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A Review Of the Book Strategic Pragmatism By Edgar H Schein Done under the Aegis of Sumedhas IAOD Program By Milind


April 2011 Pune, India


1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 Introduction...3 About Strategic Pragmatism................................................................5 Organization Culture My Early Understandings...6 About Singapores EDB..10 Deciphering EDBs Culture The Approach.13 Deciphering EDBs Culture The Findings...15 6.1 EDBs perspectives on itself.15 6.1.1 Historical roots of EDB culture..18 6.1.2 Major strategic eras & key leaders.20 6.2 6.3 7.0 8.0 9.0 EDB from a client/investor perspective22 EDB culture from an analytic perspective24

The Organization Development Process at EDB32 EDB Culture A Critique & Summary Notes35 Concluding Thoughts..40

10.0 Readings & References...42


1.0 Introduction A few years back I came across an illustrated story. Heres how it went.. A group of scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on the top. Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the others beat up the one on the ladder. After some time, no monkey dared to go up the ladder regardless of the temptation. Scientists then decided to substitute one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was to go up the ladder. Immediately the other monkeys beat him up. After several beatings, the new member learned not to climb the ladder even though never knew why. A second monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same was repeated (beating). The fourth was substituted and the beating was repeated and finally the fifth monkey was replaced. What was left was a group of 5 monkeys that even though never received a cold shower, continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder. If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they would beat up all those who attempted to go up the ladder, I bet you the answer would be. I dont know thats how things are done around here! UNQUOTE. In my work with organizations both, when I worked in one and now that I am consulting with them, I have often felt and heard this statement I dont know thats how things are done around here! This statement, expressed in its various forms, introduced me to the concept of Culture in an organization context and left me intrigued with the subject. What is organization culture? What influences its creation? What are its implications for the present and future state of the organization? What are the implications for the people working there? A series of such questions led to me to the path of studying the phenomena of Organization Culture. It was and probably still is a must engage concept for OD practitioners. Diagnosing and changing organization culture is a practice area I have often read on the profiles of many successful OD practitioners/consultants. Its a high-end practice area for me, I have often heard OD practitioners saying.


Filled with curiosity, about two years back, I started researching the topic. In this pursuit, I came across three very interesting books: 1. Organization Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein 2. Strategic Pragmatism by Edgar Schein and 3. Diagnosing and Changing Organization Culture by Kim S. Cameron & Robert E. Quinn I soon realized that many, who tread this path before, started with Scheins work on the subject. That comforted me a little bit, as I found a personal assurance in being a part of the (OD) herd, at least in my first steps of exploration that would eventually lead me in many directions. There was another story unfolding for me in parallel. In January 2010, I enrolled into an Internship Program on Organization Development, an offering by Sumedhas, the Academy for Human Context, and an institution dedicated to fostering of human processes. My main aim of joining the internship program was to connect to the theoretical knowledge and frameworks on the subject of organization and its development as defined and practiced in the field of OD as well as gather personal insights from a practice field that the program offered. As I write this report, I have entered into the next phase of the internship program, in which, amongst other criterias, I am expected to do a book review exercise as per the programs design. Given the connect between (a) my desire to understand the organization culture phenomena and (b) the stated criteria of book review in my Sumedhas OD Internship, I have chosen to do a review of the book Strategic Pragmatism by Edgar Schein. Why Strategic Pragmatism? In this book I found a right mix of the theoretical frameworks developed by Schein to understand organization culture, as well as an analysis of the internal structure and functioning of a real life organization from a culture standpoint. The primary objective of this book review exercise that I have undertaken is to help me as an OD practitioner, understand the phenomena of Organization Culture, and its various manifestations in the life of an organization. Scheins seminal work in this area both in terms of his theoretical constructs drawn from his decades of experience in social psychology, and his project work to diagnose and document the culture at Singapores EDB, has been an important learning milestone for me. In this report I will primarily review and relate my understanding of what Schein has presented in his book, Strategic Pragmatism, while also taking help from other sources which I shall quote specifically. The narrative will largely be in the first person and will include, dispersed throughout this report my thoughts, reflections, dilemmas, inner dialogues and the resultant meaning making around Organization Culture and my experiences with this project. 4|Page

2.0 About Strategic Pragmatism Following is an extract from the inside front-and-back cover of the book, providing a brief overview about it. The book was published by MIT Press in 1997 and is based on the work carried out by Schein under an invitation from Singapores EDB.

Strategic Pragmatism: The Culture of Singapores Economic Development Board

Per capita income in Singapore has gone from $500 to more than $20,000 in a little over twenty five years. Edgar Schein, a social psychologist with a long and celebrated research interest in organizational studies, examines the cultural history of the key institution that spawned this economic miracle. Through interviews and full access to Singapores Economic Development Board (EDB), Schein shows how economic development was successfully promoted. He delves into the individual relationships and the overall structure that contributed to EDBs effectiveness in propelling Singapore, one of Asias little dragons, into the modern era. In his foreword, Lester Thurow, locates Scheins organizational and case-specific account within a larger economic and comparative framework. Over a period of two years Schein studied how the EDB was created, the kind of leadership it provided, the management structure it used, and how it influenced other organizations within the Singapore government. Schein sat in on EDB meetings and extensively interviewed current and former members of the board, Singapores leaders who created the organization, and business people who have dealt with the EDB. His book intertwines the perspectives of the boards members and its investor clients in an analysis that uses both organization and cross-cultural study. Although there are currently studies of comparable Japanese and Korean organizations, this is the first detailed analysis of the internal structure and functioning of the economic development body of Singapore, a key player in the Asian and world markets. The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts 1997


3.0 Organization Culture My Early Understandings I remember in my Class VIII, our Science teacher gave us a mantra W2HW2! It stands for 5 basic questions that will help you, she said then, in pursuit of knowledge. Never forget to ask What, Why, How, When & Where, and you shall know things, her words of wisdom, which are deeply etched in my conscience. I took recourse to these very basic questions in my first steps to understand Organization Culture and ended up writing a few questions, 1. What is organization culture? 2. Why does it exist? 3. What purpose does it serve? 4. How does it get created? 5. What are the implications of its presence in an organization context? 6. When does it manifest? 7. Where does it show up in the everyday lives of an organization? 8. How can it be diagnosed? 9. Why would anyone want to diagnose it? 10. And more .. It was all interplay of the 5 words starting with 2 alphabets W & H! To top it, was the gospel truth that I have experienced in and with organizations as a part of my work life I dont know, thats how things are done around here! I found my initial solace in Edgar Scheins book Organization Culture and Leadership, in which he provides the following generic definition of Culture, The culture of a group can be defined as a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by the group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems. Thats quite a complex definition, were my first words to myself when I first read it. To understand this sentence, I took help of another mantra taught by our Professor in Taxation & Law during my management education, who simplified a monster called The Indian Contracts Act, 1872. He told us first not fear the long sentences and break it wordby-word, relate, re-relate each word with the other and create a meaning. Unknowingly, one then got introduced to the technique of combining deductive and inductive logic for right understanding. But Schein also gave a frame having multiple categories through which I could comprehend the Culture phenomena. This would include,


1. Observed behavioral regularities when people interact: the language they use, the customs and traditions that evolve, and the rituals they employ in a wide variety of situations. 2. Group norms: the implicit standards and values that evolve in working groups. 3. Espoused values: the articulated, publicly announced principles and values that the group claims to be trying to achieve. 4. Formal philosophy: the broad policies and ideological principles that guide a groups actions towards its stakeholders. 5. Rules of the game: the implicit, unwritten rules for getting along in the organization, the ropes a newcomer must learn. 6. Climate: the feeling that is conveyed in a group by the way in which members of the organization interact with each other, with customers or other outsiders. 7. Embedded skills: the special competencies displayed by the group members in accomplishing certain tasks. 8. Habits of thinking, mental models, and linguistic paradigms: the shared cognitive frames that guide the perceptions, thoughts, and language used by the members of a group. 9. Shared meanings: the emergent understandings created by the group members as they interact with each other. 10. Root metaphors or integrating symbols: the ways in which groups evolve to characterize themselves, which may or may not be appreciated consciously but become embodied in buildings, office layouts, and other material artifacts of the group. 11. Formal ritual and celebrations: the way in which a group celebrates key events that reflect important values or important passages by members, such as completion of important projects or milestones. Whilst, cognitively I could understand the frame with the above category definitions, I got its real meaning when I realized the presence of all of the above in the various narratives on Singapores EDB in Strategic Pragmatism, which I shall explore in this review. Furthermore, in a limited manner, I am now able to indulge in sense making of some of my client organizations through these lenses. Needless to mention, there is always an Aha feeling, though as a fleeting experience, every time I am able to decipher the implicit phenomena of culture when I see through these lenses. Let me now draw a few references from Kim S. Cameron & Robert E. Quinns book Diagnosing and Changing Organization Culture, which I referred to earlier. Unlike Schein, who specifically focused on group behavior when defining culture, Cameron & Quinn focus more on such behaviors as seen in an organization change context. Cameron & Quinn say, and I quote, the reason organization culture was ignored as an important factor in accounting for organizational performance is that it encompasses the taken-for-granted values, underlying assumptions, expectations, collective memories, and definitions present in an organization. It represents how things are around here. It 7|Page

