The Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition, from 1914 to 1916, is a compelling story of leadership when disaster strikes again and again. In words of David Foster Wallace, Real leaders are people who help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear. Q1;- Has designing and leadership at Learning Lab Denmark been effective so far? Why/Why not? What about Organizational Culture?
A1:- Organizational design is the pillar of any organization. It is the deliberate process of configuring structures, processes, reward systems, and people practices to create an effective organization capable of achieving the business strategy. It is ongoing process and simply a vehicle for accomplishing the strategic tasks of the business. A well-designed organization helps everyone in the business do his/her job effectively. A poorly-designed organization (or an organization by default) creates barriers and frustrations for people both inside and outside the organization. Organizational design affected by few key factors, which are:
Learning Lab Denmark was the “Research and Development Institute” which was established by the help of Danish Ministry of Business and Industry, the Ministry of Research and the Ministry of Education and the Private sectors. Like every organization, in LLD, there was an Organizational design to perform its job smoothly. In that organization, there was a central unit which conducted all the the jobs like Management, Communication and Culture activities called “Secretariat”. It was an independent organization but affiliated with the Danish Pedagogical university (DPU). In LLD, there were two senior managers, one was managing director and other was a research director.
Research director was responsible for research jobs which were going on in all Consortia. The MD was to report to the boards and to oversee the organization’s daily operations. There were six consortia where in each consortia, a Consortium Director was deputed and under which many employees were working on different projects. The Consortium were : Math and Science (MS)
Neuroscience, Cognition and Learning (NCL)
Play and Learning (PL)
The Creative Alliance (TCA)
Workplace Learning (WL)
Tools for the Knowledge Based Organization (TKO)
There was a dpartment under secretariat for sharing all the information and ensure an effective network of communication within LLD. It shared all the learnings between all Consortia and between Consortia and Secretariat. It also support to LLD by developing a consortium’s website. Secretariat also focused on the organizational culture whether is was followed or not.
In my view, the Organizational design and leadership both were not so effective due to that Organization failed to perform. If we consider the basic key factors of Organization design, we will find; 1. Startegy – There was lack of strategy. What we have to do and what will be the tentative time frame of completion of job. There was lack of experienced employees so that they couldn’t make proper strategy. 2. Environment – There was no favourable work environment. Leaders were not able to communicate properly. Each consortia was doing his own way. There was ego issue between two different departments and both were avoiding each other instructions. 3. Technology – This was the research institute so the first thing which was required, adequate knowledge, experienced expertise, upgraded technologies. There was lack of all these things which led to fail the organization. 4. Human Resources – The HR management was handled by DPU so there was big gap between the actual scenario inside the LLD and action taken by DPU. DPU was not involved directly and there was no perfect communication networking between LLD and DPU.
There was big dissatisfaction in the employees of LLD. One of the reasons to fail the LLD was weak leadership. In the case study, it was clear that the role of top leaders was not effective. The CDs didn’t follow the instructions which were taken by senior leaders. There was big ego issue between two departments. The CDs were doing their job in their own way. Organizational Culture – Organizational culture is the basic pillar of any organization. It decides the way to achieve the goal along with growth and great satisfaction of each and every employee. The culture depends on the few key factors which have been described below:-
1. Team Orientation – Degree to which work is organized around teams rather than individuals 2. People Orientation – Degree to which management decisions take into account the effects on people in the organization 3. Attention to detail – Degree to which employees are expected to exhibit precision, analysis and attention to detail 4. Stability – Degree to which organizational decisions and actions emphasize maintaining the status. 5. Aggressiveness – Degree to which employees are aggressive and competitive rather than cooperative. 6. Innovation & Risk Taking – Degree to which employees are encouraged to be innovative and to take risks 7. Outcome Orientation – Degree to which manager’s focus on results or outcomes
Since in LLD, there was no any structured Organizational design so there was also lack of culture. There was no strategy according to which all consortia could perform. The consortia leader was not interested to follow the instruction of his senior management. The above described all factors are required to develop an organizational culture but in LLD, no any factors were lays.
Q2 :- What are the opportunities and challenges of designing and leading Learning Lab Denmark? A2:- If any system fails it means that faced many challenges which couldn’t be attended on the time. In the case of LLD, there were multiple challenges in designing and leading, which i have described below. 1. Establish the Hilton Experience – Hilton experience means that the administrative side of LLD sustains the research side with supportive attitude where helpful procedures and routines make it easier, not harder, for the researcher to do their job. But in actual condition, there was lots of confliction between consortia and secretariat. 2. Common Culture and Identity – MD and Research Director of LLD wanted to establish common culture and identity across all consortia but it was very tough since the project job of all consortia were different from each other, so the working was also different. 3. Establish the communication networking across LLD – It was very big challenge to establish the proper communication among Secretariat and Consortia and also among all Consortia. They didn’t want any interruption in their working on the projects.
