytical way. This doesn't happen in most businesses.

In the past, organizations were much more focused internally, pushing products out into the market. But over the last 20 years, power has shifted to the markets, and the markets have turned organizations from inside --> out to outside --> in. Organizations now need to focus much more on the areas that design knows a lot about: products, services, and customers (users).

Luke talked about how PWC was trying to use design to create a competitive advantage by creating new products and services, forming better relationships with clients, and utilizing different capabilities from across the firm. To do this last item, PWC has created MindLab, a shared physical space that brings together their three service lines in order to better co-create solutions with clients using expertise from all three lines.

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March 15, 2005

Design Attitude Readings

"Design Matters for Management" and "Towards a Design Vocabulary for Management" by Richard Boland and Fred Callopy and "Reflections on Designing and Architectural Practice" by Frank Gehry. All in Managing as Designing.

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March 03, 2005

The Beginning of Organizational Design

In the 1970s, there began to be an understanding that the creation of organizations is really all about Design. And yet, a discipline of organizational design had never evolved with its own methods. At the same time, organizations were changing, adapting to new environment, that of the globalized world. Customers began to become the focus of organizations, as was innovation. Organizations had gotten so strong, idividuals were finding it hard to fit into them. Into this steps Jay Galbraith and begins to create a methodology of organizational design.

There are three main design problems in the design of organizations: figuring out the design of the organization; figuring out how you get there (how you make the organization); and figuring out what principle or purpose is going to tell if the organization is successful. In this, it is almost like the creation of an art: what do you do? How do you do it? And what's the purpose?

Gilbraith said that design is fundamentally about strategy and making strategic choices. An organization needs to find coherence between three big things: the purpose of the organization, the mode of the organization, and the people within an organization. This coherence needs to be maintained over time; it is the primary thing to ensure success. He then set about to create a method of doing just this.

His method is this:

There is a loose correlation between this process and what we think of as the design process. Deeply, there are the same sorts of design problems in designing organizations as there are in designing "posters and toasters."

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Organizational Culture Reform Movement Readings

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March 01, 2005

Organizational Culture

How do people come together and do things? It's too rich an area to be contained by any one idea. You need a gene pool of different ideas to explain how that happens and that's what the theory of organizational culture is. Culture is a condition, contained within people, yet bigger than than individuals. But also not in a systemic manner. It's how organizations learn new things but retain old things. It's also this concept that leads directly to designing organizations.

Edgar Schein ("Defining Organizational Culture") posits that culture is something used to give structural stability through repeating patterns that organizations have in order to achieve things over a sustained period of time. In "Culture and Organizational Learning," Scott Cook and Dvora Yanow examine how organizations, not individuals, learn. Or, in other words, how an organization constitutes and reconstitutes itself. For them, it's about the interaction of people with their things. Culture is an environment--an interactive environment. The artifacts of an organization are transmitters of meanings that are shared between people. The learning is about the making of things. Which brings us to Design.

Designers make stuff. We design the things that people live with: objects, information and how it's shared, activities, processes. The more subtle and rich we make things, the more we can affect people and thus the culture of organizations.

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February 24, 2005

Organizational Culture Readings

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Power and Games in Organizations

Power is one way of examining organizations: who has it and where does it come from and how it is used. As a designer, understanding they types of power you face in an organization is critical. You need to know how to play the power game (the rules) and who the players are (the roles). Power is a harsh reality in organizations; it's part of survival.

Power has to do with relationships between people: people have power and with it make organizations and can choose to exercise their power or not, for good or ill. Using power nakedly is probably a losing scenario; to play the power game, you need to have skill.

You can think of systems such as organizations like a game, and "players" "win" by getting more power. This is game thinking/theory, and it is a powerful tool, especially in strategy. Game theory in organizations is a tricky thing though. In the past, organizational theory used to think there was one goal to the game: to make profit. But in the last half century, this was overturned as the goals of the individuals in the organization were added in. Now we realize that people play their own games within organizations, that there are often multiple games going on where the rules aren't disclosed and you can lose without even knowing it. (Contradictions in behavior can sometimes be explained by people playing their own games.) Additionally, the formal and informal structures within organizations create different games with different rules.

