Tag Archives: Open Systems

Community Governance – Why now? (Community Inc. Field entry 14-11-07)

I promised four blogs on the Community Inc. Model and why the workshop on November 21st is so valuable. Here’s #1/4

The idea of community governance is not new. people have been coming together for years in communities around the world to develop a shared vision of what they want their community to look like. But since the days of John Carver and Marvin Weisbord a whole bunch of stuff has changed in our society: Funding diversity, sustainability, Private Public Partnerships, social innovation, social enterprise, social capital, social entrepreneurship, social, social, social.

leadI remember when we were all called social workers. Why must we reinvent the wheel? Do we still focus on the work with people for the good of all. Why are we so fragmented as an industry? Dan Palotta has written extensively on the history of our sector, and public policy has been overlaid on public policy to react to the shifting needs of community. Social planning councils across the country, foundations, Imagine Canada, and accreditation bodies espouse the value of quality of life. As we continue to focus on the “client” and those we serve I believe we are slowly forgetting the most important variable – us.

Community as Governance is an intrinsic look at what our role is in community. What is our impact? How do we lead? What tools can I use? Who will be on my side? How do I leverage my affiliations?  The Community Inc. workshop on November 21st focuses on helping YOU uncover your leadership style so you can emerge as a champion in the work you do. If you are on a Community Board it will help you ask the difficult questions and shift board policy and have meaningful dialogue on the state of achieving your Vision and Mission. We have become so focused on operations and chasing the almighty dollar to keep programs running that I believe we have slipped in our ability to express our ourselves and more importantly do whatever is necessary to create bridges of support between community groups, non-traditional partners and those who can actually lead action. Not just talk about it.


Will you join me?

13 days left until the November 21st workshop

Register here: http://www.communityinc.tk

Organizational Culture

I have disclosed a number of times both my interest and curiosity about the value of an organization’s culture. As I read various articles for a current literature review on shared leadership I came across an easy to follow model that may be of interest to my readers.Patsy 058

Linnenlueke and Griffiths (2010) have adapted a four quadrant framework of organizational culture. In the top left quadrant place “human relations” and in the bottom left “Process Oriented”. Both of these represent internal organizational mechanisms. In the top right quadrant place the word “Open System” and in the lower right “Goal Oriented”. The right side represents external forces. According to Linnenluecke and Griffiths, “each quadrant emphasizes different aspects of the organization: people, adaptation, stability, and task accomplishment” (p. 360). Each of these are described below in the hopes that you can reflect on your organization or Board of Directors and ask which quadrant you usually operate from and whether it is where you want to be.

When an organization is in the “Process Oriented” frame there is a rigidity that promotes stability. Linnenluecke and Griffiths described it as a hierarchical system that works well under stable conditions to produce preset ends (p. 360). The means to reach this level of internal control in the culture puts “greater emphasis on economic performance” of its personnel (p. 360). The impact however is that this type of culture creates a tension that may prevent innovation from occurring (p. 361).

The second -internal- frame of “Human Relations” places a greater “emphasis on social interaction, interpersonal relations, employee development and the creation of a humane work environment” (p. 361). This frame is where I believe most organizations think they want to be, but in my experience quickly draw back down into a process culture. Few organizations have a true coaching and mentoring culture. In the social services sector, one of the reasons could be due to the challenge of balancing productivity alongside ethical approaches to labour relations driven by issues of social justice in our workplaces. Linnenluecke and Griffiths posited that innovation is often in conflict between business and social issues that are confined by internal processes (p. 361). How organizations can be fair and focus on investing in their staff holistically will be the gauge of their success in this frame.

The third organizational culture is driven by “Rational Goals”. This type of organization was found in Linnenluecke and Griffiths’ (2010) research to reinvest their cost savings from developing efficient systems back into human services (p. 361). I would stretch to call this the philanthropic frame as it reinvests dividends back into the services for the community. This model takes strength from “rational planning and organizing” to achieve its goals through “the efficient use of resources, planning and goal setting” (Linnenluecke & Griffiths, 2010, p. 361). This external, inflexible frame however is still driven by corporate vision and direction.

The “Open System” culture, like the goal frame is externally driven but more specifically  by the “external environment in affecting the behavior, structure and life changes of organizations” (Linnenluecke and Griffiths, p. 361). What I find interesting about this frame is that it allows for true influence through collaborative engagement toward a social purpose. It bring in the social justice, human relations with stakeholder driven goals that are flexible. Hopefully it is also meaningful through staff and consumer engagement processes, truly shaping an inclusive culture. The authors promoted this culture as one that “emphasizes moral authority, social integration….plac[ing] greater emphasis on innovation for achieving ecological and social sustainability” (p. 362).

Finally, if none of the above cultures fit your organization then it is possible that you operate within a blend of the four types. Personally I can reflect on my experiences in three of the frames. In my experience working with nonprofit organizations and consulting with many others I have operated in all but the open systems culture. I guess I can aspire to be part of one one day…but that is another story…

If you want some personal coaching or a board development seminar on this topic, please feel free to call me at 604-307-0454 or by email at johnthornburn@shaw.ca


 Linnenluecke, M. K., & Griffiths, A. (2010). Corporate sustainability and organizational culture. Journal of World Business, 45, 357-366. doi:10.1016/j.jwb.2009.08.006