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Overcoming Organizational Defenses: Facilitating Organizational Learning 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0205123384
ISBN-10: 0205123384
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Chris Argyris is James Bryant Conant professor in the Graduate Schools of Business Administration and Education at Harvard University. He is author of 24 books and more than 200 articles.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 169 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 1 edition (March 25, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0205123384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0205123384
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Borrowing from Seligman, the younger Baby-Boomers and later generations are the 1st in the history of the world to "have the choice" to be knowledge workers. This throws people together into complex social systems that require a new level of communication ability that's new to man as a species and is currently not taught in schools. So, like it or not, successfully dealing with "the soft stuff" in human organizations (unsticking "stuck" cultures) preceeds any real ability to build organizational-readiness for long-term value.

This classic book by Argyris is essential reading for 3 kinds of seeker-leaders:

(a) you're not afraid of Pandora's Box and would like to do your homework before engaging an OD interventionist

(b) you're considering the use of the 360-Feedback tool - BEWARE, as 180-feedback is 1 thing, but 360 is quite another !

(c) you're a people watcher who treasures that rare "nugget" of new insight into how people tick.

Argyris is the quintessential Industrial / Organizational Psychologist whose career goes back to the 1950's. Argyris has devoted his life to these 2 key goals:

(1) understanding what is required to integrate the individual into the collective (there is a DIFFERENCE between a workgroup and an *empowered* workgroup), and

(2) how to monitor & measure progress in a way that produces "ACTIONABLE KNOWLEDGE" for continuously improving this integration process. With Argyris -- the rubber meets the road and traction is imminent.

Let me paraphrase the Argyris model here as a teaser. There are 2 states of Human reasoning:

Model 1 = intra-personal BEFORE inter-personal (defensive / independent)
Model 2 = intra-personal .AND.
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Format: Hardcover
If you wonder why smart people with education and experience keep making the same old mistakes you will want to read this book. Let me hasten to add, however, that reading Argyris is often arduous. He is a scholar and writes like one. Having said that, he does have the answers and it is worth the effort to slog through his prose and get them.

Argryis takes the position that organizations actively defend themselves against change, and since the people who mount the defense are intelligent and experienced, the defenses work remarkably well. This book and his Knowledge for Action, are the executive's field manuals for battling this resistance.

Argyris fans know that he presents several recurring themes. One is skilled incompetence. Skilled incompetence is the result of being so good at practiced behaviors that we don't notice ourselves doing them. The practiced behaviors result in outcomes that we deem "safe" even if they make us miserable. We defend ourselves against demands to behave differently out of fear that we will surrender our safety.

Another Argyris staple is the "theory in use." Most of us have a theory of how we should act and a second theory about how we really do act. The real one is the "theory in use." The split between the two creates a dual identity that we are obliged to defend through the use of "fancy footwork" and elaborate "cover ups."

He theorizes that we conceal our dual identities by making their existence "undiscussable." And because we pride ourselves on being open and candid, we make the undiscussability undiscussable.

By now your head may be reeling, and that is just where Argyris always takes his readers. But there are rewards for the persistent reader.
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Format: Hardcover
Chris Argyris presents a classic in organizational learning and a book that should become required reading for top executives (and middle management) everywhere. In fact, some of the concepts explored and researched here form the basis for some of the principles of the Learning Organization.

Argyris' discussion of theories-in-use, social virtues and skilled incompetence is a fascinating and eye-opening exercise, some of the examples he provides, while familiar to most of us, are presented in a manner that forces the reader to think, re-think and then re-think again! However, the book is written by an academician largely for academicians. If you want 'easy' reading; then this is not the book for you. If you are, on the other hand, serious about organizational learning, change and human performance, then this book should definitely be on your book-shelf.

The Book is organized into 9 chapters. The first 5 chapters explains the concepts, provides examples, and rationale while the remaining chapters (6 to 9) focus on solutions and ideas to overcome these issues.

1: Puzzles - An introduction to the types of errors we commit as managers and why we make them.
2: Human Theories of Control: Skilled Incompetence - How we develop theories in action, the social virtues we acquire and how do these combine theories to contribute to the errors we make.
3: Organizational Defensive Routines - What are organizational defensive routines and how they develop in the organization as a result of the governing values and action strategies of the individuals in the organization. Argyris uses several examples, one of which is the Challenger disaster to demonstrate his points.
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