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Organization Development

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Organization Process Approaches

Organization Process Approaches

Now we will discuss system wide process interventions change programs directed at improving such processes as organizational problem solving, leadership, visioning, and task accomplishment between groups—for a major subsystem or for an entire organization. The first type of intervention, the organization confrontation meeting, is among the earliest organization wide process approaches. It helps mobilize the problem-solving resources of a major subsystem or whole organization by encouraging members to identify and confront pressing issues. The second organization process approach is called inter-group relations. It consists of two interventions: the inter-group conflict resolution meeting and microcosm groups. Both interventions are aimed at diagnosing and addressing important organizational level processes, such as conflict, the coordination of organizational units, and diversity. The inter-group conflict intervention is specifically oriented toward conflict processes, whereas the microcosm group is a more generic system wide change strategy. A third system wide process approach, the large-group intervention, has received considerable attention recently and is one of the fastest-growing areas in OD. Large-group interventions get a “whole system into the room” and create processes that allow a variety of stakeholders to interact simultaneously. A largegroup intervention can be used to clarify important organizational values, develop new ways of looking at problems, articulate a new vision for the organization, solve cross-functional problems, restructure operations, or devise an organizational strategy. It is a powerful tool for addressing organizational problems and opportunities and for accelerating the pace of organizational change. The final is a normative approach to OD: Blake and Mouton’s Grid Organization Development. It is a popular intervention, particularly in large organizations. Grid OD is a packaged program that organizations can purchase and train members to use. In contrast to modern contingency approaches, the Grid proposes one best way to manage organizations. Consequently, OD practitioners increasingly have questioned its applicability and effectiveness in contemporary organizations. Organization Confrontation Meeting

: The confrontation meeting is an intervention designed to mobilize the resources of the entire organization to identify problems, set priorities and action targets, and begins working on identified problems. Originally developed by Beckhard, the intervention can be used at any time but is particularly useful when the organization is in stress and when there is a gap between the top and the rest of the organization (such as when a new top manager joins the organization). General Electric’s Work-Out” program is a recent example of how the confrontation meeting has been adapted to fit today’s organizations. Although the original model involved only managerial and professional people, it has since been used successfully with technicians, clerical personnel, and assembly workers.

Application Stages

: The organization confrontation meeting typically involves the following steps: 1. A group meeting of all those involved is scheduled and held in an appropriate place. Usually the task is to identity problems about the work environment and the effectiveness of the organization. 2. Groups are appointed representing all departments of the organization. Thus, each group might have one or more members from sales, purchasing, finance, operations, and quality assurance. For obvious reasons, a subordinate should not be in the same group as his or her boss, and top management should form its own group. Group size can vary from five to fifteen members, depending on such factors as the size of the organization and available meeting places. 3. The point is stressed that the groups are to be open and honest and to work hard at identifying problems they see in the organization. No one will be criticized for bringing up problems and, in fact, the groups will be judged on their ability to do so. 4. The groups are given an hour or two to identify organization problems. Generally, an OD practitioner goes from group to group, encouraging openness and assisting the groups with their tasks. 5. The groups then reconvene in a central meeting place. Each group reports the problems it has identified and sometimes offers solutions. Because each group hears the reports of all the others, a maximum amount of information is shared. 6. Either then or later, the master list of problems is broken down into categories. This can be done by the participants, by the person leading the session, or by the manager and his or her staff. This process eliminates duplication and overlap and allows the problems to be separated according to functional or other appropriate areas.

7. Following problem categorization, participants are divided into problem-solving groups whose composition may, and usually does, differ from that of the original problem-identification groups. For example, all operations problems may be handled by people in that subunit. Or task forces representing appropriate cross sections of the organization may be formed. 8. Each group ranks the problems, develops a tactical action plan, and determines an appropriate timetable for completing this phase of the process. 9. Each group then periodically reports its list of priorities and tactical plans of action to management or to the larger group. 10. Schedules for periodic (frequently monthly) follow-up meetings are established. At these sessions, the team leaders report either to top management, to the other team leaders, or to the group as a whole regarding their team’s progress and plans for future action. The formal establishment of such follow-up meetings ensures both continuing action and the modification of priorities and timetables as needed.
Inter-group Relations Interventions:

