Organizational Effectiveness

cameron book

Dr. Relly Nadler: This week our show features Dr. Kim Cameron. He is an author and professor of Management and Organization at the University of Michigan Business School and a Professor of higher education in the School of Education and the University of Michigan.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: We are so happy to have Dr. Cameron with us today and he is going to talk to us about virtuousness in organizations and positive psychology. We will also talk about some tools and tips that will help you be your best.

I met Kim at a Linkage Conference this past year; the OD Summit. It was a special anniversary edition and I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Professor Cameron by a mutual friend, Dr. Noel Tichy. Dr. Cameron’s past research on many subjects of importance to leaders, including downsizing, effectiveness, quality culture, virtuousness, and the development of management skills have been published in more than 80 articles and 10 books. Some of his books are: Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance, Making the Impossible Possible: Leading Extraordinary Performance, and Practicing Positive Leadership: Tools and Techniques That Create Extraordinary Results, to name a few.

His current research and focused on the virtuousness of organizations and their relationships to organization success. He is one of the co-founders of The Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the University of Michigan. Welcome Kim Cameron.

Dr. Kim Cameron: Thank you very much Cathy. I’m delighted to be invited.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Kim, we have a series of questions that we want to walk you through. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and whose has influenced your thinking and career the most?

Dr. Kim Cameron: Thanks Relly. I have been at the University of Michigan since the mid-1980s so have been involved with some extraordinary colleagues and extraordinary members of the profession, the discipline, who have been both friends and mentors, and colleagues. I have a long list of people who have influenced by thinking.

Most recently, I left in the mid-1990’s and became an administrator, went out and became a Dean of a business school, and then came back in the year 2001. It was since 2001 that I have been most involved in and interested in this topic called Positive Organizational Scholarship.

That movement was parallel to the positive psychology movement, interestingly we didn’t talk for the first couple of years and then Marty Seligman and Chris Petersen and others became both good friends and collaborators, and we had lots of interesting opportunities to talk and sit in conferences and sit on panels with them. So there has lots of interchange since that time.

We were interested, here in Michigan, in not so much the positive psychology questions; namely what happens in individuals own heads and with individual’s personal behaviors. We were more interested in what happens in organizations and what are the routines, practices and cultures that can be developed in organizations to create extraordinary performance.

So it’s the organization level of analysis that has dominated my work and my colleagues work in this research center.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know, I was so fortunate to be in the audience and to hear Professor Cameron talk about positive organizational scholarship issues. I’d love to know how you got interested in this idea of virtuousness of organizations in addition to this positive organizational scholarship.

Dr. Kim Cameron: I was doing studies, Cathy, for about 15 years on the organizational downsizing. It’s difficult to live in Michigan and not be exposed to downsizing. Virtually everyone has been affected in some way by the mass exodus from Michigan especially because of the auto industry and manufacturing and so on.

Over a period of time the major question that I was asking is, what happens to an organization when it downsizes? The answer to that question is performance deteriorates most of time, probably 85% of the time organizations slide and productivity, profitability, quality, morale and so on.

But, that leaves 15% or so of the companies, who after downsizing, flourish. Over time, one of the questions that I then began asking was, well, what is the difference between the 15% of organizations that flourish and everyone else. What’s unusual about those organizations?

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