Project Notes: The Organizational Biography
The first written exercise for MPA 8002 requires students to write a concise, three- to five- page organizational biography, highlighting its history, mission, goals, and the problems negatively impacting organizational efficiency and effectiveness. As part of Exercise #1, students will also conduct an organizational SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.
Reengineering is difficult, boring, and painful.
One of my senior executives
Content for the organizational biography will come primarily from the organizational websites, publications, brochures, annual reports, interviews, and the like which the students gather and organize. In addition, the content will include reflections upon the students' experiences within their organizations, especially concerning how these negatively impact organizational functioning. Students will report any area(s) they currently believe to be problematic and requiring leadership if the members of their organizations are to engage in a successful organizational change endeavor.
Additionally, students will conduct a SWOT analysis as part of Exercise #1. (For further information concerning the SWOT analysis process and SWOT charts, follow these hotlinks: SWOT overview; SWOT details; an overview of the SWOT analysis; performing a SWOT analysis; sample SWOT charts; checklists for creating and developing a SWOT analysis and chart; a quick SWOT analysis template; a comprehensive SWOT/PEST overview and templates.) Students should note that while the contents of the SWOT analysis are essential to the organizational biography, the chart may not be essential. If student design a SWOT chart, it should be placed in the Appendix and appropriately cited in the body. (NB: If a student is unsure or unclear about how to adapt these elements, the student should inquire either by asking a question in class or by contacting the professor.)
Lastly, the content of the organizational biography must comply with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Exercise #1 is to be formatted as a journal article or research study with the exception that it will feature only these elements: title page, abstract, the body (the organizational biography), references, and appendix. Students should remember to cite and reference all data sources as well as to place any relevant document(s) in the Appendix section of the project binder.
As students write Exercise #1, they should remember that the goal of this exercise is to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding, and ability to describe the organizational context as it is and not as a student (or others) believes it should be. Furthermore, students should remember that the goal of Exercise #1 is not to specify the organizational changes (which are the focus of Exercise #2). Instead, Exercise #1 provides an introduction to the organizational reality from which students will construct the organizational change proposal explicated in the protocol for Exercise #2. Lastly, students should remember to keep the organizational biography concise and fact-based.
The organizational biography generally follow a typical "V" format approach to writing. That is, the organizational biography will begin with a very wide overview of the organization; the organizational biography then begins narrowing down as the focus becomes how the current context has developed to be what it is; and, the organizational biography comes to its most narrow and specific point by detailing the problems currently afflicting the organization. The organizational biography concludes there and it is in this sense that a good organizational biography "sets up" the organizational change plan that is the focus and content of Exercise #2..
Students will place the organizational biography in the first section of the project binder. References and any materials to be included in the Appendix should be placed in the appropriate sections of the project binder. The organizational biography normally will be graded and returned to students the following week.
An important note about APA style...
Students should be aware that, although general guidelines and information about electronic references are available online, these resources do not provide the kind of detailed information that students normally will need as to complete the MPA 8002 course project.
Students can access some basic APA notes, based upon the questions that students have raised in previous semesters, simply by clicking on the "APA Publication Manual" button located immediately to the left. In addition, students who need to "brush up" on their grammar skills may consult: http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar/ for helpful advice about grammatical matters, especially "common errors" as well as the distinction between spoken (informal) and written (formal) English. Again, although helpful as a resource, this website does not provide the kind of detailed information students normally require as they complete the MPA 8002 course project.
As noted above, the organizational biography must comply with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Since 10% of the grade for each exercise submitted in MPA 8002 is directly attributable to the student's use of proper grammar and style, as the ancient Romans would say "caveat emptor," that is, "let the student beware." Only the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association provides the specific and detailed information students will need to complete the MPA 8002 course project successfully.
Exercise #1 accounts for 20% of the course project grade.
the most difficult part of a good strategy is hard-nosed competitive
Three challenges are implicit to Exercise #1.
The first challenge involves describing the organizational context by accurately identifying those fundamental, taken-for-granted elements of organization that constitute "the way we do things around here" or organizational culture (Schein, 1992).
The second challenge involves noting which elements of organization the student currently believes are problematic, that is, how these elements (when taken individually and collectively) negatively impact organizational functioning. While each student is likely to discover later in MPA 8002 that focusing upon these elements is too narrow for conceiving an organizational change plan as well as what a successful organizational change plan requires of them as leaders, this biography provides a "first step" in the direction for students to develop a more complex and sophisticated understanding of their organizations and what will be required if students are to lead the members of their organizations to engage in a successful organizational change effort.
The third challenge is for students to begin thinking about what is really going on in their organizations, that is, what is the actual source of those problems causing organizational dysfunction. This source, what will later be the identified as the "issue" that leaders must address, is very elusive and difficult to grasp. Developing the ability to identify this issue, however, is absolutely critical if students are to design an organizational change plan. The SWOT analysis and chart will enable students to begin thinking as leaders do—looking beneath all of the surface problems and beyond all of the dysfunction—to identify the deeper issue that—when leaders address it in a carefully thought out and constructed organizational change plan—will enable their followers to begin learning how to solve their problems for themselves.
In sum, the goal of Exercise #1 is for students to formulate a biography that introduces the organization to the reader in such a way that any employee who works for that organization and reads the biography will be able to state, "Yep, that's the place where I work." Successful completion of Exercise #1 positions students to better identify the organizational issue from which springs forth the problems and dysfunction described in the organizational biography.
A student receiving less than a B is required to submit a revised organizational biography on/before the date specified on the syllabus. A student receiving a B may submit a revised organizational biography on/before the date specified on the syllabus. A 10% penalty will be assessed for the resubmission (that is, the grade received will be 10% less than it would have been had the revision been submitted as the original biography; thus, the highest grade a resubmission can receive is a B+). A student receiving a B+ or an A/A- is not required to submit a revision. However, all students are required to submit a revised organizational biography (placed on top of the original organizational biography) when submitting Exercise #2 as well as another revision of Exercise #1 and Exercise #2 when submitting Exercise #3. In this way, the entire project will be a "letter perfect," final draft.