reflects the prevailing ideology that people carry in-their-heads. It conveys a sense of identity to employees, provide unwritten and often unspoken guidelines for how to get along in the organization, and it enhances the stability of the social system that they experience. I noticed that Cameron & Quinns basic definition of culture does not deviate much from Scheins constructs. However, in Cameron & Quinns work, I found a greater emphasis on culture change than merely diagnosing current culture. In fact, they offer a well defined framework which they have called the Competing Values Framework TM (CVF). This framework is widely used in the industry, to diagnose and change an organizations culture to ensure its continued effectiveness to keep pace with the degree and rapidity of change in the external environment. In their work, essentially Cameron & Quinn try to answer the question What makes organizations effective? a question I find even Schein alluding to in his work. The basic CVF framework consists of two dimensionsone drawn vertically and the other drawn horizontallyresulting in a two-by-two figure with four quadrants. The vertical axis looks at an organization from the aspect of flexibility & adaptability v/s stability & control; whereas the horizontal axis sees it from a lens of efficient internal processes v/s competitive external positioning. When studying the effectiveness of organizations more than two decades ago (Cameron & Quinn say) it was noticed that some organizations were effective if they demonstrated flexibility and adaptability, but other organizations were effective if they demonstrated stability and control. Similarly, it was discovered that some organizations were effective if they maintained efficient internal processes whereas others were effective if they maintained competitive external positioning relative to customers and clients. These differences represent the different ends of two dimensions, and these dimensions constitute the rudiments of the CVF. Hence the name competing values! In one of my change management consulting assignments I successfully used the CVF to help a client group to articulate the as-is and the aspired-to-be aspects of their groups effectiveness and helped them define an action agenda to achieve their vision. The exercise did create the desired results for my client and did bring into focus the role of the groups culture in their operational effectiveness. The group got an access to a language that could help them understand the tacit rules of behavior that they were employing to create their everyday realities. So, where does all this leave me with my early understandings of the meanings of Organization Culture?


I think I am left with three specific questions at this stage: 1. Can culture which is a subjective phenomenon be understood largely through subjective frames as given by Schein? Or 2. Can it also be understood through objective/instrument based frames likes the CVF? 3. What gets focused on and what gets edited out when one uses these subjective or objective frames and what are the corresponding implications? The basic idea I now have of Culture, as explained by Schein and Cameron & Quinn, has helped me with a better appreciation of how creating and sustaining (explicitly and tacitly) a suitable culture, enabled the growth and evolution of Singapores EDB and the immense contribution it made in transforming Singapore from a third world country to a first world in just over 30 years! I shall explore this further with reference to Scheins study of the culture of Singapores EDB in Strategic Pragmatism.


4.0 About Singapores EDB In order to provide an organizational perspective on Singapores EDB, I narrate below certain extracts from Strategic Pragmatism: Singapores Economic Development Board (EDB), is a quasi-governmental agency setup in 1961 by Singapores leaders to implement a plan to attract foreign investment. Singapore was a British colony that achieved self-rule in 1958. It joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963 and achieved full independence in 1965 when it left the federation. The EDB had been setup well before full independence on the assumption that Singapore would need rapid economic development once it achieved self-rule and would have to get along without the British naval bases that contributed heavily to its economy. It is widely asserted that the EDB was a crucial element in the economic growth that Singapore achieved and that the success of the EDB is largely a function of the culture that this organization created. The story of the EDB and its culture, 1. sheds light on how Singapore, in the space of 35 years, could be transformed from a fairly impoverished underdeveloped former colony into a modern city-state that today aspires to be in the top ranks of developed countries. 2. illustrates the importance of non-economic factors in the analysis of economic development. In particular, it clarifies some of the issues between Asian and Western concepts of organization and management in that Singapore turns out to be a genuine East-West hybrid. 3. sheds light on why the World Bank and other organizations are urging developing countries to look to Singapore for guidance and help on how to manage their own development. This assistance is forthcoming through a consulting organization that the EDB has set up, which has attracted requests for help from countries as widely dispersed as Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia and Oman. When Singapore began its economic journey, it was commonly believed that one had to be part of a large internal market to develop. Following conventional wisdom, it started its journey with a strategy of import substitution in a much larger Malaysian Federation. Based on experience and necessity, it shifted to an export-led strategy and commitment to become the worlds best place for offshore manufacturing as a city-state with a very small market. During the course of the journey, it proved that city-states could not only prosper but could get rich faster that those with the largest internal market. The ability to adjust rapidly was more important than economies of scale. Singapore took advantage of what few advantages it had. Its geographic location made it potentially one of the worlds great seaports. But to realize that potential it had to spend lavishly on infrastructure with a management drive that would give it the ability to load and unload ships faster than anyone else in the world. A vision of development springing from world class infrastructure initially developed around the seaport was later extended to the airport and telecommunications. The worlds first electronic library may well be in 10 | P a g e

Singapore. Singapore was both willing to copy others successes and committed to being the worlds best take what others have done and build on it. All were a part of an overall strategy of making Singapore a global city and a regional headquarters for Southeast Asia. The founding fathers of Singapore built a shared vision To develop Singapore into a Global City with Total Business Capabilities. Putting flesh on that vision was and is the job of the Economic Development Board (EDB). The EDB is neither the head nor the heart of the system, but best thought of as an energizer. The EDB has developed a unique system of working with companies of Singapore (both local and foreign) that is intimate without being intrusive. It pushes firms hard to go upscale in technology but does not try to run them. The EDB was created in 1961 as a statutory board by the Singapore Parliament. The EDBs basic structure consists of a government appointed 12-member board, a chairman who functions as the chief executive, a managing director who functions as the chief operating officer, and a group of operating units under directors. The EDB headquartered in Singapore also has offices in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Boston, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka and Jakarta. Each office is staffed by one or more directors and support staff. The EDB itself has a large fund for investment in joint ventures of various sorts and for the encouragement of clusters of industries that fit into its own long-range strategy. Underlying these initiatives is Singapores desire to serve as the business hub of Southeast Asia by becoming the regional leader in information and manufacturing technology. The basic work of the EDB is carried out though its first-line senior officers who are assigned a technical area, the major companies worldwide operating in that area, and the prospects for recruiting those companies to develop a project in Singapore. As projects are developed, the proposing officers recruit from among their peers the necessary additional people they will need. Teams are thus formed, and officers often end up matrixed across several divisions, reporting to several bosses simultaneously. This way of working internally mirrors Singapores overall manner of operation, in that most senior civil servants or private sector executives have as many as five different jobs in different organizations at the same time. Such multitasking reflects a scarcity of sufficiently trained people in Singapore, but it has the benefit of creating networks and building trust across a wide range of government units and private companies. Decisions are made in the management structure through a process of proposal, review and approval. If a decision is initiated at the top, such as a major shift in strategy, it is communicated intensively and extensively throughout the organization on paper, electronically, in meetings and through other media needed to get the message across. Most strategic and operational decision, however, begin down in the organization with a 11 | P a g e

proposal from a first-line officer in an industry segment, or a director in a geographic region, or from a working group or task force assigned to look into some particular issue. Although the EDB has had some ups and downs during the course of its history, it is today a high-morale organization that presents itself as confident and successful, as well as the key element in Singapores economic scene. Even though it is acknowledged that the EDB is not the sole source of Singapores economic success, the EDB credits itself for being the critical integrating element, the forward looking entrepreneurial driving force, the basic sales and marketing arm of Singapore, and the organization that managed, through its culture, to train a cadre of Singapores leaders. UNQUOTE. In my readings of the memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapores charismatic, autocratic, paternalistic founding father and its Prime Minister for over three decades, I came across a reference on EDB with a specific mention of its contribution in creating leaders for Singapores institutions. Lee Kuan Yew says, and I quote, From the team of EDB, I found three cabinet ministers, S.Dhanabalan, Lee Yock Suan and Yeo Cheow Tong. Several EDB officers, including Joe Pillay and Ngiam Tong Dow, became outstanding permanent secretaries. In addition Pillay was chairman of Singapore Airlines where his financial and business skills made it the most profitable airline in Asia while Ngiam became chairman of Development Bank of Singapore. (Those interested in Lee Kuan Yews memoirs may read From Third World to First The Singapore Story: 1965-2000 published by Harper Collins Publishers, 2000) In this brief overview of EDB, I see both a history of itself as well as a brief economic and social history of Singapore as a city-state. It is difficult for me to miss the critical link of EDBs evolution to that of Singapore as a city-state nation itself. I can also distinctly notice the simultaneity of evolution of EDB and its context (The Singapore Story), both simultaneously growing by feeding on each other.

