An event is an interaction between two or more people designed to move a system, or part of a system, toward the goals of increasing system effectiveness and satisfaction of its members. Events are where contracts are agreed upon. These events might be at any and all levels of the system depending on the scope of the project. Practitioners design events for one person or 100 to get key stakeholders on the same page about goals, strategies, actions, and responsibilities. The OD practitioner also has the facilitation skills that may be needed for the event to be successful. From a practitioner’s perspective this would include:
1. One-on-one coaching events
2. Conflict resolution events at the interpersonal level
3. Meetings and team building events at the group level
4. Strategic planning and restructuring events at the organization level
The intention of a planned change event is to increase the support system for a particular change goal toward critical mass. Such events succeed because they increase the quality of connection between and among the participants on behalf of the goal. Establishing a relaxed, person-to-person (rather than role-to-role or rank-to-rank) dialogue is crucial to creating the level of effective collaboration and mutually useful communication. In this manner, the participants come to specific agreement about the goal, strategies to achieve it, relationship behaviors that would best support the collaboration, the facts surrounding the matter, and the tasks each is to accomplish. In the process, conflict and conformity would shift to learning from differences for the synergy and creativity that differences can produce. All of this is unlikely to be accomplished in a single meeting. Most organization development projects include a series of events at any or all of the human system levels—personal, interpersonal, group, and organization—to achieve the critical mass of support needed.
Contracting is a critical intervention that defines agreements about goals, collaborative strategies, roles, relationship behaviors, and next steps. Developing these agreements—repeatedly—are a core process of managing change in human systems. They build the support needed for the accomplishment of the goals. When that support reaches critical mass, the goal will have been achieved. Such support often creates a deeper sense of relationship leading to greater effectiveness and efficiency. It all starts with the contracting process between the practitioner and the client. It then extends through any desired agreements for support between the client and other members of the system.
These contracts should have two parts: One part focused on task issues and the other focused on relationship issues. The task issues to be covered include basic things like outcomes, strategies, tactics, roles, and accountability mechanisms. Nothing unusual there. What is different, however, is contracting for relationship issues. Contracting for straight talk and feedback are essential to building and maintaining the high levels of relationship quality needed for effective change processes and sustainably healthy human systems. What I can’t fathom is what makes the notion of contracting for relationship issues so difficult to remember! No matter how I coach and otherwise advocate for clients and students to do so, it doesn’t seem to happen unless I am present to broach the issue. When I inquire about this, the responses all circle around, “I didn’t think about.”
If you have any ideas about why remembering to contract for essential relationship behaviors is problematic, I’d love to hear from you!
One final thought: The more explicit and specific the contracting is the better the process! Implicit and general agreements dramatically increase the probability for misunderstanding which will disrupt the change process.
Most organizational development literature has some version of the stages or steps of planned change. They go something like: contracting, data gathering, intervention, evaluation, and disengagement. I have problems with this framework. Each stage is an intervention in itself, yet intervention properly comes after data gathering. In addition, evaluation includes data gathering along with some analysis. Further, in real life, the sequence suggested in most literature does not account for various stages overlapping. For example, data gathering often leads to re-contracting – as might any other intervention. This makes the framework both confusing and unwieldy.
I have designed an alternative approach I am calling “Critical Interventions.” This approach acknowledges that all of the stages are interventions. It does not suggest any particular ordering, although the order in which they are offered may have some value.
From the perspective of applied behavioral science, an intervention is an action within a human system that is intended to move that system toward some specific change goal. In organization development terms, our interventions are designed to move the support for a specified goal toward critical mass http://tinyurl.com/supportsystems through engendering collaboration dynamics such as mutual understanding and the willingness to learn from differences. http://tinyurl.com/learningfromdifferences
Seven Critical Interventions
• Data Gathering
• Creating Possibility
• Contracting for Collaboration
• Event Planning and Implementation
• Feedback as a Learning Process
• Clear Consequences
Stayed tuned next week for our explication of “Data Gathering” and what makes it the very first of the “Seven Critical Interventions!”
Learn to Make a Difference in the World of People, Teams, and Organizations http://bit.ly/zFCNfv
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!
This cutting edge article has been moved to http://www.chumans.com/human-systems-resources/critical-interventions.html.
Please read it and send me your feedback.