Organization & Management Problem Solving: A Systems and Consulting Approach

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James T. Ziegenfuss Jr.

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    Preface and Acknowledgments

    This book was developed as a result of consulting engagements over a 20-year period. Materials from the organization and management consultation course offered at Pennsylvania State University have gradually evolved into this text. The model used for case analysis and for learning about consultation and problem-solving philosophy and methods integrates the thinking of many writers on organization and problem solving including Ackoff, Blake and Mouton, Schein, Kast and Rosenzweig, Trist, Mitroff, and Lippitt. The cases have been “tested” by students over the past 10 years with the result that some additions and deletions mark this edition.

    The reader will find that the cases include both more and less information than is “required” for successful problem solving. I have found this to be the situation in actual problem solving. It seems that we often must begin to search for answers with only a small fraction of the necessary data. Or, we are confronted by the output of “manic performance” by information analysts; a few cases have an excess of tables and interview data. Quality problem solving occurs when we add to or delete from this “database.” Interestingly, the classes examining cases with limited data often have generated the most controversy, although sometimes “heat without light.”

    The cases are composites of real experiences—familiar but fictitious. They are all imperfect, and in each case much more and many different things could have been done. Applied problem solving is quick and messy.

    Identifying names of the cases have been changed, and some data have been altered to preserve confidentiality. Learning can be accomplished without identification of the organizations and clients. The reader can “expand” the case material with local versions of the organization types (e.g., a community bank), with Web sites, and with personal visits.

    Thanks are due to a number of colleagues and students who have generously read earlier drafts including Chris McKenna and Rupert Chisholm at Penn State, Cindi Teeter at Deloitte Touche, and graduate students from the seminars at Penn State. I am grateful for the systems thinking education and for the encouragement over the years of Wharton School professors Russ Ackoff and the late Eric Trist. Their ideas are well represented here. I also thank Katherine Ziegenfuss for editing and Ruth Brinck for the patient word processing. Penn State's graduate education fund helped with expenses.

    James T.Ziegenfuss, Jr., Pennsylvania State University
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    Ziegenfuss, J. T., & Bentley, J. M. (2000). Implementing cost control in health care: Strategies driven by an organizational systems approach. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 13(4), 453–474. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1009589313971

    About the Author

    James T. Ziegenfuss, Jr., Ph.D., is Professor of Management and Health Care Systems at Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. He joined the faculty in 1983 and now teaches courses in strategic planning, organization behavior, health care systems, and quality management. He holds a Ph.D. in social systems sciences from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as well as master's degrees in psychology (Temple University) and public administration (Penn State).

    While attending graduate schools, he worked full-time from 1973 to 1983 in organization analysis and planning including consulting evaluations, planning at the single- and multi-organizational levels, organizational change projects, and research and development of health care systems.

    At the Penn State Medical College, he is Adjunct Clinical Professor of Medicine. He has been evaluation coordinator for the 6-year Robert Wood Johnson/Pew Trust project on transforming organization and care delivery systems and for the medical education diversity project. His education, research, and consulting work have been supported by more than 70 organizations.

    He has written more than 90 articles for journals and conferences and has authored 8 books including Organizational Troubleshooters: Resolving Problems for Customers and Employees; Designing Organizational Futures; and The Organizational Path to Health Care Quality. His most recent work is represented by two international prize winning monographs: “Country and Community Health Systems: The Futures and Systems Redesign Approach” and “Building Citizen Participation: The Purposes, Tools and Impact of Involvement.” Both won recognition at the 12th and 14th meetings of the Latin American Countries convocation on the reform of public administration in 1998 and 2000. His current teaching, research, and consulting interests are in the fields of strategic planning, quality management, and organizational development, particularly design and facilitation of planning processes and corporate ombudsman programs. He is an active consultant to public and private organizations.


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