ArticlePDF Available

From Agile Leader to Agile Leadership: An OD Project in an International Company Operating in the Middle East

Authors:

Abstract

This paper addresses the issues of agility and inclusivity in the context of an international engineering company expanding in the Middle East. A charismatic leader has driven the growth of the regional subsidiary of a quality control company. Transforming the organization towards inclusivity assures the systemic agility of the company, while improving the lives of its internal community. The paper studies the capacity of the socioeconomic intervention to bring change within the Middle Eastern business culture. The methodology is one of intervention research combining action research and strategic management control. The research found that inclusivity improves agility and quantified the effects of its lack thereof. The research finds proof that the socioeconomic intervention provided the methodology and tools to improve the dynamic capabilities of the company, and to integrate the human potential in the organizational system.
From Agile Leader to Agile Leadership: An OD Project in an International Company
Operating in the Middle East
Abstract
This paper addresses the issues of agility and inclusivity in the context of an international
engineering company expanding in the Middle East. A charismatic leader has driven the
growth of the regional subsidiary of a quality control company. Transforming the
organization towards inclusivity assures the systemic agility of the company, while
improving the lives of its internal community. The paper studies the capacity of the socio-
economic intervention to bring change within the Middle Eastern business culture.
The methodology is one of intervention research combining action research and strategic
management control.
The research found that inclusivity improves agility and quantified the effects of its lack
thereof. The research finds proof that the socio-economic intervention provided the
methodology and tools to improve the dynamic capabilities of the company, and to
integrate the human potential in the organizational system.
Keywords: Inclusivity, Agility, Organizational development, Socio-economic approach to
management, Quality control, Engineering.
2
From Agile Leader to Agile Leadership: An OD project in an International
Company Operating in the Middle East
1. Introduction
Sustainable development, as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development
Goals, is based on three pillars: (1) government, (2) civil society, and (3) business, which
embeds business sustainability (Kohl, 2016) in its responsiveness to exceedingly volatile
environments and the wellbeing of the community (Beer, 2009; Haneberg, 2011; Holbeche,
2015). The role of the firm is then redefined to be responsive to societal needs to improve
the well-being of its community, and ensure the survival of the company (Attali, 2013;
Porter & Kramer, 2011). Responsiveness to volatile environments and the subsequent
adaptability to change (Worley et al., 2015) have therefore become ubiquitous on business
leaders’ agendas (Cummings & Worley, 2014; Thomas, et al., 2011). The same is true for
growing businesses that eye performance sustainability, and long term survival (Attali,
2013; Eccles et al., 2012). The three dimensions of corporate sustainability: (1) financial;
(2) environmental; and (3) social; require, in turn, responsiveness to changing
circumstances (Carroll, 1979; El Haddad & Menassa, 2015; Schwartz & Carroll, 2003) and
strategic vigilance to anticipate the future (Buono & Savall, 2015; Doz & Kosonen, 2010;
Savall, et al.,2008; Worley et al., 2015). This interconnectedness between strategic
foresight, responsiveness, and sustainability reflects the acquisition of dynamic capabilities
(Sambamurthy et al.,2003; Sull, 2009; Tallon & Pinsonneault, 2011) that prescribe an
approach extending beyond the leadership of the firm and towards agile structures
systemically inclusive of organizational constituencies (Buono & Savall, 2015; Savall &
3
Zardet, 2011; Worley & Lawler III, 2006; Worley & Mohrman, 2014). Particularly
vulnerable to shifting environments are growing companies that draw their foresight from
a charismatic leader (de Vries, Manfred FR Kets, 1996; Harvey, 2001; Paulsen et al., 2009),
or a confined leadership group. This attribute is common to startups and to most SMEs
forming the bulk of companies in the Middle East in general (Hamdar et al.,2017; UNDP,
2014). Addressing the sustainability of business, specifically SMEs, is therefore crucial for
the enhancement prospects of Middle Eastern Societies. Research on systemic agility of
SMEs in the Middle East is scarce hence the purpose of this intervention research,
involving a real case scenario of a growing company. The objective is to investigate a
systemic approach enabling the company to sustainably transform towards agility, while
preserving the characteristics that led to its growth. The following section introduces the
company and subject matter of the case study. The remainder of the paper explores
perspectives on agility and organizational culture, describes the methodology used, and
discusses the findings of the study. Finally, the conclusion discusses the limitations and
contributions to both practice and theory.
2. Company Overview and Challenges
The inspection and certification company called ICB for reasons of anonymity, is the
regional subsidiary of an international quality control body with an employment base of
12,000 engineers and technicians. Inspection and certification bodies are consultants called
upon to assure that contractual parties are complying with standards and regulations, or to
help in the procedural implementation of standards. ICB was founded in 1995 to develop
autonomously the international expansion in the Middle East and African countries from a
4
regional base. The founder of ICB has a charismatic and energetic personality (de Vries,
1994, 1996; Rumelt, 2011), wielding a vast network of personal relations that seem to have
allowed his company to dominate the massive postwar reconstruction market in Lebanon
with a decisive 50% share. In 2014, an independent market study found that 3 out of 4
potential customers from the Lebanese market regarded ICB as their first choice for
technical inspection.
ICB is fast developing in diverse and challenging contexts. The number of employees has
expanded 10 fold in as many years, from 7 to about 70 employees, with several subsidiaries
and partnerships in middle eastern countries. The expansion was mainly driven by the
energy of the founder, who is also the CEO and managing director. ICB leadership has
three defined missions: (1) Maintaining growth and profitability in the regional base, (2)
Expanding to new markets in the Middle East and Africa, and (3) Training engineers and
managers capable of populating the expansion in new markets. The management of the
company is attempting to diversify its offerings beyond the construction business that
makes up the bulk of its work. The services offered by ICB and its subsidiaries are grouped
into six departments: (1) Technical control: Buildings, (2) Inspection and technical
assistance: Electrical and mechanical installations and equipment, (3) Consultancy:
Standards and accreditation, (4) Quality management and standard implementation
expertise, (5) Standardized and customized trainings, and (6) Testing and measurement.