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5.0 Deciphering EDBs Culture The Approach I now turn to the way Schein undertook the long and arduous task of deciphering EDBs culture and giving it a language and a meaning. At the outset, I found this exercise involving a set of paradoxes which is summed up in the following statements (of Schein) I found in Strategic Pragmatism: The deciphering of an organizations culture requires an interactive process between the researcher and the members of the organization, because the description of the culture must make sense to the insiders even though the analysis creates categories and levels of abstraction that the insiders may find novel and sometimes even disturbing. A cultural analysis is likely to uncover themes that have been held in the organizations unconscious, not all of which are likely to be perceived as positive elements in the organization. From the beginning it was obvious that I was dealing with a spirited, proud, highmorale organization that believed in itself completely yet wanted to find a way to become more conscious of its vulnerabilities and shortcomings. The EDB leaders were both optimistic and concerned about the future, and wondered whether the EDB could maintain its track record of success in the face of a more turbulent world. I had to describe the strength of this organization (the culture that its members believed to be the source of its success), and yet identify the weaknesses in that culture and do a critical analysis that would help the organization improve itself. In the end, the EDB is a set of paradoxes that illustrates how oversimplified much of our contemporary organization and management theory is. I also noticed a boundary condition that was upfront stated by Schein whilst undertaking this project. I found that the entire exercise of deciphering EDBs culture was to increase the in-depth understanding of how the economic development process worked in Singapore and did not involve an exercise to develop a general model of economic development. (Schein) The boundary condition was also evident when I found that Schein resisted the temptation of comparing Singapores economic development process to that of other rapidly developing economies like Hong Kong. Readers would be well aware that in the discourse of choosing the location for Southeast Asia headquarters, the comparison between Singapore and Hong Kong has been inevitable for several global organizations. Strategic Pragmatism, however, distances itself from such an approach as the emphasis here is on a comprehensive analysis of a single case (EDB) that reveals a variety of themes and variables that may or may not be found in other organizations or that may have different meanings in different cultural contexts. (Schein)

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In my readings on the subject of Quantum Physics, I learnt the phenomena of the Observer and the Observed and the irrefutable co-relation between the two. In this context, I am often reminded of Fritjof Capras statement My conscious decision about how to observe an electron will determine the electrons properties to some extent. If I ask it a particle question, it will give me a particle answer. If I ask it a wave question, it will give me a wave answer. (Those interested in exploring this theme are invited to read a book titled What the Bleep Do We Know by William Antz, Betty Chasse & Mark Vincente. The book in fact is the authors narrative on a very intriguing film by the same name that they made first.) The observers frames of studying the observed are evident in the manner Schein designed the approach to decipher EDBs culture. I give below the relevant extract from Strategic Pragmatism to support this hypothesis, My prior experience as a consultant and clinical researcher helped in conducting this somewhat complex kind of research project. As a process consultant working in organizations, I had learnt that one can take an objective clinical stance towards a client system and that such stance is, in fact, the essence of both ethnography and effective consultation. The most effective stance towards this kind of fieldwork is therefore a combination of ethnography, participant observation, data gathering by means of interviews and questionnaires as appropriate and occasionally more confrontational interventions into the system to observe and analyze responses. (Schein) Being an authority on both process consultation and organization culture, Schein is humble enough to admit that this process is to some degree subjective and must be acknowledged as such. In the end, this story is my own construction, and I do not claim that I can surmount all of my biases. Such biases inevitably show up in my choice of what to present and how to present it. (Schein) As I finish writing this paragraph, a related yet an obvious question springs up in my mind am I not bringing my own biases arising out of my own (tacit) frames, whilst I do this project work of book review? I guess this is an un-escapable truth in any comprehension exercise. Let me now move to the steps Schein took in his two-year action research endeavor of deciphering EDBs culture. Specifically, it involved gathering basic data through, 1. Observation of EDB meetings to get a feel for how day-to-day work was actually done; (here I would like to mention of an interesting acronym I learnt recently during my study on Qualitative Research. The program faculty gave us an acronym OPOPOW standing for Ordinary Perceptions of Ordinary People of Ordinary Ways of the system. I guess this is what Schein did as a first step a first-hand inspection of ongoing organizational life) 2. Interview of Singaporean government officials who had been instrumental in creating and maintaining EDB; 3. Interviews of current members of EDB at all levels of the organization; 14 | P a g e

4. Interviews of EDB alumni who had spent formative years in the EDB and then gone on to other careers in the industry or government; 5. Interview of business executives who had made the decision to invest in Singapore by placing their operation there; 6. Interviews of current managers who had day-to-day dealings with the EDB in maintaining and enlarging their operations; 7. Interviews of local Singaporean businessman who had dealings with the EDB; 8. Analysis of written historical accounts, current and past literature by the EDB such as annual reports and promotional materials of various sorts; 9. Information gleaned from miscellaneous accounts of Singapore, its history, and its current mode of operation. From a synthesis perspective, I found Schein actually telling several stories based on various stories he heard during the process outlined above. He has put them into four categories, which represent the four distinct parts of the Strategic Pragmatism book. Part I The EDBs perspective on Itself representing a historical perspective of the key leaders of the EDB through decades. Part II The EDB from a Client/Investor Perspective representing investors perception and data from European, Asian and local investors. Part III The EDB Culture from an Analytic Perspective representing Scheins own interpretation of EDBs culture in terms of its contextual and operational paradigms. Part IV Problems, Issues and Lessons representing collections of all problems, issues and criticisms of EDB. In a section titled A Note on Research Method, Schein has upfront stated a key dilemma in his endeavor. He asks what then permits one to be analytical and critical in this kind of inquiry? In response, he takes help of two options available to him to make sense of a mass of case detail (Schein) (a) taking recourse to organization theory and cross-cultural theory and (b) the diversity of his own experience. He answers his dilemma by taking a position, by saying as many have pointed out, knowledge in the social and organizational domain cannot be objectified in terms of traditional concept of natural science. In the end, even the physicist is only telling a story, and the validity of a given story can be judged only by its capacity to explain something that was not understood before, by its capacity to explain something coherent, and ultimately, by its capacity to be useful to others. (Schein). Isnt this an example of Positive Pragmatism as elicited by Action Science and also similar to the shared Sumedhian belief on truth as work-in-progress? I wonder.

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6.0 Deciphering EDBs Culture The Findings Let me now briefly cover Scheins findings of EDBs culture through the eyes of various leaders at EDB and as seen by its investors/clients. 6.1 EDBs perspective on itself: During my work with the organizations, I have often found the first step to understand a particular organization is by studying its Vision, Mission, Values, Strategy & Structure. I have already covered these aspects of EDB in the earlier section About Singapores EDB, which is an extract from Strategic Pragmatism, as commented upon by EDBs leaders perspective of itself and as captured by Schein in his interviews with them. I will now move on to the other important diagnostic frame to understand an organization the study of its Climate. I will stick to Scheins definition of this term which is the feeling that is conveyed in a group by the way in which members of the organization interact with each other, with customers or other outsiders. (Schein) In the most simplistic way, the principle element of EDBs climate is a can-do spirit. This mythical symbol of EDB is even embodied in a cartoon version of the work of the EDB with the officers depicted as supermen and superwomen flying around solving difficult problems. In one of his interviews, Schein even got an elaborate description of this dominant climate from one its first-line officers who said, EDB officers are expected to be supermen. There is a thirty year tradition to be upheld and even though the job is now harder and requires longer hours, the tradition of getting everything done, doing it efficiently, and doing it on a lean basis and resolving all problems as they arise, is still strong. I clearly see here three dominant managerial competencies which seem to be must-have at EDB problem solving, decision making and execution focus, which in turn influences the EDBs climate as it tries to meet its challenges of external adaptation and internal integration. I found this as the foundation of integrating the head, heart and the hand upon which the edifice of EDB was built. EDBs climate also includes paradoxes such as taking a long range orientation and at the same time being very opportunistic and pragmatic; making errors but turning them into benefits as quickly as possible. When Schein started to probe how all this works, one formal EDB official who later went on to become the president of a large firm, shared with him a set of imperatives that EDB lives by and that are taught to new members as necessary to survival and effective work in EDB. Schein qualifies them as cultural imperatives and lists them as: 1. A brand of leadership that has a long range vision, ability to build a team and the ability to draw out the best in team members. 2. Total loyalty to the mission of building the nation. 16 | P a g e

3. 120% commitment from all. 4. Absolute professionalism with clients. 5. Total integrity in all dealings with clients. 6. Clear rules and absence of corruption. 7. Mental toughness and ability to absorb failures. 8. An internally boundaryless organization. 9. Teamwork and openness of communication. 10. One-stop-service for the clients. I dont see anything new in this, I said to myself when I first read the words. Arent these supposed to be the essential principles that members of any organization need to follow for its success? I had even wondered. But I guess, like most Mission & Vision statements, which I often find as mere artifacts and not embodied in the every-day language of the organization, even these universal principles receive a mere lip-service in most organizations. The EDB, as Schein realized, was a clear exception to this norm. The cultural imperatives, Schein notes, are not merely statement of espoused values but an operational philosophy that permeates all aspects of EDB operations. The categories through which Schein says one can study the Culture phenomena (the ones I have included in the earlier section titled Organization Culture My Understanding) are highly visible in EDB. Some examples being: getting to know the members of this globally spread organization through joint work on projects, operations committee meetings, Friday recreational club etc. attending training courses together, lot of informal networking including travelling together abroad on various assignments a small Christian group getting together informally during lunch time getting acquainted with people from other government departments through meetings and joint work on task forces giving awards to publicize special accomplishments printing an in-house publication that carries news about all employees encouraging information rituals with regards to events such as promotions, transfers or even departure from EDB annual staff day for all Singapore members of the EDB where they performs original songs, skits, show video-tapes and inspirational speeches by leaders followed by an elaborate tea party at which employees of all levels mingle with management and invited guests.

