Introduction of Od Interventions
An intervention is a deliberate process by which change is introduced into peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The overall objective of any intervention is to confront individuals, teams or units of people in a non-threatening way and allow them to see their self-destructive behavior and how it affects themselves and their colleagues.
It might involve several people who have prepared themselves to talk to the target group that has been engaging in some sort of self-destructive behavior. Clearly and respectfully, they inform the persons of factual information regarding their behavior and how it may have affected them. The immediate objective of an intervention is for the target to listen and accept help.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction of Od Interventions
- 2 Organisation Development Interventions of Od Interventions
- 3 Characteristics of Od Interventions
- 4 Classification of Od Interventions
- 5 Principles of Organisation Structure
- 6 Departmentalisation of Od Interventions
- 7 De-centralisation and Centralisation
- 8 Strategic Od Interventions
- 9 Sensitivity Training of Od Interventions
- 10 Process Consultation of Od Interventions
- 11 Team Building Od Interventions
Organisation Development (OD) intervention would be a combination of the ways a manager can influence the productivity of his/her team by understanding how managerial style impacts organizational climate and more importantly how to create an environment of high performance. Most OD interventions are plans or programs comprised of specific activities designed to effect change in some facet of an organization.
Numerous interventions have been developed over the years to address different problems or create various results. However, they all are geared toward the goal of improving the entire organization through the change in general, organisations that wish to achieve a high degree of organizational change will employ a full range of interventions, including those designed to transfer individual and group behavior and attitudes.
Entities attempting smaller changes will stop short of those goals, applying interventions targeted primarily toward operating policies, management structures, worker skills, and personnel policies.
OD interventions can be categorized in several ways, including action, the type of group for which they are intended, or the industry to which they apply. W.L. French identified major families of interventions based on the type of activities that they included, such as activity groups include teambuilding, survey feedback, structural change, and career planning.
Organisation Development Interventions of Od Interventions
OD interventions refer to various activities which a consultant and client organization perform for improving organizational performance by enabling organizational members better manage their behavior, their work group, and organizational culture. OD interventions are also referred to as OD techniques or OD strategies as they are designed to accomplish specific objectives. French and Bell have defined OD interventions as:
“Sets of structured activities in which selected organizational units (target groups or individuals) engage with a task or a sequence of tasks where the task goals are related directly or indirectly to organizational improvement. Interventions constitute the action thrust of organization development: they make things happen.”
An intervention is a deliberate process by which change is introduced into peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The overall objective of any intervention is to confront individuals, teams or units of people in a nonthreatening way and allow them to see their self-destructive behavior and how it affects themselves and their colleagues.
It might involve several people who have prepared themselves to talk to the target group that has been engaging in some sort of self-destructive behavior. Clearly and respectfully they inform the persons of factual information regarding their behavior and how it may have affected them. The immediate objective of an intervention is for the target to listen and accept help.
Organisation Development (OD) intervention would be a combination of the ways a manager can influence the productivity of his/her team by understanding how managerial style impacts organizational climate and more importantly how to create an environment of high performance.
Most OD interventions are plans or programs comprised of specific activities designed to effect change in some facet of an organization. Numerous interventions have been developed over the years to address different problems or create various results.
However, they all are geared toward the goal of improving the entire organization through the change in general, organisations that wish to achieve a high degree of organizational change will employ a full range of interventions, including those designed to transfer individual and group behavior and attitudes.
Entities attempting smaller changes will stop short of those goals, applying interventions targeted primarily toward operating policies, management structures, worker skills, and personnel policies. OD interventions can be categorized in several ways, including action, the type of group for which they are intended, or the industry to which they apply. W.L.
French identified major families of interventions based on the type of activities that they included, such as activity groups include teambuilding, survey feedback, structural change, and career planning.
Characteristics of Od Interventions
There are eight characteristics of organization development interventions from more traditional interventions:
- An emphasis, although not exclusively so, on group and organizational processes in contrast to substantive content.
- An emphasis on the work team as the key unit for learning more effective modes of organizational behavior.
- An emphasis on the work-team management of work-team culture.
- An emphasis on the management of the culture of the total system.
- Attention to the management of system ramifications.
- The use of the action research model.
- The use of a behavioral scientist-change sometimes referred to as a “catalyst” or “facilitator.”
- A view of the change effort as an ongoing process.
