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Archive for August, 2012

OD Theory – Appreciative Inquiry

In addition to the five core OD theories there are other theories that a solid OD practitioners must understand to build on their theoretical foundation for practice.  Good grounding in theory is essential for every OD practitioner.  The better you understand the theory, the better you will understand the complex and intricate nature of the OD process and OD tool kit.

Appreciative Inquiry in Brief

Appreciative Inquiry rationalises and reinforces the habit of mind that moves through the world in a generative frame, seeking and finding images of the possible rather than scenes of disaster and despair.

Appreciative Inquiry involves a cooperative systematic exploration, discovery and recognition of the best in people and the organisation, affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potential.  It is a theory, a mindset, and an approach to analysis that leads to organisational learning and creativity.

At its heart Appreciative Inquiry strengthens a organisation’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential through the use of positive questioning, imagination and innovation.  It seeks to deliberately engage the whole of the organisational population, and get them to explore and tapping into rich and inspiring accounts of the positive.

The energy created from this exploration gives momentum to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.  By focusing on the organisations strengths, rather than focusing on problems, the resulting output elicits solutions by fully engaging everyone in the organisation.

Key Points

  • Appreciative Inquiry focuses on what the organisation is doing right and provides a frame for creating an imagined future.
  • Seeking and finding the generative rather than the destructive image is powerful.
  • Human behaviour is shaped by “current reality.”
  • There is an impact on human behaviour of “anticipatory reality.”  Research suggests that human beings create the future that we imagine.

Applying Appreciative Inquiry in an OD Intervention

  1. Ensure that the organisation has made a commitment to continuous learning, growth, and generative change.
  2. Help the organisation find its own way and its own path through an inquiry process that seeks the most creative and generative realities.
  3. Help individuals and organisations to realise that we can be limited and constrained by our inability to see larger and more expansive realities that are available.
  4. Provide the environment to help individuals and groups explore beyond what they already know and understand.
  5. Shape dialogue around ‘what is’ rather than ‘what is not.’

OD Theory – Group Dynamics

In addition to the five core OD theories there are other theories that a solid OD practitioner must understand to build on their theoretical foundation for practice.  Good grounding in theory is essential for every OD practitioner.  The better you understand the theory, the better you will understand the complex and intricate nature of the OD process and OD tool kit.

Group Dynamic Theory in Brief

Kurt Lewin had a profound impact on thinking regarding Group Dynamics. Two key ideas emerged out of field theory that are crucial to an appreciation of group process: interdependence of fate, and task interdependence.

Interdependence of fate – Groups come into being when people realize their fate depends on the fate of the group as a whole.  A group will contain individuals of very different character, but when an individual learns how much his own fate depends on the fate of the entire group he will proactively take responsibility for his part in the groups welfare.  However, Lewin argued that Interdependence of fate can be a fairly weak form of interdependence in many groups.

Task interdependence – Lewin argued a more significant factor is where there is interdependence in the goals of group members. In other words, if the group’s task is such that members of the group are dependent on each other for achievement, then a powerful dynamic is created.  Task interdependence can be positive or negative. In negative interdependence – known more usually as competition – one person’s success is another’s failure.   Positive interdependence results in the group being a ‘dynamic whole.’

One of the most interesting pieces of Group Dynamics work concerned the exploration of different styles or types of leadership on group structure and member behaviour.  Three classic group leadership models we studied – democratic, autocratic and laissez-faire.  The research concluded that there was more originality, group-mindedness and friendliness in democratic groups. In contrast, there was more aggression, hostility, scapegoating and discontent in laissez-faire and autocratic groups.


Key Points of Group Dynamic Theory

  • Groups under conditions of positive interdependence were generally more co-operative and tend to be productive as compared to those working under negative task
  • Democracy must be learned anew in each generation, and that it is a far more difficult form of social structure to attain and to maintain than is autocracy
  • The difference in behaviour in autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire situations is not, on the whole, a result of individual differences.
  • Democracy cannot be imposed on people, but has to be learnt by a process of voluntary and responsible participation.
  • Change and periods of transition needs to be facilitated and guided.
  • Motivation for change must be generated before change can occur. Participants must be helped to re-examine many cherished assumptions about self, relationships and the group as part of the process.


Applying Group Dynamic Theory in an OD Intervention

  1. Encourage the senior leadership team to be the same as any good teacher, becoming unnecessary, and allowing natural leaders to rise from the group during a period of transition.
  2. Asking the Leader to change one or more of their characteristics or replace the leader with another person to harness the power of an informal group
  3. Systematically rotate out of the group its leaders and its key members in order to facilitate the emergence of a leader who has aims similar to the organisation
  4. Be alert to leaders sympathetic to the organisations objectives and use them toward the betterment of the formal groups effectiveness.
  5. Locate the best person in the group who is the best position to facilitate the smooth flow of information among group members
  6. Encourage group discussion and decision-making, and ensure participants regardless of position, treat each other as peers.
  7. Use a feedback activity to enable participants to engage in active dialogue about differences of interpretation and observation of the events by those who had participated in them.
  8. Develop a creative tension in the learning environment, bringing together the immediate experiences of the participants and the conceptual models of the facilitators in an open atmosphere where inputs from each perspective could challenge and stimulate the other.
  9. Observe the behaviour patterns of the group through interviews and asking the group members to identify their own norms; as members become aware of negative norms they commonly reject them and seek to change their behaviour.
  10. Create an environment in which values and beliefs can be challenged.
  11. Develop the group as students of OD tools, providing the group with models for organizing ideas through brief lectures, reading material, handouts and experiential learning techniques.
  12. Involve group members in the decision making process to reduce feelings of alienation and also improve communication between leaders and their employees and thereby reducing conflict

OD Theory – Psychodynamic Theory

In addition to the five core OD theories there are other theories that a solid OD practitioners must understand to build on their theoretical foundation for practice.  Good grounding in theory is essential for every OD practitioner.  The better you understand the theory, the better you will understand the complex and intricate nature of the OD process and OD tool kit.

