Challenges in International Consulting: A Leadership Case Study

Challenges in International Consulting: A Leadership Case Study

Kit Kacirek (University of Arkansas, USA) and Jules K. Beck (University of Arkansas, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-068-2.ch053
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This case study examines how an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) sought leadership development in response to organizational challenges of accelerated growth and increased employee turnover aggravated by physical separation, political and legal issues associated with operating in fifty-one countries on five continents. This case study is based on the partnership between a team of academic consultants and key stakeholders in the NGO. We explore the dynamic role and changing requirements that evolved over the course of a three-year relationship with the organization as it tried to address issues of precipitous growth and program sustainability.
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This chapter interweaves activities, research, results and final commentary to realistically present the ambiguities confronted in a disjointed consulting engagement. For example, we interviewed headquarters employees only to discover that the NGO had already scheduled workshops on three continents regardless of interview results that could alter the research and training agenda. The challenges facing the NGO due to its culture and tremendous growth are detailed in the following sections, along with an analysis of the outcomes of the project.

This chapter is organized as follows:

  • Discussion of evolution of non-profit organizations and NGOs in the 21st century;

  • Background of the NGO and the consulting project;

  • Interview methodology used for headquarters and workshop-site groups;

  • Headquarters interviews & results followed by workshop-site interviews & results;

  • Global survey and results;

  • Criteria used to understand the organization;

  • Addressing the leadership challenges;

  • Implications for professional practice followed by further research; and,

  • Conclusion.

The immediate discussion that follows describes the evolution of nonprofit and NGO agencies during the 21st Century to provide a context germane to this case study.


Nonprofits And Ngos In The 21St Century

Historically, non-profits have “supplemented government activities, contributed ideas for new programs and other innovations, and functioned as vehicles for private citizens to pursue their own visions of the good society independent of government policy” (Dees, 1998, p. 56). In research that describes an erosion of this separateness, Heimovics, Herman, and Coughlin (1993, p. 480) discuss “the new federalism of the 1980's” that fundamentally altered the relationship between non-profit and government and influenced government's shifting priorities and subsequent decreased financial support of public programs. Prior to that time, Salamon (1987) found that tax revenues and governmental grants had accounted for over 40% of the budgets of agencies that provided social services.

In the wake of the accelerated, unrelenting change that was the hallmark of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, organizations in both the private and public sectors now grapple with managing financial, environmental, social and political shifts. The sheer scale of social need has resulted in the emergence of a global third sector, “a massive array of self-governing private organizations, not dedicated to distribution of profits to shareholders or directors, pursuing public purposes outside the formal apparatus of the state” (Salamon, 2004, p. 109). Given the enormity and complexity of societal needs that extend across interconnected national, global, cultural and political boundaries, Trist (1983) and Vangen and Huxham (2003) suggest that no single agency is capable of assuming responsibility or providing resources to meet these challenges. Meanwhile, Salamon (2004) posits that the increased number of social service providers reflects “a distinct set of social and technological changes, as well as a long-simmering crisis of confidence in the capability of the state” (p. 110).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Organization Change: How an organization’s culture evolves to preserve and maintain the integrity of the corporate system.

Case Study: An in-depth description and analysis of an organization or event to examine the interplay of important elements that represent the forces at work in the object studied.

Organization Culture: Shared basic assumptions that define behavior and how employees should think and feel about how business is conducted in an organization.

Field: The largely self-sufficient country programs outside of the NGO headquarters.

Global Survey: A quantitative 25 question investigation conducted to determine attitudes about leadership in the NGO.

Pilot Study: Testing of a concept or approach on a limited basis to determine whether the study format or method needs to be revised before using on a wider basis.

Interpretive Inquiry: The study of the immediate and local meanings of social action for the people involved.

Organization Values: The ideals and standards that define honesty, integrity, promotion, concern for the customer, and so on in an organization.

NGO: Non Governmental Organization—used in this case study to identify a legally-recognized international nonprofit.

Technology Infrastructure: The interconnection among organization elements, divisions, departments, research laboratories, universities, and industries through fast and reliable communication networks.

Quantitative Research: Sometimes referred to as positivistic, this type of inquiry uses a numerical approach to understand property, goods, and services in society through the use of statistics, such as student test performance.

Needs Assessment: The gathering and analysis of information to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an organization.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) Model: An approach to defining ability, capacity, or skill to identify, assess, manage and control emotions personally, in others, or of groups.

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