The ability to diagnose and understand inter-group relations is important for OD practitioners because (1) groups often must work with and through other groups to accomplish their goals; (2) groups within the organization often create problems and place demands on each other; and (3) the quality of the relationships between groups can affect the degree of organizational effectiveness. Two OD interventions—microcosm groups and inter-group conflict resolution—are described here. A microcosm group uses members from several groups to help solve organization- wide problems. Inter-group issues are explored in this context, and then solutions are implemented in the larger organization. Inter-group conflict resolution helps two groups work out dysfunctional relationships. Together, these approaches help improve inter-group processes and lead to organizational effectiveness.

Microcosm Groups

: A microcosm group consists of a small number of individuals who reflect the issue being addressed. For example, a microcosm group composed of members representing a spectrum of ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and races can be created to address diversity issues in the organization. This group, assisted by OD practitioners, can create programs and processes targeted at specific problems. In addition to addressing diversity problems, microcosm groups have been used to carry out organization diagnoses, solve communications problems, integrate two cultures, smooth the transition to a new structure, and address dysfunctional political processes. Microcosm groups work through “parallel processes,” which are the unconscious changes that take place in individuals when two or more groups interact. After groups interact, members often find that their characteristic patterns of roles and interactions change to reflect the roles and dynamics of the group with whom they were relating. Put simply, groups seem to “infect” and become “infected” by the other groups. The following example given by Alderfer helps to clarify how parallel processes work. An organizational diagnosis team had assigned its members to each of five departments in a small manufacturing company. Members of the team had interviewed each department head and several department members, and had observed department meetings. The team was preparing to observe their first meeting of department heads and was trying to anticipate the group’s behavior. At first they seemed to have no ‘rational” basis for predicting the top group’s behavior because they “had no data” from direct observation. They decided to role-play the group meeting they had never seen. Diagnostic team members behaved as they thought the department heads would, and the result was uncanny. Team members found that they easily became engaged with one another in the simulated department-head meeting; emotional involvement occurred quickly for all participants. When the team actually was able to observe a department-head meeting, they were amazed at how closely the simulated meeting had approximated the actual session. Thus, if a small and representative group can intimately understand and solve a complex organizational problem for themselves; they are in a good position to recommended action to address the problem in the larger system.

Application Stages

The process of using a microcosm group to address organization wide issues involves the following five steps: 1.

Identify an issue

. This step involves finding a system wide problem to be addressed. This may result from an organizational diagnosis or may be an idea generated by an organization member or task force. For example, one microcosm group charged with improving organizational communications was started by a division manager. He was concerned that the information provided by those reporting directly to him

differed from the data he received from informal conversations with people throughout the division. 2.
Convene the group

. Once an issue is identified, the microcosm group can be formed. The most important convening principle is that group membership needs to reflect the appropriate mix of stakeholders related to the issue. If the issue is organizational communication, then the group should contain people from all hierarchical levels and function, including staff groups and unions, if applicable. If the issue is integrating two corporate cultures following a merger, the microcosm group should contain people from both organizations who understand their respective cultures. Following the initial setup, the group itself becomes responsible for determining its membership. It will decide whether to add new members and how to fill vacant positions. Convening the group also draws attention to the issue and gives the group status. Members also need to be perceived as credible representatives of the problem. This will increase the likelihood that organization members will listen to and follow the suggestions they make. 3.

Provide group training

. Once the microcosm group is established, training is provided in group problem solving and decision making. Team-building interventions also may be appropriate. Group training focuses on establishing a group mission or charter, working relationships among members, group decision- making norms, and definitions of the problem to be addressed. From a group-process perspective, OD practitioners may need to observe and comment on how the group develops. Because the group is a microcosm of the organization, it will tend, through its behavior and attitudes, to reflect the problem in the larger organization. For example, if the group is addressing communication problems in the organization, it is likely to have its own difficulties with communication. Recognizing within the group the problem or issue it was formed to address is the first step toward solving the problem in the larger system. 4.

