Notes from Tidd and Bessant - OrganizatoinInAdultEducation

David W. Christie
A. Tidd, J. and Bessant, J. (2009). Managing Innovation: Integrating
Technological, Market and Organizational Change (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John
Wiley and Sons.
Notes from Tidd and Bessant
An innovative organization is one which is “an integrated set of components that work
together to create and reinforce the kind of environment which enables innovation to
flourish.” (101)
Organization design which enables creativity, learning and interaction. Key issue is
finding appropriate balance between ‘organic and mechanistic’ options for particular
contingencies. (100)
Core rigidities of an organization are both a strength and a weakness. Relationship to
organizational mindset. (102)
Much of innovation is about uncertainty. (102)
Successful technology management requires that the organization be prepared to take
risks and to accept failure for learning and development. (102)
My Observations – Military organizations are very protective of their people,
equipment, and budgets because of the unacceptably high cost of failure. Failure in a
military organization can result in loss of life, budget, and possibly the careers of decision
makers. Consequently, the military is a very methodical, conservative organization.
While deviations from accepted organizational practices are celebrated if the results are
successful, there is little tolerance of these practices in the face of failure. As a result,
some commanders may be willing to loosen their command and control arrangements
many are not so inclined. Even a commander’s strict adherence to established and
accepted procedures may not be enough to protect him or her from the consequences of
the inevitable investigation that follows. For example, the US Navy places complete trust
and authority in the commanding officer of a ship as a matter of long established routine
practice. This means that the commander is ultimately responsible for everything that
happens onboard the ship, both good and bad. The cost of failure such as a grounding or
collision at sea is virtually always the relief of the commanding officer and other key
decision makers onboard the ship. Examples from other services can be cited as well.
Not surprisingly, military organizations are based upon the concept of
effectiveness and redundancy rather than efficiency and innovation. Multiple levels of
decision makers each having responsibility for oversight and review of decisions at
subordinated levels have resulted in the creation of highly complex bureaucracies that
minimize the chance of failure but also potentially reduce effectiveness. Ultimately
challenges arise from such organizations that demand certainty in an uncertain and
dangerous world. Karl von Clausewitz referred to the uncertain nature of war itself as
“the fog of war” in his treatise, On War.
The military’s demand for certainty in an uncertain world creates a dilemma for
commanders and other decision makers in the organization. As time has passed, the
military has become ever larger and increasingly top-heavy, i.e. even more bureaucratic.
The addition of more layers of command and authority has made the military larger, but it
has also made it increasingly difficult to determine exactly who is responsible for a
particular decision. While this may provide decision makers greater protection from the
consequences of their decisions, i.e. accountability is reduced.
The exception to this trend of decision makers distancing themselves from the
consequences of their actions can be found in the various Special Operations
communities in the military. Specially selected, intelligent, experience, highly trained
and motivated, these unconventional forces undertake very risky and highly
consequential operations by involving fewer decision makers in their operations and
empowering their commanders and personnel to successfully complete their assigned
missions. Unlike conventional forces, Special Forces embrace ambiguity and uncertainty
to their advantage. This requires the involvement of the highest levels of military
command and control, i.e. the President and the Secretary of Defense, in virtually ever
aspect of the operation from planning to execution to mission completion. A good
example is the organization and functioning of the Joint Special Operations Task Force
(JSOTF). This is a considerable departure in virtually every way from the manner in
which conventional operations are conducted. Conventional operations are typically
planned at a lower level in the organization than the high risk – high payoff
unconventional operations.
Using Mintzberg’s structural archetypes, the US military is a machine bureaucracy but
has characteristics of a professional bureaucracy, divisionalized form, and is very mission
oriented. (108-111)
My Observations – The US military is not easily pigeon-holed into one archetype or
another but has characteristics of all of Mintzberg’s archetypes to some degree or
another. The only one that doesn’t seem to apply is the simple structure. Taken in its
entirety, the US military is not a simple organization. When viewed at a lower, small unit
level, however, it could be said that the simple structure does apply.
Leadership needs to be conceived of as something that happens across functions and
levels. New concepts and frameworks are needed in order to embrace this more inclusive
view of leadership. (103)
Tidd and Bessant on the issue of leadership vs. management and the devaluation of
management. (103)
My Observations – This is another area we need to develop. What is leadership and
what is management in the realm of military organizations? What’s the difference? Must
define leadership and management. Remember the military’s infatuation with Dr.
Demming and Total Quality Management (TQM) which was promptly recast as Total
Quality Leadership (TQL). The name change of the program itself conveys the military’s
preconceived notions of how leadership is superior to management.
Integrate three dimensions of leadership: concern for task; concern for people; and
concern for change. (103)
One of the most important roles that leaders play within organizational settings is to
create the climate for innovation. We identify the critical dimensions of the climate for
innovation, and suggest how leaders might nurture these contexts for innovation. (103)
My Observations – When addressing the issues of flattening organizations and decision
making, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we must consider risk assessment and
its relationship to uncertainty. Resistance to proposals to flattening military organizations
and decision making will invariably come down to these two factors. Tidd and Bessant
address these issues in Section 8-4, pp. 360-366. We will need to translate their points
into a military context because they are concerned strictly with commercial for-profit
businesses. Need to look more closely at problems of limited cognition and how they
impact decision making. Particularly important must be addressing perceptions of risk
and how these influence our illusions of control and predictability, the politics of risk,
and the balance of risk and stability. (Tidd and Bessant 363-366)
B. Morgan, G. (2006). Images of Organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Notes from Morgan
My Observations – Virtually this entire book has an impact on the topic of flattening of
organizations and decision making in the US military. Morgan’s use of metaphors to
gain deeper understanding of organizations is certainly applicable to the US military
organization. Most notably, organizations as machines, organizations as organisms,
organizations as brains, organizations as cultures, organizations as political systems,
organizations as psychic prisons, organizations as flux and transformation, and
organizations as instruments of domination all apply to some degree or another. A
potential concern comes from trying to address all of these within the limitations of our
chapter. Maybe we need to focus on only a few of these metaphors for the purpose of our
analysis. Given these considerations, we should probably consider the machine, cultural,
political, psychic prison, and flux and transformation metaphors as a starting point. We
can refine our approach as we get further along in our analysis. In particular, we should
investigate the trap of favored ways of thinking and autopoisis, rethinking relations with
the environment. Managing in the midst of complexity is a particularly important topic
for this study. This is an issue that the US military has been struggling with essentially
since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. Implications for organizational
structure and performance are rife. The military is not an organization that stands apart
from its environment. Rather, it is immersed in its environment much as a living
organism is. This makes the task of managing and transforming the military a much
more daunting task especially given the fact that we may not fully understand or
appreciate all of the forces working on and influencing the military. Certainly, these
factors greatly impact organizational options for the future. This is why we must address
the role of risk assessment and uncertainty in structural decisions.
Some Concluding Thoughts – While flattening organizations and decision making are
worthwhile goals, environmental factors may render such transformation ill-suited for
some organizations or even unattainable for others. For example, issues of span of
control commensurate with assigned tasks may require complex, multi-layered
bureaucracies to deal with an ever more complex operating environment. Even as
resistant as the US military is to organizational change, there are subordinate
organizations such as the Special Operations Forces previously cited that have learned to
embrace the uncertainty and thrive in an exceedingly complex and often poorly
understood environment.