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The environment in which managers operate in is one that is very complex and rapidly changes all the time (Thomas, 2003) cited in management path way week1 (n.d). This situation requires the manager to plan and come up with appropriate strategies that will help them to be able to survive in the business world. To be able to plan the manager will definitely need to learn through reflection in order to change his situation.
Reflection is the genetic term for those intellectual and effective activities in which individuals engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciation (Boud et al, 1985) as cited in Management pathway week 2 (n.d). Reflection is done on two basis reflection on action which is thinking about the past deed and reflection in action which is considering what one is doing while doing it. For reflection to work the following process must be followed: awareness, critical analysis and learning. This process will be done by the managers and the whole organization in general since today most learning is done with the consideration of the whole organizational processes and not just limited to the manager thinking Management pathway week 6 (n.d).
The study will look at the reflective practice in the contemporary business environment and see the contributions that it has made in the organization by helping the managers improve the organizational activities and performance for their organizations. This will look at the literature that has been developed so far concerning this practice and then relate it to organizations that have successfully implemented it as a working theory.
Managers often find themselves in tricky situations in the organization especially when dealing with strategic and tactical decisions for the organisation. Sometimes these situations come when they are not prepared and they may not have adequate information to solve those particular problems, it is crucial for the managers to come up with quick solutions that are very effective to solve the problems. It is at this stage in the management process that managers rely on the reflective practice to help them learn on how to depend on their instincts to make good but quick decisions. This might be a very hard task for managers if they have not been used to solving problems through using their own intuition and past experiences. However when they employ reflective practices it will seem to be very time consuming at the beginning but in time will be worth it since it will pay back both in time and in decisions one makes.
Learning is very crucial in an organization and knowledge is an asset that every manager should have. Learning gives the organization competitive advantage since the faster they learn than their competitors the easier it becomes for them to beat them. Organizations that use learning according to Management pathway week 5 (n.d) have five technologies that the employ which are personal mastery, mental modes, shared vision, team learning and systems thinking.
The question that most of the managers ask themselves is how to use learning to invoke their contribution in the decision making process in the organization. Learning involves the exploring (single loop learning) and exploiting (double loop learning) (Weick and Westley, 1999) as cited in Management practice week 3 (n.d). Single loop learning relies on detecting and correcting errors in relation to given operating norms while double loop learning looks at the situation facing the organization and questions the relevance of the operating process. Through reflective management the organization will nurture its members to acquire, share, create and apply knowledge acquired from learning that will be used in decision making. It is important for the manager to always include his employees in the reflective process since it creates room for experience sharing and knowledge acquisition which will be very crucial for quick decisions that have no time to research and discuss with other stakeholders. The knowledge of the reflective process brings about the competitive edge the organization will need against its competitors to be able to provide better and unique services to their customers.
Management is very essential to an organization but what most managers fail to understand that effective management actually lays between what the manager actually does and the thought that he used to come up with the final decision (Gosling & Mintzberg, 2003) as cited in Roglio K and Light G (2009) so regardless of what the manager does reflection is always part and parcel in his daily operations. Consequently it is very important for the managers to actually stop, think and reflect on their experiences so as to appreciate the past before using the present to obtain a good future for their organizations. If the manager is not conversant with the action and reflection the gap created is the failure of formal education process. The way students learn in the business schools will determine if they will be excellent managers in using the reflective method or not. They further suggest that schools curriculum should be made to include reflective practice as important since in future the students may face a dilemma that pushes them in to reflective thinking.
However Roberts (2009) might beg to differ by saying that some aspects of developing a professional are best learned in the work place than in formal academic institutions. He says most of the institutions that offer formal learning also require the students to take work based sessions to aID to their studies. He further aIDs that in UK a number of institutions encourage students to record and reflect on their workplace experience which will help them in the long run when they will be faced with situations that need reflection. This he says will help them create a link between the actual and the action which will help them to deal with complex and ambiguous problems rather than to apply already made theories in the situations that have been encountered.
These theories were made to act as guidelines to the managers when using reflective practice in the organization. This discussion will just briefly highlight five theories which are:-
Gibbs (1988) Frame work of reflection
This model has the following stages: description of events, feelings and thoughts, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan (Gibbs, 2001).
Bortons (1970) framework
It aims to answer the following questions- What? So what? and Now what? This model tries to incorporate all the core skills of reflection it focuses on reflection on action though it can sometimes be used to focus reflection in and before action (Borton, 1970).
Johns (1992) model of Structured Reflection
This came about from Chris John who developed the model in the early 1990s when he was working for Burford Nursing development unit. This model is to be used within the process of reflection. His model focused on the following: aesthetics, self awareness, moral knowledge and scientific knowledge. This model with the guidance of the four factors tries to answer the following description of the experience, reflection, influencing factors, evaluation and learning (Johns, 1995).
Rolfe reflective model
This model based around Bortons model. It is composed of the same questions that Bortons model: what? So what? and now what? In this model the situation is analysed which leads to scrutinizing the theory and using previous knowledge through experiences find the best solution that tends to solve the problem (Rolfe et al, 2001).