Address the issue

. This step involves solving the problem and implementing solutions. OD practitioners may help the group diagnose, design, implement, and evaluate changes. A key issue is gaining commitment in the wider organization to implementing the group’s solutions. The following factors can facilitate such ownership. First, a communication plan should link group activities to the organization. This may include publishing minutes from team meetings; inviting organization members, such as middle managers, union representatives, or hourly workers, into the meetings; and making presentations to different organizational groups. Second, group members need to be visible and accessible to management and labor. This can ensure that the appropriate support and resources are developed for the recommendations. Third, problem-solving processes should include an appropriate level of participation by organization members. Different data collection methods can be used to gain member input and to produce ownership of the problem and solutions. 5.

Dissolve the group

. The microcosm group can be disbanded following successful implementation of changes. This typically involves writing a final report or holding a final meeting.

Large Group Interventions

: The third system wide process intervention is called large-group intervention. Such change programs have been referred to variously as “search conferences,” “open-space meetings,” “open-systems planning,” and “future searches.” They focus on issues that affect the whole organization or large segments of it, such as developing new products or services, responding to environmental change, or introducing new technology. The defining feature of large-group intervention is the bringing together large numbers of organization members and other stakeholders, often more than one hundred, for a two- to four-day meeting or conference. Here, conference attendees’ work together to identify and resolve organization wide problems, to design new approaches to structuring and managing the firm, or to propose future directions for the organization. Large-group interventions are among the fastest-growing OD applications. Large-group interventions can vary on several dimensions, including purpose, size, length, structure, and number. The purpose of these change methods can range from solving particular organizational problems to envisioning future strategic directions. Large-group interventions have been run with groups of less than fifty to more than two thousand participants and have lasted between one and five days. Some large-group processes are relatively planned and structured; others are more informal. Some interventions involve a single large-group meeting; others include a succession of meetings to accomplish system wide change in a short period of time.

Application Stages

: Conducting a large-group intervention generally involves preparing for the meeting, conducting it, and following up on outcomes. These activities are described below.

Preparing for the Large-Group Meeting

A design team comprising OD practitioners and several organization members is formed to organize the event. The team generally addresses three key ingredients for successful large-group meetings: a compelling meeting theme, appropriate participants, and relevant tasks to address the theme. 1.

Compelling meeting theme

. Large-group interventions require a compelling reason or focal point for change. Although “people problems” can be an important focus, more powerful reasons for large-group efforts include managing impending mergers or reorganizations, responding to environmental threats and opportunities, or proposing radical organizational changes. Whatever the focal point for change, senior leaders need to make clear to others the purpose of the large-group meeting. Ambiguity about the reason for the intervention can dissipate participants’ energy and commitment to change. For example, a largegroup meeting that successfully envisioned a hospital’s future organization design was viewed as a failure by a few key managers who thought that the purpose was to cut costs from the hospital’s budget. Their subsequent lack of support stalled the change effort. 2.

Appropriate participants

. A fundamental goal of large-group interventions is to “get the whole system in the room.” This involves inviting as many people as possible who have a stake in the conference theme and who are energized and committed to conceiving and initiating change. Senior managers, suppliers, union leaders, internal and external customers, trade group representatives, government and regulatory officials, and organization members from a variety of jobs, genders, races, and ages are potential participants. 3.

Relevant tasks to address the conference theme.

As described below, these tasks typically are assigned to several subgroups responsible for examining the theme and drawing conclusions for action. Generally, participants rely on their own experience and expertise to address system wide Issues, rather than drawing on resources from outside of the large-group meeting. This ensures that the meeting can be completed within the allotted time and that members can participate fully as important sources of information.

Conducting the Meeting:

The flow of events in a large-group meeting can vary greatly, depending on its purpose and the framework adopted. Most large-group processes, however, fit within two primary frameworks: open-systems methods and open-space methods.

Open-Systems Methods

: A variety of large-group approaches, such as search conferences, open-systems planning, and real-time strategic change, have their basis in open-systems methods. These approaches help organizations assess their environments systematically and develop strategic responses to them. They help organization members develop a strategic mission for relating to the environment and influencing it in favorable directions, Open-systems methods begin with a diagnosis of the existing environment and how the organization relates to it. They proceed to develop possible future environments and action plans to bring them about. These steps are described below. 1.

