As Ashok Malhotra aptly puts it –“If structure follows strategy, then strategy follows identity…”
Many of us who are deeply influenced by Ashok, and who work in the OD space, emphasize on the Identity processes within the firm while working with on its culture, or its strategy and its design. A key resource that we leverage in this intent to work on identity, culture and role-taking is the EUM framework, and its allied tools.
The EUM framework was created by Ashok Malhotra almost two decades ago, and those of us, who were then magically transfixed by the immense potential of the construct, joined him in experimenting, researching, applying, and writing about our vivid experiences with it. Last year, we set up the crucible for the framework – a firm known as Reflexive Lenses to seed and proliferate an Indian way of looking at the phenomena within organizations as well as the inner psychodramas within the individual.
When it comes to discerning identity processes at an individual or an organization level, each client would ask us the standard question – How reliable and valid is the framework as well as its tools, before allowing us to delve deeper. Reliability has been an easier challenge to overcome– we have data on the ‘reliability’ of the EUM instruments – and it has been immensely exhilarating to unearth statistics on reliability that are comparable to better known instruments and psychometrics tools including MBTI.
Validity (or Validities including construct validity, content validity, and criterion validity) has been more complex a challenge! It was becoming near impossible for all of us to offer an Indian construct or a framework that has very limited correspondence with western theories… thus construct validity for example became a recurrent stumbling block. Only recently, when I read a brilliant paper by Harold Doty and William Glick, titled – ‘Typologies as a Unique Form of Theory Building – Towards Improved Understanding and Modeling’, when the penny dropped.
For all our efforts or indeed a search for building Concept Validity (and not Reliability) for an Indian framework, this very paper not just allows us a way to validate the construct, but invites us to build a theory on Organization Identity / Individual Identity processes.
Some of you would be aware that Ashok has already written a book on the EUM, titled – ‘Indian Managers and Organizations – Boons and Burdens’, a Routledge publication. In our research across 100 plus organizations and 5000 plus individual managers, Ashok steered clear of claiming it to be a new theory – and was happy to position EUM as a lens of looking at Self and Systems.
However, the paper by Doty and Glick opens a segue into positioning EUM as a theory in making, perhaps even competing with existing academic literature on Organization Theory. In this blog I would be limiting the EUM framework as applied only to Organizations. Summarizing the paper by Doty and Glick, and delineating the next few steps whereby the construct can evolve into a theory becomes the focus of this blog.
I have to thank Professor Vish Krishnan, an accomplished scholar and educator, currently based in San Diego for referring this paper. Vish is a PhD from MIT, and was down at ISB teaching me Innovation and Operations and offered this paper out of the blue – for it did not have anything to do with the subject. This is what I would term as serendipitous discovery!
Highlights of the Paper by Doty and Glick
“Typologies are complex theoretical statements developed to predict variance in dependent variables”
The two authors begin by discerning Typology from Taxonomy and or Classifications. Many of you would be aware that scientific thinking was kickstarted by building a taxonomy – allowing all of us to discern and classify phenomena into mutually exclusive and exhaustive sets with discrete decision rules. For example, Carl Linnaeus is famous for founding the taxonomy for categorizing living organisms including plants and animals.
Doty and Glick argue that Typologies are not Taxonomies, and that a Typology actually offers an opportunity to construct a Theory. A Theory is best defined as a series of logical arguments that specifies a set of relationships amongst constructs or variables, and must meet the following criteria:
- The Constructs must be identified, and provide an ideal abstract model where deviation from the ideal can be explained and analyzed
- The theory must hypothesize relationships between the Constructs, highlighting the internal consistency amongst the constructs and then to explain patterns with a dependent variable
- Lastly the theory should be falsifiable – where the predictions associated with a typology must be testable and subject to disconfirmation. Here the predictions can be falsified by measuring the deviation between real organizations and ideal type to predict the dependent variable.
The paper stresses that accurately modeling typological theories requires us to build quantitative models that capture the similarity of the organization to one or more of the ideal ‘types’ in order to predict a dependent variable. For those of you to whom the abovementioned lines read as gobbledygook, please don’t worry – I think, part 2 of the blog should exemplify and clarify.
An example of a Typology, as cited by the authors, was the work by Mintzberg on five ideal types of organizations, using first-order contextual constructs such as age, size, environmental uncertainty, and so forth, and first-order structural constructs such as formalization, specialization, centralization, and so on. Organization Effectiveness was the dependent variable that Mintzberg sought to explore.
