Sensemaking in the Artificial Intelligence Era!


Keynote Speaking at the International Conference on Smart Cities (Seoul, Korea), July 19, 2019. 

by Dr. Jeonghwan (Jerry) Choi



This is Dr. Jerry Choi at Kean University. Today I would like to present "Sensemaking in the Artificial Intelligence Era". 


Recent applications of Industry 4.0 or Digital Transformation fundamentally changes in human life.
Artificial Intelligence may dismantle the conventional ways of thinking and doing!
Artificial Intelligence is flourishing as computing power, connectivity, and mobility increase.
Artificial Intelligence shall be one of the most important elements in designing, building and operating many businesses. 
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include “Learning; Reasoning; and Self-correction”.
An English mathematician, Alan Turing coined the concept of “Thinking Machine” in 1948. Alan Turing will be appearing in the new 50 Pounds English Bank Note soon. 
Applications of Artificial Intelligence are mainly focusing on ’Decision-Making’.
Cathy O’Neil at Harvard warned the error, bias, or misuse of Artificial Intelligence is inevitable because the tool is made by the human in her book of Weapons of Math Destruction. We must give more attention to using the tool!
In this sense, Decision-making is one thing and Sense-making is another thing!
According to Karl Weick, Sensemaking involves the ongoing retrospective development of plausible images that rationalize what people are doing.
Sense-making that taps on human & social meaning is the source of innovation!
As human being, we need multiple psychological senses such as sense of purpose, sense of urgency, sense of belongings, sense of hope, sense of self, and sense of touch. 

My Two recent studies show that “Positivity” catalyzes the innovation behavior both of employees and managers. Shortly speaking, innovation behavior is not unleashed without nurturing human positivity in any work environment. 
A good ‘sense of humor’ that makes people and machines positive can drive innovation. 
To unleash the potentials of ‘Sense’, the meta-sense of “Humor” is necessary!




























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A CVO Manages Energy, Attention, and Time to Maximize Productivity: 

Problem-Solving (Productivity) is a function of Energy, Attention, and Time

This is a schematic diagram that how a laser cutter hack a chain locker.  

Like this case, a CVO (chief vitality officer) vitalize people to have enough energy, laser-focused attention, and sufficient time to solve a complicated problem. 


Tony Schwartz, author of "The Power of Full Engagement (2003)" and "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time (2007)," suggests that people must be able to recharge 'Energy' efficiency and manage 'Energy' well to perform. 

Specifically, Schwartz (2007) recommends that 'Creating Energy Waves'. People have different energy wave cycles in a day. And CVO needs to identify people's cycle of energy wave and assign tasks in accordance with the energy wave. 

For example, a CVO can give a '90min. focused work time' for people at the first energy wave in the workplace (9AM ~ 10:30AM). Then, the CVO hosts a meeting to make a tough decision in 10:45AM ~ 12:15PM. Time-consuming tasks can be done in the afternoon Energy wave cycles.  

The CVO should utilize the best energy wave to people works efficiently. 


Herbert Simon, a Nobel laureate, suggested that "When information is plentiful, attention becomes the most scarce resource." around 40 years ago. Thus, the attention management is one of the most critical things to achieve a high productivity (Birkinshaw, 2015). 

Recently, Daniel Goleman, the author of "Emotional Intelligence," defines the 'Focus' as "a form of attentiveness characterized by "utter receptivity to whatever floats into the mind.". The 'Focus' state is 'open awareness', not selectively attentive in a task. The 'Focus' state is compatible with the concept of "The Flow" that was introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990). The 'Flow' is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment. 

Probably, a CVO cannot encourage people having the full attention on work because there is a complicated dynamics of personal factors. But, a CVO can manage work distractions. Grenny (2015) suggests "Five ways to minimize office distractions".  One of Grenny's suggestions is 'Providing structure solitude', and this is related with utilizing the 'First Wave' in a day. People need an isolated space and time from distractions to build 'attention, focus, the Flow' state. A CVO may provide people the isolated space and time at the first wave to guide people into the fully attentive mental state.    

The CVO should manage distractions to people focus on works.


The key to managing time is 'Prioritizing tasks'. Inspired by Benjamin Franklyn, Steven Covey (1989) suggests a rule of prioritizing tasks. Priority should be given in the following order: 

1) Important and Not-Urgent

2) Important and Urgent

3) Not important and Urgent

4) Not important and Not Urgent

Deviated from our general belief, Covey suggests that Important and Not-Urgent tasks, aligned with 'Long-term mission, vision, values, and goals, must take a special attention. And Covey recommends 'Recharge Energy (Sharpen the Saw),  Focus on 'inner voice', and Invest time in the top priorities.' Thus, a CVO needs to identify 'meaningful works' of people to ignite their motivation to perform with investing their invaluable Time. 

The CVO should help people investing their time in a meaningful work.

In short, the CVO should manage Energy, Attention, and Time to maximize productivity in the problem-solving. 


1. Thomas Oppong (2017, June 18), How to Better Manage Your Energy, Time, And Attention to Achieve Peak Performance, Thrive Global,

2. Tony Schwartz (2007, October), Manage your energy, not your time (by Tony Schwartz), Harvard Business Review,

3. Nicholas Carr (2013, November), Attention Must Be Paid ('Focus', by Daniel Goleman), New York Times,

4. Wikipedia (2017), Flow (Psychology),

5. Julian Birkinshaw (2015), Manage your team's attention, Harvard Business Review,

 6. Joseph Grenny (2015), Five ways to minimize office distractions, Harvard Business Review,

7. Steven Covey (1989), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Free Press,

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"Even a pig can fly if it stands at the center of a whirlwind,"

- Lei Jun, Xiaomo CEO (May 2015)


"What's the company's secret to success? 

According to its 45-year-old CEO, Lei Jun, who was interviewed in The Wall Street Journal, 

it's simply about "seizing the right opportunity."


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ATD (formerly, ASTD) CEO, Tony Bingham, clarifies the new brand of 'Talent Development' 

“Talent development is people development...The term talent development means building the knowledge, skills, and abilities of others and helping them develop and achieve their potential so that the organizations they work for can succeed and grow. This is the work of the profession we’ve served for more than seven decades. And it is also the work of others – like frontline managers – who are tasked with developing their employees and who also need content, resources, and tools to help them accomplish this work.

Full text available at :

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Why Chinese and Japanese are different from other Asians? 

Comparison of Cultural Dimensions (US, China, S. Korea, Japan, and Taiwan)

In general, far eastern Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are known for their collectivistic, hierarchical, and uncertainty avoidant national culture that are contrasting to individualistic, horizontal, and uncertainty tolerate culture of the United States. 

National culture theorist Hofstede introduced five cultural dimensions: power distance, individualism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation, and his studies have specified national cultures with multidimensional indices: power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation (Hofstede, 1994, 2001). Figure 1 presents comparisons of five cultural indices of the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.  

Figure 1. Comparisons of Hoftede's Cultural Dimensions of the U.S., China, S. Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

Note: Adapted from Hofestede’s cultural dimension indices (, Retrieved on Oct. 2012)

PDI: Power distance

IDV: Individualism

MAS: Masculinity / Femininity

UAI: Uncertainty avoidance

LTO: Long term orientation

According to Hofstede’s contemporary cultural dimension indices, China, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan have high power distance and low individualism that are contrast to the U.S. culture. This fact may indicate that employees in those Asian countries accept a hierarchical order and live in a collectivistic society that emphasizes strong work interactions or social relationships. 

However, Chinese culture has a contrasting dimension to other Asian countries: much lower uncertainty avoidance than any other Asian countries, and even than the U.S. Hofstede explains that China’s very low uncertainty avoidance may come from the fact that the majority (70–80 percent) of Chinese businesses tend to be small to medium-sized and family-owned, which contributes to being adaptable and entrepreneurial (see

On the individualism dimension, Japan scores 46 that is lower than the U.S. but much higher than any other Asian countries. This may indicate that Japanese employees are experienced as collectivistic by Western standards and experienced as individualistic by Asian standard. The most popular explanation for this is that Japanese more emphasizes their individual choice of in-group relationship than inherent situations such as family or their local community   (see


Hofstede, G. (1994). The business of international business is culture. International Business Review, 3(1), 1-14.

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations: Sage Pubns.



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Why do people resist a new HR practice for the change? 

Photo Source:

In general, resistance to change such as introduction or application of a new HR practice is a universal phenomenon in all types of organizations (Swanson & Holton, 2009). Launching an HR practice in business organization may not be exceptional. 

Resistance to a new HR practice can occur due to technical, political, and cultural causes in the organization level (Tichy, 1982). In technical perspective, an organization cannot continually support a new HR practice if it organization fails to draw desirable outcomes from the investment of the HR practice (Tichy, 1982) because of poor fit between organizational resources and organizational performances (Kuchinke, 2003)

Second, the introduction and implementation of a new HR practice causes a restructuring of power relationships and resource accessibilities (Tichy, 1982), and consequently it draws power competitions in searching for stability (Leana & Barry, 2000) and psychological safety (Edmondson, 2004). For example, an innovation initiative that was driven by grass root level employees was met with resistance at corporate top management not because of technical reasons but because of potential risk to disrupt power structure that were already in place within the organization (Dörrenbächer & Geppert, 2006)

Finally, the cultural view to resistance against a new HR practice focuses on the disconfirmation of shared belief, shared value, and social norms in the organization. For example, cynicism of employees toward a new HR practice can be fortified through consecutive failures in application of new HR practices and strategies such as ‘program of the month,’ and this cynical culture can an organization to resist against any kinds of new HR practices for change (Reichers, Wanous, & Austin, 1997).

Individual employee’s resistance toward a new HR practice for change has been shown to be a multidimensional phenomenon. Piderit (2000) proposed that individual employee’s resistance to proposed new HR practice consists of at least three dimensions: emotional, cognitive, and intentional (behavioral). Within this Piderit’s multidimensional perspective, resistance to a new HR practice for change was represented by “the set of responses to change that are negative along all three dimensions” whereas support for a new HR practice for change is represented by “the set of responses that are positive along all three dimensions” (Piderit, 2000, p. 783).

However, individual employee’s attitude toward a proposed new HR practice for change is more complicated than acknowledged (Swanson & Holton, 2009). For example, an employee may believe change is needed (cognitive) for improving organizational performance but fear it (emotional) for losing autonomy power over his or her work. The incongruence of personal attitude toward a new HR practice can occur even in the same dimension. An empirical study indicated that employees could have conflicted emotions such as excitement and anxiety at the same time when an organizational change intervention was introduced (Vince & Broussine, 1996). These “ambivalent attitudes” of employees is defined as two alternative perspectives are both strongly experienced (Piderit, 2000, p. 787).   