Another characteristic, number, a primary emphasis on human and social relationships, does not necessarily differentiate OD from other change efforts, but it is nevertheless an important feature.
Classification of Od Interventions
There are various OD interventions and they are classified in different ways. Further, various consultants and practitioners have different opinions about the activities which can be included in interventions. For example, many of them visualize data gathering as an intervention whereas it is treated as only preparatory work for OD by others.
Therefore the classification of OD interventions shows variation. Nevertheless, OD interventions can be classified on two bases: the approach adopted in using OD interventions and the target of OD interventions. Based on the approach adopted in using OD interventions, these are classified into two categories: process interventions and structural interventions.
Process interventions are those which emphasize the process to accomplish a change. Structural interventions involve an adjustment or change in the organization’s structure to accomplish changed goals. Some Interventions may focus on changes in the task. Whereas others focus on setting objectives.
The table presents some common processes and structural OD interventions. Based on the target of OD interventions, these can be designed to improve the effectiveness or individuals. Dyads, teams and groups, intergroup relations, and total organization. The table given below presents some of these interventions.
- Process and structural OD interventions
|Process OD Interventions||Structural OD interventions|
|Sensitivity training||Job redesign|
|Team building||Work schedule option|
|Survey feedback||Process consultation|
|Behavior modification||Management by objectives|
|Grid organization development||Collateral organization|
|Career planning||Decision centers|
|Job expectation technique|
|Organizational renewal process|
- OD interventions for Specific Targets
|Individuals||Life and career planning|
|Role analysis technique|
|Coaching and counseling|
|Skill development for technical task relationships. Decision Making|
|Problem solving planning and goal setting|
|Grid OD Phase I|
|Third Party peace making|
|Grid OD phase I and II|
|Team and groups||Team building|
|Role analysis technique|
|Skill development for decision making problem-solving planning and goal-setting in group activities|
|Inter group relations||Inter group activities|
|Techno structural interventions|
|Third party peace making at group level|
|Grid OD phase III|
|Total organization||Techno structural interventions|
|Strategic planning activities|
|Grid OD phases IV, V, and VI|
It may be seen in the table given above that there are considerable overlapping interventions because a particular intervention may be used for more than one target. Though there are many OD interventions, our further discussion will focus on only; the more commonly used OD interventions. These are sensitivity training, grid OD, survey feedback, process consultation, team building and Management by Objectives (MBO). OD interventions could be carried out at individual, interpersonal, group, inter-group and organizational levels. Examples of interventions for the individual are coaching and counseling; management consultation, training and development, role-playing, transactional analysis, and life and career activities. On the person-to-person, dyad/triad level the interventions include shuttle diplomacy, mediation and process consultation. At the group level, OD interventions involve team-building, leadership training, communication training and other educative efforts, survey feedback, and problem-solving consultation. At the inter-group level, organizations use interventions such as shuttle diplomacy and mediation and team-building. At the organizational level, the interventions might include combinations of the above, as well as strategic planning, problem analysis, interviews and questionnaires, confrontation meetings and making recommendations for structural or procedural changes (French & Bell, 1984).
Structural interventions are those that are aimed at changes in task, structural and technological subsystems of organizations. Job designs, quality circles, and Management by objectives bolstered by knowledge of OD experiments are included under the category of structural interventions. Elements of OD may include finding ways to adapt to the changing context while maintaining and enhancing the organization’s integrity and internal integration.
OD involves establishing structures, processes and a climate that allow it to effectively manage its important and pressing business (e.g. projects, problems, crises, etc.) while giving adequate attention to strategic issues (e.g., long-term development and renewal, planning and envisioning, engaging new opportunities, crisis prevention, etc.)
The structure is an integral component of the organization. Nostrum and Starbuck (1981) have defined structure as the arrangement and interrelationship of parts and positions in an organization. Structural OD intervention provides guidelines on:
- division of work into activities;
- linkage between different functions;
- authority structure;
- authority relationships; and
- coordination with the environment.
The organisational structure may differ within the same organization according to the particular requirements structure in an organization has three components (Robbins, 1989):
- Complexity: Referring to the degree to which activities within the organization are differentiated. This differentiation has three dimensions:
- Horizontal differentiation refers to the degree of differentiation between units based on the orientation of members, and the nature of tasks they performed in their education and training,
- Vertical differentiation is characterized by the number of hierarchical levels in the organization, and
- Spatial differentiation is the degree to which the location of the organization’s offices, facilities and personnel are geographically distributed.
