Dan Pavlue: November 2009 Archives

Day 2 Presentations

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Overall I thought the second day of presentations went well. There was a very wide range of organizations, ranging from very large such as Adidas and Nike, to relatively smaller such as the Minnesota State High School League. I found particular interest in the Nike and Adidas presentations and the differences that exist between the two organizations. It was clear to me that the two organizations put forth different strategies and structures to meet their goals. It was also interesting that Adam noted that Adidas is trying to exploit the Latin American market. I feel like Nike has done a great job of reaching to all areas of the world and making their brand globally recognized, but Adidas is a bit behind on this. In today's American sports we are beginning to see more and more Latin American athletes come to the US to play professionally or collegiately, so I believe getting these Latin American athletes and sporting communities attached to a brand is crucial for the sustained success of an organization such as Nike or Adidas. In addition, I found the presentation on Minnesota State High School League to be very interesting. I have participated in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association before, and was able to see how a state high school athletics organization is structured and operates. After hearing about the MSHSL, I could see clearly that each state's governing body is structured very uniquely and strategically based upon the individual state's most popular sports and participation rates.

Personal Philosophy - Blog 10

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Since the beginning of the semester when I developed my organizational effectiveness theory, I have learned many new concepts, theories, and ideas that have slightly changed my philosophy. My previous philosophy was based strongly on both the goal attainment approach as well as the internal processes approach. More specifically, I felt that the most crucial factor determining whether an organization is effective or not was its ability to maintain a high level of happiness and dedication throughout the entire organization. While I do still firmly believe that this is crucial to an effective organization, there are some more aspects of an organization that I feel have a strong impact on determining effectiveness as well.

The first of these impacts is leadership. Through our readings and discussion about leadership, I have realized the importance of strong leadership in an organization. An organization with poorly guided and negative leadership is a recipe for disaster. Learning about the research and theories of leadership styles has helped me reach the conclusion that leadership is one of the strongest contributors to organizational effectiveness. The reason I feel this way is based strongly on my past involvement in sport organizations. I have been involved with organizations that are lead by people I would classify as "good" leaders and as "bad" leaders. Not surprisingly, the organizations that have had great leadership have been extremely successful, and the organizations that had not so good leadership have either been very average or downright unsuccessful. Having a leader who is organized, influential, understanding, and knowledgeable is a key ingredient to organizational effectiveness.

The second thing I have realized is the importance of managing power and politics within an organization. To say one can manage a sport organization and not have to deal with power and politics is not realistic. Power and politics are prevalent in each and every sport organization, and they greatly influence an organization's ability to achieve their goals. Knowing this, I have realized that it is crucial to handle power and politics effectively within an organization in order to maintain organizational effectiveness. More specifically, I have come to realize that reducing individual sources of power and increasing organizational power is an effective combination. By reducing individual power, it will create a more strongly knit organization in which all members feel like they play a key role in, which results in increased motivation and attainment of goals. Increasing organizational power through building coalitions, making your product irreplaceable, or controlling information can give your sport organization a competitive advantage to remain organizationally effective.

In summary, I have learned many things in this course that have reinforced my original philosophy of organizational effectiveness, as well as a few things that have encouraged me to tweak my philosophy. I still am a firm believer of the importance of focusing on goal attainment and encouraging the happiness and wellbeing of all employees, but I also feel that two of the most important factors that need to be taken into account when building, changing, or managing a sport organization are the quality of leadership and the organization's ability to manage power and politics. The ability to successfully develop these two components into one's organizational strategies is what I consider a great start to an organization that will achieve sustained organizational effectiveness.

