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Archive for October, 2012

The Development of Culture Change

It’s interesting working in the arena of organization development. All to often managers are confounded by the fact that the employees resist any form of change whether the changes are better for the organization, will secure their jobs, and will most probably make the employees lives better.

Organizations spend thousands of pounds and many hours putting together information packs and communication plans to explain the changes, but no amount of information, no matter how rational, will seeming move those who chose not to be moved. What is more frustrating is that those who refuse to toe and line, and who engage in acts of corporate terrorism will be able to justify their bad behaviour with a perfectly rational and logic line of reasoning– even if the rational remains unreasonable. Further investigation will also unveil the truth, which is that the most reluctant will invent fabrications about the real motives of those trying to push for change, even if those reasons are nothing more than lying to ourselves.

Human behaviour, the mind and each individual’s personality are nothing if not curious and fascinating.

You see we don’t like to consider ourselves as being irrational. We need to deceive ourselves into believing that our bad behaviour is rational. If we are unable to cope with a current situation we may begin to regress, acting out like a petulant teenager, or we might use a displacement defence where we know we have to be strong, so we take out our frustration on a process of change that makes us feel fearful. Finally we might take hide from, and refuse to acknowledge the change that we are experiencing by repressing that which we are finding intolerable from our conscious mind and continuing as if nothing has changed at all.

Social Psychologist Leon Festinger described the discomfort we feel when we modify our beliefs so that we can make two contradictory ideas compatible as ‘cognitive dissonance.’ The more we believe that we are right in our belief that the change is bad, the more effort we will put into proving that we are right – and any information is used to confirm the rightness of our beliefs. If we are lying to ourselves we must in someway justify our lie to continue believing that we are a good person. (Rosenburg, 2011)

Culture or rather ‘the way we do things around here’ exacerbates the cognitive dissonance that individuals develop during a change programme.  The effectiveness of an organization can be seriously compromised if efforts to make changes conflicts with an organization’s norms, standards, working practices and values, potential creating conflict and toxicity around the change efforts.

Take for example the current context of the environmental peril that our planet is in. If we don’t change the way we do things then our grandchildren will quite possible face extinction. The problem is that we have accepted the truth of ‘plenty’ and of not having to count the external costs of our actions for such a long time that the rules and expectations of 21st Century human culture, especially in the Western World is currently stopping us from acting rationally in the best interests of our long term survival.  Organization’s can face similar problems in areas that are in obvious need of change, possibly where the way things are done around here is causing the organization to lose business or damage its reputation and yet still change efforts are met with resistance.

Since we are social creatures, doing things differently, changing to such an extent means that we have to go outside group norms. For example the terms Tree Hugger, eco-warrior and nature loving hippy have for a long time been used as insults and denote that the person acting with a belief structure that puts the environment first is in someway uncivilised. Even those organizations that are pursuing green and environmentally friendly agendas wrap their actions up in more acceptable business language of sustainability, Plan A and corporate social responsibility, it goes against our culture that these organizations should say that they care about the planet.

If you are trying to implement a change programme, it is important to consider how people are acting as a group, not just individually. When individuals are unsure how to behave they will look to the community of which they are part to understand what the norms are, which are usually driven by their peers. If there is someone who strongly represents the group displaying signs of cognitive dissonance, then that will determine what reaction the group will have as a whole to the change situation.

Individuals who have a lot lose and in the current hierarchy are in a privileged position will seek to maintain the traditions that keep them in a position of privilege, regardless of the expense to others. Destructive behaviour in a change situation will always be strongest where individuals who fear change the most are in a position of influence within the wider community.

To make the change your organization seeks, it is essential that you first understand those who are key stakeholders, and help them to transition their thinking prior to any change programme happening. That way the individuals who have most impact on cultural norms can help the group express their reaction to change, which in turn will help make the change journey smooth.

Organization Development offers an alternative to the ‘information centric’ approach to change management.  Rather than a top down change that tells people how to think and act, organization development takes the organization on a journey of discovery.  Leaders are taught to role model, coach and teach so they can reflect the change that is being asked for.  For individual employees, OD interventions create safe places for them to consider the areas of thinking and belief structures that might need to change, and provides the tools for the individual to make that change themselves.  For groups it helps transition the change through careful facilitation of groups dynamics to help the group help each other make the transition.  Finally, OD considers the reinforcement mechanisms within the organization, processes and systems which will support the culture change going forward, and removing barriers to the successful change.

