“Entrench warfare” or “why I don’t bother with one-off trainings” #smugosphere #inertia

A few years ago I organised a one-off training session on research for activists. It went well and had … no discernible impact on how anyone did anything.  So it goes.  I reflected on this – and other training I have been part of as a punter. And I came to the conclusion that unless you are part of a group that values the new skill/knowledge, then whatever shiny new training you have been on will simply not become embedded, and you and your group will stick to what you know.  This is not a particularly startling observation.  But now at least I have a citation I can back it up with when I am whining about the smugosphere

It’s from a bloody brilliant paper –

Perkmann, M. and Spcier, A. 2008. How are management fashions institutionalized? The role of institutional work. Human Relations, Vol. 61 (6), pp.811-844.

This bit

Zeitz et al. (1999) distinguish between the transitory adoption of a practice and its enduring ‘entrenchment’. Entrenchment is defined as the institutionalization of a practice to the extent that it is unlikely to be abandoned. They argue that while the mere adoption of a practice indicates the exposure to a fashion, entrenchment is required to induce a lasting change of practice. They identify five ‘pillars’ by which a fashionable concept can become entrenched: models (spurring imitation), culture (promoting identification), education (again spurring imitation), regulative/coercive influences (exerting power) and technical-rational influences (providing recipes for improving performance). Assuming that such entrenchment can occur at different levels of analysis, from individual, organizational, interorganizational to the societal level, they propose a set of ‘indicators’ that can be used for empirically assessing as to whether a practice has become entrenched: formalization, compatibility (with other practices), depth, systematic coherence (with other concepts and strategies) and the existence of ‘webs of interdependencies’ (Zeitz et al., 1999).
(Perkmann and Spicer, 2008: 814/5)

And that citation is this – Zeitz, G., Mittal, V. & McAulay, B. Distinguishing adoption and entrenchment of management practices: A framework for analysis. Organization Studies, 1999, 20(5), 741–76.

So,  a while back there was talk of me doing a training or two with a group. But since only one person in that group knew me/valued the training, and he wasn’t going to be sticking around, (he and I) decided it was at best a waste of time, energy and morale for all concerned, and at worst actively harmful (destroys the credibility of innovation, turns it into a ritualistic set-up-to-fail thing).

Doomed, I tell you, all doomed.  So what.

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One thought on ““Entrench warfare” or “why I don’t bother with one-off trainings” #smugosphere #inertia”

  1. re: ‘And I came to the conclusion that unless you are part of a group that values the new skill/knowledge, then whatever shiny new training you have been one will simply not become embedded, and you and your group will stick to what you know’

    So I’ve been mulling on this challenge for a bit… maybe there’s a need to create an organization that does concern itself, as a priority, with hanging on to trainings that make it stronger, and repeating/sharing those trainings, as a principle in its organizational ethos?

    There is a model: some service clubs in North America invested in this approach.

    Groups/organizations that spring up to organize on issues don’t attend to organizational functionality much, as a priority, IMO.

    And that’s what you’re noticing, I think?

    To address this: Entrenchment has to be part of the organization’s explicit operational mandate. Which presumes an organization that intends to sustain itself beyond the limited lifespan/short term resolution horizon of any given issue.

    re limited lifespan, resolution horizon:
    FWIW Climate might be the most significant, if not the first issue which presents an indeterminate lifespan before resolution.

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