- Horizontal differentiation refers to the degree of differentiation between units based on the orientation of members, and the nature of tasks they performed in their education and training,
- Formalization: Refers to the extent to which jobs within the organization are specialized. The degree of formalization can vary widely between and within organizations.
- Centralisation: Refers to the degree to which decision making is concentrated at one point in the organisation.
Designing Organisational Structures
Some important considerations in designing an effective organizational structure are:
- Clarity: The structure of the organization should be such that there is no confusion about people’s goals, tasks, style of functioning, reporting relationship and sources of information.
- Understanding: The structure of an organization should provide people with a clear picture of how their work fits into the organization.
- De-centralization: The design of an organization should compel discussions and decisions at the lowest possible level.
- Stability and adaptability: While the organizational structure should be adaptable to environmental changes, it should remain steady during unfavorable ‘conditions.
Principles of Organisation Structure
Modem organisational structures have evolved from several organisational theories, which have identified certain principles as basic to any organisation.
Specialization facilitates the division of work into units for efficient performance. According to the classical approach, work can be performed much better if it is divided into components and people are encouraged to specialize by components. Work can be specialized both horizontally and vertically (Anderson, 1988).
Vertical Specialisation in a research organization refers to different kinds of work at different levels, such as project leaders, scientists, researchers, field staff, etc. Horizontally, work is divided into departments like genetics, plant pathology, administration, accounts, etc. Specialization enables the application of specialized knowledge which betters the quality of work and improves organizational efficiency.
At the same time, it can also influence fundamental work attitudes, relationships and communication. This may make coordination difficult and obstruct the functioning of the organization. Four main causal factors could unfavorably affect attitudes and work styles. These are the differences in:
- goal orientation;
- time orientation;
- inter-personal orientation; and
- the formality of structure (Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967).
Coordination refers to integrating the objectives and activities of specialized departments to realize the broad strategic objectives of the organization. It includes two basic decisions:
- which units or groups should be placed together; and
- the patterns of relationships, information networks and communication (Anderson, 1988).
In agricultural research institutions, where most of the research is multi-disciplinary but involves Specialisation, and coordination. Of different activities important to achieve strategic objectives.
Efficient coordination can also help in resolving conflict and disputes between scientists in a research organization. Hierarchy facilitates the vertical coordination of various departments and their activities.
Organizational theorists have over the years developed several principles relating to the hierarchy of authority for coordinating various activities. Some of the important principles are discussed below.
Unity of Command
Every person in an organization should be responsible to one superior and receive orders from that person only. Fail (1949) considered this to be the most important principle for efficient working and increased productivity in an organization.
Decision-making authority and the chain of command in an organization should flow in a straight line from the highest level to the lowest. The principle evolves from the principle of the unit of command. However, this may not always be possible, particularly in large organizations or research institutions.
Therefore Fayol (1949) felt that members; in such organizations could also communicate directly at the same level of the hierarchy, with prior intimation to their superiors.
For successfully performing certain tasks, responsibility must be accompanied by proper authority. Those responsible for the performance of tasks should also have the appropriate level of influence on decision-making.
Span of Control
This refers to the number of specialized activities or individuals supervised by one person. Deciding the span of control is important for coordinating different types of activities effectively. According to Barkdull Organisational Development and Change (1963), some of the important situational factors which affect the span of control of a manager are:
- the similarity of functions;
- proximity of the functions to each other and the supervisor;
- complexity of functions; z direction and control needed by subordinates;
- coordination required within a unit and between units;
- extent of planning required; and
- organizational help available for making decisions.
Departmentalisation of Od Interventions
Departmentalization is a process of horizontal cleaning of different types of functions and activities on anyone level of the hierarchy. It is closely related to the classical bureaucratic principle of Specialisation (Luthans, 1986). Departmentalization is conventionally based on purpose, product, process, function, personal things and place (Gullick and Urwick, 1937).
- Functional Departmentalisation
- Product Departmentalisation
- Departmentalisation by Users
- Departmentalization by Territory or Geography
- Departmentalization by Process or Equipment
This is the basic form of Departmentalisation. It refers to the grouping of activities or jobs involving common functions. In a research organization, the groupings could be research, production, agricultural engineering extension, rural marketing and administration.
