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The Real World:
Organization Development for Dummies

Janine Waclawski
W. Warner Burke Associates, Inc.

One of the inalterable and somewhat depressing realities of life is that when you become a "grown-up," summer is not so fun anymore. Nope, it ain't what it used to be but then again, what is?

The Other Side of Summer: Don't Fear the Reaper

For example, once you become an adult you could in theory eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but do you? I think not. Why, because it's fattening and not really a "well-balanced" diet. Sure, once you become an adult you can have your own swimming pool, but do you enjoy it? I think not. Why, because instead of lolling around in it like the models in the Frontgate catalogs do, you have to vacuum, chlorinate, shock, and skim it (not mention the always fun task of removing small dead rodents from your pool filter). Besides, wouldn't you enjoy it so much more if you could sit by your pool and eat an ice cream? I think not. Why, because you wouldn't be able to fit into your bathing suit, which is the last and most depressing part of being an adult in the summerthe bathing suit. Yes, to sit by my pool and eat an ice cream while looking like a "Baywatch" babe (or at the very least a Frontgate model) in my bikini would make summer a really great time of year for yours truly. I'm not asking for much, am I? I mean I'm not asking for self-actualization, spiritual enlightenment, world peace, an end to poverty, or even disgustingly enormous amounts of material wealth. I just want to be able to eat ice cream AND look really good in a bathing suit. Alas, yet another paradox in my life that can't be reconciled.

What's worse is that despite my chronic whining and negative feelings about this season, it still comes around every year! On the bright side, if I'm lucky I will only have to endure another 40 maybe 50 summerstops! At which point summer, ice cream, swimming pools, bikinis, Baywatch, Frontgate and existential angst will all cease to be problems for me. So you see, despite some people's thoughts to the contrary, I don't need psychotherapy because in another 40 or 50 years I will be cured of all my problems: mental, physical, spiritual, economic, and otherwise. Yes, time truly does heal all wounds.

So, what does this have to do with I-O psychology you may ask? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It was just the first thing that popped into my head when I thought about summer and therefore the July issue of TIP. Yes, it really is fun to be me! You must understand that I just recently joined a health club so I am a bit depressed. I am depressed mostly because I really don't like exercise, in fact I absolutely, positively detest it. The thought of exercise is an anathema to me. I know that's not something I am supposed to admit openly. I'm supposed to say "I love to work out!" I love step aerobics, pilates, spinning, and yoga! I'm also supposed to say that I love eating green vegetables and fiber. Conversely, I'm definitely not supposed to admit that I secretly crave and even fantasize about eating big hunks of fatty, practically raw, red meat cooked on a carcinogenic charcoal grill, or that I enjoying smoking cigarettes, drinking like a fish, and being a couch potato. So I won't. Suffice it to say that I am a tortured soul, I want to look good in a bathing suit, but I don't want to live like a monk to do it. Unfortunately the only other alternative is to try to get a deal like Dorian Gray did (i.e., sell your soul to Satan to stay young and cute). I don't think that would work too well for me. Among other things, I don't like to buy on credit. Well, that is all I have to say except, happy 4th of July and have a nice summer!

My Momma Always Said, Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Guess what, I have yet another pet peeve to share with you, specifically, Dummies books. You know the ones, Windows for Dummies, Wine for Dummies, Mortgages for Dummies, and so forth. For starters, I always found the title to be rather insulting. Who in their right mind would buy a book that insults their intelligence like that? If I want to be insulted I can just start up a conversation with my husband! Seriously though, I know I'm a dummy but I don't need to broadcast it to everyone in Barnes & Noble by buying a book that definitively states that I am one and proud of it. I must admit though, it is a brilliant marketing ploy_capitalizing on people's feelings of low self-worth. I mean there is so much of that to go around, why not exploit it?