The managing director also casts in ad hoc jobs as owner-representative or as technical
expert for large construction projects.
5
The business model of the company is essentially contracts that require engineers and
consultants to inspect sites, processes, and plans, and to compare them to applicable
standards and norms. The ensuing reports have a weighing moral and material
consequences. The engineers and experts of ICB, in their organizational activity report
directly to two anchors: The technical anchor with senior expertise in the field of
inspection, and the administrative anchor of delegation and reporting. Following the scope
and specificity of the jobs and missions, the technical and managerial anchors converge
when the technical backing and the managerial routing emerge from the same point in the
organizational hierarchy. They commonly diverge when the managerial chain does not
coincide with the required technical expertise. For example, an electrical engineer
inspecting the wiring of a construction site, will report technically to the senior construction
engineer, while administratively reporting to the MEP department head.
Since its establishment, the company has consistently exceeded the performance of peer
organizations. The changes to its operational model and the diversification of its offerings
have maintained the growth of the company. The expansion towards Arab and African
countries was also met with changes in the operational paradigm brought by interactions
with influential cultures (Preston, Wall, & Morris, 2017). This suggests a learning
organization (Argyris & Schôn, 1974, 1996; Senge, 1994). Yet, the decision making
process remained simple and concentrated in the hands of the managing director. From
another perspective, macro challenges facing ICB abound: The expanding number of
national and transnational standards, the diversity of cultures and borders, the variety of
political and legal systems in which the company operates, the remoteness of serviced
markets, and the political power that competitors sometimes abuse to subdue ICB’s growth.
6
Moreover, numerous meso challenges result from the expansion of products and markets,
and the subsequent diversification of subsidiary governance structures (Figure 1).
Insert Figure 1 about here
These macro and meso issues compound the micro challenges arising from the desire of
the charismatic leader to recede from the routine hands-on management of the company to
dedicate more time to high value added activities such as innovation and strategy.
The common thread to all challenges facing the company is change. The “increasingly
accelerated change in the ‘high-velocity’ dynamic markets” (Kharabe, 2012, p. xvii)
bringing change in the macro and meso environments and the desired change on the
personal level. From the company standpoint, sustaining above average performance
spearheaded by the constant challenge of responding and adapting to change was addressed
with the sole decision making authority of the managing director. Thus, the most pressing
issue for the research is to transfer to multiple company actors the skill and will to forecast,
respond, and adapt to change (de Jager, 2004; Schein, 2004; Schein, 2010a; Worley et al.,
2016). The ultimate goal is to institutionalize these attributes and the drive for performance,
within the organizational culture. Particularly relevant are (a) the role of management in a
postmodern world (Boje et al., 1995), (b) the transition from startup to SME, and (c)
whether agility can be institutionalized within the organization’s culture.
7
3. Perspectives on an Agile and Adaptive Culture
The charismatic energy of the managing director may have been sufficient inspiration for
rapid adaptability in the early days of a small but growing company. In such a dynamic
context, the whirlwind of constant change was indistinguishable from the entrepreneurial
energy of a founder with exclusive decision making authority. However, the transition from
startup to SME highlighted the emergence of a cultural need for organizational agility
(Arbussa et al., 2017; North & Varvakis, 2016) and adaptation to allow for continued
development and future growth. The founder’s desire to focus his energy on high-value
activities revealed that he had not planned for succession and relinquishing control to a
decentralized decision making structure as the company grew. Thus, the spontaneity in
appearance of an agile organization must, paradoxically, be planned to prevent
dysfunctions and loss of performance going forward. The organization must transform into
a cohesive team, committed to common goals and extraordinary results (DePorres et al.,
2018).
There are distinctive changes in successive functional roles from entrepreneur, to small
business owner-manager, and on to corporate manager, with the latter two having more in
common than the startup stage of growth (Stewart et al, 1998). Yet, Jennings and Beaver
(1997, p.63) observed that “the management process in small firms is unique and cannot
be considered to be the same as professional management in larger organizations practiced
on a reduced scale. The multiplicity of roles expected of the owner-manager as the principal
stakeholder often causes dissonance which enhances the probability of poor decision
making and inappropriate action.” Thus, recognizing and planning for the startup to SME
8
transition involves an enumeration and development of required competences in the
management cadre. This sort of planning is very rarely designed into new businesses, but
it is indeed possible with a return to the foundation of entrepreneurship. Savall & Hillon
(2017) described a functional interaction of internal management competences and external
strategic insight of the environment in reviving the original thoughts of Cantillon on
entrepreneurship. Contrary to the later trait-based Schumpeterian view, Cantillon first
recognized entrepreneurship as a process of value creation with much in common with
critical data-driven management and strategic vigilance.
In the much more common case of correcting latent dysfunctions due to insufficient
business planning at startup, management competencies must be developed. However,
correction late in the game also requires a critical (re)assessment of management practice
and management thought. Management in the postmodern era wields inclusivity as it
substitutes teams for leaders, and erodes the significance of formal statuses and the myth
of human agency (Boje et al., 1995). The discrete formal statuses providing the authority
to “direct and coordinate the behaviors” (Boje et al., 1995, p.2) of organizational
constituents, are overrun by the relational forces at play in companies (Mauws, 1995;
Morrow & Brown, 1994) and the emerging inclusivity norms (Donais & McCandless,
2017). Mentoring and non-hierarchical relationships, and the focus on long term
development advances the concept of social actors embedded in the context of the
organization (Bittner, 1974; Gephart Jr, 1978), developing their own commitments,
interests, linguistic codes, values and culture (Boje et al., 1995). This also brings to
forefront the empowerment paradigm and the cultural perspective (Geertz, 1973; Spradley,
9
1979) focusing on actual people and behaviors, and displacing formalist description
(Maanen, 1988). Yet, the salience of managers and the legitimacy of their authority,
increases dramatically when the leader is charismatic (de Vries, Manfred FR Kets, 1996;
Harvey, 2001; Paulsen et al., 2009), exhibiting transformational aspirations (Bass &
Avolio, 1985), and effectiveness in reaching company objectives (Boje et al., 1995).
