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This assignment is worth 20% of your final grade and addresses Course Objectives 1 through 6.  It gives you an opportunity to apply theories and models, identify barriers to change, and propose appropriate change interventions. 

Use what you have learned in this course to develop an 9 page change process proposal (excluding cover and reference pages) for your organization.  Assume that you will submit this proposal to the organization for implementation.
For this proposal, identify a problem area at General Dynamics that you believe warrants a change initiative. In your opinion, what restraining forces are blocking implementation of a change program? From an internal OD practitioner perspective, what recommendations can you make to overcome these barriers?
You should apply ideas, concepts, theories, and practices set out in the course materials as appropriate to the specific organization that you have selected. Please follow APA guidelines for citations, quotations, and references, and use at least eight scholarly resources that are dated within the last five years.  You are strongly encouraged to use peer-reviewed journal articles.
Your paper should include the following:
~2 pages: Introduction
 (Incorporate course objectives 1 – 3)
1.   Evaluate definitions, theories, and models of corporate culture.
2.   Identify the roles and relationships corporate culture has in organizational performance.
3.   Use a systems perspective in analyzing organizational conditions.
What is the organization and how did you select it? What is your relationship with the organization? Using a systems perspective, include any historical information about the organization and the organization’s culture that would be helpful in this context.  Identify the organizational issue in need of change.  

~3 pages: Need for Change 
(Incorporate course objectives 4 – 5)
4.  Evaluate theories and models for managing change in organizations.
5.  Identify common barriers to effective change management.
Describe the change that needs to take place and discuss internal and external forces that represent obstacles to the change, supporting your opinion with appropriate citations. Describe the various kinds of data you would need to gather to confirm your diagnosis. What level of analysis (organization, group, or individual job) should be applied to this situation? 

~3-5 pages: Proposed Solution 
(Incorporate course objective 6)
6.  Prescribe appropriate OD strategies and techniques in applied settings.
Create recommendations for a proposed solution. What do you believe would be an effective intervention? What forces could be harnessed to promote the change? Who should be included in the solution’s implementation? What would be considered a success? What additional approaches could be considered? What steps would you take to implement the recommended solution. Be sure to present your findings objectively, without emotion.

By Matt Minahan When Rip Van Winkle awakened from his
20 year-long sleep, he was confused about
what he saw, and no one in his home town
recognized him (Irving, 1907).

As the field of organization
development turns 60, it is time for us
to awaken from our decades-long sleep
walk, and recognize the tectonic shifts
that are underway. New ideas, new values,
new demands, new competitors, new
expectations are all pushing the field to
awaken from its Rip Van Winkle-type
slumber. And if we are lucky, those who
see us anew will find us just as hard to
recognize as was Van Winkle in his small
town in the Catskill Mountains along the
Hudson River.

The field of organization development
formed in the late 1950s around a nexus
of psychologists, trainers (NTL Institute),
educators (university professors and
administrators such as Edie Seashore),
engineers (at TRW, Esso of Canada, GE,
etc.), and a stage manager (Dick Beckhard).
MacGregor and Beckhard’s work at General
Mills in the late 1950s, called “bottom
up management,” was one of the earliest
seeds from which OD has blossomed
(Beckhard, 1997).

As the field approaches 60 years,
there are many things to be proud of,
some things we could have done better,
a number of assumptions we have about
who we are, and some hard choices ahead
about who we want to be in the world, if we
choose to rouse ourselves from our history
of slumber.

What We Can Be Proud Of

The benefit of our eclectic history has been
an energy, vitality, and diversity as a field
that we have also offered to our clients and
the world. We have strived to be strong and
constant advocates of equality and voice
for all. We have brought a social scientist’s
thirst for hard data to support our actions,
research, and interventions. We have
worked with some success at keeping lines
of communication open among ourselves
and adjacent disciplines such as sociology
and psychology.

We have seen the emergence of ideas
and concepts that struggled at first, but
now have broad currency in our field.
Think: MacGregor’s Theory X and Y,
Ouchi’s Theory Z, Quality Circles, Blake
and Mouton’s Managerial Grid, Hersey
and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership,
the MBTI, Participatory Management,
Organizational Transformation,
Appreciative Inquiry, and now Dialogic OD
(Scherer, et al., 2015).

As students, professors, and
practitioners alike we have used our OD
skills and knowledge to organize ourselves
and others to bring social change to our
organizations, schools, cities, nations, and
the world.

Leaders in our field were early
supporters of labor rights, civil rights,
LGBTQ rights, school integration, women’s
rights, social consciousness, and environ-
mentalism. We took principled and
often difficult stands against racism and
apartheid, unfair imprisonment
and detention, discrimination and

OD: Sixty Years Down,
and the Future to Go

“As the field approaches 60 years, there are many things to be proud of, some things we could have
done better, a number of assumptions we have about who we are, and some hard choices ahead
about who we want to be in the world, if we chose to rouse ourselves from our history of slumber.”

5OD: Sixty Years Down, and the Future to Go

homelessness, and other causes. As the
world has shifted, we are now working to
understand and overcome the negative
effects of globalization, the downward
pressure on wages, increased pressure
on quarterly profits, privilege, implicit
bias, rights for people of all genders and
preferences, income inequality, police-
community relations, and more.

Borrowing the words of futurist and
pioneer Frank Burns, as a field, we have
been working to “close the gap between the
human condition and the human potential”
(Levy & Merry, 1986, p.122).

On any scorecard, the field of OD
has been a major contributor to the great
social and organizational changes that have
occurred in our lifetimes.

What We Could Have Done Better

As with any human system, the many good
things that make for our success also have
downsides, which historically we have not
managed well and which have contributed
to our own dysfunction as a field. As early
as 1972, Larry Greiner identified several
“red flags” for the field, many of which are
still present today:
» Putting the individual before the

organization.
» Focusing on the informal organization

instead of the formal organization.
» Driving for behavior change without a

solid organizational diagnosis.
» Putting group and interpersonal

process ahead of task. (Greiner, 1972).

Another red flag is our desire to operate
at the margin of systems. This gives us a
unique perspective on life in the system,
but it also marginalizes us from the true
center of the system, with the result
that the OD function is neglected in top
management decision making, strategy
formulation, mergers and acquisitions,
globalization, alliances and virtual
organizations, corporate governance,
personal integrity (Greiner & Cummings,
2004).

Our Values and Attitudes

Updating a study that was first conducted
in 1994 (Church, et al., 1994), Amanda
Shull, Allan Church, and Warner Burke
revisited OD values and attitudes (Shull, et
al, 2014). The full report on their research
is at: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.
odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_
Professional_Development/ODP-V46No4-
Shull_Church_Burk.pdf

Their breakout of results by category
is published at: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/
www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_
for_Professional_Development/OD_Network_
Member_Results_20.pdf

Of the 1201 respondents in the
overall sample, 690 were members of the
Society for Industrial and Organizational
Psychology (58%), 286 were members of
the OD Network (24%), with the remaining
28% split among ISOD, NTL, APA, and
AoM.

On Values
OD Network members identified the top
7 as developing organizational leaders
(92% on a five point Likert scale, agree or
strongly agree), promoting inquiry and
continuous learning (91%), facilitating
ownership of process and outcome (89%),
creating openness in communication
(90%), empowering employees to
act (89%), promoting a culture of
communication (89%), and promoting
employee self-awareness and growth
(87%).

However, in some cases OD Network
members rank ordered values differently
than other survey respondents. Notably,
OD Network members ranked “harder,”
more business oriented values lower than
the other 76% of respondents to the survey
(Table 1).

Also notable are the values toward the
bottom of the list. The values ranked 30–34
by the ODN members include some of the
core values that would have been atop the
list of the founders of the field (Table 2).

Other notable low responses included,
focusing on profitability ranked 24th (65%)
and diversifying the workforce ranked
26th (58%).

On Attitudes
OD Network respondents were in
agreement with the overall ranking and the
differences were not significant in most
cases. OD Network members ranked the
top 6 attitudes as:
1. Practitioners should be more self-aware

before acting to change others (83%
agree or strongly agree).

Table 2. Values Ranked Near the
Bottom of the List

Ranked
by OD
Network
Members Value

Overall
Ranking

30th Promoting
autonomy and
freedom

33rd

31st Promoting
democratic
systems and
policies

31st

32nd Establishing
systems based
on equality

30th

33rd Giving back to
society

34th

34th Protecting
the natural
environment

32nd

Table 1. How ODN Members
and Other Respondents Ranked
Business Oriented Values

Ranked
by OD
Network
Members Value

Overall
Ranking

8th Increasing
effectiveness
and efficiency

2nd

9th Enhancing
productivity

3rd

10th Enabling
organization
to grow more
effectively

5th

11th Promoting
excellence

6th

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http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_Professional_Development/ODP-V46No4-Shull_Church_Burk.pdf

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_Professional_Development/ODP-V46No4-Shull_Church_Burk.pdf

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_Professional_Development/ODP-V46No4-Shull_Church_Burk.pdf

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_Professional_Development/ODP-V46No4-Shull_Church_Burk.pdf

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_Professional_Development/OD_Network_Member_Results_20.pdf

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_Professional_Development/OD_Network_Member_Results_20.pdf

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_Professional_Development/OD_Network_Member_Results_20.pdf

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Center_for_Professional_Development/OD_Network_Member_Results_20.pdf

2. Cultural differences between
individuals should be openly discussed
in the workplace (85%).

3. The field is lacking a strong external
brand (77%).

4. Although topical issues may differ from
the past, the core interventions that
existed 50 years ago are still in practice
today (68%).

5. People in the field are practicing
without appropriate background, skills,
knowledge, and appreciation to do so
(60%).

6. There is a lack of leadership in the field
(56%).

Four of the top six attitudes express
some measure of dissatisfaction with the
field and its leadership. Farther down
the list, more than a third (36%) said
that practitioners should be certified
or licensed, and only 25% agreed that
OD practitioners have a seat at the table
and strong influence in organizational
decision making.

The Hard and Soft Truths in the Data

It appears from these data that OD
practitioners are no longer as committed
to the core values of the field, as espoused
by McGregor, Beckhard, Bennis,
Tannenbaum, and others. Values such
as diversity and justice, performance
improvement, democracy and choice,
process effectiveness, etc. (Jamieson &
Gellermann, 2014, p 50) no longer seem to
be at the very center of the practice of OD
as they would have been in years past. And
the field’s attitudes toward itself are notably
dyspeptic. Our sense of ourselves as a field,
at least in these data, cries out for more
alignment in the field, greater clarity about
who we are and what we do, and a more
muscular kind of leadership than we have
had in the past.

There is likely some truth in both, and
yet neither or both tell the whole story.

Certainly, only a few of the founders
who developed and held the values of
the field still survive. For the most part,
they personally trained and mentored
most of the second generation of OD
consultants, many of whom are now aging

out of the field. A large portion of this
third generation of OD practitioners is
learning about the field’s core values via
graduate schools, which have brought to
the education of OD practitioners rigorous
well-honed curricula, results-based
learning objectives, institutional grading
requirements, rubrics for allocating points
on assignments, and outcomes that must
be met in order to maintain university
funding and institutional accreditation.

As a result, today’s OD graduate
students are learning OD values, but
blended along with theory, models, tools,
technology, and techniques into the big
salad which is now OD education. They
enter the field with better knowledge and
tools to do the job, certainly more than just
the values that were the center for the early
practitioners.

It is also possible that there is less
focus on OD values because practitioners
believe these battles have already been won.
Who would have thought that, following
the huge advances in the rights of women
in the 1970s and 1980s that there would
now be battles over funding for women’s
health? Feminists complain that today’s
young women take their rights for granted.
Early AIDs activists complain that risky
behavior is on the rise again because
people expect access to and the efficacy of
AIDs medication. A similar phenomenon
may be occurring with OD people around
OD values as well.

It is also likely that the field has moved
forward: “As the adaptive side of OD moved
ahead, its values became more complex
and diffuse. Traditional humanistic values
of openness, collaboration, and trust
frequently competed with values favoring
organizational effectiveness, shareholder
worth, speed to market, workforce diversity,
and worker productivity” (Greiner &
Cummings, 2004, p. 382).

It also appears that OD Network
members are not as interested in variables
around organizational performance and
effectiveness as other respondents. Some
of that may be explained by sampling
imbalance (Society for Industrial and
Organizational Psychology = 58% of
respondents, with fundamentally different
philosophies and educational curricula of

IO psych versus OD). Also, the average
age of OD Network respondents was
55.7, which under represents the third
generation of OD practitioners, the very
ones who are learning the craft in their
graduate schools, where business impact
and organizational results on the ground
are key components of the curricula.

The larger truth is that the field of OD
has had an allergic reaction to the hard,
countable variables on which organizations
run. We do not have clear and easy ways
to count the impact or measure the costs
and benefits of our work. “OD continues
to worry about itself instead of doing
the hard work of proving itself. There
has been more emphasis on action and
the development of interventions. As
evaluation and research have become
less emphasized, the field lacks a current
database of ‘How do you know it worked?’”
(Feyerherm & Worley, 2008, p.4).

These results may set the table for
the kind of concerted action to define and
energize the field in ways that we have
been unable and unwilling to take on in
our first 60 years.

Just Before Dawn

Historically, OD has resisted calls to define
itself, establish competencies, create a
certification process, and integrate across
its various organizations.

We will not make a decision about
defining our field, allowing every text book,
author and practitioner to make up their
own, such as “OD is a body of knowledge
and practice that enhances organizational
performance and individual development,
by increasing alignment among the
various systems within the overall
system. OD interventions are inclusive
methodologies and approaches to strategic
planning, organization design, leadership
development, change management,
performance management, coaching,
diversity, team building, and work/life
balance” (Minahan, 2015).

OD practitioners tend to be
individualists, with more members of
the OD Network being independent
external consultants than any other type
of practitioner. Anecdotally, our FIRO-B

7OD: Sixty Years Down, and the Future to Go

scores trend toward low wanted Control,
which suggests a fierce independence,
a drive toward counter dependence, and
unwillingness to align with others. “As
a field, we are pretty good at promoting
collaboration among others and among
ourselves at a small scale; but we are not
very good at creating and sustaining large
scale change among ourselves or our field”
(Minahan & Norlin, 2013, p. 4).

The number of VP and Director of OD
jobs appears to be shrinking, even as the
number and size of organizations around
the world is expanding. “OD has virtually
disappeared as the title of departments
in many organizations” (Greiner &
Cummings, 2004). The number of OD
jobs with substantial HR requirements is
increasing. Some look at these and say the
field is on its way to extinction.

Signs of Hope for the Field

Admittedly, there are challenges that
face the field. More on those in the next
section. But there are many reasons to be
optimistic that we can overcome them, and
in cases, that is already underway.

Since 2008, the directors of OD
academic programs from around the
world have been meeting two and often
3 times per year, at first just to network
and share learnings (Minahan, 2014).
The first hopeful sign is that they formed
a self-managing organization within the
OD Network called the OD Education
Association, which has its own charter, and
whose purpose is to establish, advance, and
promote the body of knowledge required
in OD education: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/
www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/
ODEA_Charter_v1c.pdf

A second hopeful sign is that after
several rounds of meeting and drafts, the
ODEA program directors agreed on the
Essential Elements of OD programs: http://
www.odnetwork.org/?page=EssentialElements

A third hopeful sign is that the OD
Network is on the verge of publishing a
working draft of global OD competencies.
For years, members have wondered why
most other membership organizations
have competencies and certifications, but
OD has neither. After years of effort, 2015

was when the resistance finally subsided,
research was completed, a working draft
was developed and circulated widely. It has
received 830 comments and responses
from OD practitioners around the world.
Exemplars and their bosses have been
interviewed. Updates have been made, and
a solid working draft is due to be published
early in 2016 on the ODN website, www.
odnetwork.org.

There are more signs of hope in the
new bodies of knowledge and practice
that continue to be developed. Our roots
have been in industrial organizations and
psychology. Appreciative Inquiry, now
almost 30 years old, shifts our focus from
deficit thinking and problem solving to
building on the positive assets of people
and organizations, as does strengths-based
leadership theory. And just in the last 5
years, Dialogic OD represents a compelling
alternative to planned change efforts,
focusing instead on the socially constructed
realities as evidenced in conversations and
images (Bushe & Marshak, 2015).

In addition, the OD Network has
begun a strategic partnership with the
International Society for Performance
Improvement, sharing our knowledge
about systems and change with them, and
benefiting from their knowledge about
performance and impact measurement,
addressing one of the key areas that
continues to limit the effectiveness of OD
as a field.

There are signs that this third
generation of OD practitioners, educated
largely in graduate schools of business
and education, are learning and leaning
into the actual business dynamics in their
client systems. Many can read a balance
sheet. Some understand income dynamics.
They are entering the field with a wealth of
organizational knowledge and experience
which makes them credible advisors to
senior management.

Finally, it is a slow process, but we
are getting better at the language of
business and results, taking seriously
David Bradford’s admonition, https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AbB3VEy1BM,
to lean into the hard questions about
what difference our work makes and the
impact our projects have. “An effective

evaluation process enables the client
system to understand what was done,
how it was done (and how well), and
what impact the change process has had
on the organization, on groups with the
organization, and on individuals within
the groups” (Livingston, 2006, p.231). And
we need to take leadership in this area as
well. “OD should never be on the receiving
end of the ROI question. We should be
the ones asking it. We should initiate
the conversation on this subject. And we
should initiate it at the outset, when the
program is being considered” (Kruse,
2010, p.52).

Hard Choices Ahead

Fix the Troubled Relationship with HR
Our fuzzy boundaries with HR are not a
new phenomenon. In early years, there
were debates about whether OD belonged
safely tucked away in the training function
where T-group training was the fad, or
whether it could/should be exposed to the
rough and tumble of organizational life
(Burke, 2004). Sound familiar? We have
still not come to grips as a field with this
essential element of our self-concept, as we
struggle with our boundaries with HR.

At the OD Network conference in
2004 at San Juan, celebrating the 40th
anniversary of the OD Network, Warner
Burke challenged the field to step up and
boldly assert itself as the owner of talent
management. Allan Church and others
have continued the exhortation (Church
& Rotolo, 2013). But where OD people are
doing talent management, in too many
cases, it is not because the OD function
owns talent management, it is because the
HR function owns OD.

The result has been a diversion of
OD talent and energies into such core HR
functions as employee relations, employee
engagement, chairing the employee
morale committee, the annual redesign of
performance management systems, and
dozens of other tasks to solve problems for
the HR function.

“You Are My Pink and Fluffy.” Worse still is
the practice of grafting OD responsibilities
into the jobs of HR generalists. Even in

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http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/ODEA_Charter_v1c.pdf

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.odnetwork.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/ODEA_Charter_v1c.pdf

http://www.odnetwork.org/?page=EssentialElements

http://www.odnetwork.org/?page=EssentialElements

www.odnetwork.org

www.odnetwork.org

the cases where they have the OD training,
the transactional content of most HR jobs
crowds out the space to do the true OD
work that they want to do and know the
system needs.