It refers to the grouping of jobs and activities that are associated with a specific product. As organizations increase in size and diversify, functional departmentalization may not be very effective.
The organizational as to be further divided into separate units to limit the span of control of a manager to a manageable level (Luthans, 1986).
In an agricultural research institution,” functional departments can be further differentiated by-products and purpose or type of research. In contrast, to functional Departmentalisation, product-based Departmentalisation has the advantage of:
- less conflict between major sub-units;
- easier communication between sub-units;
- less complex coordination mechanisms;
- providing a training ground for top management;
- more customer orientation; and
- greater concern for long-term issues.
In contrast, functional Departmentalisation has the strength of:
- easier communication with sub-units;
- application of higher technical knowledge for solving problems;
- greater group and professional identification;
- less duplication of staff activities;
- higher product quality; and z increased organisational efficiency (Filley, 1978).
Departmentalisation by Users
It is grouping of both activities and positions to make them compatible with the special needs of some specific groups of users.
Departmentalization by Territory or Geography
It involves grouping activities and positions at a given location to take advantage of local participation in decision-making. The territorial units are under the control of a manager who is responsible for the operations of the organization at that location. In agricultural research institutions, regional research stations are set up to take advantage of specific agroecological environments. Such Departmentalisation usually offers an economic advantage.
Departmentalization by Process or Equipment
It in refers to jobs and activities’ which require a specific type of technology, machine or production process. Other common bases for Departmentalisation can be the time of duty, number of employees market, distribution channel or services.
De-centralisation and Centralisation
De-centralization refers to decision-making at lower levels in the hierarchy of authority. In contrast, decision-making is in a centralized organizational structure at higher levels. The degree of centralization and de-centralization depend on the number of levels of hierarchy, degree of coordination, Specialisation and span of control. According to Luthans (1986), centralization and de-centralisation could be according to:
- geographical or territorial concentration or dispersion of operations;
- functions; or
- extent of concentration or delegation of decision-making powers.
Strategic Od Interventions
A dynamic process that defines the organization’s mission and vision sets goals and develops action steps to help an organization focus its present and future resources toward fulfilling its vision. Many organizations today were facing external threats to their survival, whether it be from takeovers “technological obsolescence or global competition.
In its infancy, OD would have responded to such challenges by preaching participative management, a not-so-subtle way of challenging top management to redistribute power to lower levels. During the later years, OD reversed fields to serve the power structure by confining its techniques to lower levels and the bottom line, such as Quality of Work Life (QWL) programs.
This subservient role for OD had continued up to recent times where the power structure tolerates and even encourages OD so long as it fine-tunes the existing situation without threatening the essence of the power system. Now, however, that essence is threatened by outside forces.
A “new” OD is emerging to deal more directly with helping the power structure to change not only itself but also the strategic alignment of the firm with its environment. OD can, if properly devised, provide a more effective process than political bargaining for assisting the dominant coalition to address pressing strategic issues that have so far eluded formal approaches to strategic planning.
OD must engage the most cherished agenda of the power elite- the strategy of the company, its top management structure for delivering on strategy and how they will lead.
Technology and OD Solutions
Element of OD may include finding ways to adapt to the changing context while maintaining and enhancing the organization’s integrity and internal integration. OD involves establishing structures, processes and a climate that allow it to effectively manage its important and pressing business (e.g. projects, problems, crises, etc.) while giving adequate attention to strategic issues (e.g., long-term development and renewal, planning and envisioning, engaging new opportunities, crisis prevention, etc.). Technologies are also used to enable OD intervention sand to improve human connectivity better team work.
Sensitivity Training of Od Interventions
Sensitivity training is a method of laboratory training where an unstructured group of individuals exchanges thoughts and feelings on a face-to-face basis. Sensitivity training helps give insight into how and why others feel the way they do on issues of mutual concern. Training in small groups in which people develop a sensitive awareness and understanding of themselves and their relationships with others.
Sensitivity training is based on research on human behavior that came out of efforts during World War II to ascertain whether or not an enemy’s core beliefs and behavior could be modified by the application of certain psychological techniques.
These techniques have been gradually perfected over the years by efforts of business and industry leaders to persuade people to buy products, including the radio and television industry to ascertain how an audience might be habituated to certain types of programming.