Schein also delves in detail about the EDBs Perspectives on Itself through three additional frames: 1. Historical roots of the EDB culture 2. Major strategic eras that represented major inflection points in EDBs history 3. Key leaders who were responsible for the founding stage, the formative growth stage, the consolidation stage & the redefinition and renewal stage 17 | P a g e

In these sections I found the history and evolution of EDB very closely tied to that of Singapore itself and the various economic, social and political upheavals it had to go through since its separation from the Malaysian Federation. 6.1.1 Historical roots of the EDB culture: Three people need to be mentioned at this stage who were instrumental in a way to give birth to EDB Lee Kuan Yew, Singapores first Prime Minister; Goh Keng Swee, the Finance Minister who chose the EDB name and provided the idea of making it a statutory body; Hon Sui Sen, the first chairman of EDB and a top civil servant then. Lee, Goh and Hon and their families were well acquainted with one other, having survived the Japanese occupation together. Lee & Goh were close friends from student days and received their education in the United Kingdom. Hon was appointed by Goh, and before taking on the job he was sent to the World Bank for six months of training. I found the above data extremely valuable. To build an organization like EDB on which would depend the nation building of Singapore itself, I felt, it was critical for the founders to have high level of personal chemistry over and above a shared vision. After all, they had collectively embarked upon the journey of creating one hell-of-astartup, I further felt. The appointment of Hon Sui Sen as EDBs first chairman reflects some of the attitudes toward people that came to play a major role in how the EDB culture evolved. In describing the formation of EDB, Lee Kuan Yew said, I gave my best man to Dr. Goh to do with whatever he needed, a philosophy of human resource management that foreshadowed most of the selection and development policies of the future the reliance on excellent people and an assumption that they could learn whatever the job required even if they had not been specifically trained for it. These excellent people would then be put into whatever jobs most needed their skills and attention. (Schein) I found a major resonance of this leadership theme in the book Leaders At All Levels by Ram Charan, a management guru of current times and an advisor to business leaders and corporate boards. In this book Ram Charan says, and I quote, having worked closely with many successful leaders over several decades, I conclude that leaders are different from other people and they develop their talent through practice and self-correction. In Strategic Pragmatism, I found several instances (which I shall note quote here, as it would need another chapter in itself) of EDBs leaders who were different from other people. Prime Minister Lee indeed found one in Hon Sui Sen and rightfully offered him the task to build EDB, whereas he could have been given charge of other equally pressing nation building agendas that were critical for Singapore of 1961. On this theme of leaders being different people who are self-reflective and selfcorrective, I found important parallels in another book titled Start-up Nation: The Story of Israels Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. This book is an amazing 18 | P a g e

narrative of Israels adversity-driven culture that fosters a unique combination of innovative and entrepreneurial intensity which the authors realized was the answer to a trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel a country of 7.1 million people, only sixty years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources produces more start-up companies than large peaceful stable nation like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the United Kingdom? In 1961 Lee and Goh had in mind a clear strategy for the EDB and had appointed a trustworthy and competent staff with Hon as the chairman. But in addition, they needed an experienced managing director to help it really take off. The chairman and his staff had all the right motivations, but very little practical experience in how to promote foreign investment. Their choice ended up with E.J.Mayer who was requested to take up the task on a temporary basis until a local candidate could be found. Mayer, I realized, was the connection between Singapore and Israel, two of the worlds most technologically advanced nations, having similar situations when they were born as independent nations. Mayer was then the director of the industrial planning department at the Israels ministry of commerce and industry. In his first meeting (in 1958) with Mayer, Goh said, I am a member of the Peoples Action Party and we are going to fight an election shortly, at which my party will sweep the board. I will then have to carry some responsibility in the government and, to prepare myself for this task, my party send me on a round-the-world trip to get information about the best methods for industrial development. On this visit, Goh also met J.Cahen, professor of industrial management at the Haifa Technion. Both Mayer and Cahen subsequently became involved with EDB, the former as its first managing director and the latter as an occasional consultant. Mayer also has an impact on Lee Kuan Yew. On one of his trips to Africa (when British were to pull out their naval bases and take 25 percent of Singapores gross national product with them) he was visited by Mayer. They spent a long evening together discussing Singapores situation and the problems of economic development, leading to two great insights that Lee said he has never forgotten. If you are surrounded by neighbors who dont want or need your products (the situation both in Israel and in Singapore at that time), you must leapfrog them economically so that they will come to need your products. By this Mayer meant that one must skip one or more steps in economic development chain to get ahead of other countries that are following a more traditional path. Singapores economic vision, achieved through EDB, on high-tech and knowledge based industries was no doubt partially influenced by this advice. The second insight Lee got from Mayer was, recognize that the only resource you have is your people, their brains, and their skills. Sort them and pick the best. So it came to pass that Lee picked Hon as EDBs first chairman and Hon in turn picked Mayer as its first managing director and the EDB was created in 1961 with the initial strategy to create jobs through attractive labor-intensive manufacturing companies and 19 | P a g e

to develop a climate of collaboration between labor and management that would be attractive to foreign investors. Historical roots like these, I realize, are so very critical to create a formative culture for an organization. Setting up two start-ups myself, I also realize the inevitable impact of the values and beliefs of the founders on an organizations founding culture. After all, I believe, at the start-up stage, an organization is no more than a collective mental construct held by its founding members. 6.1.2 Major strategic eras & key leaders: In Scheins view, the EDB culture is a product of the interaction of several factors: 1. the personalities and styles of the founders (as I have briefly alluded to above), especially the EDBs first chairman, Hon Sui Sen; 2. the mentalities and the personal styles of its initial members, especially the first group of officers who were assigned to EDB; 3. the strategic priorities as interpreted by the leaders and officers, and as experienced by them in their early efforts to promote foreign investments; 4. their actual experiences of successes and failures; and 5. the personality and styles of the later leaders who arrived with different strategic priorities and mandates. Let me now pick the last thread in the list and take the EDB story forward. From the report EDB, Thirty Years of Economic Development, Schein quotes, There are many ways in retrospect to categorize the various economic strategies that Singapore employed from 1960 on. Singapores own published analyses are constructed around major thrusts of each decade. Some of the major themes that can be seen are, 1. Curing unemployment through import substitution (1961-65): creation of labor intensive industries to create full employment in relatively low value-added factories that produced such items as nails, textiles, footwear, paint, polo shirts and plastic flowers. 2. Shift to export orientation and internationalization (1965): re-orienting manufacturing for exports by attracting major global companies to setup their manufacturing base in Singapore and export components or total products from there. Successful foreign investment would include U.S. companies such as General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Timex, Bethlehem Steel, GTE, Lockheed; European companies such as Phillips, Siemens, Olivetti, Beecham; Japanese companies such as Seiko, Sumitomo, Yamazaki.

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3. Shift from labor-intensive industries to training labor for capital-intensive and high-tech industries (1968 onwards): becoming a precision engineering shop of Asia by upgrading its labor force through joint institutes between Singapore and Germany, France and Japan. 4. From skill based industries to knowledge based industries and services (evolved through the 1970s): shifting the focus by attracting those high-tech industries that were willing to pay higher wages and that were less labor intensive, like computers, integrated circuits, specialty chemical products and industrial electronic equipments. 5. Regionalization, growth triangle and development of local industries (1986-): by helping to develop industrial parks in the neighboring Indonesian islands, Thailand and Malaysia, Singapore could help a company place its low-cost manufacturing into one of those sites while keeping the headquarters, R&D, distribution and marketing in Singapore. 6. Renewal to a Learning Nation (1990-): by aiming to catch-up with on a moving-target basis the GNP per capita of the Netherlands by 2020 and of the U.S. by 2030. Schein says, the theme of strategic pragmatism comes to mind again in that Singapore displayed throughout this period a remarkable adaptive and learning capability without sacrificing short-run problem solving. And throughout these periods of strategic change, the EDB as an organization maintained a certain basic character and style, even as it evolved under the leadership of different chairmen. These leaders would include: 1. 2. 3. 4. Hon Sui Sen The Founding Chairman I.F.Tang and Chan Chin Bock The Deal Makers Ngiam Tong Dow and P.Y.Hwang The Consolidators Philip Yeo The Renewer

I am not covering here the details of the major contributions these leaders made in the history of EDB. Interested readers may explore this subject by reading Strategic Pragmatism. From the narrative on these leaders, I however gather the importance of the fact that at each inflection stage of an organization, the top-leadership, be it an Executive Chairman or the Chief Executive, is vital in terms of Vision, Capabilities and Character. These virtues can also be signified by the word Dharma, coined by the ancient Indian knowledge system, which said that the eternal concept of Dharmic Leadership is the basic quality required for building and sustaining institutions.

