TABLE OF CONTENTS
AN ARCHETYPICAL ENTRY
AND CONTRACTING PROCESS 5
LAWLER’S ENTRY AND CONTRACTING PROCESS 9
ASSESSING LAWLER’S ENTRY AND CONTRACTING PROCESS 11
WHAT WOULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY 14
THEORIES AND MODELS TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF THE DIAGNOSTIC
ORGANIZING THE INFORMATION FOR FEEDBACK
CARRYING OUT THE FEEDBACK PROCESS 23
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION THAT COULD BE COLLECTED 25
B.R. RICHARDSON TIMBER PRODUCTS CORPORATION
Organizational Development (OD) is concerned with the performance, development, and effectiveness of human organizations. OD is directed at bringing about planned change to increase an organization’s effectiveness and capacity. It is an applied behavioural science that is focused on the organization as a system, and among other issues is concerned with the health of the organization, its effectiveness, its capacity to solve problems, its ability to adapt, change or of self renewal, and its ability to create a high quality of life for its employees.
An organization is defined as two or more people brought together by one or more shared goals. OD promotes the notion that a successful change is a planned change. Monitoring of both internal and external influences needs to be conducted on a continuous basis. To understand how change can be managed, OD draws knowledge and concepts from other disciplines (notably behavioural science, psychology, organization theory).
One of the early approaches to organizational change was provided by Kurt Lewin and his associates. It starts from the premise that targets of change and the social processes underlying them are relatively stable, when forces driving for change are roughly equal to forces resisting the change. To change this status quo requires a three-step process:
Unfreezing underscores the need to assess the present situation before change is contemplated. It examines the driving and restraining forces in the change situation that maintains the status quo. This information is essential for unfreezing the current situation and creating a readiness for change among organization members.
Movement involves intervening in the situation to change it. This addresses organizational issues such as human processes, strategic choices, work designs and structures. It shifts the behaviours, attitudes and values of the organization, department and individuals to new levels.
Refreezing stabilizes the organization at a new equilibrium state. If this step is ignored the organization reverts to its previous state. Refreezing rebalances the driving and restraining forces in the changed situation so it remains stable.
Output of change is highly dependent on how the change process unfolds, and the change process will need to be facilitated. The OD process is a recurring cycle (Appendix II). Diagnosis, involvement, further diagnosis, change, evaluation, and reinforcement are the stages that enable complex organizations to make sense of and manage the change process. This paper looks at the B. R. Richardson Timber Corporation case and attempts to analyze some stages of the OD process. It starts with a summary of the case.
Richard Bowman, who was in charge of industrial relations at B.R. Richardson Timber Products Corporation, contacted Jack Lawler, an Organization Development Practitioner. Bowman said he was looking for someone to conduct a “motivation course” for the blue-collar employees of the lamination plant. He advised that morale in the plant was very low, the plant manager was a bit “authoritative”, and that there had been a fatal accident at the plant a few months before. Lawler then arranged a meeting between himself, the President of the company and Bowman; he stated that he would have to conduct a diagnosis before any action could be suggested. After his meeting with Richardson and Bowman, Lawler later made a one day visit to the company with two of his graduate students to gather information, which he would later analyze and present to the company.
These are some of the problems that became evident after evaluating the case. The laminating plant has been growing ever since its inception, it is very profitable and busy, yet Richardson seems to be reluctant to spend money to expand the facilities and to upgrade the machinery and technology, and hire additional staff. Adequate communication at all levels is lacking, and the proper lines of communication are not followed.
Safety is a major issue, there does not appear to be sufficient safety measures in place, and accidents seem to happen frequently. Staff morale is low, staff are dissatisfied, the reward system appears to be inadequate, there is no training and development, and quality of work life seems to be poor. There is an extremely high staff turnover rate. The company appears to be under organized. There seems to be too little constraint or regulations for effective task performance, the leadership and organizational structure, job designs and policies are weakly defined, and fail to direct task behaviour effectively. Communication is fragmented; job responsibilities ambiguous, and the employees lack direction.