In a recent session with some OD
leaders in the National Health Service in
the UK, they cringed as they confessed
that they are often called by their clients
“The Pink and Fluffies” and the “Touchy-
Feelies,” intended no doubt as a term of
endearment, but definitely not taken as a
compliment. In response, the NHS has
created a “Do OD” campaign, an app, and
a colorful DOOD character that are serious
but fun attempts to upgrade the skills and
practices of the 200+ people who have
some OD in their jobs, and to increase the
ways that OD people are contributing to the
organization, getting beyond the pink and
fluffy (NHS, 2015)

What Are We Missing? What is not
getting done is good, solid systemic OD.
With blended OD and HR jobs, it is not
possible to spend enough time and effort
to be credible business advisors taken
seriously by top management. What is not
getting done is support to leaders who are
developing organizational strategy, building
structure, improving business processes,
creating alignment, improving goal setting
and communications, building leadership
teams, and changing culture.

Of course, there are exceptions. There
are some truly smart and wise HR leaders
who realize what a scarce and valuable
commodity a strong OD person is. They
understand how to leverage the time and
energy of their OD people, and they orient
their efforts to working “on” the system,
rather than “in” the system. Some HR
leaders are becoming more strategic, many
with advanced degrees in OD, and they
truly “get” the importance of OD.

The Fundamental Difference. But they are
the exception, not the rule. In the end,
there is a fundamental conflict between
the purpose and mission of the two
functions. At its core, the HR function
exists to manage compliance, avoid risks,
and to reduce payroll to the lowest possible
level to get the job done. By contrast, the

purpose of the OD function is to enable
the organization to expand capacity, create
experiments, explore ideas, maybe take
a few risks, improve the work and the
work lives of managers and people, and
sometimes, that just costs money.

And to that mix, add the ever greater
cost pressures on staff functions like HR.
So, it is no wonder that non-core functions
like OD get blended with and ultimately
crowded out by the transactional processes
of recruiting, promoting, and paying
people. It is a rare person who can combine
the enlightened HR leader with solid OD
capacity and adequate resources for the OD
function.

As graduate students enter the OD
world and become the third generation
of OD practitioners, they know the world
and the field better than at any time in
the history of the field. They are more
capable of doing the most advanced OD
work than at any time in the history of
the field. They are better educated and are
more competent than ever before. This
is the moment for solid, competent OD
folk to awake from the slumber, declare
independence, and attach to the COO or
CFO or even the CEO, leaving HR behind.

Facing the Field Forward:
Hurdles to Overcome
We must overcome our propensity toward
individualism. Our future depends on
our ability to operate “less as a collection
of independent individuals and more as
a collaborative network/community of
professionals who are aligned on servicing
our entire global community” (Jamieson &
Gellermann, 2014, p.63).

If we did that as a field, we would
figure out how to knit the regional OD
Networks into one coherent and cohesive
whole with each other and the national
Network. Our founders created a Network
structure, a loosely coupled system,
allowing maximum degrees of freedom
to the individual parts, but which greatly
diminishes the size and strength of the
whole (Burke, 2014a). As attached as
we historicals and romantics are to the
network idea and concept, the member
associations that are thriving and growing
today were created as a single entity, with

membership in the local and national
organizations inseparable. The long term
future of the OD Network depends upon
its ability to create new and stronger
chapter-type relationships with its regional
networks.

We have to get over the distinctions
that preoccupy some in our field of
defining change management as
different or separate from OD. Change
management is one among many things
that we in OD do, and focusing on the
differences magnifies them past the point
of usefulness. We have much more in
common than we have differences, but
that is hardly reflected in our language
and writing. If we did that as a field, it
would make possible connections and
even mergers among the OD Network, the
International Society for OD and Change,
the Association of Change Management
Professionals, the International OD
Association, the Asia OD Network, the
Japan OD Networks, and other national
and international organizations possible.
The Second World OD Summit, this year
in Portland, OR, was a joint production of
the OD Network and IODA, and a potential
model for how we might build bridges
across all these organizations.

We have to decide if we have among
us the “leadership gene” in addition to the
“OD gene.” Yes, we are good at process,
but taking the field forward will demand
a different kind of leadership than we
typically see among OD people. The best
among us have the OD gene, and are good
at servant leadership and leading from
behind. The leadership gene requires a
bolder declaration of future ideas, actions,
and directions. This is the kind of advice
we give to our clients. Yet, we have not
been able to muster it among ourselves
and too often, when strong leaders in OD
arise, we undermine them and limit their
ability to make change, which contributes
to the sense of idling and entropy that
many in OD attribute to our field. Our
independence and counter-dependence as
followers makes the act of leadership in
OD a perilous risk.

We need to get over our desire to
live at the margin of organizations and
to lean into the center of organizations,

9OD: Sixty Years Down, and the Future to Go

where the power resides. Our marginality
is preventing us from impacting the
central core of the system, which is where
decisions are made.

Conclusion

It is fitting that the founding director of
the OD Network, Warner Burke, has been
a foundational reference point for these
thoughts, and that he would offer advice
that would take us forward into the second
60 years of life in OD, for OD, and for the
world (Burke, 2014b). He suggests three
things to help tighten a loosely coupled
system such as the field of OD and its
associations and networks:
» Enhanced leadership, in a shared

coalition rather than a hierarchy;
» Focused attention, overcoming the

loosely coupled system’s propensity
to be “all over the place,” by creating
a common purpose and creating
products or even events in which all
participate; and

» Shared values, reminding ourselves
about why we exist.

We have the third. We can do the second.
Are we willing to awaken from our
decades-long slumber and take on the first?

Note: Opinions expressed here to not represent
those of the OD Network or its Board of
Trustees

References

Beckhard, R. (1997). Agent of change: My
life, my practice. San Francisco, CA:
Jossey-Bass.

Burke, W. (2004). Internal organization …

Identify and leverage
your most powerful

influencing skills

Name

Organization Name

Date

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 1

Introduction

The ability to influence and persuade others is key to success. People who lack influencing
skills tend to be powerless and undervalued in the workplace.

The Influencing Skills Finder is useful for those of all ability levels who are interested in
enhancing or accelerating their personal development at work or in their everyday lives. This
assessment will highlight your influencing styles and enhance your ability to leverage them to
your best advantage. In addition, you will learn to recognize a variety of influencing methods,
some of which you may wish to employ in your business affairs.

Those in positions of power or influence who have benefited from using this assessment
include:

• Managers – both line and staff
• Professionals
• Consultants and advisors
• Change agents and developers
• Social and community workers
• Teachers, lecturers and instructors
• Political and community activists

By employing the easy-to-use self-assessment materials (questionnaire, scoring and categories
of influencing skills), you will be able to create:

• A framework to analyze your influencing skills.
• An influencing skills profile that specifically indicates how you influence others.
• A plan to help you develop your ability to influence and persuade others.

The Influencing Skills Finder – A Quick Overview
• The Influencing Skills Finder assessment is user-friendly. It does not require a

sophisticated understanding of applied behavioral sciences principles.
• The assessment is self-scoring and offers a subjective assessment of your skills.
• The scoring system does not assess the strength of influence – only the styles used.
• You can expect practical, highly useful outcomes from the assessment.
• This is not a measurement of your intelligence or aptitude. There are no “norm” tables –

just the six style categories, one of which will best apply to your skill set.
• Once you establish your influencing style, we encourage you to create a personal action

plan. Your plan should:
Set personal development objectives
Identify areas where improvement is possible
Establish precise behavioral goals
Break down complete tasks into subtasks

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 2

Step 1: Review Styles

Below are the six possible styles of influence and their key attributes. Read and consider the
attributes of each style before moving on to the questionnaire.

1. The Asserter
“I stand up for what I want.”

2. The Expert

“I know my subject.”

3. The Politician

“I am influential in the circles where decisions are
made.”

4. The Preparer

“I research topics before forming an opinion.”

5. The Presenter

“I convey my ideas persuasively.”

6. The Client-Centric

“I meet my audience’s needs.”

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 3

Step 2: Complete Questionnaire

The art of persuasion is key to success and a communication skill worth studying and
enhancing. This questionnaire will help you determine your persuasive influencing style.
Knowing and focusing on your style will give you a leg up on the competition and a clear
business advantage.

Consider each pair of statements below. Think about the situations when you are with other
people and seek to influence them. (Choose either a work situation or a social situation – you
must decide on one or the other – not both.) Allocate points to the boxes on the right to indicate
which of the statements is most true for you. You should allocate exactly three points to each
pair of statements – 3 being the most true for you and 0 being the least true for you. Points may
be distributed in one the following ways:

3 2 1 0
0 1 2 3

The “paired statements” may or may not seem to relate to you. Regardless, make the best
possible choice. Take as much time as you need to complete the questionnaire.

1. I never take “no” for an answer. A

I never try to understand others’ viewpoints in depth. F

2. I insist on making my point. A

I prepare carefully for meetings. D

3. I present my views logically. E

I am a pushy person. A

4. I make friends with people who can help me. C

I refuse to be sidetracked. A

5. I know exactly what I want. A

I only talk about what I really understand. B

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 4

6. I take care to always speak from in-depth knowledge B

I find out precisely what concerns others have. F

7. I rehearse what I am going to say. D

I carefully research topics I discuss. B

8. I do not pretend to be an expert when I am not. B

I use well-prepared visual aids in presentations. E

9. I lobby people to persuade them to my point of view . C

I only make statements that I can defend B

10. I adapt my arguments to the person I am talking to. F

I seek to influence the person who has the power to make decisions. C

11. I gain positions of power and influence. C

I make sure that my presentations are well prepared. D

12. I put a lot of energy into presenting my views. E

I secure the authority to make decisions C

13. I persuade others to accept my ideas. E

I carefully listen to others’ views. F

14. I express myself clearly. E

I think through potential pitfalls in advance. D

15. I make sure that I can produce strong evidence to support my proposals. D

I strive to understand what others want to achieve. F

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 5

Step 3: Review the scoring process

Before you score your questionnaire, review the example below, in which the participant’s
strongest influencing style is as a “Presenter.” After reviewing the example, score your
assessment.

Example of a Completed Scoring Sheet

Transfer Scores Totals Influencing Style

A 1 1 1 1 1 6 The Asserter
B 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8 The Expert
C 1 1 1 1 4 The Politician
D 1 1 1 1 1 6 The Preparer
E 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 14 The Presenter
F 1 1 1 1 1 1 7 The Client-Centric
Final Total 45 Note: If your scores do not total 45, you have miscalculated and should double-check your figures.

Step 4: Score your own assessment

Add the five scores for A items, the five scores for B items, and so on. Transfer your scores
from the assessment questionnaire to the table below and then complete the exercise.

Transfer Scores Totals Influencing Style

A The Asserter (See Page 8)

B The Expert (See Page 9)

C The Politician (See Page 10)

D The Preparer (See Page 11)

E The Presenter (See Page 12)

F The Client-Centric (See Page 13)

Overall Total Note: If your scores do not total 45, you have
miscalculated and should double-check your figures.

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 6

Step 5: Create your Influencing Skills Profile

It often helps to show the pattern of your scores as a profile. Do this by circling the appropriate
numbers and then joining the circles.

Example:

4
3
2
1
0

4
3
2
1
0

4
3
2
1
0

4
3
2
1
0

4
3
2
1
0

4
3
2
1
0

The
Asserter

The
Expert

The
Politician

The
Preparer

The
Presenter

The
Client-Centric

Use this chart to plot your scores:

15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

The
Asserter

The
Expert

The
Politician

The
Preparer

The
Presenter

The
Client-Centric

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 7

The Asserter

You influence others by knowing what you want and voicing your requirements persuasively and
persistently. You don’t take “no” for an answer until you have thoroughly tested the other
person’s determination. You don’t need to win every time, but you expect your views to be fully
considered.

The assertive person typically has the following set of personal qualities:

• Boldness. Assertive personalities enjoy taking the initiative to introduce new elements
into social or political situations. They demand time to assert their key points. The
assertive person looks at situations where he/she is either disregarded or unwanted as
challenges and opportunities.

• Clarity of Purpose. Clarity of speech or writing is an asserter’s great asset.

• Energy. This is a significant attribute for two reasons. First, an energetic presentation is

persuasive – others are attracted to a person with bounce and verve. Second, energy is
needed to overcome inter-personal difficulties and go on to win, despite opposition.

• Persistence. This is one quality every assertive person needs. The assertive person is

willing to “try, try and try again.”

• Forcefulness. This is an element of personal style with both strengths and
weaknesses. On occasion, the forceful person will provide resistance that decreases his
or her effectiveness. More frequently, forcefulness will overcome objections and, in fact,
is persuasive in itself. The assertive person must be able to be forceful when the
situation demands it.

• Resourcefulness. This strength helps the assertive person because he/she frequently

adapts to others’ expectations and requirements. The resourceful worker finds clever
and innovative ways to overcome setbacks and resistance. Sometimes, the asserter
finds a new strategy when it is clear that the old method has failed.

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 8

The Expert

You use your subject matter knowledge to influence others. Other people believe that your
advice is reliable, but not necessarily because you use strong social or inter-personal skills.
The person who exercises influence through expertise has the following qualities:

• Technical Competence. This is the foundation of this style. The “Expert” demonstrates
broad expertise and makes a ““state-of-the- art” assessment of the subject.

• Balance. The “Expert” takes a dispassionate and objective view of the technical issue.

The “Expert” must be seen as an unbiased source of technical or professional opinion,
as those who are partisan tend to lose their potency as influencers.

• Communication Skills. These skills allow the “Expert” to debate technical or complex

issues with precision. For an expert to be influential, she needs the ability to translate
complex information to those who are unqualified in that particular discipline.

• Perception of Need. This attribute enables the expert to relate his/her contribution to

the needs of the situation, rather than pursuing an individual interest.

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 9

The Politician

You influence by lobbying, building networks and taking on important roles. You target the
center of organizations where decisions are made. You hope to play a significant role in
decision-making processes and pursue influence within a framework of powerful individuals and
teams. Your political skills can be summarized under five headings:

• Detecting power networks. This is an important first step. Knowing who has power and
being willing to build necessary contacts and friendships requires acute sensitivity to the
way human affairs are conducted.

• Building coalitions with others. This takes time and requires a combination of desire

and honesty. Coalitions are, at least partly, based on authentic relationships and trust.

• Developing arguments. This skill helps you present a persuasive case to a group of
people, each of whom may have different concerns or viewpoints. Challenges from
others add sharpness and precision to your argument.

• Winning arguments. Winning is key, but you ensure that the loser does not feel

disadvantaged or demeaned by the experience of being defeated. Winning an argument
does not mean simply displaying superior logic. It is important to persuade others that a
particular argument is correct and should be supported.

• Obtaining significant support. This is an important political skill because winning an

argument is meaningless unless objectors withdraw their concerns and offer concrete
support. Support is a kind of psychological contract in which the supporter agrees to
invest energy in the persuader’s cause.

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 10

The Preparer

You try to be well-briefed and analyze situations in advance. You attempt to master your topic.

The “Preparer” is influential because his or her command of the situation earns respect.
Someone who is a “Preparer” tends to approach influence in the following ways:

• Taking time to prepare. The pressure of everyday work often leaves little time for
preparation, but “Preparers” make the time. They set priorities and clarify objectives for
success.

• Considering potential opportunities. You gain an advantage, even in the most

unpromising situations. The effective “Preparer” recognizes possibilities where other
people do not.

• Minimizing unexpected events. Contingency planning is a way of life for the effective

“Preparer,” who always thinks about what might go wrong and how to address the
situation if the unexpected happens.

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 11

The Presenter

You influence others by conveying your views in a structured and persuasive manner. You
attract others to your point of view by your choice of words and the techniques that you use for
communication. You project a viewpoint that appeals to others. Effective presenters excel in
these four areas:

• Clear presentation. Obviously, no one can successfully influence others unless he or
she presents a clear, coherent and lucid case. Everyone must understand the
arguments and conclusions the same way as the presenter. All presentation techniques
(including use of audio/visual aids) are relevant.

• Arguing a logical case. This skill is important to the influencing process because

people intuitively respond to logic, which translates as “rightness.” Sometimes, the
presentation focuses more on values than intellect but requires a logical structure that is
both coherent and defensible.

• Dealing with audience reaction. Members of the audience must adapt the message as

their own. All objections or questions should be answered to the audience’s satisfaction.

• Personal strength. The concept is hard to define; the word “charisma” is often used to
describe those who possess this extraordinary quality. The ability to gain respect by
winning the hearts and minds of the audience is quite valuable; those who influence
successfully give the audience a sense that they “earn” personal significance by lending
their support.

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 12

The Client-Centric

You influence others by understanding and caring about their needs and desires. You acquaint
yourself with the people whom you seek to influence and adapt your approach to their specific
needs. You relate effectively to your audience. “Client-centric” is a term created by
psychologists to describe a dedication to identifying and fulfilling the needs and wants of the
“audience.” The Client-Centric’s most important influencing skills include:

• Listening. Listening builds bridges. When we know what others think and believe, we
can establish trusting relationships, which are crucial in the process of influencing. The
active listener empathizes with others and relates his or her case to their specific needs.

• Understanding others’ perspectives. The influencer must probe, question and collect

information about the thoughts and mental frameworks others use to interpret the world.
Psychologists call these mental maps “constructs” – they guide our actions. Once the
influencer understands how others think, he or she can design interventions for greater
impact.

• Direct relationships. Politicians – masters of the art of influencing – know that meeting

face-to face helps them persuade and influence constituents of their view points.
Hewlett-Packard pioneered an approach to business management based on this
concept: MBWA (management by wandering around). People must feel that they can
communicate openly and directly — this builds a bridge of influence.

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 13

Step 6: Leverage your Influencing Skills

1. What are your key influencing styles? (highest score first)

a)

b)

c)

2. When do you use these styles most frequently? Be precise. Think of actual situations in
your work and social life.

Styles: When used:

(Give several examples under each heading)
a)

b)

c)

3. What are the influencing styles that you use least often? (lowest score first)

a)

b)

c)

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 14

4. How would things improve for you if you practiced the influencing styles mentioned in
question 3 “more often or better”? Be precise. Try to think of as many benefits as
possible related to both your work and social life.

Style Possible Benefits
a)

b)

c)

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 15

5. How might you build your influencing strengths and lessen any influencing weaknesses
in the next six months? Again, be detailed and exhaustive. Try to think of at least three
points under each heading.

Style: Possible Development Actions:
The Asserter

The Expert

The Politician

The Preparer

The Presenter

The Client-Centric

Copyright © 2009 Fast Track Tools LLC. All Rights Reserved. www.FastTrackTools.com 16

6. What would a more influential “You” look like? Project six months ahead: Assume that
you have implemented all of the good ideas you listed in your answer to question 5.
In six months, I will:

Be engaged in these
new things:

Have stopped (or
reduced) these
things:

Be focusing on
these things more:

Be doing these
things better:

“. . . today’s OD aspirants are bright, full of energy, want to learn, yet at the same time rather
naïve about human behavior not to mention organizational behavior. Thus the work of
OD education and training today is not easy. How do you help a lawyer learn about change
leadership? But no complaints really; the raw talent is impressive and motivating.”