Taken all things into consideration, business organizations’ mechanistic replication or emulation of so-called best HR practices cannot reap the benefits of those innovative HR practices but will encounter a significant resistance when organizational leaders, HR professionals, and frontline managers do not have further understandings about the dynamics of employee perceptions of work environment and employee personal characteristics. 



Dörrenbächer, C., & Geppert, M. (2006). Micro-politics and conflicts in multinational corporations: Current debates, re-framing, and contributions of this special issue. Journal of International Management, 12(3), 251-265.

Edmondson, A. C. (2004). Psychological safety, trust, and learning in organizations: A group-level lens. In R. M. Kramer & K. S. Cook (Eds.), Trust and distrust in organizations: Dilemmas and approaches (pp. 239-272): Russell Sage Foundation.

Kuchinke, K. P. (2003). Contingent HRD: Toward a theory of variation and differentiation in formal human resource development. Human Resource Development Review, 2(3), 294-309.

Leana, C. R., & Barry, B. (2000). Stability and change as simultaneous experiences in organizational life. Academy of Management Review, 25(4), 753-759.

Piderit, S. K. (2000). Rethinking Resistance and Recognizing Ambivalence: A Multidimensional View of Attitudes Toward an Organizational Change. Academy of Management Review, 25(4), 783-795.

Reichers, A. E., Wanous, J. P., & Austin, J. T. (1997). Understanding and managing cynicism about organizational change. The Academy of Management Executive, 11(1), 48-59.

Swanson, R. A., & Holton, E. F. (2009). Foundations of human resource development: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Tichy, N. M. (1982). Managing Change Strategically: The Technical, Political, and Cultural Keys. [Article]. Organizational dynamics, 11(2), 59-80.

Vince, R., & Broussine, M. (1996). Paradox, defense and attachment: Accessing and working with emotions and relations underlying organizational change. Organization Studies, 17(1), 1-21.


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  1. fff 2017.10.18 10:54  댓글주소  수정/삭제  댓글쓰기

    resist to a new ~ 가 아니라
    resist a new ~ 아닌가요.
    to가 필요없는 타동사인데요.

  2. Favicon of BlogIcon Jeonghwan Choi 2017.10.18 17:21 신고  댓글주소  수정/삭제  댓글쓰기

    아.... 그러네요... Resist 에는 to 가 필요없는데, 제가 실수했네요. 고쳤습니다. 감사합니다.^^

Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It? 

Source of the Photo:

When people have high demands and high control, their life can be hectic but manageable. They figure out what needs to be done and when. 

When people have high demands and low control, their life is both hectic and miserable. There is nothing to figure out. They are trapped in a system that piles on the demands but denies them the control to meet those demands. 

This is why work sucks. 

If you don't give people more control over how they meet the demands of work and life, people aren't going to be able to give their best at either. If people can't give their best at either you get a world much like the one we have now., where people are both unhappy and unproductive. 

(Page 34)

Ressler, C., & Thompson, J. (2008). Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: No Schedules, No Meetings, No Joke--the Simple Change That Can Make Your Job Terrific: Portfolio (Hardcover).

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Dr. Peter Northouse's Leadership Lecture at UIUC

On Sept. 26 2012, Illinois Leadership Center (contact: Mr. Heath Harding, Associate Director) hosted a special lecture of Dr. Peter Northouse - the prominent leadership scholar in the world. Dr. Peter Northouse is well-known his seminal textbook of "Leadership: Theory & Practice - Dr. Peter Northouse presented his insights about leadership. 

Place: Levis Faculty Center

Time: Sept. 26, 2012, Noon ~ 1PM

Contributions from the Theories

  • Trait approach: intuitively appealing/meager results
  • Skills approach: expansive/ general and less precise
  • Style approach: task/process powerful constructs
  • Situational approach: pragmatic/weak research
  • Contingency approach: abstruse but good data
  • Path goal : expectancy approach/pragmatic appeal
  • LMX: in & ut groups real/how to begin groupness
  • Transformational approach: the moral issue / factors
  • Authentic leadership: developmental / untested
  • Psychodynamic approach: deals with authority issue

What's Hot - What's not


Not hot 

Civic responsibility / ethics

Character / values/ strengths

Servant leadership

Complexity theory

Emotional intelligence

Leader centricity / followers / context

Trait theory



Situational leadership
Leadership / management
Contingency theory 

* The follower centric approach is not much addressed, but it is getting hotter and hotter as information flourish. 

* As information flourish, followers challenge leadership authority and legitimacy. 

The role of Stories and Leadership (narrative)

* President Barack Obama

- Harvard Lawyer, Community organizer, First African American President...more

* Former governor Mitt Romney

- Harvard Lawyer, Mormon bishop, Massachusetts Health Care Plan... more

Importance of LIfe Stories: 

"Life-stories are a major source of leader authenticity"

(Shamir & Eilam (2005: Leadership Quartely, 16, 295-417. 

- LIfe stories provide a meaning system

- Life stories provide information about clarifies the leader's values and convictions.

- Life stories help leaders establish an identity. 

Trait Leadership is Alive

"Must Great Leaders Be Gregarious?"

* Susan Cain - Author of The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking

Resources in Leadership



Internatioanl Leadership Association

Center for Creative Leadership

National Clearninghouse for Leadership Programs

Regent University

Leadership quarterly, and many other journals


  • Theory exists and it can inform practice
  • We can all learn to improve our leadership
  • Effective leadership builds community and enhances the common ground


Q: Why does situational leadership is not hot anymore? 

A: Situational leadership did not get many academic supports. 

Q: What's your current research? 

A: Ethical leadership style; Calvinistic approach; Feministic approach 

Q: What is ethical leadership?

A: Distribute common goods. How way of ethic behaviors of leadership make different consequences? 

I had a chance to ask a question. "There is a big tension between managers and employees from my interviews at a subsidiary MNC in Korea. Managers demands more self-directed employee behavior while employees want more autonomy. In business literature, there is a self-leadership concept. Do you think the self-leadership is one of 'leadership' theory or it is self-directed behavior stuff?" 

Dr. Peter Northouse replied that "it sounds like a 'self-directed behavior' rather than self-leadership' because self-leadership has no 'leader-follower' relationship. He suggested me to look on 'Robert House's GLOBE study' to address cultural difference in MNC. 

I really thanked his kind and insightful comments. In addition, I am very honored that he gave me a signature with the best wish.

Jeonghwan Choi

Sept 26, 2012


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The business and management field is too important to be taken solely by business experts such as MBAs. We need multiple perspectives and multiple paradigms to address current business and management problems. Learning, teaching, education, and human development perspectives are essential fields of scholarship that provide more human centered values to business and management. 

- Dr. K. Peter Kuchinke (Collaborative Seminar Serieces at UIUC, Sept. 18, 2012)

Dr. K. Peter Kuchinke's Lecture: But is it Education? Situating Training and Development in the Canon of Education Research and Practice. 

Series: UIUC Higher Education Collaborative Seminar Series

Date: Sept. 18, 2012

Place: EDU 242, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Opportunity of Merging EPOL department: 

1. New conversations among three departments of Educational Policy, Education Organizational Leadership, and Human Resource Development. 

2. Learning and development for Economic Discourse for the U.S. and developing countries. 

3. Stretching of educator's role.  

... But is it education? 

Contesting HRD. 

Debate: What is the role of educators in business settings? 

Meaning of work: Individual well-being: Human development paradigm: Connection with Education & Labor e.g. AOMLE

Summary of the Seminar: 

1. Teaching/Learning/Development in work contexts as ubiquitous educational practice

2. Wide range of educational provisions and approaches. 

3. Extensive area of professional commitment by educators. 

4. Shares with school-based education core challenges, concerns, and processes. 

5. Focus on practice (practical purposes). 

6. Subject to institutional constrains and opportunities (over emphasis on organizational goal, underestimate personal development). 

Contours of 'HRD'

- Academia: 

1) Growth of professional fiels in knowledge based societies (Academic Profession, Clark, 1986)

2) Limits to growth: Hard to have "distinctiveness, legitimacy, mobilization, and resource". 

3) Three pathways of HRD in the US [Demands from Government(Georgia Univ.), Academic programs (vocational Ed.: Minnesota Univ.), and business]. 

4) HRD Domains: T&D, C&D, OD, Workforce/Technical education, Adult education, Professional/continuing education/ Instructional technology. 

5) HRD professional demand (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012): TD experts (15%), HR experts (22%), Management experts (21%). Independent consultant (?). 

6) Trends: Moving learning function to line supervisors and managers.  

- Practice: 

1) Investing employees (ASTD, 2010), $ 220 bil.

2) HRD professionals - Learning and change experts: 

TD, OD, Organizational effectiveness, Organizational learning, Leadership development, Professional education, Quality/process improvement, Talent management, Knowledge management. 

3) Formal learning / Informal-incidental learning / Structural initiatives (OD, CD, HPWS).  


- Scope and Boundaries:

1) HRD as "multi-paradigm, multi-disciplinary, open-ended, and complex (Kuchinke, 2007)"

2) Adresses change/development at 'multiple levels operates within competing goals/objecties/needs" 

3) HRD Scholarship

- Martin Maurer: Dialogue in healthcare process improvement teams

- Rosa Muraguri-Mwolo: Performance management in UN reforestation program.

- Sujin Son: Mentoring in Korean corporations

- Torrence sparkman: Leadership development in an African American Church

- Kevin Gitonga: College to career transition in Kenya

- Goals & Objectives: 

1) Learning as means to end: Effectiveness; efficiency; customer service, employer of choice, capacity building.

2) Balance the demand from organization and employee. 

3) Student motivation: 'people orientation and social value development through learning and development' 

- Adequacy and Effectiveness: 

1) Transfer of training problem - Lack of evidences

2) Dominance of classroom format

3) Low integration and application of educational research to address 'real problems'. 


- VET/CTE: George Copa - Education for, at about, and through "Work". 

- Education in the Professions: Engineering, Medicine etc. 

- Education outside of formal employment: Volunteer work, work after retirement, work at public entities. 

- Education Policy, Higher Education, History/Philosophy, Curriculum Studies, Teacher preparation, Ed. Tech., Global studies, Special needs, Access/Equity/Diversity:  

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  1. 유선주 2012.09.19 08:00  댓글주소  수정/삭제  댓글쓰기

    좋은 내용 감사드립니다. ;-)

Shaping a Dissertation Topic of Vitality in MNC.

"How to unleash subsidiary actor's potential in MNC?"

