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This issue of Army Logistician marks the debut of Spectrum a new department devoted to carefully researched and referenced articles that are intended to be thought provoking and intellectually challenging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
A Values-Based Critique of Lean and Six Sigma as a Management Ideology

These observations are drawn from articles that appeared in the November-December 2006 issue of Army Logistician. That issue focused on the success stories of Lean and Six Sigma (LSS) methods employed by managers at Army Materiel Command (AMC) depots. (LSS is a combination of “Lean” and “Six Sigma” methodologies, which are explained separately in Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, and Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World's Top Corporations, by Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder.) Today, the Army logistics community and other public organizations are taking cues from businesses that have incorporated
performance-based methods with reported success (such as those recounted in Army Logistician). In the spirit of professional inquiry, these efforts should be subjected to critical examination to illustrate the potential dangers of overvaluing the LSS-style techniques.

It is vital to the profession of military logistics that we maintain the ideal of unobstructed freedom to dialog. We must be able to provide important support or counterpoints to articles and commentary published in Army Logistician or similar venues both inside and outside the Department of Defense. Enlightened members and stewards of the profession of military logistics should appreciate the need for a vigorous exchange of ideas. Although criticisms may or may not be well received by senior leaders who have committed significant resources to implement certain techniques (such as LSS), the criticisms should at least be accepted as fundamental to the viability of the profession.

The purpose of this essay is to open a critical discussion about the nature of popular performance-based management initiatives—particularly LSS—and those oriented on the “reinventing government” movement for more than a decade (GPRA, 1993; Gore, 1993). I offer a values-based critique of LSS, supported with published research available in organizational and management studies (OMS) from a respectable body of literature. (A version of this article with complete bibliography and citations is available as an HTML document on the Army Logistician website.)

LSS: Blending Internal Process and Rational Goal Values

My fundamental argument in this essay is that those organizations that adopt an LSS-style management philosophy tend to demonstrate a dominant cultural “ideology” that is based on the command and control values of the internal process and rational goal models of management (Cameron and Quinn, 1999).1 (See the chart below.)

The focus of the internal process model of management is on organizational values that emphasize the internal workings of the organization. The thrust of the model is to identify and eliminate process instability and wasteful practices through control measures. One of the early pioneers of the internal process model was Frederick Taylor, hence this model has often been linked to the ideology of “Taylorism”(e.g., Perrow, 1986; discussed in Mintzberg, 1989b; Quinn, Faerman, Thompson, and McGrath, 1996; Hatch, 1997; and epically told by Merkle, 1980) and associated with the machine metaphor of organization (Mintzberg, 1989a; Morgan, 1997). The basic assumption is that quality can be defined and technically engineered into processes and procedures to the point that human and machine error can be minimized and production accuracy and speed can be maximized.2

The rational goal model of management stresses organizational values associated with reading the environment, understanding the desires of key stakeholders outside the formal boundaries of the organization, integrating goals, acknowledging interdependencies, and then planning well-controlled ways to achieve the goals. The prevailing metaphor of organization under this model, on which “agency theory” is based, is that of “organization as domination” (Morgan, 1997). The underlying transactional assumption of this model is that machines and people (“agents”) can be systematically sanctioned to achieve top-down objectives that top management (“principals”) believes will satisfy the “market,” clients, or other external constituencies (Perrow, 1986).3

LSS-style management reflects these two models that together closely align with the fields of operations research and systems analysis (ORSA) and strategic management (Paparone and Crupi, 2006). Both work hand in hand in organizations that have top management that, above all, values control and stability. In these models, processes are directed by upper management and then implemented and controlled through hierarchical authority, sanctions, rules, policies, and similar accountability structures (Quinn and Rohrbaugh, 1981). Popular past examples of similar performance-based management practices that also fall between these models are Just-in-Time Inventory (Ford, 1922; Shingo, 1989/1981), Management by Objectives (Drucker, 1954; Odiorne, 1965), Statistical Control/Total Quality Management (Deming, 1950, 1982), Business Process Reengineering (Hammer and Champy, 1993), and Balanced Scorecard (Kaplan and Norton, 1996).

