When in my career would be the best time to read this book?
Progress Makers can be a valuable resource at every stage of your career.
When did the authors start collaborating?
The association began when a plant manager at Appleton Papers, Bob DeKoch, asked a young professor at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, Phil Clampitt, to conduct a communication audit. During the conversation the plant manager asked the young professor to describe a “World Class Communication System.” That was one question the new Ph.D. in organizational communication had never directly encountered in all his doctoral studies. Somehow the young professor cobbled together an acceptable answer and went on to perform a successful communication audit (after all, his major professor, Cal Downs, was one of the pioneers of the communication audit). The plant manager’s questions, though, sparked the first of many provocative conversations that ignited a collaborative relationship on various projects over the past 20 years. It is reminiscent of the Biblical proverb, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27.17 NIV)
When did the ideas for this book first emerge?
During the late 1990’s we discovered on an underlying issue that vexed many leaders. Namely, how do leaders effectively manage uncertainty? While some thought leaders and scholars examined this issue, we were surprised to discover there were many concerns left unresolved. In some instances, we felt the literature was misleading. For example, some authors argued that the leader’s role was to suppress uncertainty. We believed this argument was short-sighted. Our response to these concerns? Conduct a series of research studies with Professor M. Lee Williams (Texas State University) about the management of uncertainty. Our research revealed that employees who work for organizations that embrace uncertainty tend to be:
These tendencies occurred even when employees themselves did not fully embrace uncertainty. Therein emerges the executive’s challenge: to create and sustain an organizational climate that welcomes, utilizes, and exploits uncertainty.
The research led to a book, Embracing Uncertainty: The Essence of Leadership. In the book we discussed the benefits of embracing uncertainty and dangers of creating artificial certainty. We also revealed how to create an uncertainty-embracing organizational culture. Transforming Leaders into Progress Makers is the logical extension and new platform of Embracing Uncertainty.