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Posts tagged ‘The OD Practitioner’

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.

 

Social Psychology – Minority Influence

Answers the Question

Can a numerical minority influence the attitudes of the majority?

How it Began

In many of the conformity studies described so far it was a minority group who were conforming to the majority. Moscovici (1976, 1980) argued along different lines. He claimed that Asch (1951) and others had put too much emphasis on the notion that the majority in a group has a large influence on the minority. In his opinion, it is also possible for a minority to influence the majority. In fact Asch agreed with Moscovici. He too felt that minority influence did occur, and that it was potentially a more valuable issue to study – to focus on why some people might follow minority opinion and resist group pressure.

Moscovici argues that majority influence tends to be based on public compliance. It is likely to be a case of normative social influence. In this respect, power of numbers is important – the majority have the power to reward and punish with approval and disapproval. And because of this there is pressure on minorities to conform.

Minority Influence

Since majorities are often unconcerned about what minorities think about them, minority influence is rarely based on normative social influence. Instead, it is usually based on informational social influence – providing the majority with new ideas, new information which leads them to re-examine their views. In this respect, minority influence involves private acceptance (i.e. internalization)- converting the majority by convincing them that the minority’s views are right.

Key Terminology

Minority influence – a form of social influence that is attributed to exposure to a consistent minority position in a group.

Behavioural Style – a correlated set of individual behavioural and physiological characteristics that is consistent over time and across situations.

Style of Thinking – the way individuals think, perceive and remember information

Flexibility – contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behaviour in the service of chosen values

Identification – a psychological process whereby the subject assimilates an aspect, property, or attribute of the other and is transformed, wholly or partially, after the model the other provides

In Brief

Minority influence is generally felt only after a period of time, and tends to produce private acceptance of the views expressed by the minority.

An important real-life example of a minority influencing a majority was the suffragette movement in the early years of the 20th century. A relatively small group of suffragettes argued strongly for the initially unpopular view that women should be allowed to vote. The hard work of the suffragettes, combined with the justice of their case, finally led the majority to accept their point of view.

Moscovic made a distinction between compliance and conversion. Compliance is common in conformity studies (e.g. Asch) whereby the participants publicly conform to the group norms but privately reject them. Conversion involves how a minority can influence the majority. It involves convincing the majority that the minority views are correct. This can be achieved a number of different ways (e.g. consistency, flexibility). Conversion is different to compliance as it usually involves both public and private acceptance of a new view or behavior (i.e. internalization).

Four main factors have been identified as important for a minority to have an influence over a majority.  These are behavioural style, style of thinking, flexibility, and identification.

Behavioural Style

This comprises 4 components:

  1. Consistency: The minority must be consistent in their opinion
  2. Confidence in the correctness of ideas and views they are presenting
  3. Appearing to be unbiased
  4. Resisting social pressure and abuse

Moscovici (1969) stated that the most important aspect of behaviuoral style is the consistency with which people hold their position. Being consistent and unchanging in a view is more likely to influence the majority than if a minority is inconsistent and chops and changes their mind.

Moscovici (1969) investigated behavioural styles (consistent / inconsistent) on minority influence in his blue-green studies. He showed that a consistent minority was more successful than an inconsistent minority in changing the views of the majority.

Consistency may be important because:

  • Confronted with a consistent opposition, members of the majority will sit up, take notice, and rethink their position.
  • Consistency gives the impression that the minority are convinced they are right and are committed to their viewpoint.
  • Also, when the majority is confronted with someone with self-confidence and dedication to take a popular stand and refuses to back own, they may assume that he or she has a point.
  • A consistent minority disrupts established norms and creates uncertainty, doubt and conflict. This can lead to the majority taking the minority view seriously. The majority will therefore be more likely to question their own views.

In order to change the majorities view the minority has to propose a clear position and has to defend and advocate its position consistently.

Style of Thinking

  • Identify three or four minority groups (e.g. asylum seekers, British National Party etc.)
  • How do you think and respond to each of these minority groups and the views they put forward?
  • Do you dismiss their views outright or think about what they have to say and discuss their views with other people?