From another perspective, the successive transformations that were brought to ICB yielded
sustainable performance, which suggests an adaptable organization. The adaptability of the
organization “means being able to change over and over again; not once or in small ways,
but in adjustments that result in the development and implementation of new capabilities.”
(Doz & Kosonen, 2010; North & Varvakis, 2016; Worley et al., 2015). With ICB leader’s
capacity to explore a variety of designs and offerings, to rethink strategies and structures,
and to sustain performance, the company has demonstrated agility defined by the ability to
detect and seize opportunities in competitive markets, through assembling required
alliances and resources, material and intangible, with speed and surprise.” (Sambamurthy
et al., 2003). However, the growth of ICB plainly illustrates that sustaining agility is not an
individual capability, but rather, an organization level capacity (Sull, 2009). In fact, the
challenge for ICB is to maintain apace the organizational agility with the un-abating and
hectic changes occurring so rapidly that there is no time to react; instead we must
anticipate the future” (Naisbitt, 2015, p.18).
10
Such a fast pace of change requires developing “strong dynamic and learning capabilities
[that] would manifest a performance pattern different from mere survival” (Worley et al.,
2015, p.15). The path towards agility is assessed through (1) Outcome, in terms of a history
of successful changes and profitability commonly higher than peer averages, and (2)
Organizational development related to possessing “the strategies, structures and systems
that can drive change and sustained performance” (Worley et al., 2015, p.17). Agility is
theorized as the acquisitions of three interrelated and interactive levels of competence: (1)
Good management in the traditional sense of excellence in operations, (2) The capability
to differentiate the offering in the competitive market place, and (3) The development of
dynamic capabilities to constantly adapt to shifting environments (Worley et al., 2015).
Cardinal among the dynamic capabilities are group dynamics that “has the largest impact
on total group performance (Sanders & Whatley, 2015).
ICB meets the first of the agility standards, that of outcome demonstrating sustained
higher-than-average profitability and a record of successful changes. However, ICB misses
on the second agility standard, that of organizational knowledge of dynamic capabilities.
In short, charisma creates a dependence, perhaps even feeds off dependence of followers
(de Vries, Manfred FR Kets, 1996), such that there are insufficient management
competences, knowledge, and skills to sustain organizational performance once the leader
relinquishes his role.
Dynamic capabilities encompass a systemic and structural learning perspective (Doz &
Kosonen, 2010), delivering “appropriate organization changes when and where they are
11
needed” rather than adhering “to a particular set of management practices” (Worley et al.,
2015). The dynamic and vital capacity to continuously build and scrap capabilities, both
on the short and long terms (Reeves et al.,2017; Sull, 2009), requires a robust culture of
organizational agility (Schein, 2010b). An agile organization exhibits a culture capable of
continuous adaptability and change, recursively inter-structured by the interaction between
organizational structures and workforce behaviors (Giddens, 1984; Savall, 1974; Savall &
Zardet, 2011). In this sense, organizational structures are the set of elements in an
organization that exhibit properties of relative stability (Savall and Zardet, 1987, 2010) and
can be classified as “physical, technological, organizational, demographic, and mental
structures” (Buono & Savall, 2015, p.8).
It may seem paradoxical that dynamic capabilities are tied to relatively stable
organizational structures. Agile companies display their dynamism in four routines: (1)
Strategizing to establish action-inducing aspirational purposes that are shared by the
company’s constituents, (2) Perceiving environmental changes and, swiftly
communicating them to formulate appropriate responses, (3) Learning from enterprising
experiments, and (4) Implementing systemic change, with measurable impacts on
performance (Worley et al., 2015). Such routines reflect the needed transition at ICB, from
a single static leader to a multi-centered heterarchic social structure of ensemble leadership
(Rosile et al, 2016), that strategically aligns organizational, interpersonal and individual
processes (Daya, 2014). Steering a company towards agility through these routines
compels the institutionalization of change itself in the organizational culture as defined by
12
structural and behavioral interactions (Bonnet et al., 2016; Buono & Savall, 2015; Savall,
1974).
4. Methodology
Anchored in the belief that “the organizational management approach cannot be viewed
only from a research position” (Magala, 2017, p.457), the socio-economic approach merges
theoretical research with the practice of management and follows an abductive reasoning
process (El Haddad et al., 2017). A continuum of qualitative, quantitative, and financial
data is generated through observation, document analysis, and semi-structured interviews.
The latter were conducted horizontally with the organization’s top managers including the
CEO, and vertically along department and subsidiary lines (Cappelletti & Baker, 2009;
Savall & Zardet, 2011). A steering committee to conduct the transformation process was
formed by the CEO, the deputy general manager, and the head of training department. The
path of the intervention moved towards an agile organization through a series of diagnoses
and subsequent actions devised by task force teams, and facilitated by the researcher
accompanying the organizational actors.
Defining dysfunctions as the spread between management expectations and actual
performance (Savall & Zardet, 2011), interviews were focused on discovering them in the
organization. Dysfunctions were then analyzed for content, and categorized into themes,
sub-themes, and key ideas. One notable difficulty stemmed from the fact that responders
used French, English and Arabic during the interviews. Transcripts were translated to
English by the researcher and were later re-read to the responders who made modifications
13
as needed and approved the final version. While the horizontal intervention addressed the
key strategic elements and organizational siloing, the vertical intervention concentrated on
issues of operational effectiveness and efficiency. The vertical diagnosis was conducted in
two rounds of interviews, with the first round of qualitative interviews allowing the
identification of dysfunctions and bottlenecks. Table 1 provides an example on how data
was analyzed.
