The next step is to develop an approach and plan for using MBTI and/or Constantine’s tool sets and methods. In this post we will begin by examining Constantine’s Organizational Paradigm Model.  In the next post in our series, we will discuss ways of using Myers-Briggs.

Assertions:

As I noted in the previous two posts, both tool sets are not overly complicated, but you do still need to be prudent when employing them within your groups and organizations. Here are a few points to keep in mind (Note: These points apply equally to any Management, Organization, or Psychological tool kit or methodology.):

  • Management, Organization, and/or Psychological tools can be revealing and helpful when used knowledgeably. However, they can be very counter-productive if used improperly.  Think of them as automobiles.  Automobiles can get you to your destination promptly if used with care; if not, they can be the source of great injury.  There is a wonderful admonition from Grady Booch that sums this all up, remember: “A fool with a tool is still a fool.”
  • All management tools come with attendant risks and rewards. You need to use any management tool so as to maximize reward while minimizing risk.
  • Management tools do not offer a guarantee of success; they are designed to provide insight and data upon which you may act. Act with care!

Discussion:

To begin our discussion, let’s explore the various dimensions of Constantine’s Organizational paradigm more closely.

First off by way of full disclosure, I need to mention that Constantine’s model was originally described for software organizations. Additionally, I should note that I have found his model to be equally valid across all industries within which I have worked. So although I do not have empirical proof that this paradigm suits all business types, my anecdotal experience is that it does.

Next, let’s view Constantine’s model graphically; we’ll follow the graphic with a brief interpretation and expansion.

 

constantine-image1

Random:

On the upper left of this model is the random paradigm.  The random paradigm is the opposite or antithesis of the closed paradigm. Random groups and organizations tend to heavily emphasize innovation and invention through the creative autonomy of individual team members. Random groups exhibit loose team structures which encourage and that rely upon the initiative of individual team members. Random groups excel when innovation or technological break-through is required/ desired; their structure and approach tends to encourage, promote, and enhance innovation/ invention. Examples of Random organizations and teams are often seen in the realm of Research and Development, new product creation, and in emerging technologies. Random organizations are often created as sub-groups within major Closed organizations and are located in areas removed from the Closed parent organization.

  • Strengths
    • Creativity is valued and promoted
    • Independence is essential to its operation
    • Free expression and individual freedom are encouraged
    • Thrives on, adapts to change very well
  • Weaknesses
    • Requires strong leader (cult of personality); often flounders when leadership departs or changes
    • Doesn’t value tradition and unity
    • Weak follow-through, activities may be started and then forgotten
    • Less able to sustain change especially over long periods of time
    • Difficulty in meeting deadlines

Synchronous:

On the bottom left of this model is the synchronous paradigm. The synchronous paradigm is the opposite or antithesis of the open paradigm.  The synchronous or harmonious model is grounded in harmonious and effortless coordination through the intellectual alignment of its members serving the common vision reflective of the group. A shared vision or common purpose is central to the organization or group.  Synchronous groups rely on the natural compartmentalization of problems and organize team members to work on pieces of the problem. These groups often function with little active communication among themselves; there is little need for negotiation or communication. The following types of organizations and groups are often synchronous in nature, charities, religious orders, health, rehabilitation.

  • Strengths
    • Harmony and unity
    • Common goals
    • Unified vision
  • Weaknesses
    • Little authentic negotiation or discussion
    • Doesn’t respond well to change which threatens harmony or vision

Open:

The open paradigm (upper right corner) is a synthesis of the closed and random paradigms; this synthesis achieves some of the controls associated with the closed paradigm but also much of the innovation that occurs when using the random paradigm. Open organizations are based on adaptive collaboration while maintaining stability.  Work is performed collaboratively with heavy communication and consensus-based decision making being the trademarks of open paradigm teams. Individuals with collective ideas and interests work together through negotiation and discussion; in extreme cases, it may be the kind of group where a 17 to 1 vote is viewed as being a “tie”. These groups are well suited to solving complex problems but may not operate very efficiently or quickly.  Established high technology organizations often represent this paradigm; the groups may be small to very large in size.

