I’ve been thinking about how to formulate with sufficient detail to be useable and in a temporally logical manner, the things that the top OD folks think about as they move from the beginning of an OD project to its end. The problem, of course, is that each step requires the personal judgment needed to move a step from number 3 to 9 or step 12 to 5. Most steps will need to be repeated over and over as the process unfolds anyway.
I’m offering a loose recipe that will always require your own tweaks, modifications, and embellishments. It’s stuff worth thinking about for those who want to increase their ability to manage change in human systems.
Go to http://www.chumans.com/human-systems-resources/process-of-od.html for the document.
Let me know what you would add, change, or subtract from the list that would make it more useful! I’d really like that!
Previously we looked at the stages of the organization development process: Contracting and Re-contracting, and Data Gathering, Intervention, Evaluation and Disengagement. Those stages are applied across the five levels of organizational systems—personal, interpersonal, group, organization, and community—as needed. These levels make up the second dimension of the Meta-Model of Planned Change.
At the personal level individuals are systems of intellect, emotion, and physicality that include their personalities, belief systems, opinions, attitudes, aptitudes, and relationships with others outside of the organization. The OD practitioner works at this level of system to support increased functionality regarding behavior that impacts the other levels of the system. This is what makes the work of the practitioner different from the psychotherapist—though we often need to refer clients to the latter.
Individuals, of course, interact with other individuals on a one-to-one basis. These relationships range in quality from close to distant, from attraction to conflict, and from trusting to distrust. It is the quality of these relationships that often dictate the quality of groups and teams that are the next level. The healthy organization can tolerate only a certain amount of dysfunction at this level. Where needed, the practitioner works to resolve dysfunctional interpersonal relationships to higher levels.
How well people work together in the group level of the system dictates a major portion of organizational effectiveness. At this level of systems strange things (that we have become quite used to) occur. Think of meetings you’ve been in where the individuals present were intelligent, likeable, and well-meaning, yet the meetings were dull and unproductive beyond belief. Groups are the fundamental units of organization. The bulk of the work of most organizations is done at this level. If the organization’s groups and teams do work well, the organization will do work well. Helping groups become teams and helping teams improve their productivity and levels of satisfaction is a crucial skill area for the practitioner.
An organization is essentially a group of groups working together. Sometimes these groups, these units of the organization, are not working well together. They may be at odds about priorities, strategies, or tactics. They may see themselves as competing for resources, status, or attention. Regardless, the OD practitioner helps her client identify and resolve as needed the various misalignments and conflicts toward improving productivity and satisfaction.
A very important aspect of the organizational level is culture. What is the culture of the organization? Is it helping or getting in the way of effectiveness and efficiency? Where are key levers needed to shift the culture if need be? The culture of an organization dictates as we’ve discussed earlier the beliefs, emotions, and general behavior of an organization. All of which in turn impact the functionality of the organization. How might a very authoritarian, bureaucratic, command-and-control culture that is very stable but stifles creativity be changed to one that is more participative and collaborative and, therefore, more able to innovate and be flexible enough to develop new products quickly? The skilled OD practitioner can identify and help change the human processes that hold culture in place.
The next series of posts will examine the third dimension of the Meta-Model of Planned Change—the eight disciplines of managing change in human systems. Stay tuned!
This is the second of two posts that look at the stages of the organization development process. The first post discussed Contracting and Re-contracting and Data Gathering; now we will look at the other three stages: Intervention, Evaluation and Disengagement. Bear in mind, however, that the stages are not discrete. They overlap. They are iterative. They often must be orchestrated simultaneously. Each can trigger the need for another.
Implicit in the idea of the empowerability of human systems is the assumption that through improving relationships within the system the leaders and members of the system can begin to identify and resolve their own issues and, in the process, create whatever change they wish. This could mean improving the relationships and resolving conflicts between system structures, between groups, and between individuals. At the intrapersonal level, some change action is often needed to help resolve the internal conflicts that bedevil many system executives and managers.
Interventions, then—as a stage in the total change process—are those actions designed to improve relationships within the target system on behalf of opening communication and developing more informed and inclusive decision-making processes. Interventions include, in their various forms, feedback to the system, team-building, strategic planning, training, conflict management, and coaching.
Two important skills needed to design and carry out these interventions include group facilitation and conflict management. Those two skill sets require deep use of our listening and straight-talk capacities. A systems orientation wherein we act from a perspective that keeps in mind impact on the entire system is essential. Of course, the ability to use ourselves flexibly and congruently with any particular situation is fundamental. Use of self and a system orientation are notable as the first two change management disciplines described in the sections below.