Like its predecessors, LSS aims to identify and remove inefficient or nonproductive steps in order to increase speed (hence the metaphor “lean”) and to control process variation by capturing measurements and analyzing them based on plus or minus three standard deviations in the normal curve (hence the statistical term, “six sigma”). LSS implementation calls for developing a hierarchy of skilled personnel (from the lowest “member” category to the highest “champions” category) that more or less mimics the traditional organizational power structure (Ho and Chuang, 2006). The belief is that continuous feedback of internally and externally oriented performance metrics will identify when improvements or wholesale process changes are working well and when they are not. The primary motivators behind the LSS mode of management are economical ones: cost savings and the approval of those who “buy” the methods and results (Spector, 2006).4

Dominant Psychological and Cultural Value Preferences of the U.S. Army

Organizational cultures that are attracted to the Tayloristic (scientific management) qualities of LSS-type systems may be blinded to other important interpretations of effectiveness and criteria for decisionmaking (Quinn and Rohrbaugh, 1981; Mitroff and Mason, 1982; Burrell and Morgan, 1989; Paparone and Crupi, 2006). An abundance of literature warns those who have psychological and cultural penchants for the arguably false sense of certainty and machine-like perfection that LSS and other internal process- and rational goal-based methods advertise (e.g., Marion, 1999; Wheatley, 1999; Clampitt and DeKoch, 2001).

Before summarizing the main findings of that body of literature, I want to discuss the underlying, and perhaps hidden, values that may make LSS a seductive management practice for senior Army leaders, both psychologically and culturally. While I will report some selective data, I make no claim that interpretation of the data can be applied to the Army as a whole. However, the implications of the data do suggest that more study may be fruitful, and it is worth speculating here on the importance of the data if they are indeed reflective of the larger body of Army managers.

David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, in Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, describe four temperaments associated with Jungian psychological archetypes and how management style preferences are linked to them. I distilled short descriptions of temperaments from their lengthy discussion (the short names are Greek gods who epitomized these temperaments)—

Apollonian/NF (intuitive-feeling). Emphasizes self-actualization; life is a search for deeper meaning and a higher sense of mission; values religiosity and becoming the person to the maximum potential to become; there should be no pretenses—the true self should be revealed; values ethical reasoning.

Dionysian/SP (sensing-perceiving). Quests for artistic freedom; values independence; characterized by impulsiveness and tentativeness; hungers for action as its own end without the necessity of rules.

Promethean/NT (intuitive-thinking). Focuses on competence and acquisition of intelligence; values skill and ingenuity, logic, and by-the-book operations; searches for prediction.

Epimethean/SJ (sensing-judging). Yearns to belong; values economical reasoning, preparation, strong sense of duty and tradition, stability, seriousness; desires clear hierarchy and formal structure. (pp. 27-66)

Based on several years of aggregated results of hundreds of Army War College students who took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instrument, approximately 86 percent are consistently (year after year) characterized as having the SJ (55 percent) or NT (31 percent) temperaments. These findings are similar to percentages found in 1987 to 1989 and in 1993 Army pre-command courses for 755 and 380 lieutenant colonels (88 and 86 percent SJ or NT, respectively). These data suggest a dominant psychological temperament (SJ-NT) among Army personnel biased toward prediction and the very structured approaches to management that characterize LSS-type practices.

Some group data also are available that indicate a cultural propensity for the values associated with both the internal process and rational goal models. In a recent culture study conducted at the Army War College, 533 Army students (mostly lieutenant colonels) were asked to weight if they considered Army organizational values to fall more along the internal process and rational goal models or toward alternative values associated with the human relations and open systems models. (The latter models are more oriented on flexibility and acceptance of conflict and variability. See the chart below for definitions of these models.) The students were given 100 points to allocate among the four value groupings in the 24-item, valid and reliable Organization Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) (Cameron and Quinn, 1999). The average response indicated approximately 65 of a possible 100 points were allocated to the internal process (27 percent) and rational goal (38 percent) models. The results for weighting human relations and open systems values were 21 percent and 12 percent, respectively (Pierce, 2004). These data indicate that the respondents perceived the Army’s dominant values as being associated with those of the LSS or similar performance-based management techniques.

Considering these MBTI and OCAI data together, I postulate that there could be at least moderate psychological and organizational biases in the Army’s senior leaders and a bent toward management values and practices epitomized by LSS and the like. More study is required to determine if this proposition can be supported more objectively.

