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Evaluating and Institutionalizing Organization Development Interventions-2

Evaluating and Institutionalizing Organization Development Interventions Institutionalizing interventions:

Once it is determined that a change has been implemented and is effective, attention is directed at institutionalizing the changes—making them a permanent part of the organization’s normal functioning. Lewin described change as occurring in three stages: unfreezing, moving, and refreezing. Institutionalizing an OD intervention concerns refreezing. It involves the long-term persistence of organizational changes: to the extent that changes persist, they can be said to be institutionalized. Such changes are not dependent on any one person but exist as a part of the culture of an organization. This means that numerous others share norms about the appropriateness of the changes. How planned changes become institutionalized has not received much attention in the OD literature. Rapidly changing environments have led to admonitions from consultants and practitioners to “change constantly,” to “change before you have to,” and “if it’s not broke, fix it anyway.” Such a context has challenged the utility of the institutionalization concept. Why endeavor to make any change permanent given that it may require changing again soon? However, the admonitions also have resulted in institutionalization concepts being applied in new ways. Change itself has become the focus of institutionalization. Total quality management, organization learning, integrated strategic change, and selfdesign interventions all are aimed at enhancing the organization’s capability for change. In this vein, processes of institutionalization take on increased utility. This section presents a framework identifying factors and processes that contribute to the institutionalization of OD interventions, including the process of change itself.

Institutionalization Framework

: Figure 37 presents a framework that identifies organization and intervention characteristics and institutionalization processes affecting the degree to which change programs are institutionalized. The model shows that two key antecedents—organization and intervention characteristics—affect different institutionalization processes operating in organizations. These processes, in turn, affect various indicators of institutionalization. The model also shows that organization characteristics can influence intervention characteristics. For example, organizations having powerful unions may have trouble gaining internal support for OD interventions.

Figure 37: Institutionalization Framework Organization Characteristics

: Figure 37 show that the following three key dimensions of an organization can affect intervention characteristics and institutionalization processes.

1. Congruence.
This is the degree to which an intervention is perceived as being in harmony with the organization’s managerial philosophy, strategy, and structure; its current environment; and other changes taking place. When an intervention is congruent with these dimensions, the probability is improved that it will be institutionalized. Congruence can facilitate persistence by making it easier to gain member commitment to the intervention and to diffuse it to wider segments of the organization. The converse also is true; many OD interventions promote employee participation and growth. When applied in highly bureaucratic organizations with formalized structures and autocratic managerial styles, participative interventions are not perceived as congruent with the organization’s managerial philosophy. 2.

Stability of environment and technology
This involves the degree to which the organization’s environment and technology are changing. Unless the change target is buffered from these changes or unless the changes are dealt with directly by the change program, it may be difficult to achieve long-term intervention stability. For example, decreased demand for the firm’s products or services can lead to reductions in personnel that may change the composition of the groups involved in the intervention. Conversely, increased product demand can curtail institutionalization by bringing new members on board at a rate faster than they can be socialized effectively. 3.

Diffusion of interventions may be more difficult in unionized settings, especially if the changes affect union contract issues, such as salary and fringe benefits, ob design, and employee flexibility. For example, a rigid union contract can make it difficult to merge several job classifications into one, as might be required to increase task variety in a job enrichment program. It is important to emphasize, however, that unions can be a powerful force for promoting change, particularly when a good relationship exists between union and management.

Goal specificity

. This involves the extent to which intervention goals are specific rather than broad. Specificity of goals helps direct socializing activities (for example. training and orienting new members) to particular behaviors required to implement the intervention. It also helps operationalize the new behaviors so that rewards can be linked clearly to them. For example, an intervention aimed only at increasing product quality is likely to be more focused and readily put into operation than a change program intended to improve quality, quantity, safety, absenteeism, and employee development. 2.