A. Voices from field about performance

  • Method: Email interview
        Sample: 24 people in personal networks
        Participants: 15 are employees in Korean large corporations, Five are come from BOSCH Korea. 9 are    employees in the US, China. 
  • Interview Questions: How employees think about performance?
        What is the most important performance criterion in your workplace?
        Why is the performance criterion the most important?
        How is the performance criterion evaluated? Do you agree with the evaluation method? If not, what is the problem?
        What is the most challenging thing to achieve high performance of the criterion?
        What is the most supportive thing to achieve high performance of the criterion?
        What efforts do you make to achieve high performance? How your efforts help to improve performance? Findings 
  • 1. Performance is reported as the most critical one for employees because evaluation of it is highly linked with compensation and success within an organization.
    2. Performance is commonly evaluated with objective measures such as key performance index (KPI) in large corporations and sales/revenue/number of contract in small organizations.
    3. Interestingly, teamwork and leadership are reported as important subjective performance indicators as well.
    4. The most significant positive performance predictor is employee’s engagement in teamwork and self-directed efforts (learning & work). Good communication and good leadership have followed.
    5. The two most challenging things to achieve higher performance are evaluation problem and leadership problems. Communication problem has followed.
    6. Engagement in teamwork and self-directed efforts (learning & work); communication issues; leadership issues are emerged as key themes for a new study. 

B. Voices from Engineers at a subsidiary MNC in Korea

Method: Telephone Interview, 30min ~ 1:30 min.

  • Samples: 9 engineers at the R&D department
  • Why the sample?: The engineering team has the same technical issue of Noise problem.
  • Interview Questions: How do engineers address a technical problem? How did you identify the problem?
    How did you solve the problem?
        What is the most challenging thing to address the problem?
        What is the most supportive thing to address the problem?
        What did you learning from the technical problem solving?
        What do you want to recommend for your subordinate or young engineers? 
  • Findings:
    • Engineers reports engagement (in self-directed work, self-directed learning, and teamwork) is the most important thing for performance (problem solving)
      Engagement is affected by 1) communication, 2) job resource, and 3) personal resource.
      Communication problem (conflict) with other groups (between group) are frequently the most challenging thing, and direct supervisor or team leaders are most supportive factor to resolve the communication problem through facilitation and decision-making.
      Learning and development opportunity is the second most important job resource for high engagement.
      Personal resource such as psychological capital (self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience) is another influencing factor to engagement. 

C. Problematizing the tension between Autonomy and Control at the workplace

(In more detail, please see: )

Heuristic1. Analyze own experience. 

  • I was disengaged from a consulting job not because of hard working but because of poor leadership (no direction & micro-management' 

Hueristic2: A case study 

  • A junior engineer at a subsidiary company in Korea was disengaged from his job for a director's rejection of sending him a training proglram at HQ. 

Hueristic7: Paradoxical incidents 

  • Managers demand more 'work engagement' while employees want to have more 'autonomy'
  • There are positive & negative control & autonomy
    • Positive control: Clear goals and facilitation
    • Negative control: Disagreeable order and evaluation
    • Positive autonomy: Self-directed work design, goal setting, and learning
    • Negative autonomy: No direction

A Framework: Job Demand-Resource Model of Work Enagement (Bakker & Leiter, 2010) 

  • 1. Work engagement is composed with "Vigor" "Decication" and "Absorption".
    2. Work engagement is positive related with 'performance' in job, creativity, and financial turnover.
    3. Job resource (autonomy, support, coaching) and personal resource (PsyCap) has positive relationship with Work engagement
    4. Job demand (work pressure, emotional demand) negatively moderate the relationship Job resources and work engagement. 

Heuristic 9: Use analogies and metaphor 

  • Metaphor: Exploring a cave with a candle.
    People need to make a balance between autonomy and control to materialize resources and keep a flame(engagement) alive. 

Heuristic 11: Apply deviant case analysis. 

  • A Korean R&D engeer "S" at a subsidiary company of a MNC freqeuently conduct 'secret experiments' under the conscious permissiveness (or tacit agreeement) from his local supervisor and coworkers.
    An expatridated engineer "U" from HQ proceed addressed a local demand under the unwritten permission both from HQ and local leadership relatively easy. 

A model of Consciousness and Permissiveness. 

  • Conscious-Controlling: Written job description, manual
  • Conscious-Permissive: Psychological controact, Tacit agreement
  • Unconscious-Controlling: Unconscous non-verbal communication
  • Unconscious-Permissive: Hidden area.

A research Topic: What competencies (and How) do MNCs need to develop for subsidairy employees to makea balance between compliance of centrl control of HQ and meeting local demands? 

D. Communication with experts


  • Recommending 'search for a tension'

Qualitaitve study experts: Meena Balgopah

  • Tension1:
    • Between short-term performance and creativity/innovativation for long term performance
      • Manager's High demand of engagement in short-term performance
      • Employee's High demand of autonomy for local demand
  • Tension2:
    • Between HQ control and Subsidiary autonomy
      • Actors
        • HQ manager
        • HQ HR
        • Subsidiary manager
        • Subsidiary employee
      • Skills
        • Technical
        • Social
          • Communication problem
            • Different language
            • Different non-verbal
            • Cultual interpretation
          • Relational problem
        • Intrapersonal
          • Psychological capital
  • Tension 3:
    • Dual control channels in Matrix structure
      • HQ manager
      • Local manager

Korean HRD experts

    • Problem1: "Engineer S" is poor in Knowledge Creation and Knowledge Sharing
      Problem2: Change institutional rule & empower and delegate to develop intrapreneurs
      Problem3: High intrinsic motivation in creativity research
      Problem4: How to institutionalize 'tacit agreement or conscious permissivement'?
      Problem5: How to develop skills for drawing 'conscious permissivement?"
      Problem6: Responsibility problem when something is going bad.
      Problem7: Collective Creativity (Catmull, 2008, HBR) case of 'Culture' and sustainability of the behavior. 
  • Qualitative study expert 2: Kim
    • Question: How do a few Korean engineers cultivate 'autonomy' in MNC?
    • 1. Focus on Subsidiary employee's behavior & Skills in tension
    • 2. Quasi-Experimental Survey (What if you are in the situation of Engineer 'S'?)
    • 3. Exploring the uniqueness of culture/situation/contexts in Korean business
    • 4. Address the 'professionalism' of the engineering profession
    • 5. Power relationship with community of practice concept?

 E. Problematizing the "Given or Taken" of Autonomy by Susidiary employees at MNC.

(In more detail, please see : )

  • Problem: Conventionally, autonomy in the workplace is believed to be given by superiors to subordinates.
    • 1. Autonomy, as a critical job resource, is positively related with work engagement and performance.
    • 2. A Subsidiary organization in MNC has a certain extent of 'flexibility'
    • 3. A subsidiary organization have a a strong local demands
    • 4. National culture of HQ nation and subsidiary organization has a significant difference.
  • Findings from in-depth interviews 
    • There are positive and negative Given & Taken autonomy.
    • Positive Taken Autonomy (freq:31)
      • 1. Knowledge from 'field' (at local market)
        2. Self-directedness is a key to high performance.
        3. Individual variations in self-directedness in work design and learning make a variation of performance.
        4. Employees filter new ideas and guide managers to make a decision.
        5. Supervisors encourage subsidiary employees to do 'self-directed works' regardless of process rules.
        6. There is no negative feedback from supervor for confidential and self-directed works even those works fail. 
    • Negative Taken Autonomy (freq: 7)
      • Employees who complete only descedning orders or works from supervisor cannot be a leader.
      • 2. Subsidiary leaders do not want to take any responsibility in work and learning.
      • 3. A lack of responsiblity in product and work decreases 'passion' for work.
    • Positive Given Autonomy (freq: 14)
      • 1. Tough but affordable work demand is essential in developing people.
        2. MNC's systemic process manual helps to achieve high performance.
        3. Manager's facilitation with other teams is critical to make a progress.
        4. Having an expatriated (technical coordinator) employee from HQ helps to build a better relationship with HQ. 
    • Negative Given Autonomy (freq: 30)
      • 1. Lassez-Faire style leaders cannot develop people.
        2. A leader who is afraid of challenges from subordinates kill talent.
        3. We cannot change a global design, and it deters addressing local demands.
        4. Manpower requests are frequently ignored because it is a HR policy.
        5. Getting an offical approval of design change takes a lot of time, in consequence to failing in local market.
        6. HQ do not want to transfer technology to subsidiary.
        7. By rules, engineers cannot control over other deparments, which make significant conflicts. 
  • Research Question: Can autonomy be taken? 
    • 1. How subsidiary employees cultivate job autonomy in an MNC?
      2. What skills are necessary for subsidiary employees to cultivate job autonomy?
      3. How managers and HRD in HQ and Subsidiary develop those skills?
      So what?: Is being tolerate or nuturing autonomy cultivation of subsidiary employees beneficial to both HQ, subsidiary, and customers? 
  • Key Literature in Internatioanl Business 
    • Gammerlgaard(2012): High subsidiary autonomy gives a complex results in firm performance
      • High autonomy has positive relation with performance in many MNCs, but a few MNC do not have.
        Inter-organizational network is more significant for achieving better performance.
        High autonomy of subsidiaries can be an obstacle to achieving overlaping network benefits between intra-&inter-organizational benefit.
        But, this macro-level study is blinded in learning and development perspectives of subsidiary employees. 
    • Ferner(2012): Subsidiaries are active 'strategizers' in MNC According to the power capabilities and institutional configuration, HR practices vary from successful transfer to failied transfer and reverse transfer. Power capabilities: Power of resources; Power of processes; Power of Meaning.
      • Arguing about "Kostovian" approach (Given), and take "Lukesian" approach(Taken).
      • Power capabilities of HQ & Subsidiary actors make a variation of HR practice transfer.
    • Bouquet(2008): Low power actors (subsidiary) gain influence through multiple power games.
      • Taking the Goshal's approach of MNC as interorganizational network.
        Subsidiaries want to power of 
        • Achieving legitimacy
        • Controlling resources
        • Gaining centrality
      • Dynamic Power Games of Subsidiaries 
        • 1. Cooptation & Deference (immediate availability)
        • 2. Representation
        • 3. Feedback seeking (Midium term effort)
        • 4. Coalition-building
        • 5. Coopetition (long-term benefit)
      • Ability for complex thinking and effectuate change are necessary, and more over "Resilience" is most critical capacity. 
    • Dörrenbächer, C.(2009): A Micro-political perpective on subidiary initiative taking: German-owned subsidiaries in France

