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!”
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Click here to read part 1 from last week
Sometimes choosing different behavior is all we need. Other times we know what we should do, but find ourselves not following through.
Imagine that my team has told me to stop accepting conflictual behavior and start holding folks accountable for improving productivity—which I had previously agreed to do, but never did. To change my problematic behavior I need to notice what emotions and thoughts come up when an opportunity to follow-through arises. I notice that I become anxious when I think about disciplining a member of my team. When I ask myself what I’m anxious about, I realize that I’m afraid of being thought of as unfair and that I won’t be liked anymore. Hmm, interesting! Why don’t I just choose to stop feeling anxious and get on with what I know I need to do?
Most of us know that is easier said than done. I might have better success choosing to change my thought process to one that tells me that if I don’t start holding my folks accountable that I could lose my job. That could work. But, it leaves me in a state of conflict with myself—I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. What a mess. More stress.
Instead, I can ask myself: On what beliefs are my thoughts based? As I look to see what they might be I notice a series of related beliefs:
1. I must be liked to feel good about myself.
2. To be liked I must be seen as fair.
3. The perceptions of other people are more important than my perception of myself.
I believe those things because that’s how my world worked when I was a kid. When my parents seemed to like me they did things that I liked. And, they always seemed unhappy with me when they told me I was being unfair even when I didn’t think I was being unfair. Now I ask myself: How applicable and/or useful are those beliefs to my current situation and goals? The answer, of course, is not very.
This gives me the opportunity to consciously and intentionally choose a set of beliefs that are based on the sound and current data of the present where I am an adult, not a child. I can choose to believe that holding my team members accountable for working with each other supportively will result in increased productivity! And a more pleasant working environment will increase their respect for me. And, if they respect me more they will even like me more.
Besides, my self-esteem need not be dependent on their liking me. I can choose to approve of myself rather than depend solely on others approving of me.
Behavior (Action) is driven by our emotions – our vehicle of motivation. What we don’t care about, we don’t do. The caring might be in the form of joy, anger, fear, or love. They are all emotions without which we do much of nothing.
Emotions are driven by our thoughts, which we use to make meaning of the events in which we are involved. The meaning we make may not or may reflect the actual nature of the event depending on our automatic interpretations and assumptions. Often our interpretations and assumptions sufficiently match sound and current data and are useful. However, in situations that are important to us do we want to trust “often?”
Thoughts are driven by our beliefs. If I believe that my thoughts (including the meaning that I make of an event) reflect the actuality without the need for further checking, I increase the probability of having my emotional response and subsequent behavior be off target. Of course, with such a belief we will also believe that our being off target is not our fault but is that of somebody or something else.
Beliefs are based on a combination of what we’ve learned from past experience, what we’ve been socialized to believe by our caretakers, teachers, friends, and society in general, plus whatever we invent as truth. A highly problematic belief is that they (my beliefs) represent the reality of the present. Such a belief will effectively prevent the taking in or use of sound and current data.
Each of our behaviors, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs is a choice point reflecting a level of possible mastery of conscious use of self. Mastery at the level of behavior—where our emotions, thoughts, and beliefs may be incongruent with our behavior—is a general (though often misplaced) expectation of adults in our society. Mastery at the level of emotions and thought is often the province of healthy adults who have done their share of introspection, personal growth and often therapy. Mastery at the level of beliefs is akin to wisdom calling for understanding that our egos and minds are not who we are, whose dictates we must follow, but simple tools for our full selves to use at conscious choice.
As we move toward deeper and deeper levels of conscious choice about how we use ourselves, we will be more and more able to behave in such a manner that the systems within which we wish to live and manage change will respond to us in ways consonant with our goals and intentions.
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.
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!