B.R. Richardson Timber Products Company appears to have ignored innovative management trends that have emerged over the last decade and now seem to find itself caught in the trap that comes from not taking advantage of new efficiency systems. By having waited, several cracks in the structure have been identified within the organizational structure as a whole and it is having a negative impact on operations. The structure is weak due to many factors from lack of technology integration to inability to establish teamwork within the organization, which would allow the introduction of new ideas and innovations on a consistent basis for the continual improvement of operations.
In an attempt to analyze this case, I will first look at Lawler’s entry and contracting process, then at a typical entry and contracting process and then make an assessment. I will then look at the models that can be used to analyze the diagnostic data and organize it for feedback. An attempt will also be made to look at the information Jack Lawler collected and to pinpoint any further pertinent information he could have collected that would have assisted him in his diagnosis.
AN ARCHETYPICAL ENTRY AND CONTRACTING PROCESS
Entering and contracting are the initial steps in the OD process. Entry refers to the process of developing a relationship with the client sponsor and determining if there is a good fit between the consultant and the organization. Contracting is a continuation of this process, although on a more formal level. They both involve defining in a preliminary manner, the organization’s problems or opportunities for development and establish a collaborative relationship between the OD practitioner and members of the client system about how to work on those issues. Entering and contracting sets the initial parameters for carrying out the subsequent phases of the OD process, that is; diagnosing the organization; planning and implementing change; and evaluation and institutionalizing them. These initial steps help define what issues will be addressed by those activities, who will carry them out, and how they will be accomplished.
It is fundamental that there is clarity and agreement about what issues to work on, who will address them, how that will be accomplished, the scope, and boundaries of the project and what timetable will be followed. If this is not done, there will be confusion at the subsequent stages of the OD process, which may result in it not being as effective as it could be. Before determining whether the two parties should enter into an OD relationship, the nature of the organization’s current functioning and the issues to be addressed should be clarified, as well as the relevant client system for that issue, and the appropriateness of the OD practitioner. In order to assess these issues, the OD practitioner may need to collect preliminary data about the organization. The organization may also need to gather information about the OD practitioner to ensure that he has the relevant expertise and experience to handle the organization’s concerns. This information would help both parties decide whether or not they should proceed to develop a contract for working together.
Clarifying organizational issues is critical because it sets the direction that the OD process will take. In many cases, the presenting problem is only a symptom of an underlying problem. Clarifying the issues facing the organization would determine the diagnostic and intervention activities. The OD practitioner attempts to do this by gathering preliminary data. This can be done by examining company records and interviewing key organizational members to obtain an introductory understanding of the organization, its context and the nature of the presenting problem. This preliminary information would allow the parties involved to make an informed choice about whether or not to proceed with the contracting process.
After the organizational issues are clarified, it must be determined who the relevant client is for addressing these issues. Generally, the relevant client would include organizational members who can directly impact the change issue. Unless these members are identified and included in the entering and contracting process, they may withhold their support and commitment for the OD process and so cause it to fail. OD practitioners would need to gather information to be able to identify key organizational members and units that need to be involved in the OD process.
The next step in entering an OD relationship is selecting an OD practitioner who has the expertise and experience to work with members on the organizational issues. Organizations may ask the OD practitioner to submit a proposal which may include project goals, outlines of action plans, a list of roles and responsibilities, recommended interventions and proposed fees and expenses associated with the project.
To assist organizations in selecting an appropriate OD practitioner several areas should be considered. These include the OD practitioner’s ability to form sound interpersonal relationships, the degree of focus on the problem, the skills of the practitioner relative to the problem, and the extent to which the consultant clearly informs the client about his/her role and contribution to the process. References from other clients are also important. A very important consideration is whether the consultant approaches the organization with openness and an insistence on diagnosis, or whether he/she has a “one size fits all” program that is used for all organizations and all problems.
The activities of entering an OD relationship are necessary before developing a contract. They define the main focus of contracting. Contracting is a natural extension of the entering process and clarifies how the OD process will proceed. The contract typically covers three areas; the expectation of the parties, the time and resources that will be expended, and the ground rules under which the parties will operate. The goal of contracting is to make a good decision about how to carry out the OD process.
