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Posts tagged ‘Lewin’

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.

 

Five Core Theories – Action Research Theory – Organisation Development

There are five core theories that provide a solid foundation for the work that OD practitioners do.  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.

Action Research Theory in Brief

Lewin developed a unified change theory based on four distinct elements; Field Theory, Group Dynamics, Action Research and the Three step model of Change.  All have been criticised and all are necessary to bring about planned change.

Lewin is one of the founding fathers of Organisation Development, especially the pursuit of the commitment to humanistic values in developing society, facilitating change through learning and the pursuit of changing an individuals mental models and perceptions of the world that they inhabit in order to move forward.

Action Research is the foundation stone of Organsation Development practice, it is what underpins the theory and practice of the discipline in the organisation.  The theory is based on what Lewin advised, “no action without research, no research without action.”

The theory provides the very heart of the purpose of the OD diagnostic phase in the OD cycle.  It provides the opportunity to build the knowledge of the causes and dynamics of organisational issues, the understanding of organisational change and the basis of the need for collaboration and joint inquiry between the OD practitioner and the organisational players experiencing the change.

Ultimately though it is a theory based on pragmatism, data itself is no the answer to change, but data regarding the issues that the organisation is experiencing provides the catalyst for change and provides the basis for practical solutions owned by all members affected by the change.  Action Research provides both the theoretical underpinnings and the practical application of organisational change.

Key Points

  1. Action Research is a four step continuous process; Diagnosis, Planning, Action and Evaluation
  2. Action Research Theory provides the bridge between knowledge building and data gathering with effective action
  3. It empowers employees and enables the organisation to sustain the change by providing data not only of how to make the changes required today but also on the change process itself
  4. Action refers to the OD interventions that are implemented to develop the organisation
  5. All organisational stakeholders are involved in the collaborative process of creating and executing the planned changes.

Applying Action Research Theory in an OD intervention

  1. Involve the people affected by the change so that they become co-investigators into the reasons for change, and participate in analysing the current reality
  2. Let individuals discuss the future they need to move toward
  3. Work to increase the amount and quality of inquiry between people so that they can learn from each other and gather a rich mix of data
  4. Secure a commitment to give some decision making power to the people involved in collecting the data so that real change can be achieved
  5. Set up a temporary diagnostic team by using those key individuals who have to support the implementation of change.
  6. Provide space for individuals to reflect on the insights they have gained
  7. Plan the direction of change/OD intervention in collaboration with all stakeholders
  8. Implement decisions that employees and leaders make democratically
  9. Provide a learning zone where individuals and groups can self organise for change.