If you dismiss the views of other people without giving them much thought, you would have engaged in superficial thought / processing.  By contrast, if you had thought deeply about the views being put forward, you would have engaged in systematic thinking / processing (Petty et al., 1994).  Research has shown that if a minority can get the majority to think about an issue and think about arguments for and against, then the minority stands a good chance of influencing the majority (Smith et al., 1996).

If the minority can get the majority to discuss and debate the arguments that the minority are putting forward, influence is likely to be stronger (Nemeth, 1995).

Flexibility and Compromise

A number of researchers have questioned whether consistency alone is sufficient for a minority to influence a majority. They argue that the key is how the majority interprets consistency. If the consistent minority are seen as inflexible, rigid, uncompromising and dogmatic, they will be unlikely to change the views of the majority. However, if they appear flexible and compromising, they are likely to be seen as less extreme, as more moderate, cooperative and reasonable. As a result, they will have a better chance of changing majority views (Mugny & Papastamou, 1980).

Some researchers have gone further and suggested that it is not just the appearance of flexibility and compromise which is important but actual flexibility and compromise.

This possibility was investigated by Nemeth (1986). The experiment was based on a mock jury in which groups of three participants and one confederate had to decide on the amount of compensation to be given to the victim of a ski-lift accident. When the consistent minority (the confederate) argued for a very low amount and refused to change his position, he had no effect on the majority. However, when he compromised and moved some way towards the majority position, the majority also compromised and changed their view.

This experiment questions the importance of consistency. The minority position changed, it was not consistent, and it was this change that apparently resulted in minority influence.

Identification

People tend to identity with people they see similar to themselves. For example, men tend to identify with men, Asians with Asians, teenagers with teenagers etc. Research indicates that if the majority identifies with the minority, then they are more likely to take the views of the minority seriously and change their own views in line with those of the minority.

For example, one study showed that a gay minority arguing for gay rights had less influence on a straight majority than a straight minority arguing for gay rights (Maass et al., 1982). The non-gay majority identified with the non-gay minority. They tended to see the gay minority as different from themselves, as self-interested and concerned with promoting their own particular cause.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Social influence is key to managerial effectIveness and an integral part of working in teams and organizations. Members of organizations rely on one another to validate their views of the world, they seek and maintain norms and values about what they deem appropriate or not, and they influence one another to serve theIr personal or group interests.

As an OD practitioner very often you begin in a position of minority dissent which means you will be publicly advocating and,pursing beliefs, attitudes, Ideas, procedures, and policies that go against organizational norms or the “spirit of the times” and challenge the position or perspective assumed by the majority.

Levine and Kaarbo argued that in political decision-making groups four types of minorities may be distinguished.

  1. Progressive minorities advance a new perspective and seek to convince the majority of its value.
  2. Conservative minorities attempt to block the majorities’ tendency to adopt a new, progressive perspective.
  3. Modernist minorities try to block the majorities’ tendency to return to previously held attitudes and policies,
  4. Reactionary minorities try to persuade the majority to return to previously help opinions and perspectives.

Each of these four minority groups can be found in organizational life, and can either help, or hinder an OD intervention, and as an OD practitioner a lot of of your time will be spent as a Progressive or Modernist Minority, whilst trying to overcome the objections of the Conservative and Reactionary minorities who will try and sabotage your efforts.

If the norms of groups with which you are working are no longer effective, start a minority group. If possible, ensure the progressive or modernist minority group controls a critical resource or other form of effective influence which can be used to prevent rejection or punishment.  Minority influence is more likely to occur if the point of view of the minority is consistent, flexible, and appealing to the majority. Having a consistent and unwavering opinion will increase the appeal to the majority, leading to a higher chance of adaption to the minority view. However, any wavering opinions from the minority group could lead the majority to dismiss the minority’s claims and opinions.  An effective approach is to accumulate ‘brownie points’ by first supporting the majority, and then branching out. With applied skill, you can take a number of others with you.