. This involves the degree to which the changes can be programmed or the extent to which the different intervention characteristics can be specified clearly in advance to enable socialization, commitment, and reward allocation. For example, job enrichment specifies three targets of change: employee discretion, task variety, and feedback. The change program can be planned and designed to promote those specific features. 3.
Level of change target

. This concerns the extent to which the change target is the total organization, rather than a department or small work group. Each level of organization has facilitators and inhibitors of persistence. Departmental and group changes are susceptible to countervailing forces from others in the organization. These can reduce the diffusion of the intervention and lower its ability to impact organization effectiveness. However, this does not preclude institutionalizing the change within a department that successfully insulates itself from the rest of the organization. Such insulation often manifests itself as a subculture within the organization. Targeting the intervention to wider segments of the organization, on the other hand, also can help or hinder change persistence. A shared belief about the intervention’s value can be a powerful incentive to maintain the change, and promoting a consensus across organizational departments exposed to the change can facilitate institutionalization. But targeting the larger system also can inhibit institutionalization. The intervention can become mired in political resistance because of the “not invented here” syndrome or because powerful constituencies oppose it. 4.

Internal support

. This refers to the degree to which there is an internal support system to guide the change process. Internal support, typically provided by an internal consultant, can gain commitment for the changes and help organization members implement them. External consultants also can provide support, especially on a temporary basis during the early stages of implementation. For example, in many interventions aimed at implementing high—involvement organizations, both external and internal consultants provide change support. The external consultant typically brings expertise on organizational design and trains members to implement the design. The internal consultant generally helps members relate to other organizational units, resolve conflicts and legitimize the change activities within the organization. 5.


. This concerns the presence of a powerful sponsor who can initiate, allocate, and legitimize resources for the intervention. Sponsors must come from levels in the organization high enough

to control appropriate resources, and they must have the visibility and power to nurture the intervention and see that it remains viable. There are many examples of OD interventions that persisted for several years and then collapsed abruptly when the sponsor, usually a top administrator, left the organization. There also are numerous examples of middle managers withdrawing support for interventions because top management did not include them in the change program.

Institutionalization Processes:

The framework depicted in Figure 37 shows the following five institutionalization processes that can directly affect the degree to which OD interventions are institutionalized. 1.


. This concerns the transmission of information about beliefs, preferences, norms, and values with respect to the intervention. Because implementation of OD interventions generally involves considerable learning and experimentation, a continual process of socialization is necessary to promote persistence of the change program. Organization members must focus attention on the evolving nature of the intervention and its ongoing meaning. They must communicate this information to other employees, especially new members. Transmission of information about the intervention helps bring new members onboard and allows participants to reaffirm the beliefs, norms, and values underlying the intervention. For example, employee involvement programs often include initial transmission of information about the intervention, as well as retraining of existing participants and training of new members. Such processes are intended to promote persistence of the program as both new behaviors are learned and new members are introduced. 2.

. This binds people to behaviors associated with the intervention. It includes initial commitment to the program, as well as recommitment over time. Opportunities for commitment should allow people to select the necessary behaviors freely, explicitly, and publicly. These conditions favor high commitment and can promote stability of the new behaviors. Commitment should derive from several organizational levels, including the employees directly involved and the middle and upper managers who can support or thwart the intervention. In many early employee involvement programs, for example, attention was directed at gaining workers’ commitment to such programs. Unfortunately, middle managers were often ignored and considerable management resistance to the interventions resulted. 3.

Reward allocation

. This involves linking rewards to the new behaviors required by an intervention. Organizational rewards can enhance the persistence of interventions in at least two ways. First, a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards can reinforce new behaviors. Intrinsic rewards are internal and derive from the opportunities for challenge, development, and accomplishment found in the work. When interventions provide these opportunities, motivation to perform should persist. This behavior can be further reinforced by providing extrinsic rewards, such as money, for increased contributions. Because the value of extrinsic rewards tends to diminish over time, it may be necessary to revise the reward system to maintain high levels of desired behaviors. Second, new behaviors will persist to the extent that rewards are perceived as equitable by employees. When new behaviors are fairly compensated. People are likely to develop preferences for those behaviors. Over time, those preferences should lead to normative and value consensus about the appropriateness of the intervention. For example, many employee involvement programs fail to persist because employees feel that their increased contributions to organizational improvements are unfairly rewarded. This is especially true for interventions relying exclusively on intrinsic rewards. People argue that an intervention that provides opportunities for intrinsic rewards also should provide greater pay or extrinsic rewards for higher levels of contribution to the organization. 4.


