Who knew Luck Stone made tennis courts?

Well, as you can see from my title, i was very surprised that Luck Stone made tennis courts.  I was actually surprised to learn about most of the stuff that they do.  I seriously thought it was a place to buy rock, just rock.  And I really didn’t know that they had showrooms that you could go in a buy stuff, I thought they really just sold commercially.  So besides thinking about the conversation in terms of the class, I really learned some pretty cool information! 

When Tom started talking about the lay offs and how it was decided who stayed and how went I was reminded of a situation in my own life.  My husband works for a small land surveying company here in Richmond.  Before the economy crisis my husband’s company was booming, he worked 40 plus hours a week and early 2008 he received a promotion that moved him out of the field and into the office to learn the “other side” of the job.  In December 2008 the company laid off 5 guys which only left 6 guys left, including the two owners.  Thankfully may husband had been trained in the office and he could work the field, so he was an employee that could “do it all” and he did not lose his job.  Since then, just to keep the company afloat, his hours have been cut to 32 (sometimes less) a week.  The situations at Luck Stone and at my husband’s company made me remember something Dr. Damico said this past summer in the HRD overview class.  He told us to do the job before we have the job.  Granted he was speaking of a prospective job but I think the same logic applies here.  To make ourselves indespensible we need to be able to do the job we don’t have.  This may ensure our job.  Although this seems like a great thing for an employee to do, is it really the best thing for the company.  I realize companies have to do what is best for the bottom line to stay afloat during times of crisis, but are extreme cuts and just keeping the multi functioning employees the best way to evolve and adapt to a changing economy.  I know Tom said that other strategies are in place but it seems at lot of what went on was triage.  I know a certain amount of jobs are going to be lost, we see that throughout the country, but in the long run are companies spending more money on those that they kept?  Tom spoke of sucession planning and how it is an issue that they are struggling with now that they are on the other side of the crisis.  How do you build sucession planning when all your employees may be overqualified for the jobs they currently have.  Now, how do you decide who gets to move up when everyone has put in extraordinary effort.  Tom said he knew they were going to lose people and thinking about that later I think it will be because they can’t give everyone the opportunities they deserve so they will look elsewhere.  

The other part of Tom’s talk that really spoke to me was that Luck Stone had a feedback culture.  I would love to visit Luck Stone and witness this in action.  I think this would be very beneficial in my department, but…… in the current environment, negative feedback or constructive criticism would not be accepted very well.  I think we definitely have a positive feedback process going on, for example in my cultural analysis from last year one of the rewards listed for my department was acknoledgment of a job well done.  But we don’t give negative feedback well or at all.  Performance evaluations are hardly ever negative although some need to be.  I think working in that kind of environment could be great for our lab but how does one affect that change.  Maybe I will learn some ways later when we do the large group interventions.

Typology bias?

 The typologies section of the reading this week really got me thinking about my organization and how I am going to go about writing this paper.  Schein talks about Etzioni’s 3 types of organizations, coercive, utilitarian and normative.  I know Schein says that in some organizations you may see all three of these in operation in some form or another, but I guess I am wondering if I do see all three should I try and caputure those differences when I choose who to interview.  I was going to do three different levels and longevities of employee, one new employee who is hired as a supervisor, our manager who has been here about 10 years but not all as manager and one general employee who has been here for 40 years.  With those three I don’t think I am going to get a feel for the different typologies evidenced in the lab and its administration.  There are only a few people in the organization that fit into the coercive typology and I really only notice it since the downturn in the economy.  These are employees who want to leave but can not due to an inability to find a comparable position elsewhere.  Quite a few of our employees fit into the Utilitarian typology; they are here to do a job and get a paycheck.  One woman I work with even goes so far as to say that she is a worker bee and only wants to be a worker bee, she doesn’t want any extra responsiblities and does not want to advance in the department.  We do have several employees that fit into the normative typology and I feel that I belong in this typology, but when writing my paper I am afraid that my bias will show through.  So I was thinking that I should interview others who I feel fit into the 3 typologies but then I worried that I was showing bias by putting them in those categories.  I don’t know, I am still chewing on that problem. 

I think it would be neat to talk to the employee who has been here 40 years and see if he thinks the organizational typology has changed since he has been here or if his view of the typology has changed would probably be the case.  I definitely think a person view of the organization’s typology can change depending on the internal and external circumstances.  I think I want to follow this line of thought in my paper and see how it has influenced the overall culture throughout the years. 

