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Development of a Practitioner and the Case Method

Kamla Chowdhry The objective of this paper is to discuss the development of practitioners, i.e., people who practice, administer or execute policies, standards, etc., as distinct from the development of social scientists, i.e., people who know about social systems, theories of personality, organisation etc. The difference is one of emphasis, the practitioner being primarily concerned in applying what the social scientists have discovered to the solution of human problems in organisations of which he is an involved member. Because the understanding and skills required in the application of knowledge are different from the understanding and skills required in the acquisition of knowledge, different teaching and learning methods are considered appropriate in each case. This paper discusses, first, the kind of learning required in the development of a practitioner and, second, why the case method is the most appropriate method for developing practitioners. In developing a practitioner, knowledge per se would not improve the behaviour of people. There is considerable prima facie evidence that the knowledge of psychology and sociology available in books and in the minds of the scientists has not improved, to any great extent, the behaviour of administrators, executives, managers, supervisors, and workers. In developing a practitioner, there seems to be need for emphasizing three kinds of learning : (1) learning to recognise the attitudes and assumptions that we bring to any given situation,(2) learning to ask better questions of our experiences, and (3) learning conceptual knowledge which provides a framework for clearer thinking about human behaviour. The practitioner or the administrator is involved in the situation he is administering either as a leader or as a member of the group. The main difficulty of the practitioner or the administrator in practising or administering is his involvement in the situation. Thus, his own norms and ideals of behaviour get involved; the concept that he has of himself gets involved; the need to survive and to be well thought of gets involved; and his pet theories and ideas get involved. And because all these involvements have a tremendous personal significance, his feelings get involved in a very central way. These feelings need to be recognised, expressed, sorted out, and worked through. There is indeed a very direct relationship between the recognition and working through of ones own feelings with the ability to observe and the skill to deal with the outer world of human beings. How can the practitioner learn to deal with the often uncomfortable and contradictory feelings which his involvement in the situation produces ?

The understanding of and dealing with ones own feelings from perhaps the most neglected and one of the most difficult aspects of teaching human relations. Most educational systems seem to be based on the assumption that men dont (ought not to) indulge in feelings, that feelings will disappear when a person grows up, or when he gains more knowledge. But feelings do not disappear; they only go underground and influence the persons perceptions of and relationships with other people. One of the main tasks of the teacher in developing practitioners is to help the students accept the fact that the possession of feelings is nothing to be ashamed of. And although the teacher does not intrude into the private domain of the students, he does not ignore it either. In fact, when it is accepted that feelings are not indecent, many students come to discuss them, especially what they feel about authority, in the privacy of the teachers office. The provision of such opportunities for discussion is also an integral part of the teaching-learning process of developing a practitioner or an administrator. For unless such feelings are recognised and dealt with, they will raise their ugly head as facts in the outer world. In pointing out the inter-relatedness of the inner and the outer world, of feelings and of facts, the case method, which deals with concrete data (not theories and generalisations), seems to be the most promising method. Further, it is our belief that, before students face and deal with their own feelings and the relationship of these to their perceptions, it is easier and less threatening for them to see the same kind of relationship in cases about other people. Gradually, however, he learns to relate his own feelings and experiences to the understanding of the cases.

The Case Method of Teaching


A case is a description of a real situation, of something that actually happened, and of what actual people said, felt, and did in a specific situation. The case does not contain all the facts (no administrator ever has all the facts), but it contains facts as perceived by the relevant persons involved in the situation. A case has often been described as a chunk of reality brought into the classroom for detailed observation, analysis, and decision. It may contain two pages, or as much 30 pages, or more. Since a case is a report of a situation observed while it is occurring, the test of its quality is the accuracy with which it reflects the situation. A case is not written to present or defend an issue. The focus of the teaching case is the present of the case and on the forces at work producing the present of the situation. A good case writer does not enter theskin of the persons he is describing. He may repeat their conversation, describe their behaviour, and even draw his own inferences of