Typically, informal contracts may involve a verbal agreement and is usually used when in house OD practitioners are used. More formal contracting is done if the OD practitioner is hired from outside, and usually involves a written document. Regardless of the level of formality, there must be some form of explicit agreement, whether verbal or written. This helps to clarify the client’s and the practitioner’s expectations about how the OD process will take place. Mutual understanding and agreement about the OD process is necessary to ensure that expectations are met, and that there is support and commitment and that the OD process is not terminated prematurely.
Mutual expectations focuses on the expectations of the client and the OD practitioner. The parties would discuss the services and outcomes to be provided by the OD practitioner, any specific objectives, the process of the project, and what the organization expects from the process and the consultant. The OD practitioner also states what he/she expects to gain from the OD process.
Time and resources must be committed by the organization to the OD process. It must be clear how much time and resources will be dedicated to the process. Failure to clearly state the necessary requirements can ruin an OD effort. Being clear about essential requirement will facilitate the contracting process and improve the chances for success.
The final part of the contracting process involves specifying the working relationship of the parties. Parameters are established as to confidentiality, the OD practitioner’s involvement in personal and interpersonal issues, how to terminate the relationship, and whether or not the practitioner is expected to make recommendations.
JACK LAWLER’S ENTRY AND CONTRACTING PROCESS
Jack Lawler was initially contacted by Richard Bowman, who was in charge of industrial relations at B R Richardson. Bowman indicated that Lawler was recommended by a friend of his (Bowman’s) from a regional association of Training and Development, and Bowman himself had heard of Lawler’s management training and consulting reputation. He advised that the company was looking for someone to conduct a “motivation course” for the plant’s blue-collar employees. Lawler inquired whether the plant manager was supportive of the course idea and was told that he was not asked but that the founder and president of the company, B R Richardson had given his approval.
Lawler advised that he did not have enough information to design such a course or even to decide whether such a course was necessary, and suggested a meeting between himself, Bowman and Richardson, which suggestion was accepted. At the meeting the company was outlined to Lawler and information about the plant workers was presented. Lawler indicated that his style of working entailed a diagnosis of the organization before any action is taken. B R and Bowman both expressed concern to Lawler about the plant manager Joe Branford’s attitude with the workers. They said he got the work done, but was not sensitive to the workers, and was a bit authoritative. Bowman had indicated in his initial telephone call that staff morale was low, especially after a fatal accident that took place at the plant a few months before. The meeting ended with Lawler promising to write a letter outlining his thoughts on proceeding.
Lawler wrote to Bowman about a week later outlining three alternatives which he felt the company could take. The first was that he could put them in touch with someone in their region who could design and/or present the motivation course which they had originally requested. The second was that Lawler himself could be engaged as a consultant. He had previously described to Bowman an approach called ‘action research’ which he had used at a plywood plant for another company. This approach involved a process whereby the company was helped to identify their non-controlled problems and plans to correct them. This would begin with a diagnosis conducted by Lawler.
The third alternative was for Lawler to get a colleague of his to create a student team to design and conduct the motivation course or to do a diagnosis and analysis of the plant and propose recommendations. For alternatives two and three, Lawler would provide a breakdown of the costs if either were chosen. Lawler again stressed that a diagnosis was necessary regardless of the next steps taken.
Six weeks later Bowman called Lawler, he advised that Richardson did not want to invest much money but felt that a diagnosis would be useful and that he wanted Lawler’s expertise. Lawler and Bowman worked out a plan in which Lawler would utilize some of his graduate students in a one-day visit to the plant to gather information. Lawler would then analyze this information and make a presentation to Richardson and Bowman. They agreed that he would bill for three days for his time plus the expenses incurred when he and the students visited.
ASSESSING JACK LAWLER’S ENTRY AND CONTRACTING PROCESS
Initially, when Lawler was contacted by Bowman he was asked to conduct a motivation course because staff morale was low. That was the presenting problem from Bowman’s and perhaps B R Richardson’s viewpoint. This is the first step for organizations seeking help from an OD practitioner, when there is an issue that needs addressing.