4. Financial Crisis – Since LLD was an organization which was funded by Danish Govt. as well as Private investors. At the initial time when LLD was being established, the global market was facing recessions. The terrorist attacks on Sep’11, 2001 further heightened pessimism. So, it became tough to collect the fund for the Organization. 5. Execution of LLD Research model – LLD has established a research model where the involvement of Stakeholders have been introduced directly with the researchers to give their inputs so that researchers can work in that direction and at the same time, Researchers can convince with their efforts to Stakeholders. But it was not established due to weak leadership of LLD top management. 6. Recruitment of Researchers – This was research institute so the employees should have high knowledge along with experienced, only then research could be done in within time frame. This type of researchers could be recruited only when selectors having high knowledge.
Other thing was the new inexperienced employees who got the first job of life in LLD, could be performed as per expectation due to lack of job experience. This was the big challenge. 7. Work Environment – A healthy and familiar work environment is required to perform well in the organization. This environment can be achieved by taking care of employee. For that a strong HR management should be there but in the LLD, this was lacking point. 8. Decision Taking Authority – There should be the freedom to take decision regarding research to all consortia but this should be controlled by LLD top management.
For this, a structural frame should be in the organization with proper strategy. This was not in the LLD. 9. Get Result – All stakeholders invest on the basis of performance of the organization. They want results for that they invest the money. In LLD, only research work remained ongoing but results didn’t deliver with full satisfaction and within time frame. It also remained challenge and reason for failure. 10. Confliction – This was the big issue in the LLD and the main reason of the confliction between the employees was Power, Authority and Hierarchical Status. The top management couldn’t able to resolve this confliction.
There are so many opportunities where LLD management should focus and could be improved. Few points have been described below.
1. Organizational Design – There should be proper structured team in LLD by considering few factors like; Strategy, Technology, Environment and Human Resource. This team should perform effectively. 2. Communication Networking – Communication networking to be strengthen and for communication, there should be a proper channel which should not be bypassed in any case. Communication should be monitored by senior management effectively. What to be shared with stakeholders, what to be requested to investors, what to be ordered to researchers; these all things should be monitored properly. 3. Recruitment – Since the core business of this organization was research so the employee recruitment should be on the basis of real merit and experience.
4. Training – If employees having less job-experienced then there should be a training cell where the researchers can be developed by training. 5. Feedback System – There should be proper feedback system for the ongoing projects status and it should be monitored on regular basis. 6. Fund Arrangement – There should be proper team for fund collection. Team has ability to convince the investors. They should make other strategy to draw the attention of investors. 7. Execution of LLD Research Model – The research model established by LLD was very good but it was not executed due to having much confliction between the top management of LLD and Consortia leaders. So, it should be role of top leaders that the good model should be executed effectively. 8. Resolves Confliction – There was too much confliction on the thoughts among the LLD and it created tension. The tension was created due to Power, Authority, Hierarchical Status and this was continued due to unwillingness of senior management. The senior leader should take their responsibilities and perform effectively.
Q3:- Identify tensions, problems, issues, paradoxes, characteristics and dilemmas that make organizational design and leadership ongoing challenges in new ventures such as LLD. What is distinctive about LLD’s design? A3:- In LLD, there was tension between the Broker team (Communicator) and the Consortium Director and its related to whether the broker team is a “Service Team” that executes orders/requests issued by the CDs or a “Techno Structure” that can issue orders/requests to the CDs. The tension was related to three main issues; Power, Authority and Hierarchical Status. The problem was that the more the broker team acts as if it is a technocratic structure, the more CDs resist. The paradox underlined the organization-wide tension between Standardization and Variability. The communicator team emphasized on stability and standardization as it represented secretariat of LLD where as the CDs fostered variability because they resisted the broker’s initiatives.
“They accepted, the brokers are right when they say that no procedure includes all local conditions but we are also resisting because the procedures minimize our autonomy”. The consortia people also resisted to follow the standardization procedures due to which the secretariat was facing big challenge to deliver on the idea of being a Hilton experience. They were frustrated with LLD’s organizational bureaucracy, which they believed was constraining their efforts unnecessarily. Another problem was in the relationship between LLD and DPU. LLD’s managers and employees knew they belonged to DPU as an independent unit, but never viewed their organization as a part of DPU.
Even though all LLD’s budget including salaries was paid through DPU’s administration, LLD’s administrators feared that if they used this bureaucracy, LLD would become like DPU means very slow, dusty and inefficient. According to LLD’s personnel, they were facing some human resource problem. They said that their salaries were not released on time by DPU. There was some management issue, due to which two Chief Financial Officers had resigned within 18 months and the reason shared was the perceived difficulty of serving as the interface between the two organizations.
The LLD’s Organizational design was different in the case that only two senior managements were involved and MD was to oversee the organizational daily operations. There was confliction in the team due to having issues like Power, Authority and Hierarchical Status. The employees didn’t view their organization as a part of DPU whereas LLD was administratively governed by DPU. It showed there was no effective leadership.
Q4:- As a leader, how do you prepare for and manage the difficulties and challenges identified in questions 2 and 3? Consider actions, strategies and
techniques that you might want to take/use. Be specific and illustrate with examples?