      • A classical assumption:management behavior is contrained by certain culture, structure, and insitutional patters.
        As classical micro-political studies have shown, management behavior is not only constrained or enabled by certain cultural, structural and institutional patterns, but is shaped by individual interests and actor rationales. Based on the assumption that actors are neither the organs of given structures nor acting fully autonomously, the paper highlights how key foreign subsidiary managers interpret and integrate individual, socio- political, organizational as well as some home and host country factors into distinct subsidiary initiatives, which they then try to accomplish in negotiations with the head- quarters.
        But, management behavior is also shaped by individual interests and actor rationales.
        Newer studies in the field offered by authors such as White and Poynter (1984), Birkinshaw (2000) Birkinshaw and Hood (1998) and Jarillo and Mart ́ınez (1990) have shown that subsidiaries as well as their entrepreneurial initiatives do play a more important role not only in the development of individual subsidiaries but also in the development of the multina- tional corporation (MNC) as a whole. However, what those scholars neglect is the role of key actors and the micro- political dimensions of subsidiary initiative and subsidiary development
        Foreign subsidiary managers and 'employees' with reagrd to subsidiary initiatives are still underexplored.
        We need more further understanding of MNC as micro-political systems !
        further understanding of multinational corporations as micro-political systems as postulated by Forsgren (1990) and more recently strongly emphasized e.g. by Be ́langer and Edwards (2006), Do ̈rrenba ̈- cher and Geppert (2006), Edwards and Kuruvilla (2005), Ferner et al. (2006), Forsgren et al. (2005) and Morgan and Kristensen (2006).
        Subsidiary initatiives: "entrepreneurial activities carried out by the foreign subsidiaries of MNC" 
        • Local market
        • Global market
        • Internal MNC market
      • Two reserach Questions 
        • How are initiatives taken by top foreign subsidiary man- agers to gain further mandates or new roles linked with their socio-political and biographical backgrounds encompassing e.g. their nationality, their individual career interests and professional experiences? 
        • What sort of tactical and social skills do top subsidiary managers apply in pursuing such initiatives in negotia- tions with their HQs? 
        • 1. How are initiatives taken by 'foreign subsidiary top managers"?
          2. What 'tactical and social skills do subsidiary top managers apply in negaotiations with their HQ?" 
      • Method: Three case studies from German-owned subsidiaries in France 
        • Case 1. A set of local market intiatives: Proatively leading french market initiatives under permission from German HQ
          Case 2: A global market initiative: A French CEO initiated a project in local market and expanded it to globe though he got many negative, even hostile feedback from German HQ.
          Case 3: AN MNC internal market initiative: Learning from local competitor a Franco-German CEO initiated 'internal market' innovation. 
      • Conclusion 
        • 1. Key foreign subsidiary manager's personal motivation and personal interests make a variation of taking 'initiative'
          2. Especially, different career orientation (hiearchical, professional and entrepreneurial) of key foreign subsidiary managers have a strong impact on motivation and decision.
          3. Professional biography, former career paths, and current career interests make different 'resource mobilization strategies".

    • Need a study of IHRD in MNC.
      • Recent international management literature argues that capabilities of subsidiary is critical for MNCs' success. 
      • Contrary to the conventional 'Given" approach of autonomy, 'Taken" approach is highlighted.
        Macro-power and institutional configuration have studies in MNC, and the results of high autonomy of subsidiary is controversial. 
      • However, learning and development perspective of subsidiary employees are not much addressed in MNC.
      • Especially, subsidiary employee's in significantly different culture is not yet much addressed. 

F. Research Methods

  • A basic inquiry
    • "How to unleash subsidiary employee's potential in MNC?"
  • Research Questions
    • 1. How Korean subsidiary engineers in German manufacturing MNCs cultivate 'autonomy'?
      2. What are the relationship between autonomy and 'learning & development' of subsidiary engineers in MNCs?
      3. What are the consequences of developing subsidiary employee's autonomy? 
  • Mixed method: A multi-phase, multi-method research approach
    • Phase1: After reviewing key literature, conduct field interviews
    • Phase2: Hypothesis testing and external valdity with a survey
    • Phase3: Conduct following up interviews with survey results.

Posted by Jeonghwan Choi

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Given or Taken - How subsidiary employees cultivate job autonomy in an MNC?

Conventionally, autonomy in the workplace is belief to be given by superiors to subordinates. 

However, autonomy can be taken by subsidiary employees at an MNC. In detail, there are positive given and taken autonomy and negative given and taken autonomy. 

Voice of engineers at an MNC

Positive Autonomy Given 

(Grounded frequency: 14)

Positive Autonomy Taken 

(Grounded frequency: 31)

 Leaders must demand tough and affordable tasks for subordinates to develop and unleash potential. If an individual achieves the task, leaders can give him/her enhanced authority and responsibility (Director). 

Leaders who are afraid of developing subordinates who may be excel them in future must leave the organization, since it kills organization (Director). 

The MNC's systemic and advanced quality process system helps us solving technical problems from local customers (Director and Product Leader 1). 

An expatriated engineer "B" from HQ issued a local demand of noise problem to HQ, and he brought a lot of supports from HQ R&D. "B"'s efforts helps us solving the problem by changing a core design of the product (Product Leader1). 

Writing a Concession (Deviation Request - an official request of special application of abnormal parts or process) is always problematic. Because it cannot be resolved in the level of frontline workers, managers facilitate and make a decision to make a progress (Senior Engineer 1). 

We have four expatriated managers from HQ. A vice president; Director of Finance; Director of R&D; and a Technical coordinator. Especially, the technical coordinator (engineer "B") is very supportive in bridging us to HQ R&D (Senior Engineer 1 and 2).  

I changed my job from Motor design (4 years) to Fan/Shroud design. I have gotten a higher decision making power in the new job, and it make me fun in work (Senior Engineer 1). 

When we have a conflict without a solid resolution in this company (subsidiary), we report it to top management (subsidiary) to get support from HQ (Senior Engineer 2). 

HQ engineers cannot solve a (local) technical problem though they have advanced technology. (Local) Engineers must go to 'field' to identify real situations, environments, and customer needs, then they must build a hypothesis, test it, prove it, and apply the results to FMEA and design (Director).

Self-directed workers create an idea, make a plan to realize the idea, and build a strategy to implement the idea by oneself, then they suggest a proposal to leaders. When the self-directed work is successfully done, the individual can feel great 'fulfillment' which drives him/her to get 'crazy' in his/her work. Leaders must provide the environment for 'self-directed work'  (Director). 

Frankly, the level differences of self-directedness come from personal differences. In the same situation a few engineers have a strong self-directeness attitudes toward his/her works while others stay in a certain boundary of work. So, self-control capability takes 80% of variation of self-directeness attitudes (Department Manager). 

A (local) Project manager can have an autonomy of changing a brush design because it does not need to change machines or process (Project Leader1). 

Difference from other R&D teams in this department, I go my own way because I have run my team with myself for a long time, and I still have a certain authority in design for my product (Product Leader 1). 

Although there is a (HQ) rule of developing 'technical experts' in an area, less than 10% of people engages in it because of low proportion of MBO. But I open technical seminars though my efforts are frequently challenged by managers (Product Leader 1). 

One day I got a good idea (changing slot numbers), and I contacted with HQ R&D to get a confirmation of potential design change. Since I could not change the core tools (machines), I made a proto tools and samples by myself. After getting a positive results from tests, I reported it to HQ and got the final confirmation of design change. It takes around one and half year, but I led major processes of the change because I could justify the technical and financial competencies of my team (cheap labor cost, quick process) (Product Leader 2). 

We (subsidiary engineers) build 4~5 technical options and bring them to decision-makers. However, we filter technical options before bringing them to decision makers, and guide decision-makers to choose more 'feasible' options (Product Leader 2). 

The most important task in my job is 'drawing cooperation' from people both in HQ and in this organization (subsidiary). This human relational skill is not an engineering skill, but it is most important to proceed organizational tasks because an individual cannot solve a technical problem by himself. Collective problem solving is essential in my job, and 'drawing cooperation', thus, the most important skill in engineering job. (Product Leader 2). 

Engineers at the advanced R&D center (highly specialized in designing and testing Fan & Shroud) in the U.S. (Waltham) have higher autonomy in their jobs. The U.S. subsidiary have focused on a product several decades, and the technical speciality of the subsidiary is highly respected and appreciated. 4~5 engineers at the U.S. subsidiary R&D center evaluate samples from HQ and the other subsidiaries. The U.S. subsidiary do not follow the general rule of the MNC, but it has its own process of work. Decisions are made very informally through meetings or workshops. Engineers at the center are seemed like 'independent army' (Product Leader 3). 

We (subsidiary engineers) do not report very detail technical things to managers but we filter technical option and present a few feasible things to managers. When we bring the filtered options, we informally report problems of opted out options. In that situation, managers aware the problem and do not make critical objection (Senior Engineer 1).  

Because R&D department of this company (subsidiary) is not a research institute but application oriented one, we don't need theories. We need 30% of technical competencies and the other 70% of competencies are 'teamwork', 'relational skill', leadership', 'communication skill', 'english skill' (Senior Engineer 1). 

When we got an ambiguous data, for example the first and the second test results are not compatible, we conduct extra tests confidentially. We do not officially report what we are doing to supervisor, but we have to prepare alternative options. Product Leader 3 is very good at this type of confidential and self-directed work. PL3 leads managers to his intention direction. (Senior Engineer 2). 

Although the company strictly prohibits 'making or testing unregistered samples', supervisors do not restrict our confidential works. But supervisors ask to us "Don't you have any further information from your self-directed work?" Supervisors strongly encourage us to do 'self-directed works' regardless of process. In my case, I did not get any negative feedback from supervisor for my confidential and self-directed works even I failed at those works. (Senior engineer 2). 

Although many (local) supervisors rejected the request of sending me to a training program at HQ R&D, my direct supervisor (Product Leader 1) confidentially sent an email and communicated with HQ HR and R&D and got an official invitation for the program. I could come the training program and I am highly motivated to work hard (Junior Engineer 1). 

 Negative Autonomy Given

(Grounded frequency: 30)

Negative Autonomy Taken 

(Grounded frequency: 7)

Lassez-Faire style leaders cannot develop people. For example, a leader who sign on a document and put it aside without any demands for extra work teach nothing for his/her subordinates (Director).

A leader who is afraid of challenges from his/her subordinates kill them. This is the real problem in organization (Director). 

Top management does not want to see quality issues at the quality meeting, but they want to see 'solutions'. We (employees) need to solve and lead everything before issuing a problem in front of top management in this company (Department Manager). 

A product series is totally changed from a local design to a global design.The most challenging thing is that we can change the design of the global product to address local demands (Department Manager). 

We (subsidiary engineers) led project as project leaders before. But now, Sales persons lead projects after application of HQ rules. We (Engineering department) become a member, not a leader, and we lost our power (Department Manager). 

I want to send (local) engineers to HQ to develop their skills, but cannot because of the lack of Manpower in my department (Department Manager)

I cannot do anything to address the lack of manpower problem. I try to persuade my subordinate, but it does not work. So, I purposefully ignore it, or I coercively suppress my subordinates (Department Manager). 