You would notice that Mintzberg while defining and configuring types of organizations, refers to key processes, here cited as the prime ‘coordinating mechanisms’, and (outcomes) in terms of how these create a resulting force (dependent variable). There is also the fact that the context or contingency variables impact the ‘type’, often also creating hybrid types of organizations, and thus making the modeling of the organization and the underlying theory more complex.
Mintzberg agrees that very often the context determines the organization ‘type’ and sometimes even restricts the organization to a single ideal type. As the next section would reveal, Ashok, very creatively, inverts the type-context relatedness, by defining the inherent forces that interplay to build the Identity of the firm and yet how these include the impact of the context.
By Doty and Glick’s research, EUM emerges as a ‘grand theory’ in making that includes all organizations. Doty and Glick claim that, “Although typologies usually have not been interpreted as theories, good typologies provide two different levels of theory, a grand theory that generalizes to all organizations and middle-range theories that are restricted to the individual types.”
The Grand Theory of EUM & Organization Identity
Ashok defines six ‘types’ or universes that co-exist within each organization, and it is the interplay of these types or universes that impact the firm. The six types / universes are in essence ‘idealized systems’ that are mutually exclusive, elegantly specific, and each can independently exist. I am not getting into the evolutionary axioms and assumptions here, but each idealized universe / type is a ‘Holon’ – an independent whole, and yet simultaneously a part.
The EUM framework allows for mapping the identity processes of the firm in the shape of a kaleidoscope or a dance of such idealized Holon’s or types that concurrently engage with each other. This kaleidoscope morphs each day and yet there are patterns of how the organization gets identified by its stakeholders including employees, customers, analysts and shareholders.
As an OD consultant, have experimented with multiple dependent variables including conflict resolution, innovation (refer to my blog on the ambidextrous organization) and leadership behaviors that emerge from the identity processes of the firm.
The figure below, summarizes at the cost of oversimplifying the EUM-Organization framework, illustrating five out of the six Types, with dependent variables that many of us have worked with:
As stated earlier, the TYPES – five of which are illustrated above, are not seen as a recipient of the context alone – the identity configuration of the organization in responding to its context takes into account individual preferences for these types, and recurring patterns of the kaleidoscope that lend it some sense of permanency without impeding the fluidity.
Let me give an example of such a kaleidoscope that the tool of EUM-O creates – enabling a better understanding of not just the identity of the organization but several processes that get institutionalized within and with stakeholders outside:
As you would notice that the EUM maps the Firm X (currently) as a High Clan (Type) and a High Ecology (Type) oriented firm with repressed Network (type). For the sake of simplicity, I am not referring to the other three types. The EUM also maps how the firm wishes to evolve (lower its Clan Type configuration) and increase its Network configuration; while also distinguishing itself from other organizations.
If leadership were to be explored, this would imply that the firm wishes to challenge a high patriarchal and loyalty driven culture towards a more entrepreneurial and more facilitative leadership. You would recognize the inherent potential as it allows you to map various (dependent) processes with this identity process of the firm such as:
- Customer Acquisition and Relationship Management Approach
- Human Resource Management & Performance Management
- Resource Allocation within the Firm
- Innovation Strategy
The more, we document our interventions using the EUM framework, including the resonance we receive from our customers, the more convinced I am that the typologies within the EUM framework allow us to do all three aspects of a theory:
- Describe the phenomena within the Firm
- Predict key processes that may get generated within the firm, and even
- Prescribe specific configurations to counter the context or the contingency variables.
Theory in social sciences and management has often been overwhelmed by the logical positivists who believe in discovering a new ‘scientific truth’ out there, fully preparing themselves for falsifiability. There are some of us, who are more subjective interpretivists, who believe that ‘truth’ in organization theory is a social construct, and may show as much disdain to the positivists as they do to us.
However, this paper by Doty and Glick comes as a balm for the ever-increasing divide between the positivists and the subjective interpretivists, in inviting a construction of theory through typologies. It also allows us to legitimize and validate intuitive knowledge where the idea precedes the experience in human thought.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the EUM lens and the EUM framework, there are several of us who are blogging and writing on www.eumlens.in. You are also welcome to pick up Ashok’s book. It would be great if you are curious and wish to examine how the framework is used for working with individual identity, culture and even mental models of leadership – write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here.