Blue field like crop rows and burgundy border, saying "Don't Just Survive - Thrive

The Portable MBA in Management

By Allan R. Cohen

“Insights from the experts at the best business schools.”

Things to remember:

  • “Empowerment” : Empowerment exists in an organization when lower level employees feel that they are expected to exercise initiative in good faith on behalf of the mission even if it goes outside the bounds of their normal responsibilities; and if their initiative should lead to a mistake – even a serious one – they trust that they will not be arbitrarily penalized for having taken that initiative.
  • The potential power of groups:
    • Quality of Group Problem Solving – more people increases the range of solutions offered to offer innovative outcomes
    • Implementation – groups provide support. Members are more likely to put in extra effort if they know they will be held accountable. This can be motivated not only by fear but by loyalty – do not let the team down.
    • Learning – individuals can increase their competence in a task with help from the group; people have to learn how to take a larger viewpoint and not be trapped in the specifics of one’s area; how to problem solve creatively with others who come with different orientations; how to be both influential and open to influence; and how to build appropriate group norms and procedures.


    • Three Core Areas for Building Effective Teams
      • Federation or Union – leaders may talk like they are a union, but the reality is, most groups are a federation. You move beyond the federation by increasing centrality or cohesiveness – the group’s vehicle as an accomplishment machine, access to key people in the organization, visibility to members, and a source of support and affiliation.
        • Groups that share information are less attractive than decision-making groups.
        • Groups that make decisions by consensus are more attractive than people providing advice to a decision maker
        • You change the group from a federation by:
          • Redefining the purpose of the group
          • Building commitment to the group’s objective, by dealing with the core issues
          • Making decisions by consensus
        • There will be difficulty when it comes to control and influence:
          • making the change requires the leader to let go of personal control: around the specific outcome and around what goes on in the group
          • Change the base of control – rather than rely on the leader to hold the reins tightly, control should rest in the purpose of the group, in the increased cohesiveness of the team, in the discipline of the problem-solving process, and in norms that legitimize mutual influence among the members
          • Resistance from group members comes from ambivalence about increased responsibility and letting peers influence their area.
      • Problem Solving Process:
        • Identifying and diagnosing the problem
        • Generating alternatives
        • Evaluating options
        • Making a decision
        • Implementing the decision
    • A Guide for Exercising Influence
      • What are my objectives?
      • Whose cooperation do I need to accomplish them?
      • Whose support to I need to get them implemented?
      • Who will be affected by my plan?
        • In terms of power and status?
        • In terms of performance evaluation and rewards?
        • In terms of how they do their work?
      • Whose resistance could prove fatal to the successful implementation of the plan?
      • Who are the friends and allies of these influential people?
      • What are the goals, stakes, assumptions, perceptions, and feelings of those influential people?
      • What are my sources of power?
      • What currencies do I have that these people might want?
      • What are the situational factors that will constrain the effectiveness of my influence strategy?
        • What are the independencies among us?
        • What is the distribution of power among us?
        • How much time is available for me to exercise influence?
        • To what extent do we share the same values?
        • How emotional is the situation around this issue?
        • What is the nature of my relationship with these people?
      • Which influence strategy is likely to be the most effective, given the situational factors?
      • When, where, an dhow should I employ my influence strategy?
    • General strategies of negotiation
      • Focus only on the specific deal
      • Get as much info from opponent as possible
      • Set opening as high, or low, as possible
      • Stick to your preplanned target and resistance points
      • Let your concessions be as few and small as possible
      • Never disclose your real target point or bottom line
      • Get them to concede as much as they will while you concede as little as you can
    • Changing an organization’s culture
      • Look at the strengths and content of a company’s culture first
        • What’s explicit, implicit, or not present?
        • What is the background of the people who shape its culture?
        • How does the organization respond to crises or other critical events, and what do they learn from these events?
        • Who in the culture is considered different, and how does the organization respond to them?
      • Change happens by focusing on the actions of the current organization members, adding people who represent the new culture, and by socializing people to new ways of behaving. People who cannot or will not adhere to new rules should be removed.
      • Culture change needs to occur only when the environment has changed so drastically that the organization must change the basic way it thinks and acts
      • Monitor identified cultural characteristics
      • Managers should learn to use existing culture to propel the organization into new ways of thinking or acting.
      • Keys to success:
        • Have a leader that values people and processes that create useful change
        • The leader must have an appropriate strategy that increases his or her credibility with employees
      • In mature organizations it’s hard to build a culture that values adaptive behavior.
        • If you build change based on the firm’s key success factors and key constituencies, change becomes possible
        • The new direction has to be continually communicated
        • Encourage employees to act  and internalize the new direction, rewarding attempts and successes. Failures are studied and discussed
      • The Ten Commandments of Managing Change
        • Successful change requires responsiveness to these questions:
          • Why do we have to change?
          • Why are these the right changes?
          • Is this company capable of handling the changes?
          • What will the company do to help one through the changes?
        • Change Commandments
          1. Analyze the organization and its need for change
          2. Create a shared vision and common direction
          3. Separate from the past
          4. Create a sense of urgency
          5. Develop a strong leader role
          6. Line up political sponsorship
          7. Craft an implementation plan
          8. Develop enabling structures and reinforcements
          9. Communicate, involve people, and be honest
          10. Monitor, refine, and institutionalize change