I am also having a hard time figuring out where we are in relation to our maturity.  If I go by how long the hospital has been around then it out dates blood banking technology.  Blood banking came about slowly and little bits at a time as discoveries were made and discoveries are still being made so how do I handle this question?  

I want to end my blog post talking about a quote that really hit home for me.  “By itself “raw experience” does not make sense, but our own cultural upbringing has taught us how to make sense of it through conceptual categories that are embedded in our language.”  Schein

This reminded me of the first time I really understood how people learn differently depending on their experiences.  I remember sitting in class when I was still in the Master’s program for Secondary Education and the professor gave us the example of a child sitting in science class.  The teacher was camparing the structure of DNA to a spiral staircase and the child did not understand because he was from a rural area and had never seen a spiral staircase before.  This was such an ah ha moment for me and I never forgot the lesson it taught me. 

Leadership and culture

Sorry this is kinda late, I usually post my entry before now but H1N1 is a nasty little bug.  I am feeling better but for days I couldn’t even get out of bed, much less type!  Anyway on to the post.

As always, I try to relate what I am reading to my organization, strictly to my department and Schein has given me a lot to think about.  Recently we were asked to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities for Improvement and Threats) analysis.  The senior techs and supervisors were told they had to do one and the staff was asked to do one.  Two people turned in the staff one, myself and another dayshifter.  No one from other shifts turned one in.  Right after the forms were turned in I was informed I was getting a promotion and would now be a senior tech (yeah for me!!).   So my SWOT was counted with the senior/supervisors and that left one lonely SWOT from the staff.  We were split into groups to analyze the SWOT.  I am in the strengths group.  We have to group the answers and then come up with action plans to help our strengths remain strengths.  This was not too bad but I read the weaknesses entries and thought, I am glad I didn’t get that team because I wouldn’t know where to begin.  The main point, especially from the to staff members was lack of effective leadership.  The lack of leadership was not directed at our manager directly, but at our supervisors and seniors.  Most our supervisors.  The supervisors for all three shifts are not doing a very good job at leading the staff.  The dayshift supervisor is a pushover, does not keep up with the technical side so he is not a resource for staff and doesn’t communicate with staff.  He has been with the department for over 30 years and has not evolved with the changing times, he can barely use the computer.  The evening shift supervisor is apathetic and is so close to retirement that she lets her staff do whatever they want and behave however they want.  The night supervisor is new and her staff pretty much runs all over her.  She sets her own schedule and does not follow up on things.  Each shift has its own culture but all shifts must work together for patient care.  I don’t think our manager knows what to do with the three of them and everything he tries seems to fail.  On top of that there are other personality issues and competencies issues that compound the problem.  My initial question was how do we change the culture of our environment, but after reading Schein, I know see that we may not necessarily be able to change to the culture but we have to change the way we look at the culture.  Unfortunately, I still don’t know how to do that.  I don’t know where to start.  My fellow senior Natalie has a good start but I don’t think it is broad reaching enough.  She gave a leadership presentation about practicing what you preach and setting a good example and I have seen minor differences.  She changed the way she did some things and in suit so did I and I have seen some notice taken but where do we go from here?


So everyone remembers me talking about the hospitals huge initiative for safety from class a few weeks ago.  How concept were being drilled into our head, concepts that directed us to pause and think before doing any procedure.  Well….we have just had our first real failure of that system and it is kinda big.  I am not going to go into details in a public forum like this, but this event that took place brought to mind this class.  The powers that be are trying to change the mindset of its members and how we approach the very serious tasks that we do.  I think the end goal of the program was hopefully to have no patient related errors in a year.  I am wondering now will the organization look at this as a failure or a learning opportunity.  Will they go back and review the event and figure out a way to learn from it.  We talked about the 4th quadrant last week, ‘measure results to capture lessons learned’ I hope the organization treats this as a results and captures the lesson rather than see it as a failure and just say don’t let it happen again.