OD Practitioner considerations for Culture Change

  1. Know the business beyond an organization chart and what the leaders tell you.  Investigate, question and discover;  How are things done? What makes the organization tick?  What is the underlying rhythm of the business?
  2. If you don’t know find out, and use the right OD tools for the situation.
  3. BE the change, coach, mentor and position yourself as a conduit of change.
  4. Ensure Change goals are relevant, and focused on people relationships and behaviour especially in regards to how processes and systems within the organization reinforce or inhibit people processes.
  5. Support leaders to create the climate for change
  6. Develop plans that reward behaviours that reinforce the desired culture change but also manage areas where there is reversion to old behaviours.
  7. Handle uncertainty and ambiguity with confidence.
  8. Use methods that work on both the mind, in regards to intellectual stimulation but also the heart, in regards to emotion.
  9. Create experiences and opportunities for people to explore new behaviours within a positive framework
  10. Always develop methods that reinforce new ways of working.

Organization Design Capability

The design of organization is a key element when considering organization development programmes.  Organizational outcomes are affected by how flexibly the design features of the organization facilitates resource allocation in regards to people, process, decision making, team environment, communication and politics.

The importance of building flexibility and adaptability into the design of the organizations system cannot be underestimated.  As with all OD interventions, they key is to take a holistic and ‘human dynamics’ centred approach, this means stepping away from drawing a neat organisation chart on powerpoint with simple pyramid reporting lines, and considering the complexity of organizational life.  This means considering the importance of being able to form project teams and communities around a matrix structure in order to address challenges and the resulting changes efficiently, quickly and effectively whilst sustaining necessary routines.

Relationships and communities extend beyond the organizational boundaries, those involved in organizational design must consider both internal and external operational processes and seek to build flexibility into the connections that are necessary.  In order for the organization to avoid repeated ‘restructuring’ and ‘re-organizing’ revolutions, architects must instead design for evolution in order that the organization can respond to the ebb and flow of the wider competitive environment.

“The process of purposefully configuring elements of organization to effectively and efficiently achieve its strategy and deliver intended business, customer and employee outcomes.  The resulting configuration is the organization’s design” Mohrman

The purpose of organization design is that it takes account, not just of the tangible structural elements within the organization such as technology, process, buildings, working capital, materials etc. but also considers the people capabilities that can be deployed in response challenges that the organization may face.  Capabilities refers to the competency, skill, knowledge and talents that reside in the organization rather than simply particular job tasks that can be fulfilled.  It is the utilisation of the human know-how to deliver the organizations value proposition in pursuit of its purpose.

A holistic organisation development approach to organization design delivers both the traditional structural and system design considerations, which are usually delivered in Lean Processing or Business Re-Engineering alongside the OD tradition of both the sensitivity to improving group dynamics, releasing people capabilities, unblocking information flows and delivery of the cultural requirements necessary to deliver sustainable business performance.  The whole organisation approach ensures that the design of the organisation is aligned, networked, flexible and fully leverages the people potential across the business.

Ultimately the output of an organization development design structure is a flexible structure which can respond to the changing requirements of the organization and deliver organizational balance in the system to deliver an environment of sustainable performance.

The Relevance of Power and Politics to OD

Organization Development at it’s heart is a collaboration process which encourages each individual within the organization to make decisions that affect their own future and that of the organization, to #bethechange.

Power and the politics that affect who wields power within the organizational setting therefore has the ability to help the OD change programme achieve its aims or derail the work of the OD practitioner.

There are four key approaches to power that an OD practitioner must incorporate within each phase of the OD cycle;

  1. Build an OD power base that gives access to the OD practitioner to those in power within the organization
  2. Influence key stakeholders in a transparent process, addressing key issues in a way that is creative and efficient than traditional organizational politicking.
  3. Assist the transformation of the existing power structures to make change sticky
  4. Champion and uphold the interests of those affected by changes who don’t have the power to protect themselves.