Insert Table 1 around here
The second round assigned quantitative and financial values to the dysfunctions. A concise
report grouping the key ideas into common threads and baskets of intervention was written
in the practical language used in the company, thereby providing explicit and implicit
explanations of dysfunctions (Savall & Zardet, 2011). Operational departments of the
company interact with actors and functions from other departments, therefore, transversal
interviews with actors from other departments were key to further the understanding of the
dysfunctions and to suggest actions. Consequently, representatives of several departments
were included in task force teams and were asked to reflect on the data, and to propose
operational solutions to reduce specific -quantitatively and financially measured-
dysfunctions.
5. Discussion of Findings
After analyzing the data collected in the horizontal and vertical diagnoses phases, it became
clear that ICB projected a false sense of agility as the sole product of the dynamic and
overly energetic managing director of the company. Four main groups of expressed
dysfunctions were found to be blocking the transition needed to establish the healthy
14
routines of an agile organization. The theme of the first group was the centralized structure
that allowed for swift decision making, but was also responsible for atrophied performance
throughout the company. Department heads were not included in the decision making
process nor empowered to implement decisions, task allocation was not related to job
descriptions and work procedures, and performance evaluation and incentives seemed
random to employees. Discussion of this major barrier to agility revealed the need for a
synchronized decentralization and inclusive structure at the executive and managerial
levels. From this first step, it followed that the concerted delegation of authority would
improve structural and behavioral performance, thereby reconnecting decision making
with implementation. A participatory and inclusive process to set objectives, guidelines,
and evaluation procedures linked to incentives, would in turn improve individual and team
performance. The centralized structure that had served ICB well in the previous two
decades had become a barrier in the transition to an agile company, preventing the
emergence of multiple poles of innovation, entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship. A
substantial part of the loss of potential and hidden costs identified in the diagnosis was due
to a tightly controlled centralized structure.
The theme of the second dysfunction group concerned the failures in the management of
human potential, specifically in non-systematized career planning that resulted in a lack of
senior technical and managerial skills. The fast growth of the company had used available
competencies efficiently, but there is a lack of sensibility towards the risk and vulnerability
to a scarcity of some competencies, which generated hidden costs and lost potential.
Reflecting on this theme, task force members saw the need to design a human resource
15
strategy aligning personal with company growth goals and integrating training needs to
enhance the resilience of the company. Such a strategy would reduce the risk of exposure
to lost or over-burdened competencies and their subsequent actual and potential hidden
costs.
The theme of the third dysfunction group was expressed as an over-centralization of
strategic planning. Top management did not coordinate and communicate strategy setting
across the company, which led to conflict with short-term requirements at lower levels that
impeded local growth. In a practical sense, the resistance to innovate perceived by top
management was due to their own failure to properly execute the strategy process. An
inclusive strategic planning process would empower company constituents, align
individual and team efforts towards shared goals, and enhance innovation through
multiplying initiative poles.
The theme of the fourth group of dysfunctions described the lack of timely information and
its impact on performance. Essentially, the company had no dashboards or indicators for
the status of projects, and also lacked project level cost accounting information. The
inability to use available information technology was creating hidden costs unaccounted
for in the traditional accounting system- and lost potential. The task force reflected that
coupling technology innovations with the concerted delegation of authority would lead to
the use of automated tools and dashboards to improve visibility on company activities and
task allocation, thereby reducing hidden costs.
16
Beyond diagnosis of dysfunctions and the production of actionable knowledge, the
research process offered a viable means to measure the costs imposed by barriers to
organizational agility. The hidden costs of dysfunctions in can be calculated in terms of
absenteeism, occupational injuries, staff turnover, quality defects, and direct productivity
gaps. The conversion of the quantitative findings into financial numbers made use of the
hourly contribution of value added on variable costs (HCVAVC), which measures the
hourly average of employees’ value added to the firm (Cappelletti & Baker, 2009). The
subtlety of the HCVAVC indicator is that it does not determine the cost of personnel but
rather, the average value that they produce, which allows a determination of the human
potential of the firm (Buono & Savall, 2007). Therefore, HCVAVC emphasizes “intangible
resources as levers for the development of competitive advantages” (Cappelletti & Baker,
2009, p.4). Most importantly, calculating this measure establishes a real financial impact
for organizational dysfunctions, tied directly to the profit and loss statement. The results of
the quantitative and financial analysis of the ICB intervention research yielded results that
are in line with the average value of dysfunctions typically witnessed in socio-economic
interventions conducted in the region and elsewhere (Savall & Zardet, 2008). They were
validated by the process of contradictory intersubjectivity that represents “a technique for
creating consensus based on the subjective perceptions of different actors in order to create
more objective grounds for working together through numerous interactions between the
actors” (Coghlan & Brydon-Miller, 2014), p.664). The financial impact of dysfunctions
resulting from the collective representation, formed by the confrontation of multiple
subjective information, made sense to company actors (Coghlan & Brydon-Miller, 2014;
Savall & Zardet, 2011). The introduction of the financial indicator was decisive in the
17
intervention; the positive historical results and growth as perceived by the company
leadership were brought to an eye-opening reality check by calculating the true costs of the
dysfunctions.
For this study, the hidden costs of dysfunctions were estimated for quality defects and
direct productivity gaps. The total annual estimate in these two categories for the company
was 382,272USD or 31,000USD per employee per year. Although a very conservative
estimate, this cost of not becoming agile, inclusive, and adaptive is substantial. The largest
subcategories were non-production (172,988USD, 45%), over-salary (96,390USD, 25%)
and non-creation of potential (62,118USD, 16%).
The top-driven, but participative and scientific character of this research produced
actionable knowledge to help ICB transition to agility through inclusivity. The executives
and managers discussed, agreed, and adopted a transition project to institute a synchronized
decentralization structure with clear rules and procedures for concerted delegation of
authority. The vertical intervention task force members produced a similar resolve
expressed in the language of their operational functions to formalize the delegation of
authority. Their focus was to improve task allocation and feedback and the working
relationships among departments to improve the sharing of information. Financial data and
project status information was to be improved by designating specific reporting roles
among the engineers responsible for collection. Other projects were designed to formalize
procedures and to adapt technology to enhance the timeliness of information collection and
availability.