Deep down, it is all about power.

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February 20, 2005

General System Theory

In the past, there was a school of management thought called Administration Science, made up Operations Research and Decision Sciences. Operations Research gave managers quantitative information about the resources (or parts) of an organization, then the managers used decision science to make decisions based on those parts/resources. ("If we have three tons of steel, we should make some cars.") System theory rose an an alternative to this.

General System Theory says that there are properties common to all systems, regardless of specifics in a particular subject matter (biology, chemistry, sociology, etc.). It is a comprehensive notion of a system ("The Meaning of General System Theory" by Ludwig von Bertallanffy). Others (such as Fremont E. Kast and James E. Rosenzweig) refute this idea, saying there are different types of systems, not one general system, that different phenomena need to be discussed in different ways.

There are two types of systems: closed and open. Closed systems will gradually decay if left alone. Open systems are affected by outside environments. It's hard to tell the boundary of a system; you need wisdom to do it, lest you exclude data based on personal preferences and prejudices. But for the purpose of analysis (and design) you have to treat open systems as closed.

It's important to remember that however broad system theory seems to be, it remains in the context of resource usage; individuals and groups (except as resources) play little part in systems thinking. It's a distinct type of thinking about organizations, rooted in materials. However, systems thinking and chaos theory are growing in importance to Design.

But although system theory has significance, Dick Buchanan says it is a stretch of imagination to see how some of it applies to the problems designers face. It takes us out of the things we experience day-to-day and gives a high-level view of the situation--sometimes too high-level. It can be too big; it's often more helpful to find and understand the pathways through the system on a human scale because you can easier design for those. Go to the human experience and let design thinking restructure the system as a whole.

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February 18, 2005

Power and Politics Readings

Two readings about power and politics in organizations: "The Power Game and Its Players" by Henry Mintzberg and "The Bases of Social Power" by John R.P. French Jr. and Bertram Raven.

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February 17, 2005

System Theory Readings

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February 16, 2005

The Structure of Organizations

The hardest thing to deal with in organizations is that other people think differently than you do and that that is ok. Different perceptions are useful. In fact, to fail to grasp The Other (in the form of the client or end user or other teammates) is a major problem of Design. Designers need to detach their egos to design well. Great designers, with maturity and discipline, have the ability to both express themselves and understand others in the things they create.

A designer needs to understand where she fits in an organization and how that organization works as a social system. Otherwise, as Dick Buchanan warned us, you can "be bitten in the ass" by organizations. Designers need to know there are informal relationships that are created and fostered by the formal structure of organizations ("The Concept of Formal Organization" by Peter Blau and W. Richard Scott). These informal organizations (personal relationships) are what make formal organizations go.

Designers need to know that there are mechanistic and organic systems, and the reality is that most organizations are a mix of the organic and the mechanistic ("Mechanistic and Organic Systems" by Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker). Designers need to find ways to accommodate different ways of thinking within the same organization.

Designers need to know the basic parts of the organization ("The Five Basic Parts of the Organization" by Henry Mintzberg) because the parts of an organization don't work in isolation, but only in relationship to each other. If you understand the structural relationships of organizations, you can use them (or else be used by them).

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February 08, 2005

Structural Analysis Readings

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Organizational Behavior Readings

Readings post-1957:

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February 07, 2005

Interpreting Systems

Organizations are a type of social form and are systems. The system/organization is composed of four things: ideas, materials, people, and the environment. These four things vary greatly depending on the interpretation of "system" that is used to view them. Dick Buchanan has come up with four "places" from which to examine systems:

You can use these four interpretations throughout to examine theories and views of organizations and their parts. How people design organizations comes out of how they think of organizations (systems). Organizations argue with each other about what an organization is.

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Neoclassical Organizational Theorists Readings

Readings from post-WWII through the 1950s.

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February 02, 2005

Pre-WWII Readings in Classical Management Theory

Readings from the beginnings of management and organizational studies.

