We have defined organization development as “collaborating with organizational leaders and their groups to create systemic change and root-cause problem solving on behalf of improving productivity and employee satisfaction through strengthening the human processes through which they get their work done.” We have looked at what OD practitioners do, the results they are after, and how OD works, and we have looked at some of the ideal characteristics of a successful practitioner. Without a useful framework, however, even the most conscious and skills practitioner will have trouble achieving the triple impact that is ideal.
The Meta-Model of Planned Change
This Meta-Model of Planned Change offers a structure for understanding and practicing organization development. It is based upon the classic perspective of OD described above and as developed in the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. That perspective holds that the tasks of an organization—from planning to production to delivery—are accomplished with the highest level of productivity through processes that are highlighted by a high quality of relationship among those responsible for those tasks. It is a model that believes in the empowerability of human systems and the people that live and work within them. Accordingly, the Meta-Model calls for collaborative strategies and tactics aimed at open and thorough communication and consensual decision-making.
A model is a descriptive system of information, theories, inferences, and implications used to represent and support understanding of some phenomenon. Meta-, in the sense used here, is a context or framework. A meta-model could, then be understood as a framework or context of a model—albeit, a model of a model. A meta-model of planned change, then, is a framework from which any number of more specific models of how to manage change in human systems can be understood and developed. Organization development is dynamic field able to contain many models, strategies, and tactics malleable to the system and individuals—the leader, her groups, and the practitioner—involved.
Our model (click the picture to enlarge) is a three dimensional matrix. The horizontal and depth axes describe the traditional model of organization development including five iterative stages of the planned change process and the five levels of human systems. The iterative stages are contracting, data-gathering, intervention, evaluation, and disengagement. The five levels of human systems are personal, interpersonal, group, organization, and community—across which the stages must be carried out as necessary. The vertical axis describes our addition of eight disciplines of critical thinking which, when each is consistently adhered to, enable the stages across the levels to support the success of any particular change management effort.
We will explore the stages, levels and disciplines in our next series of posts. Stay tuned!
We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last few weeks, reviewing our definition of OD and some of the key characteristics of successful OD practitioners. There’s a lot to absorb, and there is a lot more to come!
If you would appreciate an opportunity to look at all of this from 30,000 feet and see how it all fits together into our three-dimensional meta-model that incorporates the levels of organizations OD practitioners work with, the stages of change processes, and the disciplines required for us to be successful working across the stages and the levels, please join me on Wednesday for a free 90-minute webinar. You can submit your questions and I will explain everything! Please click here for more information and to register!
In previous installments of this series, we gave an elegantly simple definition of organization development and looked at its three components: (1) what practitioners do, (2) the results they are after, and (3) how it works. What’s so hard about that?
The Hard Part: The Practice of Organization Development
If organization development is so great and so potent, why hasn’t it become the de facto technology of choice for managing change in organizations? Its concepts aren’t difficult to grasp. The stages of planned change and levels of human systems that make up a considerable part of the typical OD canon are conceptually accessible. However, it is often difficult to practice since the very nature of culture—societal or organizational—is to lead, motivate, train, influence, bend, dupe or otherwise brainwash its members into “acceptable” patterns of belief, thought, emotion, and behavior. In other words, to not change anything! Because of this, the OD practitioner more often than not finds himself swimming uphill, negotiating rapids and whirlpools often created and maintained by the client that brought us in.
Another reason that OD can be difficult to practice is that academia is where many folks go to become OD practitioners. Unfortunately, OD is a skill-based field rather than an academic field. There are any number of colleges and universities offering courses and degrees in organization development under various titles—organization and industrial psychology, organization behavior, etc. And, they do a fine job of providing their students with a sound and deep knowledge of human, group, and organizational dynamics and behavior as well understanding of strategies and tactics of managing change. Still, a degree, even an advanced degree, does not alone make a successful OD practitioner who needs a set of skills that will enable him/her to navigate the seemingly permanent white water that is heading in the other direction.
What, then, does make for a skilled practitioner beyond the requisite knowledge base? A skilled OD practitioner is…
√ An independent thinker who doesn’t collude with resistance
√ Willing and able to swim upstream against the desires and dictates of organizational culture
√ Personally secure enough to not feel threatened by authority figures and other perceived sources of intimidation
√ More interested in being rather than doing
√ Someone who believes that being effective is more important than being right
√ Someone who connects easily with others
√ Comfortable with emotions—his own and those of others
√ Comfortable with ambiguity
√ Able to stay focused and can help others (including groups of others) to focus
√ Self aware and able to effectively manage her own foibles
√ A devotee of curiosity and learning
This might seem an intimidating list. Yet, with intentional and deliberate practice along with focused and consistent support, we can surprise ourselves with how often we can maintain such a level of consciousness at least when the stakes are important to us. Unfortunately, none of these characteristics of a fully conscious person are amenable to academic education. Knowledge of them does not give skill in them. The skill of these characteristics can be learned, however. Mentoring, coaching, apprenticing, skill-oriented workshops, meditation, and psychotherapy are all useful. In fact, the combination of them all does very well!
Accordingly, we have added eight disciplines of consciousness as a third aspect of the OD canon to make a three-dimensional Meta-Model of Planned Change. These eight disciplines are Conscious Use of Self, Systemic Thinking, Support Systems, Sound and Current data, Feedback, Infinite Power, Learning from Differences, and Empowerment. They are crucial to activating the practitioner’s personal power on behalf of activating the personal power of clients on behalf of activating the power inherent in organizations. With such a triple impact, organization development practitioners can transform the human processes that are the life-blood of human systems toward both increased productivity and increased human satisfaction.