  • Strengths:
    • Adaptable
    • Flexible
    • Changes open to negotiation
  • Weaknesses:
    • Little organizational structure or hierarchy
    • Lack of leadership
    • Personnel need to be involved in planning changes or they may undermine directives from above

Closed:

The lower right corner represents what many would consider the most traditional structural paradigm or hierarchy; Constantine refers to this as the closed paradigm. Within this paradigm, continuity of a project is maintained through established standards and rules of operation. This style organization structures itself along traditional lines of control or authority; it is hierarchical in nature. Control and stability are maintained by controlling for deviations from established norms and patterns; in other words, there tend to be numerous rules, procedures, policies, and regulations. According to Larry Constantine, the purest example of a closed paradigm is that of the military services, however, we also see this organizational structure frequently within large manufacturing and financial institutions, as well as governmental and regulatory organizations. Closed organizations tend to excel at producing repeatable, stable results.  They are only very rarely innovative or inventive.

  • Strengths
    • Traditional hierarchy
    • Stable
    • Clear lines of authority
    • Responds to incremental change
  • Weaknesses
    • Change and innovation not valued
    • Requires strong leadership to change
    • Diversity may not be valued
    • Individuality is often thought of as disloyal

Establishing the paradigm fit:

Quite simply, the easiest way to determine what type of group or organization you are working with is to talk, walk around, and observe. More often than not, when presented with the information contained in the paragraphs above, people within the group itself will inform you of their ‘typical’ operating mode.

Once you understand the paradigm within which the group most often “fits”, you can modify management plans to take advantage of their organizational paradigm strengths, weaknesses and objectives.

An example:

Let’s review an overly simple and quick example. For the sake of our example, we’ll look at one dimension of a project, it’s management. Our example project is a very large and complex project. What specific “plans” might we need to make in order to implement a very large complex project within each organizational paradigm?

Random:

To begin with, we will need to identify a strong leader, one capable of motivating and inspiring the team. Because this type of organization typically has difficulty in meeting deadlines and maintaining focus over long periods of time, we will need to construct a method by which these problems are overcome. We will need to make certain our employees are inspired and motivated by the project and its ultimate success.

Synchronous:

Due to this group’s need to operate from a shared vision and common set of values, we ought to ensure our project is aligned closely with our overall organizational purpose and mission.  We probably will want to work with our customer to make certain that they share and respect our values.  We need to make certain that the project does not violate any of our organizational principles.  We will, also, need to find the “natural leader” for this type of project from within our group.

Open:

In order to maximize our chances of success, we will need to find a creative method to maintain control and manage the program. A consensus based leadership model will need to be employed from the outset to guarantee organization and group buy-in to the project, its deliverables, and schedule. Ownership for the outcome of the effort will need to be shared with involved participants in order to ensure schedules and tasks are completed on time, etc.

Closed:

With any luck, our large project is “very much” like one we did before.  If not, we will need to find examples of earlier work that look “a lot like” the new work.  We will need a strong leader to communicate the similarities to our team. We will need this leader to organize and marshal resources (staff, procedures, etc.) for success; this will almost certainly include detailed control and measurement plans.  Lastly, we will need a detailed work-plan and schedule.

Summary:

Obviously the above analysis is both very quick and shallow.  In the real world there are many additional items and factors to include and consider. It is my hope, however, that this brief discussion presents a small example of how Constantine’s model could be used by groups to improve their planning and risk avoidance.

In my next posting, we will “briefly” examine the application of Myers-Briggs types for organizations, groups, and individuals.

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau is a Management Mentor/ Coach with over 40 years of Engineering and Management Experience. He is a CMMI Institute SCAMPI High Maturity Lead Appraiser and Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is also licensed to teach both the CMMI-DEV and SVC constellations' courses. You may contact Mark directly by using the PEP contact page.