I can just imagine how the idea of "Dummies books" got started in the first place. Picture the scene, a bunch of hard-nosed corporate executive publishing types sitting around a board table somewhere in midtown Manhattan. The head suit says "People, we have a problem. Our extensive market research shows that there is a big segment of consumers that we have not yet tapped into. Specifically, people with low self-esteem. Our research shows that there are tons of people out there who have very low opinions of themselves and more importantly for us, these people will buy a product in droves if it confirms their already entrenched feelings of inadequacy. We need to get on top of this one before the competition does! Any ideas?" Then, a young, ambitious, and slightly nervous, up and comer says "I know, let's put out a series of insulting and completely degrading how-to books. Ones that expose our readers as the addle-pated dimwits they truly are! The first would be called Even You can Garden, You Absolute Moron which we would follow up with Cooking for Complete and Utter Imbeciles." Well there you have it folks, history was made! The whole thing just evolved from there. Hey, I just heard that the American Medical Association is considering launching a "Surgery for Dummies" series starting with Quadruple Bypasses for Dummies followed soon after by Endoscopic Sinus Surgery for Illiterate Idiots. If all goes well we will see an IPO sometime in the fall trading on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol "DMMY." Yes, I'll take 30 shares of DMMY at 24 1/8, please.

Seriously though, the real reason I don't like the Dummies books is that you don't have to be dumb (and actually dummy is not politically or definitionally correctit should be stupid) to buy one of these books. You just have to want to learn something which is the exact opposite of being dumb (or more correctly, stupid). However, since I am not one to miss out on the opportunity to capitalize on the interest that can be generated for a book (or in this case a column) by the strategic placement of the word dummies in the title, I decided to use it anyway. Yes, I am a complete hypocrite without a shred of decency living in a state of excessive and perpetual moral turpitude (in other words I'm a consultant). So what?

What is OD? Tools and Techniques for I-O Psychologists

This past April at the annual SIOP conference in New Orleans I had the pleasure of co-chairing a symposium with Allan Church on OD techniques for I-O psychologists. The session (much to my surprise) was standing room only which I think was due largely to the excellent panel of presenters we were lucky enough to have. Given that the topic was of such great interest to SIOP members (and actually came up as the number 3 highest-rated interest area on the 1999 SIOP member survey) I thought it would be nice to dedicate a column to the topic. Specifically, I wanted to write a column that highlights the similarities (and differences) between I-O and OD practice. This is a subject near and dear to my heart since I practice in both arenas, and I have the feeling that a lot of other SIOPers do as well. In addition, I am currently working on a coedited book (with Allan Church of course) for the SIOP Professional Practice Series called Organization Development: Data Driven Methods for Change, which will (if all goes well) be published in 2001.

At this point you may be wondering why all this emphasis on OD. You may even be asking yourself something like "Didn't that `touchy feely' stuff die out at the end of the 1960s?" Well, actually OD is not really all that touchy feely and it is more popular than ever. Further, in my opinion, I believe that as we leave the industrial age and enter the information technology age, organization psychology and organization development tools and techniques are going to be more important to businesses than ever before. Who will be more qualified and skilled than us to help organizations deal with such emerging issues as the people side of managing technological change and the impact of changing organizational structures (e.g., virtual organizations, telecommuting, etc.) on the people who work in them? Hopefully, no one. I think the combination of using I-O methods (surveys, feedback, etc.) within the OD framework will be a powerful combination. If the turnout at our session this year is any indication of anything at all, I think there are others who would agree with me as well.

Moreover, I think that there truly is a substantial degree of overlap or convergence between the two fields. Many of the tools and techniques used by I-O psychologists can be applied within the OD approach and are used on a daily basis by OD practitionerssome of whom know absolutely nothing about I-O. So, with that all said, I decided to turn to some OD experts and see what they had to say about the matter. Hence, the following Q&A.

 

(1) How would you define oganization development?

(2) What are the primary benefits of using organization development?

(3) How do you practice OD (i.e., what tools, techniques, processes do you use)?

(4) What are the areas in which you see an overlap or convergence between I-O and OD practice? In what areas do you see them in conflict?

 

Subj: Re: Our OD Symposium at SIOP

From: kmurrell@uwf.edu (Dr. Kenneth Murrell)

To: J9151@aol.com 

 

Janine, moments before your deadline I would like to offer the following comments in response to the four questions you posed. Thanks for such a great session in New Orleans and I enjoyed the chance to finally meet you. Here are my responses:

 

(1) OD is the application of the behavioral sciences in settings where there can be an agreed-upon understanding of a shared purpose and strategy for improving social settings in ways consistent with the following core values: respect for human dignity and the assumption that working together we can improve both the effectiveness and the humanity of the organization; that OD offers a way for organizations to help liberate the human spirit and to help those organizations serve the society they are a part of; to accept the fundamental assumption that human growth is a necessary condition of a good life and that settings to promote that can be created.