Literature Review of LSS-Style Performance-Based Management Techniques

A host of publications favor the implementation of LSS, including many trade magazines and professional journals associated with management by statistical controls. (See the chart at the top of the page.) Although some articles in these publications do critique LSS and similar management-detailed practices, the focus of the criticisms tends to be on implementation issues and on choosing the right factors and metrics to integrate and perfect the manager’s surveillance of effectiveness (e.g., Anderson and McAdam, 2004; Mariotti, 2005; Huntington and Trusko, 2005; Cheng and Shiu, 2006; Spector and West, 2006; Sutton, 2006). For example, Robert Spector and Mary West, in their 2006 survey of the literature, revealed studies that reported that 43 percent of the companies who adopted performance-based techniques failed to achieve the objectives from 2002 to 2005 and that, even if successful, took too long to implement those techniques. As with the Spector and West study, I found no calls in these sources for a rejection or wholesale criticism of the practice of performance-based management. One explanation for the lack of any critical examination of the assumptions and underlying values of performance-based management techniques in the publications listed in the chart may be that the many authors were commenting as members within a single paradigm.5

In the following paragraphs, I examine LSS-like techniques through alternative epistemological and ontological perspectives (Quinn and Rohrbaugh, 1981; Mitroff and Mason, 1982; Schön, 1983; Burrell and Morgan, 1989; Lewis and Grimes, 1999). In other words, to counter the “discursive formation” contained in these publications, I pose reflective questions at the beginning of each paragraph that imply alternative philosophies that are available by employing OMS publications that have different perspectives (Sewell and Barker, 2006).6

LSS: A competency trap? Excessive controls on the use of known “technology”7 can stifle experimentation and innovation and inhibit learning essential in the production of diverging or exploratory ideas (Argyris and Schön, 1978; Senge, 1990). When you are evaluating practices from within the confines of a single paradigm (in this case, the paradigm of “technical rationality”8 I associate with the values of the internal process and rational goal models), the danger is to be caught unknowingly in a “competency trap.” Such a mental trap “reflects the ways in which improving capabilities with one rule, technology, strategy, or practice interferes with changing that rule, technology, strategy or practice to another that is potentially superior,” according to James G. March in A Primer on Decision Making: How Decisions Happen (March, 1997, pp. 96-97). The concept of competency traps is conceptually related to the idea of “groupthink.” As defined by Chamu Sundaramurthy and Marianne Lewis in their article “Control and Collaboration: Paradoxes of Governance,” in the Academy of Management Review, groupthink is “a pattern of collective defenses aimed at denying or suppressing tensions” and is associated with a shared comfortable feeling about known technology (Sundaramurthy and Lewis, 2003, p. 400).

LSS: Antithetical to the learning organization? In other words, the perception of ongoing success interferes with what scholars of organizational learning have termed “double-loop learning” (the ability to suspend deeply held values, no matter how successfully they have appeared to have guided effectiveness, in order to consider alternative values) (Argyris, 1985). If managers are blinded by infatuation with the seemingly scientific nature of LSS (the explanatory power of factor analysis and the proposition that we can isolate and manipulate independent variables) and related statistical control measures, organizational learning may be disabled. Whereas the learning organization employs metaphors associated with moral reasoning, exploration, question, and adaptation, LSS employs machine-like, amoral metaphors such as levers, controls, and engineering. Gareth Morgan, in Images of Organization, insists that “. . . mechanistic approaches to organization work well only under conditions where machines work well . . .” (1997, p. 27) In contrast, the open systems model of management espouses values that include the uniqueness of each situation. Organizations and their environments are too complex for prescriptive approaches (such as LSS) to be effective across all structures and missions (Thompson, 1967; Perrow, 1986).9

LSS: A maladaptive tool for impression management? In his article, “Goal-Based Learning and the Future of Performance Management,” in Public Administration Review, Donald P. Moynihan found that Government agencies tended to use “managing for results” as a “tool to argue for increased resources, not as a tool to change management practices” (Moynihan, 2005, p. 213). His study concluded that some organizations and managers tended to complete their reporting requirements and then not be bothered by them until the next reporting cycle. The performance-measuring process became more of a “rationalizing myth” for impression management, with a purpose of arguing for resources rather than a cause-and-effect tool for increasing efficiency and effectiveness (Perrow, 1986, p. 266). The process of setting reporting requirements also can interfere with organizational learning (a key value associated with the open systems model) when the control structure is emphasized over flexibility to adapt and learn in ever-changing contexts (Mintzberg, 1989a, 1989b).

