Creating a Climate for Change
Creating a Climate for Change
Most OD practitioners would agree that an open give-and-take
relationship with the client is desirable. To
some extent this depends on the ability of the practitioner to
form relationships of openness and trust.
Good relationships do not fit into a formula or equation, but OD
practitioners have noted a number of
recognizable characteristics of which the practitioner may be
aware. “The change agent should act
congruently, in accordance with the values he or she is
attempting to superimpose upon the client system’s
value system. To use an old expression,
the practitioner should
practice what he or she preaches. The
practitioner must think and act in ways that will create and
enhance a positive climate for participation and
The basic value system of the OD practitioner may not be
compatible with the organization’s culture. As a
result, there may be conflicts between the value systems of the
practitioner and the client system. An
assessment of the degree of difference and the likelihood of
working these differences through should be
part of the OD practitioner’s initial intervention. The
practitioner may desire to create a relationship of
openness, authenticity, and trust. The client system managers,
however, may tend not to be open, may have
learned not to behave authentically, and may even feel
threatened by an exploration of feelings or
confrontation by the practitioner; the practitioner may have
reservations about the probability of a
successful program. The practitioner also examines the degree of
conflict and collaboration between
organization units and needs to be aware of this to avoid being
party to any existing conflicts. “One of the
most frequent forms of resistance to change,” comments OD
authority Ronald Lippitt, “is the perception
by certain subgroups, that the consultant is more closely
related to other subgroups and is ‘on their side’ in
any conflict of interests.”
Who is Client?
One may say, the client is….
1. Company president
2. Top management group
3. Employee relations person
4. Total company
5. Parent corporation
6. All of the above
7. None of the above.
The correct answer is (7), “none of the above.” The client in OD
consultation is never one individual,
regardless of position or role, or any particular group, team,
or subsystem of the organization, or any
The client is the relationship and/or interface between
individuals and units within and related to
in the figure 12 depict the true client.
The degree to which a consultant is effective is a function of
how capable he or she is at maintaining a
certain social distance between self and other individuals in
the client organization and its operating on the
boundaries of units rather than exclusively within them. In
these ways, the consultant can more readily
maintain an objective stance between persons and units in
conflict rather than being with one or the other.
OD Practitioner Styles:
The OD practitioner is the person who initiates, stimulates, or
facilitates a change program, and may come
from inside or outside the organization. Change begins with the
intervention of the practitioner in the
system to be changed.
refers to the practitioner’s entry into the client stem and includes several
different roles and activities. Practitioners, be they internal or external,
have a variety of practitioner styles or approaches. One way to view the
styles is based on the degree of emphasis the practitioner places upon two
interrelated goals or dimensions of the change process. One of the goals is
effectiveness the degree of emphasis upon goal accomplishment. The other
goal is morale, the degree of emphasis upon relationships and participant
satisfaction. Based upon the two dimensions of accomplishing goals and
member satisfaction, five different types of practitioner styles or roles
can be identified.
The Stabilizer Style:
The goal of the stabilizer style is neither
effectiveness nor participant satisfaction. Rather the practitioner
is trying to keep from rocking the boat and to maintain a low
profile. The underlying motivation is often
survival, or merely following the directives of top management.
Such a role is typically found in large
organizations where development programs may be part of the
staff function and are not highly regarded
by top management. This style is usually forced upon the
practitioner by organizational pressures, so that
the practitioner has learned to conform and to suppress any
The Cheerleader Style
style places emphasis on the
satisfaction of organization members and is chiefly
concerned with employee motivation and morale. The cheerleader
practitioner seeks warm working
relationships and in general is more comfortable in non
confrontational situations. Effectiveness per se is
not emphasized. The assumption being that if member satisfaction
is high, effectiveness will also be high.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of evidence that
contradicts these assumptions. The cheerleader style
strongly minimizes differences and maintains harmony.
The Analyzer Style:
The analyzer style
places great emphasis on efficiency,
and gives little emphasis to member satisfaction.
The analyzer feels most comfortable with a rational assessment
of problem and assumes that the facts will
lead to a solution. Practitioners of this type may be quite
confrontational, usually relying on authority to
resolve conflicts and on rational problem-solving processes.
The analyzer style has a background of specialized expertise,
knowledge, and experience applicable to the
solution of specific problems. The client needs to have a
problem solved, a service performed or a study
made; the analyzer practitioner takes responsibility for
providing these functions. This style is based on the
belief that the client does not need to know or cannot learn the
skills to solve its problems. The success of
the practitioner is largely dependent on the client’s having
properly diagnosed its problem and called in the
right kind of practitioner.
The Persuader Style:
style focuses on dimensions,
effectiveness and morale, yet optimizes neither. Such a style
provides a relatively low-risk strategy, yet avoids direct
confrontation with other forces. This approach may
be used when the practitioner has little power or leverage
relative to other participants. It is motivated
primarily by a desire to satisfy, that is, to achieve something
that is “good enough.” A great deal of effort is
applied in attempting to satisfy the different forces, thus
gaining a majority bloc of support for prepared
changes. The resulting change program is often watered down or
weakened to the point where organization
improvement is unlikely.