 

(2) These are best determined by the organization itself, but the field has successful practices that can help improve the performance of several bottom lines. The two most critical benefits are tightly integrated and should never be separated in order to assure long-term benefits. These two core benefits reflect enhanced performance of the organization to help meet the needs of its community or society, and the creation of a human system which contains within it the conditions that will assist and support the development of the individual.

 

(3) My practice of OD revolves around working with the organization as a client and contracting with managers and leaders to identify how the field of OD can benefit the two goals of every long-term successful organization. My primary concern is in helping to better establish working cultures and communities that are able to foster increased responsibility for everyone taking a role in creating and developing the organization they want to work in. The work I do as a university-based consultant relies heavily on educational strategies as well as business and organizational strategic thinking. I work to help integrate the many performance needs of the system in order to create a more effective and healthier environment for work.

 

(4) We share a core academic base with I-O while OD also has very close ties to all of the other behavioral science disciplines. Our values are congruent not in terms of a larger field but in terms of the individual change agent and his or her orientation. There are a large number of people who profess either of these core value sets, but whose behavior would reflect something different. For this reason the individual case is the most important for comparison and in terms of that, we again will find a large range of values in use. Areas where we often are in conflict center around the assumptions inherent in action research principles and process consulting styles that tend not to encourage us in OD to act as the expert. We strongly believe in valid partnerships with clients and the systems they are a part of. OD practice also requires a high level of transparency and also a high degree of inclusiveness in the change process. Both fields believe their role is to be helpful in aiding human systems, but an OD time perspective is often much longer and the OD practitioner's open systems view and ethical guidelines require them to at times be in conflict with management and or ownership because of the potential for organizations to cause harm to humans. In the future, I can see the potential for each field to help better inform the other. Joint projects offer the opportunity for each field to grow.

 

One final comment: OD is in the midst of a major transition in which it will be developing itself and reestablishing its unique set of core values in relationship to the major changes affecting how we think about work and our lives in this new century. My dream is that we will take advantage of the opportunity to bring forward and reintroduce to a larger audience the notion of human spirit, workplace community, wisdom, and the nature of transformational change processes to a world in desperate need of these things. In doing this we will be attempting to create a century in which work and love, the two concepts Freud claimed as universal, can be integrated for a much larger percentage of the human race. In doing this we have room for all of us, and also the potential to find immense benefit for ourselves and each other in the process.

 

Thanks for the chance to be helpful.

Ken Murrell

University of West Florida

 

* * *

 

Subj: Re: Thank You: Our OD Symposium at SIOP

From : kkuhnert@arches.uga.edu (Dr. Karl Kuhnert)

To: J9151@aol.com 

 

Hi Janine,

 

Attached are my comments for TIP.

 

1. There are about as many definitions of OD as there are people in the field! OD is a very eclectic field with diverse professionals. For me, organizational development is a field of study and practice devoted to working with people to improve themselves, their institutions, and the world through promoting values such as freedom, trust, honesty, democracy, collaboration, dignity, and authenticity.

 

2. The demand for OD skills has never been greater. As we know, information and communication technologies have transformed how organizations create value for their customers, compete with one another, and build and manage their own internal business operations. These new technologies, in turn, change how work gets done, the skills and training employees need, and the kind of careers they can expect. In short, the world of work has radically shifted and become more ambiguous for people. The OD professional helps people bridge the past to an anxious and uncertain future.

 

3. For the past 10 years I have worked with organizations, both large and small, using the process of survey/feedback. A passion of mine is working with companies on how to effectively use survey data to facilitate productive change. As an I-O psychologist, I try to move people and enterprises through data. In particular, survey data can be a powerful driver to motivate people. I see implementing changes from survey data to be a rapid growth area for I-O and OD professionals. The Internet has changed most everything, including organizational surveys. With more Internet firms specializing in survey administration, it is increasingly difficult to build a business model that does not include interpreting and implementing survey results. As a result of the Internet, survey administration costs will continue to decline and the speed of getting survey data into the hands of managers will become ever more important. For I-O and OD professionals, however, the real value in survey worknot touched by the Internetwill be in assisting managers with the answers to the key questions, "What does this survey data mean?" "How can we use it to make us better?"

 

4. I see I-O psychology and OD as much the same in that they share many of the same techniques, processes, and goals. The way OD and I-O differ is that OD practitioners, as a discipline, have spent more time working through their professional values, ethics, and beliefs than the field of I-O. It is hard not to be impressed with the OD practitioners' humanistic stance toward their theories and their keen awareness of the social systems in which they practice. Why the difference, I am not sure, but both OD and I-O have very different histories with different intellectual leaders.