LSS: A “psychic prison” for innovation? P.W. Ingraham, in his article “Performance: Promises to Keep and Miles to Go,” in Public Administration Review, commented that the idea of becoming lean in terms of efficient performance can interfere with the ability to adapt later. In the face of uncertainty and environmental complexity, Ingraham endorses the idea that capacity may have to be valued more by management as a predecessor to performance. Management emphases on workforce recruitment and development, oriented on creativity, commitment, and talent (which are human relations model values), make valuing performance metrics appear at best as mediocre practice. On the other hand, investing in the workforce could develop the capacity to be breathtakingly outstanding and lead to performance well beyond management expectations. Managers can set conditions for performance by concentrating more on the quality of the workforce than on the quantity of the metrics. In contrast, a longitudinal study conducted by Mary Benner and Michael Tushman over a 20-year period “indicates that increasing the use of process management activities tips the innovation balance toward exploitation at the expense of exploration . . . [and] contribute[s] to inertia and, in turn, dampen[s] environmental responsiveness” (2002, p. 702). Too much management surveillance can serve as a kind of psychic prison (Morgan, 1997; Sewell and Barker, 2006).

LSS: Dehumanizer of the workplace? In a similar light, the paradigmatic assumption of LSS (and like methods) is that the whole process seems invitingly rational because substantive outcomes (such as control of otherwise shirking workers, goals achievement, mission performance measures, and allocations of resources) are the preeminent focus for achieving organizational effectiveness. On the other hand, such performance-based management tends to ignore organizational effectiveness expressed in terms of symbolic outcomes (such as sentiments, beliefs, attitudes, satisfaction, values, and commitment) (Pfeffer, 1981, p. 8). Emotional, moral, or informal social issues do not account for much under the paradigm of technical rationality. The paradox is that LSS-style management may inspire, as Henry Mintzberg notes in The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning: Reconceiving Roles for Planning, Plans, and Planners, “. . . routinization [that] may discourage the very creative and judgmental orientation that it so evidently requires” (Mintzberg, 1989b). Arguably, LSS oligarchic-style techniques violate principles of over 50 years of human relations and open systems theories research.

LSS: Instigator of subcultural conflict? Organizational cultures that give at least equal weight to the values of the human relations and open systems models can serve to transcend ephemeral goals because the goals by themselves are not necessarily internalized as the taken-for-granted, technically correct, or moral ones. The values of goals and performance-oriented leaders (as represented by LSS) may not be compatible with the deeply rooted values of some organizational subcultures. For example, in the team-based, highly adaptive, morally astute, trustworthy, and improvisational subculture of Soldiers and units engaged in ongoing operations, any managerial attempts to communicate hierarchical goals and efficiency indicators may be interpreted as overly coercive, bureaucratic, and ineffective to the members of that subculture. These attempts can be met by passive or active resistance, to the eventual detriment of the overall organization (Paparone, 2003).

LSS: A nom de plume for strategy?
Mintzberg (1989b) makes a strong case that technical rationality may inhibit strategy making. LSS and the like represent the idea that what “[Frederick] Taylor accomplished in the factory, planning systems could now accomplish by extrapolation in the executive suite” (p. 23). In other words, LSS-like management programs become the organizational strategy by default. The seductive certainty and precision of programmatic implementation becomes more valued than the uncertainty and complexity involved in having strategic mindfulness (Weick and Sutcliffe, 2001). Achieving strategic adaptability with command and control systems like LSS, Mintzberg says, is analogous to a pregnant virgin (Mintzberg, 1989b, p. 25). Process mapping and watching the dashboard metrics of LSS-style statistical methods is like deciding on a sequence of football plays before the game begins and then coaching the game by watching only the scoreboard and not what is happening on the field.

A mindless fixation on measures of performance and detailed objectives serves to detach managers from a deeper understanding of the complexities of organizations and those they serve.10 The holistic picture is subjugated to the details and some short-term gains, and any aspect of detecting possible synergistic forces at work is removed (Argyris and Schön, 1978; Senge, 1990; Anderson and McAdam, 2006). Mintzberg argues (with a book full of supporting evidence) that remaining open to learning is important in uncertain environments because “strategies may fail, not only by being unsuccessfully implemented, but also by being successfully implemented and then proving inadequate. Likewise, strategies can succeed even though they were not initially intended” (1989b, p. 360). LSS-type management techniques assume that such techniques are adequate to the whole effectiveness of the organization.11

Conclusion

The claims of Lean and “Six Sigma revolution” (Cheng and Shiu, 2006, p. 22) and implausible expectations evoked from “the machine that changed the world” (Raulerson and Sparks, 2006, p. 6) reflect at best an evolution of techniques under the auspices of Taylor’s scientific management (later recast as performance-based management). LSS and the like tend to reflect the Tayloristic dogma (people as machines) at a higher level of analysis, thereby feeding the dominant image of the organization as a machine (Mintzberg 1989b; Morgan, 1997).

