Purpose – This paper seeks to point out that visualization of business situations will stimulate the learning processes of managers and employees. Visualization or problem modeling enhances their commitment for improving organizational readiness to perform at a higher level.
Design/methodology/approach – The methodology used compares two approaches for performance improvement: the control and commitment models. From observing managerial behavior one can learn that the control model is a widely used (classic) approach. Academics point out that the model neglects the human factor too much. This prevents organizations from becoming high-performing. The commitment model offers a solution by promoting the strong alignment of employees' personal objectives with organizational objectives. The resulting problem here is how to align performance between the various echelons rather than to align between the various objectives.
Findings – It is argued that both control and commitment are important. Management should strive for an optimal mix. However, commitment appears to be predominant. In order to make use of this insight, the various echelons should not receive instructions to realize preset objectives, rather they should be involved in a design problem which is experienced as relevant. By problem solving this way each echelon learns what can be improved in their present situation.
Research limitations/implications – In order to make explicit use of team learning it is necessary to find a standardized way to develop conceptual knowledge. A useful approach here is the use of visualizations of business situations in the problem-solving process. These visualizations give even more insight if they show cause and effect relations.
Practical implications – Visualizing cause and effect relations is the natural way for developing objectives or for contributing to higher-level objectives. A practical aspect for management is how to raise the right questions that evoke the visualizations. The structural aspect is that the questions should be aligned through the various levels.
Originality/value – Alignment of activities of echelons by asking questions is the best way to align the strategic objectives of an organization all the way down. This is important to CEOs of organizations that pursue strategies that should be implemented quickly.