18
6. Conclusion
The skepticism of business practitioners towards the scholarly research of business and
management, stemming from impracticality (O'Brien et al., 2010) or irrelevance of topic
(Bennis & O'Toole, 2005), appended by scholars criticizing esoteric theory (Hambrick,
2007) rather than value to practice (Bartunek, 2007; Pfeffer, 2007; Van de Ven, Andrew
H, 2007) highlights the importance of discussing the practical contribution of this research
in the field of intervention and its link to theory.
The conformity of the horizontal and vertical diagnoses in discovering organizational and
management structure dysfunctions brings confirming evidence of the systemic feature of
these organizational management illnesses. The complexity of the organization, though an
SME, in structure and practice makes the intervention research methodology appropriate
and the subsequent findings of this study all the more relevant. An inclusive concerted
delegation of power formalizes, as stipulated by the socio-economic approach to
management (Savall et al., 2008), innovative, contingent and relevant ‘rules of the game’
promoting a synchronized decentralization, and endorses the multiplication of poles of
innovation and the integration of the collective intelligence.
The static management model that governed organizational culture at ICB prior to the
socio-economic intervention reflected the centralized, expert-driven approach. As this is
the global default mode for management, one could logically posit that most organizations
are structured against agility and adaptability. Synchronized decentralization contributes
to instilling an inclusive management structure which empowers company constituents,
19
thereby liberating top management, department heads, engineers, and consultants’ time
toward higher value added activities. The release and integration of the company’s total
human potential results in greater energy available to carry out a diversity of functions, and
more for expansion of markets, products, and services.
An important limitation facing scholar-researchers in management science is the scope of
the intervention. Particularly present in the pragmatic and participative nature of the socio-
economic approach to management (Cappelletti & Baker, 2010; Coghlan & Brydon-Miller,
2014), the scope limitation of the intervention draws a line between the maximal
hypotheses and the minimal hypotheses. Maintaining the scientifically commendable
passive distance between the researcher and the research object, and drawing on the
foundational principle of collective intelligence, the intervener researcher must concede
the difference between the maximal change that should be brought to the organization and
what the organizational constituents are willing or capable of doing.
On the theoretical level, the results of this research bring confirmation that empowering
inclusion provides a reversal to Taylorism-Fayolism-Weberism, particularly the
intellectually and emotionally flattening impact of a hierarchical mechanistic work place
which would obstruct creativity and self-fulfillment (Wilkinson, 1998). Inclusivity
involves everyone in everything in the organizational context (Roberson, 2006; Chavez &
Weisinger, 2008; Mor Barak, 2015), and enhances the intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial
spirit to boost “productivity through people” (Peters & Waterman, 1982, p.42). The
concept of treating employees as internal clients in socio-economic management, and the
20
individual negotiation-contractual approach, spreads the empowerment to all the layers of
the company and de-unionizes (Wilkinson, 1998) democracy, bringing it to the personal
level. Moreover, empowerment and inclusion in the socio-economic approach to
management de-bureaucratizes and delayers the organization as part of the movement
towards the knowledge-based organization (Drucker, 1988), emphasized and put into
practice by undertaking the multiplication of innovation poles cherished in agile
organizations (Worley et al., 2015; Savall et al., 2008).
Beyond the scope of conventional empowerment scholarship, this research proves that the
socio-economic management implemented via participative qualimetric intervention
research reconstitutes management control (Pfeffer, 1994) “within the system, rather than
over the system" (Wilkinson, 1998). The resulting increases in dynamic capabilities of the
organization included the effects of employees taking ownership of the execution, and
identifying their individual deficiencies and training needs. The internalization of the
dynamic capabilities of the organization and the integration of the human potential into the
organizational system were formalized in the socio-economic approach (Cappelletti &
Baker, 2010; Savall et al., 2008) as a humanistic method of strategic management control.
Further confirmation is also brought to the fact that agile organizations engage in deliberate
experiments and leverage incentive systems that encourage both performance and change”
(Worley et al., 2014, p. 22). The in-vivo experiment conducted in ICB entrained the
organization in a dynamic of experimentation and evaluation, inclusive of all levels of the
organization. The strategic planning was clarified with a strategic vision, communicated
21
across the company, providing a clear image to the extent of what to achieve (Naisbitt,
1982) in terms of strategic vigilance, proactivity, and adaptation to environmental changes.
The dynamic of monitoring organizational competencies at the personal level, and
synchronizing trainings with the strategic vigilance and vision, espoused and epitomized
the agile organization. It is therefore warranted to confirm that the socio-economic
intervention introduced agility to the culture of the growing middle eastern company. This
also warrants future transversal research among middle eastern SMEs to investigate generic
attributes of transformation from agile leaders to agile leadership.
22
References
Arbussa, A., Bikfalvi, A., & Marquès, P. (2017). Strategic agility-driven business model renewal:
The case of an SME. Management Decision, 55(2), 271-293.Argyris, C., & Schôn, D. A.
(1996). Organizational learning II: Theory. Method and Practice.
Argyris, C., & Schôn, D. A. (1974). Theory in practice: Increasing professional effectiveness.
Jossey-Bass.
Attali, J. (2013). Pour une économie positive : Fayard.
Bartunek, J. M. (2007). Academic-practitioner collaboration need not require joint or relevant
research: Toward a relational scholarship of integration. Academy of Management Journal,
50(6), 13231333.
Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. (1985). Charisma and beyond. Annual Meeting of the Academy of
Management, San Diego.
Beer, M. (2009). High commitment, high performance. America: Jossey Bass.
Bennis, W. G., & O'Toole, J. (2005). How business schools lost their way Harvard Business
Review, 83(5), 104, 154.
Bittner, E. (1974). The concept of organization. S. 6981 in: Roy turner (hrsg.),
ethnomethodology. selected readings.
