11 Chapters
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Chapter 9: Implications for Organization Design

Baker, Mila N. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I once worked in a large hospital system in the southeastern part of the United States when it was forced to respond to the threat of managed healthcare—a phenomenon that swept healthcare in the United States during the 1990s. The hospital system’s response was to merge with a rival hospital in another part of the city. The merger, billed as “a merger of equals,” was an extremely difficult undertaking, and the two institutions eventually de-merged. One remarkable lesson I learned from the experience can be found in the “story of the turkeys.”

In the midst of the largest of cost-cutting initiatives, a decision was made to eliminate the traditional distribution of holiday turkeys to every employee. Because the merger would double the size of the newly formed health system, the cost of the turkeys would double, and because the other hospital had no comparable practice, it was deemed an unnecessary expense that could be eliminated. A few dissenting voices from the senior leadership team protested; however, finances were the most important criterion used to determine what stayed and what was eliminated.

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Chapter 1: The Language of Leadership

Baker, Mila N. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The current definitions and historical models of leadership are rooted in the relationship between two entities—leader and follower. Terms such as “leader-member,” “in-group and out-group,” “power over,” talent and workforce, and “power through” highlight the traditional models, while terms such as “empowerment,” “subordinates,” and “followers” conjure up images of servitude and second-class citizenship. All of them differentiate each entity in terms of status and imply a certain level of inequality. There is no job description for or position called “Follower Specialist.” The role of follower is more often than not viewed in negative terms while the role of leader represents a virtuous mantle of aspiration. Leadership was, and largely still is, reserved for a very few while the very many follow. The language of leadership reflects and supports this division between leader and follower, and neither the definition nor the language of leadership is sufficient for the world today.

After the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States and the post-World War II era when people returned to work, loyal followership often guaranteed lifelong employment and ensured that one could care for and feed one’s family (and, upon retirement, get a watch as a token of appreciation). Employers could almost guarantee that subordinates would do whatever was necessary to earn their pay and small rewards. The negative connotation of the word “follower” was far less painful to swallow than the inability to care for oneself or one’s family. Even as the informal and unwritten employment contracts began to erode and change in the latter part of the twentieth century, only to be rendered completely obsolete in the twenty-first century, there were many instances where employees felt compelled to follow blindly—even in situations of blatant abuse and illegal behavior. The economic conditions of the time helped support the divide and distinctions between leaders and followers. The landscape has changed quite a bit since the 1930s, but the language we use remains a remnant of a bygone past. Our responses to and the visceral images created by that language linger. Instead of reinforcing age-old divisions, we need a mindset and language of leadership that maintains equilibrium between leading and following—a conception of leadership that is agile and stateless in its composition. Like the U.S. constitution guides and influences the nation’s trajectory without stifling the rights and freedoms of its populace, organizations’ designs need to facilitate leading and following on an equal platform. Neither leaders nor followers can achieve success without the other, and both can render an organization non-competitive or cause it to underachieve its mission.

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Chapter 2: Node Community

Baker, Mila N. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Big-screen televisions lined the bar at the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley overlooking the Hudson River in New York City. Comfortable chairs, couches, and cocktail tables invited non-bowling enthusiasts to enjoy their tête-à-tête without missing anything on the big screen. My family and several friends ordered our first round of drinks in anticipation of the first 2012 presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts. As we settled in, commentator Jim Lehrer began his introduction to the media-hyped debate.

The debate started slowly, continuing at an uneventful pace and maintaining a blasé tone until Mr. Romney repeated a comment he had previously made about wanting to cut funding to the U.S. Public Broadcasting System (PBS). But this time, he added a new twist; if elected president, he would eliminate funding to the PBS and fire Big Bird!

Fire Big Bird? The kind, likeable, compassionate, and bigger-than-life yellow bird with the orange beak? The bird that has been an iconic American symbol for at least three generations—both in the United States and throughout the world?4

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Contents

Baker, Mila N. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781609947477

Chapter 6: The Flow of Information

Baker, Mila N. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The World Bank headquartered in Washington, DC is one of the world’s largest funding and knowledge sources for governments and for countries that are members of the World Bank. It is also one of the most informationrich organizations in the world. Before its inception in 1944, development data had been primarily accessible only to paid subscribers and those directly connected with development projects around the world. That changed when the World Bank opened up its data for public consumption. The April 2010 announcement was welcomed around the world, especially in developing countries. Why was that?

The introduction of the Open Data Catalog portal, www.data.worldbank.org, now gives policymakers and other organizations access to more than two thousand financial, business, health, economic, and human development statistics. Data is now available in a readable, user-friendly format. It includes international statistics, with data on topics from agriculture and rural development to social and urban development.

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