A study by Elizabeth Mannix and Margaret Neale (2005) shows that having the support from the majority leader could be the critical factor is getting the minority opinion to be heard and be accepted. The support of the leader gives the majority more confidence in the merit of the minority opinion, leading to an overall respect for the minority. The strength of the “key people” (Van Avermaet, 1996) comes from the reputation built from their consistency of behaviours and ideas. Involving key people will benefit the minority view because people are more open to hear from others who they trust and respect. In minority influence, a few influential leaders can influence the opposing majority to the minority’s way of thinking. In the end, having a more supportive and active minority group could lead to innovative and better decision making

You can also remain in the main group and quietly support minority groups who can be used to do things you could not otherwise perform. Where you are in the main group and have an influential minority, seek ways of either accommodating or circumventing conservative and reactionary minorities. You can also seek to divide and conquer, sowing seeds of discontent within the minority group.

Source – http://www.simplypsychology.org/minority-influence.html

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.

 

 

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.

Three Essentials of Organisation Development

I was asked the other day what my three essentials of Organisation Development are.  It was a interesting questions which really got me thinking.  What are the three most important things an OD practitioner should practice in any intervention?

You might have an alternative set of essentials but this was the answer I gave.

#1 – People

Any organisation development intervention must have people at its centre.  Organisation Development is about allowing the people in the organisation to create the change the organisation is looking for.  OD is a holistic intervention, and therefore isn’t restricted to the top brass.  In fact, it works quite the opposite in that it releases everyone from the bottom up to have a say, and share their knowledge, talent and skills in developing the organisation.

If your OD intervention isn’t people centred, and unashamedly humanistic it is probably not an OD intervention.

#2 – Know you Tools, Know your Theory

Whether it is Complexity theory, Action Research Theory, Lewin’s Change Theory, Systems Theory or Appreciative inquiry the cross discipline theoretical background of OD is essential to understanding the tools that an OD practitioner will use in their OD practice.  If you don’t understand the behavioural sciences, sociology and psychology behind methods such as gamestorming, focused conversations or world cafe’s you won’t know which tools to use to deliver the results the organisation needs for sustainable performance and organisational effectiveness.

A mechanic doesn’t try to fix your car engine without knowing how the combustion engine works ‘in theory’ – by understanding the process the mechanic can quickly identify where the process is broken and know what tool/method required to make the engine roar back into life.  OD is no different.

Many practitioners dismiss academic theory as ridiculous ‘ivory tower’ thinking and not applicable to the real world.  The interesting thing is that the theory that OD is built on is often criticised by the academic community because it is built on practice and field work experimentation, worse still, in the eyes of academics, it takes bits of different disciplines because those ‘bits’ are relevant and ignores the stuff that doesn’t add value to the process.  Get to know your theory and you’ll get to understand How the OD toolkit works and when to use the different tools.

#3 – Be Sustainable

I could have chosen a number of things for number three, but the one I plugged for is that of legacy.  The OD practitioner is the catalyst in OD interventions.  They must have the ability to build the business case for the leadership team, get the leadership team on board to sponsor the programme, build relationships with key change agents within the business and draw together disperate groups to make the intervention successful.  They become the centre of the intervention.  The use of self as a catalyst of change is a central pillar of OD practice.  BUT.  What happens when the OD intervention comes to an end?  How do you prevent the organisation from slipping back into old habits?

This is the paradox of the life of the OD practitioner.  You are the centre of change whilst at the same time building a legacy which means that the organisation learns how to change itself.  The OD practitioner must translate the practices, and tools that they use so they become embedded into the way that the organisation does things.  The questions you ask, become the organisation’s questions.  The techniques you use, are understood and used by the organisation you are working with and more importantly you leave the organisation in a positon where they have learnt how to develop themselves without the ‘self’ of the OD practitioner being present.

When the OD practitioner is no longer needed then the OD intervention has worked.

So there you have it, my top three essentials for the OD practitioner.