 

Karl Kuhnert

University of Georgia

 

* * *

 

Subj: Re: Thank You: Our OD Symposium at SIOP

From: AllanHC@aol.com 

To: J9151@aol.com 

 

Here are my comments.

 

1. Let me offer my own somewhat different yet still normative definition: Organization development is a process of promoting positive humanistically oriented large-system change in organizations through the use of theory, research, and behaviorally based data collection and feedback techniques.

 

2. From my perspective, the primary benefits of applying an OD approach are fourfold: (a) the social-psychologicalthat is, a view of the organization as a total system comprised of interconnected and interdependent parts or subsystems; (b) an enhanced focus on the interpersonal element (also known as the human processualthat is, emphasizing human relationships, group processes and team dynamics, conflict management); (c) a wide range of theoretical and philosophical perspectives and interventions at the practitioner's disposal, including many of the tools traditionally thought of as belonging to other areas such as I-O or HRM, or HRD; and perhaps most importantly (at least for some practitioners); and (d) a concerted focus on alignment between the needs of the individual and the needs of the organization. Both OD, and I-O for that matter, stand somewhat apart in my mind when compared to a whole host of other types of more typical management science disciplines.

 

3. In our group at work we specialize in data-driven methods for organizational change. Thus, our primary methods include behaviorally based multisource feedback, large-scale organization assessment and diagnostic surveys, and interviews and focus groups. All of our work is based on the simple Lewinian assumption that it takes personalized data (in some formwhether from a departmental survey, feedback from clients and coworkers, personality assessments, or direct observation of someone in a group setting) to create energy in people to change. By using applied tools that adhere (as much as possible) to both good psychometric principles and good "common sense" in terms of linkages to the existing organizational systems and strategies, we attempt to mobilize and provide concrete direction regarding where and how individuals need to improve as leaders and managers in their (or perhaps some other) organization.

 

4. Well, given that I consider myself to be primarily an organizational psychologist with an OD orientation (though I am active in both professional arenas), I guess you could say that my description above is an example of at least one way in which these two fields can converge. If I had to slice myself down the middle (which would be unpleasant to say the least) I might describe the differences like this: On the one hand, the I-O side of me tends to be more concerned with research methods, appropriateness of analysis, solid item writing, linkage to existing theory and research, and understanding the human condition at work. The OD side of me, on the other hand, tends to be focused more on the interpersonal element and the organization as a system cares little for what has been done beforeafter all, the best ideas are created on the spotand is focused on doing consulting work that is positively charged or directed. In short, doing something that makes a difference.

 

Although these two sides might sound like they work well together, I do find myself arguing with myself all the time (funny how no one else wants to hear these discussions). More to the point, I think there are significant conflicts between I-O and OD (or any field for that matter) when either perspective starts to polarize. In my view, at their worst, the I-O perspective can sometimes be overly concerned (i.e., to the detriment of the situation) with measurement, structure, analysis, formality, and minutiae. Conversely, the OD perspective can sometimes be overly process-based, scattered, soft, flaky, obtuse, ungrounded, and unconnected to prior work in the field. The trick is to pull the best elements from each perspective and capitalize on them for effective organizational interventions and consulting efforts.

 

Allan H. Church

Editor, Organization Development Journal

Editor, The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

W. Warner Burke Associates, Inc.



Well there you have itsome very insightful and I hope you will agree helpful definitions, applications, similarities and differences of OD work. From my own perspective, I think OD is best operationalized by three defining elements: (a) It is based on the Action Research model (i.e., OD practitioners use behavioral science data to solve real organizational problems); (b) It requires a "total systems" approach to change (i.e., OD practitioners should consider the impact of what they are doing on the entire organization and how this work can and can't be integrated into what is already taking place in the organization), and (3) It is values based and is conducted within a normative and humanistic framework (i.e., OD practitioners believe in improving the human condition at work not just improving performance and productivity). Based on their comments, I think my contributors would agree with my summation as well.

I want to thank all of my contributors (Ken, Karl, and Allan) not only for providing their comments to this column but also for agreeing to be a part of our symposium in April. Among other things it has been a lot of fun.

As always, I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to contact me at W. Warner Burke Associates, Inc. 201 Wolfs Lane, Pelham, NY 10803 or by email at j9151@aol.com.

 


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