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Organization Development – A Tool-Kit for People Led Change

As a discipline Organization Development (OD) is over 60 years old, but the movement towards a more human economy means that the philosophy and approach offered by OD is in tune with what is happening in the wider social, political and economic systems. Knights (2016: 4) stated that, “to expect ‘the leader’ to always come to the best solution alone is unrealistic especially in our modern complex world.” The world of the charismatic leader that always had the answer has been exposed as problematic, and once feted leaders revealed as flawed. Organizations are facing unprecedented pressures on their operations and this environment is often referred to using the acronym VUCA;

  • Volatility: Unexpected challenge over an unknown time period
  • Uncertainty: Unknown causes and effects of change
  • Complexity: Overwhelming interconnection between variables
  • Ambiguity: Unknown, unknowns.

OD can offer organizations tools and techniques to combat these challenges by harnessing the human power and creativity within the organization to deliver sustainable organization performance. It offers a human approach to an industrial problem.

Organization Development: What it is, and why you need it.

Organization Development is variously described in academic terms based upon its behavioural and social science background.

OD is first and foremost a practice informed by theory, and in practical terms the practice of OD encompasses activities, which deliver organizational change through people. Or, simply put, OD is people led change. OD activities influence people to behave in line with their values and beliefs, embracing self and building an organization through using the combined knowledge of the organizational community. OD decision-making and judgement requires high levels of communal communication, which transcends the rational and logical processes preferred by business process engineering. It makes full use of the conscious and subconscious processes of innovation, creativity, intuition, instinct and corporate insight available within the organizational system.  Human endeavour requires a tripartite of thinking, feeling and being to be truly effective. Even the most rational of decisions are in some way informed by human behaviour and the underlying values of the person making the decision.

OD has become more widely acknowledged by contemporary organizations because of the prevalence of change and the need for change methods that work following a failure of change programmes to deliver their promised outcomes. There is a growing recognition that organizations that ignore the people bit of change in favour of the more tangible process reengineering and organizational restructures in isolation do so at the risk of resistance to change, cultural malignancy and a risk to return on investment.

Embedding OD as a way of working within an organization requires that organizational leaders create a safe environment where everyone’s ideas are treated respectfully and trust is placed in their employees’ capability to develop ideas which will help overcome challenges and pursue opportunities. The result is an end to a trickle down of strategic plans and documents, and instead a creative connection between personal values and beliefs with the purpose of the organization. Furthermore, the aim of OD is not just about bottom line profit growth for that quarter, but an approach, which seeks to secure a sustainable future for the organization.

Want to read more?  Coming Soon…

Organization Development – A Tool Kit for People-Led Change by Carrie Foster

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Association of Coaching Conference

1st September 2016 – Kings College London

How we can recognise and operate better within our systems

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This conference brings together different strands of thought around how we can recognise and operate better within our systems. Some sessions are theory based while others are playful and experiential.

Whichever field you work in, and whatever your coaching practice focuses on, you will hear thought provoking speakers and gain new perspectives to take back into your practice that will enable you to make changes in your system.

Areas to be explored include:

  • Brains and bodies
  • Allowing creativity in a complex organisation
  • Systems leadership in the public sector
  • Drama as a lens to create different outcomes
  • Wicked problems
  • Coaching contracting in complex systems

Different approaches to freeing up stuck systems:

  • Relational
  • Constellations
  • Structural Dynamics
  • Gestalt and Transactional Analysis

Cost: £180 – Early Bird Discount until 31st July

For more information click here

 

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Focused conversations – Introducing a New Topic

If you are introducing a group to a new topic, whether in a training session or in an OD workshop where you what to open them up to new ideas and also get them to realise that they probably have some of the knowledge they need already – try this focused conversation.

Focused Conversation

Opening

Well Today we’re going to launch into a new topic – [NAME TOPIC] Let’s talk about this a bit. We all have some experience of this area.

Objective Questions

  • When was your first experience of this topic?
  • As you think about this, what images jump into your mind?
  • What are some of the things we already know about this?

Reflective Questions

  • What feelings do you associate with this topic?
  • What are some of your past experiences related to the topic?
  • What colour do you associate with this?
  • What animal does it remind you of?
  • What aspects of it do you enjoy?
  • What don’t you like about it?
  • What is the most challenging things about it?

Interpretative Questions

  • Why is this topic important?
  • How will if affect you? Your work? Other aspects of your life?
  • What are your major questions in this area?

Decisional Questions

  • How can we help each other learn about this topic?

Closing

As we share our insights like this, we have already taken the first steps in grasping this topic.

 

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Organizational Psychology – Virtual Teams

Answers the Question

How do organizations successfully utilize virtual teams?

How it began

Research into virtual teams continues with the growth of global organizations and remote working. The improvements in communication technology has enabled virtual teams to become normalized in most organizational settings but the setting is recognized as being messy.

They share many challenges as those experienced by face-to-face teams but these challenges are exacerbated by their virtuality: poor line management;

Underperformance from individual members leads to greater levels of dysfunction.