Day 1 Presentations

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Overall, I agree that the first day's presentations were well done and very informative. Andre's presentation regarding the Gophers men's basketball team was of specific interest to me. Because of his affiliation with the team, Andre was able to do a great job of providing information regarding the organization that many people would not discover by researching. I feel that this information really added to my overall perception of how the basketball team is organized. Of specific interest to me was the question of measuring whether or not the men's basketball team is effective. I feel that college sports teams all have a different way of measuring their organizational effectiveness. For example, powerhouse football schools like Florida, Alabama, or LSU can finish a season with one loss and earn a bid to a BCS bowl game, but many would consider this to be a lack of achieving their organizational goals. On the flip side, many less prestigous schools such as Northwestern, Ball State, or Eastern Michigan may graduate over 80% of their team members, but fail to even come close to making a bowl game or have a winning record, and they consider their organization as being effective. This is not to say that these schools do not care about winning, but they do place more emphasis on the education of their student athletes. Relating this back to the men's basketball team, I feel that we are fortunate here at the University of Minnesota to have a basketball coach such as Tubby Smith who has understood, developed, and implemented organizational strategies, culture, and processes which have allowed our men's basketball team to be organizationally effective both on the court and off of the court.
Among the many items which influence a sport organization's effectiveness is its decision making ability. Slack & Parent adopt Peter Drucker's definition of decision making for use in sport organizations. According to Drucker, "a decision is a judgment, a choice between alternatives" (p. 258). This basic definition of decision making is applied to many facets of a sport organization such as hiring and firing, adding new programs, trading players, etc. Knowing the definition of decision making, Slack & Parent continue by identifying two different types of decisions: programmed and nonprogrammed. Programmed decisions are repetitive and routine, whereas nonprogrammed decisions are new and unique (p.259). Programmed decisions, given their repetitive nature, are usually handled by lower management, whereas nonprogrammed decisions, which are more innovative and risky, are usually handled by upper management. Slack & Parent continue by identifying three conditions under which decisions are made. The first condition, certainty, refers to decisions that are made when the manager making the decision knows exactly what the available alternatives are, and the costs and benefits associated with each alternative (p. 259). The second condition, risk, which is a relatively common condition, occurs when the manager has a basic understanding of the available alternatives, but the potential costs and benefits that come with these alternatives are somewhat uncertain (p. 259). The last condition, uncertainty, occurs when decisions are made by managers when the potential outcomes and alternatives are unknown (p. 259). Ideally all sport managers would like to only deal with certainty, it is necessary at times for managers to make decisions of uncertainty in order to keep their organization competitive. Decisions in a sport organization can be made at the individual and organizational levels. At the individual level, Slack & Parent identify two models of decision making for use: the rational model and the administrative model. The rational model details a step by step process which managers can use to aid their decision making which includes monitoring the decision environment, defining the problem, diagnosing the problem, identifying decision alternatives, analyzing the alternatives, selecting the best alternative, implementing the alternative, and then evaluating the decision (p.261). The administrative model, relies on the basis that most sport managers do not have the time or cognitive ability to thoroughly follow the rational model, and therefore base their decisions on a limited number of criteria and alternatives (p. 262). At the organizational level, Slack & Parent identify four models of decision making: management science, the Carnegie model, structuring of unstructured processes, and the garbage can model. Of particular interest to me was the management science model. In this model, managers use complex mathematics and statistics to develop a solution to a problem. The book provides a great example of management science during World War II when the military had to calculate trajectories, distances between planes, wind speed, and altitude to aid their decision making (p. 263). Also, the garbage can model was of interest to me. In this model, attention is placed on the role of chance and timing into the decision making process, and multiple decisions are of concern rather than just a single decision (p.267). As a result of this model, decisions are rarely systematic or logical, and sometimes problems are never resolved. Having a firm understanding of the decision making process is of utmost importance to a sport manager. Knowing when to take a calculated risk or to play it safe is a tough thing to handle, but many of the most successful sport managers are able to handle this adversity to keep their sport organizations effective. Questions: 1.) Do you feel that it is necessary for sport managers to make uncertain decisions? Why or why not? 2.) Of the listed organizational decision making models, which model do you feel is most effective to follow for sport organizations? 3.) Do you feel that decision making is a process that needs to be thoroughly considered, or can a sport organization be successful by following their "gut instinct"? Explain.