Kurt Lewin is credited with being the ‘father’ of sensitivity training in the United States. Laboratory Training began in 1946 when Kurt Lewin and his staff at the Research Center for Group Dynamics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology were training community leaders. A workshop was developed for the leaders to learn about leadership and discuss problems.
At the end of each date, the researchers discussed privately what behaviors and group dynamics they had observed. The leaders asked permission to sit in on these feedback sessions. Reluctant at first, the researchers’ family agreed. Thus the first T-group was formed in which people reacted to information about their behavior.
Tavistock Clinic, an outgrowth of the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology, founded in 1920 in London, initiated sensitivity training in the United Kingdom in 1932, under the headship of psychiatrist John Rawlings Rees.
Dr. Rees conducted tests on American and British soldiers to ascertain whether, under conditions of induced and controlled stress, groups could be made to behave erratically. In particular, they wanted to know whether people would let go of even firmly held beliefs under ‘peer pressure’ to conform to a predetermined set of ‘popular’ beliefs.
This Tavistock method was similar to those procedures. used in mental hospitals’ to correct the attitudes of prisoners; where it was called re-education. Sensitivity training evolved in the United States of America; at Stanford’s Research Institute’s Center for the Behavioral Sciences, at the Sloan School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, mid at the various National Training Laboratories (NTL), where concepts popularly known as ‘T-Groups’ (therapy/ groups) and ‘sensitivity training’ were developed.
A controlled stress situation is created by a group leader (‘facilitator’) with the ostensible goal of achieving a consensus or agreement which has, in reality, been predetermined. By using peer pressure in gradually increasing increments, up to and including yelling at, cursing at, and isolating the holdouts, weaker individuals were intimidated into caving in, they emerge with a new value structure in place, and the goal is achieved.
The method was refined and later popularized by other schools of behavioral science, such as the Ensalen Institute, the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences, and the Western Training Laboratories in Group Development. Sensitivity training is a type of experience-based learning in which participants work together in a small group over an extended period of learning through analysis of their own experiences.
The primary setting is the T Group (T for training) in which a staff member sets up an ambiguous situation that allows participants to choose the roles they will play while observing and reacting to the behavior of other members and in turn having an impact on them. The perceptions and reactions are the data for learning.
T-Group theory emphasizes each participant’s responsibility for his learning, the staff person’s role of facilitating examination and understanding, the provision for the detailed examination required to draw valid generalizations, the creation of authentic interpersonal relationships which facilitate honest and direct communication, and the development of new skills in working with people.
The goals of sensitivity training are to allow participants to gain a picture of the impact that they make on others and to facilitate -the study of group dynamics and of larger organizational concepts such as status, influence, division of labor, and styles of managing conflict. Some believe that sensitivity is talent, while others believed that sensitivity is something that is not so much developed, as allowed to exist. It is a trait called “empathy”.
Sensitivity is found wanting in people as they are often preoccupied with their problems that they don’t ”have time” for others. Their tension disallows them to pay attention to someone or to relate to what the person is saying, Most believe that sensitivity to others could be developed. Some people have this ability, but most just fake it. Sensitivity training involves a small group of individuals focusing on the here-and-now behavior and attitudes in the group. In short, the individuals discuss whatever comes naturally in the group.
For example, one participant might criticize an opinion expressed by another, and both the opinion and the criticism could become the focus of the entire group. The intent of this process, which might take several days at 12 hours or more per day, is for participants to learn how they affect others and how others affect them.
In turn, “sensitivity” learning can help participants become more skilled in diagnosing interpersonal behavior and attitudes on the job.
Sensitivity could be enhanced by adopting the following viewpoints:
- Everybody is entitled to their feelings no matter how illogical they are;
- There is no such thing as ‘blame’… Everybody involved is equally at fault;
- A person should not attack but express their feelings about others’ actions;
- Leaving a problem unresolved will make it worse with time;
- Nobody is perfect which includes oneself
Encounter Groups were nontraditional attempts at psychotherapy that offered short-term treatment for members without serious psychiatric problems. These groups were also known as sensitivity (or sensory) awareness groups and training groups (or T-groups).
Encounter groups were an outgrowth of studies conducted at the National Training Laboratories by Kurt Lewin. The use of continual feedback, participation, and observation by the group encouraged the analysis and interpretation of their problems.
Other methods for the group dynamics included Gestalt therapy (working with one person at a time with a primary goal of increasing awareness of oneself at the moment, also known as holistic therapy) and meditation.
