wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Edgar Schein (1928- )Edgar Schein


Influential management professor who pioneered the concept of corporate culture (pictured right).


Key books

Organizational Psychology (1965)


Vital to motivating employees are:


1. The psychological contract

(defines the unwritten set of mutual expectations between the individual and the organization)

For example, the need for money, job security and self-fulfilment in exchange for loyalty and effort.

If these implied promises are kept on both sides, the individual will be motivated and committed to the organization.


2. Complex man 

(i.e. people have different motives in different situations)

Managers must identify and sensitively respond to people's motives.

These motives are

  • rational-economic (working for money).
  • self-actualization (self-fulfilment).
  • social (the need for relationships, particularly in groups).


3. Leadership

Good leaders provide people with:

  • clear objectives.
  • a sense of identity with the organization.


Key quote on motivation

From the side of the worker, the psychological contract is implemented through his perception that he can influence the organization, or his own immediate situation, sufficiently to ensure that he will not be taken advantage of.


Key quote on management

If the needs and motives of his subordinates are different, they must be treated differently (talking about managers).



Career Dynamics (1978)


You will be happy in your job if:


1.You believe in your organization’s values and beliefs

(its corporate culture)


2. Your job allows you to enjoy the career anchor that is most important to you.

(based on your talents, motives and attitudes)  


There are five career anchors to choose from:


1. Technical / functional competence

(using a particular skill).


2. Managerial competence

(doing a manager’s job).


3. Security

(keeping your job).


4. Autonomy

(choosing how you work).


5. Creativity

(doing something new).


Key quotes on career management

One of the most important skills... is how to establish more meaningful relationships with other people.

 We always retain some choices.

 The career anchor is a learned part of the self-image.



Organizational Culture and Leadership (1985)


An organization's culture is the “basic assumptions and beliefs” shared by its employees. These determine its:

  • philosophy (including values).
  • staff (culture affects recruitment and motivation).
  • systems and structure.


Culture is at first created by the organization's founders and then strongly influenced by its subsequent leaders who have to ensure that the culture achieves two interdependent factors:

  • internal integration (employees effectively co-operating to achieve the organization's objectives like customer satisfaction).
  • external adaptation (flexibly and quickly responding to external changes like changing customer needs).


To overcome resistance to change, encourage innovation and change the culture, leaders can do several things:


a) inspire with vision

Communicate a vision for the future and inspire everyone to achieve it by:

  • persistence.
  • persuasion.
  • empathy (seeing employees' point of view).


b) lead by example 

Leaders can change people by:

  • what they do and teach.
  • giving people rewards and status for change
  • supporting the new culture.


c) recruitment, selection and dismissal 

  • recruiting people who support change.
  • firing (or retiring) the people who don't.


d) continually challenging assumptions and attitudes

Leaders must have the humility to accept new and better ways of thinking.


e) continually balancing the interests of the individual and the organization

This is why the psychological contract (unwritten mutual expectations) between them is so important (see Organizational Psychology above).


f) coercive persuasion - imposing the new culture and then persuading employees it's in their best interests to accept it.


Coercive persuasion was first discussed in Schein’s first book, Coercive Persuasion (1961), based upon his study of brainwashing of American soldiers by the Chinese in the Korean War.


It is easier to understand and persuade someone, if you:

  • share their values.
  • agree about what is humane and right.


Key quotes on culture and learning (from the 3rd edition, 2004)

Basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization (definition of organizational culture).

All group learning ultimately reflects someone’s original beliefs and values, their sense of what ought to be, as distinct from what is.


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