Jan 8

Scientific Leadership and Management for Change

Behaviours are dynamic by-products of the living organism’s interaction with the environment. In organizational settings, we often refer to these behaviours as employee performance. However, behaviours in the workplace and organizations include any dyadic exchange between stakeholders, managers and employees, clients and the public. Dyadic means an interaction between at least two individuals, groups or entities. In looking at dyads, the focus is on the interaction as a contingency and the system that can be extrapolated from and shaped by the interaction. In dyads, we look at things from a system view. This includes the process wherein behaviours are assessed and analyzed from a system view rather than just focusing on the living organism’s action in isolation. We focus on the exchange: it could be meaningful as it evokes socially significant behaviours from the interaction. The behaviour change improves the environmental conditions. But what if such interaction results in behaviours and responses that do not bring genuine change? We can turn to Scientific Management to resolve this challenge.  

Taylor’s (1911) principles of Scientific Management posit that the rule of science as an evidence-based practice should supersede the rule of thumb. The rule of thumb is about arbitrary decision-making, often with a lack of principle, lack of respect for the rule of law, no order and lack of objectivity. The use of a rule of thumb or an iron rule, no matter how it appears to be invincible, cannot explain how the world has changed and changed for the better.

The scientific method is about asking about a phenomenon, presenting the hypothesis, testing the theory through experimentation, gathering data in the experimentation phase, analyzing results and drawing conclusions. Science ignites the inquiring nature of humans to address something challenging and make the situation better, celebrates the thinking nature of humans to predict based on the principle of causation, puts into praxis man’s inclination to apply theory and take it to action through performing experiments, finds the truth ‘as not pick and choose’ but through a gathering of facts and data as evidence, analyzing data and only come up with evidence-based conclusions.  

There are social ills that may need interventions using science. Bureaucracy, the misuse of power, corruption, complicity, co-option, hegemony in institutions favouring the dominant group or majority, and power over power in politicking to race for space and get disgraced will not solve the world’s problems. Why? All these phenomena, supported by the rule of thumb, may lead to further maleficence, contra objectivity and evidence-based actions that science promotes. The rule of thumb only adds to the distraction against total positive human engagement, that dyadic process to support any behaviour change and affects the world or environment to protect the welfare of the members of the society. The rule of science and the use of science principles can describe, predict, and repeat experiments or “situations” that are socially significant and control variables into the evolution of what is suitable until the self-correcting enterprise is repeated using the principle of science itself. These are imperative to promote scientific leadership.

Many kinds of leadership have been utilized over the centuries. The most popular, which has generated much following, is inspirational and artistic leadership. Leaders who inspire move people to act and engage in many contingency-shaped behaviours because people find the leader’s behaviours reinforcing. The presence of the leader is inspiring. Their actions as behaviours make meaning, which are forms of positive reinforcement. The followers, sometimes some of them are employees in organizations, get that inspiration from their leader. They are rewarded by so much social positive reinforcement by the very presence of a leader who inspires. However, an important question can be asked: how does this leader who inspires lead? What kinds of actions or behaviours does this leader display to be considered inspiring?

In the first instance, we think of a leader who engages in a set of actions or behaviours. The leader's behaviour “lit a fire” in people to emit exemplary actions following the inspiration they generated from the leader. Inspiring leadership constitutes some forms of values, generalities, attitudes and states of mind. These are good; however, they are not measurable or replicable to move from being inspired to taking action. Suppose leadership is only set artistically and intuitively or settled with the fact that it only inspires. However, this kind of leadership does not describe, in observable ways, why this form of leadership inspires. In that case, we may not have many different types of leaders who would be successful. For leadership to be successful, we need to see leaders who evoke objective actions bound by duty. For followers to become leaders themselves, leadership should be replicable. This means that leadership should follow some "recipe-like" actions or behaviours that, through metrics, are gauged to be successful and efficient. This is the technology of scientific leadership. By technology, we pertain to the 'techne', or the skill developed over time by following the science of leadership.

As a variable in an organization, scientific leadership inspires and objectively influences employees to fulfil their jobs or tasks. Eventually, these employees as followers would become leaders because of the scientifically learned skills involved in leading people.
So, what is scientific leadership? In organizational science, it is an independent variable that affects employee performance, which we recognize in Organizational Behaviour Management (OBM) as a dependent variable. The main framework utilized by scientific leadership is the method of science itself. By using the scientific method, leaders systematically lead organizations. Systematically leading organizations is the technology of leadership. This is as straightforward as using inductive reasoning instead of arbitrary decision-making.

In the use of inductive reasoning, the five logical steps of the scientific method are followed: (1) identify the problem or challenge which is the social phenomenon, (2) engage in background research and identify the variables (independent and dependent), (3) state the predictions or hypothesis based on data on current performance, by specifying the employee behaviour or performance (or as distinct as tasks and responses as topographies of the behaviour) and the results or goals of the organizations, (4) test or experiment through antecedent preparations (job aids, process redesign) and consequence interventions (performance feedback, recognition or reinforcement, scorecards and similar systems), through the manipulation of the independent variables in the antecedent and consequence phases of the contingency, and finally (5) iterate and conclude based on the data gathered from the application of the scientific method.

By following the scientific method as closely as possible, the leaders who employ this method engage in a systematic approach to leadership, not in subjective or indiscriminate ways. This technology of scientific leadership is replicable, regardless of who the leader is or what circumstances the organization faces. Leaders who transcend above the subjective are more efficient and inspire even more, for they “rise” to the challenge posed by limitations due to subjectivity. While artistic leadership is necessary to fulfil the compassionate side of leading humanely and humanly, the scientific side of leadership eventually sustains and maintains inspiration. The technology of scientific leadership, through actions and behaviours, identifies the problem, acts to solve these problems, and even develops a broader base of knowledge supported by science.

Assuming that all units of society are organizations, we may argue that through science, we can address problems and, perhaps, put the rule of thumb or the iron rule into extinction.  

Although the discourse about OBM is centred on leadership and improving employee performance, we broaden the horizon by using a system view and pursuing the importance of the dyadic exchange. After all, there would be no leaders if there were no followers. The rule of thumb in leadership has oligarchic tendencies—people-focused hierarchies that pose barriers and gate-keepers to actual, socially significant behaviours and behaviour change, which will benefit the system. The evolutionary (in the sense of self-correcting) epistemology (know-how or how-to) and the technology that science provides do not consider an actor or interlocutor in isolation but a part of the system. Using science in management has a great deal of allowing development, progress and change using evidence-based practice. The rule of science considers the variables in the environment (what is/are around), the principle that is the concept system or rule governance that supports the contingencies (what is beneath), and the self-correcting enterprise of science allows for change and growth (what is beyond). 
OBM involves much problem-solving that embraces the analytical process of science to de-centralize the focus from the rule of thumb, which proves to be disadvantageous for it results in the waste of human effort, blundering, ill-directed or inefficient [acts] as Taylor (1911) discoursed. Like canaries in the coal mine, we wake up one day to have been caged by the rule of thumb that has been so entrenched. But what is around, beneath, and beyond that is, is science; its authority and principles will always provide a warning and allow canaries to exit that dark chaos in the coalmine and change things for the better.  

Our Courses and Resources on Organizational Behaviour Management and Performance Management are designed to support you in using the principles of Scientific Leadership, offering comprehensive courses and resources to guide you in understanding and influencing employee behaviours and maximizing productivity with trusted methods. Contact us for assistance in advancing your leadership journey!