what they are thinking and feeling, but he does not indulge in the fallacy or the arrogance of stating what takes place in their minds. As George Lombard, in discussing Self awareness and Scientific Method, has stated, He (the case writer) may present what he thinks A is thinking, but what he presents remains what he thinks A is thinking, nor As thinking. The strict application of this simple point is of major importance in maintaining the accuracy with which a case reflects an actual situation. In writing a case, the case writer makes detailed observations of the situation and the people involved. In doing so he tries to separate what he brings to the situation from the data he is studying. The difficulty of acquiring an awareness of ones own frame of reference in observing data is great. But without this awareness, the case writer will have under observation. Lombard, in discussing the importance of self awareness, mentions that the skill in handling our relation to the data we seek to study and skills in making relevant observations are related. Both require the inner quality of awareness of self of which I have been speaking. On the one hand, awareness of self increase our capacity for handling ourselves in relation to our data by forcing on us continuous and critical inner appraisal and reappraisal of what we are doing in relation to an external reality. On the other hand, it reinforces out capacity for accurate observation by making us conscious of the difference between that which we see (perceived reality) and reality.1 In other words, the case writer requires the same process of learning as is required in the development of a practitioner : (1) self-awareness of ones attitude and assumptions, (2) skill in detailed observations and asking of meaningful questions related to the situation, and (3) a framework to think about the data. In teaching by the case method, therefore, the role of the teacher can no longer be that of an expert who passes on his expertise to the students he does not indulge in the luxury of telling his class what is right and what is wrong. He does not tell them what to observe and what action to take. Because he understands the difficulty of self-awareness, because he realizes how facts can be corrupted by ones attitudes and assumptions, and because he realizes how important personal experience is to the person experiencing it, he does not teach. He does, however, help students to look at their attitudes and assumptions, and help them to reflect and to re-evaluate their experiences.

Self-awareness of Assumptions
In the discussion of a case, the comments that students make are related to the assumptions and attitudes they bring to bear on the case. Some examples are : you cant really trust people, therefore more control measures are suggested; workers are lazy, therefore they require close supervision; young people are arrogant, and therefore they

require to be put in the places; unions are bad, therefore they avoid negotiating as far as possible. In each case, such attitudes are related to some of their previous experiences. Thus, the student who mentioned childhood which taught him not to trust people. As a child he had received a piggy bank for collecting coins. When he left for school after his vacation, he left the piggy bank with his mother to look after carefully until his return. But on his return from school, he found the piggy bank broken and his coins all gone. The mother told him that, one day, when his father had required some change, he had broken the piggy bank to get the coins. This incident had left a very deep impression on him. Until this student is able to see how his own experience was influencing his evaluation of other people, understanding and skilled behaviour in dealing with people was not likely to emerge. The difficult task in teaching human behaviour is not telling them what they do not know about human behaviour, but getting the students to unlearn what they sincerely and genuinely believe about people that is not true. As Roethlisberger has so aptly said, it is not peoples ignorance but what they do know that aint so that really gets them into trouble.2 --------------------1. George F. Lombard, Self-awareness and Scientific Method, The Case Method of Teaching Human Relations and Administration, Kenneth A. Andrews (ed.) (Cambridge, Mass Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 237. 2. F.J. Roethlisberger, Man in Organisation (Cambridge, Mass Harvard University Press, 1960), pp. 9091.

Another common tendency, while discussing and solving a case, is a hunt for the villain. For instance, some students say that Manager X does not know how to delegate and therefore should either be fired or transferred. Others in the class want to fire the supervisor or the workers. In fact, everyone seems to have a villain to be disposed of. In discussing a case, the teacher does not tell the students whether they should fire the manager, or the supervisor, or the workers, but he tries to focus their attention on the assumptions they are making. A senior manager in a traditional British company in Calcutta saw the young management trainee come to office in chappals. He assumed that the foot-wear was an indication of disrespect to him. Very angry, he told the trainee, you better learn to respect seniors or else. If, according to the managers norms, chappals are not a part of office dress, he will assume they mean disrespect, and anger and reprimand are likely to follow. In this case, the manager did not separate his perception from his feelings about wearing chappals to office. He did not see that what he saw was a trainee in chappals, and

that it was his feelings and assumptions which made him evaluate the trainee as disrespectful. In the case method of teaching, the teachers role is to help the students differentiate between seeing and bearing things from what he assumes and feels about them. This differentiation is by far the most difficult part of teaching and learning human relations.

