Change and Flexibility – My Dissertation

Change and Flexibility – Attitudes and Organisational Culture

Prepared my MBA Dissertation for HTML publication at last.
It may be ten years old, but it’s the origin of many of my current threads.
In fact this Blog carries on where Chapter 4 of the dissertation leaves business unfinished.

A flexible “learning” organisation needs a “rational” model like a hole in the head. Logical or rhetorical, how do you make a sound business argument out of that? Did someone mention Catch-22?

And yes – checked out the bibliography and sure enough Tom Peters did indeed reference both Robert Pirsig and Chris Argyris, though Charles Handy didn’t from what I can tell, but Peters and Handy also cross cite each other several times. I’m sure ZMM was a significant influence behind much of the “upside-down thinking” management wave of the 80’s and 90’s. Total Quality Management which grew in many guises in the same period, echoes much of the same “logic”, in fact Pirsig’s use of “Quality” as the vehicle for his metaphorical journey is probably responsible for ZMM being regularly classified as a Quality Management text too.

Strangely convincing too, despite Peters getting into hyperbole and doubtful (rhetorical) evidence of succes factors in much of his stuff, the introductory chapters of Peters and Waterman’s “In Search of Excellence” actually describes 90% of the issues in this Blog.

In my post below about Pirsig’s book I indicated the need to take stock.
Scroll down to see the resultant edit I’ve made to the first ever entry in this Blog.

[Pirsig’s ZMM was in fact on a recommended reading list on my MBA course at Imperial College back in 1988, though to my eternal shame, I never read it then. Since this point in Psybertron’s history, I have had a parallel “Pirsig Project” with links in the side-bar, and frequently cross-linked in the blog itself.]

5 thoughts on “Change and Flexibility – My Dissertation”

  1. I can’t say I have read the entire blog but I think of the general issues as either the science of or the art of management.

    The two approaches have synonimous goals but whether you ‘bean count’ or have a vision is rarely the key factor in success.

    It is more important I would pressume in change management to achieve buy in.
    EG Niccolo Machiavelli’s quote

    “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”

    I am also writing an MBA dissertation, I suspect the more analytical you can be the better the grade hence “More Bloody Analytical”..



  2. Hi Nick,

    Thanks for the comment. Your last comment confirms the Catch-22.

    I think the real problem is the “either / or” aspect of making the art / science distinction. Artistic, scientific or Machiavellian, quality is best.

    The main issue for me in a practical organisation / management sense is the intangibility of the non-objective qualities, which tend to exclude them from formal justification processes. (An individual with authority to act can choose their own methods, but a group finds that culturally constrained.)

  3. Before you begin to think about possible topics for Dissertation investigation, make sure you are clear in your own mind about what a Dissertation is. You will be familiar with the principles of essay writing, the most common form of academic writing, but it is worth reviewing briefly what an essay is really designed to do, and looking at how a dissertation may echo but also differ from a standard Essay

    Different subject disciplines may emphasise different features, but, broadly speaking, an essay is a continuous piece of writing, arranged in clearly demarcated paragraphs, in which an argument (a clear line of thought) is developed, in response to a central question or proposition (thesis). The line of argument is supported by evidence you have acquired through research, which you are required to analyse, and which supports or contradicts the various perspectives explored in the course of that argument. The essay then reaches a conclusion in the final section, which pulls together the threads of your argument, supporting, qualifying or rejecting the original Dissertation.

    It is worth bearing in mind that an academic essay is not a piece of writing designed to reproduce information available elsewhere, but something new and expressive of your individual abilities to analyse and synthesise.

    In addition, the process of academic writing will, of itself, help you to learn, by enabling you to work with concepts and information relevant to your subject, and thereby developing your intellectual skills.

  4. Not quite sure of your intent Steve, but the dissertation mentioned was already done in 1988/91 and this post was me sharing an HTML copy of it a decade later.

    (And, incidentally it was the highest-graded dissertation at Imperial Management School that year. My tutor was Sandra Dawson, subsequently Dame (DBE), Dean of Judge Business School and Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University.)

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