Project Management

Pioneering Organizations: The Convergence of Individualism, Teamwork and Leadership

Author: Larry Davis

ISBN: 1890009857

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Bring Commitment Back to the Workplace, If You Still Care
by Joe Wynne

Oh, to work in an entrepreneurial company!  The invigorating startup mentality.  Employees working their fingers to the bone and loving it.  The excitement of the all-hands meeting where the CEO is there with all employees.  Everyone with a clear purpose and a feeling that they are a part of a single, powerful vision.  

Where does that feeling of satisfaction go?  As time goes by, the enterprise matures, and it just disappears.  One  day we look around and work is drudgery.  We are a small cog in a big wheel.  We used to present our ideas for business improvements for consideration by everyone.  Now it’s an achievement just to correct an obsolescent step in a minor procedure that the team uses periodically.  We try to limit the amount of time we work in an effort to avoid the monotony.  What happened?  When did it happen?  How can we bring the excitement back?

Larry Davis, author of Pioneering Organizations, believes he knows.  After 15 years of organizational development work, he has helped many organizations recapture this pioneering spirit.  Davis says that by establishing a pioneering vision and implementing actions that bring together the diverse interests of the individuals of the organization, any organization can return to an entrepreneurial mode, with all the energy and commitment that goes along with it.

Easier Than You Think?

Straight from the source:
Read Joe Wynne's interview with author Larry Davis.

According to Davis, moving your IS organization from its current state to a state of higher commitment may be easier than you have been led to believe.  It may not take hundreds of hours of "team training" or "interaction skills training."  It may not require organizational development specialists to do an analysis and implement an organizational change plan.  Instead, you need to remove some critical obstacles that are keeping employees from committing themselves to the projects and objectives in your organization.  Davis maintains that to effect immediate changes you must do three things:

  1. Unleash the power of individuals in the organization (rather than suppress individuals within strong teams)   
  2. Align  individualism through teamwork to produce results   
  3. Lead processes that involve employees in making organizational decisions

A key concept in Pioneering Organizations is "convergence."  To the author, it is best seen as the opposite of divergence, the splitting apart, the spreading into different directions. Convergence is the collaboration of individuals toward a particular goal.  When individual workers are able to participate in reaching a pioneering vision, they will naturally collaborate in effective teamwork toward that goal. 

The Organizational Convergence and Commitment Checklist
The centerpiece of the book, and a major reason it is almost a handbook, is the "Organizational Convergence & Commitment  Checklist."  This checklist presents questions that must be asked and answered constantly to create a high-performing culture.  The questions cover issues categorized as organizational, business, trust, individual,   teamwork and process.  Each of these categories is further divided into strategy, planning, execution and evaluation.  There is a priority to the questions.  Certain issues must be dealt with before others, of course.  This list of questions is worth much more than the price of the book. 

But Davis does not leave you with a checklist and no further guidance.  He presents a six-step strategy for establishing a committed and energized workforce.  For each step, the particular activities that are necessary for leading the effort in each step are described, but more importantly, he includes a leader's "credo," general rules and beliefs that a leader must follow to be successful.  This credo is the part of the book that you put on the wall and refer to when planning and problem-solving.  You don’t need a big predefined convergence process diagram.  In Davis' view, those details take care of themselves as the employees become more involved in determining how work gets done.

Pioneering Organizations is not perfect.  There are some weak points.   For example, many helpful lists of tips for leaders are scattered around the book, rather than combined into a single guide for easy reference later.   A welcome addition would be how to handle the initial period of  chaos, however short, that will accompany the organizational change.  The weak points are not critical to your success with the strategies proposed by the book, though.  In the main, you will likely burn out a highlighter just to capture those portions that give you a deep understanding of how an organization works and what you need to do get results.

With examples from many comapnies, an easy-to-understand philosophy and practical suggestions for implementation, Pioneering Organizations could energize CIOs and high-level leaders to finally spend as much time managing their people as they do their code. 



"If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank."

- Woody Allen