Map the current environment surrounding the organization

. In this step, the different domains or parts of the environment are identified and prioritized. This involves listing all external groups directly interacting with the organization, such as customers, suppliers, or government agencies, and ranking them in importance. Participants then are asked to describe each domain’s expectations for the organization’s behavior. 2.

Assess the organization’s responses to environmental expectations.

This step asks participants to describe how the organization currently addresses the environmental expectations identified in step 1 3.

Identify the core mission of the organization.

This step helps to identify the underlying purpose or core mission of the organization, as derived from how it responds to external demands. Attention is directed at discovering the mission as it is revealed in the organization’s behavior, not as it is pronounced in the organization’s official statement of purpose. This is accomplished by examining the organization and environment transactions identified in Steps 1 and 2 and then assessing the values that seem to underlie those interactions. These values provide clues about the actual identity or mission of the organization. 4.

Create a realistic future scenario of environmental expectations and organization responses

. This step asks members to project the organization and its environment into the near future, assuming no real changes in the organization. It asks participants to address the question, “What will happen if the organization continues to operate as it does at present?” Participant responses are combined to develop a likely organization future under the assumption of no change. 5.

Create an ideal future scenario of environmental expectations and organization responses.

Members are asked to create alternative desirable futures. This involves going back over steps 1, 2, and 3 and asking what members ideally would like to see happen in the near future in both the environment and

the organization. People are encouraged to fantasize about desired futures without worrying about possible constraints. 6.

Compare the present with the ideal future and prepare an action plan for reducing the discrepancy

. This last step identifies specific actions that will move both the environment and the organization toward the desired future. Planning for appropriate interventions typically occurs in three timeframes: tomorrow, six months from now, and two years from now. Participants also decide on a follow- up schedule for sharing the flow of actions and updating the planning process. There are a number of variations on this basic model, each of which follows a similar pattern of creating common ground, discussing the issues, and devising an agenda for change. For example, search conferences begin with an exercise called “appreciating the past,” which asks participants to examine the significant events, milestones, and highlights of the organization’s previous thirty years (or less, in the case of newer organizations). It demonstrates that participants share a common history, although they may come from different organizations, departments, age groups, or hierarchical levels. Once common ground is established, members can discuss the system wide issue or theme. To promote widespread participation, members typically organize into subgroups of eight to ten people representing as many stakeholder viewpoints as possible. The subgroups may address a general question (for example, “What are the opportunities for new business in our global market?”) or focus on a specific issue (For example, “How can we improve quality and cut costs on a particular product line?”). Subgroup members brainstorm answers to these questions, record them on flipchart paper, and share them with the larger group. The whole group compares responses from the subgroups and identifies common themes. Other methods, such as presentations to the large group, small-group meetings on particular aspects of the conference theme, or spontaneous meetings of interest to the participants, are used to discuss the conference theme and distribute information to members. The final task of large-group meetings based on open-systems methods is creating an agenda for change. Participants are asked to reflect on what they have learned at the meeting and to suggest changes for themselves, their department, and the whole organization. Members from the same department often are grouped together to discuss their proposals and decide on action plans, timetables, and accountabilities. Action items for the total organization are referred to a steering committee that addresses organization wide policy issues and action plans. At the conclusion of the large-group meeting, the departmental subgroups and the steering committee report their conclusions to all participants and seek initial commitment to change.

Open-Space Methods.

The second approach to large-group interventions is distinguished by its lack of formal structure. Open-space methods temporarily restructure or “self-organize” participants around interests and topics associated with the conference theme. They generally follow these steps: 1.

