Organizations need to develop a kind of advocacy system for knowledge gathering. Executives are best served when the organization sets up several independent units or teams composed of people who are pulled away from their organizational homes. The executive should encourage healthy and constructive competition between people with real expertise, receive their recommendation first-hand, and guard against directives that would have the teams or units resolve their difference before presenting their advice. Constructive conflict or tension produces information…
To encourage advocacy within each leader and team, the executive can invite experts in to challenge its assumption, rotate in field officers and specialists to participate in their work, and shuttle members through different teams while assigning them special tasks or projects. To guard against the syndrome of yes men/yes women, the executive should never state his or her preferences in the beginning and should continue to solicit outside advice from both amateurs and experts. As a final safeguard, the executive can call the team back to reconsider their recommendations.
What about advice givers? What can they do to assure that their advice get through to the executive? In an advocacy system, the advisers cannot dump a letter, memo or report into the executive’s desk and say that their work is done. The expert must understand that all advice is competitive in nature. Robust advice is not only measured by inherent standards of truth that all wise people will immediately recognize. Different advisors provide different advice, and any advice that is not problematic or controversial is probably not worth giving. Soundable advice is that which can be acted upon. This means that the advisers have to anticipate the effect of their advice in light of political issues and opportunities. They have to understand the role of their advice in a political context, and the stakes involve regarding organizational issues, and be able to re-adjust their advice to fit with wisdom the situation, and are able to fight for their recommendations. They are pragmatic, flexible and knowledgeable.
There is an important angle of the psychology of advice giving. The intellectual and emotional success of profound advisers is related to their ability to educate the executive. The challenge is for understanding the needs of the executive and the knowledge bases that can be offered to him or her. When this fine combination is achieved we are in the presence of a kind of symbiosis of knowledge and power, which is a rare and beautiful event in organizational management. Organizations and their leaders have to work hard in order to institutionalize the relationship between the politics of advice and knowledge strategies for avoiding failures. The coupling of knowledge and power almost always depends upon a complement of internal and extra-formal designs or arrangements.
Copyright 2002 QBS, Inc.