Smyths framework for reflection on action
This model follows the stages: describe (what do l do?), analyse (what dose this mean?), confront (how did it come to be like this?) and reconstruct (how might things be done differently?) (Smyth, 1989).
It is clear that as much as reflective practice depends on the thinking of the individual manager there are still models and concepts that guide this practice. It is safe to say that reflective thinking takes into consideration both the academic and professional aspects while still putting into consideration the factual and experienced information that a manager accesses. This kind of practice is what will help the managers take their organizations to the next level with regard to the past with present to anticipate the future.
Application of the Reflective practice
Much has been said about the reflective practice and a look at few organizations will show how it has been used as a managerial practice of solving problems.
A research study by Teare (2011) based on hospitality management observed that organizations learn from their past experiences and they can also remember past experiences that can influence the future actions in the organization. This shows that organizations in the hospitality industry develop skills to know the action that can be properly used to decide the actions that they effectively implement and those they wont use in the course of operations. The study showed that the hospitality industry is a very dynamic industry with challenges since it directly deals with the clients. In order for the organizations to perform well in the market then they should be able to consider their performance and check their past experiences so as to remain competitive, perform well consistently over time. It is only by dealing with customers that one will be able to understand them well and reflective management is the best way to relate to ones customers.
The reflective practice has been used in the health sector with the practitioners using their daily experiences to come with innovative ways to deal with patients. Here the practitioners view reflective management as a strategy that is very important due to the ever changing medical environment. It is easier to deal with a condition that one has previously treated and researched about that way it will be easier for the practitioner to deal with the original symptoms as they learn about the new symptoms that have developed recently. A study by Mann et al (2007) on the health care profession show that the health care professionals work in very complex environment that keeps on changing and since they deal with health issues they must continually refresh their knowledge and skills to deal with complex patients and problems. To ensure that the practitioners are always prepared to take on new and developing cases it is up to the management to use reflection and the reflection practice for effectively learning and practice.
A UK case study has been done by Lange(2009) on how to use reflective practice to take care of patients with subarachnoid haemorrhage which manifests itself in different symptoms and signs.If one delays to diagnose this disease early then the patient is at risk of dying. This is a disease that needs one to be quick in observation and diagnosing which will determine the patient recovery. This study discusses the use of reflective research as one of the most efficient and effective ways in which the nurses can use to diagnose this disease. The study approaches the reflective study on the Gibbs model a guide used to identify area effective practice and the ways in which this model can be used to make suggestions for clinical improvement of care and diagnosis of the disease.
Reflective practice is a learning process and the best way to ensure that it is adapted all over in UK is to ensure that it is included in the curriculum which most institutions are doing. Students are meant to undertake a reflective practice of their working experience by keeping journals, diaries, logs or e-portfolios of their experience in their respective organizations during their placements then they will then discuss this experience with their professors to see how this will help them in their future as career and professional people.
A study was done by Tomkins (2009) on a group of leisure management students to explain the importance of reflection practice through personal experiences. This study required the students to develop stories of personal development that they will use in an interview situation. From the study it was concluded that through learning from experience the students are able to construct their own meaning from their situations and the knowledge they acquired. This method helps them acquire reflective skills and hence they gradually they are able to build awareness, confidence and understanding of themselves as learners and future professionals. They also understood that each individual is different and it is important for them to share their knowledge and experiences with each other so that their outcomes may be favourable to them and their organizations in the future.
Reflection is something done in peoples daily lives so as to get something positive from their experiences. The practice is being adopted in organizations of all kinds to improve their performance since it is normal for a person to want to use their experience to help them in solving problems. It is easier to come up with decisions through past experience that way one is able to have at least a view of how well or bad the outcome might be. Reflective learning also helps people to be able to learn from past mistakes that reflect in their present situations in order to make a good future out of it.
However before the manager is able to use reflective learning they should be able to have the theoretical view of a situation infuse into the experience while following the laid down guidelines which are the theories and the concepts that have been proved to help in the reflective process. This means reflection looks at the bigger picture and it is considered as a very good actually the best for the managers to use when making strategic and tactical decisions that are needed very fast and ensure continuous improvement in their organizations.
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[Monograph online]. Reproduced by the Geography Discipline Network
Gosling & Mintzberg, (2003) as cited in Roglio K and Light G (2009) Executive MBA Programs: The Development Of The Reflective Executive Academy Of Management Learning & Education, 2009, Vol. 8, No. 2, 156173.
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Thomas, (2003) cited in Management pathway week 1: The Reflective manager
Boud et al, (1985) Management pathway week 2: The Reflective manager, what is reflection?
Weick and Westley, (1999) Management pathway week 3: The reflective manager, Working with knowledge in organizations.
Management pathway week 5: The reflective manager, Learning organizations, organization learning and culture.
Management pathway week 6: The reflective manager, EmbeIDing reflective practice within organizations
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