You need to understand the uniqueness of local demands. Local customers frequently request 'unacceptable' things for us (MNC). Local customers do not have awareness of global culture (Product Leader 1). 

This company is a global MNC. HQ controls over everything. We (subsidiary engineers) take over HQ's advanced technology and transfer it to our local customers. Our (subsidiary engineers) role is only 'coordination' between HQ and local demands. This is the normal process in MNC (Product Leader 1). 

Global MNC has a strong guideline in designing a product. If a new design is needed, we (subsidiary engineers) definitely need to get an approval from HQ (Product Leader 1). 

We (subsidiary company) have very little understanding about 'project leader' system comparing with HQ country. In this company, project leaders have little power (autonomy) but full responsibility. This is the biggest complaints from project leaders. This is the problem of organization culture and team culture in this company (subsidiary company)  (Product Leader 1). 

Local customers in this country (subsidiary country) has a very strong 'military culture' in business. If they order something, all members have to accomplish it anyway by all means. Comparing to the local culture, this company (subsidiary company of an MNC) has a supportive culture. We help each other and we have a communicative culture (Product Leader 1). 

Other (engineering) teams in this department do not make any decision but wait an order from a director. The problem is that the director is too authoritative to let those teams make a decision. Those teams commonly have a meeting in front of the director. Those teams totally lost their opportunity to propose creative ideas and efficient work processes. (Product Leader 1).  

I cannot change the design of a product because I have no power (authority, autonomy). Even in this situation, other teams are not cooperative to us (subsidiary engineers), and this (uncooperative attitude) makes troubles in project works (Product Leader 1). 

We (subsidiary engineers) cannot change a design of a product after production tools have set in line (pilot stage). We can 'manipulate' minor things, but big changes, such as changing machines or production process, is not possible (Product Leader 2). 

There is no place to learn (motor) design skills in this country (subsidiary country). We (subsidiary engineers) need to come HQ to learn motor technology, but HQ do not want to teach the technology (Product Leader 2). 

Top management and managers delayed a decision of a changing a product design for addressing local demands because they knew a new global product would be launched soon. Leaders didn't want to invest in addressing the local issue, and they intentionally ignore the issue. (Senior Engineer 1). 

We (subsidiary engineers) have to comply the HQ Quality Process Manual. But it is not possible to follow or keep whole rules from the manual because the urgent demands from local customers. In this situation, managers fight against each other to avoid any responsibility in writing a 'concession letter (deviation request)' It seems like a game of "Belling the Cat" (Senior Engineer 1). 

Decision making power (or autonomy) is getting decreased significantly in this company (subsidiary company). A biggest local customer demands many special requests for changing, but it will be very hard to meet those local demands in the global products. It takes a lot of time to get decision from HQ, and it is really hard to get it. I expect that the issue (hard to change a design of a global product to meet local demands) is getting harder and harder, and it will be the most significant problem of us (subsidiary engineers). (Senior Engineer 1). 

A engineering director can control engineering and sales department, but he cannot control over manufacturing, quality, and purchasing. Manufacturing, Quality, and Purchasing department has been strongly integrated with HQ manufacturing, quality, and purchasing. So, they become 'out of control' teams for us (Senior engineer 1). 

I get a global design from the U.S. subsidiary, and make application for local customers (Junior Engineer 1). 

Because of HQ's delay of a global product design release, I (subsidiary engineer) had to delay of whole project schedule for a local customer. Many project members from other department critiqued for my delay, and they claimed that I had to keep the rule. In other hand, when I report this issue to my supervisor, he didn't want me to take any responsibility for the problem. All members and the supervisor avoided any risks for the schedule delay, and I was really frustrated about this 'conflict' that is not produced by my fault but HQ! (Junior Engineer 1). 

Those who work for descending orders have little creativity and little work design capability, and they cannot be a leader (Director). 

Employees must make a choice by themselves, and design a work by themselves. Descending orders from others is not fun but boring and irritating! (Director) 

We (subsidiary engineers) cannot take whole described processes in the global manual because we are 'foreigners' in this organization (MNC) (Product Leader 1). 

As a foreign company, (local) leaders do not want to take responsibilities for works. I do not get any punishment nor feedback if my misconducts is not related with 'performance results'. Leaders frequently ignore my conducts, and let me go because they do not feel any responsibility. When I worked for a domestic company, directors and middle level managers took  great responsibilities at work, and they give a strong mentorship. But I have no mentorship or guide at all, but time consuming (Junior Engineer 1). 

For example, I had no idea about 'motor design' when I firstly came to this company (subsidiary). I wanted to know and learn about the product. But nobody teaches me about what to do to learn about motor design. If I was in the previous company (a domestic company), somebody (maybe supervisor) would hand me a 'book' of motor design and pushed me to study it. In this company (subsidiary), I can enjoy easy going without learning about motor design, if I do not 'learn by myself'. 

Everybody in this company (subsidiary) is seemed to 'come, stay, and back' without little interests in work. If one is making a product, he or she must have a responsibility for the product. But nobody in here have a passion for the product or learning about it. It is a dark side of this company (subsidiary) (Junior Engineer 1).  

Can individuals cultivate and enhance power of control of their works - increasing autonomy or job control with certain efforts? 

Here is a deviant case that is constructive for an employee and his organization. 

A Korean R&D engineer (let's call him as 'S') who works for a multinational manufacturing company in Korea tests several electric motor samples that are built by himself to find a root cause of uncomfortable noise. 'S' did not report this secret noise test to his Korean supervisor nor to his co-workers because he wanted to avoid any unnecessary paper works, dispute with unionized sample shop workers, or time delay for decision-making. 

Making and testing unregistered samples is strictly prohibited in his organization, but 'S' believes that he can find a solution through the extra test. Frequently, the engineer has conducted hidden works under the conscious permissiveness (or tacit agreement) from his supervisor and co-workers because he brings constructive alternatives basing on his self-directed hidden works. 

'S' is recognized as a highly capable and self-directed worker not only in his organization but also by his internal and external customers. Although his extra work on secret experiments are not financially rewarded by the organization, he wants to make influences on decision makings with his solid data. 

He focuses on his work of solving the uncomfortable noise problem because he feels good whenever he can give a constructive solution for others. The local engineer wants to bring a solid solution of the noise problem to a technical meeting with a Korean customer who claims the quality problem. 

Clocks is running to midnight, but his secret experiment is going on. 

From the case, autonomy can be taken or cultivated by subsidiary employees in MNC. 

Do HRD professionals need develop skills for cultivating autonomy for subsidiary employees? 

How to develop those skills? 

Posted by Jeonghwan Choi

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Problematizing the Tension between Autonomy and Control at the workplace. 

One of the most challenging things to a leader is managing and balancing the tension between 'autonomy and control' at the workplace. 

If a leader control over every detail issues (micro-management) in the workplace, subordinates of the leader lose their interests in works and avoid any self-directed actions or decision-makings to achieve mutual goals.  

Vice versa, if a leader do nothing but wait things to be done by subordinates, (Lassez-faire), the leader fails in achieving targeted goals because subordinates tend to be deviated from the goals.  

However, is this tension between autonomy and control a real problem at the workplace? 

In this section, I want to address the issue of tension between autonomy and control at the workplace by using several 'heuristics for thinking about social phenomena or questions' that are introduced by Jaccard and Jacoby (2010, see the appendix1) as a framework. Two interview results (24 participants from diversified employee groups and 9 engineers at a R&D team in Korea), and my personal knowledge and experiences are used for application of those heuristics. 

Heuristic 1: Analyze your own experience. 

When I worked as a business strategy consultant at a large consulting firm, I had two bosses. One was an associate consultant and the other was a partner. The partner was not easily accessible because he was busy to work other projects in multiple-sites. He was seldom to have communication with my consulting team, and frequently avoided give a direction for my team. My consulting team had got little attentions from the partner, and the team needed to be very self-directed. One day, when my team had a critical problem with a client, the partner came to my site and he bursted out for the problem. But my team members could not understand the reason why he exhibited his negative emotions to us because we had little guidance from him about the consulting project. 

On the other hand, I usually worked with an associate consultant who was newly hired from a prestigious consulting firm. He joined my project as his first one at the consulting firm, and was highly motivated to show his competencies. He was very precise and exact person. Whenever I bring an idea, the associate consultant focused on pointing out every single typo; line matching; grammar error; and table alignment rather than my idea. He also tried to managed almost every single behavior of mine and tried to fix it. For example, I had to change my mobile phone to a newer and prestigious model because he urged me to change it to show privilege of business consultant to client. 

I was disengaged from the consulting job not because of hard working but because I was sick and tired about 'no-direction but blaming' of a partner and 'micro-management for nothing' from an associate consultant. 

Heuristic 2: Use a case study. 

A junior engineer was very upset about a director's refusing to sign on a training request form sheet. A few weeks ago, the junior engineer's direct supervisor (a part leader) had gotten a letter of training opportunity for engineers from head quater(HQ), and the part leader recommended the junior engineer for the training program. Human resource and engineering department of the HQ admitted the junior engineer to training program, and sent an invitation. The part leader and the junior engineer made a training request form, and bring it to the director. 

The director asked "why do you (the junior engineer) need to participate the training problem for nothing in these busy days?" Part leader replied that "He (the junior engineer) need to learn about designing a product and analyzing critical technical issues from experienced engineers at HQ." The director claimed that "what can you learn from the training program?Only from practical experiences, engineers can learn 'real stuffs'. You must stay your place and try harder to do your work rather than going to the program." The part leader and the junior engineer had to come back to their cubicle with nothing from the director. 

However, the part leader sent an Email with the situation to HR department of HQ, and a HR manager of HQ send an official invitation to the president of the branch company. In consequence, the junior engineer could come to the training program but the part leader and the junior engineer suffered from the director's unsupportive manners. The junior engineer became very disappointed with his job, and he felt he is quite disengaged from his work. 

This case indicate that a leader's disagreeable control can significantly reduce employee's work engagement.  

Heuristic 7: Analyze paradoxical incidents.

From interview results, a paradoxical relationship is identified. In short, managers demand higher self-directed work engagement to their subordinates while employees want to more autonomy and support from leaders. 

 From employee's side

  From manager's side

Quote1: “We do not have any decision making power for our works because our boss decides almost everything. We hesitate proposing any ideas but conduct only descending works from our boss.” (A mid-level manager at a manufacturing company)

Quote2: "The most critical complaints from project leaders in this organization is that we have little autonomy but full responsibility." (A project leader at a manufacturing company)

Quote3: "The most supportive thing to achieve high performance is leader's support and decision-making for resolving a conflict between teams. Since controlling other teams is over my authority, only leader who have a sufficient power can make a progress." (A mide-level manager at a Telecommunication company)

 Quote1: "People who formulate a work by himself, fully engage at the work, and accomplish it with others is the most valuable resource to achieve high performance"  (A director of a manufacturing company)

Quote2: "Employees must devote themselves into the goals that their team have to accomplish. And then, they should be evaluated not by descending order but by their own achievement" (A manager at a shipbuilding company). 