Encounter groups were popularized by people such as Dr. Fritz Perls and Dr. Will Schutz (of the Esalen institute) and, had their greatest impact on the general population in the 1960s and 1970s.
These groups fell out of favor with the psychiatric community because of criticism that many of the group leaders at the time Were not trained in traditional group therapy and that the groups could sometimes cause great harm to people with serious emotional problems.
Survey feedback technology is probably the most powerful way that OD professionals involve very large numbers of people in diagnosing situations that need attention within the organization and planning and implementing improvements.
The general method requires developing reliable, valid questionnaires, collecting data from all personnel, analyzing it for trends and feeding the results back to everyone for action planning. “Walk-the-talk” assessment: Most organizations have at least some leaders who say one thing and, do another.
This intervention, which can be highly threatening, concentrates on measuring the extent to which the people within the organization are behaving with integrity.
Survey Feedback is OD
The most important step in the diagnostic process is feeding back diagnostic information to the client organization. Although the data may have been collected with the client’s help, the OD practitioner usually is responsible for organizing and presenting them to the client.
A flexible and potentially, powerful technique for data feedback that has arisen out of the wide use of questionnaires in OD work is known as survey feedback. Survey feedback is a process of collecting feeding back data from an organization or department through the use of a questionnaire or survey.
The data are analyzed, feedback to organization members, and used by them to diagnose the organization and to develop an intervention to improve it. Survey feedback is a major technique in the history and development of OD.
It is a powerful intervention tool and it can reach large numbers of participants. There are five general steps included in normal survey feedback. The first involves gathering members of the firm to plan the survey. This is when the objectives of the survey are determined.
The second step involves a survey of all of the organization’s members, rather than restricting it to managers and coordinators. The next step would be to analyze the data reported through the surveys. In the fourth step, the data is feedback to the organization.
Finally, the rums should hold meetings to discuss the feedback and try to determine what, if any, action is needed and how to implement it. OD practitioners could be more involved in some of these steps by training to go to the firm and help them interpret the feedback and devise intervention plans.
There are limitations to survey feedback that OD practitioners should be aware of. These include:
- An ambiguity of purpose: There can be disagreement over how the data should be analyzed and returned.
- Distrust: OD practitioners need to ensure participants that their contributions are confidential.
- Unacceptable topics: Some firms have topics they do not want to explore, which constricts the scope of the survey.
- Organizational disturbance: This process may disturb the employees, and possibly the whole firm.
Process Consultation of Od Interventions
The concept of process consultation as a mode of inquiry grew out of the insight that to be helpful one had to learn enough about the system to understand where it needed help and that this required a period of very low-key inquiry-oriented diagnostic interventions designed to have a minimal impact on the processes being inquired about (Schein, 1988).
Process consultation as a philosophy acknowledges that the consultant is not an expert on anything but how to be helpful and starts with total ignorance of what is going on in the client system. One of the skills, then, of process consulting is to “access one’s ignorance,” to let go of the expert or doctor role and get attuned to the client system as much as possible.
Only when one has genuinely understood the problem and what kind of help is needed, can one begin to recommend and prescribe? Even then it is likely that they will not fit the client system’s culture and will, therefore, not be refrozen even if initially adopted.
Instead, a better model of help is starting with the intention of creating an insider/outsider team that is responsible for diagnostic interventions and all subsequent interventions. When the consultant and the client have joint ownership of the change process, both the validity of the diagnostic interventions and the subsequent change interventions will be greatly enhanced.
The flow of a change or managed learning process then is one of continuous diagnosis as one continuously intervening. The consultants must be highly attuned to their insights into what is going on and or their impact on the client system.
Stage models which emphasize upfront contracting do not deal adequately with the reality that the psychological contract is a constantly evolving one and that the degree to which it needs to be formalized depends very much on the culture of the organization.
Lewin’s concept of action research is fundamental to any model of working with human systems and such action research must be viewed from a clinical perspective as a set of interventions that must be guided primarily by their presumed impact on the client system.
The immediate implication of this is that in training consultants and change agents, one should put much more emphasis on the clinical criteria of how different interventions will affect client systems than on the canons of how to gather scientifically valid information, calculate members should be sent into field internships as participant observers and helpers before they are taught all the canons of how to gather and analyze data.