A4:- In this case study, i have found many difficulties and challenges and Being a leader, here i am explaining my remedial action to resolve those challenges. 1. Organizational Design – I would like to frame a design where responsibilities of everyone would be described and everyone will have to perform according to that. I would like to make a team on the basis of Strategy, Environment, Technology and Human Resource. I would introduce every consortia, a leader under whom a technical and managerial employee will work. Managerial employee will look after the basic needs of all involved researchers. And Technical employee will take reports on daily basis from the researchers and talk about their demands for doing project smoothly. Both will report to Consortia head. Consortia head will power to take decision for his consortia work and decide the time frame with responsibilities. Now in Secretariat, similarly, one top leader will be under whom a research director, a finance head, a HR head will work.
Research Director will take report from all Consortia head. Finance head will manage all funding for LLD and head a cell which will work for fund collection by involving investors. HR head will look after all the basic needs of all employees across LLD. The head of Secretariat will take report from all three heads and take appropriate actions for the organization. He will shared the key points with DPU, Danish Govt. And Stakeholders. The all consortia head will be liable to follow the instructions given by all three heads, whom he will report and discuss the issue. 2. Communication Networking – Communication networking will be affected by leadership quality. If the above design will work effectively, the communication will remain strong. 3. Recruitment and Training – The HR will be responsible for recruitment and there will be selector team in which a technical and managerial employee will be involved for selection of researchers. In the selection, they will have to give priority to those who have much job experience and having higher degree of knowledge. Few researchers can be selected who have no much job experience but for those, there would be manage a training program on regular interval to increase their skills.
4. Financial Establishment – The finance dept will be responsible for the funding arrangement. They will make different teams in which one will be in touch with every consortia and review their financial demands like equipments for experiment and other basic requirements, one will be responsible to review current cash situation and their expenditure plan, keep previous expenditure report, one will be responsible to involve investors, stakeholders by convincing with the performance of the organization, make some investment schemes., one will be responsible to review current market condition, take care of investors who has become partner in the organization.
5. Get Result – The organization is “Research and Development Institute”, so it’s growth will depend on the completion of projects within time frame. For this, every consortia head will be responsible for completion of all projects within time frame and share the way forward plan, if any projects doesn’t complete in within time frame. To involve the investors, everyone will keep honesty in his work. For this, HR team will responsible to arrange the meeting between investors and respective consortia at regular time of interval along with research head, so that every investors can remain updated with the ongoing research.
6. Confliction – This is the big challenge for any organization. This can only be resolved by the effective organizational design. It is the responsibility of the top leader to define the responsibility along with power and level of freedom to take decision on any topic. According to me, i will define the decision taking authority with the power and Hierarchical status. The HR department will be responsible whether the things are being followed or not. Whatever decision is taken by higher management, it should be followed by every employee.
7. Organizational Culture – Organizational culture is the basic pillar of any organization. It decides the way to achieve the goal along with growth and great satisfaction of each and every employee. The culture depends on the few key factors which are, Team Orientation, People Orientation, Stability, Aggressiveness, Innovation & Risk Taking, Outcome Orientation. In my leadership, i will assure the organizational key factors are being followed or not.
Q5:- What should Vaaland and Jensen do?
A5:- Being Managing Director, Marianne Stang Vaaland had much power to handle the all obstacles. There are two types of obstacles; one can be controlled by your efforts since the reason of the obstacle remains known but another type of obstacle comes due to external agencies which is not in your hand and take much time to control that, like recession, market condition, investors demand etc. Vaaland should form an effective organizational design along with responsibility. He should take action if there is any deviation. Similarly being Research Director, Hans Siggaard Jensen should define the working responsibility of all researchers along with tentative time frame. He should take honest feedback from each consortia on regular basis and suggest if he founds any deviation.
At first, Vaaland should resolve all the confliction by distribute the Power and Authority on Hierarchical base so that a healthy work environment can be developed. Both should have assured that researchers which are being selected will give benefit to the organization. It means selection process should be effective. If any researcher is selected who has less experience but having capability to learn and grow, for such type of researchers, there should be training cell. Both should have reviewed the market scenario and investors demand and according to that they should establish the working model. They should develop such type of organizational culture where whatever decision has been taken by both of them that should be followed by their sub-ordinates. Before establish any working model, both should discuss with their sub-ordinates.
Both should make a strategy to collect the fund by providing different type of schemes for their investors. They should make a cell that looks after only the fund collection job. Both should have assured the project completion time frame so that investors can faith on the organization. It gives a positive message in the market and it helps to attract the investors. Both should have established the proper networking for communication and taking feedback. No one should have confliction on this. Both should have enforced to establish the Hilton Experience effectively between Secretariat and all Consortia.
Q6:- What lessons can you draw from LLD? What LLD a success?
A6:- The case study “Organizing From Scratch: Learning Lab Denmark Experience” is really having great lesson for all the leaders. In my opinion, LLD was a big failure due to weak leadership and having no any strategic plan to run the organization for long time, achieve the targets, lack of organizational culture, inexperienced work force and weak financial condition. Here I am sharing the key points which I have learned from the case study to run any organization effectively:- Importance of effective and structured Organizational Design.