Posts Tagged ‘Management’

Is it me or is a sign of the times, that sense making and meaning tend to appear more often in academic literature? I had immersed myself into the subject of CSR and was surprised by  Hanke & Stark (2009) “Strategy Development: Conceptual Framework on CSR”. A concept which very simply states that CSR strategy development  has two main elements: Legitimization and sense making, where sense making here again is understood as “active, ‚negotiating expectations’ in collective and interactive processes”.

A CSR framework

If we look again at the model by Lips-Wiersma and Morris (2009) it could be very easy to avoid what Calvano (2008) calls “Stakeholder Perception Gaps” usually created by stakeholder power inequality. Stakeholder dialogues logically should be part of a viable CSR strategy process. The corporation “makes sense” to its internal stakeholders such as employees and management, but also to external stakeholders, such as the community or NGOs. One could even argue that this is a process of social integration. But what stakeholders should be approached and to what extend should their concerns be incorporated into the overall business practice without endangering the economic success of the company?

The Trade and Investment Division of UNESCAP writes 2009 in their STUDIES IN TRADE AND INVESTMENT 68 to ask the following questions:

• To whom do legal obligations exist?
• Who might be positively or negatively affected by the organization s activities?
• Who has been involved when similar issues needed to be addressed?
• Who can help the organization address specific impacts?
• Who would be disadvantaged if they were excluded from the engagement?
• Who in the value chain is affected?

Mitchel et al 1997 defined attributes of key stakeholders or salient stakeholders as being powerful, legitimate and urgent. However Calvano (2008) warns that stakeholders such as communities or NGO which might not be seen as powerful in the CSR strategy conception can develop certain dynamics when their interests are being infringed.  Longo et al, 2006 propose the following grid to what values stakeholders expect from the corporation:

The grid of values

Although the above values appear to be a bit anticipated, they very much demonstrate again how stakeholders make sense of a corporations action in the light of their own expectations. Above grid also shows how norms, values and culture of an organization impact CSR strategy. Corporate culture is thus in an interrelated web with values of the stakeholders, emphasizing that CSR is an activity which builds social capital.

The values web

The Values Web (McBain 2010)

This idea of a value web also demonstrates the necessity of the CSR effort to be authentically grounded in the organizational culture and be well linked with its core competencies to allow other actors to actually allow themselves to be associated with the corporation. Any sort of CSR effort should thus start with a careful audit of the company culture.


Calvano, L. (2007) Multinational Corporations and Local Communities: A Critical Analysis
of Conflict, Journal of Business Ethics (2008) 82:793–805
Hanke, T. & Stark, W. (200) Strategy Development: Conceptual Framework on Corporate Social Responsibility; Journal of Business Ethics (2009) 85:507–516Copyright © United Nations 2009
Longo, M., M. Mura and A. Bonoli: 2005, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Performance: The Case of Italian SMEs’, Corporate Governance 5(4), 28–42.
Mitchell, R. K., B. R. Agle and D. J. Wood: 1997, ‘Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and
Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What Really Counts’, Academy of Management Review 22(4), 853–886.

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As I am really fascinated by social media and how it might change our relationships and lives, I read with great interest a study by IBM on leadership in online gaming. How do groups of people coordinate themselves to accomplish difficult, sometimes in teams about 40 strong, without having physical contact? These quests need some sort of leadership which will coordinate the actions of players, ensure the communication and define roles, sometimes encouraging taking on other roles.

The study compared these qualities to leadership in a business setting and came away basically with one main point: that building trust and facilitation of collaboration in online games is more important than in a business setting, which points the way how in the future to deal with dispersed virtual teams. However, visioning seems to be more important in a business environment, where objectives remain more abstract.

The implications from the study for the virtual teams of the future are:

Take extra steps to overcome physical isolation, help employees see where their
strengths lie, get them the right training and project opportunities and remind them of their roles and importance to the team.

Provide frequent incentives to add some tangibility for those working together virtually,
offer status among electronically connected peers, and help them link their everyday
actions to corporate goals.

Take action more quickly by leveraging  new realtime communication channels and
virtual communities to bring individuals to a central “location” and enable participants to
collaborate, evaluate and execute.

Following this stream of collective problem solving, I read a paper called   “When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives: A Field Study of Problem Solving at Work” by Andrew B. Hargadon, Beth A. Bechky.

The simplicity of the model really appealed to me. In this paper the authors look how creativity and problem solving can be enhanced in collectives.

Specifically they are interested in a

model of collective creativity that explains how the locus of creative problem solving shifts, at times, from the individual to the interactions of a collective.

The authors define four sets of interrelating activities that trigger moments of creativity:

  • Help seeking
  • Help giving
  • Reflective reframing
  • Reinforcing

Reinforcing means here signifies the organizational setting on how help seeking, help giving  and reflective reframing  is perceived and supported. In some organizations seeking help might be considered as a sign of weakness and incompetence, while help giving can be stifled by bureaucratic regulations on how engage with other departments or co-workers.

In my work as a consultant and trainer I see that help seeking is the only way to open the floor to find new approaches to a issues at work and that trust is needed to encourage employees to seek actively help from others, a process which according to the study relies more on the capacity to give help than the actual expertise. If respondents had the impression that certain organizational experts were too caught up in time constraints, they would rather turn to less experienced co-workers than the experts. Also evident from the study that although formal mechanisms, like regular brainstormings and meetings might be helpful, the preferred and more used channels are the informal ones or working through ones network. Again a point for organizational culture, which also supports “reflective reframing”, a process which includes mindful listening, building on the contributions of other and above all asking if not a better question could be asked.

The paper rounds this off by defining reinforcing as:

those activities that subtly (and sometimes not so subtly)reinforce the organizational values that support individuals  as they engage in help seeking, help giving, and reflective reframing; reinforcing happens as a direct consequence of engaging in these three activities (e.g., help giving as a response reinforces help seeking) as well as through more indirect actions within the organization (e.g., increased status or promotions for those who engage in these activities)

It would be very interesting to read more research if this model of creativity and collaboration also translates when dealing with virtual teams.


DeMarco, M. et al  (2007) “Leadership in a distributed world -Lessons from online gaming”, IBM Institute for Business Value

Hargadon, A. B. & Bechky, B. A (2006),  When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives: A Field Study of Problem Solving at Work, OrganizationScience, Vol. 17, No. 4, July–August 2006, pp. 484–500

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