The Pathfinder Style:
style seeks both a high degree of
effectiveness and a high degree of member satisfaction,
believing that greater effectiveness is possible when all
members are involved and problem-solving is done
through teamwork. There is awareness that confrontation and
conflict are often a means to a more
effective organization and to more satisfied individual members.
The pathfinder approach uses
collaborative problem solving and challenges the underlying
patterns of member behavior. Harold J, Leavitt
uses this term to refer to developing a sense of value and
vision. The pathfinder practitioner helps the
organization to focus on its most critical issues and questions.
A survey of about 1,000 OD practitioners found that listening,
integrity, and organizational diagnosis were
rated as the most important OD skills. The pathfinder
practitioner uses these skills to give the client new
insights into its activities and to help the client system
determine how it wishes to change and how it might
go about implement changes. The practitioner rarely informs or
instructs the client system, but instead tries
to discover client system problems and to challenge the
underlying patterns of behavior of organization
members. The pathfinder practitioner focuses on six processes
essential for effective organization
performance: (1) communication, (2) member role and functions in
groups, (3) group problem-solving and
decision-making, (4) group norms and growth, (5) leadership and
authority, and (ft) inter-group
cooperation a competition.
We have identified five different practitioner styles in this
section. You will have an opportunity to find out
where your own style fits in this classification system. Most
organizational problems are complex situations,
however, and may not neatly fit with any one change approach but
will depend upon the practitioner, the
nature of the problem, and the organizational climate.
In summary, these five practitioner styles are not mutually
exclusive. All the styles can be effective, and they
are interrelated. A practitioner may transition from one style
to another to meet changing client system
needs and deal with diverse situations. Frequently, some
combination of the styles may be applied.
Practitioner-Client Relationship Modes:
Eric H. Neilson has identified several basic dimensions in the
practitioner-client relationship that can be
used as indicators of the climate for change. In order to
collaboratively change the organization’s culture,
members need to (1) share their ideas, assumptions, perceptions,
and feelings, and (2) accept personal
responsibility for their own behavior. Based upon these two
dimensions, Neilsen has identified four
possible modes in the practitioner-client relationship. (See
The apathetic mode
Members keep their true ideas about self-fulfillment and organization
to themselves. They assume that sharing this information will
not make any difference, so why bother?
They follow established routines, take no responsibility for
their actions, and simply do as they are told.
They relate to the practitioner in the same way, assuming that
higher authority has sanctioned the change
hut viewing it with skepticism.
The gamesmanship mode
Members keep their true feelings about self- fulfillment and organizational
effectiveness to themselves, under the assumption that sharing
information may threaten personally desired
outcomes, They make their own decisions about how to behave,
thus taking responsibility for their
behavior. This may include conforming outwardly to any
decision-making procedure hut manipulating
strategic factors to gain personal goals. Members may favor
change if they can see ways in which it can
serve their personal interest.
The charismatic mode:
A limited number of members openly share ideas and feelings with the rest,
based on perceptions of leadership. The followers are looking
for cues from their leaders, so responsibility
is low for most members. Members view the change process as
desirable if the leaders approve, but they
rely on the leaders to interpret the results.
The consensus mode:
Members continuously share perceptions and feelings openly both on
and organizational effectiveness. Personal viewpoints are seen
as relevant to organization
functioning and are expressed. Decisions are made and
differences arc resolved through the sharing of
viewpoints, this process involves both sharing of data and
maintaining one’s responsibility for actions.
Members see the OD process as consistent with their way of
operating and find the results interesting and
Four Practitioner-Client Relationship Modes
The practitioner’s attitudes and behavior make it possible for
the client to create a climate where feelings
about the client system can be freely and honestly expressed.
The practitioner also has the ability to listen
effectively and express ideas clearly and concisely. The
practitioner is honest with the client, because
facades have no place in the relationship. By operating based on
power equalization, the practitioner
ensures that the power differential between practitioner and
client is not too great, for otherwise it will be
difficult to develop a collaborative relationship. This is
particularly true with internal practitioners, who may
be in a subordinate position in the organization’s power
structure? The practitioner also makes certain that
all the key parties in the client system are involved in the OD
program to some extent. Thee practitioner
must determine to how much involvement by different individuals
or groups is appropriate. The outcome
of ignoring key people is increased resistance and probable
ineffectiveness in the change program.
These are not the only dimensions that are involved in a complex
practitioner-client relationship, but they
have been discussed here to provide the beginning practitioner
with an awareness of some of the important
dimensions that should be examined and considered. The
practitioner must keep in mind that this
relationship is analogous to one’s impact on the total system.
The practitioner’s behavior will actually be a
model for the organization between organization members. In
attempting to create a climate of openness
and collaboration between organization members and departments,
one strives to develop personal
relationships based on similar qualities. A good relationship
increases the probability of a successful OD
program. A tenuous or superficial relationship increases the
probability that the OD program will be
ineffective or unsuccessful.