I have attempted in this essay to provide a values-based critique of LSS and other performance-based techniques by demonstrating the apparent psychological and cultural preferences for control and stability that may dominate the Army’s managerial structures. I suspect this ideology extends to AMC and its authors in the November-December 2006 issue of Army Logistician. The dangers of a single paradigmatic orientation (in this case, that of technical rationality) can blind us to values associated with double-loop learning and the learning organization, organization adaptability, workforce creativity and development, humanizing the workplace, cultural awareness, and strategy making.

Recommendations

“ I’ll See It When I believe It.” As the character Dr. Eleanor Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, observed in the 1997 movie, Contact, “Ironically, the thing people are most looking for—meaning—is what science has been unable to give them.” Army training and education programs should stress the importance of individual self-awareness and the value of organizational reflexivity.12 The contemporary OMS literature gives a tremendous amount of support to this proposition (e.g., Gardner and Stough, 2002; Argyris, 1991; Argyris and Schön, 1978; Senge, 1990; Hardy, Phillips, and Clegg, 2001; Mintzberg, 2004). Use of multiple paradigmatic approaches to training and education will help the processes of self-awareness and group reflexivity and increase the propensity toward transformational sensemaking (Quinn and Cameron, 1988; Weick, 1995; Hatch, 1997; Lewis and Grimes, 1999; Weick and Sutcliffe, 2001).

A philosophy of logistics and management. A philosophy can be defined as one’s own to the extent that the individual rids himself of the effects of clichés and catchwords, placards, parades, slogans, and watchwords and disengages from the social counterpressures of ideological clubs, circles, peer and populist groups, and professional orthodoxies and associations. (See note 1.) By thus surmounting the laws of fashion, the individual can define his individual standpoint (Feuer, 1975, p. 187). AMC should lead the field and expand its espoused management philosophy to incorporate a more balanced and open approach to institutional management values, to include examining the potential moral sterility of Taylorism. A comprehensive assessment of its organizational culture and subcultures and those of its clientele may produce significant opportunities for values-based reflexivity and more opportunity to consider human relations and open systems approaches to strategy making and management in general (Quinn, Faerman, Thompson, and McGrath, 1996).

A professional academe. The Army needs a venue to question the efficacy of assertions made and to reveal potential fallacies and otherwise unexamined assumptions contained in them. AMC and other Army logistics activities should publicly lead and recognize the importance of scholarship and professional inquiry designed to openly question underlying assumptions and the efficacy of espoused practices and theories of effectiveness in the professional field of military logistics. The Army should develop a professional journal, requiring blind, peer-reviewed acceptance of manuscripts (and applying the acceptance process to ones written and submitted by those of high rank and organizational position). The intellectual creation and sustainment of the professional body of military logistics knowledge must include a level playing field based on scholarly merit, substance of argument, allowance for multiple perspectives, and the opportunity for bold conjecture controlled by intellectual rigor.

With the opportunity presented by the Army Logistics University to be established at Fort Lee, Virginia, Army logistics leaders should endorse the creation of an institute dedicated to the field of military logistics. This academe, constituted initially with a journal and an institute, should not be considered a “taskable” agency for senior logistics commanders or staff officers but rather as a network for theorists and practitioners to collaborate.

The academe should serve as a professional hub for military logisticians and should be guarded against subjugation by hierarchical influences and perceived immediate needs for studies or projects. Those in authority should serve as stewards of the professional ideals that the academe is based on and must themselves compete on the intellectual grounds of all members in the tradition of primus inter pares (“first among equals”). The academe must remain focused on academic freedom, which is the only insurance for positive and continuous moral, individual, organizational, and cultural transformation. In that regard, “speaking truth to power” (Wildavsky, 1979) is perhaps the value above all others for this proposed professional academe of military logistics. In this way, popular management literature (such as that reported on LSS) can be criticized in an open, professional manner.
ALOG

Dr. Christopher R. Paparone is an associate professor in the Army Command and General Staff College’s Department of Logistics and Resource Operations at Fort Lee, Virginia. A retired Army colonel, he has a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University.