Boje, D. M., Gephart, R. P., & Thatchenkery, T. J. (1995). Postmodern management and
organization theory. Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage Publications.
Bonnet, M., Zardet, V., Savall, H., & Peron, M. (2016). Le capitalisme socialement responsable
existe: Editions EMS.
Buono, A., & Savall, H. (2015). The socio-economic approach to management revisited. The
Evolving Nature of SEAM in the 21st Century.Charlotte, EE.UU.: IAP,
Carroll, A. B. (1979). A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance. Academy
of Management Review, 4(4), 497-505.
Cappelletti, L. G., & Baker, C. R. (2010). Developing human capital through a pragmatic oriented
action research project A french case study. Action Research, 8(2), 211-232.
Cappelletti, L., & Baker, C. R. (2009). No title. Measuring and Fostering Human Capital:
Evidence from an Action Research Project,
23
Carroll, A. B. (1979). A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance. Academy
of Management Review, 4(4), 497-505.
Chavez, C. I., & Weisinger, J. Y. (2008). Beyond diversity training: A social infusion for cultural
inclusion. Human Resource Management: Published in Cooperation with the School of
Business Administration, the University of Michigan and in Alliance with the Society of
Human Resources Management, 47(2), 331-350.
Coghlan, D., & Brydon-Miller, M. (2014). The SAGE encyclopedia of action research. Sage.
Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2014). Organization development and change. Cengage
learning.
de Jager, P. (2004). Who me, change?
DePorres, D., Ferrante, C., Levy, D., Preston, J., & Tucker, E. (2018). Raising the BAR: A call to
action. Organization Development Journal, 36(3), 45-53.
de Vries, Manfred FR Kets. (1994). The leadership mystique. The Academy of Management
Executive, 8(3), 73-89.
de Vries, Manfred FR Kets. (1996). The anatomy of the entrepreneur: Clinical observations.
Human Relations, 49(7), 853-883.
Daya, P. (2014). Diversity and inclusion in an emerging market context. Equality, Diversity and
Inclusion: An International Journal, 33(3), 293-308.
Donais, T., & McCandless, E. (2017). International peace building and the emerging inclusivity
norm. Third World Quarterly, 38(2), 291-310.
Doz, Y. L., & Kosonen, M. (2010). Embedding strategic agility: A leadership agenda for
accelerating business model renewal. Long Range Planning, 43(2-3), 370-382.
Eccles, R. G., Ioannou, I., & Serafeim, G. (2012). The impact of a corporate culture of
sustainability on corporate behavior and performance National Bureau of Economic
Research
Cambridge, MA, USA.
El Haddad, P., Bonnet, M., & Tabchoury, P. (2017). The socioeconomic approach to management:
Methodological positioning. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Proceedings,
, 2017(1) 10110.
El Haddad, P., & Menassa, E. (2015). Corporate social responsibility decision-making model: A
seven nodal process. Paper presented at the The 2015 European Academy of Management
Annual Conference. Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland.
24
Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures Basic books.
Gephart Jr, R. P. (1978). Status degradation and organizational succession: An
ethnomethodological approach. Administrative Science Quarterly, , 553-581.
Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration Univ of
California Press.
Hambrick, D. C. (2007). The field of management's devotion to theory: Too much of a good thing?
Academy of Management Journal, 50(6), 1346-1352.
Harvey, A. (2001). A dramaturgical analysis of charismatic leader discourse. Journal of
Organizational Change Management, 14(3), 253-265.
Hamdar, B. C., Najjar, R., & Karameh, K. (2017). The Lebanese perception of the impact of small
& medium enterprises (SMEs) on the national economy. Journal of Economics and Public
Finance, 3(3), 330.
Harvey, A. (2001). A dramaturgical analysis of charismatic leader discourse. Journal of
Organizational Change Management, 14(3), 253-265.
Haneberg, L. (2011). Training for agility. T+d, 65(9), 50-55.
Holbeche, L. (2015). The agile organization: How to build an innovative, sustainable and resilient
business. Kogan Page Publichers.
Jennings, P. & Beaver, G. (1997). The Performance and Competitive Advantage of Small Firms:
A Management Perspective. International Small Business Journal: Researching
Entrepreneurship, Vol 15 (2), p. 63-75.
Kharabe, A. T. (2012). Organizational agility and complex enterprise system innovations: A mixed
methods study of the effects of enterprise systems on organizational agility. Doctoral
Thesis: Case Western Reserve university.
Kohl, K. (2016). Becoming a sustainable organization: A project and portfolio management
approach, Auerbach Publications.
Maanen, J. v. (1988). Tales of the field. On Writing Ethnography, Chicago, University of Chicago,
Magala, S. J. (2017). Philosophy of science or knowledge management? Journal of Organizational
Change Management, 30(4)
Mauws, M. (1995). Relationality. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Annual Conference of
the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada Organisational Theory Division,
Windsor, Ontario, 71-80.
25
Mor Barak, M. E. (2015). Inclusion is the key to diversity management, but what is inclusion?
Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, 39(2), 83-88.
Morrow, R. A., & Brown, D. D. (1994). Critical theory and methodology Sage Publications.
Naisbitt, J. (2015). Megatrends (1982). Ten New Directions Transforming our Lives,
North, K., & Varvakis, G. (2016). The dynamic SME-how to develop agility and resilience to cope
with turbulent environments. Paper presented at the ICSB World Conference Proceedings.
Oppong, N. Y. (2013). Construction and application of conceptual framework as research tool: A
researcher’s reflections.
O'Brien, J. P., Drnevich, P. L., Crook, T. R., & Armstrong, C. E. (2010). Does business school
research add economic value for students? Academy of Management Learning &
Education, 9(4), 638-651.
Paulsen, N., Maldonado, D., Callan, V. J., & Ayoko, O. (2009). Charismatic leadership, change
and innovation in an R&D organization. Journal of Organizational Change Management,
22(5), 511-523. doi:10.1108/09534810910983479
Peters, T. J., Waterman, R. H., & Jones, I. (1982). In search of excellence: Lessons from america's
best-run companies.
Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2011). The big idea: Creating shared value.
Preston, J. C., Wall, K., & Morris, J. (2017). The influence of spirit and culture on the
establishment of a new network organization. Organization Development Journal, 35(3)
Reeves, M., Hansell, G., Hassan, F., & Chan, B. (2017). Measuring and managing corporate
vitality. BCG Publications, Retrieved from
https://www.bcg.com/publications/2017/strategy-strategic-planning-measuring-
managing-corporate-vitality.aspx?utm_source=201711
Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good strategy, bad strategy :. New York: Crown Business.
Roberson, Q. M. (2006). Disentangling the meanings of diversity and inclusion in organizations.
Group & Organization Management, 31(2), 212-236.
Rosile, G.A., Boje, D.M., & Claw, C.M. (2016). Ensemble leadership theory: Collectivist,
relational, and heterarchical roots from indigenous contexts. Leadership, Available online
at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1742715016652933
Sambamurthy, V., Bharadwaj, A., & Grover, V. (2003). Shaping agility through digital options:
Reconceptualizing the role of information technology in contemporary firms. MIS
Quarterly, 27(3), 237-263.
26
Sanders, E., & Whatley, L. (2015). Strengthening the SEAM community in north America: A case
study in group dynamics. Organization Development Journal, 33(3)
Savall, A. & Hillon, Y.C. (2017). Strategic Venturing for Entrepreneurs: A New Application of
the Socio-Economic Approach to Management. Accepted for publication by American
Journal of Management. 17(3), 47-63.
Savall, H. (1974). L'enrichissement du travail humain dans les organisations Université Paris
Dauphine.
Savall, H. (2010). Work and people: An economic evaluation of job enrichment IAP.
Savall, H., & Zardet, V. (2011). The qualimetrics approach: Observing the complex object. IAP.
Savall, H., & Zardet, V. (2008). Mastering hidden costs and socio-economic performance. IAP.
Savall, H., & Zardet, V. (2015). Maîtriser Les Coûts Et Les Performances Cachées.
Savall, H., Zardet, V., & Bonnet, M. (2008). No title. Releasing the Untapped Potential of
Enterprises through Socio-Economic Management,
Schwartz, M. S., & Carroll, A. B. (2003). Corporate social responsibility: A three-domain
approach. Business Ethics Quarterly, 13(4), 503-530.
Schein, E. H. (2004). Organizational culture and leadership (Jossey-bass business & management
series). Jossey Bass Incorporated.
Schein, E. H. (2010a). Organizational culture and leadership John Wiley & Sons.
Senge, P. M. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning
organization. New York: Currency, Doubleday.
Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. Holt, Ri,
Schwartz, M. S., & Carroll, A. B. (2003). Corporate social responsibility: A three-domain
approach. Business Ethics Quarterly, 13(4), 503-530.
Stewart, W.H., Watson, W.E., Carland, J.C., and Carland, J.W. (1998). A proclivity for
entrepreneurship: A comparison of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and corporate
managers. Journal of Business Venturing, 14, 189-214.
Sull, D. N. (2009). The upside of turbulence: Seizing opportunity in an uncertain world.
HarperCollins.
Tallon, P. P., & Pinsonneault, A. (2011). Competing perspectives on the link between strategic
27
information technology alignment and organizational agility: Insights from a mediation
model. MIS Quarterly, 16(17), 463-486.
Thomas, R., Sargent, L. D., & Hardy, C. (2011). Managing organizational change: Negotiating
meaning and power-resistance relations. Organization Science, 22(1), 22-41.
United Nations Development Program, Lebanese Ministry of Economy . (2014). Lebanon SME
Strategy: A Roadmap to 2020.
Van de Ven, Andrew H. (2007). Engaged scholarship: A guide for organizational and social
research. Oxford University Press on Demand.
Willems, H., & Smet, M. (2007). Mentoring driving diversity. Organization Development Journal,
25(2), P107.
Worley, C. G., Zardet, V., Bonnet, M., & Savall, A. (2015). Becoming agile: How the SEAM
approach to management builds adaptability John Wiley & Sons.
Worley, C. G., & Lawler III, E. E. (2006). Designing organizations that are built to change. MIT
Sloan Management Review, 48(1), 19-23.
Worley, C. G., & Mohrman, S. A. (2014). Is change management obsolete? Organizational
Dynamics, 43(3), 214-224.
Worley, C. G., Williams, T., & Lawler, E. E. (2016). Creating management processes built for
change. MIT Sloan Management Review, 58(1), 77.
28
Figure 1
Governance Structure of Subsidiaries
29
Table 1
Example of Data Analysis
Dysfunctions and Witness Sentences
Frequency
Prevalence
Distribution
Prevalence
Dysfunctions:
9/9
Work Organization:
52%
9/9
Accounting:
10%
4/9
Cost-
accounting:
100%
4/9
1. There is no cost accounting system
2. We have no accounting analytics
3. We need a system that supports cost
accounting
4. We do not have an accounting system
that tracks individual time spent on each
project
5. We have no tool for cost accounting
6. There is no cost accounting
7. The staff that should distribute the
expenses between jobs is not assigned
8. No staff is assigned to accounting to
distribute expenses among projects
9. No staff is assigned to accounting to
calculate individual time spent on each
project
10. Accounting department lacks staff
11. There is no cost accounting system
12. Work is not well organized in the
company to benefit from the existing
competencies
... In addition, another result was that organizational culture predicts crisis management. Haddad and Bonnet (2020) reported that agile leadership has a dynamic effect on the culture of the organization that constantly innovates to ensure harmony and change. Strode et al. (2009) reported that agile leadership predicts the culture of the organization, adding that agile leadership in organizations largely predicts the culture of the organization. ...