Lawler’s meeting with Bowman and Richardson was in an attempt to gather some preliminary information about the company and to get a clearer perspective on the organizational issues. At this meeting the company was outlined and information was gathered about the plant workers. I do no think this was sufficient information for Lawler to get a clear understanding of the organizational issues. He seems to have forgotten that the presenting problem is often only a partial view of a real and underlying problem or problems. He could have examined company records as to attendance, pay scale, rewards etc., and interviewed some of the key employees for example Joe Bramford, the plant manager and some of the line supervisors. The information Lawler collected was not enough for him to make an informed choice about proceeding to contract.
The next step, which is determining the relevant client, could not be properly done because the organizational issues were not properly clarified. Those who can directly impact organizational change issues were not identified nor included in the entering and contracting process, and they could withhold their support and commitment to the OD process and cause it to fail. The relevant client should have included people such as the plant manager, the head of each department/function, and other key staff members. All these people can directly impact change issues.
The organization did not appear to spend any time in selecting an OD practitioner. Bowman had heard of Lawler’s management training and consulting reputation and a friend of his in a regional association for Training and Development had recommended Lawler. No further investigation seemed to have been done to determine whether Lawler had the expertise and experience to work with members of the organization. Additionally, Lawler was not asked to submit a proposal, but rather he had promised a letter outlining his thoughts on proceeding, with a further promise to outline the costs involved if requested.
A proposal from the OD practitioner would help an organization in selecting an OD consultant. This proposal would include the goals of the proposed effort, recommended action plans, roles and responsibilities and proposed fees and expenses. Lawler’s letter was sketchy at best, and he implied at using an approach called ‘action research’, which he had used successfully at a plywood plant for another company. This indicates that Lawler may have a “one size fits all” approach, while the plywood plant and the lamination plant may be in a similar kind of business, what worked at one plant may not work for another. There would be organizational differences in terms of culture, structure, policies, and procedures that may be in place and he suggested this without first collecting diagnostic data.
Because Lawler’s entering process was faulty, his contracting was deficient. A proper entering process is a necessary prelude to developing an excellent contract. Lawler’s contracting was inadequate and came down to a verbal agreement between Bowman and himself, in which it was agreed that Lawler would conduct a one day visit to the plant with several of his graduate students to gather information, which Lawler would then analyze and present to the company. Lawler would bill for three days of his time, plus the expenses incurred when he and the students visited. Lawler’s contracting did not clarify how the OD process would proceed, it did not establish and elucidate the expectations of the parties, the time, and resources that would be expended, and the ground rules under which the parties would operate.
Given the gravity of the underlying problems at the plant, and the fact that the OD practitioner was external to the organization, a more formal, structured, and informative contract would have been appropriate. There was no indication of mutual agreement as to the expectations of the parties involved, nor of the services and outcomes to be provided by the OD practitioner, except the rather vague “more adequate diagnosis was probably a useful first step” comment made by Bowman, and that Lawler would make a one-day visit to the plant.
Lawler’s contracting did not adequately cover the three key areas of contracting viz., setting mutual expectations; the time and resources that will be expended; and the ground rules for working together. It did not cover how Lawler was going to gather the information, who would be involved in providing this information, and how much of the staff time would be required away from their jobs taking part in interviews.
WHAT WOULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY
Initially, at the entering stage, I would have collected more information to get a clearer picture of the organizations current functioning and its problems. Company records would have been examined; this would have indicated such things as turnover rate, pay scale, training, and development programs, employee benefits, absenteeism, and other relevant information to help give an understanding of underlying issues. Then key employees, such as the managers and line and departmental and/or functional supervisors would have been interviewed to give greater relevance to the data.
Additionally, before beginning the interview process, I would have requested a brief meeting with all persons to be interviewed so that I could be properly introduced and given the opportunity to explain to them the purpose for my visit and the reason for the interviews. Although this is not typically part of the entering and contracting stage, but part of the pre-diagnostic process, it is essential to establish a diagnostic relationship between the practitioner and the relevant organization members, particularly if these members were not involved in the entering and contracting stage, as was the situation in the B R Richardson case.
