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Posts tagged ‘Organisational Effectiveness’

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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?”

 

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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.

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Five Core Theories – Lewin’s Change Theories – 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.

Lewin’s Change Theories 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 viewed the social environment as a dynamic field which impacted in an interactive way with human consciousness.  The theories are useful to the OD practitioner in understanding that by adjusting elements of the organisationl environment then particular types of psychological experience predictably ensue.  In turn, the person’s psychological state influences the organisational environment.

Lewin first introduced the idea of Group Dynamics in relation to the study of the interaction of complex intra- and inter-personal forces in the operation of group behaviour which determine the groups character, development, and long-term survival.

Group Dynamics is concerned with determination of laws underlying group behaviour and studies a group’s formation, structure, interaction and behaviourial processes while looking at the group functioning.

Lewin was well known for  “field theory”.  He was perhaps even better known for practical use of his theories in studying group dynamics, solving social problems related to prejudice, and group therapy (t-groups).  Lewin sought to not only describe group life, but to investigate the conditions and forces which bring about change or resist change in groups.

In developing the Field Theory approach, Lewin believed that for change to take place, the total situation has to be taken into account.  If only part of the situation is considered, a misrepresented picture is likely to develop.

The field theory proposes that human behaviour is the function of both the person and the environment, this means that an individuals behaviour is related both to their personal characteristics and to the organisational situation in which they find themself.

Lewin’s three step model of change is related to Field Theory.  The three step model states that organisational change involves a move from one static state via a progressional shift, to another static state. The model, is also known as Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze.

Stage 1: Unfreeze

This stage involves creating the right conditions for change to occur. By resisting change, people often attach a sense of identity to their environment. In this state, alternatives, even beneficial ones, will initially cause discomfort. The challenge is to move people from this ‘frozen’ state to a ‘change ready’ or ‘unfrozen’ state.

Stage 2: Transition

The transitional ‘journey’ is central to Lewin’s model and at the psychological level it is typically a period of confusion. People are aware that the old ways are being challenged, but there is no clear understanding of the new ways which will replace them. As roles change, a reduced state of efficiency is created, where goals are significantly lowered. The end goal of this stage is to get people to the ‘unfrozen’ state and keep them there.

Stage 3: Refreeze

The end goal of the model is to achieve a ‘refreeze’, re-establishing a new place of stability and elevate comfort levels by reconnecting people back into their safe, familiar environment. Refreezing takes people from a period of low productivity in the transitional state to that of organisational effectiveness and sustainable performance.

Key Points

  1. Organisational Behaviour is a function of a person’s personality, the group environment
  2. For change to be effective it must be collaborative and participative, and take place at a group level if individual behaviour is to shift
  3. Concentrate on individual field factors including group norms, roles, interaction and social processes
  4. Refreezing requires changes at a cultural level, to embed new organisaitonal norms, polciies and practices.
  5. Creating dissatisfaction with the status quo will provide th disequilibrium required to drive change.

Applying Lewin’s Change Theories in an OD Intervention

  1. Pay attention to group dynamics and the powerful forces within the groups
  2. Identify existing rules that create the current organisational reality and change them to create movement.
  3. Plan the mix of people involved in diagnostic events in order to shift forces and facilitate change.
  4. Diagnostic events are key learning events which lead to ‘unfreezing’
  5. Be clear about the type of ‘unfreezing’ work that is needed during the diagnostic phase
  6. Provide a safe environment in which to destablise the status quo, in order to create the motivation to learn and change
  7. Support individuals and the group in understanding what is required of them, providing a plan for the action needed to begin making the change
  8. Create psychological safety to prevent resistance
  9. Provide a desirable direction or ‘best way’ for group members to change toward.
  10. Develop congruence with the organisation environment to stablise the new equilibrium.