Organizational Culture

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As is the case with many of the concepts regarding sport organizations, organizational culture is difficult to define. Slack and Parent list multiple definitions of culture from scholars, each definition a bit different from the next. This being said, four general themes of organizational culture can be taken out of these definitions to be used as a guide for what organizational culture entails. These four characteristics are values, beliefs, basic assumptions, and shared understandings. These characteristics, according to Slack and Parent, provide "stability to an organization and convey to new members the understanding that enables them to make sense of organizational activities" (p. 275). After defining organizational context, the text begins to explain "manifestations" in which we can use to further understand organizational context in detail. These manifestations are components or characteristics of an organization which help shape the underlying culture of the organization. These components include stories and myths, symbols, language, ceremonies or rites, and physical setting. Of these components, the language component struck home with me. This past summer I worked as the head coach of a high school baseball team and we had a developed language system we used to call defensive alignments, execute offensive plays, etc. This specialized language clearly defined our culture as an organization because members outside of the organization did not know this language, and it clearly separated our organization from the next. In addition to this, we held many ceremonies, meetings, etc. to further express our team's values and cultural components. Slack and Parent also describe a broad way of identifying types of organizational culture. Thick culture, according to the text, is "one in which the members of a sport organization agree about the importance of certain values and employ them in their daily routines" (p.280). On the flip side, a thin culture is a culture in which there are not many common values, and the organization's culture is varied dependent on the department within the organization. An example of thin culture can be seen within the U of M athletic department. The athletic team's main values and goals are to recruit the best athletes, earn victories, and raising funds. On the flip side, the academic services department within the organization is concerned with aiding the student athletes in their academic endeavors, providing career opportunities, and issuing tutors. As you can see, the various departments within the U of M athletic department have different values and goals. In my opinion, a thin culture can be thought of as a collection of "mini cultures" that collectively make up an organization and help it achieve its ultimate goals. The last section of the chapter focuses on creating, managing and changing a sport organization's culture. Slack and Parent describe that the founders of an organization have a large influence on the development of culture (p.283). In addition, Slack and Parent note that the creation of visions, codes of conduct, and organizational procedures set forth by the founder contribute to the overall creation of culture within the sport organization. Once an organization's culture is developed, it must be managed. The text describes five mechanisms in which culture can be managed: what managers pay attention to, measure, and control, managers' reaction to critical incidents and organizational crises, deliberate role modeling, teaching, and coaching, criteria for allocation of rewards, and criteria for recruitment, selection, promotion, retirement, and excommunication. In essence, the way a manager handles and controls these five mechanisms within an organization can reinforce the underlying values and beliefs that an organization's culture is built upon. For example, a manager of a sport organization who rewards his employees for excellent attendance at work clearly values workers who show up to work every day. Changing the culture of a sport organization can be done in many ways. Slack and Parent list changes in the number of employees, expanding markets or product lines, and other structural modifications as ways in which a sport organization can change its culture (p.285). At some times organizations change their culture because they feel it is needed, and in other situations, they must change their culture in order to adapt to their environment and remain competitive. Questions: 1.) Slack and Parent explain that research has shown a strong correlation between organizational effectiveness and a thick organizational culture. Do you believe this is the case? Why or why not? 2.) If you were the manager of a sport organization, what kind of culture would you develop (values, beliefs, policies, etc.)? 3.) The text talks about sport organizations being multicultural. Do you think that every organization is multicultural, or are there organizations in which the culture is nearly identical throughout all departments?

Organizational Leadership

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There are many aspects of organizational context that impact a sport organization's leadership styles and preferences. Organizational culture, structure, and actors are among these aspects, and are arguably three of the most well-known contributors to the shaping of an organization's leadership styles and preferences. An organization's culture, as described by Slack & Parent in the chapter's "Time Out" section, can directly impact leadership. As Slack & Parent explain, different cultures prefer different styles of leadership. For example, the "Time Out" section explains how Japanese students prefer to have a more participative leadership style for team sports, while Canadian students prefer to have a more authoritative leadership style. I personally have witnessed culture contributing to decisions regarding leadership as the head coach of the Hudson, WI summer baseball team. After getting to know my players, I realized that the majority of them did not respond well to coercive leadership, but rather were more effective when the leadership was based more on positive reinforcement and guidance. Knowing this, I served as a very calm, positive coach who gave positive encouragement to his players rather than screaming at them for their mistakes. For the most part, this leadership style which was developed based upon the collective culture of the players was successful, but the team's culture was not the only contributing factor towards developing the proper leadership style. Organizational structure is also a key aspect that impacts leadership. Slack & Parent describe the differences in the size of the organization contributing to the corresponding leadership style employed in sport organizations. Organizations with a large number of employees generally employ a "production-centered" leadership style instead of an "employee-centered" leadership style because it is very difficult to maintain a personal relationship with every employee of the large company. With small organizations, on the other hand, most employ the employee-centered leadership style because they are able to develop and maintain close personal relationships with each employee. Referring back to my work with Hudson baseball, I employed an employee-centered leadership style based upon the fact that I was able to do so because we only had 13 players on the roster. Developing a strong personal relationship with each individual player and providing specific instructions and guidance tailored to each player's strengths and weaknesses made the team as a whole strong and successful. Lastly, the actors within an organization strongly impact leadership. Each sport organization is made up of different actors, whether it is an athletic director, president, CEO, etc. The personal preferences, views, and beliefs of each one of these actors directly contributes to the leadership style of the organization. For example, if the athletic director at a school was very laid back and did not keep tabs on the progress and supervision of his subordinates, the organization would most likely not be successful, and this laid back leadership style would trickle all the way down to the bottom of the organization. On the contrary, an athletic director who was constantly bossing his subordinates around could create a situation where the employees feel that their ideas are not accepted, and they feel as though they are just puppets with no say or freedom in the operation of the organization. In my opinion, actors who demonstrate a delicate balance between these two sides of the spectrum are most successful as leaders in a sport organization. Referring once again to my experience with Hudson baseball, I tried my best to not be too coercive, but also not be too lax. Eventually, the players caught on to my personal leadership style and recognized that I am a pretty easy-going coach, but when work needs to be done, it needs to get done efficiently and cooperatively.