Assessing weicks concept of loose coupling


Traditional accounts of schools come from the study of corporate business and utilize the same rubrics to measure success and efficiency (Birnbaum, 1988, p. 22). They operate on the assumption that action is causally linked to administrative intent: an organization utilizes centrally-rationalized plans to provide means to an end, and actions utilizing those means are directly caused by the administrator's influence and power. This causal component is the leader's domain, and thus the justification for leadership's role within the organization - that is, progress within an organization requires action from a driving leader to motivate that change. While this type of leadership-activity is representative of what presumably occurs in the private corporate sector, these actions and connections do not generally entail in universities. Due in part to this difference, another explanation of organization is necessary.

Karl Weick (1976) took issue with using this type of management theory to describe and evaluate schools. He proposed a different frame for evaluating the organization of universities. Loose coupling argues that an institution's variegated nature causes components of the institution to be naturally more isolated than the components of a business. Businesses are designed to be mission-focused, and the individual components of that mission exist to further the company's success. Universities are similarly complex organizations, but each individual component may have its own mission, or a unique interpretation of the University's mission. Thus, these components may be tied to each other (coupled) with less strength than would be found in business. They often act in their own interests, promoting agendas that may not coincide with the university mission. Ultimately, school components may be insulated from decisions and coordinating efforts from a central administration or plan. These differences do not inherently mean that schools are disorganized, uncoordinated, or inefficient, only that they are different from their private counterparts.

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Robert Birnbaum (1988) embraces the idea of loose coupling. He points to the differing missions of universities and businesses: while businesses are simplistically designed to make money, "there is no metric in higher education comparable to money in business" (Birnbaum, 1988, p. 11). This difference is further illustrated by contrasting the singular-administration of business to the 'parallel administration' found in universities (Birnbaum, 1988, p. 9). University leaders - both administrators and faculty - operate in different spheres, utilize different forms of authority, and interact with externalities in different ways. These leaders "form separated and isolated enclaves in which they are likely to communicate only with people similar to themselves" (Birnbaum, 1988, p. 7). Had Birnbaum utilized more traditional management-evaluation methods, this finding would instead have faulted faculty for being resistant to guidance from their administrative leaders, and faulted leaders for not having the ability to guide and control the institution efficiently.

As such, Birnbaum promotes the idea of governance in education, rather than management. While historically control over a university may have been in the hands of the Board or Trustees, "as institutions became more complex, boards delegated de facto authority to presidents" (Birnbaum, 1988, p. 5). Thus governance is a sharing of powers between interested parties within the system. This delegation of powers illustrates the differentiation of duties - presidents originally came from within the faculty, and further complexity led to professional administrators with minimal or no faculty history. Administration takes the form of governance rather than management - allowing individual units to be relatively isolated and self-determined in ways the business world would find apocryphal, while still paying homage to central administration's place in the system.

Gary Rhoades (2000) also relies on loose coupling in his examination of universities. He discusses the myth of managers as leaders, and thus "the answer to organizational problems" (Rhoades, 2000, p. 43). Without a reframing of organizational theory in line with Weick's concept of loose coupling, this myth would have instead been taken as canon. Furthermore, he takes aim at the traditional placement of leadership on campus, arguing that their position at the center of decisions is problematic in that it causes conflict between the individualized departments and the central, 'rationalized' budgetary processes usually enacted by leaders (Rhoades, 2000, p. 52). This further distances his view of the educational organization from one in need of a strong central leader.

Rhoades' evaluation of what works in universities goes beyond Birnbaum's assessment. Birnbaum argues that Universities are uniquely complex organizations and using business-driven means to evaluate them is problematic. Rhoades uses this unique aspect of universities to argue that their singular design means that they may need singular organizational design (Rhoades, 2000, p. 42). Indeed, the business model assumes that there is a 'best way' to run an organization, and that in education what works at one school must be replicable at other schools. The concept that loosely-coupled organizations will be shielded from the environment (Weick, 1976) illustrates that environment plays an important role in any specific institution. Each individual institution experiences different environmental influences, such that a department's response to environmental phenomena might only work in that unique environment.

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Each of these accounts present challenges to the concept of leadership within the university setting. For one, they imply that there is, in fact, no such thing as a leader in the formal sense found in business. Universities are not singular in their purpose, nor are they producing merchantable products that can "be reduced to the bottom line of a balance sheet" (Birnbaum, 1988, p. 6). Without a clear output, without a clear purpose, it is difficult at best to determine if an organization is 'successful'. Rhoades' (2009) later call for a moratorium on rankings further reflects the illegitimacy of quantifying the success of a university with a number. This break in the causal chain calls in to question the affect a university president might have on an institution, and calls for a redefinition of the term 'leader' in the academic setting.