Important dimensions in practitioner-client relationship:
• The practitioner’s
attitudes and behavior make it possible for the client to create a climate where
feelings about the client system can be freely and honestly
• Ability to listen
effectively and express ideas clearly and concisely.
• The practitioner is
honest with the client, because facades have no place in the relationship.
• By operating based on
power equalization, - the practitioner ensures that the power differential
between practitioner and client is not too great, for otherwise
it will be difficult to develop a
• This is particularly
true with internal practitioners, who may be in a subordinate position in the
organization’s power structure?
• The practitioner also
makes certain that all the key parties in the client system are involved in the
OD program to some extent. The practitioner must determine to
how much involvement by
different individuals or groups is appropriate. The outcome of
ignoring key people is increased
resistance and probable ineffectiveness in the change program.
• A good relationship
increases the probability of a successful OD program. A superficial
relationship increases the probability that the OD program will
be ineffective or unsuccessful.
Case: The Grayson Chemical Company
The Grayson Chemical Company manufactured industrial chemicals
for sale to other industrial companies.
The company was about 40 years old and had been run by a stable
management in which there had only
been two presidents. Within the past few years, however,
declining earnings and sales had brought pressure
from the board of directors, investment bankers, and stockholder
groups to name a new president. The
company had become increasingly stagnant – although at Grayson
they refer to it as conservative – and had
steadily lost market standing and profitability. Finally, the
board decided to go outside the company to find
a new CEO and was able to recruit a dynamic manager from another
major corporation, Tom Baker. Baker
is 47, an MBA, and had helped build his former company into a
Baker was clear about what he needed to do. He knew that he
needed to develop a top management team
that could provide the leadership to turn the company around.
Unfortunately, the situation at Grayson was
not very favorable.
Decisions were made by the book or taken to the next-higher
level. Things were done because “they have
always been done this way,” and incompetent managers were often
promoted to high-level jobs.
Baker met with three members of the board, Robert Temple
(chairman), James Allen, and Hartley Ashford.
Each had a different bit of advice to offer.
Robert Temple said: “Look, Tom, you can’t just get rid of the
old organization if you want to maintain any
semblance of morale. Your existing people are all fairly
competent technically, but it’s up to you to develop
performance goals and motivate them to achieve these standards.
Make it clear that achievement will be
rewarded and that those who can’t hack it will have to go.”
James Allen, puffing on his pipe, noted: “Let’s face it, Tom;
you need to bring in a new top management
team. Probably only six or so, but people who know what top
performance means, people who are using
innovative methods of managing and, above all, people you trust.
That means people you’ve worked with
closely, from ABC or other companies, but people you know. You
can’t retread the old people, and you
don’t have time to develop young MBAs, so you need to bring in
your own team even though it might
upset some of the old-timers.”
Hartley Ashford smiled and said: “Sure, you’re going to have to
bring in a new team from the outside, but
rather than bring in people you’ve worked with before, bring in
only managers with proven track records.
People who have proven their ability to lead, motivate, and
perform from different industries. This way
you’ll get a synergistic effect from a number of successful
organizations. And the old people will see that
favoritism is not the way to get ahead. So get a top performance
team. And if you lose a few old-timers, so
much the better.”
Case Analysis Form
III. Systems affected
1. Structural ____________________________________________
2. Psychosocial __________________________________________.
3. Technical ______________________________________________
4. Managerial _____________________________________________
5. Goals and values __________________________________________
Case Solution: The Grayson Chemical Company
1. Grayson has become stagnant, failed to change, and is no
2. The current people at Grayson are not acceptable to change.
3. There is a culture of doing things by the book.
1. Incompetent managers promoted.
2. Board does not have a consensus of opinion.
1. Grayson has not been proactive with its environment.
2. Corporate culture is very resistant to change.
3. Board does not speak with one voice. So entire organization
is somewhat disorganized in its
operations—no clear direction or focus
III. Systems affected:
The entire organization is affected. The organization is still
functioning; however, to be a healthy company
and to grow, changes are needed.
1. Structural – with major changes, the structure could be
2. Psychosocial – status quo and contentment seems to be
prevalent among management.
3. Technical – though there is evidence that managers are
“fairly” competent technically, but this
may not be enough to make the kind of changes that Grayson
4. Managerial – the management currently seems to be comfortable
in their positions and
performance. The changes that Tom Baker may initiate would
likely create turmoil in the
5. Goals and values – the system seems to value putting in your
time and you will get promoted.
Excellence in performance is something not present at Grayson,
but complacency seems to be
1. Maintain status quo—do nothing.
2. Develop a pathfinder style; involve board, and organization
members in renewing the
3. Develop a persuader style and avoid “rocking the boat” by
making gradual or slow changes.
Develop pathfinder style; involve Entire Corporation in change
process. Establish open communications
with board and establish a consensus on what the board
wants/expects/desires. Since incompetent
managers have often been promoted, personnel changes should be
made after thorough analysis of