Because the nature of the diagnostic relationship affects the quality of the information and the usefulness of the data collected, it is essential that the OD practitioner give details to organization members of who they are, the reason for collecting the data, confidentiality, who will have access to the data, what the data is to be used for and what the process entails. This would help alleviate any fears people may have that the information will somehow be used against them, and so gain their trust, support, and commitment which may help ensure that the data collected is valid and relevant. Because Jack and his team were not properly introduced to the employees, and the purpose of their visit was not established, they were looked upon with suspicion and viewed as an interruption to the daily routine.
With their varying perspectives and proximity to the staff, these key employees could have provided pertinent insight into the underlying organizational issues and given a clearer picture of the task that lay ahead. In addition, they represent a more adequate sampling of the population to be interviewed. This information would have assisted the OD practitioner in better determining diagnostic and intervention activities that would be appropriate for the organization.
Secondly, I would determine who were the relevant clients for addressing the underlying organizational issues. Again, these would be the key employees who could have a direct impact on change issues, and could determine the failure or success of the OD process. I would have ensured that Joe Bramford, the plant manager was involved, as well as that the supervisors of each section were included in the entering and contracting process.
Subsequently, I would have submitted a detailed proposal, outlining the project goals, action plans, the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved, recommended interventions and the proposed fees and expenses related to the project. In addition, I would not have indicated what type of model I would use until I had gathered and analyzed the diagnostic data and ensured that the model could work for this organization and its problems.
In contracting I would clarify how the OD process would proceed, and submit a formal, well thought-out, and detailed contract. I would establish from the client exactly what he/she expects from the OD practitioner and the OD process in terms of the services he anticipates and the desired outcomes.
The three key areas of contracting, that is, setting mutual expectations; the time and resources that will be expended; and the ground rules for working together would have been adequately dealt with so that there was no ambiguity. Details of how the information would be gather would be made clear, who would be involved in providing this information, and how much of the staff time would be required away from their jobs during the interview procedure would be established.
Ground rules would be laid out about how the OD consultant and the client will work together. Parameters would be established as to confidentiality, the OD practitioner’s involvement in personal and interpersonal issues, how to terminate the relationship, and whether or not the consultant is expected to make recommendations or assist the managers in making decisions. These things would be thoroughly spelt out so that there is no misunderstanding.
THEORIES AND MODELS TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF THE DIAGNOSTIC DATA
Diagnosis is a collaborative process between organization members and the OD practitioner to collect pertinent data, analyze it, and draw conclusions for action planning. Effective OD begins with an accurate diagnosis. Diagnosing is the second phase in the model of planned change. It follows the entering and contracting stage and comes before planning and implementation. It is crucial that diagnosis is properly done because it directs the organization and the OD practitioner toward the appropriate intervention activities that would improve organizational effectiveness. Diagnosis is the process of understanding how the organization is currently functioning, and it provides the information necessary to design change interventions. To get a holistic view of the entire organization, diagnosis should be done at the organizational, group and individual levels.
After the data is collected it must be analyzed, data analysis can be categorized into two main procedures – quantitative and qualitative analysis. The trend is to use a combination of both to get a more diverse and holistic picture. Quantitative analysis involves transposing information into numerical form. Features are classified, counted, and constructed into statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed. Qualitative analysis involves inferring meaning from masses of information. It attempts to reveal a comprehensive picture of all the factors affecting a particular phenomenon and the various meanings that may be derived from such.
Diagnostic models are conceptual frameworks that people use to understand organizations. They help describe the relationships among different features of the organization as well as its context and effectiveness. Therefore, they must be chosen carefully to address the organization’s presenting problems and to ensure comprehensiveness. When there are problems in an organization, diagnostic models are used to assess the problems and are part of a crucial step toward changing organizations through planned interventions by clients and consultants. There are several different models that can be used, and models are often developed to accommodate a certain situation. A key factor is to know that no one model is ideal for all organizations, which is why it is important to assess a model for your particular situation. Each of the models mentioned has some benefits and advantages and can offer some insight into organizational issues.