Quote3: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" "Employee's self-directed participation and engagement is the most important thing to achieve high performance. Therefore, manager's leadership is critical" (A manager at an automaker)

 Keywords: Decision-making power, Autonomy, Facilitating group conflict , Support from leader

 Keywords: Self-directed, Engagement, Leadership

In more detail, employees and managers indicate that positive autonomy and positive control help them to achieve higher performance in the workplace.  For example, if employees have a flexibility in learning, work design, goal setting, networking, and information sharing, they would like to have higher engagement in their work resulting in higher performance. Employees, however, want to get positive control from their managers and organizations such as clear goal setting, clear and detail order, and more communications. On the other hand, employees indicate that negative control is the most problematic (grounded 16) to achieve high performance. Many employees describe that performance evaluation results are highly subjected to the quality of relationship with managers, and they also complain about attribution problem of their personal contribution to work performance. For example, employees argue about their individual performance cannot be separated from teamwork and collaboration with other teams since they are working in team structure in large organizations. Even in a small organization, the subjective performance evaluation is problematic. A sales person described that his personal achievement in sales is not fully attributed to him but the success is frequently attributed to 'organizational success'. Managers or leaders' myopic and spontaneous order discourage employees to have higher engagement in their work. 

In summary, employees think the negative control from their managers or leaders is most influential to engagement in their work, and they indicate that positive control with sufficient autonomy are essential in achieving higher performance. There seems a certain 'tacit agreement' between employees and managers that are formulated along with dynamic interactions. If the tacit agreement is kept well, employees would like to engage their works until the agreement is broken by their managers or leaders. 

Positive (+) Autonomy (6)

Positive (+) Control  (11)

  • Self-directed learning
  • Self-directed work design
  • Self-directed goal setting
  • Information sharing
  • Job flexibility
  • Networking
  • Reminding strategic goal
  • Clear and detail order
  • Timely feedback/evaluation/decision-making
  • Facilitating group conflict
  • Providing learning & development opportunity
  • Advice/mentoring

 Negative (-) Autonomy (2)

Negative (-) Control (16)

  • No assistance to correct a mistake
    No control
  • Focus on self-interest
  • Focus on team-interest
  • Disagreeable evaluation
  • Spontaneous order
  • Short-term goal orientation
  • Unsupportive attitude
  • Ignoring manpower request
  • Lack of communication/information sharing 

How does HRD, management, and psychology literature theorized these social phenomena of tension between autonomy and control in the workplace? In the next part, I will review concepts and theories in HRD, management, and psychology literature that are related with the tension between autonomy and control in the workplace basing on my interview results. 

Concepts and Theories for Problematizing

The tension between autonomy and control at the workplace has emerged as a critical issue as a research theme. 

What solid theories can explain the role of 'tacit agreement' between leaders and subordinates with the regards of employee's work engagement and balancing autonomy and control? 

In this section, several theories that are related to 'autonomy and control'; 'work engagement'; 'tacit agreement'; and  'leadership' are explored. 

First, tacit agreement refers to "implied or inferred (agreement) without direct expression" (see, This tacit agreement between leader and employees can be addressed by the psychological contract theory. 

Psychological contract is "the mutual belief, perception, and informal obligations between employer (supervisor/leader) and employee. It sets the dynamics for the relationship and define the practicality of the work to be done. It is distinguished from the formal written contract of employment what, for the most part, only identifies mutual duties and responsibilities in a generalized form" (source: Tacit agreement between leader and subordinate in the workplace can be acknowledged with the 'the mutual belief, the mutual perception, and informal obligations' between agents, and it is commonly active in unwritten contract form. Psychological contract dynamically changes over time and situation, and it is highly influenced by leadership and personal psychological states. For example, violation of the psychological contract of a leader creates cost of losing trust; increasing uncertainty; and occurrence of conflict, resulting in employees' 1) disengagement from work and 2) misalignment with strategic goals. 

Second, psychological contract is viewed as a job resource in job demands-resources (JD-R) model (Hakanen and Roodt, 2012, in the book of work engagement by Bakkaer and Leiter).  The origin of JD-R model can be traced back to the demand-control model (DCM) of Karasek (1979). According to DCM model, job stress is caused by high job demands and low job control. Referring to the quotes from employee side from interviews (conducting only descending works from supervisor; little authority but full responsibility; unable to control other teams), the DCM model is quite compelling to understand the employee's disengagement from work for their job stress when the balance is broken. However, DCM model has several weaknesses to address the complex reality of working organization (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007). Bakker and Demerouti extended the DCM and suggested the job demand-resources (JD-R) model considering the complex nature of works across contexts. JD-R model is a heuristic model that includes two specific sets of working conditions, job demands and job resources, in its prediction of employee well-being, regardless of occupational group. 

Job demands represent "the characteristics of the job that potentially evoke strain, in case they exceed the employee's adaptive capability" (Bakker et al, 2007, 275). More specifically, the job demands refer to :"those physical, social, or organizational aspects of the job that require sustained physical and/or psychological (i.e., cognitive and emotional) effort on the part of the employee, and are therefore associated withe certain physiological and/or psychological costs" (Demerouti et al, 2001, p. 50). Examples of job demands are time and work pressure, the emotional demands, an adverse physical work environment, role ambiguity, role conflits, and role overload. 

Job resources refer to "working conditions that provide resources for individual employees". More specifically, job resources are "those physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of the job that may (a) reduce job demands and the associated physiological and psychological costs, (b) are functional in achieving work goals, and (c) stimulate personal growth, learning and development (Demerouti et al., 2001, p. 501). Job resources may be located on the following levels: 

  1. Organizational level: salary, career opportunities, job security
  2. Interpersonal and social relations: supervisor and co-worker support
  3. Organization of work: role clarity, participation in decision making
  4. Task: performance feedback, skill variety, autonomy

In general, JD-R model proposes that high job demands and a lack of job resources drive employees' disengagement from works and burnout (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). 

Parzefall and Hakanen (in press) integrated psychological contract approach and the JD-R model with focusing on perceived contract fulfillment as the resources that employees expect the employer or leader to provide. When psychological contract is fulfilled by the leader, employees have a better quality of relationship with the leader, higher work engagement, more positive attitude toward work, and lesser turnover intention. 

Third, personal resources such as optimism, self-efficacy, resilience, and hope (core constructs of positive organizational behavior - calling psychological capital)are influential to work engagement as well as job resources (Sweetman & Luthans, 2010, in the book of Bakker & Leiter). Work engagement is defined as "a positive, fulfilling, affective-motivational state of work-related well-being that can be seen as the antipode of job burnout (Bakker & Leiter, 2010). Specifically, Schaufeli et al., (2006) theorized the engagement as a higher-order core factor comprising three interrelated constructs: vigor, dedication, and absorption. Vigor is defined as consisting of high levels of willingness to invest energy into the work at hand, coupled with the mental resilience to persevere even in the case of difficulties, Energy is the underlying bipolar dimension with vigor at one end, and emotional exhaustion at the other (Gonzalez-Roma et al, 2006). Dedication in the context of the JD-R model is described as "being strongly involved in one's work and inspiration, pride, and challenge" (Schaufeli et al., 2006, p.3). Absorption in work can be though of as being fully engrossed in, and in a mindset enabling full concentration in that work (Schufeli et al., 2006). At the positively deviant end of the absorption spectrum, individuals experience the flow, whereby time passes quickly and one has difficulties with detaching oneself from work (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). The influence of the three psycap constructs (hope; self-efficacy; optimism) on work engagement has been supported with an empirical study of Dutch technician study (Xanthopoulou Bakker, Demerouti, and Schaufeli, 2007). 

The general work engagement model is presented in above figure. In short, research shows that job and personal resources (PsyCap) are predictive of work engagement. Job demands moderate the resources-engagement relationship. Indeed, a central assumption in the JD-R model is that resources become more salient and gain their motivational potential when employees are confronted with high demands (Bakker * Demerouti, 2007; Hakanen & Roodt, 2010). Engagement is positively related to performance. The model proposes that those who are highly engaged and perform well will mobilize more personal resources or psychological capital, and more job resources like autonomy, social support, and career opportunities. 

Fourth, openness is an important antecedent to a relational transparency (Luthans, 2010, p. 97), and this transparency leads to trust in leader-follower relationship, resulting in building psychological contract (Rousseau, 1995). Once established, psychological contract evolves from a common understanding by words to a willingness to trust by actions (Luthans, 2010). This dynamics of psychological contract indicates the importance of leaders's authenticity in formulating and sustaining the psychological contract. 

Authenticity is defined as "owning one's personal experiences (e.g., thought, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, or beliefs) (Harter, 2002). In addition to owning one's personal experiences, authenticity also involves a acting in accordance with the true self (expressing true thoughts and beliefs and acting accordingly). People are neither completely authentic nor inauthentic, but are best described as existing on a continuum from more to less authentic (Erickson, 1995). Authentic leadership is centered around empathy and a leader's values or character. If the leader understands their subordinates, they can inspire subordinates by cultivating a personal connection and leading them to share in the vision and goals of the team. Authentic leadership is a root construct and foundation that serves as a pont of departure for other forms of leadership such as transformational or transactional leadership. In detail, a transformational or transactional leader can be more or less authentic, but the authentic leader is not defined as being a particular style of leader per se (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Luthans and Avolio, 2003). Kernis (2003) suggests four components of authentic leadership: self-awareness, unbiased processing, authentic action, and relational transparency. 

According to recent research on the relationship between authentic leadership and trust, authentic leadership has positive relationship with trust in leadership (Clapp-Smith, 2009) and group trust (Walumwa, 2011) that are related with psychological contract. In addition, authentic leadership has positive relationships with group psychological capital (Walumbwa, 2011). 

In summary, job resources, including autonomy or psychological contract, and personal resources positively related with work engagement, and this relationship is moderated by job demand. Authentic leadership may help building a better psychological contract between employee and employer resulting in a higher perceived job resource. 

Heuristic 9: Use analogies and metaphor. 

A candle metaphor can give us more solid understandings about the tension between autonomy and control at the workplace. 

Exploring a cave with a candle

Let's imagine that you light up a candle to explore a dark cave. You have only one chance to light the candle up with a match. You should keep the candle light alive to explore and to escape the cave. Unfortunately you have only one candle, and it will last long about an hours. But you may feed wax to the candle, and you can enlarge the time of candle burning with according to your efforts of feeding and aligning the wick. The cave is very rough and dark, even worse sometimes chaotic winds occurs abruptly from everywhere in the cave. How do you explore and escape from the cave with a candle, and how can you keep the candle light alive in the chaotic situation? 