On the State of the Field
OD in 2014

Organization Development (OD) as we
know it today originated in 1959. As previ-
ously noted (Burke, 2014a), one of the first
labels was not OD but “bottoms-up man-
agement.” The vice president for personnel
at General Mills, the food company that
is still in business today, began an effort
to change the culture of the organization.
This change effort involved decentralizing
decision making, improving communica-
tion mechanisms, giving workers more say
about how they did their jobs, and, in gen-
eral, promoting participative management
and employee engagement. The going got
tough for the VP and he invited Douglas
McGregor of MIT to help out. McGregor
brought Richard Beckhard with him and
together they developed and expanded what
the VP had started. But they did not think
that the term bottoms-up management
captured adequately what they were doing
as change consultants. After considering a
number of possibilities, e.g., “human rela-
tions training” (too limited), “organization
improvement” (too bland) etc., they settled
on “organization development” (Beckhard,
1997). As we understand OD today the
choice of the term was highly appropriate.
When considering part of the definition of
development from Webster’s dictionary, we
can practically provide a definition of OD.
Develop in this case means to:
» evolve possibilities;
» make active;
» promote growth;
» make available or useable resources the

organization has; and
» move from an original position to one

that provides more opportunity for
effective use.

Our OD founders chose their language
wisely.

Further with respect to founders of
the field, at about the same time as the
work being conducted at General Mills,
Robert R. Blake, Jane S. Mouton, and Herb
Shepard were providing similar consulta-
tion at various plants of Esso (now Exxon
Mobil). Their work was a bit more defined
and structured and based on what became
known as the Managerial Grid and later
evolved into Grid Organization Develop-
ment (see Chapter 6 in Burke, 1994).

The work of McGregor and Beckhard
and the similar consultations of Shepard,
Blake, and Mouton were independent
of one another yet had the same roots –
sensitivity training with T-groups (T for
training) that began via the auspices of the
National Training Laboratories, a part of
the National Education Association at the
time (1947). These OD founders had all
been to the “mount,” Bethel, Maine, and
became proponents of what Kurt Lewin
had originated theoretically and evolved in
terms of practice that not only followed a
systems way of thinking but spawned a set
of values as well.

Two characteristics of these early
formulations of OD are important to
note. One was the T-group movement as
mentioned above, and the other was the
academic base. Early OD was an attempt
to use the techniques of and instill the
values associated with T-groups into orga-
nizations. These attempts unsurprisingly
encountered resistance since T-groups

By W. Warner Burke

8 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 4 2014

conducted with strangers for a week or so
were significantly different from a T-group
with a manager and his or her subordi-
nates. Trying to conduct a T-group with a
managerial unit was the first attempt at
what was to become team building. It was
a matter of modifying the techniques yet
holding on to the values: communicating
with one another in an open and honest
manner, providing feedback to one another,
bringing to the surface undiscussables
and the “elephant in the room,” speaking
to power, involving people in decisions
that directly affect them and their work, to
name a few of these values. It was a matter
of dealing with interpersonal issues in an
emotionally intelligent mode. But as Beck-
hard (1972) pointed out some years later,
we had the order of team building issues
backwards. We learned that team building
begins with goals followed by roles and
responsibilities, followed by procedures
and processes, e.g., how the group makes
decisions, and finally, fourth in priority,
interpersonal relationships. In other words,
issues of an interpersonal nature may be
due to a lack of clarity about team goals,
confusion regarding one’s role in the team,
or misunderstandings about the team’s
procedures, ways of working together, not
about interpersonal or personality prob-
lems. Thus, it became a matter of trying to
instill the values underlying the T-group
but doing so in a manner that simultane-
ously emphasized business objectives, get-
ting work done in a more effective way, and
focusing on changes in the organization’s
culture that would support both mission
and goals as well as changing to better pro-
cesses to reach and implement the goals.

The second characteristic was the
fact that early OD came from scholar-
practitioners who were based at a univer-
sity: McGregor and Beckhard at MIT, Blake
and Mouton at the University of Texas,
Austin, and a few years later Herb Shepard
was hired by the school of management at
Case Western Reserve University to build
a department of organizational behavior,
which he did by incorporating into the
curriculum, the research, and teaching
what he had learned about OD. It became
a unique department in the country if not

globally and spawned many OD professors
and practitioners.

OD today has lost this earlier charac-
teristic. The field is no longer viewed as fol-
lowing a science-practice model. Moreover,
those in academia who study organization
change and development, and in some
cases practice OD, nevertheless largely
keep to themselves, attending professional
meetings such as the Academy of Manage-
ment and the Society for Industrial and
Organizational Psychology, while practitio-
ners tend to keep to themselves at, say, the
annual meetings of the OD Network. Bar-
tunek (2014) has made this case in a recent
article for the 50th Anniversary issue of
the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science.
Ironically she notes that the opposite has
occurred in the domain of management,
that is, research and practice in manage-
ment has begun to come together – each
influencing the other, for example, the
more recent movement of “evidence-based
management” – whereas in OD scholarly
knowledge and practice have drifted apart.
This drift could account, at least in part,
for the apparent lack of innovation in the
field since 1987 (see the recent argument
regarding this lack made by Burke, 2011).

The Current State of OD

We have covered thus far what has trans-
pired over the past half century. Let us now
consider the current state of affairs which
will then lead us to a statement about
the future.

A way to understand the current state
of OD is to consider what we in the field
seem to have common understandings
about, where we seem to have consensus.
Then we should consider our lack of com-
mon understandings, e.g., is coaching OD?
But first let us consider briefly who the
folks are entering the world of OD today.

The Demographics

It used to be, especially in the 1960s,
1970s, and somewhat into the 1980s, that
the people who were attracted to OD typi-
cally came from the development world
– training and development (HRD) – or
had been given an OD job without their

knowing exactly what OD was. But com-
pared with today, they did have a working
knowledge of and some familiarity with
organizational behavior, in particular, and
the applied behavioral science domain in
general. They had heard of Maslow and his
needs hierarchy and they wanted to be self-
actualized. People who come to the field
these days may have heard of the needs
hierarchy but do not know who Maslow
was; Theory X and Y are mysterious; Lewin
– no clue; and usually mispronounce
Likert’s name as “like” rather than the
correct “lick.” They know about a five-point
scale but not where it came from much
less its strengths and limitations. In other
words, today’s neophytes in OD are incred-
ibly diverse. They come from all kinds of
backgrounds and work experiences. But
they come because they know that organi-
zation change is of critical importance, that
most efforts at change fail, and they want
to know why. In other words today’s OD
aspirants are bright, full of energy, want
to learn, yet at the same time rather naïve
about human behavior not to mention
organizational behavior. Thus the work
of OD education and training today is not
easy. How do you help a lawyer learn about
change leadership? But no complaints
really; the raw talent is impressive and
motivating.

Common Understandings

What do those of us who have been in
the field of OD for a few years as well as
much longer seem to agree about? What
are the understandings and knowledge
base that we have in common? Here are
a few examples.
» We are Lewinians. We may not all know

field theory, but we do know how to
conduct a force-field analysis and that
FFA does not stand for Future Farmers
of America.

» We understand system theory. Organi-
zations are open systems and the roots
of organizational issues and problems
are not individuals who are idiots but
systems that are idiotic.

» Our work must be data-based. Other-
wise we come across as opinionated
with no real basis for our opinions. Our

9On the State of the Field: OD in 2014

data may be either qualitative or quanti-
tative, preferably both, and grounded in
what the client tells us.

» Our clients have the solutions to their
problems. They may not know it at the
outset; therefore, our job is to help our
clients find the solution not hand a
solution to them.

» We are values-based. But there are
many values to which we subscribe,
and it is important for us to know what
our priorities are. Is treating people
respectfully more important that resolv-
ing conflict? And when does the bottom
line or meeting budget demands take
precedence?

Lack of Understandings

The following are some examples where
we do not seem to have much in common
understandings or agreements. Or it may
not be a lack of agreement; it may be a
lack of sufficient knowledge about what
we may need to understand. In any case, a
few examples:
» Positive psychology. This is a sub-field

of psychology that continues to grow.
The first initiative in this arena that
affected OD practice was Apprecia-
tive Inquiry (Cooperrider & Srivastva,
1987). Today there is a much broader
set of applicable possibilities from OD,
see Cameron’s (2008) treatise for this
kind of coverage. The evidence is rather
compelling that positive approaches
pay off. Can these approaches become a
part of OD? Perhaps so.

» Coaching. Is coaching a separate field
entirely or a part of OD, or vice versa,
or does it matter? As we know coaching
takes many forms from dealing with
performance issues to career develop-
ment. From our perspective coaching is
a useful process for furthering an OD
effort. OD requires change leadership
and coaching a change leader can be
key to success. Thus, we view coaching
as an important arm of OD work.

» Multirater feedback. Everyone does
multirater activities today. In the begin-
ning stages, then called 360° feedback,
the emphasis was on development and
the feedback process was individualized

and private. Although the change has
been gradual, currently multirater
feedback may be used more often for
evaluating performance and less for
exclusively developmental purposes.
Does this shift violate OD values?
What is our stance? Is it possible to use
multi rater feedback for evaluative, per-
formance purposes and not cause harm
to be done to the individual? Who owns
the data? These are tough questions
and need to be debated among OD
practitioners with regard to the stance
we as a field that is value-based need
to take. Or not take a stance at all, just
facilitate, or simply not get involved?

» Evidence-based. Back in the late 1960s
when we at NTL were conducting the
Program for Specialists in Organiza-
tion Development, the participants
would, in essence, come to the program
with an empty tool kit and ask us to
fill it. We would respond by saying
something like, “But wouldn’t you
like to know where these tools come
from, the research and theory behind
them?” And the retort was “Not really;
just give us the tools and techniques.”
This was frustrating. Some years later
to deal with this frustration, I created a
Theory in Organization Development
questionnaire of 40 items (see Chap-
ter 4 in Plovnick, Fry, & Burke, 1982).
The intent was to arouse curiosity,
that is, participants would get 8 scores
and perhaps want to know what the

scores meant. Explaining the scores
was a not-so-subtle way of teaching
the theory that undergirded the tools
and techniques. The question here is
to raise again the issue of the apparent
separation of OD practice and scholar-
ship. Is it not important to understand
the theory behind the technique of
force field analysis? Yes, the academic
jargon may be off-putting and boring,
but understanding quasi stationary
equilibrium is key to knowing how
to teach and use FFA effectively and
thoroughly. And is it not important to
mention and reassuring to know that
Lewin’s three-step model of unfreeze-

change-refreeze along with Schein’s
elaboration has stood the test of time
and is grounded in evidence (Burnes,
2004; Schein, 1987)?

These five common understandings and
four lacks of understanding are, of course,
selective and limited in number. We could
easily have had more than five and more
than four in each of two categories. The
intent nevertheless was to provide a flavor
or brief sense of how we see the world of
OD at the present time.

The Future: A Statement of Need
Not Prognostication

The need for OD in the world is without
question. With the failure rate of organiza-
tion change efforts being over 70% the

Therefore it is incumbent on us to keep up, stay informed, and
to keep learning. This means returning to scholarly works
where OD began, and for its first two or three decades, grew
rapidly. Returning to scholarly works does not just mean going
back to school, although we educators do indeed like the idea.
It means attending conferences where there is a good mix
of scholars and practitioners, it means doing some adjunct
teaching in OD or OD-related graduate programs, it means
writing articles for publication, including writing a book
review on occasion, and it means discerning between what is
faddish and what is enduring.

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 4 201410

need for expertise becomes apparent. We
do know something about organization
change. That is without question as well.
Yet the rate of change keeps increasing at
an exponential pace with most of it being
unplanned. OD is about planned change
and therefore useful. But we must have
a seat at the table and that seat either
goes unfilled or is occupied by the great
uninformed. For the most part OD folks
who sit at the table know what to say, but
that knowledge can become limited in a
hurry. Therefore it is incumbent on us
to keep up, stay informed, and to keep
learning. This means returning to schol-
arly works where OD began, and for its
first two or three decades, grew rapidly.
Returning to scholarly works does not just
mean going back to school, although we
educators do indeed like the idea. It means
attending conferences where there is a
good mix of scholars and practitioners, it
means doing some adjunct teaching in OD
or OD-related graduate programs, it means
writing articles for publication, including
writing a book review on occasion, and it
means discerning between what is faddish
and what is enduring.

And what must we learn more about?
Some suggestions include:
» Loosely coupled systems. We need to

understand how to change systems
such as networks, universities, partner-
ships, strategic alliances, healthcare
systems, and professional associations.

» The nature of resistance to change.
Perceived resistance may be nothing
more than ambivalence, and if there
really is resistance, there is energy with
people caring about something; apathy
is far worse.

» Leadership development. Which is sig-
nificantly different from management
development.

» Talent management. Competition
in the world today is as much about
acquiring competence as it is about the
bottom line.

» Power and politics. Political and power
dynamics are changing in the US and
around the world; there is a growing
intolerance toward command and
control. For an excellent and current
analysis see the book by Moisés Naim

(2013), and for a brief summary, see
Burke’s (2014b) paper on changing
loosely coupled systems.

The first generation of OD thinkers and
scholar practitioners are almost all gone,
Chris Argyris and Warren Bennis being
the latest. It is now up to current gen-
erations in the field to generate useful
knowledge. Learning is imperative and the
five domains mentioned above as sugges-
tive areas are important but limited. Learn
more about these five and along the way
create your own list, and write about those
on your list.

References

Bartunek, J.M. (2014). Academic – practi-
tioner relationships: What NTL started
and what management scholarship
keeps developing. Journal of Applied
Behavioral Science, 50, in press.

Beckhard, R. (1997). Agent of change: My
life, my practice. San Francisco, CA:
Jossey-Bass.

Beckhard, R. (1972). Optimizing team-
building efforts. Journal of Contempo-
rary Business, 1(3), 23–32.

Burke, W.W. (2014a). Building a loosely
coupled system: Origins of the Orga-
nization Development Network. OD
Practitioner, 46(3) 4–6.

Burke, W.W. (2014b). Changing loosely
coupled systems. Journal of Applied
Behavioral Science, 50, in press.

Burke, W.W. (2011). A perspective on the
field of organization development and
change: The Zeigarnik effect. Journal
of Applied Behavioral Science, 47(2),
143–167.

Burke, W.W. (1994). Organization devel-
opment: A process of learning and
changing (2nd ed.). Reading, MA:
Addison-Wesley.

Burnes, B. (2004). Kurt Lewin and the
planned approach to change: A reap-
praisal. Journal of Management Studies,
41(6), 977–1002.

Cameron, K.S. (2008). Paradox in posi-
tive organizational change. Journal of
Applied Behavioral Science, 44(1), 7–24.

Cooperrider, D.L., & Srivastva, S. (1987).
Appreciative inquiry in organizational

life. In R. W. Woodman & W. A. Pas-
more (Eds.), Research in organizational
change and development (Vol. 1, pp.129–
169). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Naim, M. (2013). The end of power. New
York, NY: Basic Books.

Plovnick, M.S., Fry, R.E., & Burke, W.W.
(1982). Organization development: Exer-
cise, cases, and readings. Boston, MA:
Little Brown.

Schein, E.H. (1987). Process consultation,
Vol.2: Its role in organization develop-
ment (2nd ed.). Reading, MA: Addison
Wesley.

W. Warner Burke, Phd, is the
Edward Lee Thorndike Professor
of Psychology and Education
at Teachers College, Columbia
University where he has been
since 1979. He has written or
edited 20 books and authored
well over 150 articles and book
chapters. He has received
many awards including the OD
Network’s Lifetime Achievement
Award and NASA’s Public Service
Medal. He was the administrator
of the ODN from 1966–1967 and
executive director from 1968–
1974. He helped launch the OD
Practitioner in 1968. He can be
reached at [email protected]

11On the State of the Field: OD in 2014

Copyright of OD Practitioner is the property of Organization Development Network and its
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articles for individual use.

“If we aspire to both the labels and the roles of helper, counsellor, adviser, and supporter, using
ourselves as key instruments, we must undertake a process of life-long discovery and of owning
and refining our instrumentality.”

By Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge

First published in
OD Practitioner,
33(3), 2001

Introduction (2012)
Is self a “structure” or is self a “process?”
How would the answers to these two ques-
tion fit into our phenomenological sense
of an enduring “I” – something that my
Gestalt colleagues still debate about? I
love the Gestalt work but am not academic
enough to join that debate. Instead I would
like to dangerously post a participant’s view
to say that there are aspects of self that are
quite hardwired in us (self structure). Yes,
they can be modified and reshaped, but the
active self needs to be provoked to a point
where the self is willing to do some work
to lessen the hardwiredness. However, I
also believe that self is a process. In Gestalt
(Perls, Hefferline, & Goodman 1951) self
can be defined as “the system of contact at
any moment…there is no self independent
of the situation – it is ‘given’ in contact.”
The self emerges from the changing
ground and it “does not exist prior to, or
apart from, relationships with the envi-
ronment” (Chidiac & Denham-Vaughan,
2009). This concept is made even clearer
by the Gestalt therapeutic community in
which they asserted that the purpose of the
self is to organize the emerging and chang-
ing experiences to make it meaningful, as
the sense of self emerges from our interac-
tion with others and the environment. As
a fluid and dynamic process, the self is
capable to change and adjust according to
the situation within which it finds itself
as well as respond to the changing needs
and goals of the environment (Philippson,
2001; Chidiac & Denham-Vaughan, 2009).

What does this have to do with the
content of this article? Ten years on, the

crucial question I (and I hope other col-
leagues will join me) need to ask is have we
modified and reshaped our sense of self as
we have worked with many different client
groups and colleagues? Or have we held
on to the hardwired self and insisted that
is our true self, and used every opportunity
to justify our approach to work? Do we
allow the diverse contacts we have had with
diverse groups of clients and colleagues to
help us realize: “Gosh these colleagues, cli-
ents and/or the client systems are so chal-
lenging, what type of mobilization of self
needs to happen once I am made aware
of what is happening? By the way, what is
my emerging self from such contact tell
me about me?” It is hard to talk about the
continuously effective use of self if we
do not allow the changing ground or the
relational contact to make us more curious
about the bit of the self that is unknown to
us. Without doing that, it will be difficult
for us to stay curious, non-judgmental,
and available to help others to discover the
unknown aspect to them. If self is shaped
as we make relational contact, then how we
work with what comes from these contacts
is crucial as we continue to strive to use
ourselves in the moment to formulate our
work with groups or organizations, and
to help our clients. I share Chidiac and
Denham-Vaughan’s view that the sense of
self as a fluid process is a way of formulat-
ing our use of self as instrument when
undertaking organizational work. Is our
sense of self more structured or more
fluid? And how may that affect our use of
self as instrument in our consultancy work
in the next 10 years?

The Self as an Instrument
A Cornerstone for the Future of OD

From the ODP Archive

42 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 44 No. 2 2012

The Self as Instrument (2001)

Warner Burke (1994) asserted that, “OD
as a field has a bright future… The point is
that OD, or whatever it may be labeled in
the distant future, is here to stay.”