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January 28, 2005

The General Theory of Management

Management has to do with people, and with people playing roles within the form of an organization. According to Claude George, management is the element which brings some degree of unity and cohesiveness to every human undertaking. Managers are the people who provide or create the appropriate environments (both physical and intellectual) conductive to the performance of acts by others to accomplish the undertaking. Managers have to recognize not only the goals of the organizations, but also the personal goals of the individuals in an organization.

Managers function in certain ways:

Managers create group dynamics. There are three different kinds of managers:

The activities of any business enterprise are these:

Philosophic differences about people and organizations cause profound differences in the types of organizations we have. Philosophies are present in every organization. Schools of management are really schools of thought. The organizations we create have conversations with each other and with the public.

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January 25, 2005

The Arsenal of Venice

We looked at the early Renaissance organization The Arsenal Of Venice in Design Management class. The Arsenal of Venice was an ur-factory, creating war ships along a canal in Venice. It's an example of a product organizing the organization; the design constraints shaped the Arsenal.

It's an early example of such "modern" organizational features such as division of labor, social and business contracts, and standardization of parts. It also demonstrated that the conception and planning of a product is different from the making of a product.

The Arsenal of Venice, like all organizations and like all designed products, can be broken down into four main parts: the materials, the form (or "mode"), the manner of production (the people), and the function or purpose.

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January 23, 2005

Organizations as Systems Reading

"Systematizing Power, Communications, and the Power to Communicate," "Systematizing Workers and the Workplace" and "Technology as a Social Solution: the 1920s to the 1950s" by Alan Marcus and Howard Segal from Technology in America: A Brief History

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January 19, 2005

The History of Management Reading

"The Merchants of Venice" and "Emerging Schools of Thought: A Classification of Managerial Concepts" by Claude S. George from A History of Management Thought.

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January 16, 2005

The History of Design

Dick Buchanan: There are two great currents of design thinking that come out of the ancient world:

An organization is defined as a group of people seeking a common goal through a structure of divided and coordinated activities (a form), supported by various resources (artifacts, tools, rooms, information, etc.).

From these two great currents emerged Three Great Design Practices:

Each type of practice is fragmented, but all three are starting to coalesce. In engineering, natural science (physics, math, chemistry, and recently biology) define its foundation. Management has coalesced around the social and behavioral sciences: sociology, psychology, and economic. The foundation of design proper is art and has been for centuries.

Design firms are no longer finding their work confined to producing one type of product. Recent design practice calls for people who can more and more cross over traditional design disciplines and even cross into the other two practices, engineering and management. As Clement Mok says in the "Time for Change" article, maybe we should rethink the fragmentation of design itself. Instead of defining ourselves by what we make, think instead about the problems we solve. It's not about the medium we work in.

Dick suggests we reorganize design into The Four Orders of Design:

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January 11, 2005

The Most Important Product of the 20th Century

Today was the first meeting of Dick Buchanan's Design, Management, and Organizational Change seminar. He opened the class with an unusual claim: that organizations are the most important design product of the 20th century. We may not see them or feel their presence, but organizations are everywhere and influence our lives. And they are all designed: some well, some not. The world is a web of organizations; you can't ignore them. Every product comes out of some sort of organization. And, not incidentally, they tend to crush people.

Something special is happening in the world of organizations and Design is at the center of it. Designers are being invited to design organizations themselves. If we can use design thinking and find the right ways to apply it to organizations, we can make a real difference in what they are. And they need the help: organizations are becoming less and less efficient and less and less effective. No one is sure why this is, if it is caused by the size and complexity of the world. But the stresses are becoming significant and governments especially are becoming a tangled mess.

The 20th century is filled with ways of studying organizations: philosophy, sociology, business, etc. But a design perspective on organizations is new. Design takes the tack that organizations are environments created by human beings. And wherever things are being made by people, Design is there.

The class is going to explore how design works in organizations and how organizations work in general. This is to "give some armor for going out in the world" to designers. We'll also be examining this new area of design practice that is oriented consciously and deliberately at changing organizations. The things we think of as Design within an organization are really ways that organizations have of adapting to their environment, by producing products that have to go into the world.

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