Leaders, it seems, are unclearly responsible for unclear outcomes. While this is likely to be taken poorly by traditional managers, their success might be greater if they instead approach the position as governors. Currently, it seems that leaders may take credit for the successes of their units, and use these successes as justification for their personal administrative programs. Leaders should work carefully to track outcomes in manners that reflect the variable intentions that may have led to those outcomes. It is important to remember that 'running' a university is like herding cats, such that when one wins best-in-show the leader might be responsible.

2. Describe Mode 2 production models. Use institutional theory and academic capitalism to analyze Mode 2 (and its possible limitations). How would a critique of Mode 2 differ using academic capitalism as opposed to institutional theory?

Mode 2 production models challenge the traditional notion of knowledge-production. The traditional form, Mode 1, is the basis for the original design for the standard research-institution, wherein science focuses on theoretical work based in the scientific method with the ultimate, yet indeterminate, hope that it will trickle down and provide real use in the production of goods and services. Mode 2, however, is focused on the end first, with the theoretical work being constantly applied to specific extant problems. These problems are often brought to the scientists from the market, and the intended application of the solution is not only understood from the beginning, but a key motivation for the entire project. Mode 2 crosses disciplinary boundaries, involving experts from different fields as well as experts from traditionally undefined or entirely new fields. Rather than being based in massive research institutions, this research can be done in several places at once, interconnected by technological advances, and capitalizing on the nuanced strengths of firms of all sizes. Finally, whereas traditional science aimed for the unknown, with 'blue-skies' research and questionably-useful results, Mode 2 calls for the inclusion of the goal and outcome in the inherent design of the program at hand (Scott, 1997,

p. 10).

Institutional Theory proposes that institutional isomorphism is occurring in Academe regardless of differentiation of the environments in which the institutions exist (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). This movement towards homogeneity is due to three mechanisms: coercive, mimetic, and normative isomorphism. Each of these three influences may have different effects on an institution experimenting with Mode 2 research.

Coercive forces imply political and other strong external influences, such as legal or economic forces. If an institution wishes to move to Mode 2 research some of these forces may cause resistance. For instance, regulations on the use of nuclear materials are not controlled by universities, and a new project proposing to blend nuclear engineering with materials science might face prohibitive obstructions from the government. Additionally, the mission of public research institutions is, in part, determined by governmental agency - the Board of Regents (or its equivalent). While some regents might embrace the shiny newness of transdisciplinary study, putting the applicable, and presumably marketable goal as the prime mover in research may conflict with traditional understandings of a university's mission. However, these coercive forces may in fact drive the move towards Mode 2 research. The aforementioned 'shiny newness' might in itself convince regulatory individuals to promote the shift, and external agencies might leap to embrace the new earnings potentials, such as the new accounting fields which might spring from these interagency partnerships.

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Similarly, mimetic isomorphism has a potentially dualistic influence on Mode 2 research. Arguably, Mode 2 research could be expensive to start, and a university that makes this move is taking risks no others have taken. Without the leadership of a successful program, institutions are less likely to vary from the traditional, especially in a shaky educational economy. Fear of the unknown outcomes of this kind of mission-shift reflects the momentum in traditional institutions: Just as presidents in institutions do not guide the ship, and may only push on the rudder to influence tiny changes in direction, shifting from Mode 1 to Mode 2 requires an inordinate amount of effort retooling, rethinking, and redesigning the institution. However, the first institution to succeed with Mode 2 will become the model for others to follow suit. Success breeds success, and if those successes parallel beneficial shifts in other indicators - such as rankings or degree-production, as well as fiscal stability - more institutions will mimetically follow (Dey, Milem, & Berger, 1997).

Similarly, normative pressures towards isomorphism may influence shifts to Mode 2, or influence maintenance of the current system. Engineers and Scientists have very strong lobbies to ensure the homogeneity of their brotherhood - programs must be accredited by national bodies in order to be legitimate. Without acceptance of these externalities a program is unlikely to risk losing accreditation, just as they would quickly shift if these national bodies embraced the change to Mode 2 research. Market forces might also influence these decisions, such that a facility, like Raytheon, demands a certain type of engineer or scientist. If graduates from Mode 2 research programs do not fit the mold expected by the job market, students will be less likely to enter these programs. If Raytheon champions the Mode 2 partnerships, students from Mode 1 programs will be less marketable.

