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Posts tagged ‘change management’

OD Theory – Field 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.

Field Theory in Brief

Developed by Lewin, Field theory is an social science approach which explores the social environment as a dynamic field that impacts individual action and consciousness in interactive way.  By changing elements of the social environment, and in the case of OD, the organisational environment, the individual experiences particular types of psychological forces.  But the relationship is not all one way.  Field Theory also argues that the psychological state of an individual influences the environment that they inhabit.

Therefore the individual and the organisation coexist and are mutually interdependent and the behaviour of an individual is related both to an individual’s personal characteristics and to the social situation in which they find themselves.

According to field theory, if change is to take place, the organisation as a whole has to be taken into account.  If only part of the organisation is considered, only a partial picture of what is really happening within the organisation is likely to develop.

By changing one part of the organisation the intervention will affect another part of the organisation as by product of the changes that have been made.  Changes involve an interaction between the field and the state of other organisational elements.  The field effect involves a ‘force’ will transfer the energy of change in one area to other areas of the organisation.

Key Points

  • The employee and the organisation are interdependent
  • Behaviour is a product of both person and their environment
  • Both the individual and the organisation are important in determining the outcome of any OD intervention
  • It seeks to explain why change occurs in the states of some parts of the organisation that are not the focus of a change effort
  • The organisational environment (the field) is organised and its responses to change are not random.
  • The field itself is not measurable therefore its effects can only be measured by the outcomes.

Applying Field Theory in an OD Intervention

  1. Be aware that your presence and behaviour causes a disturbance in the field and make sure your involvement has a positive impact.
  2. Your diagnostic analysis should focus on the organisation as a whole from which are differentiated the component parts
  3. Ensure that your intervention design is holistic
  4. Build into your design what other elements within the organisation will change as a consequence of the intervention – remember your intervention does no occur in a vacuum.
  5. Utilise the ‘force’ in the organisation in developing your intervention, keep in mind how a small change in one area can have a ripple effect that will move the change process forward positively in other area and help ensure change is sticky.
  6. In evaluating your intervention ensure that you focus on the organisation as whole to monitor unexpected changes in state.
  7. Align the goals of the intervention with the wider organisational goals to ensure that there is congruence between the intervention and the directional forces within the organisation.
  8. Network and onboard individuals from all parts of the organisation into the OD intervention to create a disturbance in the force throughout the organisation.


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 – 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.

Power and Politics – Organisation Development

Organisations are made up of many different power elements; different interest groups, divisions with functional agendas, coalitions of special interests, the exercise of managerial power and various aspects of political behaviour exercised by individuals, teams and groups.

With power so inherent in the make up of an organisation it is important that the OD practitioner who is embarking on an OD programme understands what power exists, who holds the power and also the way in which power is used to influence the workings of the organisation.

OD by its nature is political.  Not because it wants to inherit the power within the organisation, but because organisation development is fundamentally about change, and change requires power to happen.  What is more OD may upset the power boundaries and political landscape of the organisation recognising and harnessing the power within the organisation prevents resistance and supports the change process.

Being skillful in our recognition and use of the power holders within the organisation will ensure that the change process is aided by those with power and supported by the political machinations rather than being used to create barriers for the OD practitioner to bump into.

The distribution of power is also useful to understand in the context of organisational diagnosis.  For instance understand how many employees feel disempowered, and don’t perceive themselves as having access to the sources of power within the organisation can inform the organisation development intervention design.   Investigating and understand who holds power, but not necessarily authority will also inform key decisions, especially over who should be included on temporary diagnostic teams, or trained as change agents.

The purpose of the OD intervention is not to eradicate power and politics within the organisation, since they are inevitable, and to do so would be to create a power vacuum which will disrupt the process of embedding the change programme.  Rather, the role of the OD practitioner is to enable power and politics to become a healthy and transformational force for good within the organisation, dedicated to creating a positive environment and healthy organisational behaviours.

How do you Articulate Organisational Purpose?

On an individual level we my occasionally wonder what our purpose is. Organisations very often set strategic goals which are financially driven, but forget the reason why the organisation exists in the first place

Where does the answer to the question “What is our purpose” come from?

The first thing to understand is that you do not create purpose. Purpose is what it is; it is why the organisation exists in the first place. The unconscious organisation can articulate purpose through four diagnostic phases: Consult. Listen. Simplify. Understand.

Phase 1: Interviews with Key Stakeholders
The start point of articulating organisation purpose is to get people to talk to one another, via structured interviews with key stakeholders both internally and externally. The interviewer must encourage interviewees to tell stories about the organisation at its best by asking questions about what the interviewee understood about the organisation at that time.

Phase 2: Appreciative Inquiry of Organisational Purpose
Appreciative inquiry simply means recognizing what is best about the organisation (appreciative) by asking questions (inquiry). There are two options for Appreciative inquiry at an organisational level;

a) Organisational Purpose Forums
Groups of employees are taken through a process where a facilitator helps forum members to describe their best experience of the organisation in as much detail as possible while encouraging the rest of the forum to be curious and ask questions. Once the exploration is complete, the facilitator asks, on the basis of what the forum have just discussed, to develop a consensus on what really matters to the organisation.

b) Organisational Purpose Conference
For larger organisations it may be impractical to run numerous forums over a long period of time therefore a large group event is recommended.
The opportunity cost of ‘lost’ work, and the added value of getting so many people together in an appreciative climate can easily lead to productivity benefits which are significantly greater than the cost of the conference.

Phase 3: Articulating Purpose
Once the interview and appreciative inquiry phases are completed a small but diverse, team is appointed to examine the outputs and articulate the organisational purpose. It may take a number of drafts, and it is recommended that the statement of organisational purpose is stress tested with focus groups.

Phase 4: Shared Purpose
For employees to own the organisational purpose they need to share the purpose, so, creating mechanisms to communicate how the organisational purpose relates to their day to day work is essential. Whether it is in meetings, one to ones, presentations, taglines on internal organisational literature, in employee briefings, newsletters, company magazines, social media, press releases, posters, mouse mats or even the screen saver on company computers; if it can be written, blogged, tweeted, spoken, mentioned or referred to – do it.