Asking Meaningful Questions


In writing a case, the case writers attention is focussed on the here and now. He describes what he sees and hears. By asking meaningful questions he can make further observations about the data. In teaching a case too, the teacher does not ask: Why are things the way they are ? Or why is Manager X an introvert ? Instead of asking such questions which only lead to conjectures, the teacher focusses the students attention on making detailed observations of the situation. For instance, he does not let the students talk about resistance to change, but asks how the supervisor was behaving. When did he talk to the workers, and when did he shut himself up in his office ? What feelings are expressed by the behaviour of the supervisor or by the behaviour of the workers ? The questions that are raised can only be answered after a detailed and thorough study of the case. The teachers attempt is to help the student differentiate between facts and inferences. If the students learn to make better observations in the case, it is likely that the practice of making detailed and accurate observations will be carried into the worksituation. If the students acquire some degree of self-awareness and learn to make disciplined observations, they are likely to make better evaluations of the situation and, therefore, likely to arrive at better decisions.

A Framework to Think About Data


In order to observe skilfully, the students need self-awareness on the one hand and a conceptual basis for thinking about human behaviour on the other hand. Without such a conceptual basis for thinking, students may miss what is happening and what is happening and what is being said between two people. For instance, a useful way of observing an interaction between two persons or even among members of a small group is in terms of Humans conceptual scheme of activities, of the sentiments and interactions involved. In observing the productivity of workers, a useful framework may be to look for group norms for supervisory behaviour and so on. Without a conceptual scheme, observations are likely to be biased and irrelevant. Accordingly, in helping students to observe more skillfully, we provide conceptual knowledge about social systems, theories

of personality, organisation etc. A physician practise his various theories on his patient without talking to him about them. Our hope is that the administrator will acquire enough skill to practice the theories he has learnt in the organisational context without expounding them. Too often, if the learning consists largely of acquiring knowledge about theories in psychology and sociology, the administrator, when confronted with concrete data or a real situation, feel uncomfortable and lost. For the practitioner, theories are a basis for better observation, better evaluation, and better decisions.

Summary
The development of practitioners and the improvement of decision making in the field of human relations depend, as we have mentioned on improved self-awareness, improved skills of observation, and better conceptual knowledge of the behavioural sciences. To consider decision-making as something logical and apart from the personal and social evaluation of persons would be a serious mistake. To bring out the multidimensional aspect of the administrators world and the inter-relatedness of his inner and outer worlds, learning needs to be based on concrete data, i.e. on cases collected from the field. Through the discussion of cases, the students learn to observe, to diagnose situations, and to reach their own decisions. The role of the teacher is to make them more aware of what their assumptions and feelings are, what they are perceiving and what inferences they are drawing, and to indicate the complexity and the relatedness of the data. In the case method, each individual can set his own pace of learning, unlearning and relearning. .....

Dominion-Swann (DS) management acquires technology to support employees - or control them. THE CASE OF THE OMNISCIENT ORGANISATION
by Gary T. Marx The following is an excerpt from Dominion-Swann Industries 1995 Employee Handbook. DS is a $ 1 billion diversified company, primarily in the manufacture of electrical components for automobiles. This section of the handbook was prepared by the corporate director of personnel, in consultation with the human resource management firm Sciex-Plan Inc. Dominion-Swanns new workplace : Hope for industry through technology : We are a technology-based company. We respect our employees, whose knowledge is the core of the technological enterprise. We care about the DS community. We value honesty, informed consent, and unfettered scientific inquiry. Our employees understand company strategy. They are free to suggest ways to improve our performance. We offer handsome rewards for high productivity and vigorous participation in the life of our company. Committed to science, we believe in careful experimentation and in learning from experience. Since 1990, we have instituted changes in our work environment. The reasons for change were clear enough from the start. In 1990, DS faced an uncertain future. Our productivity and quality were not keeping pace with overseas competition. Employee turnover was up, especially in the most critical part of our business - automotive chips, switches, and modules. Health costs and work accidents were on the rise. Our employees were demoralised. There were unprecedented numbers of thefts from plants and offices and leaks to competitors about current research. There was also a sharp rise in drug use. Security personnel reported unseemly behavior by company employees not only in our parking lots and athletic fields but also in restaurants and bars near our major plants. In the fall of 1990, the company turned to SciexPlan Inc., a specialist in employeerelations management in worldwide companies, to help develop a program for the radical restructuring of the work environment. We had much to learn from the corporate cultures of overseas competitors and were determined to benefit from the latest advances in work support technology. The alternative was continued decline and, ultimately, the loss of jobs.

Frankly, there was instability while the program was being developed and implemented. Some valued employees quit and others took early retirement. But widespread publicity about our efforts drew to the program people who sincerely sought a well-ordered, positive environment. DS now boasts a clerical, professional, and factory staff which understands how the interests of a successful company correspond with the interests of individual employees. To paraphrase psychologist William James, When the community dies, the individual withers. Such sentiments, we believe, are as embedded in Western traditions as in Eastern; they are the foundation of world community. They are also a fact of the new global marketplace.