Full-text available
Article
Educational organizations include intense human relations and social interaction. In this respect, the potential for the emergence of crises in educational organizations is quite high. In the literature, agile leadership is a significant type of leadership in which leaders possess an ability to take quick and correct decisions, cope with stress and psychological pressures, and remain calm while managing crises. In addition, a strong, established, and experienced organizational culture is essential in times of crisis. With these aspects, the variables of crisis management, agile leadership, and organizational culture are considered to be related to each other. The relationship between the variables of crisis management, agile leadership, and organizational culture, as well as the direction and size of this relationship, was examined. The study was designed in the correlational model. Teachers working in public primary schools in Malatya during the 2021-2022 academic year were included in the population of the study. In the study, 406 teachers determined by the random method were included in the sample. Data were collected through five-point Likert-type scales including “Crisis Management”, “Agile Leadership”, and “Organizational Culture”. Teachers reported that there was a moderate, positive, and significant relationship between crisis management, agile leadership, and organizational culture. In addition, it was concluded that the agile leadership of the principals and organizational culture could predict crisis management. It is recommended that agile leaders be employed in organizations, agile leadership training be provided, and strong and permanent/continuous cultures be established in organizations to avoid the negative effects of crises on organizations and employees in educational organizations.
Full-text available
Article
The authors explore the concept of fostering strategic change through organization learning and continuous improvement. The novel COVID-19 pandemic was a shock to most organizations and led to failures of change initiatives and company closures. Given the dynamic operating environment and the dynamics of the 21st-century environment, Organization Development (OD) practitioners need to adapt and offer an eclectic mix of interventions informed by novel paradigms. This will ensure sustainability and longevity during unsettled and highly competitive times. The authors propose eight (8) paradigm shifts to support organization learning and continuous improvement through the use of OD practices. Recommendations are offered to support organizations improving their facilitation of strategic change. The authors conclude that continuous business growth, adaptability, self-renewal, and sustainability are fundamentals for organizations seeking to thrive.
Full-text available
Book
Organizations find that a performance gap exists between sustainability vision and benefits realization. Effecting transformational change requires incorporating sustainability into organization’s culture including policies, processes, and people. Although they are often overlooked, project management professionals and HR professionals are valuable organizational resources for driving sustainable transformation. This book lays out a framework to improve sustainability integrations including case studies, lessons learned, best practices, and tools and templates to facilitate transforming into a sustainable organization. Becoming a Sustainable Organization: A Project and Portfolio Management Approach lays out a framework to create organizational value while preserving natural and social capital. The book provides a roadmap for organizations during their sustainability journey by sharing case studies, best practices, and lessons learned, as well as tools and techniques to drive change. This book is an ideal resource for project and portfolio managers, as well as executive managers, in organizations that are embarking on a sustainability journey. It explains how to engage both internal and external stakeholders in order to reframe strategy to drive this transformation. It examines the role human capital management professionals and policies can play in ensuring that employees become fully engaged in sustainability. It also recommends baseline measurements and metrics to help managers ensure sustainability initiatives remain on track. The case studies and interviews in this book include sustainability stories and projects from a variety of organizations in both function and size, including family-owned businesses, higher-education institutions, NGOs, municipal and federal government agencies, and large global organizations. These cases are based on interviews with experienced sustainability and project management professionals who have not just "talked the talk" but also "walked the walk." The voices of these professionals provide invaluable inspiration and guidance to sustainability champions and to program and project managers seeking to move their sustainability portfolio components forward within their organizations.
Full-text available
Article
p class="Default"> Over the years, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) have been very significant to the economic development of most developing and developed countries. It is a major form of business and a major employer with a strong positive impact on the economic growth and labor market in Lebanon. This paper researches the impact of SMEs on the Lebanese labor market and Lebanese economy. Furthermore, the importance of SMEs, and the challenges facing the sector and makes recommendations as to how to resolve these challenges. The data was collected through a questionnaire, and several literature, publications and reports. Based on past researches and studies there is a relation between SMEs and job creation in addition to the vital role they play in a nation’s economy. This is a basic study to show the impact and importance of SMEs. Recommendations are made for governments to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and in collaboration with banks to facilitate access to credit to ensure the growth, development and continuation of SMEs. Furthermore, owners and employees of SMEs should be provided with a skill acquisition program to boost their skills, and to ensure the development of both employees and the business. </p
Article
In this call to action, the authors discuss some of the reasons we believe action research is not widely practiced as a core leadership skill and present options for rectifying this situation. We posit action research has not caught on due to: its outsider status, confusing nomenclature, no single compelling model, leaders being unaware of it, action research falling near the bottom of the barrel of the body of knowledge associated with management, the tools that can be utilized along with action research not being evident to users, a lack of consistency in the practice of AR, lack of skill transference by practitioners, and the corporate departments where action research might originate being invisible to potential users. We suggest a number of responses to these challenges: promote a simple model that resonates with most people, demonstrate how leaders can embrace action research as an essential part of leadership practice, let values drive behavior thereby reducing the fear that one does not have enough tools. We invite the reader to join us on this journey.
Chapter
THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM is under siege. In recent years business increasingly has been viewed as a major cause of social, environmental, and economic problems. Companies are widely perceived to be prospering at the expense of the broader community.
Article
The Polynesian concept of "Aloha" is more than a word for hello and goodbye. It is a way of life driving how people interact with each other. This cultural phenomenon influenced the consulting work of the International Society for Organization Development and Change (ISODC) intervention team. An ISODC intervention team helped a Polynesian subculture to develop the Global Breadfruit Heritage Council (GBHC) in the USA, State of Hawaii. This team was asked to assist a diverse group of organizations to formalize a network organization (Preston, 2011, 2012). The goals were to promote and protect the breadfruit tree as this new organization spread the use of breadfruit around the world as a healthier substitute for food in developing countries. We discuss in this article the development of this organization and the influence that a strong subculture has on an intervention. The heritage of the breadfruit tree and Aloha drove the outcome of this project to the point that it dramatically influenced how the concept of network organization could be used to create this new umbrella group.