The market plays a greater role in the potentiality of Mode 2 research than normative influence explains. Universities have been forced, or chosen, to move to the market in search of additional funds. Academic Capitalism (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004) supports movement from traditional forms of funding to market driven sources. This movement towards the market may be enhanced by Mode 2 research, especially as it maintains constant focus on the fiscal results of the research. The aforementioned model of Mode 2 research calls for greater partnerships between the institutional and private sectors - partnerships that have greatly increased in the last several years and are expected to continue. Again, though, Mode 2 research could be very expensive to get off the ground without a clear expectation of fiscal success. This could prevent a true shift to Mode 2 research and cause universities and business to rely on some hybrid "Mode 1.5" form of research.

Mode 2 research may ultimately be the wave of the future. Due to economic restraints imposed on education through diminishing public support, it may be the case that academic capitalism will become even more necessary at all levels of research, supporting more financially-profitable, ends-focused research. Due to this, blue skies research may, in fact, become a thing of the past. Institutional isomorphism and academic capitalism may each be used to support and undermine the shift to Mode 2 research. Some of these objections may be overcome if instead of a 'shift' to Mode 2, completely new entities came into existence to capitalize on Mode 2. However, if asked to determine whether Mode 2 is normatively positive, the answer seems to be unfortunately unclear from these perspectives.

4. How does the "glonacal agency heurstic" differ from the concepts of globalization and internationalization presented by both Altbach and Knight?

For Knight, the concept of internationalization is "the process of integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post-secondary education" (Knight, 2003, p. 2, as cited in Knight, 2004, p. 11). This process is experienced at the institutional level (Knight, 2004, p. 6), as the institution responds to globalization. Globalization is a related-but-separate concept, which focuses on the movement of, predominantly, intellectual property such as technology, ideas, and knowledge (ibid, p. 8). Knight's rubric for studying these issues relies on this differentiation, such that she explores different rationales and strategies for each. "Strategies", here, is an important term. Knight uses the term to illustrate that internationalization is a response, an action. For instance, an institution might develop a joint project with a foreign (or global) institution, or promote language acquisition involving the use of study-abroad or importing native-speakers as guest lecturers or faculty. These strategies are used in response to the rise of globalization.

Knight also investigates what strategies or policies might occur on the national level, beyond the scope of the individual institution. These might include immigration policies, which influence an institution's ability to bring in outsiders (or export their own experts), or trade-barriers preventing or promoting the exchange of knowledge, goods, and/or services. The globalization of society and institutions, again, is influential in determining individual internationalization opportunities and strategies at both the institutional and national level. Furthermore, these strategies work in both directions - national or institutional policies influence importing events or knowledge, just as they can influence their export. Knight argues that the "purpose of developing these two frameworks is to help institutions and policymakers reflect on the dominant features of their current approach to internationalization" (Knight, 2004, p. 21).

Altbach (2004) uses a definition of globalization that is not inherently different from Knight's, adding that the policies or strategies may occur at not just the system or institutional level, but also within "individual departments or institutions to cope with or exploit globalization" (ibid, p. 6). Altbach is more concerned with the direction of travel than Knight, focusing on the beneficiaries of internationalization. Due to the predominance of English in Academe, the rise of technology and its broad adoption in the west, and the flow of economic resources, the benefits of globalization are predominantly western and focused in the English-speaking west (Altbach, 1989, p. 126). This may lead, he argues, to a new 'Neocolonialism', where knowledge and capital benefit one side of the internationalization market, and at the expense of those left behind (Altbach, 2004, p. 24).

Knight and Altbach both present their view of internationalization as a process enacted at (predominantly) the national or institutional level. Marginson and Rhoades (2002), on the other hand, avoid this dualism and argue that responses to internationalization stem from an agent's proximity to other forces in the system. They focus on the "simultaneous significance of global, national, and local dimensions" as forces influencing agency in higher education. Whereas Knight and Altbach felt that globalization was well under way (Knight, 2004, p. 28) or inevitable (Altbach, 2004, p. 24), Marginson admits that it is already here (Marginson & Mollis, 2001), and Marginson and Rhoades argue that it is not, indeed, inevitable, due to the component of agency - whether institutional, departmental, or national (Marginson & Rhoades, 2002, p. 305). Agency, for these authors, is more than the type of entity that can participate in globalization. It is also the concept of activity and the ability to choose whether to act or not.

Marginson and Rhoades call for a different dualism in studying internationalization and globalization. At one level they argue that academics need to look at the global, national, and local influences that mediate action. At another level, they insist that the agent has the freedom to participate in globalization in a way that is appropriate for their level, rather than one that is dictated by simply considering the institutional or national expectations. Globalization is not universal, and it does not 'feel' the same at all three levels. Thus, in order to make a decision it is important to understand the context in which globalization is influential in ones agency, which may allow one to alter their position in the system. This differentiation between the spheres of influence - global-national-local for Marginson and Rhoades and national-institutional for Knight and Altbach - presents the academic and politician alike with different methods of evaluation of action, policy, and motivation in response to globalization.