Next time we will take a look at the three-dimensional Meta-Model of Planned Change and begin an in-depth look at the disciplines of planned change.
When we defined “Organization Development (OD)” in Part One of this series, we stated that the work of OD is “collaborating with organizational leaders and their groups to create systemic change and root-cause problem solving on behalf of improving productivity and employee satisfaction through strengthening the human processes through which they get their work done.” We went on to look at What Practitioners Do, and The Results that OD Is After. In this entry we will consider the third part of the definition: How OD Works.
How OD Works
OD works “through improving the human processes through which they people in organizations get their work done.” All tasks get done through some set of processes, some series of actions that some one or more persons have to do. The quality and productivity of the result of those processes is directly related to the quality of the processes. And, the quality of those processes is directly related to the quality of the relationships between and among those who are carrying out those processes. Think back to the issue in the second post regarding delivery of product to customers. Organization development is very much a task-oriented field. It provides its value through enhancing the achievement of organizational goals. That is the only reason for the existence of OD. It supports such achievement through improving how the people tasked with accomplishing those goals collectively go about their business. In that process, OD involves those who carry out said processes to determine how they might be improved. Such processes include those needed for high-level strategic planning, teaming between and among work units, and performance management.
A core OD process is inquiry. As I ask leaders and their groups to explain to me their business and what works and doesn’t work in how they get their work done, we discover the holes in their thinking and then we fill them in. In fact, our willful ignorance is our most important tool. As leaders—often after much collaborative, direct, bottom-line coaching from us—bring everyone together to share data, ideas and knowledge they discover—with the help of our deft facilitation—that they have collected enough good information to invent effective root-cause solutions. That is, of course, over-simplified, but still a generally accurate description of how OD works.
This description of how OD works points to what sets it apart from other consulting processes. For example, there is the subject-matter expert who can help solve a difficult engineering, marketing, or computer problem that the organization wants solved without the expense of hiring such expertise full-time. Then there is the “management consultant” firm (often of engineers or accountants) who will study the organization’s problems, then present their findings and “expert” recommendations in a report. Such solutions too often do not get implemented due to too little ownership of the solutions within the organization. Another reason they don’t get implemented is that such recommendations often deal only with the technical aspects of the situation at hand and only a little—or not at all—with the critical human process aspects. Also, people will implement solutions that they have invented and in which they, thereby, believe. The process of experts recommending solutions does not create enough buy-in for effective implementation. The implementation of solutions generated by those who have to implement them—assuring buy-in—is part and parcel of organization development.
So there you have it – our definition of Organization Development. Beautifully simple, isn’t it? In our next installment, we will look into why something so elegantly simple isn’t as easy as one might think.
This is the third in a series of blog posts on the subject of . In the first two, we looked at our definition of OD and the first of three aspects of that definition: What practitioners do. Now we will discuss the results practitioners are after.
Practitioners “collaborate with leaders and their groups.” For what purpose? OD is after “systemic change and root-cause problem-solving toward improving productivity and employee satisfaction.” This is the most powerful aspect of organization development. Systemic change focuses on the total organization or organizational unit to get at the root cause of organizational problems that stem from the relational dynamics among multiple issues.
Human systems are not like machines. When machines malfunction, the process of choice is to locate the malfunctioning component(s), then fix or replace them. In human systems, such faultfinding processes tend to promulgate more problems, rarely solutions. In human systems a “malfunctioning component” can only exist over time with the support and collusion of the rest of the system. Remove the “malfunctioning” person and colluding aspects of the system that are still in place will create the “malfunction” someplace else.
A leader, on noticing that her/his manufacturing area is delivering product consistently behind schedule, might blame the head of that area and ask for their resignation when the problem is related to the sales area under pressure to produce revenue, the engineering area under pressure to increase design quality, and the manufacturing area under a “zero defects” edict being in conflict over promises to clients, design specifications, and production time. All three area leaders are actually strong leaders of their respective units. The problem lies neither within their areas of their expertise, their units, nor their leadership. It lies in the area of their ability to solve problems with each other when their leader is managing them individually. Their collective problem lies within the “system” of their human dynamics. A root-cause analysis can only occur when all four are in the same room to solve a “delivery problem” that belongs to them all.
When a leader suggests to us a single-point solution (such as, “please train my supervisors”), I respond with something like… “I see what you’re after. It would probably be a good idea to find out what’s going on that has so many of your supervisors demonstrating poor management skills. Things like poor hiring practices and poor accountability management are often behind such problems. If we can get at the root causes the problem will go away forever. What do you think?” The leader now has a broader perspective from which to begin to create a broader solution, rather than one that not only may create other problems but won’t solve the initial issue.
OD solutions improve productivity and employee satisfaction in a couple of ways. One is that it can help minimize the waste of productivity caused by miscommunications, misunderstandings, contention, hostility, turf-battles, and other forms of power struggles. Just ending such waste would improve productivity and morale a minimum of twenty-five percent. Another twenty-five percent can be gained through improving the amount of teamwork, creativity, and synergy generated throughout the organization. Just how all this can happen will be explored throughout the chapters of this book.
Many who call themselves OD practitioners only want to focus on the human relations aspects, the employee satisfaction aspects of OD. Then there is another group of practitioners who are bottom-line oriented to the exclusion of employee satisfaction. Neither recognizes that bottom-line productivity and employee satisfaction are systemically related. To deal with either to the exclusion of the other is to risk losing both.
The systemic orientation of organization development practitioners can provide solutions to even the perennial problems that many organizations have become accustomed—like meetings that waste time, conflicts between departments, and too much turn-over. That’s powerful!
Next time we will look at the third part of our definition of OD: How it works.