1 Ideology in an organization context means the tendency “to provide justification for the organization’s existence and functions” (Daniel Katz and Robert L. Kahn, The Social Psychology of Organizations). For example, this statement by Hart in the November-December 2006 issue of Army Logistician may indicate an ideological bent: “Lean is a philosophy that, when appropriately applied to a production process, reduces or eliminates the expenditure of unnecessary time, materials, and effort. Now coupled with a concept called Six Sigma, Lean has evolved into a successful program instead of slipping into history like so many management fads.” Another example includes this proposition by Hart that survival of the depots is at stake: “Innovation and the desire to be competitive in the looming 2005 BRAC deliberations led Red River to explore Lean and to discover a book called Lean Thinking, by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones.” (Hart, 2006, p. 4)
I also think Lewis S. Feuer’s description of ideology in Ideology and the Ideologists seems to apply here: “[Ideology] is the outcome of social circumpressures; it takes philosophy, and reduces it to the lowest common social denominator . . . the emphasis is on the being ‘one of us,’ and the free, uncontrolled, venturing idea is suspect.  An ideology is an ‘ism,’ that is, a philosophical tenet which has been affirmed as the axiom for a political group . . . But above all, the ideology closes the door to search and doubt . . .; the ideology claims answers that are certainties . . .; it closes questions; it records terminal collective decisions; it is not a franchise for the individual questioner” (1975, p. 188).

2 Judith A. Merkle traces the Tayloristic roots of military logistics to the Prussian Army in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and to the U.S. Army logistics system in World War I (1980, p. 71 and pp, 172-175).

3 Terry Moe (1984) published an economic theory of hierarchy based in “agent theory.” The “principal” (the manager) interacts with the “agent” (his subordinate) by contractual arrangement, with the underlying assumption that both want to maximize the value of the outcome of their relationship. The principal wants something done (he has a goal) and employs positional power advantages over the agent (particularly to offset the agent’s advantage of “asymmetry” of information—the agent may know things the principal does not) to get the agent to work toward that goal. The principal and the agent struggle to settle conflicts of interest between them and are driven toward contractual settlement (like officer efficiency report support forms) because both are risk-aversive. The principal wants to ensure that the agent is not shirking, so the game of how to go about ensuring that (such as goal setting, reporting, and monitoring or through attempts to align value systems) is what organization is all about. See Complex Organizations: A Critical Essay, by Charles Perrow, for a scathing critique and an explanation of the moral hazards of agency theory.

4 An example of a transactional (agent theory-based) and “organization as domination” ideology can be discerned from this statement by Raulerson and Sparks in the November-December 2006 Army Logistician: “Too many times, proposed improvements in an organization fail because individuals resist or do not buy into the need for change.” (Raulerson and Sparks, 2006, p. 7). And later in the same article: “But users of Lean Six Sigma should be warned: At times, the multifaceted Lean Six Sigma processes can be very frustrating. This is particularly true in the beginning, when employees often are very reluctant to actually buy into the processes” (p. 9). These statements indicate that this ideology dominates the thinking of these writers.

5 Thomas Kuhn suggests that a paradigm “stands for the entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and so on, shared by members of a given community” (1996, p. 175)

6 A “discursive formation” is “what is important for a particular community of researchers [or practitioners] to study and how it ought to be studied,” according to Graham Sewell and James R. Barker in “Coercion Versus Care: Using Irony to Make Sense of Organizational Surveillance,” in the Academy of Management Review (p. 936). It is similar in concept to what Thomas Kuhn (1996) called a “paradigm.”

7 I characterize LSS (and similar popular management remedies) as a technology, defined by Rupert F. Chisholm in “Introducing Advanced Information Technology Into Public Organizations” in Public Productivity Review as “. . . all the knowledge, information, material resources, techniques, and procedures that a work unit uses to convert system inputs into outputs—that is to conduct work.” (Chisholm, 1988) Chisholm’s definition implies that technology is a pre-existing solution to a given problem and that technical rationality is the reasoned application of it (hence, technology consists of solutions that continuously look for problems in a seemingly random way) (Cohen, March, and Olson, 1972).