The second thing on my mind this week also deals with the hospital but in a different way.  When we were talking last week in class about the 3rd quadrant and autonomy I was trying to apply this to my department and the hospital as a whole.  I am curious to how Dixon or some of the entities like FutureSearch would implement this in a hospital setting.  We talked about making decisions on the “line” and having the autonomy to do so.  In my lab this is something we struggle with all the time.  For example, there are procedures in our laboratory that are strict and for good reason, but as in everything emergent we have to make decisions sometimes in the heat of the moment that could save a patients life.  It may be three in the morning and we don’t have time to wake residents and supervisors up to get permission to give certain products, you just have to make a decision.  The problem with this is that if you are never allowed to participate in the decision making process in non-emergent times then how are you supposed to be able to make the best possible decision in a moment of crisis.  How does one implement antonomy in a hospital?  Nurses can’t make patient decisions but are there going to be times when tough choices are going to have to made?  The answer is yes. 

The last thing I wanted to touch on this week’s post is the concept map. For some reason I have been having a hard time wrapping my mind around the connectors and concept and I think I figured what was giving me the trouble.  I think it is that the concept map question itself has a connector in it and it was throwing me off.  I am going to go play with it and see if I can wrap my head around it a little more.


Torn is exactly what I feel a lot of the time here lately.    I am  torn about how much time I spend at work, school and on school work instead of with my daughter.  I am torn about how much more work I seem to do at work than even those above me.  And I am also torn about my feelings toward my organization in regards to organizational learning. 

As I assume most people in the class are doing I am trying to compare what I am learning in this class to my own organization.  Not just in VCUHS as a whole but mostly trying to apply what I am learning to what we do in the blood bank.  There are some things I read and we talk about that I feel we are doing right, but there are others that we are not doing at all.  For example, I think my manager has made pretty good strides at providing and promoting “hallways.”  We have EPIC (Employee-Led performance improvement comittee)  which any employee can meet and discuss things they would like to see done differently (no senior, supervisor, or manager can be a part of the meetings unless asked to).   It has been stressed that these meetings are not just gripe sessions, but real problem solving sesssions.  You can’t bring up a problem to management unless the group has come up with a solution for the problem.  Another way my manger has created hallways is to move the staff meetings out of the lab and away form all the distractions.  The problem that I have with these strategies is that neither one bring together EVERYONE.  I see the idea of hallways as bringing all levels of the organization together to share ideas.  Our committees still are separated from the different levels. 

So I guess the biggest reason I am torn is that as I am reading I am thinking ahead to the culture assignment and trying to relate Dixon’s lessons to my organization.  On one page I read and think we do a good job of that and then she may give an example or I think about how the WHO handled the same thing and I think we could do so much more and we could dowhat we do so much better.  I know we all come in to a class with a set of experiences that shape what and how we learn the material and thus how we build our concept map.  I feel that my concept map right now would look an incoherent mess!

Change is the Child of Learning

When we were in class Tuesday night and Dr. Carter asked us to find a statement in the Preface that we really liked I had quite a few, but this quote from chapter one struck a chord with me…..”Learning is the process that underlies and gives birth to change.  Change is the child of learning.”  WOW!  I read this and just sat and thought about it for a good five minutes.  At first read this is just a statement about learning but upon further inspection I started applying it to my own experiences.  One good example of this comes to mind at VCU Health System.  The hospital has started a “Safety First, Everyday” initiative and all employees of the health system have to go to a 4 hour class that teaches different techniques to everyone like STAR (Stop Think Act Review).  The classes also teach communication techniques, having a questioning attitude and accountability.  They are really great classes.  But that’s all they are is classes and if that is all the health system is doing to reinforce this idea then I don’t think the ideas would go farther than the classroom but there is more to the initiative than the classes.  For example they started a safety star program to highlight individuals who went above and beyond the norm for safety.  There are a lot of outside the classroom programs the hospital is doing to help the organization learn and those things are quite visible.  I think it is invaluable for my learning process that I work for a company where I can apply what I have learned but also can see examples of what I am learning.

