The Idealcast with Gene Kim by IT Revolution

Patterns of Generative Cultures: How They Can Be Destroyed and the Importance of Trust with Dr. Ron Westrum

May 20, 2021

In the second part of this two-part episode of The Idealcast, Gene Kim continues his conversation with Dr. Ron Westrum, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Eastern Michigan University and creator of the Westrum organization typology model. 

 

In part two of their conversation, Kim and Westrum talk about generative cultures and why Westrum thinks they are more important now than it they were a hundred years ago. Westrum also shares his observations on the increasing number of functional specialities in organizations. He discusses the challenges that arise from having matrixed organizations and the tools to overcome these challenges. 

 

Finally, Westrum previews the new book he’s working on about information flow within organizations.

 

ABOUT THE GUEST

Ron Westrum is Emeritus Professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University. He holds a B.A. (honors) from Harvard University and a Ph.D in Sociology from the University of Chicago.

 

Dr. Westrum is a specialist in the sociology of science and technology, and on complex organizations. He has written three books, Complex Organizations: Growth, Development and Change; Technologies and Society: The Shaping of People and Things, and Sidewinder: Creative Missile Design at China Lake. He has also written about fifty articles and book chapters. His work on organizational culture has been valuable for the aviation industry and to medical safety, as well as to other areas of endeavor. He has been a consultant to NASA, the National Research Council, and the Resilience Core Group. He is currently at work on a book on information flow cultures.

 

YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT

  • Why Westrum thinks creating generative cultures is more important now than it was 100 years ago
  • His observations on the increasing number of functional specialities and how long it’s been going on
  • The challenges that arise from having matrix organizations and the tools to overcome these challenges
  • The book he’s working on about information flow within organizations, what areas he’s pursuing and what has surprised him as he delves into specific examples

 

RESOURCES

 

TIMESTAMPS

 

[00:00] Intro

[02:39] Why generative cultures are more important now

[14:50] Exposing latent pathogens

[19:39] Gene’s thoughts and a few corrections

[28:59] The increase in silos

[34:53] How Westrum would organize the organization

[40:42] Why matrix organizations are fundamentally unstable and how to cope

[44:57] LaunchDarkly and DevOps Enterprise Summit Virtual

[46:47] Matrix organizations and how to help increase likelihood of success

[57:26] Building the Boeing 777

[1:06:24] Where generative characteristics came from

[1:11:10] Bridging the world of R&D to the world of operations

[1:14:58] Team of Teams example

[1:20:09] General George C. Marshall

[1:24:35] Other mechanisms Westrum has seen in high performing teams

[1:32:30] Westrum’s new book

[1:38:53] What DevOps has helped Westrum

[1:39:47] Contacting Admiral Richardson

[1:41:36] Outro

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