8 The paradigm of “technical rationality” is described by Donald Schön, in The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, as “the view of professional knowledge which has most powerfully shaped both our thinking about professions and the institutional relations of research, education, and practice—professional activity consist in instrumental problem solving made rigorous by the application of scientific theory and technique” (1983, p. 21). Schön cautions that a cultural fixation on technical rationality can blind professionals to the limits of this paradigm: It assumes away “complexity, uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value-conflict” (p. 39). Technical rationality assumes that there are such things as “ends” (in the military vernacular, “end states”).
But, in the face of complex situations, ends tend to be “confused and conflicting.” Hence, we tend to fall back on known technologies to make the complex unknowns into something “rationally” understandable (p. 41). Michael D. Cohen, James G. March, and Johan P. Olsen, in “A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice” in Administrative Science Quarterly (1972), describe this phenomenon as “solutions looking for problems” rather than vice versa (the sequence assumed by technical rationality). It then follows that, when those in authority are inculcated in the technical rationality paradigm and they perceive the criteria for organizational decisionmaking are dissonant, they will seek reduction of dissonance over time using the façade of technical rationality in political ways (Bacharach, Bamberger, and Sonnenstuhl, 1996). They will negotiate collectively toward dissonance reduction with external stakeholders (for example, by engaging in macropolitics) and individually and in coalitions among executives, managers, and workers internal to the organization by engaging in micropolitics. In this process, hidden organizational power politics (behind the façade of a professed “science”) can serve to stifle professional inquiry and truth-seeking. I observed this phenomenon when working on joint logistics lessons learned, as the commander and staff of the U.S. Transportation Command seemed to present the “deployment and distribution operations center” (DDOC—a brainchild of TRANSCOM during the later stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom 1) as a technical solution for all problems identified. I felt frustrated at every meeting to voice a contrary opinion, and eventually I succumbed to overwhelming use of the tactic of what Marcia Wilkoff calls “consensus through exhaustion” (Wilkof, 1982).

9 The old adage, “one size fits all,” is implied with LSS-like prescriptions. I recently heard that there is a move afoot to take LSS to the Army’s schools and attempt to apply statistical control techniques to academic organizations and missions. This illustrates the ideological nature of technically rational, performance-based management techniques—the belief that one can apply Tayloristic style statistical controls to manage any situation. I invite readers to investigate Charles Perrow’s typology based on the continua of organization complexity and degree of coupling that make the homogenous application seem absurd (1986, pp. 148-150). I also invite readers to study the history of Taylorism and its undesirable effects on American education in Management and Ideology: The Legacy of the International Scientific Management Movement, by Judith A. Merkle (1980).

10 I think back on my Army career and the annual ritual of filling out my officer efficiency report support forms (a management-by-objectives management scheme) (Drucker, 1954; Odiorne, 1965). I cannot think of a single instance where my objectives, formulated at the beginning of my rating period, remotely matched my accomplishments a year later. This is because conditions and missions changed so often as to make the initial objectives and my plans to get there obsolete. Yet, because the departmental culture has apparently preferred performance-based management (the paradigm of “technical rationality” fueled by agency theory), the ritual persists. The Department of Defense seems to do the same on an even grander scale with the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution process (Paparone, 2007).

11 The articles in the November-December 2006 issue of Army Logistician (Hart, 2006; Raulerson and Sparks, 2006; Russell, 2006) spoke neither to an overall Army Materiel Command strategy nor to other management beliefs that might present a more balanced management philosophy that would include evidence of human relations model and open systems model values.

12 Reflexivity is “. . . an awareness of the situatedness of scientific knowledge and an understanding of the researcher and research community from which knowledge has appeared,” according to Cynthia Hardy, Nelson Phillips, and Stewart R. Clegg in “Reflexivity in Organization and Management Theory: A Study of the Production of the Research ‘Subject,’ ” in Human Relations (Hardy, Phillips & Clegg, 2001, p. 554). Reflexivity is related to skepticism. It requires not only suspending belief (for example, having dogmatic assertions) but also asserting that we do not know how to obtain ultimate knowledge at this time. This does not mean abdicating intellectual integrity or rigor when theorizing. A professional organization or academe continuously examines its own roots of argument and considers other assumptions, purposefully creating dissonance that, in turn, creates opportunities for transcendence or transformation. Ray Holland, in “Reflexivity” in Human Relations, defines “transdisciplinary reflexivity” as going beyond the traditional view of “unidisciplinary” reflexivity and into four levels of reflexive analysis (1999, p. 474). To find meaning, the organization must be willing to look outside itself “transorganizationally” to question itself and its organization-centric paradigms or realize the confines of its own discursive formation.


References

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