It would be naive to expect the OD practitioner to enter the organizational system without addressing power and politics.  Any organization is part of a system which relies on an exchange of mutual dependence to achieve results.  This requires the OD practitioner to understand and interact with the complex structures of social exchange which exist within the organizational setting in order to help release the talent potential, knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the organization as a whole.

Within each organizational setting their are core people who are involved in critical activities that need to be challenged and supported throughout the OD process. In order to develop mutual understanding throughout the organization the OD practitioner must carefully negotiate the power positions and brokers in order to enlist their help to lead the change whilst at the same time diminish the existing power base in order to develop a holistic interdependence required for organizational success.

In addition to addressing the existing power bases, the OD practitioner will need to deliberate create and develop their own centres of power throughout the organization to orchestrate the impact needed to create success within the client system.  In addition the OD practitioner must develop a positive framework  in order to role model the ethical use of power and politics going forward.

 Key Points

  • Power is a key element of organizational life
  • Knowing how power is distributed will help you get things done
  • Organizational morale may be impacted by feelings of powerlessness, OD can create a context in which permission is given for the disenfranchised to be empowered
  • Authority of knowledge is just as important as the authority of role in organizational decision making
  • OD practitioners are perfectly placed to help shift the organization from negative to positive forms of power, building a healthy and effective organizational system

Applying the use of Power in OD

  1. During the diagnostic stage investigate and understand how power works in decsion making, resource allocation, conflict and sponsorship.
  2. Map the proportion of the workforce who are disenfranchised, have positional power and where the power centres (informal and formal) exist
  3. Explore the operation of the informal power network and power sources and tap into the networks that can effectively support change.
  4. Build and maintain alliances with key stakeholders and power brokers to drive through and sponsor the change efforts, whilst sharing power with those who are disenfranchised in the current power structure.
  5. Show people how to make things happen and coach them so that they can support themselves and make a positive impact on the organization’s performance.
  6. Help move the organization towards greater levels of collaboration and interdependence by positively demonstrating the effectiveness of greater cooperation in making things happen.
  7. A key part of the OD programme will be to develop healthy and positive power use which contributes to a work environment which nurtures and releases the potential within the organization.



The Theorists – Richard Beckhard

There are a number of individuals who throughout the history and emergence of Organization Development have made a significant contribution to both the academic theory and practice of the field of OD.

Richard Beckhard – In Brief

Richard Beckhard was among the pioneer consultants who in the 1950s invented the field of organization development (OD to describe a consulting approach that was an innovative bottoms-up change effort.

Beckhard defined Organization Development as “an effort (1) planned, (2) organization-wide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organization’s “processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge”

When describing possible intervention strategies Beckhard made several assumptions about the nature and functioning of organizations including:

  1. The basic building blocks of an organization are groups (teams). Therefore, the basic units of change are groups, not individuals.
  2. An always relevant change goal is the reduction of inappropriate competition between parts of the organization and the development of a more collaborative condition.
  3. Decision making in a healthy organization is located where the information sources are, rather than in a particular role or level of hierarchy.
  4. Organizations, subunits of organizations, and individuals continuously manage their affairs against goals. Controls are interim measurements, not the basis of managerial strategy.
  5. One goal of a healthy organization is to develop generally open communication, mutual trust, and confidence between and across levels.
  6. People support what they help create. People affected by a change must be allowed active participation and a sense of ownership in the planning and conduct of the change.

Along with his colleagues Warren Bennis and Edgar Shein, Beckhard collaborated in the launching of the famous Addison-Wesley Organization Development Series and initiated the Network of Organizational Development.

He pioneered the use of T-Groups for top executives and together with David Gleicher, he is credited with developing a Formula for Change. The formula (D x V x F > R) proposes that the combination of organisational dissatisfaction, vision for the future and the possibility of immediate, tactical action must be stronger than the resistance within the organisation in order for meaningful change to occur.

Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. These factors are:

D = Dissatisfaction with the status quo;
V = Vision of what is possible;
F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.
R = If any of these factors are missing or weak, then you’re going to get resistance.