Explicit models present a clear map of the organization's points of ineffectiveness and the causes. There are benefits of using explicit diagnostic models, one being that practitioners are more likely to understand the problems and are more likely to find the cause(s) of the points of ineffectiveness. Another benefit is the use of a model based on data gives the practitioner and the clients a basis for improving the diagnosis. The third benefit of explicit models motivates practitioners to do diagnostic work and not make any impulsive decisions concerning change in the organization. The final listed benefit is that explicit models can be used for management development. The feedback from the models can help clients develop their ability to solve a problem themselves.
The open-systems (Appendix III) approach to diagnosing problems has some benefits, like focusing on the problem that is most troublesome to the organization. It also suggests useful ways of analyzing and presenting data. However, there are also several disadvantages of using the open systems framework. It does not give an explanatory framework. It may give the source of ineffectivess, but does not give a possible solution for the problem.
There are four listed steps for applying the open-systems framework, beginning with the preliminary stage in diagnosis. During this stage, the OD practitioner uses the framework to direct attention on the organization, environment, and interaction between the two. It helps take note of conditions that could be responsible for any problems. The second step in the diagnostic process is where the OD practitioner analyzes findings in terms of links among systems features. They focus on the problems in the organization and what is causing them, and find possible solutions for them. It helps them to distinguish between short and long term problems in the organization. The third stage is when the practitioners begin to take action on the problems. Finding the common source of ineffectiveness gives the basis for the final diagnostic model. The fourth and final step is when the practitioners give decision makers feedback. This is meant to help the client toward any decisions that might be beneficial
for the organization. (Ultimately, practitioners need to make sure clients are aware they are fully responsible for any final decisions made).
There are three diagnostic principles considered to be important when the OD practitioners attempts to identify problems and their causes.
1. assess system fit
2. locate diagnostic (or performance) gaps
3. diagnose ways to manage interdependence among elements of the organization
Assessing system fit concerns looking at the fit between system elements; such as the environment, technology, structure, culture, and behavior. Because all of these elements are related, any problems between them can cause ineffectiveness.
Locating diagnostic or performance gaps looks at problems between current and desired outcomes - they usually refer to differences between the present and some desired future state.
Diagnosing ways to manage interdependence among elements of the organization looks at any changes in one system and the effect it has on other systems. This means that some systems depend on one another and any changes in one may mean change or problem in another.
The Action Research (Appendix IV) approach IS a cyclical process of diagnosis-change-research-diagnosis-change-research. The results of diagnosis produce ideas for changes. The changes are introduced into the system and their effects noted through further research and diagnosis in a continuous cycle. It shows that research can be practical and can serve as an instrument for action and change. In the BR Richardson case it can be used to help them identify problems, discover their underlying causes, and implement appropriate changes. It addition to its problem solving focus, action research involves both the OD practitioner and organization members. Such participation can help foster members’ input and commitment to the changes, thus increasing the chances for successful implementation. This approach involves the following cyclical steps:
· preliminary data gathering and diagnosis;
· feedback to the client;
· action planning;
The Wiesbord Model (Appendix V) is particularly useful when the OD practitioner does not have as much time as would be desirable for diagnosis, when a relatively uncomplicated plan is required, or when the client is unaccustomed to thinking in systems terms. This model can be used in the B R Richardson case for sorting and interpreting the data. This model helps the client to visualize his/her organization as a systemic whole without the use of complicated terminology. This model divides all data into six key areas, that is:
· leadership and
· helpful mechanisms (technology).
The model proposes a diagnostic tool for identifying the key areas by addressing the questions in each of the six boxes (see appendix V).
ORGANIZING THE INFORMATION FOR FEEDBACK
Because the volume of data collected during the diagnosis period is usually quite large, it is important that it be summarized and organized in such a manner so that the client organization is not overwhelmed with too much information, and can readily understand and derive action plans from it. Some criteria for determining the content of diagnostic feedback and to make it effective include the following.
· Relevance – the information would have to be meaningful to organization members for them to use it for problem solving.
· Understandability – data must be presented in a form that is readily understood and easily interpreted by organization members.
· Descriptive – data should be linked to real organizational behaviours to arouse and direct energy.
