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Posts tagged ‘employee performance’

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?”


Culture Change and HR’s Role

Organisational culture change has never been more relevant.  The environmental context in which organisations operate is continually changing, and therefore a culture which enables and organisation to be flexible, adaptable and changable is essential.

Fundamentally culture relates to the way we do things around it.  In regards to organisation development, the organisations culture probably has one of the biggest impacts on organisational effectiveness and the opportunity for sustainable performance than any other element of the organisations system.

The problem for organisations is that changing a culture which is damaging the organisations effectiveness is not easy.  If it was, then more change programmes would be successful.  But delving into the shared beliefs and values, the way people think and interact, and more importantly the why they believe and think and act the way they do takes time, effort and resource.  More importantly, there has to be a willingness to explore dark corners, to question everything and to show willingness to examine, without judgement, the shared patterns of behaviour within the organisation.

Culture change cannot be a one off development programme, or a box which is ticked as being done.  Culture is dynamic, and informs the way employees work and perform as well as informing the approach taken in decisions made by leadership teams.  Organisational structures, systems, rules, policies and the behaviour of people interacting with the organisation are all dictated by the organisational culture.

The job of HR and the OD practitioner is to increase awareness of the cultural phenomena within the organisation.  To metaphorically hold a mirror up and play back some of the behaviours that are present and question why these behaviours manifest and the consequences of such behaviour on organisational effectiveness.

By exploring various dimensions on the way the organisation does things, it is possible to understand liminalities within the system that prevent the organisation from being as effective as it could be.

Challenges the the balance of the culture, especially in regards to power, politics and purpose can help rebalance the organisation to ensure that the right influences are impacting decision making and behaviour and are aligned to what it is the organisation is trying to achieve.  In effect, navigating the cultural landscape to to ensure that the organisations ‘way of doing things’ doesn’t impinge on the possibility of success.

Several key HR processes impact an organisations culture including;

  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Leadership Development
  • Talent Management and Succession Planning
  • Learning and Development
  • Reward, Remuneration and Promotion criteria
  • Organisation Design and Structure
  • Organisational Policy including mission statements and values

It is very easy of HR to assume that because the systems exist that there is no requirement to examine HR practices.  But exploring HR practices from the point of view of cultural investigation helps HR to understand whether their practices reinforce unhelp cultural norms that are preventing the organisation from being flexible, adaptable and changable.

Many failures in organisation effectiveness have their root cause in the people processes and practices within the organisation.  What is said is not necessarily what happens, and as a result failure becomes inbuilt into the cultural paradigm.

HR has a powerful position in transforming the cultural climate of an organisation.  But that means that HR managers, and especially OD practitioners pay attention to the ‘way they do things’ in order to ensure that they move the culture of the organisation forward.

Everyday Learning and Development – Personal Development

The human capacity to learn and develop is phenomenal.  Have you ever stopped to wonder how you have managed to learn everything you know, and how to do everything you do?  Just think about the things you don’t think about; walking, talking, getting dressed, understanding social cues, eating, driving, reading – at some point you would have had to learn about all those things.

I learnt about Language acquisition when I was at Leeds University studying my degree, but to watch my two year old daughter learn how to communicate is amazing.  As a newborn crying for attention, but as a parent I soon learnt there were different cries for different needs.  Then babbling, making different noises, grunting and pointing to get her point across (and getting upset when I didn’t understand).  Then the babbling and pointing began to turn into recognisable words, and every day there were a couple of new words.  Now those words are turning into sentences and are very recognisable – and she has a few words that are unique to her, but we all understand what she means.

But learning new things isn’t restricted to the young.  At 37 I learn new things all the time.  It may be that I have to learn how to drive to a new football ground for my sons Sunday league football; how to use my new mobile phone; or how to increase my SEO ratings.  This week I will find out how to make my way to Costa Coffee in Warrington, and any number of titbits picked up from various online blogs, tweets and webinars.

I bet you have all ‘learnt’ similar things this week but took it for granted, after all finding your way to places, learning how to use equipment or technology and digesting the news is just part of life; and yet we will pay thousands for courses to learn new skills or knowledge; organisations spend millions on the implementation of new technology platforms, and publishing is no longer restricted to publishing houses but all add to our collective knowledge.

