Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Are you the ‘management-forensics’ leader type?

This blog discusses management-forensics. We know that for many people, anything forensic equals crime.  Well, at the Effectiveness lab, we define management-forensics as the deliberate practice to investigate value-addition enablers and killers at companies. Those things that significantly add or not, to your bottom line or the impact of your work for the not for profit sector

In orthodox OD. practice, management-forensics alludes to the so-called learning organization. We can define the learning organization in several ways. But one of the most respected scholars on learning organizations is Peter Senge. In his book, the Fifth Discipline, Senge defines a learning organization as ‘a group of people working together collectively to enhance their capacities to create results they really care about.’

This week, we want to bring the so-called learning organization closer to the leader or manager of the organization. While Senge looks at learning in the organization through a systems lens – a holistic process that enables organizations to learn seamlessly. We look at organizational learning through the individual’s lens – You, the leader or manager, and what you should do to enable learning at the systems level to happen

We hypothesize that before we even get to Senge’s systems-thinking and learning level, there are several other elements below systems, that influence sustainable learning in organizations.  One such element is the management orientation of the individual leading the organization or department in the organization. Is this individual primed to think ‘learning’? Do they believe in learning and what is required to enable it?  Do they appreciate that while organizational learning is a systems matter, how they individually think about learning can choke learning?

A management-forensics paradigm triggers the competence that questions both past and present organizational thinking and practices. Management-Forensics is to, by habit, reflect, question and have the humility to accept that what was done in the past or is being done in the present is wrong.  Even if the this means changing course for or abandoning mission-critical projects – and taking the blame for the same.

We all of a sudden get into territory here that is moralistic – yes, ‘I failed, and I want to attest that I am a  failure at that thing.’  Refection, questioning, and accepting blame, individual blame, is not easy. Indeed, it’s a key obstacle to creating authentic learning organizations, at Senge’s systems level. And it’s for this very reason that we believe that focusing on the individual leader or manager traits is vital to creating sustainable learning entities

What does it take for a leader to practice management-forensics?

A management-forensics practitioner’s toolbox will contain the below items:

  • A forever questioning mind – this trait is so deeply ingrained in the DNA of the management-forensics practitioner that they continuously review and examine what they have done in the past, are doing now, and want to do in future. Those on the other side of management arena may consider this type of leader cynical, indecisive, lacking confidence, and generally uncertain of what they want – other observers may be so kind to call them perfectionists.

Well, there is a significant difference between a management-forensics practitioner and your average cynical manager that lacks confidence – the former even as they question the status-quo, will maintain focus and decision-velocity and ultimately attain positive outcomes and on schedule. This type of manager is both effective and efficient – the two variables bring about systems-efficacy

  • While most learning organizations acknowledge and reward competences related to embracing knowledge storage and retrieval systems – it’s at the systems level. Usually, these are large management information systems with extremely complex code behind them. Unfortunately, this management-information-system (MIS) behemoth shelters the evasive management-forensics practitioner and undermines the creation of sustainable learning organizations.

Instead, leaders do better when they develop and apply miniature and individually tailored knowledge management ecosystems (not MIS). Unlike the MIS behemoth above, customized systems are small like the Apple and Google play store Apps, as well as non-App formats for capturing and reflecting on knowledge – for example, asking trusted individuals to give you one on one feedback, developing systems for getting feedback from your teams, creating an organisational climate and space where individuals and teams are able to provide you with feedback trusting that they will not suffer consequences for sharing what could be done better, etc.

In effect, the management-forensics practitioner creates a simple and trusted sharing and learning eco-system; again, it doesn’t have to be the orthodox MIS. It may even have nothing to do with the so-called MIS, big or small. They may choose to run a sharing and learning ecosystem from handwritten notes and process diagrams, etc

  • The traditional belief in ‘form following function’ never stands in their way. The rate at which change is happening in the world of business renders certain long-held OD. practices archaic. While Charles Handy’s adage that form follows function is still relevant, speed in the business environment brings a new perspective to Handy’s theory. 24/7 and fast-moving change renders organizational structures irrelevant and not worth the paper they are written on.

What is fast becoming a powerful weapon for delivering effective learning at organisations is the manager’s mastery of the art that creates and uncreates small working teams. Strategy analysis, selection, and delivery are continuously calibrated by small and specialized working teams – moreover, teams that are empowered to make decisions.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos two-pizza team rule is of help here – teams can’t be larger than what two pizzas can feed.  Management-forensics practitioners create teams that yes, question the status quo, and do so as many times as required, without being bound by traditional organizational boundaries. Building such miniature structures, usually working side by side with the other so-called ‘normal’ organization, plus dealing with the people politics that results are no small matters. It requires a smart executive to make this kind of multi-layered organization work well – this as opposed to the destruction that results typically from such attempts

Are you the management-forensics type? If you aren’t, time may not be on your side.


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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