Such a positive assertion of OD
requires its torchbearers – we, OD practi-
tioners – to affirm our passion for OD, our
commitment to developing our consulting
repertoire, and our desire to continually
develop our competencies. I believe among
the many competencies required of us, the
use of self as an instrument is at the heart
of our uniqueness and effectiveness.

This paper aims to demonstrate the
importance for OD consultants of estab-
lishing effective relationships with clients
and the use of self as an instrument, or
instrumentality, in the work. The article
builds upon the definitions of instrumen-
tality developed by Warner Burke and
Edwin Nevis in exploring key practices
in owning and refining the use of self in
our work.

The premise underlying my approach
is that OD consulting necessitates a high
degree of self-knowledge and personal
development that must engage OD practi-
tioners throughout their professional lives.

Diverse Roles of OD Consultants

Although there are widely ranging def-
initions of OD, there is a surprisingly high
level of agreement among practitioner-
theorists that the purpose of OD activities
is to enhance organizational effectiveness.
Consider the following characterizations
of OD.
» Planned interventions to increase

organization effectiveness and health
(Beckhard, 1969).

» A process directed at organization
improvement (Margulies, 1998).

» Building and maintaining the health
of the organization as a total system
(Schein, 1988).

» Organization revitalization achieved
through synthesizing individual, group
and organizational goals so as to pro-
vide effective service to the client and
community while furthering quality of

Table 1: Roles of OD Consultants

Authors Roles of OD Consultants

Burke (1982) One who provides help, counsel, advice, and support.

Schroeder (1974) One who serves as a sounding board, an adviser, a confidant
for the consultant who is working directly with the client
(shadow consultant with other consultants as clients).

Lippitt and Lippitt
(1975)

Outline eight roles along a continuum with Directive and Non-
Directive at either end of the continuum. The eight roles are
advocate, technical specialist, trainer or educator, collaborator
in problem solving, alternative identifier, fact finder, process
specialist, and reflector. These roles are not mutually exclusive.
The OD Consultant may play different roles simultaneously
depending on tasks/assignments.

Schein (1988) Key role defined as process consultation, i.e., a set of activities
that help the client to perceive, understand and act upon
process events in the client’s environment in order to improve
the situation identified by the client.

Tichy (1974) Outlines four change agent key roles:
• OP (Outside Pressure) – advocating certain changes,

planning strategies for advocacy.
• AFT (Analysis for the Top) – conducting a study for a client

organization and providing a report for top management.
• PCT (People Change Technology) – providing a service for

individuals within the organization.
• OD (Organization Development) – serving as external

consultant to develop systems.

Beer (1980) Lists two consultant roles: (1) as Generalist with an
organizational administrative perspective and (2) as a
Specialist in the process of organizational diagnosis and
intervention.

Ferguson (1968) Lists 18 roles of OD Consultants ranging from capturing data
to promoting a proper psychological climate to assisting in the
management of conflict, to serving as plumber or obstetrician
and in-between, etc.

Nevis (1987) Outlines five basic roles / activities of a Gestalt-oriented
consultant:
1. To attend to the client system, observe, and selectively

share observations of what you see, hear, etc.
2. To attend to your own experience (feelings, sensations,

thoughts) and selectively share these, establishing your
presence in doing so.

3. To focus on energy in the client system and the emergence
of or lack of issues (common figures) for which there is
energy; to act to support mobilization of energy (joining) so
that something happens.

4. To facilitate clear, meaningful, heightened contacts between
members of the client system (including contact with you).

5. To help the group achieve heightened awareness of its
process in completing units of work, and to learn how to
complete units of work so as to achieve closure around
problem areas and unfinished business.

43The Self as an Instrument: A Cornerstone for the Future of OD

product and work life (Lippitt & Lippitt,
1975).

Within this context, the primary role of
OD consultants is to establish helping
relationships with and among individu-
als and groups within organizations. The
form these relationships take depends on
the nature of the task at hand and may
incorporate technical advice in business
processes, specialist services relating to
organizational design and functioning,
process consultation or variations thereof.
Lippitt and Lippitt (1975) described these
roles on a continuum defined by the degree
of directiveness assumed by the OD con-
sultant. An overview of how authors in the
field describe the diverse consultant roles
appears in Table 1 (previous page).

This review of the literature illustrates
the degree to which the effectiveness of the
consultant necessarily depends upon the
quality of his or her relationships with cli-
ents. McLagan (1989) stated this succinctly:

Organization development’s pri-
mary emphasis is on relationships
and processes between and among
individuals and groups. Its primary
intervention is influence on the rela-
tionship of individuals and groups to
reflect the impact on the organization
as a system. (p. 7)

Having established the centrality of rela-
tionship building to the work of OD con-
sultants, the next question is, “what are the
key competencies and attributes essential
for effectiveness?”

Self as an Instrument

Table 2 (next page) summarizes competen-
cies required for effective OD consultation,
as gleaned from a review of the literature.

Burke’s concept of instrumentality
(1982) went beyond a collection of inter-
personal skills, attributes, and technical
knowledge to encompass the use of self as
an instrument in conducting interventions.
This notion of instrumentality is akin to
the emphasis of heightened self-awareness
in a gestalt approach to organization con-
sulting. Nevis (1998) defined the qualities

of “presence” as the effective integration of
knowledge and behavior:

Presence is the living embodiment of
knowledge: the theories and practices
believed to be essential to bring about
change in people are manifested,
symbolized, or implied in the pres-
ence of the consultant. (p. 69)

The concepts of instrumentality in effec-
tive OD practice and presence in gestalt
practice see the use of self as our prime
asset in achieving the helping relationship.
It is not an option but the cornerstone of
our work. The OD consultant’s ability to
fill a wide range of roles depends upon this
use of self.

So how do we develop our
instrumentality?

The answer lies in two concepts: own-
ing and refining our instrumentality. Each
of these ideas and their related practices are
based upon a requisite perception of our
self as a key asset requiring both proper
management and investment. Owning
our instrumentality relates to the develop-
ment of our self-knowledge and expertise
as consultants in the field. Refining our
instrumentality implies regular mainte-
nance work on self.

In practice, owning the self means
devoting time and energy to learning about
who we are, and how issues of family
history, gender, race, and sexuality affect
self- perception. It means also identifying
and exploring the values by which we live
our lives, as well as developing our intel-
lectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual
capacities. Owning instrumentality can also
be understood in terms of Cooperrider’s
(2000) concept of identifying the “positive
core” within and using it to achieve one’s
dreams. “Putting first things first” (Covey,
1995) in order to achieve balance between
work and life can also be considered part of
owning one’s instrumentality.

In practice refining our instrumental-
ity means dedicating time to the on-going
maintenance of both self-knowledge and
technical expertise. We could employ a
shadow consultant, a mentor or even a
therapeutic relationship to continually
heighten our self-awareness. For others, it

may mean using self-knowledge to build a
package of self-care in order to ensure that
instrumentality is sustainable and lasting.

The following is a partial list of activities
relating to owning, refining and integrat-
ing our self-knowledge. They are offered
here—in four categories—as a springboard
for readers in considering your own self-
work in four categories.

1. Develop Life Long Learning Habits
» Continually develop and enhance

competencies in order to move flexibly
among the various roles required of the
OD consultant.

» Develop relationships with peers and
professionals with whom to check
perspectives, talk through challenges
and strategies, and align values and
practices.

» Actively seek feedback from clients and
colleagues.

» Build a knowledge base in the field
even when this seems neither urgent
nor critical.

» Take responsible risks that stretch
your professional comfort zone and
proficiency.

2. Work Through Issues of Power
» Acknowledge personal issues around

power and control and attune yourself
to recognize their emotional triggers.

» Develop strategies to manage your own
and others’ power dynamics.

» Develop effective habits for establishing
and maintaining appropriate boundar-
ies with colleagues and clients.

» Clarify personal values and what is
important in life. Practice “putting first
things first.”

3. Build Emotional and Intuitive
Self-Awareness

» Integrate your personal and family
history and turn it into a source of
strength.

» Get to know your fears, blind spots and
comfort zones. Use your emotional
comfort (or discomfort) as data in mak-
ing choices about the work you do and
how you intervene in client systems.

» Develop habits for managing anxiety

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 44 No. 2 201244

Table 2: OD Consultant Competencies

Authors Roles of OD Consultants

Burke (1982) 1. The ability to tolerate ambiguity
2. The ability to influence
3. The ability to confront difficult issues
4. The ability to support and nurture others
5. The ability to listen well and empathize
6. The ability to recognize one’s own feelings and intuitions quickly
7. The ability to conceptualize
8. The ability to discover and mobilize human energy
9. The ability to teach or create learning opportunities
10. The ability to maintain a sense of humor
11. A sense of mission

Argyris (1962) 1. Self confident
2. Interpersonally confident

Beer (1980) 1. Be credible
2. Be neutral
3. Ability to stay marginal

Sullivan and
Sullivan (1995)
McLean and
Sullivan (1990)

McLean and Sullivan involved over 2000 OD practitioners in defining essential competences of internal and
external consultants. They listed the required 187 competences under ten categories of OD activities:

1. Marketing Phase (3 competences)
2. Initial Contactivity Phase (20 competences)
3. Start up Phase (10 competences)
4. Assessment and Feedback Phase (45 competences)
5. Action Planning Phase (16 competences)
6. Intervention Phase (12 competences)
7. Evaluation Phase
8. Adoption Phase (13 competences)
9. Separation Phase (13 competences)
10. General competences (40 competences)

Nevis (1987) Outlined the skills required to be effective in using a gestalt approach based on the Cycle of Experience as an
orientation for both client and self. Skills organized in terms of consultant’s major tasks:

1. Ability to stay in the present and focus on the ongoing process, with faith in natural developmental
sequence.

2. Considerable sensitivity to sensory, physical functioning of self and others.
3. Frequent tuning into your emotions.
4. Ability to separate data from interpretation and to emphasize non-judgmental observations.
5. Awareness of your intentions, of what you want to do or say, together with the ability to be clear in

letting others know what you want of and from them.
6. Ability to see where the client is at any time, and to respect that in working with the system.
7. Ability to face and accept emotional situations with a minimum of personal defensiveness.
8. Ability to make good contact with others.
9. Ability to present self as a highly attractive yet non-charismatic presence.
10. Capacity to be both tough and supportive during the same work session.
11. Ability to help the client system draw meaning or understanding from its experience with the

consultant.
12. Appreciation of the significant contextual issues involved in System Intervention.
13. Awareness of the aesthetic, transcendent, and creative aspects of working as a consultant.

45The Self as an Instrument: A Cornerstone for the Future of OD

about the accuracy of your perceptions
and efficacy of interventions.

» Acknowledge the potential power
of intuition in managing decisions
and risks, even in the face of clear
opposition.

» Face your lack of effectiveness with
certain projects and clients. Have the
courage to stop working for clients who
offer good money but at a personal
price.

4. Commit to Self-Care
» Organize your calendar to include time

for reflection and integration, and a
recharging of your intellectual and
emotional energy.

» Book regular time off to cater to body,
mind, and soul.

» Have an effective self-care package,
knowing that – like a machine- we can-
not keep delivering a long-haul service
without maintenance work.

» Use meditation or other practices to
develop and maintain inner awareness
and knowledge.

Over the past ten years, as I have super-
vised and mentored OD consultants and
witnessed the working of instrumentality,
I have concluded that they fall into three
groups:
1. Consultants whose effectiveness is

inconsistent.
2. Effective consultants who experience

burn out because their high perfor-
mance is costly and unsustainable.

3. Effective consultants who are in opti-
mal condition most of the time.

The first group of OD consultants often
convey a highly professional image. They
are even likely to invest money and time
updating their technical expertise. They
can be quite effective in some projects.
However, they are much less effective when
projects require the use of self as an inter-
vention beyond their technical expertise.
Many have not accepted that an effective
OD consultant must understand and deal
not only with technology, but also with
human processes such as trust, depen-
dency, and ethics.

The second group of consultants, like

the third, is committed to their mission
as OD professionals, highly skilled in
many types of OD intervention, and well
respected by clients and colleagues. But
they differ significantly in three ways:
1. The amount of time and energy they

spend working on knowing themselves
better.

2. Their commitment to take time to pur-
sue a robust self-care package.

3. The personal cost they incur because of
their high performance.

The second group often performs very well
for a time, and then suddenly seems to
suffer from serious burn out. The symp-
toms can range from mild depression,
loss of temper with clients and staff, lack
of motivation, and continuous fatigue to
physical illness, loss of focus, and serious
depression.

While I emphasize the differences
between the three groups, in reality,
most consultants slide up and down this
continuum, depending on what else is
happening in our lives, and how much
emotional energy we have to deal with
those issues that are critical to well-being
and instrumentality. However, if we fail to
engage in self-work activities, it is certain
that high performance will entail a high
personal cost, both to our clients and
ourselves. Through time, this will eat into
our sense of well being. Many of us have
become aware of the personal cost, and
have learned never again to be put in that
situation unwittingly.

Conclusion

Like Burke, I believe that none of us can
ever achieve perfect instrumentality, and
that it is very difficult to be an effective
OD consultant. We can begin the journey
towards perfect instrumentality; we can
never complete it. But if we aspire to both
the labels and the roles of helper, counselor,
adviser, and supporter, using ourselves
as key instruments, we must undertake a
process of lifelong discovery and of owning
and refining our instrumentality.

Finally, what would happen if we
collectively (without a formal licensing
procedure) agreed to create a bright future

and make a major impact in the field of
OD by the effective use of self? How would
things change? I believe that organizations
all over the world would be well disposed
to a group of effective helpers who would
become likely partners with them in the
pursuit of optimal health for their organiza-
tions. Through time, we would pass on the
baton to managers (our clients) and coach
them to play a key role in transforming the
way their organizations are run. Ultimately,
a healthy organization can develop itself
with its managers as the primary practi-
tioners. In this way, more managers will
come to understand the necessary balance
between freedom and constraint, democ-
racy and authority, profit and ethics in
organization life and health.

Postscript (2012)

Ten years on, have the concepts discussed
in this article gone out of fashion, or do
they remain relevant?

There has been a lot of debate about
the conditions that will lead to sustain-
able changes. The traditional consultancy
establishment provides very much needed
services on back room work—focusing
mainly on using benchmarking data to
help organizations carry out continuous
process reengineering work while applying
rigorously the slim processes approach to
ensure organizations will achieve a sustain-
able cost base to face fierce competition.
Our back room colleagues occasionally
allow OD consultants to work alongside
them, but frequently they only involve
us after the back room process has been
completed in order to do the damage limi-
tation, people engagement work. Is there
any wonder why the track record on change
is rated so poorly by all parties?

This raises three questions for me.
First, what do OD practitioners (external
and internal especially) need to do to gain
enough relational traction with those
senior decision makers so that they will
trust us enough to think more thoughtfully
about doing the back room and front room
work simultaneously? Second, how do we
continuously establish our unique reputa-
tion in achieving change sustainability via
people engagement work, so that those

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 44 No. 2 201246

whom we serve will not go ahead with any
change work without first saying “I must
talk to our OD or HR person?” Third, how
do we showcase and not apologize for
our expertise in human dynamics, group
dynamics, and system dynamics as part of
business critical approaches in change?

I believe the answers to these three
questions all point to our effective use of
self, especially in the area of how we func-
tion and behave in the relational arena,
in our use of our voice; in our courage
to speak the unspeakable truth within a
trustworthy and compassionate frame; in
using our moment by moment sensation
to meet people where they are: and to cre-
ate the impact that helps people make the
“right enough” decisions to drive economic
efficiency within the “people matter”
framework. The key challenge is how we
continue to do deeper inner work so that
our groundedness and our continuous
fluid but evolving integrated self manages
to help us to have congruence between our
outside behavior and inner self. Finally,
are we able to give a sense of inspiring and
establishing presence when we work with
people – so that by working with us people
get a glimpse of “ah, that is what this
change is about – because I am experienc-
ing the end game that we are meant to be
heading towards (the embodiment of the
end game).” So is the use of self still critical
in our field of work? I guess by now you
would have made your own mind up about
this – and my final question to all of us
is – what are we going to do more to move
closer to that end of the effective use of self
continuum? Maybe it is a bit exaggerated,
but the future of OD is critically dependent
on all of us using ourselves effectively to
bring successful and sustainable change
within a humanistic framework to the
world of work.

References

Argyris, C. (1962). Interpersonal competence
and organizational effectiveness. Belmont,
CA: Dorsey Press.

Beckhard, R. (1969). Organization develop-
ment: Strategies and models. Reading,
MA: Addison-Wesley.

Beer, M. (1980). Organization change
and development: A systems view. Santa
Monica, CA: Goodyear.

Burke, W. (1982). Organization development:
Principles and practices. Boston, MA:
Little, Brown.

Burke, W. (1994). Organization devel-
opment: A process of learning and
changing (2nd ed.). Reading, MA:
Addison-Wesley.

Chidiac, M.A., & Denham-Vaughan, S.
(2009). An organizational self: Apply-
ing the concept of self to groups and
organizations. British Gestalt Journal,
18(1).

Cooperrider, D. (2000). Positive image,
positive action: The affirmative basis
of organizing. In D. Cooperrider, P.
Sorensen, D. Whitney, & T. Yaeger
(Eds.), Appreciative Inquiry (pp. 29-53).
Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.

Covey, S. (1995). First things first. New York,
NY: Fireside.

Egan, G. (1988a). Change agent skills A:
Assessing and designing excellence. San
Diego, CA: Pfeiffer & Company.

Ferguson, C. K. (1968). Concerning the
nature of human systems and the
consultant’s role. The Journal of Applied
Behavioural Science, 4, 186-93.

Lippitt, R., & Lippitt, G. (1975). Consulting
process in action. Training and Develop-
ment Journal. 29(5), 48-54; 29(6), 38-44.

McLagan, P. (1989). Models for HRD prac-
tice. Alexandria, VA: American Society
for Training and Development.

McLean, G. & Sullivan, R. (1990). OD
skills: An ongoing competency list. OD
Practitioner, 22(2), 11-12.

Margulies, N. (1978). Perspectives on the
marginality of the consultant’s role. In
W. W. Burke (Ed.), The cutting edge: Cur-
rent theory and practice in organization
development (pp. 60-69). La Jolla, CA:
University Associates

Nevis, E. (1998) Organizational consulting:
A Gestalt approach (2nd ed.). Cam-
bridge, UK: GIC Press.

Perls, F., Hefferline, R., & Goodman, P.
(1951). Gestalt therapy: Excitement and
growth in human personality. New York,
NY: Julian Press.

Philippson, P. (2001). Self in relation. High-
land, NY: Gestalt Journal Press.

Schein, E. H. (1980). Organizational psy-
chology (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice-Hall.

——— (1988). Process consultation:
Volume I (2nd ed.). Reading, MA:
Addison-Wesley.

——— (1969). Process consultation. Read-
ing, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Schroeder, M. (1974). The shadow consul-
tant. The Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 10, 579-94.