As much an ongoing process as a specific stage, the Evaluation stage informs the change agent and the system about the results the change project or specific change actions have had. In essence, evaluation is a feedback-based data-gathering process—feedback which will give the change leaders critical information about how the system has responded to a change action and how they might design the next action to be more effective. This concept is notably different from the use of feedback as a means—generally, ineffective—of getting someone to change. Feedback is more useful as a means of determining the quality of relationship that has or has not been stimulated by a particular change action. Feedback is essentially an evaluation process that can also be used to gather data about what can make a more effective next change action.
Evaluative processes can be as simple as asking someone or a group how well something worked and what might work better next time. More formal group processes can take a form where everyone takes a turn responding to an evaluative question (such as, what did you learn about managing change this weekend?). System-wide evaluations might be done at the end of a change project and at periodic intervals after that to see how much staying power some systemic change might have. It is a good idea to have evaluative feedback processes built into a system’s ongoing routine to monitor the specific and general wellbeing of that system.
Little discussed in the change management literature is the process of completing or ending a change project. A typical disengagement process for the participants in the change project might include a closing evaluation session, statements of learnings gleaned from the project, and celebration of whatever success was achieved.
In addition, the change leaders—task leader(s) and process facilitator(s)—should get together to formally agree that the project is completed or otherwise at an end. Additional and more personal feedback might be shared in this meeting about what worked well, what worked less well, and what might be done differently in a future project. Some celebration would certainly be in order.
Appropriate closure and disengagement allow the system and the people in it to learn from their experience in the project and to let go of what has been completed to move effectively on to whatever is next.
Next we will look at the levels of organizational systems across which the stages are applied.
In our previous post, we discussed our Meta-Model of Planned Change, a three-dimensional matrix that describes the traditional model of organization development (including the stages of the planned change process and the levels of human systems) and the disciplines of critical thinking. In this post and the one following we will look at the stages of the organization development process, beginning with Contracting and Re-contracting and Data Gathering.
The Stages of The Organization Development Process
The stages of contracting and re-contracting, data gathering, action, evaluation, and disengagement represent the basic structure of OD. They are not our formulation, but are basic to the field. They are not discrete. They overlap. They are iterative. They often must be orchestrated simultaneously. Each can trigger the need for another. Data-gathering, intervention, evaluation, and disengagement can all lead to re-contracting. All are interventions that can have system-wide impact and which can generate new data and lead, again, to re-contracting. Any stage can lead to any other stage. For the sake of presentation, the order presented is generic as if all things were equal and ideal, but they never are in human systems.
Contracting and Re-contracting
Contracting is a negotiated process for coming to agreement. We make agreements all the time. Some are implicit. A few are explicit. Many are vague. Occasionally, they are specific. The process of OD works toward contracts that are explicit, specific, and that have the potential for all parties to the contract to arrive at some significant level of satisfaction.
OD-type contracting is the process of coming to consensual agreement with the person or persons who are key to the success of a change project. If an OD practitioner is involved there must be a contract with the organization’s leader. The leader (with the support of the practitioner if there is one) must contract for change with those who are key to facilitating and implementing the change. This process of contracting for mutual satisfaction is core to the process of effective organization development.
Effective contracting clarifies goals, roles, basic strategies, relationship values, and the next steps of a change project. Of course, as a project moves forward new information is uncovered requiring re-negotiation of the initial contract and subsequent contracts. Contracting and re-contracting are dynamic, on-going processes that move with the movement of the project.
Once the initial contract has been established, the prudent change agent insists on a data-gathering stage. This process serves several purposes:
- It provides needed information for the effective planning of further Change Actions.
- It galvanizes organizational energy in preparation for “something happening.”
- It provides an opportunity for some initial empowerment coaching of those from whom data is gathered.
Data should be gathered about the following:
- What’s working in the targeted system?
- What needs improvement within the system?
- What has been done to attempt improvement?
- What barriers occurred to such attempts?
- Reactions to the change goals and reasons for them.
The information being sought is the general themes and patterns extant about the state of the system and its readiness for a particular change goal. This data will direct the formation of the strategic and tactical plans for the change project. From this data, needs of the system which could act as resistance to the change need to be considered in their own right and can be planned for and engaged.
This is not the only time that data will be gathered during a change project. The data gathering process is continual, as we will discuss under the discipline of Sound and Current Data.
Next Up: We will look at the stages of Intervention, Evaluation, and Disengagement.