· Verifiable – the data should be valid and accurate in order to guide action. Organization members should be able to verify that the findings actually describes the organization.
· Timeliness – data should be presented to organization members as quickly as possible after it has been collected and analyzed. This would help ensure that it is still valid.
· Limited – feedback data should be limited to what can be realistically processed at one time in order to avoid information overload.
· Significance – feedback should be realistic and limited to relevant issues that organization members can do something about.
CARRYING OUT THE FEEDBACK PROCESS
One of the most important steps in the diagnostic process is feeding back the diagnostic information to the client organization. Everyone who contributed information should have an opportunity to learn about the findings of the assessment process (provided there is no apparent breach of anyone’s confidentiality). This provides an opportunity for the organization’s members to become involved in the change process, to learn about how different parts of the organization affect each other, and to participate in selecting appropriate change interventions.
Properly analyzed and meaningful data can have an impact on organizational change only if the organization makes use of the information to devise appropriate action plans. The feedback stage occurs after data collection. A feedback meeting customarily ensues once the data has been gathered and analyzed. The primary purpose of the feedback meeting is for the client group to spend time being exposed to the data, and to accept and understand it. Typically, those who provided the data are invited to the feedback meeting. It is important to give sufficient notice beforehand so that the client group members can clear their calendars. It is not unusual for a feedback meeting to last several hours.
Just before the formal meeting, a courtesy feedback is given to the primary client, usually the top-level manager or director. The purpose is to inform this person or persons of the findings so that there are no surprises for him/her, or public embarrassment, at the formal feedback meeting. The practitioner needs to be clear to the client that the data would not be altered after the courtesy feedback.
The most important objective of the feedback process is to ensure that organization members “own” the data. Ownership refers to the willingness to take responsibility for the data, their meaning, and the consequences of using them to devise a change strategy. Ownership of the data is facilitated by the following features of successful feedback processes:
· Motivation to work with the data – there must be a sense that using the data would have beneficial outcomes. If people doubt that the information would be useful or that they can utilize it for change, there would be little ownership.
· Meeting structure – the meeting should be structured so that it does not lead to chaos and aimless discussion. An agenda or outline and a discussion leader can usually provide the necessary direction.
· Appropriate attendance – members from different functional areas or hierarchal levels, as well as people who have common problems and can benefit from working together should be invited to the meeting. Proper representation from each functional area and level is required to ensure ownership of the data.
· Process help – members may need assistance to stay focused on the subject, and to generate discussion, problem solving, and ownership.
These features would help promote ownership of the data by the client system and help to ensure that their energies are directed toward appropriate and viable organizational changes.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION THAT COULD BE COLLECTED
Organizational Development is vitally dependant on organizational diagnosis. Therefore the quality of the information collected is a crucial part of the OD process. Several methods can be utilized for data collection; they include interviews – one on one or group, questionnaires, observations and unobtrusive methods. Adequate sampling is critical to the data gathering process. The sample size and sample selection should be truly representative of the population its represents, stratified sampling, (that is sampling from a sub-population), in which each level of the organization is represented, is critical to attain a diagnostic conclusion from each group. These may be used alone or in combination. To ensure that the data collected gives a holistic view of the organization, information on the following areas is necessary:
· organizational climate
· leadership styles
· organizational culture
· organizational structure
· formal and informal power structure
· formal and informal reward structure
· interpersonal structures.
Lawler could have used a combination of data collection techniques in an effort to obtain a well-rounded representation of the organization. No one method can fully measure the kinds of variables important to OD. Each has strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages, therefore a mixture of methods may offset the deficiencies in each other, and present a picture from different perspectives, and because of biases inherent in each method, they would supplement each other, thus giving a clearer representation of organizational issues.
Lawler used the interview method to collect data. He could also have used questionnaires in addition to the interviews. With questionnaires Lawler would have been able to reach more of the employees, especially at the operations level, and so get a clearer idea of problems and concerns at that level. The use of questionnaires would have allowed employees to answer questions anonymously and therefore they would have been able to answer honestly without fear of reprisals. Questionnaires can vary in scope, and can be standardized or tailored to a specific organization and to assess certain aspects of the organization.