Sullivan, R., & Sullivan, K. (1995). Essential
competencies for internal and external
OD consultants. In W. Rothwell, R.
Sullivan, & G. McLean (Eds.), Practic-
ing organization development: A guide for
consultants (pp. 535 – 549). San Fran-
scisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Tichy, N. M. (1974). Agents of planned
social change: Congruence of values,
cognitions, and actions. Administrative
Science Quarterly, 19, 164-82

Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge, PhD,
is the creator and driving force
behind Quality & Equality, a UK
based consulting firm. Her areas
of expertise are Organization
Development, Big System change,
and Equality and Diversity. She
works with clients from all sec-
tors, including multinational blue
chip companies, higher education,
government agencies, public sec-
tor organizations, and charities.
She is the author of a number of
OD articles, frequently teaches
at the National School of Govern-
ment and other major corporate
top management programs, and
is a Visiting Fellow of Roffey Park
Institute. In June 2008 she was
voted one of the 25 most influ-
ential thinkers in HR by the UK
publication HR Magazine. She can
be reached at [email protected]

47The Self as an Instrument: A Cornerstone for the Future of OD

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Abstract

At the risk of some simplification, the purpose of
this article is to show that HR split into two sig-
nificantly different functions (administration and
development) and that pressure for bottom line
results has effectively strangled the ability of
either human resources departments (HR) and
organization development departments (OD) to
focus on humanizing the workplace or attending
to conditions amenable to employee self-actual-
ization. At the same time, the article highlights
the irony that many of the tools of OD have
become integrated into the managerial repertoire,
but not for their original purposes. I hope to stim-
ulate some reflection among practitioners and
academics regarding where we are heading in the
hope that we may recommit ourselves to human
betterment as well as organizational profitability.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Frost, R. (1920, p. 9).

Human resources (HR) and organization devel-
opment (OD), both enable people to contribute
fully to the purpose of the organization. They
could be, in effect, two roads to the same destina-
tion – employee self-actualization – while fully
contributing to the organization’s advancement. I
suggest that both did serve that function at differ-
ent times in their evolution, but today are

9Volume 30 � Number 1 � Spring 2012

Two Roads to the
Bottom Line: HR and OD

John Nirenberg

Dr. John Nirenberg is a professor of
Leadership and Organizational Change
at Walden University. John’s books
include The Living Organization:
Transforming Teams Into Workplace
Communities; Power Tools: A Leader’s
Guide to the Latest Management
Thinking, and Global Leadership. He

consults to organizations about leadership, workplace
community, organizational culture, motivation and inno-
vation.

Contact Information
John Nirenberg, Ph.D.
Walden University
[email protected]

focused solely on the bottom line.

Today’s HR department evolved from the efforts
of Robert Owen, the managing partner of a very
successful Scottish cotton mill in the 19th century.
He remedied the Dickensian conditions of factory
life and is considered the “father of modern per-
sonnel administration” (George 1972, p. 63).
Attention to working conditions eventually beat a
path through Henry Ford’s “sociological depart-
ment” (Bratton & Gold, 1999, p. 6) that was the
employment office and paymaster doling out the
then superlative wage of $5 per day. Over the
years, HR has been the advocate of better treat-
ment for employees and, since the Hawthorn
experiments, the center for research and develop-
ment in search of the most effective combination
of employer conditions that would lead to the
highest productivity without turnover. Eventually,
HR became more concerned with the mechanics
of employment, formal labor relations, and super-
vision; while OD focused on the development of
the interface between the system and the employ-
ees.

At the risk of some simplification, the purpose of
this article is to show that HR split into two sig-
nificantly different functions (administration and
development) and that pressure for bottom line
results has effectively strangled the ability of
either HR or OD to focus on humanizing the
workplace or attending to conditions amenable to
employee self-actualization. At the same time, the
article highlights the irony that many of the tools
of OD have become integrated into the manageri-
al repertoire, but not for their original purposes. I
hope to stimulate some reflection among practi-
tioners and academics regarding where we are
heading.

HR and OD: Two Roads to Well Being?

After reviewing over 80 research documents,
Wirtenberg, Abrams, and Ott (2004) surveyed
6,000 members of the OD Network, the OD
Institute, and the International OD Association in
a study of the OD profession. They found that
“Respondents to this survey indicated that the
field of OD (a) lacks a clear, distinct definition; (b)
needs greater quality control/effectiveness and
business acumen among OD practitioners; and
(c) lacks clarity around its return on investment
and perceived value of the work performed”
(p. 1).

Some of the most telling respondent comments in
their study were:

People who do OD are not business focused,
they cannot speak the same language as their
clients…. Many business executives see OD as
ancillary to the core business strategy—OD
practitioners need to be steeped in the
business and be able to speak in business
terms. If not, executives will see OD as soft
and academic… The OD community is
typically very weak in understanding
business and not good when the business
issues are complex…We need to understand
the needs of CEOs and provide immediate
solutions. (p. 473)

The HR community has also faced such criticisms
periodically after which, self-doubts lead to a
renewed focus on business results measured in
ROI (Paauwe, 2009). In turn, this leaves the harder
to measure process-related functions such as
mediation, conflict resolution, and personal
growth in the background. There has been a per-
sistent effort to justify HR through ROI measures.
For example, at a symposium at Simon Fraser

10 Organization Development Journal

University it was claimed that “HR executives,
frustrated with the lack of respect for the HR
function and concerned with communicating the
significant strategic contributions of HR, are
adopting the ROI methodology as a proactive
approach to demonstrating organizational align-
ment, contribution, and results from HR prac-
tices” (Phillips and Phillips as cited in Simon
Fraser University, 2009).

Pressure From the Bottom Line

Human resources departments evolved from per-
sonnel departments, which evolved from admin-
istration departments, which evolved from the
coat pockets of founding entrepreneurs. The func-
tion of HR is straightforward, if laden with myri-
ad compliance responsibilities and assorted for-
malities including monitoring the employee-
organization relationship. According to the
Society for Human Resource Management
(SHRM) in a document entitled The future of the
HR profession (http://www.Shrm.org), HR is still
evolving; currently, into the talent management
department.

“Broadly defined, talent management is a compa-
ny’s ability to attract, retain and motivate employ-
ees. While talent management has always been
part of HR’s mission, a combination of demo-
graphic and market forces will bring new urgency
to cultivating a workforce that offers true compet-
itive advantage” (SHRM, 2002, p. ii).

Whether it is personnel management, HRM, or
talent management, clearly the purpose of HR is
to improve organizational effectiveness through
cultivating a workforce that offers “true” competi-
tive advantage. The larger point, however, is that
HR, at its core, is about maximizing the return on

its human capital. It always has been. HR then, is
working hard to demonstrate that it is not “weak
on bottom line thinking.” Does that leave OD still
on the road less traveled? Does recognizing the
human impulse to self-actualize remain a legiti-
mate function within workplace organizations?

OD on the Road to Fulfillment

OD developed from a social systems perspective
and unashamedly espoused humanistic values.
Though it made contributions to interpersonal
and team success, it did so because of a funda-
mental belief in the worth of people expressed in
their entitlement to a decent workplace experi-
ence. Virtually all of the tools of OD were
designed to enhance interpersonal communica-
tions, conflict resolution, and personal expression
in a trusting environment (Anderson, 2010). If
workers were simply cogs in a machine or hired
hands as in the pre-OD days, OD need not exist.
But if organizations were to truly tap the potential
of people in the workplace they would need the
ability to communicate fearlessly, a goal that still
remains illusive in most workplaces today.

Organization development started out rather con-
ventionally. According to the OD Network
(http://www.odnetwork.org), quoting Richard
Beckhard, (1969) OD “is an effort (1) planned, (2)
organization-wide, and (3) managed from the top,
to (4) increase organization effectiveness and
health through (5) planned interventions in the
organization’s ‘processes,’ using behavioral-sci-
ence knowledge.”

There is nothing particularly humanistic about it.
Beckhard’s definition is clearly bottom line orient-
ed.

11Volume 30 � Number 1 � Spring 2012

The rise of the New OD (in contrast to Beckhard’s
view that leaves out individual development as
part of the purpose of OD) was built atop the
quality of life movement from the mid-1960s to
the mid 1980s. OD developed a growing concern
for personal self-actualization and people’s desire
to find meaning in the pursuit of a worthy organi-
zational vision (Argyris, 1957; Maslow, 1965,
1975). To make that possible, OD embraced many
humanistic values and participative practices that
suggested a democratization of the decision-mak-
ing processes and concerns for stakeholder as
well as stockholder interests. Indeed, with the
coincident rise of the environmental sustainability
movement and the cries for corporate social
responsibility (CSR), it would be easy to claim
that conventional OD has been much too
amenable to corporate interests. The underlying
humanistic values of New OD should be more in
demand now than ever – at least among employ-
ees in this country – especially since the demise of
unions, the increase in average hours spent work-
ing (Williams & Boushey, 2010) and the reduction
of benefits including vacation time
(http://www.cbsnews.com/stories, Our no vaca-
tion nation).

New OD is recognized with the inclusion of a sec-
ond definition, just below Beckhard’s on the same
ODN web page (http://www.odnetwork.org) that
claims OD “…is a field directed at interventions
in the processes of human systems (formal and
informal groups, organizations, communities, and
societies) in order to increase their effectiveness
and health using a variety of disciplines, princi-
pally applied behavioral sciences. OD requires
practitioners to be conscious about the values
guiding their practice and focuses on achieving its
results through people.” (Minors, n.d.)

It is this second definition that suggests OD isn’t
simply one of the 13 domains of HR, but has a
distinct purpose in addition to organizational
effectiveness that makes all the difference: to
increase effectiveness and health of the organiza-
tion while being conscious of the values guiding
personal growth and professional practice. To
take that road less traveled is to truly strive for a
connection between the humanistic and demo-
cratic aspirations of the larger society with the
internal functions of organizations. And in so
doing, it would be easy to think that OD profes-
sionals have lost their way, that they don’t really
understand the nature of business.

I argue that it is quite to the contrary; they know
all too well that if left alone, corporations would
merely follow the organizational imperative as
identified by Scott and Hart (1979), “wherein two
value propositions and four rules comprise the
dominant paradigm of organizational behavior.
The two values are: ‘…whatever is good for the
individual can only come from the modern organ-
ization’ and, ‘…all behavior must enhance the
health of such organizations.’ The rules that but-
tress these two main propositions require employ-
ees ‘…1) to be obedient to the decisions of superi-
or managers, 2) to be technically rational, 3) to be
good stewards of other people’s property, and 4)
to be pragmatic (pp. 31-32).

As the organizational imperative has matured, it
has come to mean much more. It assumes the
willingness of the individual to sacrifice for the
good of an organization in which he or she is not
a stakeholder beyond wages received.

Traditionally, it also assumed that property rights
as exercised by owners of organizations over their
material wealth extends to the ownership of the

12 Organization Development Journal

employees who work for them. This reduces indi-
viduals to a state of virtual wage slavery stripping
them of many of the qualities that make them
unique human beings and their lives worth liv-
ing” (Nirenberg, 1993, p. 41).

If you are practicing in organization development,
facing this institutional reality comes with the ter-
ritory. Walking this road has led OD practitioners
to both meaningful work, especially when we
contribute to the improvement of human well
being in social systems, and to their being consid-
ered irrelevant and unrealistic because they
appear to be ignoring the very same bottom line
that pays their salaries.

Unfortunately, both the HR and OD roads seem to
be merging once again into their classical origins
of organizational effectiveness with minimum
attention to human well-being.

Maybe it’s a variation on the means-end ethical
challenge. Are employees solely instruments of an
organization or are they ends in themselves and
entitled to be treated as such? Can all personal
benefit unrelated to the bottom line be stripped
from the treatment of people in the workplace?
Are organizations justified in returning to sweat-
shop-like conditions because it would improve
the bottom line? For HR people made to justify
their roles, employees may simply become a
means to an end or they jeopardize their own
jobs. Then, as all slack (financial resources as well
as time) is removed from the workplace, HR
devotes less time to the process (non ROI) matters
and more time on efficiency and carefully moni-
toring the means of employee recruitment, selec-
tion, assignment, compensation, training, promo-
tion, evaluation, and dismissal.

New OD, on the other hand, if it remains viable at
all, focuses on the ineffable aspects of forming a
productive and satisfying organizational culture,
helping to build a “great place to work,” helping
teams work smoothly, building productive rela-
tionships, and possibly even promoting self-actu-
alization. Unfortunately, for many OD practition-
ers personal growth is again only a coincidence
(Slim, 2009). Curiously, this has developed
because the techniques of OD, as originally con-
ceived under Beckhard’s definition, have been co-
opted by mainstream management practitioners
and educators. For both normative HR and OD,
increasingly the bottom line must be their sole
justification. For them the roads have again con-
verged.

An Ironic Pit Stop

HR is indispensable, especially for large organiza-
tions if for no other reason than the need to
administer the individual-institution relationship
and government regulations. OD on the other
hand, especially if it is promoted as a way of
building community or self-actualization, is all
too frequently seen as a luxury affordable only in
good times or crisis, but not as a standard func-
tion designed to build healthy workplaces. In a
sense the value orientation of OD as a means to
collective effectiveness requires much time to
learn, practice and process in an environment typ-
ified by goal-oriented impersonal action where
results are not always immediately visible.

While HR is satisfying a basic functional need,
values based OD, where it survives, is primarily a
set of communication techniques that break down
barriers and stimulates the spontaneous sharing
of one’s best ideas and most compassionate
behavior in the service of interpersonal creativity,

13Volume 30 � Number 1 � Spring 2012

innovation, achievement, and well-being. And
that is increasingly being challenged by the inten-
sifying bottom line thinking resulting from the
organizational imperative designed to contain
and strategically direct human energy for only
one thing: profitability.

Values-oriented OD takes time, and diverts atten-
tion from simply getting the job done. This is
costly and anxiety-provoking in an age when all
slack is being removed from human systems and
our addiction to email, texting, relentless net-
working, and typing on one keyboard or another
fill all time with lip service to reflect, to build rela-
tionships, and self-actualize on the job.

In its heyday from approximately 1975 to 1985,
OD introduced many techniques to improve the
effectiveness of both individual and organization.
Reflection, action research, brainstorming, feed-
back, dialogue, and future search – almost all of
them have now become routine. Frequently man-
agers with or without OD advice now utilize
these (and many more) techniques to achieve
their purposes regardless of their impact on the
individual – though there is sometimes a coinci-
dent positive feeling just being involved. The
irony is striking. While OD practitioners are
accused of not paying attention to the bottom
line, otherwise hardnosed managers are using
techniques that were invented in the OD commu-
nity to help improve the bottom line.

Techniques that were once used to help build
trust, communicate deeply and help disparate
groups work together as teams for personal and
organizational betterment are today part of the
fabric of organizational life but, less frequently in
the service of personal satisfaction. We now find
them an everyday part of our lives at work, in the

community, in school. In many areas of our lives
where we need to get to the point in a hurry, or
just need to exploit the participants for their
ideas, we turn to these techniques to keep them
focused and productive. Thus, OD, as it is popu-
larly understood, is becoming just another well-
traveled road to additional organizational control.

The Best Places to Work

The Great Place to Work Institute that creates the
“100 Best Companies to Work For” list for Fortune
(http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/),
involves measures of qualities that rarely occur
naturally in organizations – such as a climate of
trust. For a climate of trust to be created where it
may not already exist, OD still serves a useful
purpose. But the climate piece is often overlooked
when a great place to work is described.

For example, SAS, is a private software company
ranked number 1 this year on Fortune’s list. What
makes it so great? According to the 2010 list
(Moskowitz, Levering, & Tkaczyk, 2010) “One of
the Best Companies for all 13 years [of the list],
SAS boasts a laundry list of benefits — high-quali-
ty child care at $410 a month, 90% coverage of the
health insurance premium, unlimited sick days, a
medical center staffed by four physicians and 10
nurse practitioners (at no cost to employees), a
free 66,000-square-foot fitness center and natatori-
um, a lending library, and a summer camp for
children. The architect of this culture — based on
‘trust between our employees and the company’ —
is Jim Goodnight, its co-founder, and the only
CEO that SAS has had in its 34-year history. Some
might think that with all those perks, Goodnight
was giving away the store. Not so. SAS is highly
profitable…[and] turnover is the industry’s lowest
at 2%” (p. 75). This description is obviously

14 Organization Development Journal

appealing and the strengths of the founder’s val-
ues have indeed created the trust that is essential
to successful OD as well as to being a “great place
to work.”

Even at number 100 on the list, Colgate-Palmolive
is still “great” according to Fortune. “What makes
it so great? [The] king of [the] toothpaste market
recruits with this come-on: ‘No matter where in
the world you may want to work, Colgate can
take you there.’ Appropriate since roughly 80% of
sales come from outside the U.S. Top manage-
ment ranks are studded with people who have
international experience, including CEO Ian
Cook, who joined the company in 1976 in
Britain.”

Though it might be a great opportunity to work
in places from Argentina to Zimbabwe, it says lit-
tle about the individual-organizational relation-
ship. Neither of these companies could survive
without effective HR to manage these benefits
and both have OD functions, presumably to keep
the trust alive.

So, if the cultures that result in employee satisfac-
tion and great work environments have sensible
HR and OD practices to thank, why do HR and
OD professionals feel so defensive and some
downright vulnerable to claims they are not being
properly bottom line focused (Paauwe, 2009)?

In addition to the Trust Index response that
accounts for two-thirds of a company’s score on
the great place to work survey, management’s
credibility, employee job satisfaction and cama-
raderie are also accounted for by the Institute’s
Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions
about hiring, communication, and diversity
among other things.

The Great Place to Work Institute
(http://www.greatplacetowork.com) reports that,
“Trust is the essential ingredient for the primary
workplace relationship between the employee and
the employer. According to our model, trust is
composed of three dimensions: Credibility,
Respect, and Fairness” http://www.greatplace-
towork.com/our-approach/what-is-a-great-work-
place, para. 5). These are followed by pride and
camaraderie.

OD is an integrative field as well as a set of skills
(Friedlander & Brown, 1974; Mendenhall &
Oddou,1983; French, Bell, & Zawacki, 2000).
Psychology, anthropology, sociology, education,
and interpersonal communications (and more) all
contribute to the body of knowledge and the
repertoire of exercises, instruments and tech-
niques to get us to talk with, and understand one
another in a mutually productive manner. Not
surprisingly though, this knowledge, without a
commitment to values, is often put to question-
able use – the manipulation by marketers, the
psychological operations (psyops) in the U.S. mili-
tary that justify “enhanced interrogation” tech-
niques (Zimbardo, 2007), and even the current use
of social scientists to serve the war effort in
Afghanistan, are highly visible examples (Price,
2011).

As Hugh Gusterson, board member of the
American Anthropological Association recently
said, “It’s impossible to be embedded in American
military units in Afghanistan, collecting informa-
tion about local villages, and not be complicit
with actions that result in the death or imprison-
ment of some of the people you talk to”
(http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?sto
ryId=125502485).