Set the conditions for self-organizing

. In the first step, the OD practitioner or manager responsible for the large-group intervention sets the stage by announcing the theme of the session and the norms that will govern it. In addition, participants are informed that the meeting will consist of small-group discussions convened by the participants and addressing any topic they believe critical to the theme of the conference. Two sets of norms govern how open-space methods are applied, and although the norms may sound ambiguous, they are critical to establishing the conditions for a successful meeting. The first set of norms concerns the “Law of Two Feet.” It encourages people to take’ responsibility for their own behavior; to go to meetings and discussions where they are learning, contributing, or in some way remaining interested. Moving from group to group is legitimized by the roles of “butterflies” and “bumblebees.” Butterflies attract others into spontaneous conversations and, in fact, may never attend a formal meeting. Bumblebees go from group to group and sprinkle knowledge, information, or new ideas into different meetings. The second set of norms is labeled the “Four Principles.” The first principle is “whoever comes is the right people.” It is intended to free people to begin conversations with anyone at any time. It also signals that the quality of a conversation is what’s most important, not who’s involved. The second principle, “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have,” infuses the group with responsibility, encourages participants to be flexible, and prepares them to be surprised. “Whenever it starts is the right time” is the third principle and is aimed at encouraging creativity and following the natural energy in the group. The final principle, “When it is over, it is over,” allows people to move on and not feel like they have to meet for a certain time period or satisfy someone else’s requirements. 2.

Create the agenda.

The second step in Open-Space interventions is to develop a road map for the remainder of the conference. This is accomplished by asking participants to describe a topic related to the conference theme that they have passion for and interest in discussing. This topic is written on a large piece of paper, announced to the group, and then posted on the community bulletin board where meeting topics and locations are displayed. The person announcing the topic agrees to convene the meeting at the posted time and place. This process continues until everyone who wants to define a topic has been given the

chance to speak. The final activity in this step asks participants to sign up for as many of the sessions as they have interest in. The open-space meeting begins with the first scheduled sessions. 3.

Coordinate activity through information.

During an open-space session, there are two ways to coordinate activities. First, each morning and evening a community meeting is held to announce new topics that have emerged for which meeting dates and times have been assigned, or to share observations and learning. Second, as the different meetings occur, the conveners produce one-page summaries of what happened, who attended, what subjects were discussed, and what recommendations or actions were proposed. Typically, this is done on computer in a room dedicated for this purpose. These summaries are posted near the community bulletin board in an area often labeled “newsroom.” Participants are encouraged to visit the newsroom and become familiar with what other groups have been discussing. The summaries also can be printed and copied for conference participants.

Following up of Meeting Outcomes:

Follow-up efforts are vital to implementing the action plans from large-scale interventions. These efforts involve communicating the results of the meeting to the rest of the organization, gaining wider commitment to the changes, and structuring the change process. In those cases where all the members of the organization were involved in the large-group meeting, implementation can proceed immediately according to the timetable included in the action plans.

Grid Organization Development: A Normative Approach

Grid OD, a change model is one of the most widely used approaches to system-wide planned change. This process is a systematic approach aimed at achieving corporate excellence. It is believed that managers and organizations can only be made more effective if the basic culture of the system is changed. Grid OD starts with a focus on individual behavior, specifically on the managerial styles of executives, called Managerial Grid. The program moves through a series of sequential phases involving the work team, the relationships between groups or subunits, and finally the overall culture of the organization. According to the Managerial Grid, an individual’s style can be described according to his or her concern for production and concern for people. A concern for production covers a range of behaviors, such as accomplishing productive tasks, developing creative ideas, making quality policy decisions, establishing thorough and high-quality staff services, or creating efficient workload measurements. Concern for production is not limited to things but also may involve human accomplishment within the organization, regardless of the assigned tasks or activities. A concern for people encompasses a variety of issues, including concern for the individual’s personal worth, good working conditions, a degree of involvement or commitment to completing the job, security, a fair salary structure and fringe benefits, and good social and other relationships. Managers who have a low concern for production and a high concern for people view people’s feelings, attitudes, and needs as valuable in their own right. This type of manager strives to provide subordinates with work conditions that provide ease, security, and comfort. On the other hand managers who have a high concern for production but a low concern for people minimize the attitudes and feelings of subordinates and give little attention to individual creativity, conflict, and commitment. As a result, the focus is on the work organization. Managerial style is the most effective in overcoming the communications barrier to corporate excellence. The basic assumptions behind this managerial style differ qualitatively and quantitatively from those underlying the other managerial styles, which assume there is an inherent conflict between the needs of the organization and the needs of people. By showing a high concern for both people and production, managers allow employees to think and to influence the organization, thus promoting active support for organizational plans. Employee participation means that better communication is critical; therefore, necessary information is shared by all relevant parties. Moreover, better communication means selfdirection and self-control, rather than unquestioning, blind obedience. Organizational commitment arises out of discussion, deliberation, and debate over major organizational issues.