Something else I wanted to talk about from the reading was from chapter 1 where Dixon talks about how management has changed since the Knowledge Age began.  I agree with her ideas that the roles of employees and managers have changed.  But what really struck me about this section was her statement that “Learning creates equals, not subordinates, and thus work is increasingly conceived as a team effort.”  I agree that learning is a team effort but I think a lot of the tension that surrounds organizations today stems from the learning creates equals assumptions.  On the surface I agree with this notion, but think about it.  If I work for “Bob”  and Bob and I work as a team and learn and change the organization as a team and sometimes I even feel like I bring more to the table than Bob then why does Bob make twice what I make.  I know there are varying situations and problems with this very basic example but I think it illustrates my point which it that in today’s organization where employees are required to not just follow a set of steps for 8 hours and go home, but are to problem solve and trouble shoot and analyze why is there still such a hierarchy in many organizations?   I think this is cause for organizational tensions and I can definitely see examples of it in my own organization.  We as blood bankers are required to make tough and quick decisions sometimes and then the very next day are made to feel as though we are just employees and are incapable of making those types of decisions.  I have specific examples, but won’t get into here.

One last thing I wanted to reflect on come from class and the mind map discussion.  The statement, all of our experiences, from birth influence our individual mind map.  I loved thinking about that in class and wanted to share my thoughts here.  My daughter is 15 months old now and she is walking and running and all that, but the most amazing thing she is now doing is trying to communicate verbally.  I can see her trying to figure things out and essentially build her mind map.  It is amazing.  I know all of you parents out there are probably like “yeah yeah just wait til she won’t stop talking” but for me this is so cool.  The example I was thinking about in class was one of Jolee’s new words which is hot.  She used to want whatever I was drinking and I would give her some of my water but if I was drinking a cup of coffee in the morning I would tell her “no no it’s hot” and I would put her hand gently on the outside of the cup and show her what hot was.  Well it took her a few days but she now knows what hot is and now everything is hot.  She sees me blowing on the bits of food before I put them on her tray and dinner time and she picks them up and says “hot?”  I put her in the car and if it hot in the car she says “hot?”   And I hear her trying to use it more and more and discover how to use it.  The best was when I was folding clothes from the dryer the other  day and I had just stopped it.  She came around the corner and put her hands in the dryer to help me pull the clothes out and said stopped, looked at me and said “HOT!”  Way to build that mind map baby!


It there is one thing I have learned from all of the teaching demos, including my own it is what engages the audience and what doesn’t.  I am really glad I picked humor as my instructional strategy.  I had a really good time researching it and learned a lot about how to use it appropriately.  I think that too often we as teachers feel too self conscience to use humor because of the risk we run of looking foolish.  Looking foolish every now and then makes life interesting and it sure does make class interesting.  Another thing I have learned from the teaching demos is that making your learners feel comfortable is also very important.  The demos I have felt most engaged in are the ones where the facilitator was relaxed and put the learners at ease.

March 26th

Although I wasn’t in class on this night I wanted to share some insights about my day.  The reason I wasn’t in class was that I was in a training seminar in DC.  The training session was my first step to becoming a blood bank assessor.   In order for blood banks to gain and maintain accreditation the blood bank has to submit to an assessment or inspection once every two years.  I am on my way to becoming one of the assessors.  Needless to say the training session left something to be desired.  We sat in a room in the Westin Tysons Corner for 8 hours listening the a woman talk and watch a power point.  The only active learning activity came at the end and because the teacher had not managed her time wisely we didn’t have enough time to finish the activity.  I found myself the entire seminar thinking of ways to make the presentation more learner centered.

Guided Learning

I really liked Adam’s math problem teaching demo.  I can see why he is an effective GED teacher.  The practices he employed while teaching us the math problem are ones I try to employ when teaching in my profession.  Often times in classrooms we don’t have the time to spend involving the class in the path the the answer.  I think this is really important to do.  Sometimes traveling the path is the only way to ensure that the learner gets to the destination.  So many times instruction ends up being wham bam thank you ma’am and the learner suffers for this.  We are often so caught up with what we have to teach we fail to show the learner how to understand the concept.


Ali’s teaching demonstration was amazing.  I brought back a lot of memories from college.  I was a biology and math tutor in college and this is what first gave me the teaching bug.  I loved being able to sit with a peer one on one and work through problems and help them understand the material.  Ali was so great at this.  Sometimes students just need that one on one question to prompt their understanding.  I find myself so often ask my husband or a co-worker for help with some problem and by relating the problem to them I unintentionally work through it on my own.  I think students just need an outlet to voice the material sometimes.  Ali’s technique was so good in that is allowed the student to formulate her own opinions about the poem without fear of being wrong.  Ali did such a good job putting her at ease.  I miss those days of peer tutoring and the feeling I would get when I could “see” the light bulb come on for a student.