15Volume 30 � Number 1 � Spring 2012

Thus, it isn’t a surprise that innovations once cre-
ated for a mutually positive good (individual and
organizational) often squeeze out the individual
as the lack of time, money, or motivation presses
upon the organization to achieve some form of
“sustainable competitive advantage.”

When OD consultants’ efforts result in an organi-
zation landing on the “100 Best Companies to
Work For” list, OD as decoration may in fact
prove to be an effective substitute for higher com-
pensation, psychological well-being, creating
shared meaning, and building real community.
Individual aspiration and serving a larger societal
purpose are not part of the criteria to be on the
list, though some companies have a more natural
connection to these ideas than others. Many mem-
bers of the OD community would undoubtedly
rather see such criteria used. Instead, the great
places to work are often reduced to exotic benefits
and employment stability, and their place on a
chart to attract job applicants.

As OD terms and technologies become wide-
spread, if not universal, and the language is pre-
empted for strictly organizational purposes, con-
cepts such as dialogue, open communication,
trust, feedback, brainstorming, conflict resolution,
mediation, team building, collaboration, and the
learning organization become tools for process
improvement, but only coincidentally for human
betterment. While not exactly Orwell’s (1949)
newspeak, the human betterment suggested in
using these terms occupies a smaller and smaller
part of the purpose in employing them. In the
midst of being co-opted by adherence to the orga-
nizational imperative and, without a strong val-
ues orientation, when OD is applied as just a
means to an economic end, it risks becoming just
another reason to be even more cynical about
work life.

End of the Road

The evidence-based empiricism of industrial-
organizational psychology is contributing metrics
for every aspect of HR from recruitment, selec-
tion, placement, testing, and performance assess-
ment per job specifications (blue collar) or per
goal attainment (white collar), skill assessment
and even temperament training (emotional intelli-
gence), compensation, and dismissal. In short, the
drive to the bottom line demands that all HR’s
key performance indicators be measurable and
shown to be connected to the bottom line, like
everyone else’s.

From this perspective, human resources (people)
are indeed a cost to be contained, an element in
the economic formula that needs to be shaped
and controlled as any other element in the supply
chain. Personal self-actualization and collective
well-being simply have no place. Today, it isn’t
about values; it is about economic reality and the
way of the business world, according to
Wirtenberg, Abrams, and Ott (2004). Those that
make it an issue are clearly just not professional;
they’re just not team players.

The Conference Board reported last year that job
satisfaction reached the lowest level in 20 years
(Conference Board, 2010). Based on a survey of
5,000 households, it found that only 45% say they
are satisfied with their jobs. In 1987 that figure
was 61.1%.

According to a spokesperson for the Conference
Board, “The drop in job satisfaction between 1987
and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from
interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) to
job security (down 17.5 percentage points) and
crosses all four of the key drivers of employee

16 Organization Development Journal

engagement: job design, organizational health,
managerial quality, and extrinsic rewards.” This
doesn’t speak well for either the HR or the OD
communities. Rather, I believe it emphasizes the
increasingly bottom line focus on all workplace
endeavors.

Plainly, our hyper-competitive, globalized, 24/7
business environment requires the full utilization
of human as well as material resources. Any slack
or surplus in their acquisition and application is
considered waste. Why spend money on organi-
zation development when we just need to get the
work out? Why indulge a workforce with OD
interventions when it is simpler just to expect
everyone to handle their own issues?

Given this rather bleak scene, should we just fol-
low HR down the return on investment justifica-
tion path and simply abandon our values? Have
OD professionals already done so in light of our
inability to sell our wares as good for community
building?

It seems that much of our technology from action
research to brainstorming to team building to dia-
logue and coaching, if not t-groups, are now
mainstream. The interpersonal techniques once
pioneered by NTL (http://www.ntl.org/) in the
1950s and 1960s, and Pfeiffer and Jones in the
1970s (Pfeiffer & Jones,1972 – 2004) are now
embedded in the culture of business. Workshops
and participation are expected. Flip charts and
whiteboards are everyone’s tools and the colored
pen-marks on one’s hands and clothes are the sign
of an intensive session that has become routine
daily practice, but not evidence of work toward
self-actualization.

References

Anderson, D.L. (2010). Organization development:
The process of leading organizational change.
Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Argyris, C. (1957). Personality and organization.
New York: Harper & Row.

Beckhard, R. (1969). Organization development:
Strategies and models. Reading, MA:
Addison-Wesley.

Bratton, J., & Gold, J. (1999). Human resource
management: Theory and practice. Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates.

CBS News (2010, May 30). Our no vacation nation.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories, our no
vacation nation

Conference Board (2010, January 5th). U.S. job
satisfaction at lowest level in two decades.
Press Release.

Cox, J.W., & Minahan, S. (2006). Organizational
decoration: A new metaphor for
organization development. The Journal of
Applied Behavioral Science, 42 (2), 227-243.

Fortune (2010, February 8th). The best companies
to work for. 161(2) 56-64. Retrieved from
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/
fortune/bestcompanies/2010/

French, W.L., Bell, C.H., & Zawacki, R.A. (2000).
Organization development and transformation:
Managing effective change. Boston, MA:
Irwin-McGraw-Hill.

Friedlander, F., & Brown, L.D., (1974).
Organization development. Annual Review
of Psychology, doi:
10.1146/annurev.ps.25.020174.001525

Frost, R. (1920). Mountain interval. New York:
Henry Holt.

Gatrell, V. A. C (Ed.). (1969). Robert Owen: Report to
the County of Lanark and a new view of
society. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books.

17Volume 30 � Number 1 � Spring 2012

George, C.S. Jr. (1972). The history of management
thought. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice
Hall.

Maslow, A. H. …

“… crossword puzzles present a good metaphor for the work we do as OD practitioners. We look
for clues that will bring together the people in organizations who need to be connected.”

By Eric J. Sanders and
W. Warner Burke

This article extends the celebration of 
two anniversaries: 50 years of building a 
community of organization development 
practitioners by the Organization Develop-
ment Network (ODN) and 100 years for 
the crossword puzzle (Chaneski & Kagan, 
2013). There is a connection between these 
two events, as what we do as OD practitio-
ners is bring people from different parts 
of the organizations we serve together, just 
like the clues in a crossword puzzle. 

Making connections is indeed how 
the idea of this article came about. The 
authors are the first Executive Director 
of ODN, Warner Burke, and one of the 
present ODN Regional Connectors, Eric 
Sanders. We first met at Benedictine 
University  several years ago, and had the 
pleasure of talking a bit more in Novem-
ber 2013, as Burke visited Benedictine 
again and  Sanders provided transporta-
tion from Burke’s hotel to the campus. 
When I (Sanders) picked Burke up the 
first evening, he was sitting in the hotel 
lounge, sipping a martini and working on 
a crossword puzzle. He said that was his 
usual way of relaxing at the end of the day 
and we chatted for a few minutes, and then 
went to the university. Later it occurred to 
us that crossword puzzles present a good 
metaphor for the work we do as OD prac-
titioners. We look for clues that will bring 
together the people in organizations who 
need to be connected. In that light, let’s 
examine our work. 

1 ACROSS.
Individuals who join things
together through intervention:
C O N N E C T O R S

In an interview on NPR, Shane Mueller, a 
psychologist at Michigan Tech, talked about 
research he did regarding the mental func-
tions used when people solve a crossword 
puzzle (Cole, 2013). The key to success was 
not vocabulary or seeing patterns, although 
both of those skills are clearly useful. 
The key was the ability to make decisions 
quickly. The best crossword solvers can see 
what the outcomes of a decision might be, 
choose a path, and follow it. 

 Ultimately, what we do in OD is much 
like that. We hold diagnostic sessions 
with our clients, jointly make decisions 
about how we might best help them 
help themselves, mutually carry out the 
agreed-upon actions, and then evaluate the 
results. Generally a large part of whatever 
intervention we offer includes facilitating 
conversations—making connections—
between individuals and/or groups. These 
are people who work together and ought to 
be speaking with each other, but frequently 
do not. In a recent project, a client of mine 
(Sanders) observed that one of the key 
values I added was serving as a liaison 
between the business people and the 
technical people in the organization. Part 
of that work was simply rearranging the 
conference room during a meeting so that 

P 6
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C 1 O 2 N N E C T O R S
R P
G L
A T 7 O G E T H E R

D 3 E V E L O P M E N T
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Z
A
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P 4 R A C T I T I O N E R S
O

B 5 R I N G

35Connectors: Organization Development Practitioners Bring People Together

people involved were closer to each other. 
As both of us have told many students, part 
of working as an OD practitioner is being 
willing and able to move furniture. Simply 
reducing the physical distance between the 
people changed the way they interacted, 
and helped them connect with each other. 

Gladwell (2000) expands this connec-
tor role by adding two other roles: mavens 
– those who know where everything is in 
the organization and who knows what; and 
salesmen – those who are really good at 
selling ideas. Cross, Ernst, and Pasmore 
(2013) expand the connector’s role further 
still. Their additional categories can be 
especially helpful in working with loosely 
coupled systems: 
 » Connector – similar to our thinking and 

Gladwell’s.
 » Expert – knowledgeable organizational 

members (similar to Gladwell’s maven).
 » Broker – serves as a liaison between 

individuals and units and facilitates 
collaboration.

 » Energizer – stimulates others with 
enthusiasm and ideas (similar to 
Gladwell’s salesman).

 » Resisters – those who block change and 
tend to drain energy from others. 

While it is useful for the OD practitioner 
to perform these roles, it is perhaps more 
appropriate to find those organizational 
members who have these skills and 
encourage them to act accordingly—except 
for resisters, of course. That can be done 
through a variety of interventions, includ-
ing coaching, offsite retreats, focus groups, 
and team meetings, especially leadership 
team meetings. The key is to find a way 
to work together with the client to ensure 
these connecting roles are performed.

2 DOWN.
A group formed for a particular
purpose:
O R G A N I Z A T I O N

Trick question time: Where do must OD 
practitioners work to successfully help their 
clients? Or to put it more academically, 
what is the unit of analysis one is to help, 
if not change? You might be working with 
a specific team or business unit, but that is 

only a subset of whom you are truly serv-
ing. You need to be able to connect the peo-
ple in the group to the entire organization 
and its strategy for them to fully succeed. 
As I noted (Burke, 2005) when comparing 
“organization development” with “organi-
zationAL development” (emphasis added): 

… organization is a noun; organi-
zational an adjective. Organization 
development (OD) means the develop-
ment of the organization, the entity as 
a whole. Organizational development 
means some aspect of development. 
Organizational is a modifier of devel-
opment – modified development, 
implying that the organization as a 
whole is not the focus. Instead, the 
focus is on some part, some dimen-
sion, some element of the organiza-
tion, not the total system. (p. 1)

In his autobiography, Robert Blake (1992) 
said that the work that he and Jane Mou-
ton did on conflict resolution between 
and within teams showed them that the 
mechanics of communication and other 
basic skills was not enough to reduce 
conflict. Teams in organizations compete 
for limited resources. When that competi-
tion becomes internecine conflict, what is 
needed is a shared superordinate goal – an 
organization-level objective. Only then can 
the competing groups set aside their con-
flicts and achieve a larger purpose. 

Recall that Dick Beckhard’s classic 
definition of OD says: 

Organization Development is an 
effort (1) planned, (2) organization-
wide, and (3) managed from the top, 
to (4) increase organization effective-
ness and health through (5) planned 
interventions in the organization’s 
“processes,” using behavioral-science 
knowledge. (1969, p. 9)

Each phrase in that definition has impor-
tant meaning. Our interventions have 
to be carefully constructed (even while 
improvising, we need to know where we 
are taking the clients), and must have the 
welfare of the entire organization in mind. 
That is not to say that we cannot or should 

not work with individuals or groups within 
a larger system. It is only to say that we 
have to balance the multiple organizational 
levels we service simultaneously. You must 
see the trees AND the forest. Neither one 
alone is enough. Last, but not least, we 
work to change the organization’s pro-
cesses (broadly speaking) through skillful 
applications of behavioral science knowl-
edge. There is definitely an art to what we 
do, but that art is supported by many years 
of research. 

3 ACROSS.
Gradual advancement through
progressive stages, growth
from within:
D E V E L O P M E N T

The clue above is one definition of the 
term development from the Oxford English 
Dictionary (2015). Development involves 
change, and the emphasis on growth from 
within is critical in our work, as well as 
movement through iterative phases, a 
topic we will address further below. We 
employ sociotechnical systems change 
methods to help the people in the organi-
zations we serve change themselves. This 
may involve a minor tune-up or a radical 
overhaul of the system. The key is that we 
help the organization change itself. As 
McGregor and Beckhard were consulting 
with General Mills in the late 1950s, they 
had to come up with a term for what they 
were doing to change work structures and 
decision-making processes with input from 
the shop floor. They did not want to call it 
“bottom-up management,” “sociotechnical 
systems,” or “organization improvement,” 
and eventually came up with the term 
“organization development” (Beckhard, 
1997). The idea of development, like the 
emergence of an image on photographic 
paper when exposed to the right chemicals 
and the right intensity and duration of 
light, is a core part of what we do. 

How do we go about doing develop-
ment in organizations? In 2013 we lost two 
of the giants in our field, Edie and Charlie 
Seashore. Charlie Seashore was known for 
asking good questions of his students and 
clients. One of those key questions was 
“How do you see your role in this group?” 

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 47 No.2 201536

(Fortune & Langenegger, 2013, p. 3). As 
OD consultants, that question may have 
multiple answers for us in any given group, 
depending on our and the group’s objec-
tives. More than likely, we will answer it 
using Edgar Schein’s Process Consultation 
(1999) model. Our work involves develop-
mental processes through which we help 
clients learn to help themselves. As we 
do that, we move between the key roles 
consultants play: 
 » Expert: selling and telling the solution 

to their and the organization’s self- 
diagnosed problems; sometimes includ-
ing execution in what is effectively a 
staff augmentation role. 

 » Doctor-patient: where the OD practi-
tioner comes in quickly to assess the 
organization, determines what ails it, 
prescribes a solution for the client to 
implement, and then leaves the client 
to make the necessary changes.

 » Process consultation: where the OD 
practitioner works collaboratively 
with the client to understand and act 
on the client’s situation, as defined by 
the client. 

In the first two roles, there is little true 
knowledge transfer, because the client 
self-diagnoses the problem and brings in 
the consultant to fix it. Thus the consultant 
owns the problem and its solution. Only in 
process consultation does the consultant 
truly work to develop the client, so they can 
be successful on their own. The client owns 
the problem, and we jointly use an action 
research process to create a solution to it. 
Our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out 
of a job. And the best OD practitioners do 
that regularly. 

4 ACROSS.
Individuals who regularly do
activities that require skills:
P R A C T I T I O N E R S

Returning to the research on crossword 
puzzles, Mueller and Thanasuan (2014) 
constructed an experiment to determine 
how people make good decisions quickly. 
They note that in many expert domains, 
people quickly recall a large amount of 
knowledge to solve problems under new 
constraints. Using crossword puzzles, 

which provide semantic (word) clues and 
orthogonal (placement and contextual) 
clues, they were able to develop and test a 
recognition-primed decision model. They 
found that the best crossword-solvers were 
able to rapidly assess the clues given in the 
situation, while working within the con-
straints given (word length, letters already 
present, etc.) and come up with solutions. 

Is not that what we do with our clients 
every day? We recognize situations in their 
organization’s milieu, and then work with 
them to find the best solutions given the 
constraints that people, time, and place 
put on us. Sadler-Smith and Shefy (2005) 
discussed this kind of decision-making as 
“intuition-as-experience,” where leaders 
choose the best course of action because 
they have seen similar situations previ-
ously, and immediately know what to 
do. This is juxtaposed with “intuition-as-
feeling” where one may take some environ-
mental clues, and then uses “gut feeling” 
to choose the correct response. We use our 
heads and our guts with our clients, and 
help them (and ourselves) learn solutions 
along the way. Charlie Seashore put it 
this way: “…the Use of Self is putting into 
action our best intentions to move towards 
some desired new state of affairs” (Sea-
shore, Nash, Thompson, & Mattare, 2004, 
p. 50). He was known also to encourage 
us to use his version of the 80-20 Rule: “It 
is 80 percent about them and 20 percent 
about you” (Fortune & Langenegger, 2013, 
p. 50). So long as we keep that focus in 
our work, we are likely to be helpful to 
our clients. 

As noted above, we are practitioners. 
There is both art and science to the work 
we do. Through an iterative process of 
action research (Coch & French, 1948; 
Beckhard, 1969; Coghlan & Brannick, 
2010; Burke, 2014), we and our clients 
collaboratively learn possible solutions to 
the issues they face. This involves action, 
practice, and reflection to capture the les-
sons learned. To be successful in OD, we 
need to do all three. 

5 ACROSS.
The opposite of takes:
B R I N G S

Edie Seashore studied with Doug 
McGregor when he was the President of 
Antioch College, and recalled at more than 
one ODN conference how she learned to 
consult from him. She also published the 
story in OD Seasonings (2006) entitled 
“Just One Good Idea.” In her own words: 

Conceptual Model of Human Resource
Management

Strategic Planning

LEGAL COMPLIANCE

Employee Relations/Labor Relations

Total Rewards/Compensation

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Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 9:27–42, 2012

Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

ISSN: 1543-3714 print/1543-3722 online

DOI: 10.1080/15433714.2012.636309

Building a Culture of Learning through
Organizational Development: The Experiences

of the Marin County Health and Human
Services Department

ARLEY LINDBERG
School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA

LARRY MEREDITH
Marin County Health & Human Services, San Rafael, California, USA

After determining a need for organizational change informed by

changes in workforce demographics, community demographics,

the socio-political and economic environment, and constraints

on resources, one agency sought to transform its organizational

culture into that of a learning organization. An external organi-

zational development consultant was hired to work with agency

leadership to identify ways that would help move the agency’s

culture towards one that was conducive to learning. Specifically,

the agency director sought to create a culture where communica-

tion is encouraged both vertically and horizontally, frontline level

workers are engaged and their voices heard, cross-departmental

problem solving is practiced, innovative ideas are supported, and

evidence-informed practice regularly implemented. This case study

describes the experiences of this agency and the process taken

toward engaging an external consultant and moving towards the

development of a culture of learning.

KEYWORDS Culture of learning, organizational development,

organizational change

BECOMING A LEARNING ORGANIZATION

An effective public social service and health agency must be adaptable,
creative, and responsive as it is subject to the ever-changing political, eco-

Address correspondence to Arley Lindberg, School of Social Welfare, University of

California, 120 Haviland Hall #7400, Berkeley, CA 94720. E-mail: [email protected]

27

28 A. Lindberg and L. Meredith

nomic, fiscal, and knowledge environments at the county, state, and national
levels. Furthermore, these agencies are faced with increasing demands and
an ever-present emphasis on performance, accountability, and the avoid-
ance of negative or unacceptable outcomes. In this evolving environment,
public agencies, particularly those that provide health and social services,
are increasingly aware of the benefits of becoming a learning organization.
While there are many components to creating a learning organization, a
critical beginning step in this journey is the recognition by leadership that
new organizational practices and norms are required to maintain relevance,
nimbleness, and effectiveness. This awareness usually occurs after it be-
comes clear that there is increasing tension between the ‘‘old’’ and ‘‘new’’
approaches to ‘‘the work’’, which is undermining organizational alignment
and the ability of the organization to harness its full potential in service of
its mission. Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
is an organization that is in the process of building a learning organization.
The need for organizational change is based on changing community demo-
graphics, a dynamic socio political and economic environment, a workforce
in transition (i.e., Baby Boomers to Generation X), and the unmistakable
reality that the organization must become more effective with constrained
resources.

