Amba 610: Critical and Systems Thinking Memo
Watina GreeneAMBA 610Professor Bonnie PeterJuly 21, 2015This paper will demonstrate the application of the critical thinking and systems thinking models to analyze complex organizational issues. To explain the benefit of using such a model, a sample memo from Cliffside Holding Company of Massapequa (CHCM) will be referenced and the 10 steps defined in Asking the Right Questions, Browne and Keeley (2015). A memo from Mr. Anil Ravaswami, Human Resources, Vice President, to Ms. Cynthia Castle, CEO, had been sent in response to a proposal from Ms. Forsythe, Director of Operations, that a leadership-development program be established to prepare junior financial executives for future advancement into executive positions. (A. Ravaswami, personal communication, October 10, 2012). The proposal specifically addressed sending 20 employees off-site each year for a three-week program offered by the Aspen Leadership Institute of Colorado at a cost of $5,000.00 (USD) per student. The total cost to CHCM would be $100,000.00 per year plus approximately the same amount for lost time on the job. In the fifty years CHCM had been in business, none of the 12 senior executives have attended leadership development seminar and yet the company has continued to become remain prosperous over the years.

What are the issues and conclusions? Browne and Keeley (2015), defines the issue as, “a question or controversy that is responsible for the conversation or discussion…is the stimulus for what is being said”. (p. 24).  There are 2 kinds of issues; descriptive and prescriptive.  Descriptive issues raise questions about accuracy; prescriptive issues raise questions about whether something is right, wrong, good or bad.   The CHCM memo has one clear prescriptive issue; whether or not establishing a leadership development program to prepare junior financial executives for future advancement into executive positions is a good idea. Mr. Ravaswami gave emphasis that establishing such a program would be a waste of time and money.  He also stated that Ms. Forsythe is not really concerned about developing leaders for CHCM. Instead, he feels that she has a personal agenda to discredit him and, ultimately, desires his position as Vice President of Human Resources.  In search of a conclusion, you must look for the message that the author wants you to accept or to believe. In Asking the Right Questions, Browne and Keeley (2015) offered five clues to discovering a conclusion.  Clue No. 1. Ask what the issue is: Since the conclusion is a definitive response to a particular issue, knowing the issue will help you identify the conclusion. We have determined that the issue raised in this memo is whether or not a leadership development program is necessary. Clue No 2. Look for indicator words: Conclusions often follow indicator words and tend to announce that a conclusion is forthcoming. In this memo the words preceding the conclusion do not match word for word with Browne and Keeley’s suggested list (p.24), such as consequently or therefore, however the function of such words is similar.  Ravaswami’s statement “And, from the discussion above…” on page 2 of the memo, is an excellent example of indicator words that could be used to suggest a conclusion statement is to follow.  In this case, the conclusion statement is “…it would be more logical to select and recruit those with leadership traits than to try and develop those who are not.”

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