The fundamentals :
Since 1990, productivity per worker is up 14%, Sales are up 23%, and the work force is down 19%. Employees real income is up 18%, due in large part to our bonus and profit sharing plans. Many of these efficiencies can be attributed to reform of our factories production technologies. But we can be proud to have been ahead of our time in the way we build our corporate spirit and use social technologies. At DS four principles underlie work-support restructuring 1) Make the company a home to employees. Break down artificial and alienating barriers between work and home. Dissolve, through company initiative, feelings of isolation. Great companies are made by great people; all employee behavior and self-development counts. 2) Hire people who will make a continuing contribution. Bring in people who are likely to stay healthy and successful, people who will be on the job without frequent absences. Candor about prospective employees pasts may be the key to the companys future. 3) Technical, hardware-based solutions are preferable to supervision and persuasion. Machines are cheaper, more reliable, and fairer than managers. Employees want to do the right thing, the company wants nothing but this and will give employees all the needed technical assistance.Employees accept performance evaluation from an impartial system more readily than from a superior and appreciate technical solutions that channel behavior in a constructive direction. 4) Create accountability through visibility. Loyal employees enjoy the loyalty of others. They welcome audits, reasonable monitoring, and documentary proof of their activities, whether of location, business conversations or weekly output. Once identified, good behavior can be rewarded, inappropriate behavior can be improved. These principles have yielded an evolving program that continues to benefit from the participation and suggestions of our employees. The following summary is simply an

introduction. The personnel office will be pleased to discuss any aspect of community performance or breaches of company policy in detail with employees. (You may call for an appointment during normal business hours at X-2089.)

Entry-level screening :
As a matter of course and for mutual benefit, potential employees are screened and tested. We want to avoid hiring people whose predictive profile-medications, smoking, obesity, debt, high-risk sports, family crises - suggests that there will be serious losses to our communitys productivity in the future. Job applicants volunteer to undergo extensive medical and psychological examinations and to provide the company with detailed personal information and records, including background information about the health, lifestyle and employment of parents, spouses, siblings, and close friends. Company associates seek permission to make discreet searches of various databases, including education, credit, bankruptcy and mortgage default, auto accident, drivers license suspension, insurance, health, workers compensation, military, rental, arrest, and criminal activity. The company opposes racial and sexual discrimination. DS will not check databases containing the names of union organizers or those active in controversial political causes (whether on the right or the left). Should the companys inquiry unwittingly turn up such information, it is ignored. We also use a resume verification service. Since our community is made up of people, not machines, we have found it useful to compare physiological, psychological, social, and demographic factors against the profiles of our best employees. Much of this analysis has been standardized. It is run by SciexPlans expert system, INDUCT.

Community health :
We want employees who are willing to spend their lives with the company, and we care about their long-term health. The company administers monthly pulmonary tests in behalf of the zero-tolerance means lower health insurance premiums and improved quality of life for all employees. In cooperation with Standar-Hardwick, one of the United Statess most advanced makers of medical equipment and a valued customer, weve developed an automated health monitor. These new machines, used in a private stall and activated by employee thumbprint, permit bi-weekly urine analysis and a variety of other tests (blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight) without the bother of having to go to a health facility. This

program has received international attention : at times, it has been hailed; at times, severely criticized. People at DS often express surprise at the fuss. Regular monitoring of urine means early wanring against diabetes and other potentially catastrophic diseases and also reveals pregnancy. It also means that we can keep a drug-free, safe environment without subjecting people to the indignities of random testing or the presence of an observer.

The quality environment :


Drawing on SciexPlans research, our company believes that the physical environment is also important to wellness and productivity. Fragrant aromas such as evergreen may reduce stress, the smell of lemon and jasmine can have a rejuvenating effect. These scents are introduced to all work spaces through the air-conditioning and heating systems. Scents are changed seasonally. Music is not only enjoyable to listen to but can also affect productivity. We continually experiment with the impact of different styles of music on an offices or plants aggregate output. Since psychologists have taught us that the most serious threat to safety and productivity is stress, we use subliminal messages in music such as safety pays, work rapidly but carefully, and this company cares. Personal computers deliver visual subliminals such as my world is calm or were all on the same team. At the start of each month, employees are advised of message content. Those who dont want a message on their computers may request that none be transmitted - no questions asked. On the whole, employees who participate in the program feel noticeably more positive about their work. Employees may borrow from our library any one of hundreds of subliminal tapes, including those that help the listener improve memory, reduce stress, relax, lose weight, be guilt-free, improve self-confidence, defeat discouragement, and sleep more soundly. On the advice of SciexPlans dieticians, the company cafeteria and dining room serve only fresh, whole-some food prepared without salt, sugar, or cholesterol-producing substances. Sugar and caffeine-based, high-energy snacks and beverages are available during breaks, at no cost to employees.