The use of unobtrusive data (that is, data not directly from respondents but from secondary sources), could also have assisted Lawler in his data collection efforts. Companies usually have records on absenteeism, grievances, financial performance, meeting minutes, production information and correspondence with customers, suppliers and government agencies. These records could have provided information on how well the company was currently functioning, its market share, the company’s general environment, culture, organizational structure, work systems, control systems and its human relations systems.
Company records could also offer a wealth of information about its employees. A company’s reward system would have an influence on job behaviours and attitudes. Employee records would detail personal characteristics of individuals, including age, skills, education and experience. These can affect job performance and how people react to job design. Individuals’ needs and expectations can also affect employee job responses. The need for growth, self-direction, learning and personal accomplishments can determine how much people are motivated and satisfied by jobs with varying levels of skill variety, autonomy, and feedback about results.
Unobtrusive data collection provides a relatively objective view of organizational functioning. This information is in black and white, and free from consultant or respondent biases, and are perceived as being real by organization members. This information tends to be reported at periodic intervals and as such can reveal trends in behaviour.
Unobtrusive data serve as a valuable adjunct to other diagnostic measures such as interviews and questionnaires. This type of data could have been used by Lawler in his preliminary diagnosis, and could have helped him identify problems such as absenteeism, grievances or production problems. Then he could have targeted these areas during his interviews to help uncover the underlying causes of the problems. This data could also have been used to cross check the information gathered during the interviews in an effort to pinpoint any recurring themes which could be an indication of a particular problem in that area.
In the subject case, it appears that the climate at B R Richardson is ripe for change. There is dissatisfaction at all levels and management has recognized that some type of intervention is necessary and has taken an essential first step is seeking assistance. It is now up to Lawler to present his diagnosis and provide feedback so that management will initiate intervention which appears to be necessary at the organization, team and individual levels.
OD is an evolving field of applied social science with an increasing diversity of concepts and applications. OD has grown to include the total organization, work designs, human resources, and organization structures. There are innumerable OD tools that can be used in organizations today, and it is critical to select the appropriate intervention(s) for a particular organization, this is why the proper initial preparations are so important.
The models and approaches discussed in this paper describe systematic ways to plan and manage change. However, the simplicity of the models belie the complexities associated with the change process. It appears that B R Richardson would need to implement a sound change management strategy, an appropriate change model and to encourage an environment that invites debate and challenges. Each organization is different; therefore this dictates a different approach to change initiatives depending on the organization’s climate and culture.
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ACTION RESEARCH: A cyclical process of diagnosis-change-research-diagnosis-change-research. The results of diagnosis produce ideas for changes. The changes are introduced into the system and their effects noted through further research and diagnosis in a continuous cycle.
CLIENT SYSTEM: The organization, including persons and groups who are the object of the diagnosis or change efforts.
DIAGNOSIS: The process of collecting information about a client system and working collaboratively with it to understand the system’s current functioning.
EXPLICIT MODELS: Models based on data that gives a clear, well defined representation of organizations’ issues.
MODEL: Refers to a conceptual scheme that specifies key concepts and variables and points to important relations among them.
MOVEMENT: Moving the change target to a new level or kind of behaviour. That is, intervening in the system to develop new behaviours, values and attitudes through changes in structures and processes.
O D DEVELOPMENT: An effort, planned organization-wide, managed from the top to increase organizational effectiveness and health through planned interventions, using behavioural sciences knowledge.
O D PRACTITIONER: Anyone engaged in diagnosing organizations for the purpose of making or facilitating decisions concerning changes aimed at enhancing organizational effectiveness."
OPEN SYSTEMS APPROACH: An approach that takes into account relations between systems and the environment.
REFREEZING: Rebalancing the driving and restraining forces in the changed situation so that it remains relatively stable.
RELEVANT CLIENT: Those organization members who can directly impact the change effort, they include key personnel, managers and even union members.
UNFREEZING: Reducing those forces maintaining the organization’s behaviour at its present level.
The Organizational Development Process
Open Systems Model
Action Research Model