Other theoretical issues are also raised including: Where does team boundaries begin and end? How can technology be used to improve performance? What is the balance between local responsiveness and global integration?

Virtual Teams

Key Terminology

Virtual Teams – groups of interdependent coworkers who are geographically dispersed, dependent on technology, structurally dynamic and culturally diverse

Emergent states – important mediational influences with explanatory power accounting for variability in team performance.

In Brief

Input-process-output (IPO) Framework (Hackman & Morris 1975; McGrrath, 1984)
Inputs are factors that are controllable by organisations for example; leadership behaviours, team composition; HR policies; job design
Team processes are the interdependency of team activities required for teamwork leading to the achievement of team goals. Categories include action, transition or interpersonal. The lack of understanding of group values; regulative information and social cues negatively affect individual’s ability to reduce ambiguity, establish social identity to establish collaborative partnerships
Outputs include performance; attitudes and behaviours.

Individual-Level

Four themes are highlighted at individual level; 1) Communication effects caused by technology; Computer mediated communication is highlighted where individual or social identity will determine conformity to either personal or social norms. 2) relational demography where diversity affects individual expectations about teamwork 3) individual differences; where individual differences including personality characteristics and cognitive styles and the resulting commitment to virtual teams and 4) task type and characteristics; where relation to positive individual outcomes including trust, task attraction, social attraction and self rated task success impact adherence to a set of team work rules.

What does this mean for OD

  1. Reviewing technology to ensure leaner media (video-conferencing; e-mail) is used to facilitate communication clarity when team members have less task-relevant knowledge
  2. Check team composition; heterogeneous virtual teams are more superior that Face to Face teams, but Homogeneous teams are more satisfied, cohesive and experience less conflict.
  3. Keep virtual teams small – smaller teams participate more actively, are more committed to the team, have high goal and team member awareness and higher levels of rapport.
  4. Pay attention to the four critical success factors for virtual teams – communication; culture; technology and project management.
  5. The most successful virtual teams have more concentrated leadership behaviour focused on performance and keeping track of group work.
  6. Length of leader’s tenure increases levels of trust and technology support.
  7. Social communication is linked to building trust early in global virtual teams.
  8. Substantive and timely response and leadership are involved in maintaining trust at later stages.

References

Hackman, J. R. and Morris, C. G. (1975) Group tasks, group interaction process and group performance effectiveness: A review and proposed integration. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.) Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 8 pp. 47 – 101). New York. Academic Press

Kirkman, B. L, Gibson, C. B. and Kim, K. (2012) Across Borders and Technologies: Advancements in Virtual Team Research. In Kozlowski, S. W. J. (Ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psychology (Vol. 2. pp. 789 – 858). Oxford. Oxford University Press

McGrath, J. E. (1984). Groups, interaction and performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

 

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Recommended Reading – The Roles of Organisation Development

Role of OD

Garden, A. (2015) The Roles of Organisation Development. Gower Publishing

I have been practicing OD for over ten years, and in that time have never found an adequate way of describing exactly what it is that I do… until now.

Thanks to Annamaria Garden, The Roles of the OD practitioner are articulated in a way that makes sense,  that actually mean something and explains what we do.  I also absolutely love the way the end of each chapter provides the opportunity for you to self assess using questions and exercises, so you can build your own practitioner personal development plan.

The roles are:

Seer – It is the skill of seeing things; of seeing through appearances and looking into the future. Knows what to begin to prioritise or pay attention to.  They may know before other do, what needs to be focused on.

Translator – The hearing equivalent to seeing.  It is the skill of listening in order to translate one person to another.  Listens to the organisation’s speech, looking for the intentions and purpose behind the problems in the organisation.

Cultivator – A role of understanding the rhythm and pacing in the organisation.  Recognizing when to go slow, or when to operate at great speed.  Aims to heal people and the organisation, focusing on organisational wellness.

Catalyst – Hits the bullseye.  Good at combining different things or people to create something quite new and exciting.

Navigator – Charts people and the organisation through psychological space.  Knowing the direction, the current space as well as propelling people to get to the direction.

Teacher – Focuses on teaching well.

Guardian – Creates an ethical, not just effective organisation.  Being aware of oneself and having disciplines to encourage that.

Each chapter is joyous to read.  It’s like unveiling a mirror and understanding what an OD practitioner looks like for the first time.  Its also clearly written, practical as well as theoretical and… well just makes sense.

This is a truly excellent book, but a word of warning, it is also one of the most irritating books I have read as well.  I blame the burgeoning academic in me, which given that Garden has such as stella academic background perhaps is more a reflection on my failings than her.  If you don’t mind her name dropping the OD greats every other sentence, this book will probably not be irritating in the slightest, but I found myself mentally thinking “lets just pick that up from the floor” for every name she dropped… which is often.  To my British sensibilities its all a bit boastful.  Furthermore there is something rather smug (and academically wrong) about the way she calls Shutz, “Will”, Schein, “Ed” and Beckhard “Dick” – yes we get it, you were mentored and taught by the greats, you don’t have to remind us every five seconds.

But despite my personal irritation this is still an excellent book and one I would highly recommend you get for your bookshelf.  Get it here.