The candle metaphor resembles with running a business in recent chaotic and uncertain environment (external factors). Job demands such as work pressure, emotional, mental, and physiological demands as well as role challenges increases as the business environment gets more chaotic. In order to survive and explore a new business opportunities, organizational leaders must acquire sustainable and positive outcomes (exploring and escaping a cave). Organizational outcomes are come from group and individual performances (the candle light). Employee's engagement in goals, strategy, teamwork, and their personal efforts is critical to draw sustainable and high performances (the frame). Job resources such as social support, learning and development opportunity, job control, and manpower are fundamental resources for employee engagement (the wax). Personal resources such as positive psychological resources (self-efficacy; hope; optimism; resilience - psychological capital) and positive emotion realize job resources as employee engagement (the wick). Organizational leaders, generally executives; specifically functional leader (team leaders; project leaders), need to 1) make a balance between autonomy (flexibility to change) and control (moving forward), and 2) create resources (feeding wax and aligning wick). 

Heuristic 11: Apply deviant case analysis. 

JD-R model and the candle model help us to understand the tension between autonomy and control to a certain extent. However, the model has a foundation assumption: job resources are given by supervisor, coworker, and organization rather than they are cultivated by individuals. For example, job control or autonomy is viewed as a power of control that is delegated or empowered by supervisor or organization. 

However, can individuals cultivate and enhance power of control of their works - increasing autonomy or job control with certain efforts? 

Here is a deviant case that is constructive for an employee and his organization. 

A R&D engineer (let's call him as 'S') who works for a subsidiary company of a multinational corporation in Korea conducts several tests of electric motor samples that are built by himself to find a root cause of an uncomfortable noise. 

'S' did not tell the test to his Korean supervisors nor to his co-workers because he wanted to avoid unnecessary control over his exploratory tests (such as extra paper work, dispute with unionized sample shop workers, or time delay for approval) before getting solid data. 

Frequently, the engineer designs and conducts extra tests by himself though it is not requested by his supervisor or others. He focuses on his work of solving the uncomfortable noise problem because he feels good whenever he can give a constructive solution for others. 

'S' is recognized as a highly capable and self-directed worker not only by his supervisor but also by his internal and external customers. Although his self-directed extra works are not  financially rewarded by the organization, he just wants to make influences on decision makings with his solid data. 

Clock is running to midnight, but his secret experiment is going on. 

This deviant case shows a critical tension between the employee's: compliance to organizational rules and creativity. Specifically, the case reveals the local R&D engineer' and the local R&D manager's dilemma between compliance to HQ's control and autonomy for meeting local customer's demand.  

The case, specifically, indicates that an individual cultivates job control power or autonomy through engaging and performing self-directed work under his local supervisor or coworker's conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement. 

Another case can show that how expatriated technical coordinator to a local branch helps balancing the HQ's control and autonomy for meeting local demands in an MNC.  

An engineer "U" - an expatriated technical coordinator from HQ in mother country of an MNC - makes a telephone conference with his former colleagues to consult about a technical problem with his mother tongue in a local branch company in Asia. 'U' requests a technical review and a simulation for several alternative designs of an electric motor for a car of a local customer. 

The local customer have argued about the uncomfortable noise to the company about a year. Local engineers had tried to address the local customer's demand of reducing noise, but they were not able to change the design of the motor because it was globally standardized one. Whenever local engineers request solutions for the local customer's demand, HQ rejected or ignored the local request because the noise level of the motor is not problematic in other global customers. 

The engineer "U" was educated that he needed to respect local demands and culture when he was in the HQ training program for expatriating employees. He listened the local customer's voice carefully, and reported the problem to HQ's R&D center. "U" collected the local customer's test results and he conducted several extra tests with local engineers under the unwritten permission both from HQ R&D and the local company's leadership.  "U" recognized the noise problem needed to be addressed though it came from an extraordinary mounting design of the local customer. 

Several days later, HQ R&D gives an official permission of a special design change for the problematic electric motor. The engineer "U" and local engineers, then, start changing a design of the motor for the local customer. 

Compared to the local engineer 'S' case, the expatriated engineer 'U' proceeded extra tests with ease because he could acquire unwritten permission with ease before legitimizing the technical problem within the MNC. 

How to understand this unique autonomy cultivation phenomena in a local R&D of a large MNC? 

Here are two examples for understanding the autonomy and control phenomena in a large MNC. Can you pleas answer the following examples?  

Example 1. Do you keep the speed limit in highway? (for example, I-57's speed limit is 55 miles/hour). 

As an experienced driver, I usually drive around 65 ~ 70 miles/hour in I-57 because every other cars drive with the speed. Moreover, the police does not take any action when I drive around the speeds. Therefore, I believe that the speed limit of the the highway is around 70 miles/hour though the "written speed limit is 55".

Example 2. What will do when you have to coach a student driver in the same highway with 55 miles/hour speed limit? 

I definitely instruct the student driver to keep the speed limit because the student need to learn the regulation. Moreover, I have no confidence in the novice driver's skills. Therefore, I would not take any risk from breaking a rule. 

Acquiring the unwritten permission from people in an organization resembles the transformation from novice driver to experienced driver.  

Once an individual gets onboard on a team or an organization, he or she is treated as novice driver and gets a lot of conscious or unconscious control from people. He or she commonly gets a tons of feedback, comments, critiques, appraisals both in verbal, non-verbal, or written forms. This process is an initial socialization process. The individual needs to overcome this first socialization process to get involved in the team or the organization. Every Individual may have different process of socialization because of different situations, social interactions, and personal characteristics similar to experiences of driving oneself. However, the outcome of the initial socialization is equifinal - improved autonomy within the team or the organization. 

In order to make a solid understand about the tension between autonomy and control in the workplace, four quadrant model is presented. 

Quadrant IV is the domain of high consciousness of people and low permissiveness to an individual. This domain is characterized as high control over an individual with strong intention. Newly coming individuals or novices experience this domain of control. For example, a newly hired engineer will be given written job descriptions, process manuals, and manual books for his or her job in R&D. The newly hired employee may be evaluated by strict manual and written rules because a supervisor or coworkers want to avoid any risks from him or her by breaking an official rule in the organization. Subsidiary organization in an MNC may place in this domain as well because HQ want to averse any local risks which may harmful for whole global organization's central policy or practice. 

Quadrant I is the domain of high consciousness of people and high permissiveness to an individual. this domain is characterized as high activation of 'tacit agreement' and 'social norm' that expand individual autonomy. Highly experienced people in a team or an organization may place in this domain for their credibility and history. Like the engineer 'S' in a subsidiary R&D, people in this domain can get conscious-permission from others in his organization because of his continual contribution on technical problem solving history. Self-directed work design, high engagement in the work, and sustainable work performance are the characteristics of people in this domain. However, the broadness of this domain is highly socially constructed. As indicated in the case of engineer "U", an individual who come from HQ can cultivate this domain with relatively ease because he already had the sufficient credibility, legitimacy, and good social relations with key decision-makers. 

Quadrant II and III are not addressed in this article since these domains are related with unconsciousness of people. These domains are needed to be explored in a more solid body of knowledge about unconsciousness. For example, emotion display is frequently unconsciously activated by supervisors or coworkers. Several research found out that habitual display of negative emotions of supervisor affects to employees's creativity in an organization (Brundin, E., Patzelt, H., & Shepherd, D. A. (2008). Managers' emotional displays and employees' willingness to act entrepreneurially. Journal of Business Venturing, 23(2), 221-243. )

In summary of deviant cases, employees can and have to cultivate autonomy within an organization to improve their job performance via high work engagement. Specifically, employees need to expand the domain of conscious-permissiveness to realize autonomy. The tension between conscious-control and conscious-permissiveness is significantly problematic in MNC organizations because of communication and legitimacy problem between HQ and Subsidiary organizations. 

Research Topic: 

Through problematizing process of the tension between autonomy and control in the workplace, the author pointed out the tension between central control of HQ and subsidiary autonomy for addressing local demands is very significant in MNCs. Two deviant cases reveals that subsidiary employees facilitate the tension by cultivating and realizing the autonomy under the conscious-permissiveness of local organizations. In the perspective of HRD, a few interesting research topics emerge: 

A research inquiry in the perspective of international HRD: 

What competencies(and How) do MNCs need to develop for subsidiary employee's to make a balance between compliance of central control of HQ and meeting local demands? 

A few research questions for the problem. 

1. How subsidiary employees acquire conscious-permissiveness within the local organization or from HQ? 

2. What skills are needed to be developed to help subsidiary employees to acquire conscious-permissiveness within the local organization or from HQ? 

3. What individual factors are influential to cultivation of conscious-permissiveness? 

4. What social factors affects to subsidiary employee's development of conscious-permissiveness? 

5. What is the role of leadership in developing subsidiary employee's development of conscious-permissiveness? 


A Conceptual Model will be developed with literature review on micro-political power issue in international management. 


Twenty-Six Heuristics for thinking about phenomena or questions in a way that might get new insights and ideas. 

1. Analyze your own experience. 

2. Use case studies. 

3. Collect practitioners' rules of thumb. 

4. Use role playing. 

5. Conduct a thought experiment. 

6. Engage in participant observation. 

7. Analyze paradoxical incidents. 

8. Engage in imaging. 

9. Use analogies and metaphor. 

10. Reframe the problem in terms of the opposite. 

11. Apply deviant case analysis (outlier). 

12. Change the scale. 

13. Focus on processes or focus on variables. 

14. Consider abstractions or specific instances. 

15. Make the opposite assumption. 

16. Apply the continual why and what. 

17. Consult your grandmother-and prove her wrong. 

18. Push an established finding to the extremes. 

19. Read biographies and literature, and be a well-rounded media consumer. 

20. Identify remote and shared/differentiating associates. 

21. Shift the unit of analysis. 

22. Shift the level of analysis. 

23. Use both explanations rather than one or the other. 

24. Capitalize on methodological and technological innovations. 

25. Focus on your emotions. 

26. What pushes your intellectual hot button? 

Jaccard & Jacoby (2010) Theory Construction and Model Building Skills: A Practical Guide for Social Scientists (pp. 48 - 67). 

Appendix 2: Authentic Leadership 


Among the three major approaches in  leadership study (leader-focused; contingency-focused; follower-focused), contingency-focused leadership approach is seemed as the most relevant one to address the dynamics. Specifically, there has been a high degree of interest paid to three novel approaches that have recently emerged. The first is transformational leadership, which posits that there are certain leadership traits that inspire subordinates to perform beyond their capabilities. the second is transactional leadership, which is most concerned with keeping subordinates in-line with deadlines and organizational policy. But transactional leader fills more of a managerial role and lacks lack qualities necessary to inspire subordinates and induce meaningful change. Authentic leadership is centered around empathy and a leader's values or character. If the leader understands their subordinates, they can inspire subordinates by cultivating a personal connection and leading them to share in the vision and goals of the team. 