It is well known in development circles that the most effective development methods are on the job.  Learners tend to retain the learning for longer and take in a greater measure of development than they do on workshops.  Being able to immediately apply knowledge and skills, rather than trying to retain newly acquired learning as a concept is also more efficient.

As a developer of people and organisations I still like the workshop for its ability to take people aside from their busy lives and focus on a specific area of development.  I think it is especially useful for teams who wish to develop strategy, the team or a deeper understanding an individuals strengths, beliefs and values.

But there is a distinguishing feature of workshops that I would like to prompt your thinking about.  Very often managers will say to me, this development is fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed today and got a lot out of it, but I am worried about getting back to reality; as if the workshop is some kind of parallel universe where real work doesn’t get done.

Yet if you were to ask a manager whether they feel that meetings are real work or not, the answer would be depends on the meeting, whether the meeting is useful or not.  So if the manager found the workshop useful, why do they see it as not being real life?

Too often individuals separate their personal development from their work environment, and then struggle to apply their learning.  But if you were to take your learning; whether in a workshop, a conversation or what you read on the internet and asked yourself “so what does that mean for me?” you might be surprised at how your new learning can help you grow and development regardless of the position you work in now.

My challenge for those who have the opportunity to attend a development workshop is to see it not as stepping out of reality but as an opportunity to step aside from (but not out of the reality of) the hubbub and concentrate on something important without interruption.

I would then like to deliver a Development Elephant to them.  Very often in a workshop I will ask participants to think about what the workshop has reminded them they have learnt previously but forgotten about.  Very often a participants development gets forgotten when they return back to their ‘day job’.  Workbooks get put in a pile, are used to prop up a wonky desk or are stuffed in a draw or brief case where they start gathering dust.

So I urge you to take ten@ten – and pay attention to the #DevelopmentElephant.

The purpose of the Development Elephant is to remind you to take 10 minutes at 10 o’clock every day to revisit an action plan or workbook from a previous workshop, meeting or personal development time, and think about;

  1. What were the things that you were going to do differently?
  2. What have you done so far?
  3. What do you still need to do?

No more Upstairs Downstairs?

Well not literally, but it provides a useful metaphor.  The TV programme Upstairs Downstairs portrays life in the 1930’s and the separate lives of those who served and those who were served.  These same divisions may seem like something committed to history and TV dramas; but the furore about the gap between CEO remuneration and that of their employees, the political debate about taxing the rich or taxing the poor and the widening gap between rich and poor suggests that the division between those ‘Upstairs’ and those ‘Downstairs’ is alive and well.

When I started my first corporate job the offices were arranged as the proverbial ivory tower.  The CEOs office and senior leadership team were at the top of the building, then the next level of management and all the way down to the basement where the new starts (muggins included) worked in the dimly lit basement.  Then of course their were the parking spaces, the further down the food chain you were the further you walked to the office; and most amusing was the seating in the canteen and even the food that was served being determined by your pay grade.  No quite food glorious food from the movie Oliver Twist but the food served to the CEO was definitely a finer cut.

The days of the walnut panelled office may have been replaced with open plan office but the separation between employers and employees is being felt in organisations across the UK.

The problem with remuneration is that it isn’t about how much someone gets paid, but whether they perceive whether what they are being paid is fair pay for the work they have done.  Hertzberg identified pay as a demotivating factor.  The problem with the perceived over payment at the top of the ladder, and the increasing pressure on family budgets caused by the economic circumstances, austerity measures and rising prices; is that employees feel they are being treated unfairly.

To know that those at the top of the organisation have seen pay rises of around 49% in the last twelve months when the average employee has had their pay frozen or below inflationary pay rises whilst the work environment has become more difficult and pressurised.  A breeding ground for demotivation and disengagement among employees.  This in turn will have an impact on organisation performance, which will impact profitability.

If organisations are going to grow their way out of the economic downturn, they need to ensure that their employees are behind them; and to do that they need to be behind their employees.  It may be tempting to cut costs and hold wages, but if that is happening, then the senior leadership teams must demonstrate that they are ‘in it together’ with the employees.  Increasing perks, and remuneration packages at the top whilst being meagre at the bottom is not only morally questionable but bad for business.  One person at the top of the organisation can do nothing without the employees working for them.

Doing the right thing by your employees at this time, is doing the right thing by the organisation and will result to improved organisational performance.