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6.2 EDB from a client/investor perspective: I have always believed, that an organization be it for-profit or not-for-profit, is as good as its customers experience it to be. The Voice of Customer (VoC) after all is the proof of the pudding. The EDB was no exception to this fact. For Schein, I realized that the VoC became an important source of data for deciphering EDBs culture. I shall now briefly cover this aspect of EDB, by exploring the question, why did companies chose to invest in Singapore? Even though EDBs efforts to seek foreign investment were worldwide, a great deal of that effort was directed at U.S. companies, in part because these companies were beginning to look offshore for manufacturing just at the time that Singapore was launching its strategy. There is a valuable comment from Schein that I saw in sections of Strategic Pragmatism relating to VoC data. I found it offering a kind of directional guidance to those undertaking the work of culture diagnosis. Schein says, and I quote, ideally I would have searched out an equivalent number of companies that did not invest in Singapore to try to find out whether it was aspects of the EDB culture that turned them off. It not only proved to be difficult to find such companies, but it was also the case that the successful investors made enough critical comments to make it possible to infer where the problems lay. This I believe is a critical pointer to organizational culture studies by looking at the disconfirming data as well. Rather than getting into details of the comments made by EDBs clients/investors, I will restrict myself to capturing some of the key statements made by them when they were interviewed by Schein. The voices are from: U.S. clients Mobil Corp., DuPont Corp., Lubrizol Corp., Texas Instruments, Hewlett-Packard, Digital Equipment Corp., Apple; European clients Shell, Thomson; Asian clients Sony, Hitachi. The characteristics of EDB which were dominantly experienced by these clients, some of which I feel also have a correlation to the EDB culture, are: 1. One-stop service 2. Accessibility 3. Efficiency and speed in solving problems 4. Can-do attitude 5. Deep knowledge of relevant industry and companies 6. Business orientation 7. Persuasive with facts 8. Willingness to make special concessions when needed 9. Helping in locating suppliers, contractors, construction companies 10. Various incentive schemes 11. Capital assistance schemes, which allow EDB equity participation in selected industries 12. Small industry finance scheme and other tax incentive and loan schemes 22 | P a g e

Some of the specific comments made by EDB clients/investors from which I got few insights of the EDB culture, are: visionary outlook that helped to lay foundation today for tomorrows business, social and technological scenarios the EDB board is run more like an enterprise than a statutory body great availability and responsiveness dedication, competence, efficiency of the team strong tradition of accountability for results they talk to each other; they have open channels inside and with the outside so that the whole organization responds there is a tight hierarchy, but communications are open they are very smart to take little steps and learn from them rather than overreaching themselves very little is done without careful disciplined research and, in that process, they use outside resources and are willing to learn from whoever has relevant knowledge they have great respect for their leaders and that, in combination of a high sense of discipline and a very strong work ethic derived somewhat from Confucianism, makes them very effective they managed to pick the best people and, through creating a fairly strong elitism, managed to get very good people to the top what they said, they stuck to it once they decide to do something, they do it so fast they are very pragmatic, especially in overlooking communism in dealing with China whenever you went with a proposition, they always wanted to know immediately what technology you would transfer and what training you would provide local Singaporeans they know how to bet on companies and on individual people when they do things, they explain the logic so that everyone has a deeper understanding of why things are done the way they are

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6.3 EDB culture from an analytic perspective Here, Schein brings together the earlier two perspectives by the EDB of itself & by the EDB clients/investors during their dealings with EDB, into a coherent picture of the EDB organizational culture and the cultural context in which it operates. In this section Schein states, and I quote, to fully understand an organization, one must not only be able to make a sense of the overt behaviors of the organization that are visible, but also be able to see the underlying pattern of shared assumptions by which the organization operates. If one is looking for the strong casual factors that explain how any social system works, it is those underlying tacit shared assumptions that are the strongest casual forces and that can be thought of as the essence of the culture. To support this view, Schein offers the following model,


Visible organizational structure and processes (hard to decipher) Strategies, goals, philosophies (espoused justifications) Unconscious, taken for granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and feelings (ultimate source of values and action)

Espoused Values

Underlying Assumptions

Levels of organizational culture

At this stage, I find Schein bringing together the mass of case details that he collected through his various interviews with EDB officials and EDB clients, into a coherent framework which is grounded in the theoretical framework on organization culture that he had developed independently and explained in his book Organization Culture and Leadership. Drawing references from this work, Schein in Strategic Pragmatism explains the levels of organizational culture phenomena using a lily-pond metaphor. I reproduce below this narrative. Culture is an intrinsically abstract concept that integrates and explains the shared overt and visible behavioral rituals, beliefs, and values of the group. So far I (Schein) have attempted to describe the EDB in these overt terms but, in terms of culture, what I have described is like the surface of the lily pond these are only the visible, palpable aspects 24 | P a g e

of the EDB culture. Just as one cannot understand the dynamics of the lily pond without examining the stalks, the roots, and the composition of the water and the mud under the surface of the pond (the elements that create what is on the surface), so one cannot understand culture without looking for the roots, the nutrients, and the principles of growth that explain the surface phenomena one sees in the organization. This way of thinking about the culture is shown diagrammatically in the above figure. The most surface level of the culture, exemplified by some of the descriptive material of EDB, can be thought of as the observable artifacts of the organization. The artifacts are very palpable and vivid, but they are hard to decipher because of the likelihood that the observer will project his or her own cultural assumptions onto them. To begin to understand a culture, one must then move on to the next level of inquiry by asking members of the organization why they do certain things, which usually elicits what one could call the espoused values of the organization. At this level, one has the official philosophy, the mission statement, and the various justifications that members use to explain their behavior. There often are inconsistencies between the espoused values and what the overt behavior or artifacts suggest. To resolve such inconsistencies it is necessary to go to a further level of inquiry, the level of shared tacit assumptions. These are the real drivers of the observed behavior and are therefore what one can think of as the underlying essence of the culture, the hidden part of the lily pond. Such tacit assumptions often complement each other in complex subtle ways and, if the organization has a reasonably long history, become patterned into a system or paradigm. In other words, to fully understand the meaning of different observed behaviors and the espoused values, one must understand the underlying paradigm that the members of the organization use to structure their reality. One can think of such paradigms as shared mental models that structure how the members of an organization perceive, think about, and feel about themselves and the environment around them. Once one has finished the components of the paradigm, one can also track the possible origins of those components in historical and broader cultural terms. Such shared mental models do not reveal themselves easily, precisely because they are tacit and take for granted. To decipher a cultural paradigm at this deeper level generally requires the joint efforts of an outside participant observer working with one or more insiders who are willing to try to explain observed anomalies or inconsistencies by exploring their own assumptions. Neither one can do it alone, but their joint inquiry efforts can bring the tacit assumptions to the surface. Once a tacit assumption has been surfaced, it can be validated by (1) external testing of how much of the explicit behavior of the organization it explains, and (2) internal testing of how much it makes sense to the members of the organization itself once it is made conscious and visible. UNQUOTE.

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One of my areas of work as an OD practitioner is Executive Coaching, where I work with an individual client (often sponsored by the organization where s/he works) with specific goals around improving individual effectiveness. Often, the starting point for me in such engagements is to diagnose my clients mental models and make it visible to him/her, test its validity, and if found valid, explore with my client what this mental model is doing for him or her in creating their worlds. In this endeavor I am often reminded of Richard Bandlers quote in his book, The Structure of Magic, where he says, and I quote, Human behavior no matter how bizarre it may first appear to be makes sense when it is seen in the context of choices generated by their own models of the world. The difficulty is not that they are making a wrong choice, but because they do not have enough choices they dont have a richly focused image of the world. Whilst my work in executive coaching revolves around diagnosing and decoding individual mental models, Schein, in the context of organization culture, I find, alludes to the shared mental models held by the membership of the organization which I feel provides them tacit rules of behavior with the help of which they create their worlds. In the case of EDB, this kind of inquiry of making visible the shared mental models of its members, made it apparent to Schein that two different paradigms were operating. One paradigm consisted of a set of assumptions that Singapores leaders held about economic development. The other paradigm consisted of a set of assumptions about how EDB structures and manages itself. Summarizing his thoughts on his analytic perspective of EDB, Schein says that the two paradigms must be viewed together as a total system rather than individual elements. What makes the EDB work is the simultaneous and coordinated effect of all the different shared tacit assumptions. I will now re-produce below the way Schein has represented these two operating paradigms at EDB: State Capitalism Political Stability Strategic Pragmatism Sector Collaboration

Dynamic Civil Service

Primacy of People

The shared tacit assumptions of EDBs cultural context 26 | P a g e

In his analytical perspective, Schein found that EDBs contextual paradigm consisted of six interlocking and interrelated shared tacit assumptions that reflect the mental models of the early leaders of Singapore and are largely taken for granted even today. Apart from providing a cultural context within which EDB operates, these assumptions are also held by the members of the EDB itself thus influencing the everyday operating principles at EDB. I shall now re-produce these assumptions as Schein has articulated them, Shared tacit assumption State Capitalism Assumption details Singapores leaders and the EDB assumed and took it for granted that government could and should pay an active entrepreneurial role in economic development, and should therefore exercise leadership through a quasigovernmental statutory body like the EDB. Singapores political leaders assumed (1) that economic development must precede political development, (2) that long-range successful economic development could occur only if there was political stability, and (3) that political stability could be achieved and maintained only by the firm but benign government controls that steer all segments of the society. Singapores political leaders assumed that economic development could only succeed if business, labor, and government actively collaborated with each other in fulfilling the common goal of building the nation. Singapores political leaders assumed that favorable economic conditions for investors would be guaranteed only if the government and civil service were competent, incorruptible, and operated with an open and consistent set of rules that were vigorously enforced. Singapores political leaders assumed that the only resources Singapore had was its people and their potential; it must therefore pick the best of them and develop them to the maximum potential. Singapores political leaders assumed that it is possible and essential to have a vision and master strategy for the development of Singapore, and at the same time one must use all of ones practical intelligence to pragmatically and innovatively make it happen without at any point compromising the vision.