The working definition of authentic leadership development (ALD) is 'the process that draws upon leaders' life course, psychological capital, moral perspective, and a highly developed supporting organizational climate to produce greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors, which in turn foster continuous, positive self-development resulting in veritable, sustained performance' (Avolio & Luthnas, 2006, p.2). 

Appendix 3: Measuring Psychological Contract Issue

According to Freese and Schalk (2008), the use of psychological contact measurements of Freese and Schalk (1997)'s extended list of items; Psycones (2008)'s measures for violoation and overall evaluation; Rousseau (1990)'s short list of items; Rousseau (2000)'s extended list of items are recommendable because these instruments are combine several scales to assess the content and evaluation the psychological contract. In addition these instruments have multi-language version and they have been used in different contexts in different countries. However, the relationship between 'perceived organizational obligations and perceived employee obligations' is still a research area that needs further attention. Especially, further examination of the factor structure of these questionnaires and use in different cultural contexts is needed to further improve psychological contract measurement. 

Freese, C., & Schalk, R. (2008). How to measure the psychological contract? A critical criteria-based review of measures. South African Journal of Psychology, 38(2), 269-286. 

Recommended Psychological Contract Instruments

1. Rousseau (1995)

2. Freese and Schalk (1997)

[7 point scale: 1 = 'much less than expected' to 7='much more than expected']

Please indicate to what extent the organization meets your expectations concerning X?

3. Rousseau (2000)

[5 point scale: 1 = 'not at all' to 5 = 'to a very great extent']

(1) To what extent has the organization implicitly or explicitly promised to provide X?

(2) Overall, how well does your employer fulfill its commitment to you? (single item)

(3) In general, how well does your employer live up to its promises to you? (single item)

[1='not at all obligated', 5= 'very obligated']

(4) To what extent have you promised, implicitly or explicitly to provide each of the following ()

(5) Overall, how well have you fulfilled your commitments to organization?

[5 point scale: 1 = 'not at all' to 5 = 'to a very great extent']

(6)Overall, how well have you fulfilled your promises to organization? 

4. Psycones (2005)

[6 point scale: 1='No', 1='Yes, but promise not kept at all' to 7=[Yes, and promise fully kept'. 

(1) Has your organization promised or committed itself to ...? 

(2) Have you promised or committed yourself to ... ?

[5 point scale: 1='not at all', to 5='totally']

Looking overall at how far this organization has or has not kept its promises and commitments, to what extent do you agree with the following statement? 

I feel... 

(3) Happy

(4) Angry

(5) Pleased

(6) Violated

(7) Disappointed, 

(8) Grateful. 

Appendix 4: An extreme case of destructive conscious-permissiveness (ignorance). 

Mr. Kim (48 years old) - an employee at an office of department of justice in Seoul, Korea - had suffered from the significant insomnia for work stress and depression from his work. His doctor diagnosed the root cause of his insomnia and health problem came from  'overloaded work'. Mr. Kim needed to complete 3~4 court works in a week, and he frequently worked more than 14~16 hours a day. His work continued to weekend. For several years, he got only 4 days off from his work. Work stresses of Mr. Kim caused abnormal physiological conditions such as dizziness, faint, and high blood pressure and so on. Mr. Kim requested more 'man power' to resolve his abnormally high workload, but his supervisor and organization (consciously) ignored his request though it is a significant violation of labor law. Nothing has changed, and blief, trust, hope, or promise between Mr. Kim and his organization has totally broken. Mr. Kim, then, committed a suicide on May 23, 2012 by firing a coal in his car, parking in the court house. 

Although Mr. Kim's case is an extreme one, but this cas is not much different from Korean workers life. According to Ministry of Employment and Labor of Korea (MOEL), the average annual work time of Korean workers is 2,193 hours per year - the world longest work hours in the world. Reports of 52 hours / week work hour limitation law violation to MOEL has increased almost every recent years, and the MOEL expects that there are huge numbers of 'hidden cases' in Korean workplace. 

Reported violation of limitation of overwork (Korean Ministry Of Employment and Labor, 2012). Note: The top line is the violation of 52 hours/week limitation (Section 53), and the lower line is the violation of 40 hours/week limitation (Section 50). The author assumes that the small number of violation of section 50 exhibits the 'social tacit agreement' of violation of the section 50 is generally accepted by Korean people. 

Korean workers are significantly suffering from abnormally high working hours, but this violation of written labor law are consciously ignored by supervisors and organizations, Consequently, Korean workers escape their work through death. 

source: Fatigued society: Korean workers overwork problem.

Research Questions:  

1) Does higher 'conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement' help employees to have high work engagement and to achieve high performance? 

2) How do employees build and acquire 'conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement' that help enhancing their autonomy or job control power within an organization? Is it good or bad for work engagement and performance? 

3) What is the effect of organizational HR policy (e.g. centralization vs. decentralization) to 'conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement' level between employees and supervisor/coworker?

In order to understand roughly about these question- especially the third question, we'd better to visit several cases of institutionalization of time off for creativity.

Institutionalization Cases 
of 'Conscious Permissiveness or Tacit Agreement'. 

The engineer 'S' conducted the secret and self-directed experiments under the 'conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement'. But several companies have institutionalized 'time off program' for innovation. 

Google launched the "20 percent time" policy may18, 2006. The 20 percent time enables engineers to spend one day a week working on projects that aren't necessarily in their job description. Google engineers can use the time to develop something new, or if they see something that's broken. 

(Official google blog:

Innovative products such as Gmail, Google News, Google Earth, Gmail Labs and even Google shuttle buses are come from the 20 percent time. Practically, there is not budget nor decision-making authority to realize a new idea from 20 percent time. But an idea creator builds up a 'grouplet' that accept and elaborate the idea within organization. Engineers at google, anyhow, get the chance to apply their passion to their company and create innovation. 


Another case is 3M's "15 percent time" for employees time off to explore their own project. In 1974, 3M scientist Art Fry invented the Post-It Note during his "15 percent time," a program at 3M that allows employees to use a portion of their paid time to chase rainbows and hatch their own ideas. 3M launched the 15 percent program in 1948, and it is extended to everyone, not just the scientists, in the company. Many companies have tried to emulate the 'Time off program' but failed because they remained conservative about supporting the new idea. And experts agree that this kind of nudging HR practice probably works best at companies where there's a high level of creative competitiveness; that is, where impressing peers is just as important as the innovation itself. For technical people in 3M, having a chance to unhinge their "inner geeks" is the most passionate and engaged event.

Matthew Bebbington, a K12 school tacer at Wilmslow High sSchool in Cheshire, implemented the 'time off program' idea and organized a school "innovation day" program in his school. The 80 students involved (aged 11-15) in the program and they were captivated by the experience of controlling their own learning and creating their own projects for the day. He reported that participating student were 100% engaged in their works, and draw unexpectedly high quality of outcomes and learning. Matthew believes that providing a chance to self-directed work time is a vital tool in engaging student in their learning.

In short, the Time Off HR policy help employees to have higher autonomy in their work, and it encourages employees to have higher work engagement and performances. 

However, these cases are all implemented at R&D function in HQ countries. We don't know much about the time off policy is acting in branch companies of the MNCs in different countries. In addition, many of R&D functions do not apply the time off policy. 

How do R&D engineers and managers in local branches adjust and meet local demands without  the time off policy? 


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Chief Vitality Officer (CVO) is a top executive who takes actions of vitalizing (such as encouraging, inspiring, and energizing) individuals, teams, and whole organizational structures to draw the best results throughout unleashing human capabilities basing on positivity. 

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Posted by Jeonghwan Choi

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A sloan management study indicates that well networked organizations such as IDEO, IBM, and U.S. Army draw outperformances from their people through effective learning and development practices. 

But what is the most important enabler for building good networks in an organization?

Although there may be many different enablers for building good networks for collaboration within organization, I suggest the 'emotion regulation' skill must be one. 

Networking is another name of socialization, and the emotion regulation is very essential in the process of socialization. 

For example, a manager who is easily tempered and express his/her negative emotions to subordinates hinders building good networks in an organization. Subordinates would not like to engage in their work, but to be protective from manager's unnecessary emotional challenges. 

Thus, I believe that learning and developing 'emotion management' skill is the most important thing for managers to do for building positively networked organization. 

Source: IDEO Method Cards -

Building a Well-Networked Organization

By Margaret Schweer, Dimitris Assimakopoulos, Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas

December 21, 2011

By understanding the structure of talent networks within companies, managers can foster more effective collaboration.


How can companies leverage employee networks to increase individual and organizational performance?

  • Look at employees from both individual performance and network effectiveness perspectives to identify valuable pockets of hidden talent.
  • Develop talent management practices that incorporate and strengthen social networks.
  • Create mechanisms to replicate the types of networks high performers have.
Posted by Jeonghwan Choi

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Recently, several medical studies clam that Yoga can wreck human body (see the today's NBC nightly news). 

It inspires international debates and disucussions as followings.

1. How Yoga Wreck you body (NY Times)

2. Yoga can wreck your body (NBC Nightly News, see the Youtube video in this article)
3. Response from a Yogi

As a professional Kouksundo meditation instructor, I want to raise an issue of the risk of Yoga practice. 

Contemporary Yoga, especially in the U.S., apt to urge people to make tough gestures for unprepared people without teaching the most important 'discipline' - the breathing. 

Yoga is a practice from India - the warm and swampy country, thus the Yoga breathing is much more focusing on "exhale" than "inhale" to cool down body temperature. A hard exhaling enables practitioners to make a extraordinarily stretching of their body. Thus, beginners of Yoga may be in the high risk of hurts without practicing proper 'Yoga breathing'. 

In Kouksundo meditation, which has come from Korean - four seasoned country, beginners are taught to have perfect 'balanced breath' with fifty mild gestures. Beginners are required to practice the first level of gestures for at least a year to enhance their mobility, breath, and mental powers. It seems a very boring process, but very essential for improving 'internal power - Kouksundo calls it "Ki (Qi)". 

People consume internal energy to 'think, talk, and move' everyday, and refueling the internal energy is very important to make right 'thought, communication, and action.' Meditational practices can help people to generate the internal energy. But people need to understand the process of recovering their internal energy requires 'correct and boring practices.' 

"Internal Energy is not generated in a day, but it requires as much effort as you spend your energy in your life"

J. Choi

Posted by Jeonghwan Choi

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