Introduction of Training Experiences
Several training or educational experiences aimed at individuals have utility in the successful evolution of an OD effort. These OD interventions can be complementary and reinforcing adjuncts to the OD process.
Table of Contents
The various training experiences used for reinforcing adjuncts to the OD process are:
Early in the OD movement, T-groups (“T” for training) were sometimes used with intact work teams, but such use has largely given way to team building. A T-group is an essentially unstructured, agenda-less group session for about 10 to 12 members and a professional “trainer” who acts as catalysts and facilitator for the group.
The data for discussion is the data provided by the interaction of the group members as they strive to create a viable society for themselves. Actions, reactions, interactions, and the concomitant feelings accompanying them are the data for the group. The group typically meets for three days up to two weeks.
Conceptual material relating to communication skills, interpersonal relations, individual personality theory, and group dynamics is a part of the program. But the main learning vehicle is the group experience.
Learnings derived from the T-group vary for different individuals, but they are usually described as learning to be more competent in interpersonal relationships, learning more about oneself as a person, learning how others react to one’s behavior, and learning about the dynamics of group formation and group norms and group growth.
The T-group is a powerful learning laboratory where individuals gain insights into the meaning and consequences of their behavior, the meaning and consequences of others’ behaviors, and the dynamics and processes of group behavior.
Behavior modeling is a training technique designed to improve interpersonal competence. It is not an OD intervention per se, but we believed it should be added to the OD practitioner’s repertoire because it is such an effective tool, and because problems with interpersonal relations are common in organizations.
For improving interpersonal skills, behavior modeling is an important training option. Goldstein and Sorcher, behavior modeling is an excellent way to make first-line supervisors more effective (Latham and Saari) and to improve organizational performance (Porras et al.). A simple problem-solving model underlies most behavior modeling training. Porras and Singh describe it as follows:
- Behavior description
- Active listening
- Participative problem solving
- Positive reinforcement
At the training sessions, the problem situation is announced and briefly discussed. Participants then observe a videotape in which the model (who looks similar to them) successfully solves the problems by enacting specific behavioral skills. The trainees discuss the behavioral skills and then role-play the situation receiving feedback from the group and the trainer on their performance.
Life and Career Planning
Several approaches exist to help the individual think through and analyze his or her life and career trajectory. This information is often used in the workshop or other educational settings in the context of small group discussions and some theory input.
Edgar Schein has provided the concept of career anchors, which are useful individually and in voluntary group discussions in career development workshops. Based on a longitudinal study of MIT Sloan School alumni, Schein hypothesized five basic career anchors.
He defines the career anchor as “the pattern of self-perceived talents, motives, and values” that serves “to guide, constrain, stabilize, and integrate the person’s career” and that tends to “remain stable throughout the person’s career.”
The five career anchors are as follows:
- Technical/functional competence
- Managerial competence
- Security or stability
Coaching and Mentoring
Edgar Schein’s view of the OD consultant’s role coaching and counseling. The consultant maintains the posture, however, that changes in behavior should be based on the client’s decision. In addition, the OD consultant can be in a position to guide formal mentoring programs. While coaching by an employee’s immediate superior usually focuses on job performance, mentoring is usually much broader and focuses on general career and personal development.
The mentor role is usually filled by someone other than the immediate superior, and usually by a person of higher rank from outside the employee’s department.
Mentoring can be accomplished on a person-to-person basis or the mentor can meet with a small group of four to six persons, or in both groups and one and one sessions. With the group approach, the group has the potential to evolve into a learning team whose members can coach each other.
The OD consultant can provide valuable training, such as training in active listening or training in small group process interventions, for example, for those involved in this process. Mentoring, coaching, counseling, and consulting skills can be enhanced significantly by T-group experience.
Self-diagnostic surveys are widely used in human relations training and laboratory training settings. When used appropriately, they can also be useful for team building.
For a successful intervention, the consultant must have expertise in the use of a particular instrument, it must have reasonably high reliability and validity, its use must be based on a diagnosis of what would be helpful to further the development of the team, and participants must have concurred in its use.
One example of a diagnostic instrument, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), with origins in Carl Jung’s concept of personality types, uses combinations of scores from four major scales to identify orientation toward Extraversion or Introversion, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, and Judging or perceiving.
As another example, Grid OD is based on an inventory that assesses one’s leadership style and management practices. Using a questionnaire, participants can plot on a tow dimensional grid where their practices appear to be in terms of “concern for production” and “concern for people.”
The advantages of using self-diagnostic instruments are probably greater in the context of training programs involving strangers or persons from different units than in the context of team building. Some of the dysfunctional consequences might be:
- Using the results to label or stereotype others.
- Distorting responses so that scores produce results assumed to be “socially acceptable” or what management might want.
- Focussing on the analysis of behavior rather than on addressing and solving more fundamental issues facing the team.
- Fostering dependence on the OD consultant.