Conscious use of self, described in our previous blog, calls for learning how to be aware of and direct our beliefs, our emotions, our thoughts, and our behavior. These are the primary points of choice that allow us to consciously manage ourselves. The choices we make at those points directly impact how well we manage or create change in our personal or organizational worlds.
Unfortunately, most of us normal human beings have only begun to develop full command of these tools of self. Most of us respond automatically to many situations where our goals would be better served by greater awareness and consciousness about how we are using our selves. Our automatic or habitual reactions are based on responses that were successful in some (generally unconscious, often childhood-based) past experiences. However, when applied too broadly and unconsciously to current situations, we find that the impact of too many of our behaviors fall far from our desired results.
How we use ourselves in one situation may or may not be very effective in another, though similar, situation. Over reliance on past experience is a significant pitfall to the flexibility we need to effectively work our way through today’s world of constant change. To gain this needed flexibility a deeper understanding of the choice points is useful.
Every action we take is directed by some combination of emotions and thoughts. Those emotions and thoughts are directed by our database of beliefs. The database is constructed from conclusions from past experiences, socializations (Edie says, “We’ve been duped by society”), and ideas of our own invention. For example, imagine that I want members of a team for which I am responsible to decrease the time they spend in conflict and increase their productivity. First, I need to determine what I’m doing (my actions, my behavior) that is contributing to the way things are rather than what I want, and what I could do that would work better. To find that out, I ask my team’s members. If they get that my curiosity is genuine, they’ll tell me. Now, I can consciously choose the behaviors that work rather than those that don’t.
Part 2 to be continued next week
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.