. This refers to the process of transferring interventions from one system to another. Diffusion facilitates institutionalization by providing a wider organizational base to support the new behaviors. Many interventions fail to persist because they run counter to the values and norms of the larger organization. Rather than support the intervention, the larger organization rejects the changes and often puts pressure on the change target to revert to old behaviors. Diffusion of the intervention to other organizational units reduces this counter implementation force. It tends to lock in behaviors by providing normative consensus from other parts of the organization. Moreover, the act of transmitting institutionalized behaviors to other systems reinforces commitment to the changes. 5.

Sensing and calibration

. This involves detecting deviations from desired intervention behaviors and taking corrective action, institutionalized behaviors invariably encounter destabilizing forces, such as changes in the environment, new technologies, and pressures from other departments to nullify changes. These factors cause some variation in performances preferences norms, and values. To detect this variation and take corrective actions, organizations must have some sensing mechanism. Sensing mechanisms, such as implementation feedback, provide information about the occurrence of deviations. This knowledge can then initiate corrective actions to ensure that behaviors are more in line with the intervention. For example, if a high level of job discretion associated with a job enrichment intervention does not persist, information

about this problem might initiate’ corrective actions, such as renewed attempts to socialize people or to gain commitment to the intervention.

Indicators of Institutionalization:

Institutionalization is not an all-or-nothing concept but reflects degrees of persistence of an intervention. Figure 37 shows five indicators of the extent of an intervention’s persistence. The extent to which the following factors arc present or absent: indicates the degree of Institutionalization 1.


. This involves the extent to which organization members have knowledge of the behaviors associated with an intervention, it is concerned with whether members know enough to perform the behaviors and to recognize the consequences of that performance. For example, job enrichment includes a number of new behaviors, such as performing a greater variety of tasks, analyzing information about task performance, and making decisions about work methods and plans. 2.


. This is concerned with the degree to which intervention behaviors are actually performed. It may be measured by counting the proportion of relevant people performing the behaviors. For example, 60 percent of the employees in a particular work unit might be performing the job enrichment behaviors described above. Another measure of performance is the frequency with which the new behaviors are performed. In assessing frequency, it is important to account for different variations of the same essential behavior, as well as highly institutionalized behaviors that need to be performed only infrequently. 3.


. This involves the degree to which organization members privately accept the organizational changes. This contrasts with acceptance based primarily organizational sanctions or group pressures. Private acceptance usually is reflected in people’s positive attitudes toward the changes and can be measured by the direction and intensity of those attitudes across the members of the work unit receiving the intervention. For example, a questionnaire assessing members’ perceptions of a job enrichment program might show that most employees have a strong positive attitude toward making decisions, analyzing feedback, and performing a variety of tasks. 4.

Normative consensus

. This focuses on the extent to which people agree about the appropriateness of the organizational changes. This indicator of institutionalization reflects how fully changes have become part of the normative structure of the organization. Changes persist to the degree members feel that they should support them. For example, a job enrichment program would become institutionalized to the extent that employees support it and see it as appropriate to organizational functioning. 5.

Value consensus

. This is concerned with social consensus on values relevant to the organizational changes. Values are beliefs about how people ought or ought not to behave. They are abstractions from more specific norms. Job enrichment, for example, is based on values promoting employee self-control and responsibility. Different behaviors associated with job enrichment, such as making decision and performing a variety of tasks, would persist to the extent that employees widely share values of self-control and responsibility. These five indicators can be used to assess the level of institutionalization of an OD intervention. The more the indicators are present in a situation, the higher will be the degree of institutionalization. Further; these factors seem to follow a specific development order: knowledge, performance, preferences, norms, and values. People must first understand flew behaviors or changes before they can perform them effectively. Such performance generates rewards and punishments, which in time affect people’s preferences. As many individuals come to prefer the changes, normative consensus about their appropriateness develops. Finally, if there is normative agreement about the changes reflecting a particular set of values, over time there should be some consensus on those values among organization members. Given this developmental view of institutionalization, it is implicit that whenever one of the last indicators is present, all the previous ones are automatically included as well. For example, if employees normatively agree with the behaviors associated with job enrichment, then they also have knowledge about the behaviors, can perform them effectively, and prefer them. An OD intervention is fully institutionalized only when all five factors are present.

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