Richard Beckhard – Life and Times

  • 1918 – Born New York City
  • 1931 – He began his career in the theatre, first as an actor and then as a Broadway stage manager. During World War II, he directed the entertainment of troops in the Pacific.
  • 1963 – Adjunct professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management
  • 1967 – Co-launched the Addison-Wesley Organization Development Series
  • 1967 – Began the Organization Development Network
  • 1969 – Published his classic work, Organization Development: Strategies and Models,
  • 1970s – Founded The Family Firm Institute
  • 1977 – Published Organizational Transitions
  • 1984 – Retired from the MIT Sloan School of Management
  • 1987 – Published Organizational Transitions Managing Complex Change
  • 1999 – Died

Richard Beckhard – Key Contributions

Beckhard’s innovations were legendary: inter-group confrontation meetings; responsibility charting; team building, all in service of large strategic goals for business leaders. For nearly 50 years, Beckhard helped organizations function in a more humane and high-performing manner, and to empower people to be agents of change.

Beckhard wrote eight books and numerous articles, including Organization Development: Strategies and Models; Changing the Essence; and Richard Beckhard: Agent of Change: My Life, My Practice.

The Theorists – Bob Tannerbaum

There are a number of individuals who throughout the history and emergence of Organization Development have made a significant contribution to both the academic theory and practice of the field of OD.

Bob Tannerbaum in Brief

Bob Tannenbaum humanist vision profoundly affected the field of organizational development for more than 50 years, starting from a deep-seated belief about the importance of personal consciousness and the capacities of people to grow themselves psychologically, with derivative payouts in interpersonal sensitivity, Tannenbaum’s work was a forerunner contributor to considerations of human capital as a corporate asset.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, he was instrumental in establishing UCLA’s Graduate School of Management as a key centre of thought and practice in the fields of organization development and leadership training. During this period he helped found the Western Training Lab, which promulgated a derivative of T-groups that became known as Sensitivity Training, and played an important role in the evolution of the NTL Institute of Applied Behavioral Science, which spearheaded the drive to utilize group dynamics as an important pedagogy for promoting increased awareness of self and impact on others as essential to team play in the corporate environment.

Bob Tannenbaum’s intellectual work described organizational systems not as machines with interchangeable human parts, but as living communities that can be designed to enable people to grow and learn while achieving business goals. His writings, as well as his teaching and consulting, reflected the value he placed on people, and his belief that, to a great extent, leadership effectiveness derives from awareness of one’s own basic assumptions about human nature and the testing out and revision of those assumptions.

Bob Tannerbaum – Life and Times

  • 1916 – Born Cripple Creek Colorado
  • 1935 – Achieved an A.A. degree from Santa Ana Junior College
  • 1937 – Received an A.B. degree in business administration at the University of Chicago
  • 1937 – Instructor in Accounting at Oklahoma A&M College
  • 1938 – Received an MBA in Accounting at the University of Chicago
  • 1939 – Began Ph.D Studies in Industrial Relations
  • 1942 – Enlisted in Navy as Officer in Pacific teaching Radar
  • 1945 – Married Edith Lazaroff
  • 1946 – Return to Chicago to Finish his Doctorate
  • 1948 – Completed Ph.D
  • 1948 – Joined UCLA -The Anderson School as Acting Assistant Professor and Assistant Research Economist
  • 1958 – Published Journal Article How to Choose a Leadership Pattern
  • 1960 – Published Journal Article Management Differences
  • 1961 – Published Leadership and Organization
  • 1973 – Published Journal Article How to Choose a Leadership Pattern
  • 1977 – Retired as Professor of Human Systems Development to concentrate on consulting and counselling executives.
  • 2003 – Died

Tannerbaum – Key Contributions 

Pioneer in the West Coast movement that valued personal development and teamwork as instrumental to organization effectiveness.

Tannenbaum’s work from the 1950s to the 1970s with Western Training Lab and the NTL Institute of Applied Behavioral Science was considered crucial to the development of modern small-group processes such as “sensitivity training” and “T-groups.”

First to describe a leadership continuum ranging from an autocratic manager — “the leader makes the decision and announces it to the group” -to a more democratic process in which employees are deeply involved in decision-making.