Work monitoring :
Monitoring system performance is our business. The same technologies that keep engines running at peak efficiency can keep the companies that make engine components running efficiently too. That is the double excitement of the information revolution.

At DS, we access more than 200 criteria to assess productivity of plant employees and data-entry personnel. These criteria include such things as the quality of keystroke activity, the number of errors and corrections made, the pressure on the assembly tool, the speed of work and time away from the job. Reasonable productivity standards have been established. We are proud to say that, with a younger work force, these standards keep going up, and the incentive pay of employees who exceed standards is rising proportionately. Our work units are divided into teams. The best motivator to work hard is the high standards of ones peers. Teams, not individuals, earn prizes and bonuses. Winning teams have the satisfaction of knowing they are doing more than their share. Computer screens abound with productivity updates, encouraging employees to note where their teams stand and how productive individuals have been for the hour, week, and month. Computers send congratualatory messages such as you are working 10% faster than the norm or messages of concern such as you are lowering the team average.

Community morale :
There is no community without honesty. Any community must take reasonable precautions to protect itself from dishonesty. Just as we inspect the briefcases and purses of visitors exiting our R&D division, the company reserves the right to call up and inspect without notice all data files and observe work-in-progress currently displayed on employees screens. One random search discovered an employee using the company computer to send out a curriculum vitae seeking employment elsewhere. In another, an employee was running a football pool. Some companies try to prevent private phone calls on company time by invading their employees privacy. At DS, encroachments on employees privacy are obviated by telecommunications programs that block inappropriate numbers (dia-a-joke, dial-aprayer) and unwanted incoming calls. In addition, an exact record of all dialing behavior is recorded, as is the number from which calls are received. We want our employees to feel protected against any invalid claims against them. Video and audio surveillance too protect employees from intruders in hallways, parking lots, lounges, and work areas. Vigilance is invaluable in protecting our community from illegal behavior or actions that violate our safety and high commitment to excellence. All employees, including managers, check in and out of various workstations - including the parking lot, main entrance, elevator, floors, office, and even the bathroom by means of an electronic entry card. In one case, this surveillance probably saved the life of an employer who had a heart attack in the parking lot : when he failed to

check into the next work station after five minutes, security personnel were sent to investigate.

Beyond isolation :
Our program takes advantages of the most advanced telecommunications equipment to bind employees to one another and to the company. DS vehicles are equipped with onboard computers using satellite transponders. This offers a tracking service and additional two-way communication. It helps our customers keep inventories down and helps prevent hijacking, car theft, and improper use of the vehicles. Drivers save time since engines are checked electronically. They also drive more safely, and vehicles are better maintained since speed, gear shifts, and idling time are measured. In addition to locator and paging devices, all managers are given fax machines and personal computers for their homes. These are connected at all times. Cellular telephones are provided to selected employees who commute for more than half an hour or for use while traveling. Instant communication is vital in todays international economy. The global market does not function only from 9 to 5. Modern technology can greatly increase productivity by ensuring instant access and communication. Periodic disruptions to vacations or sleep are a small price to pay for the tremendous gains to be won in worldwide competition. DS employees share in these gains. Great companies have always unleashed the power of new technology for the social welfare, even in the face of criticism. During the first industrial revolution, such beloved novelists as Charles Dickens sincerely opposed the strictures of mass production. In time, however, most of the employees who benefited from the wealth created by new factories and machines came to take progress for granted and preferred the modern factory to traditional craft methods. Today, we are living though a Second Industrial Revolution, driven by the computer. Advanced work-support technology is democratic, effective, and anti-hierarchical. DSs balance sheet and the long waiting list of prospective employees indicate how the new program has helped everybody win. To recall the phrase of journalist Lincoln Steffens, we have been over into the future and it works. We are a company of the twenty-first century. *****