Political stability

Sector collaboration

Dynamic civil service

Primacy of people

Strategic pragmatism

Schein believes that the last tacit assumption on Strategic pragmatism is the critical glue that ties together the six paradigms together. To further explain this, he states that the EDB is able to project an image of readiness to solve whatever problem comes along,

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rapidly and efficiently. But at the same time they have a long-range agenda, a purpose, a set of value principles that they will not violate. Schein has represented the second operating paradigm at EDB as:

Teamwork: Individualistic Groupism Nonhierarchic Heirarchy Learning Organization Boundaryless Organization

Cosmopolitan Technocracy

Partnership with clients

The shared tacit assumptions of EDBs culture As a comment on this representation of EDBs culture, Schein states that the operational culture of EDB is a set of paradoxes and anomalies from a Western point of view, but its tacit assumptions are consistent with each other and enable the organization to function effectively. These assumptions can be best understood as: Shared tacit assumption Assumption details Teamwork: The EDB assumed that the best kind of leadership is to Individualistic Groupism build a team, and that the ultimate mission of the team members is to contribute to Singapore becoming a fully developed nation. Boundaryless The EDB assumed that the only way it could fulfill its organization function effectively was for all managers, officers, and other relevant employees of the organization to be fully informed about all projects at all times. Partnership with clients The EDB assumed that it could succeed only if it fully understood the needs of its clients (present and potential investors) and collaborated with them in solving their problems efficiently but without compromising its own basic goals, plans or rules (strategic pragmatism)

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Cosmopolitan technocracy

Nonhierarchical hierarchy

Commitment to learning and innovation

The EDB assumed that it could succeed only if it recruited: 1. the best and brightest based on scholastic performance 2. officers with a cosmopolitan orientation based on overseas education and interest in working with and in overseas business settings 3. officers who were technically oriented and trained because the kind of businesses that were to be promoted were usually technically based 4. officers who had high level of personal initiative to be able to work in unpredictable and unchartered business and government arenas 5. officers and managers who were team oriented and had high levels of interpersonal skill to deal with multiple cultures, multiple hierarchical levels, and across organizational boundaries of all kind The EDB implicitly assumed that officers could succeed only if they simultaneously had two potentially opposing set of abilities: 1. a strong sense of autonomy in performing their tasks, a willingness to initiate decisions through formal proposals up the hierarchy, a willingness to be open and frank in revealing information up the hierarchy, a willingness to go around the hierarchy when tasks require it, and the ability to work with higher levels of management in the client organizations 2. suitable deference to superiors when appropriate (particularly in public), a willingness to seek and accept guidance from above in revising proposals and in making decision, good judgment in keeping their superiors fully informed when going around the hierarchy, and appropriate humility when being coached and guided by superiors and when dealing with higherranking managers in client companies. The EDB assumed that the only way it could fulfill its vision of development was to learn from others and its own experience, and to continuously innovate in dealing with whatever problems were discovered to stand in the way of achieving the vision.

Amongst the shared tacit assumptions on the EDB culture as given in the above table, the assumption around Nonhierarchical hierarchy has made me reflect a lot. In my work with organizations, I hear about the dilemma concerning autonomy v/s control. I find many organizations struggling to find an answer to this apparent paradox. Whenever my clients seek my expert advice on this subject, I often end up in silence, something which is contrary to what my clients expect of me.

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The shared tacit assumptions at the EDB on Nonhierarchical hierarchy seem to provide me an answer to my dilemma on the subject. Explaining this assumption further, Schein states, and I quote, the best way to characterize this set of relationships is to note that EDBers are expected to perform as one would in a boundaryless Western organization in which hierarchy is downplayed and, at the same time, to perform as one would in an Asian (Chinese) organization in which deference and hierarchy are dominant. What the young senior officer has to learn in entering this organization was how to do that how to develop the judgment and interpersonal skills to perform according to both set of norms. The officer learns to use the hierarchy without the hierarchy becoming a dominant controlling force. Reflecting on Scheins words, I then wonder, Is this paradox of autonomy v/s control, a problem to be solved, or a reality to be lived, day-to-day? Other than judgment and interpersonal skills, what sort of coping mechanisms would members of such organizations need to cultivate in order to live such an organizational life? Can these skills be taught as a prescribed learning method or do each member of such an organization have to figure out their everyday answers to this paradox as they solve the everyday organizational problems? The following figure depicts the combination of the culture and contextual paradigms of EDB in a cohesive framework as deciphered by Schein, with Strategic Pragmatism & Learning Organization forming the core,

Teamwork: State Individualistic Groupism Capitalism

Boundaryless Organization Sector Collaboration

Political Stability
Strategic Pragmatism Learning Organization

Nonhierarchic Heirarchy Dynamic Civil Service

Partnership with clients

Cosmopolitan Technocracy

Primacy of People

The cultural paradigm of the EDB 30 | P a g e

Schein summarizes his findings on the EDB culture by saying, In order to understand why Singapore and the EDB work the way they do, one must consider all the twelve elements shown and must treat culture as a system of interrelated parts, not isolated elements. It is Singapores ability to put all pieces together that helps to explain the success of their economic development thus far.

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7.0 The Organization Development Process at EDB In his book The Living Company, the author Arie De Geus, the retired Director of Group Planning at The Royal Dutch/Shell Group, explores the question what can explain the longevity gap between a company that survives for centuries and the average corporation, which does not last 20 years? He says, many companies die young because their policies and practices are based too heavily on the thinking and language of economics. Their managers focus on producing goods and services and forget that the organization is a community of human beings that is in business to stay alive. In contrast, managers of living companies consider themselves to be stewards of long-standing enterprise. Their priorities reflect their commitment to the organizations long-term survival in an unpredictable world. Like careful gardeners, they encourage growth and renewal without endangering the plant they are tending. They value profits the same way most people value oxygen: as necessary for life but not the purpose of it. They scuttle assets when necessary to make a dramatic change in the business portfolio. And they constantly search for new ideas. These managers also focus on developing people. They create opportunities for employees to learn from one another. Such organizations are suited for survival in a world in which success depends on the ability to learn, to adapt, and to evolve. In his book, The Fifth Discipline, the author Peter Senge takes De Geuss argument further by defining the term The Learning Organization as, an organization whose members continually enhance their capacity to create their desired future. The same theme of continuous evolution through continuous learning and adaptation is explored by Gary Hamel in his book Leading the Revolution, where he coins a term Resilient Organization which he defines as, organizations which continuously innovate externally with respect to its context and innovate internally with respect to its own past, in order to remain resilient and relevant. A further extension of this theme can also be found in the book Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World by Maragaret Wheatley, who is renowned her work in Cultural Anthropology and has a PhD background from Harvard on Organizational Behavior and Change. In this book, she provides a new way of looking at the world by combining three strands originating in natural science biology, chaos theory and quantum physics, to put forward three critical hypothesis that she believes matter to individual and organizational growth (a) Relationships are what matters (b) Chaos and change are the only route to transformation and (c) Life is a vast web of interconnections where cooperation and participation are required. In my endeavor of studying the organization culture phenomena, I realize now, that tacitly I was also exploring the underlying themes of organizational renewal, change, resilience and relevance as elicited by De Geus, Senge, Hamel & Wheatley. When I looked for these aspects in the EDB story, I realized that Strategic Pragmatism offered

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me clear insights; an experience I realize as somewhat similar to Fritjof Capras thought about the electron giving me a particle answer if I asked it a particle question. Schein captures this as the shared tacit assumption at EDB of being a Learning Organization with a commitment to learning and innovation into a framework as below,

Strategy Systems Structure

Shared vision/values





The EDB model for planning the organizational development and organizational learning program Level # 1 2 3 4 Level Name Self People Style & Skills Shared Vision Learning focus and OD strategy Personal Mastery Identities & Roles Team Learning & Dialogue Interpersonal relationships Intergroup relations and Organizational culture Mental Models & Systems Thinking