The director of Marin County’s HHS Department recognized the need to
transform the agency’s organizational culture into a learning organization and
consequently engaged an external organizational development consultant to
build upon the culture change that was already in motion. In particular, the
consultant was engaged to work with leadership and program staff to identify
and address critical blockages to communication and understanding that
were limiting agency learning related to: (a) supports for individual reflection
and creativity, (b) proactive cross-divisional planning, collaboration, and
communications, and (c) the need for quality and effective services and
supports to clients and community as reflected in the agency’s mission.

The HHS director wanted to create a culture where shared values and
motivations are identified, upward communication is encouraged, cross-
divisional problem-solving strategies are utilized, and innovative ideas are
supported. He believed that by creating a culture that is conducive to learn-
ing, the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the agency would be improved
through the use of evidence-informed practice. In addition, the director
believes that in order to affect change, the department needs a resilient,
persistent, and capable staff that is ready to confront complicated socio-
political problems and government regulations.

Furthermore, he emphasizes the importance of working with clients and
community partners as allies and as active participants. The director contin-
uously refers to harnessing the power that lies in the shared compassion that
first motivated HHS employees to public service. Finally, the director sees
the diversity within his department in terms of different professional per-

Learning through Organizational Development 29

spectives, work experiences, ages, races, and ethnicity as a powerful tool for
transforming the agency and impacting the community. The department di-
rector contracted with an outside consultant to help transform this vision into
a reality. The initial focus was to address communication issues vertically and
horizontally in the organization and strengthen the Leadership Council (LC).

The LC was originally created by a previous department director in 1999
to increase collaboration across divisions, develop a common approach to
management, increase knowledge sharing, provide trainings, and to develop
methods for performance evaluation. In general, the LC served a community
building purpose and met quarterly for two hours off campus. The LC was
mandatory and consisted of roughly 150 managers and supervisors.

ENGAGING AN EXTERNAL ORGANIZATIONAL

DEVELOPMENT CONSULTANT

Several events prompted the hiring of the organizational development con-
sultant (ODC) in 2005 (new senior staff, links with the county strategic
plan, and responses to the county-wide use of performance management
strategies). First, the department director had hired several new members
for the executive team. Previous program directors, who had a command
and control management style, were replaced with leaders who gave staff
the flexibility to be innovative and take risks. Many staff members had been
conditioned to work in a controlled and structured environment, and the
department director realized that it was unclear for many of them as to how
they should operate within an evolving organizational context with their new
freedom. The department director believed that an outside consultant could
help people work together in new and collaborative ways and support the
development of new models of collaboration (see Appendix A). The hiring
of new executive staff created an opportunity for the agency to transform its
working environment through the involvement of an external ODC.

Second, the department director had been working toward aligning the
goals and strategies of the HHS Department with those of Marin County’s
Strategic Plan through its Performance Plan. The County Strategic Plan con-
sisted of five goals: (a) provide excellent service, (b) create a sustainable
future, (c) promote service excellence, (d) encourage community collabo-
ration and partnering, (e) promote innovative management and employee
development. All goals were integrated into the HHS Performance Plan goal:
Strengthen methods, practices, and systems to ensure efficient and effective
delivery of services and strategic plan implementation.

Strategies to accomplish these related goals identified in the County
Strategic Plan involved identifying empowering management techniques,
providing comprehensive trainings, improving external and internal com-
munication, promoting collaboration, and assessing impact. The core values

30 A. Lindberg and L. Meredith

for Marin County are: trust, integrity, respect, diversity, excellence, account-
ability, responsiveness, quality, innovation, justice, equality, accessibility,
citizenship, and collaboration.1 The director of Marin’s HHS wanted to create
a departmental culture that would demonstrate these values.

Third, in order to successfully adapt to and take advantage of various
accountability and performance focused initiatives (e.g., managing for re-
sults by prioritizing initiatives, creating performance plans and performance
measures, and complying with the County’s new financial management sys-
tem), it was necessary for the HHS Department to transform itself from a
bureaucratic to a learning organization.

THE WORK OF AN ODC

The initial contract with the ODC was for a three-year period. (See At-
tachment A for a description of the ODC). Several factors contributed to
the termination of that contract at 18 months, including a change in the
fiscal environment, as well as an emerging desire by staff to assume greater
responsibility for its transformation into a learning organization if it was to
be sustainable. The scope of ODC services included two key components:

� Complete review, analysis, and update of the strategies, practices, and
services of Marin County’s HHS Department.

� Development of an action plan to modify services to include revised
communication and service delivery models to better meet the needs of
Marin County.

In order to support the continuing evolution into a learning organization,
there needed to be increased attention to customer service and community
partnerships, organization-wide performance management, and the further
development of the executive team, supervisors, and line staff.

The consultation also sought to achieve progress in other areas, in-
cluding:

� Identification of practical areas of intervention necessary for cultural
change within HHS and the empowerment of staff to introduce and update
practices, especially based on gathering customer/client input and sharing
the daily experiences of direct line personnel who maintained the closest
contact with the customer.

� Creating pathways for employees (at all levels) to network and engage
across the silos of divisional work in order to identify common needs and
opportunities to improve customer services.

� Transition from the traditional crisis-oriented ‘‘fix it’’ mentality to a learning
organizational framework of continuous improvement.

Learning through Organizational Development 31

An initial assessment of HHS conducted by the ODC included several
activities: (a) interviews with the director and members of the executive team,
(b) facilitating a full day staff session with the director and the executive team,
(c) surveying members of the LC, (d) facilitating sessions with LC members
without the executive team present, and (e) gathering information from line
staff who were not members of the LC. Highlights of the assessment are
provided below.

Disconnect from County Government

The HHS Department was functioning mostly as a stand-alone department,
separate from other county agencies. When surveyed, only 26% of HHS
LC members (a cross section of supervisors and managers from across the
department) felt they had any connection with other county departments,
even when serving the same customers. In addition, the county directives
from the County Administrative Officer and the Board of Supervisors were
seen as disconnected from HHS and burdensome, rather than helpful and
well intended. There were ongoing references to ‘‘us versus them’’ rather
than a shared vision as reflected in the county’s strategic plan or the voice
and concerns of service users.

LC Issues

The changes in leadership (three different directors and directions prior to
the current director) had been confusing and disjointing for executive staff
and staff at all levels. The recent predecessor of the current director had
been dynamic, engaging, and had begun a process of reaching beyond
her managers directly to staff for organizational information. It felt as if
major change was just getting underway when the director resigned her
position, leaving a void of disappointment, uncertainty, and distrust created
by leadership instability and changing directions.

Moving from Command and Control to Partnership

The executive team of HHS had new members, a new director, and an
organization that was confronting changing cultural demographics and cus-
tomer needs within Marin County. In order to gain control of the situation
and cope with expanding workloads, the team was exploring a traditional
training model that would align the LC under a philosophy of shared values
and with shared practices. When surveyed, 25% of the LC members thought
that they not only had some relevant work practices to offer but also could
serve as mentors to other staff.

32 A. Lindberg and L. Meredith

Lack of Transparent Decision Making

Decision making and policies for implementation were made from a com-
mand and control framework. The rationales behind changes were not al-
ways transparent and decisions were not tested against the practical back-
drop of daily work experience. Often policies were ignored by staff or
seen as busy work that did not benefit the ‘‘real work’’ of client/customer
need.

Reducing Silos to Share Knowledge and Practices

Due to the changes in leadership, the increasing volume of work, and the
growth of various divisions, each executive manager was overloaded with
their own duties and concerns. The executive team saw little relevance
in sharing promising practices or promoting change in the organization’s
culture. Executive team meetings consisted of updates from the director with
little expectation of priority setting or planning.

In general, there was a lack of knowledge transfer to accomplish com-
bined goals and customer outcomes. The ODC addressed most of these
issues through her work with the executive team, the LC, and the LC steering
committee. She also worked with smaller work units, including community
advisory boards related to various HHS divisions, upper management, and
employees of various HHS divisions, to help identify and address critical
issues. Her work permeated all levels of the department.

THE EXECUTIVE TEAM

The executive team consists of the department director, the chief operations
officer, chief financial officer, directors of each HHS branch, the policy
strategist, and the senior policy analyst. The ODC worked with the executive
team by focusing on: communication and trust, the team’s purpose, roles
and responsibilities, issues and challenges, and problem-solving. This work
was done initially by enlivening the group with humor, innovative practices,
‘‘breaking the rules,’’ and beginning to reframe relationship-building and
workplace communications. They were encouraged to come to meetings
to share questions, examples of best practices, and problems in order to
develop trust and reliance on one another.

The ODC helped the group explore the idea that their role as executive’s
included serving as a representative of the staff and the customers. She
worked with the team to develop a new definition of their organizational
role. The executive team became a ‘‘core body of clear thinkers who have the
discipline, authority, and spirit to draw in the sharpest, newest thinking and
build it into a collective wisdom that becomes a tangible product (the work)

Learning through Organizational Development 33

based on the needs of the community and the internal workforce dynamics.’’2

Attempts to lower the pressure on the team included providing them a
larger context that included partnerships with their staffs and community
members. It was difficult, initially, for the team to give up power to the LC
for example, because the executive team was unsure how to operate in a
more participatory role and unsure if they were welcome to interact ‘‘out
of role.’’ They were coached on how to listen, laugh, say, ‘‘I don’t know,
what have you tried?,’’ rather than feeling responsible for everything in their
jurisdiction.

Some of the main challenges facing the executive team were addressing
the pressure they perceived from the board of supervisors (BOS) to take on
new initiatives when many felt there were not enough resources to make the
initiative successful. Because of the ODC’s background of working with the
BOS she was able to help build a communication bridge between the two
entities by inviting BOS members to meetings and facilitating question and
answer sessions among the executive team and the LC. The BOS learned that
HHS was approachable and that staff wanted to meet them and engage in real
conversations that would help to reduce demands and forge a partnership.
Executive team members thought that it was their role alone to determine the
direction of the department, rather than relying on the staff and community
partners for guidance. There were also dynamics within the team that made
it difficult to operate as a team, including:

� The heads of the smaller divisions felt less important than the larger ones.
� Individuals had different amounts of institutional memory based on their

length of tenure with HHS.
� Team members who recently arrived from outside of the county sometimes

had difficulty communicating new ideas and approaches in ways that
would resonate with long-term team members.

� Executive team members often turned to the director for cues rather than
trusting that disagreement among the team was healthy and necessary for
cultural change (the ODC would occasionally comment on these interper-
sonal dynamics by asking the team to rotate power or address underlying
issues).

Gradually, the team began to realize that their role was to share and
celebrate their successes and concerns and to see the similarities in their
work that reflected the needs of service users. They agreed to share all
requests for new work with the full executive team before agreeing to take
on the proposed project. They also agreed to meet for a half day every
three months in order to summarize and reflect on the work that had been
accomplished, to examine what they were learning, to celebrate their efforts
and accomplishments, and to discuss future organizational goals.

34 A. Lindberg and L. Meredith

THE LC

The ODC’s first efforts to engage the LC was the use of a confidential online
survey with responses directed back to her private address. The survey in-
quired about the purpose of the LC, whether the LC was successful in making
its members more effective leaders, what was needed to improve leadership
skills, and what was needed to help members of the LC operationalize the
department’s values. The responses to the initial survey (over 140 responses)
were clear, unanimous, and honest. According to the survey results, the
purpose of the LC was unclear and left participants frustrated, confused,
and sometimes angry. They felt talked down to, rather than utilized. When
asked how the LC might change, a wealth of ideas were presented. These
responses were shared with the executive team and the director who collec-
tively determined and combined efforts to change practice.

Because of the ODC’s past experience with HHS and the county strategic
planning process, many respondents were familiar with her. She was able to
tap into the informal conversation of the organization, and was approached
by e-mail, in parking lots, hallways, and bathrooms with questions about
what was happening in the agency. The ODC was able to communicate
messages upward that might not have previously reached the executive team
and the director. The HHS director and executive team were very attentive
and listened to staff and customers during these encounters. Members of the
LC were encouraged to listen to their own staffs and to be ready to speak
up on behalf of all those not present in the room.

Some of the changes in the LC planning and logistics included:

� Extending the meeting time to three hours, rather than two, in order to
allow time for greater interaction and information exchange.

� Securing a hotel meeting room that was twice the usual size and ordered
food that was different and varied.

� Using nametags and prizes to welcome and reward group members.
� Making the LC voluntary and thereby reducing its size to include those

most invested in making changes.

In the first reconvening of the LC, which was facilitated by the ODC,
the room was quiet and members hardly spoke. Although many members
had worked with each other for years, many only had an e-mail relationship.
Members were asked to greet one another for the first 30–40 minutes of the
meeting, rather than sitting down, and to make sure that they at least said
hello to everyone in the room. The design of the LC meetings included such
elements as: (a) games that got members out of their seats to discuss their
ideas, (b) the use of bells when new ideas surfaced, and (c) the distribution
of prizes that were gifts of appreciation from the director and the executive
team to those willing to come forward with new effort and ideas. On several

Learning through Organizational Development 35

occasions, executive team members were asked to leave the LC session so
that a more open discussion could occur about strategies they could utilize
to take more control, share more information, exchange more resources, and
really become the heart of a changed organizational culture.

The LC then restructured itself into cross-divisional working teams. These
teams were not pre-determined but were generated from the ideas and
concerns of staff. The work groups include: (a) technology, (b) staff issues,
(c) incentives and rewards, (d) workload, (e) communication planning, and
(f) succession planning. Members of the LC formulated the work groups,
recruited one another to participate, and conducted the sessions on their
own time. Executive team members also participate in the work groups, but
as members, without any supervisory or executive powers. The work groups
proved successful as they accomplished many tasks including: (a) the initia-
tion of a support group for supervisors and managers from the ‘‘staff issues’’
work group, and (b) research and planning for incentive programs within the
agency, by the ‘‘incentives and rewards’’ work group, that eventually led to
the funding of an education/training reimbursement account and an annual
leadership excellence celebration. Overall, the work groups demonstrated
that change was possible when leaders at all levels of the organization work
together to address problems and seek solutions.

The LC gradually began to share its new purpose with the rest of the
organization by ‘‘providing opportunities for networking and team-building
to support cross-divisional communication and relationships, providing train-
ing events, and developing new policies and procedures for the purpose of
improving the department environment.’’3 When surveyed more than a year
after the consultancy, members noted that the most valuable contribution of
the LC was the networking that it enables. Networking increases commu-
nication in the agency and encourages cross-division information sharing,
collaboration, and trust.

The LC steering committee (LCSC) was established to oversee the de-
velopment of the LC and to strengthen the communication bridge between
the executive team and the LC. The LCSC demonstrates that leadership is
available from all employees and includes representatives from each division.
The functions of the LCSC is to ensure that power remains well distributed
in order to keep ideas moving from the customers to policy makers. The
LCSC creates the agenda for the council meetings and carries out many
of the processes that the consultant initiated. The committee’s objectives
have been defined as follows: (a) gather input from LC members, (b) define
crosscutting themes that impact HHS, (c) communicate with the director and
executive team, (d) develop LC activities that address crosscutting themes,
and (e) work with the LC to assure that all points of view are represented.

Some members of the LC still feel that its purpose and functions are
unclear. However, it was also noted that this ambiguity allows the LC to be
flexible and better able to support the agency. In order to avoid a top-down

36 A. Lindberg and L. Meredith

approach and to encourage creativity, some feel it is necessary to let the team
evolve naturally as staff continues to learn how to work collaboratively. The
LC is currently discussing several possible changes. For example, it is now
considering opening the meetings to all who want to participate regardless
if they are in a managing or supervising position. New members can either
be recommended by a manager/supervisor or they can self-select with the
approval of a manager/supervisor. This supports the idea that leadership
exists at all levels of the organization and does not depend on role. The LC
is also currently deciding whether or not some of the work groups are still
necessary since most of their work has been accomplished. Members noted
that the work groups should be created in response to pressing issues and
should terminate when they have accomplished specified goals or have made
significant progress. The LCSC distributed a survey in July 2008 to gather
information on topics of interest, opinions about workgroups, most valuable
contributions, and reasons for attending or not attending LC meetings. The
results from this survey will be used to guide the evolution of the LC. The
director noted that the LC and its steering committee continue to engage staff
in assuming responsibility for organizational change.

CULTURAL CHANGE HIGHLIGHTS

As is the case with change, it is not one but a series of factors which finally
resulted in the organization reaching a tipping point and a new trajectory.
In Marin, a key element was the purchase of property in East San Rafael
(formerly occupied by Lucas Films: Industrial Light and Magic) which created
the opportunity to design an environmentally green physical space which
more completely reflected the HHS mission and promoted the integration of
services with community and holistic practice. This incredible opportunity
has provided a social laboratory for HHS to become a learning organization.
The new Marin Health and Wellness Campus consists of the following array
of services and supports that reflect the depth and breadth of HHS as well
as that of key community partners:

� Adult Mental Health Services
� Children’s Mental Health
� Marin’s Support and Treatment After Release (STAR) Program (services to

mentally ill offenders) and Youth and Family Mental Health Services
� Community Action Marin’s Enterprise Resource Center, and Buckelew Pro-

grams (employment and housing assistance)
� HHS Health Clinics provide immunizations, reproductive health care, HIV/

AIDS, and STD/TB services, as well as health education and counseling
� Children and Family services provide case management, childcare, and

counseling services

Learning through Organizational Development 37

� The Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC)
� Marin Community Clinic, a critical partner in the delivery of primary health

care services to safety-net clients has also relocated to one of the renovated
buildings on the Campus.

The campus provides an array of coordinated services and programs that
reflect evidenced-informed practices and asset-based approaches to serving
the community using family and individual strengths to promote a preventa-
tive ‘‘upstream’’ approach. The campus brings together all of Marin County’s
HHS agency divisions that have diverse tasks, professional orientation, cul-
tures, funding, and training along with volunteers and community members.
The campus will be fully staffed and operational in October of 2008.

One of the key aspects of an organizational learning culture is the pro-
cess of rewarding and creating incentives for leadership development. The
department director and the ‘‘incentives and rewards’’ work group organized
Marin’s HHS Department’s first Celebration of Leadership Excellence, which
took place at the San Geronimo Golf Club on May 15, 2008. The three-
hour event included a summary of accomplished work, lunch, leadership
acknowledgements, and a keynote speaker. During leadership acknowledge-
ments, staff members were free to stand up and recognize their peers for
their excellence in leadership. At the conclusion of the celebration certificates
of appreciation were awarded to supervisors and managers to acknowledge
their leadership excellence. For many staff this event symbolized a cultural
shift and illustrated the department’s support of its leaders, even in times
of scarce resources. The event was considered a positive step forward in
the agency’s goal of becoming a learning organization and will become an
annual event.