Psychodynamic Theory in Brief

The Psychodynamic approach includes all the theories in psychology that see human functioning based upon the interaction of drives and forces within the person or organisation, particularly unconscious, and between the different structures of the personality.

Psychodynamic Theory explores, experiences that have been pushed out of conscious awareness and argues that individuals and organisations have an unconscious that contains vulnerable feelings that are too difficult to be consciously aware of and as a result have developed defence mechanisms, such as denial, repression, rationalisation, etc., but that these defences cause more harm than good and that once the vulnerable or painful experiences are processed the defence mechanisms reduce or resolve.

At its core the theory emphasises the examination and resolution of inner conflicts helping organisations and individuals gain a perspective of pure insight in order to recognise the character traits, actions, responses, and behaviours that need to be transformed if performance is to be achieved.

The application of the theory in the organisational setting seeks to uncover the underlying conflicts that are the catalysts for the disturbing and unhealthy symptoms. The first job of the OD practitioner is to address the symptoms before working with the client to devise and construct elements of change that can be implemented.

Key Points

  • Human behaviour and relationships are shaped by conscious and unconscious influences.
  • All behaviour has a cause or reason (usually unconscious). Therefore all behaviour is determined.
  • Different parts of the unconscious mind are in constant struggle.
  • Personality is made up of three parts (i.e. tripartite). The id, ego and super-ego.
  • Behaviour is motivated by two instinctual drives: Eros (the sex drive & life instinct) and Thanatos (the aggressive drive & death instinct). Both these drives come from the “id”.
  • Parts of the unconscious mind (the id and superego) are in constant conflict with the conscious part of the mind (the ego).

Applying Psychodynamic Theory in an OD intervention

  1. Design activities that work to expose areas of transference and resistance
  2. Develop processes for addressing difficult and challenging issues in order to develop cohesive and supportive relationships within the organisation.
  3. Encourage groups and teams to experiment and express themselves creatively as a method for strengthening their bond and accessing deeper tools of communication.
  4. Address questions such as “What does it mean that this organisation, with their unique history and concerns, is doing or saying this particular thing at this time?  How might past experiences be impacting the organisation now?  What are the unspoken expectations and underlying beliefs that are limiting potential?”


OD Theory – Psychoanalytical Theory

In addition to the five core OD theories there are other theories that a solid OD practitioner must understand to build on their theoretical foundation for practice.  Good grounding in theory is essential for every OD practitioner.  The better you understand the theory, the better you will understand the complex and intricate nature of the OD process and OD tool kit.

Psychoanalytical Theory in Brief

Sigmund Freud developed Psychoanalytic Theory of personality that suggests that early experiences influence all human behaviour. The Theory explores two territories of the human mind, the conscious and the unconscious.

The conscious mind includes everything that we are aware of, those parts of our our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally. Part of this includes our memory, which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into our awareness.

The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that outside of our conscious awareness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. According to the theory, the unconscious continues to influence our behaviour and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences.

Psychoanalytic theory seeks to address three core issues to behaviour – the id, the ego and the superego.

Psychoanalysts argue that all human personality is comprised of these closely integrated functions. The id refers to our biological or physical functioning which influences behaviour that is unfettered, compelling and lacking morality, selfish and intolerant of tension. id functions on the principle of pleasure before anything else and operates at an unconscious or instinctive level.  Many of us have experienced what is commonly referred to as a Freudian slip. These misstatements are believed to reveal underlying, unconscious thoughts or feelings.

The ego is the rationally functioning element of human personality. Ego exerts conscious control, trying always to be the mediator between the id and the superego. Ego seeks pleasure based on rationality instead of irrationality and therefore results in behaviour that is rational and always conscious.  The ego is the aspect we present to the “outside” world, it is our public face.

The superego represents our moral system. It strives to put a right or wrong label on our behaviour and is driven by our own morality.


Key Points

  1. Humanity is irrational, materialistic and mechanistic.
  2. Our early experience influences our behaviour
  3. Anxiety occurs when there is conflict among the three divisions of id, ego and superego.
  4. Humans use defence mechanisms to control the anxiety.
  5. Development of the concepts of human conscious and unconscious and conscience.


Applying Psychoanalytic Theory in an OD Intervention

  1. Observe the impact of id, ego and superego on the interactions between employees and management,
  2. Monitor the conscious and unconscious forces that bind fellow employees together, and the role of autonomy in people’s lives.
  3. During the diagnostic phase, build a model of the dynamics of the workplace.
  4. Highlight how work and the organization interact with the employees’ unconscious motivations and ideation.
  5. Challenge individuals who use splitting (a process whereby we simplify a complex situation by attributing all its ‘x’ characteristics to one of a pair, and all its ‘y’ characteristics to the other e.g. Goodies and Baddies) in their organisational framing, or organisations where splitting has become institutionalised
  6. Continue to remind participants that all work systems have technical, human and social aspects and these are interdependent rather than allowing them to perceive them in separate configurations
  7. Ensure whether the method that is being developed has the requisite characteristics that will in fact enable it to facilitate transition.
  8. When working with an individual or a group in an organisation include something of the other individuals and departments, the products, the technologies, the markets, the geography, the legal framework and the history.