Schein notes that, the learning organization values go back to the early leaders, to Lee Kuan Yews and Goh Keng Swees willingness to learn from other countries and from various non-Singaporean advisers. Because of their orientation to training and development, EDB officers try to stay in touch with relevant management theories and technologies. From one of his interviews with Ms.Shirley Chen, the then director of corporate services at EDB, Schein notes, in one of our discussions Chen volunteered that she had run across Senges book, found it interesting and exciting, and gave it to managing director Tan Chin Nam to read. He also found it relevant and obviously saw connections between 33 | P a g e

how the EDB tried to operate and what Senge was articulating, particularly the importance of systems dynamics in an increasingly complex world. That year Tan Chin Nam and Lee Kuan Yew also went to the annual Business Forum at Davos, Switzerland, where they had an opportunity to attend talks by Peter Senge and Bill Issacs from MIT Organizational Learning Center. Some of the steps taken to articulate the OD & learning strategy at EDB clearly show that though advised through external subject matter experts, the entire process was owned and driven internally by various EDB officers under the leadership of Chen. After deciding in their 1994 corporate meeting, organizational learning became the core theme of EDBs growth. Teams were formed to study each of the five learning disciplines articulated by Senge personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning and systems thinking, and their applicability to EDBs context. From this evolved a work plan that would cover not just the learning organization principles but the whole organization development effort for the EDB. From the above narrative on the organization development & learning processes at EDB, I find five key lessons for OD practitioners: 1. OD & learning agenda has to be driven by the senior most levels of management and anchored in each and every function of the organization and not just in HR, 2. It can be a partnership model with external subject matter experts but primarily owned and driven as a process internal to the organization, 3. The leaning agendas have to be considered as provisional truths that are aligned to the continuously changing organizational context, 4. OD is an investment directed towards resilience and growth of the organization and its members, 5. The well being and growth of people and the communities they create within the organization become the core purpose of the organization, where profits become a necessity to meet this core purpose. From Scheins articulation of the OD model at EDB, I realize that the first step to OD is Exploration of Self, which is so much aligned to the shared Sumedhian belief, which is, Identity is the starting point. I now also carry a new perspective of OD, to quote Marcel Proust, the French Novelist, as a voyage of discovery with fellow travelers, not to seek new lands but to see it with new eyes, a voice deeply anchored in the sutra or verse from the Ishavasya Upanishad13: "Eeshaavaasym idam sarvam yat kinchana jagatyaam jagat, Tena tyaktena bhunjithaah, Maa gridhaah kasyachit dhanam, Hiranmayena paatrena satyasya apihitam mukham, Tat tvam Pushan apaavrinu, satyadharmaaya drishtaye. " (It means, "Everything in this world belongs to the Lord. You enjoy it by abandoning it and not lusting after else's wealth. The face of Truth is hidden by a golden cover; O God Pushan, remove the golden cover to enable us see the Truth.") 34 | P a g e

8.0 EDB Culture A Critique & Summary Notes A review of any phenomena necessarily has to include a critique, I remember one of my OD fraternity colleagues once mentioning to me. I guess its about balancing both perspectives one based on deficit thinking that focuses on whats missing and another based on constructivist thinking that focuses on whats working. With respect to EDB and its culture, this aspect is very well documented in Strategic Pragmatism in the form of an interview that Schein had with Khoo Seok Lin, the then director of human resources who was also in-charge of organization development and learning initiatives of EDB. I reproduce below this conversation, with acronyms EHS for Edgar H Schein and KSL for Khoo Seok Lin. EHS: What problem is the organization development program trying to solve? KSL: I am not here to try and solve any problems. Of course there are always problems this isnt optimal or that isnt optimal but that is not the issue. The issue is being innovative and talking about enhanced performance. So its not about looking back at history, and talking about improving here or there, but to look ahead and see where Singapore needs to be, to figure out where the EDB can contribute, and what must we be as an organization in order to meet the challenges. EHS: So even though you dont know that those challenges will be KSL: We cannot foresee everything, but we do know where we want to go and we have in place some of the strategies relatively clear cut. And one thing we know is that the environment will be more complex and the competition will be fiercer for sure because we already feel it now. EHS: So when you earlier said, lets look at skill and style, for example, you are relating that to currently known strategies? KSL: For example in style, we said we need two things we need a style of management where every officer, every manager, is a people empowerer. Many middle managers still look at their job as a technical thing, and not enough in the area of being a builder of people, motivating them and cheering them on instead. You have to be a model, not a judge saying wrong wrong all the time. EHS: Historically is that what they have been, technical supervisors, critics? KSL: Not critics, but the focus at middle management level, the bulk of their focus has been there, because, as I told you, to be promoted you had to be technically very competent, excellent in what you are doing. EHS: What is puzzling about this is that if I talk to the alumni of the EDB of the 1960s and 1970s, they talk about it as an organization where they got a lot of power and 35 | P a g e

could take initiative. So where did this middle-management technical supervision attitude develop, because it wasnt apparently true of the early organization. Hasnt it always been people-enhancing organization? KSL: It is, but we are saying that there is a lot more that can be done. EHS: Even more KSL: Oh yes [said with great emphasis]. The moment we start thinking that we have done all that can be done, thats the first time we start going downhill. We have to think about how we can improve ourselves. Put it this way: there is a lot of opportunity for bottom-up ideas to flow; thats true of EDB. But there is also a lot of opportunity for middle managers to enthuse the younger officers. There is a lot of potential. The moment we think EDB has it, thats when we dont have it. Thats why we do benchmarking of EDB EHS: [Interrupts] But you see problem cases? If you were asked, would you be able to point to supervisors and heads who are too technical, who are not good enhancers of people, who need this kind of training? KSL: Of course I can [laughs]. Dont quote me [laughs] EHS: But thats the thing that is interesting, that this has crept into the organization. Or has it always been there? KSL: Put it this way. The same people, if put into another organization, would probably be among the top people. Thats the unique thing we have here, both strength of EDB and a question. Everyone is, because of the recruitment system which is so stringent. Everyone who comes in is excellent on paper and in their interaction. Then you are competing among excellent people, and among excellent people, you know, if you look at the bell-shaped thing, there will always be some who are more excellent than others. So we do have a cohort of people who, when they are viewed amongst the excellent ones, do not appear as excellent as others. But if you put the same people in another organization, they will be among the top 20 percent of that organization. That is where the EDB has to feed back into our career development system, if we have these individuals here in EDB we have to give them the best opportunity there is, because again this is part of modeling. Thats why we do give them opportunities to go to other places, thats why some of them have gone to other companies where you can grow faster, thats why we have alumni, you know, you can grow faster in other places [pauses] EHS: Do you have a plan for how to teach a technical supervisor the people enhancement things? 36 | P a g e

KSL: Yes, training and development, either in-house or we bring a program in, like even on a skill like empathic listening, there are programs on it, and we just have to evaluate whether they are good enough or some of the evaluations have already been done and role modeling and role playing, both formalized and non-formalized programs; I mean on the job there is so much opportunity but, you know, they have to have the skill first, so we will do it formalized as well. EHS: And that will typically be by finding a good external program and then either putting everyone through it or bringing it in? KSL: Yes . And thats where it feeds back into the training and development module. EHS: So are you going to be involved with this for some years? KSL: Yes, a minimum of three to five years, but if you think of it being over in five years, no, of course, its an ongoing thing .. if you are building an organization or enhancing it you cannot say you are finished, we have arrived. But the first two years are really the most critical. EHS: And you see it really, the bottom line, as building an organization? KSL: Well, the organization is built, and I always tell Chin Nam, actually, when I took on this program, that we have such a fantastic foundation. I really feel that because we have such talented pool of people, and people with experience from all over, like we have got people who have spent eight years in the U.S. in an international environment, in Germany, and in Japan, you know, bringing them all together, and because we are so busy doing so many things, I feel we are not tapping the latent expertise that we have in the EDB. And so my own vision, thats why I am so excited about it, is that if we think we have done brilliantly which we have, you know I think we can do even more brilliantly because we are going to tap all the synergies of the different people. So thats why the whole program of organization development, and thats how I position it because thats how I see it , is talking about bringing the EDB into a whole new level of performance that is beyond our imagination of what we have done. UNQUOTE. The statements, I feel we are not tapping the latent expertise that we havewe need to tap into all the synergies. is what I often hear in my work with organizations. There seems to be a perpetual unfinished agenda that organizations have in terms of leveraging the hidden potential of its members. Most organization learning initiatives seem to have this as the key driving factor. Thats fair, I think. However my dilemma has been, how to make it into a self-governing, self-sustaining system of mutual learning across pockets of excesses and deficits that are always present in an organization? 37 | P a g e