Application Stages:

Grid Organization Development has two key objectives: to improve planning by developing a strategy for organizational excellence based on clear logic, and to help managers gain the necessary knowledge and skills to supervise effectively. It consists of six phases designed to analyze an entire business and to overcome the planning and communications barriers to corporate excellence.

Phase 1: The Grid Seminar

In this one-week program, participants analyze their personal styles on the Managerial Grid and learn team methods of problem solving. Top management attends the seminar and then leads the next level of

management through a similar experience. In addition to assessing themselves using questionnaires and case studies, participants receive feedback on their styles from other group members. The learning objectives for the week include: Learning the GRID in a way to analyze thinking. Increasing one’s personal objectivity in appraising oneself. Achieving clear and candid communication. Learning and working effectively in a team. Learning to manage inter-group conflict. Analyzing one’s corporate work culture by applying the GRID framework. Gaining an understanding of the phases of GRID OD. Participants in the seminar analyze their own managerial approaches and learn alternative ways of managing. In addition, they study methods of team action. They measure and evaluate team effectiveness in solving problems with others. A high point of the seminar learning is reached when the participants critique one another’s styles of managerial performance. Another is when managers critique the dominant style of their own organization’s culture, its traditions, precedents, and past practices. A third is when participants consider steps for increasing the effectiveness of the whole organization.

Phase 2: Teamwork Development

: Teamwork development begins with the organization’s top manager and employees who report directly to him or her. These people later attend another team meeting with their own subordinates. This continues down through the entire organization. During this session the team deals with subjects directly relevant to their daily operations and behaviors. Before the conclusion of the week, the team sets group and individual goals.

Phase 3: Inter-group Development

: Although an organization may have various sections or units, each with specialized tasks and different goals, it still must work as a whole if it is to achieve organizational excellence. A fair amount of inter-group or interdepartmental conflict is present in most organizations. Each group builds negative stereotypes of other groups, and this conflict can escalate easily into subtle or overt power struggles that result in win-lose situations. Improving inter-group relations involves the following steps: Before the sessions, each person prepares a written description of the actual working relationship, as contrasted with the ideal relationship; Each group isolates itself for several days to summarize its perceptions of the actual and ideal relationships; The two groups meet and limit their interaction to comparing their perceptions via a spokesperson; and The two groups then work on making the relationship more productive. The action step is completed when both groups have a clear understanding of the specific actions each group will take and how those actions will be followed up.

Phase 4: Developing an Ideal Strategic Organization Model

The top managers in the organization now work toward achieving a model of organizational excellence, incorporating six basic factors: Clear definitions of minimum and optimum organizational financial objectives; Clear, explicit definitions of the character and nature of organizational activities; Clear operational definitions of the character and scope of markets, customers, or clients; An organizational structure that integrates operations for synergistic results; Basic policies for organizational decision making; and Approaches to implement growth capacity and avoid stagnation or obsolescence.

Phase 5: Implementing the Ideal Strategic Model

The Grid OD program has an implementation model that can be adapted to any organization. Organizations can be divided into identifiable segments, such as products, profit centers, or geographical areas. The top management team assigns one planning team to each segment. Because the units cannot be completely autonomous, one corporate headquarters team and a coordinator must be established.

Finally, the planning coordinator and the corporate headquarter team need to ensure that the implementation plan is understood clearly.

Phase 6: Systematic Critique:

The systematic critique determines the degree of organization excellence after Phase 5 compared with measurements taken before Phase 1. The basic instrument is a 100-question survey investigating behavior, teamwork, inter-group relations, and corporate strategy. With instruments administered at each phase, it is possible to observe the degree of change and gain insight into the total process of change. Because change never ceases, discovery sets the stage for a new beginning.

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