Both are necessary, but the order of priority is backward in most training programs.
Edgar Schein’s Process Consultation
One cannot understand a System until one tries to change it. Literature is filled with the notion that one first diagnosis a system and then intervenes to change it. This basic model perpetuates a fundamental error in thinking, an error that Lewin learned to avoid in his change project and that led him to the seminal concept of “action research.”
The conceptual error is to separate the notion of diagnosis from the notion of intervention. That distinction comes from scientific endeavors where a greater separation exists between the researcher and the researched, particularly where the physical processes are assumed to be somewhat independent of the psychological processes.
The consulting industry has perpetuated this model by proposing as a major part of most projects a diagnostic, phase in which large numbers of interviews, questionnaires, and observations are made based on a set of recommendations given to the client. Consultants differ on whether they feel they should also be accountable for the implementation of the recommendations, but they tend to agree that the consultant’s basic job is done with a set of recommendations “for future intervention.”
If interviews or surveys are done, the attempt is made to be as scientifically objective as possible in gathering the data and to interfere minimally during this phase with the operation of the organization. If one cannot understand an organization without trying to change it, it would not be possible to make an adequate diagnosis without intervening.
Either consultants using the classical model are getting an incorrect picture of the organization, or they are intervening but are denying it by labeling it “Just Diagnosis”.
This risk forces the diagnostician to think about the nature of the “diagnostic intervention” and to apply clinical criteria for what is safe, rather than purely scientific criteria of what would seemingly give the most definitive answer.
OD specialists must approach consulting work from a clinical perspective that starts with the assumption that everything to do with a client system is an intervention and that, unless intervened, will not learn what some of the essential dynamics of the system are starting from that assumption, there is a need to develop criteria that balance the amount of information gained from an intervention with the amount of risk to the client from making that intervention.
If the consultant is going to interview all the members of top management, he must ask whether the amount of information gained win be worth the risk of perturbing the system by interviewing everybody and if the answer is “yes,” must make a further determination of what is to be learned from the reactions of the management to being interviewed.
That is, the interview process itself will change the system and the nature of that change will provide some of the most important data about how the system works. The best information about the dynamics of the organization will be how the organization deals with the consultant because his or her very presence is de facto an intervention.
Yet the focus in many traditional consultation models is on the “objective data obtained in the interview” with nary a reference to how the interviewer is about the process and what could be inferred from the way he or she was received. ‘Human systems cannot be treated with a high level of objectivity’ is, therefore, an important insight that is all too often ignored in our change and consultation literature.
In practice, change agents have learned from their own experience that “diagnostic” activities such as observations, interviews and questionnaires are powerful interventions and that the process of learning about a system and changing that system is, in fact, the same. This insight has many ramifications, particularly for the ethics of research and consulting.
Many researchers and consultants assume that they can “objectively” gather data and arrive at a diagnosis without having already changed the system. The method of gathering data influences the system and therefore, must be considered carefully.
For example, asking someone in a questionnaire how they feel about their boss gets the respondent thinking about an issue that he or she might not have focused on previously and it might get them talking to others about the question in a way that would create a common attitude that was not there before.
Team Building Od Interventions
Richard Beckhard, one of the founders of the discipline referred to as organization development gave a systematic framework for the most effective interventions to achieve positive organizational change. Beckhard’s team development model serves as a guide for executives and project managers. There are a variety of situations where new teams are formed.
The project-based, cross-functional work team has become the basis of the industry in the 1990s. Virtual team organization is rapidly becoming the model for flexibility and agility in organizing quickly and effectively to get jobs done. new teams usually have a clear task focus in the early going and there is usually a clear understanding of the short-term goals.
The new team members are also generally technically competent and there usually is a challenge in the project that will draw on their technical capabilities. While the early activities of a team are focused on task and work issues, relationship problems tend to develop as they do in any human system.
By the time these interpersonal issues surface the team may be well along in its activities. The issues may become very difficult and very costly to work out later in the game. There is a significant benefit if a new team takes short time at the beginning of its life to examine collaboratively how it is going to work together.
Beckhard provides a tool to set the stage for the most effective teamwork and high performance. Team Buildings an OD intervention can take many forms. The most common pattern is beginning with interviews and other preliminary work, followed by a one-to three-day session.
During the meeting, the group diagnoses its function as a unit and plans improvements in its operating procedures.