In terms of organizational learning, the image that I carry in my mind is that of a network of connections or processes, in order to ensure their sustenance and growth, consume and contribute, from and to the network, in a manner similar to self-organizing living systems found in the natural world. To explore this thought further, I would like state a hypothesis that learning posits the presence of knowledge and hence information i.e. the primary currency for any learning is information. In a chapter titled The Creative Energy of the Universe Information from her book Leadership and New Science, Maragaret Wheatley has provided a very interesting account of information and its relation with organizational learning and growth, a thought that I personally resonate with. She says and I quote, For several decades, information theory has treated information as something tangible. Information has been referred to as quantity, bits and bytes to be counted, transmitted, received and stored. Information is a commodity that we transfer from one place to another. The strong focus on the thingness of information has kept us from contemplating its other dimensions: the content, character, and behavior of information (Gleick 1987). In the universe that new science is exploring, information is a very different thing. It is not the limited, quantifiable, put-it-in-an-email-and-send commodity that we pretend it to be. In new theories of information and order, information is a dynamic, changing element, taking center stage. Without information, life cannot give birth to anything new; information is absolutely essential for the emergence of new order. All life uses information to organize itself into form. A living being is not a stable structure, but a continuous process of organizing information. A dramatic example of this, one that pushes our self-concept to the edge, is demonstrated by asking: Who am I? Am I a physical structure that processes information or immaterial information organizing itself into material form? Life uses information to organize matter into form, resulting in all the physical structures that we see. The role of information is revealed in the word itself: in-formation. We havent noticed information as integral to the process of formation because all around us are physical forms that we can see and touch. These things beguile us; we confuse the systems physical manifestation with the processes that gave birth to it. Yet the real system, that which endures and evolves, is a set of processes. Information takes shape in different forms as a result of these processes. When a new structure materializes, we know that the system has in-formed itself differently. For a system to remain alive, for the universe to keep growing, information must be continually generated. If there is nothing new, or if the information confirms what already is, then the result will be death. Closed systems wind down and decay, victims of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. We need to have information coursing through our 38 | P a g e

systems, disturbing the peace, imbuing everything it touches with the possibility of new life. Information is unique as a resource because it can generate itself. Its the solar energy of organization inexhaustible, with new progeny possible with every interpretation. As long as communication occurs in a shared context, fertility abounds. These new births require freedom; information must be free to circulate and find new partners. Of course, such freedom is exactly what we try to prevent. We have no desire to let information roam about promiscuously, procreating where it will, creating chaos. Managements task is to enforce control, to keep information contained, to pass it down in such a way that no newness occurs. Information chastity belts are a central management function. The last thing that we need is information running loose in our organizations. And there are good reasons for our stern, puritanical attitudes towards information; unfettered information has created enough horror stories to justify frequent witch hunts. But if information is to function as a source of organization vitality, we must abandon our dark cloaks of control and trust its need for free movement, even in our own organizations. Information is necessary for new order, an order we do not impose, but order nonetheless. All of life uses information this way. Can information, then, be used as a helpmate in creating greater order in our organizations? We have to create much freer access to information, and become much more astute at noticing new information as it emerges. No other species seems to suffer from the delusion that they can manage information. Instead, they stay alert to whats happening all the time. It seems ironic that even the simplest forms of life often seem more selfaware that we humans do. In many fields of science, we glimpse how life uses the information it gathers not just to preserve itself, but to grow and generate new capacities. UNQUOTE. In the discourse on EDB, Schein has cited several examples of how various field officers of EDB were open to new information all the time. New information that would provide them an experience of cognitive dissonance which is a perceived difference between what is and a key belief about what should be happening, resulting into actions as were appropriate in such instances, and becoming a source of continuous learning. Though not articulated as such in the Strategic Pragmatism story, I found this to be a tacit learning model adopted by EDBers of being comfortable with ambiguity and change, drawing lessons and creating appropriate actions, as a recursive cycle in an OPOPOW manner. De Geuss concept of A Living Company has the innate culture to learn, to adapt and to evolve, like Singapores EDB. This in my view seems to be the most sustainable model for organizations, one which is aligned to the natural world. How can OD as a humanistic science, enable such an organization culture? Thats the trillion dollar question. 39 | P a g e

9.0 Concluding Thoughts After several rounds of editing, I gave the first draft of this book-review work to my wife for her review and comments. She went through it patiently and said, Where are the shades of grey? I dont find any? Being an architect by profession, I guess her perspective was coming from a world which is rich with spaces and structures having design elements with many colors and shades. Arent your ideas of organization, its development and the underlying assumptions around culture which would enable such organizations, too idealistic? she further asked. I could not disagree with her. Her comments made me deeply reflect on my own thoughts and beliefs around OD & Culture, colored with idealism, as they were and which probably are even now. In my work as an OD practitioner, I find that the real world organization is far removed from the organizational concepts of De Geus, Senge, Hamel, Wheatley and such thinkers. Whilst as an aspiration many organizations may want to walk this path, but their everyday life is far too consumed with pressures to deliver results. Managing-the-today, living-by-the-quarter soaks up much of the time bandwidth and energy of managers and leaders in these organizations, leaving them no time to reflect on their achievements and mistakes. Managers and leaders are simply overwhelmed by increased turbulence, unpredictability, fear and anxiety around loss of control about themselves and their situations. Coping with the resultant stress is indeed a challenge for many. There is an overload of all kinds. Having led such an organizational life for almost twenty years, I can fully empathize with such a situation. All this takes a toll at the individual and the organizational level in the form of significant behavioral dysfunctionalities which in turn play a role in shaping the organizational culture. Its a highly complex web of cause-andeffect relationship with circularity in form. Individual and organizational dysfunctionalities are real. The pathos cannot be ignored and will have to accepted and respected for what-it-is and for what-it-can-become-into. They represent the destructive forces that need to be present without which the reactionary constructive forces just cannot exist. The Ravana has to exist for Ram to exist. Being two sides of the same coin, they feed on each other; derive their life force from each other. At the manifest level, one cannot do away with this duality. In his book One from Many: Visa and the Rise of Chaordic Organization, the author Dee Hock says, The truth is that a corporation, for that matter, any organization has no reality, save in the mind. It is nothing but a mental construct to which people are drawn in pursuit of common purpose. Healthy organizations are a mental concept of relationships to which people are drawn by hope, vision, values and meaning along with liberty to cooperatively purse them. Unhealthy organizations are no less a mental concept of relationship, but one to which people are compelled by accident of birth, necessity or force. Resonating with this philosophy, I then wonder Isnt organization and its culture a phenomena-of-the-collective having a co-existence of functional and dysfunctional elements, both engaged in a creative dance similar to the Yin-and-the-Yang principle? 40 | P a g e

An idea which started in January 2010 is coming to its logical conclusion. Calling it a conclusion may not be appropriate. I see it more as a milestone, a resting stop, in my learning journey. It all started with two triggers: 1. a personal endeavor to study the phenomena of Organization Culture and, 2. an invitation by Sumedhas to undertake a Book Review exercise as a part of my OD Internship Program with them. This book review journey has been a meandering of sorts for me. The initials weeks went into toying with the idea of which book to review. Sumedhas provided me a list of 22 books, many of which I had not read, some, whose name I had only heard of. Picking up any book from this list would have meant an invaluable and a unique learning experience. But I decided to stay with the question, what exactly am I looking for in this book review project? And, the answer came after several weeks of sleeping over the question, with lot of dots getting connected. Singapore as a country holds a unique fascination for many. And, I am no exception. Influenced by this fascination, I had read Lee Kuan Yews memoirs a few years back. It opened my mind to all the events in Singapores political, social and economic history. Strategic Pragmatism ended up providing me with a view on EDB, a key enabler of the Singapore story. Well, thats nostalgia, that I am experiencing now as I write these concluding words in response to the question that I am left with where has this book review journey left me? In the Hollywood movie The Black Swan, which won the 2010 Oscar in the Best Actress category, the core plot is woven around the director of the ballet company wanting to cast a new principal dancer for their ballet production Swan Lake. In one of the scenes, he tells the protagonist, who is a young dancer aspiring for this lead role, that, if you want to surprise the audience, you have to surprise yourself first. In this book review work, surprising the audience was never my objective but surprising myself, has ended up becoming my experience. I also have to admit that in my attempt to balance discipline and rigor vis--vis impulse and reaction, at times I have been swayed by the latter. The process of putting together my thoughts around the core of Strategic Pragmatism made me re-visit a variety of topics that I had explored in my earlier readings, which are listed in the next section Readings & References. This experience of a re-visit to earlier visited destinations also provided me new understandings of those destinations. So, where am I now? Probably I have moved a few steps in my personal growth? Challenged, to explore further; learning; adapting; and evolving? All I wish at this stage is that the readers of this work enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed putting it together. 41 | P a g e


Readings & References

1. Organization Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein 2. Strategic Pragmatism by Edgar Schein 3. Diagnosing & Changing Organization Culture by Kim S. Cameron & Robert E. Quinn 4. From Third World to First The Singapore Story: 1965-2000 by Lee Kuan Yew 5. What the Bleep Do We Know by William Antz, Betty Chasse and Mark Vincente 6. Leaders At All Levels by Ram Charan 7. Start-up Nation: The Story of Israels Economic Miracle by Dan Senor & Saul Singer 8. The Structure of Magic by Richard Bandler 9. The Living Company by Arie De Geus 10. The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge 11. Leading the Revolution by Gary Hamel 12. Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World by Maragaret Wheatley
13. Isavasya Upanishad 14. One from Many: Visa and the Rise of Chaordic Organization by Dee Hock

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