Transformational Crisis Management in Organization Development: The Case of Talent Loss at Microsoft

By Keeffe, Michael J. PhD; Darling, John R. PhD | Organization Development Journal, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Transformational Crisis Management in Organization Development: The Case of Talent Loss at Microsoft


Keeffe, Michael J. PhD, Darling, John R. PhD, Organization Development Journal


Lysippis was a famous Greek sculptor. From a huge block of stone he had carved a singular statue. A passerby asked him what the statue represented and Lysippis replied, "It is the statue Opportunity." "But why, " asked the passerby, "do you have the statue standing on its toes?" "Because opportunity stays but a moment," Lysippis answered. "Then why do you have wings on its ankles?" "Because opportunity flies quickly," was the reply. "Why do you have a lock of hair on its forehead?" Lysippis paused for a moment and replied, "When opportunity approaches, you can seize it easily." "Why then do you have a bald place on the back of its head?" "When opportunity passes by you cannot seize it," Lysippis concluded.

- Author Unknown

Introduction

Effective transformational crisis management in organizational development is not unlike the metaphor noted above- with one caveat. When a crisis is approaching, it is much easier to seize and act upon, but of course it must be recognized. Once a crisis has passed through the threshold of preliminary recognition and action it is much more difficult to seize and effectively act upon, and thus the opportunity to more easily deal with it, and use it as a transformational opportunity, will have passed. Business firms, as well as all other types of organizations, are affected by many difficult issues including changes in competitors, marketing alliances, new market products, availability of resources, corporate acquisitions, government regulations and a variety of other crisis and crisis-like events not generally associated with the normal on-going operations of a firm.

For every business firm, a particular crisis can be expected to be on the horizon, presently existing in full force, or having just passed through, or a combination thereof. When crises occur affecting a business organization, the environment seems to treat them differently from the way it treats such events when they occur in the public arena, whether or not individuals are affected (Darling, 1994). In the public arena, a much higher degree of scrutiny is given from many different directions. However, business crises are often considered, rightly or wrongly, as a particular firm's opportunity or problem, and therefore a matter to be handled by internal management and organizational responses. The purpose of this article is to address transformational crisis management as it relates to the current loss of software engineering talent and research expertise at Microsoft. The term transformational is used in this context to imply that crises, when viewed and managed as opportunities, can often provide a basis for creative change and development in the life of an organization.

Positive transformational leadership in crisis management is reflected in individuals who are opportuni ty-oriented, and who are constantly on the lookout for problems that can be converted into opportunities for their organizations, thereby providing a means for creative and meaningful organizational development. These transformational leaders nurture understanding based upon use of both hemispheres of the brain, foster reactions based upon internal self-talk rather than external events, facilitate the ability to be centered on expected outcomes, and place confidence in events and processes that accompany change (Darling, Keeffe & McGlashan, forthcoming). These transformational leaders also nurture positive attitudes, thoughts, feelings, perceptions and associations that help to nurture strong internallycontrolled responses to what otherwise might be considered to be negative crisis events (Hawkins, 1998). They therefore use these crisis-related events to create positive outcomes for their organizations.

The constant existence of business crises has taught the world that a crisis can occur with little to no warning, anywhere, anytime. And it can happen to any business firm, large or small, at every stage of development, in every industry, and operating locally, nationally or internationally. …

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