FEEDBACK FROM STAFF

Staff …

“Use of self is about being willing to raise up, value, and examine what is going on in the human
dynamics that surround us. This is how we become more open, more widely experienced, and
more effective in our personal interactions with clients.”

Reflections on Values
as an OD Consultant

By Barbara Benedict Bunker I have never been particularly interested in
abstract discussions of values. I was trained
in the era when Milton Rokeach’s work on
values was new and hot stuff (Rokeach,
1973). I only found it vaguely interesting
academically. Bill Gellerman spent years
working on articulating the values that
people believe should be the platform for
OD work. Both NTL and the OD Network
have statements of the values and ethics of
practice that should be taught in the educa-
tion of practitioners.

But my thoughts keep returning to
Chris Argyris’ notion of espoused theory
(what we say we intend) and theory-in-use
(what we actually do and what that behavior
communicates about our values) (Argyris &
Schon, 1974). My observation is that values
driven behavior is something we learn early
in life. Those early formative experiences
are probably as important as professional
codes. This is not to say that we cannot
develop important-to-us values out of our
life experiences. Values that connect with
and enliven us come both from our history
and from our experience. If we pay atten-
tion to our experience, this can and does
happen.

Values and Personal History

Before I became a professor of social psy-
chology, I was for eight years the Director
of Religious Life for the Women’s College
at Duke University. I organized all kinds of
discussion groups from poetry to theology,
managed a big social services program
in the community, and did leadership
training with activities I learned at the

NTL Institute. In the midst of my tenure
at Duke (which was not integrated at that
time), the sit-ins happened in Greensboro,
NC, an hour away from us. Before this
occurred, many of my students had been
agitating within our university to change its
policies and doing collaborative work with
students from North Carolina College, a
black institution in Durham.

The sit-ins galvanized many Duke
students and faculty who organized and
picketed lunch counters, barbershops, and
theaters to get them to integrate. What got
my attention was that the members of the
faculty who supported and participated
in these actions were heavily from the
psychology, sociology, and psychiatry facul-
ties. As I got to know these (mostly) men, I
found that most came from religious back-
grounds, although most were currently not
active in their childhood faith community.
And, when I went on to graduate school
at Columbia University, I again found a
number of faculty and students who were
attracted to the social sciences partly, I
believe, because of their early experience in
deeply faith committed homes.

The culture of the times also shaped
the values of early OD folks – most of
whom were faculty in universities. World
War II was still a present and compelling
memory. Psychology engaged in a deep
exploration of the Authoritarian Personal-
ity (How do people develop the capacity
to treat others inhumanly?) (Adorno et.
al., 1950). Experiments in Social Psychol-
ogy explored when people will conform
(Asch, 1957), when people will injure
others if ordered to do so (Milgram, 1974),

47Reflections on Values as an OD Consultant

the conditions that promote competition
vs. collaboration (Deutsch, 1949), and
when people will help others. The 1960s
embraced Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
and proposal for the self-actualization
of individuals (Maslow, 1962), as well as
Douglas McGregor’s (1960) proposal that
organizations needed theory Y not theory X
leadership.

OD was born and developed in this
value context. Warner Burke’s article in this
issue and Billie Alban’s recent (2014) arti-
cle describes how the NTL PSOD program
that began in the late 1960s separated OD
from the interpersonally focused T-group
training that was so popular then. This was
an early move toward valuing the busi-
ness the organization was in and helping
change dysfunctional processes.

In the subsequent decades, new values
became salient for OD practitioners with-
out negating the foundational ones:
» 1970s: Diversity.
» 1980s: Self managing teams, the value

of empowering groups.
» 1990s:

• Appreciative Inquiry, valuing the
positive as an engine for change
(Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987).

• Engaging the whole system in
change for the future using Large
Group Methods (as opposed to past
oriented problem identification and
problem solving) (Bunker & Alban,
1997, 2006).

» 2000s: Emphasis on emergence,
complexity, self-managing systems,
networking – valuing non bureaucratic
organizational forms.

The breadth, complexity, and specializa-
tion that has occurred in the OD field over
the last 15 years leaves one wondering how
people now entering the field pull all this
together (if they do!).

Two Levels of Values

It is useful to talk about two levels of
values: (a) The values underlying the work
of OD, e.g., participative management
and employee engagement, and (b) values
about how the work is best done by the
consultant (use of self ). This second level

has received less attention of recent years
than it did in the early years of OD. For that
reason, I believe it important to think about
it in today’s world.

The Self Development Journey

Use of self is the OD language for valu-
ing the development of the personal and
interpersonal capacities to be effective
with many types of people in many dif-
ferent situations. For many of us trained
in the 1960s and 1970s, this was seen as
an essential part of the development of an
OD consultant. It meant working on your
“flat sides,” i.e., the underdeveloped or
hindering aspects of your personality. For
some people, for example, that could mean
learning to control reactions, for others to
express more. It is a highly individual and
very personal journey (Seashore, 1999).

I learned to expect that there is always
more to be developed as you move through
life. The goal was not to arrive but to
engage in and value the journey itself. This
means continual learning about yourself
in many contexts. It is not enough to take
workshops and certifications and degrees
in order to become a good OD consultant.
You were expected to always also work on
your own personal development. I think
that the recognition of this value accounts
for the sustained popularity of personal
development programs offered by people
like Charlie and Edie Seashore since
OD began.

How Self Development Works: Feedback,
Mentors, Colleagues, and Networks

The process of self-development happens
in several ways. In my first T-group train-
ing experience, I was told that my major
group behavior was to ask questions (a very
safe way to participate). It really shocked
me as I was unaware of my behavior. As I
learned about group roles, I got clear that
I would be more helpful to the group and
more myself if I also took on other roles,
e.g., making proposals, working to resolve
conflict, etc. One way consultants learn is
through feedback from others.

A mentor is another important way
to get more perspective on yourself. Herb

Shepard, a delightfully egocentric and
talented early OD consultant, often said
about himself, “It takes all of my energy to
stay loose!” I found it a fascinating com-
ment that explained a lot about him, but as
I reflected, I realized that I was much more
tightly wound than I wanted to be. This led
to new ideas about my own life and how I
wanted to develop.

Another mentor, Charlie Seashore, a
man who was enormously helpful to the
personal development of many consultants,
took me aback as he led the first meeting
of the nine week NTL OD Internship at
Bethel, ME in 1968. We were introducing
ourselves and I described my ambivalence
and conflict about being there and at the
same time needing to work on writing my
dissertation. Charlie turned to me and said,
“Well Barbara, maybe this isn’t the right
summer for you to be here.” My stomach
dropped. I had been looking forward to this
experience for years. That comment made
it clear that I had a choice and I needed to
choose how to both be in the program and
do some writing and not spend the sum-
mer strung out in conflict between the two.
I made some decisions, got up early most
days to write, and had a wonderful experi-
ence in the Intern Program. Before Char-
lie’s comment, I didn’t see the choices. I
was stuck in my ambivalence. It also tuned
me in to others who are deeply ambivalent
and their dilemmas.

Use of self is about being willing to
raise up, value, and examine what is going
on in the human dynamics that surround
us. This is how we become more open,
more widely experienced, and more
effective in our personal interactions
with clients.

Peer groups of OD colleagues are a key
way to pursue the use of self-agenda. Some
OD folks have formed either consulting
groups or less formal structures to have
people to talk with that they feel good
about. If it is a business, usually it is fair to
assume that there are some shared values
in the way they believe they should do the
work. There are also looser but equally
meaningful networks of professionals that
talk with each other about their work and
learn from each other. The Open Space
Network is an active conversation that

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 4 201448

involves everything from complex inquiry
to simple how-tos involving practitioners
from around the world. They are a commu-
nity that gets together physically as well as
talking online. Future Search Network also
brings together practitioners for conversa-
tion and inquiry. Regional OD Network
groups while not as focused also provide
many opportunities for learning and
sharing. These nodes of interest provide
a place where practitioners can engage
each other and think about the work they
are doing.

Is Self-Development a Fading Value?

How do you stay sensitive to values that
are important in your own life and stay
professionally competent in this crazy fast
moving world we are now living in? The
notion of “staying centered,” of knowing
who you are is still compelling. In my
own life, it is the people who are doing
this work that I can talk with that keep me
centered and growing. I am a member of
the Portsmouth Consulting Group which
formed in 1981 and, amazingly, is still
meeting three times a year. This group was
not formed to get clients, but rather to have
a place where we could talk with each other
about our work and get advice and counsel.
Over the years we also became good friends
and now our mission is simply to support
each other in our life’s journey. Some of us
are still working, some are retired but very
active as volunteers. We share the value
that you always do better work if you have
colleagues to talk with about your ideas
and to keep you honest. The group is a
safe place where people can explore what
they are thinking about and get honest and
interesting reactions from others. I believe

that all OD consultants benefit from this
type of colleagueship.

Academia – An Area of Discomfort
to be Explored

It is also the case that we develop person-
ally when we encounter different ideas,
experiences, and expertise. I am aware as I
think about recent meetings and encoun-
ters with others that the most stimulating
conversations have come from engaging
ideas from writers and thinkers outside of
OD. Burke’s comment (in this issue) about
the interest that groups in the Academy of
Management are taking in exploring the
possible synergies between practice and
academia is telling. Academia was once the
source of a many new ideas and interven-
tions for OD. OD practitioners’ increasing
separation from academia over the years
has deprived them of engaging some
potentially important issues (Bunker et. al.
2004). If academia is interested in us, why
are we not interested in them?

References

Adorno, T. W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levin-
son, D. J., & Sanford, R. N. (1950). The
authoritarian personality. Oxford, UK:
Harpers.

Alban, B. T. (2014). A woman’s journey in
OD. OD Practitioner, 46(3), 9–11.

Argyris, C., & Schon, D. A. (1974). Theory
in practice: Increasing professional effec-
tiveness. Oxford, UK: Jossey-Bass.

Asch, S.E. (1957). An experimental inves-
tigation of group influence. In Sympo-
sium on preventative and social psychiatry.
Washington, DC: US Government
Printing Office

Bartunek, J.M. (2014). Academic-practi-
tioner relationships: What NTL started
and what management scholarship
keeps developing. Journal of Applied
Behavioral Science, 50 (in press).

Bunker, B. B., & Alban, B. T. (1997). Large
group interventions: Engaging the whole
system for rapid change. San Francisco,
CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bunker, B. B., & Alban, B. T. (2006). The
handbook of large group methods: Creat-
ing systemic change in organizations
and communities. San Francisco, CA:
Jossey-Bass.

Bunker, B.B., Alban, B.T., & Lewicki, R.
J. (2004). Ideas in currency and OD
Practice. Journal of Applied Behavioral
Science, 40(4), 403–422.

Cooperrider, D.L., & Srivastva, S. (1987).
Appreciative inquiry in organizational
life. In R.W. Woodman & W. A. Pas-
more (Eds.), Research in organizational
change and development (Vol. 1, pp.
129–169). Greenwich, CT:JAI Press.

Deutsch, M. (1949). A theory of coopera-
tion and competition. Human Relations,
2(2), 129–152.

McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of
enterprise. NY: McGraw Hill.

Maslow, A. (1962). Toward a psychology of
being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority.
New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Rokeach, M. (1973). The nature of human
values. New York, NY, Free Press.

Seashore, C.N. (1999). In grave danger of
growing. Abdsurvivalguide.com/News/
growing.html.

Barbara Bunker, PhD, is Professor
Emeritus in Psychology at the Uni-
versity of Buffalo and a partner in
the Portsmouth Consulting Group.
She has taught in executive devel-
opment programs at Columbia,
Pepperdine, and Harvard Univer-
sity School of Education, and has
held Fullbright Lectureships in the
business schools of Keio Univer-
sity and Kobe University in Japan.
She can be reached at [email protected]
buffalo.edu.

This group was not formed to get clients, but rather to have a
place where we could talk with each other about our work and
get advice and counsel. Over the years we also became good
friends and now our mission is simply to support each other in
our life’s journey. Some of us are still working, some are retired
but very active as volunteers. We share the value that you
always do better work if you have colleagues to talk with about
your ideas and to keep you honest.

49Reflections on Values as an OD Consultant

Copyright of OD Practitioner is the property of Organization Development Network and its
content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the
copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email
articles for individual use.

By Mike Horne

“OD practitioners work to express the full potential of the individual. Too many interventions find
value in abstraction – well it must be good because of such and such – and ignore the individual.
Bad systems trump good people.”

What is Happening with Values
in Organization Development?

The topic of values is central to an under-
standing of Organization Development
(OD) (Newton & Marguiles, 1972). Any
consideration of the origins of OD, traced
to the work of pioneering social psycholo-
gist Kurt Lewin (1890-1947), provides
insight into the essentialism of values in
OD practice. Lewin, and other OD forerun-
ners, exploited the relationship between
values and behaviors, and learned from
their early experiences, the relationship
between democracy and performance.
These issues remain as relevant today as
they were in the immediate years following
WWII and the rise of industrialism. Today,
in an era where information flows freely
in many parts of the world, understanding
the relationship among values and perfor-
mance retains the essential character of OD
as constructed by the field’s pioneers.

Two primary considerations exist in
an exploration of values in relationship to
OD practice. The first consideration is to
understand what is meant by a value and
the second consideration is an apprecia-
tion or understanding of what is valued.
By definition, a value is held dearly –
something held in high regard (value,
2014). Values are selective, informed by
environmental factors. For many, values by
definition are abstract; however, it is clear
that values affect attitudes and behaviors.
Consequently, what gets valued, either
personally or organizationally, is a judg-
ment – a determination of what is valued.
These judgments affect both practitioner
and organizational behavior and can help
to assess alignment between individual
and organizational behaviors, fit, and

satisfaction. Given that values are perva-
sive, both in their practice and at times in
their absence, it is reasonable to conclude
that in practice, values are contagious.

Values affect the entire consulting
enterprise. For example, a consultant might
value doing no harm to clients or client
systems. The consultant enacts the value
through choice and approach. Importantly,
values will determine how parties to the
consultation feel about information and
data gathered during intervention, affect-
ing confidentiality and transparency. In
addition, values inform interdependen-
cies in the consulting relationship, or the
measure of dependence created by the
consultant or the client for project out-
comes. Clearly, values affect abilities and
approaches to resolving conflict. In these
and in other ways, there is clear line of
sight between values and ethics (Jamieson
& Gellerman, 2006).

In practice, internals can distinguish
between intrinsic and extrinsic values, and
how both shape engagement. Some intrin-
sic values held by OD practitioners include
acceptance, fairness, and the pursuit of
social justice. In humanistic approaches to
OD, many share similar intrinsic values.
These values also take shape in an environ-
mental context. For example, an internal
OD consultant’s experience is shaped by
status, rewards, and approval. The strength
of these factors are likely to influence deci-
sions made by the internal. If economic
incentives motivate the consultant, the
consultant may choose to work exclusively
with others with the authority to monetarily
reward performance. For other consultants,

52 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 4 2014

it may affect the decisions in what unit or
in what level to work. The effective consid-
eration of values includes an understand-
ing of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Even in desirable workplaces, heart-
felt values may be tested. Because values
transcend the individual and extend to
an organizational culture, norms develop
about what is good, bad, desirable, or
undesirable. For some, the ability to live
values is easy and clear. For others, there
are attendant considerations relative to risk
and tolerance. The exploration of values is
a critical endeavor for the consultant. Are
your values such that you can or cannot
work in one industry or another? With one
client or another? Values significantly influ-
ence attitudes and behaviors, and contrib-
ute to performance.

OD Work and the Individual

As practitioners, there are both techni-
cal and personal considerations in the
decision to intervene. Some of the techni-
cal considerations include the level and
depth of one intervention in comparison
to another intervention. Further, techni-
cal choices are influenced by particular
theory biases used to frame OD projects.
In addition, a technical consideration will
include the skill level of the consultant.
Values will influence personal actions and
decisions by the consultant (Cummings &
Worley, 2005). However, all of this is mere
background to a larger concern in OD, and
that is the prominence of the individual in
any change effort. In other words, a value
that is central to contemporary OD practice
is the prominence of the individual in any
change effort.

The prominence of the individual
is a direct reflection of an OD value that
holds that people are more than elements
of production. There is recognition of the
humanity of the individual, as an entity
with unique hopes, needs, wants, and
concerns. Many interventions, unfortu-
nately, tend to lose sight of this basic value.
The over-arching values of effectiveness
and efficiency take over, and consequently,
it leaves some asking: Is a layoff an OD
intervention? Is performance management
an OD intervention? Clearly, given the

expansiveness of OD, it seems that some
interventions overlook, or fail to take into
account the importance of the individual.
Consequently, when the consultant takes
on the role of expert, he or she may be
trumping an important OD value, thereby
positioning a test of values for the internal.
Successful practitioners, then, give voice
and recognition to the individual in any
intervention context.

OD practitioners work to express the
full potential of the individual. Too many
interventions find value in abstraction –
well it must be good because of such and
such – and ignore the individual. Bad
systems trump good people. The thrill of
working with senior-most executives can
also turn one blind to the many individu-
als who comprise an organization. When
individuals are recognized and valued, the
greater good is achieved. A successful OD
practice acknowledges that people are in
process, and that process is a developmen-
tal journey. Consequently, OD practitioners
work to create inclusive environments in
engagements.

Respect and inclusion then are natural
partners to the primacy of the individual in
OD. To speak of OD without the elements
of respect and inclusion, would be akin to
Earth without air or water. The primary
considerations of respect, inclusion, and
the prominence of the individual give rise
to the expectations of additional values
affecting practice.

Expectations of the Practitioner

There are four essential values for OD prac-
titioners that provide a starting, or jump-
ing-off point, for additional consideration,
exploration, and practice:

Self-Awareness. With self-awareness,
the consultant is able to recognize one’s
being as an object worthy of attention.
The implications are enormous; the abil-
ity to treat self as object creates a canvas
for growth and for development. Self-
awareness is both a private and public
commodity. At times, personal reflection
is sufficient to increase awareness and
to catalyze change. As a public figure,
self-awareness increases when the consul-
tant takes the limelight. The public stage

in organizational life includes aspects of
evaluation. The consultant may alter behav-
ior to incorporate aspects of acceptance and
desirability knowing that others are judg-
ing him or her. In these circumstances,
self-awareness becomes critical in remain-
ing true to personal and OD values.

Authenticity. Authenticity refers to
something in its true state. Advice for
authenticity is usually limited to two
words, “be yourself.” Yet, in organiza-
tions, leaders are often asking others to be
something other than original. Authentic-
ity is the answer to “Are you for real?” The
internal that loses this sense, misses the
opportunity to bring his or her whole self
to OD work and to an organization. The
consultant must understand the opportu-
nities and limitations of self-expression
in the internal environment. When
compromised, or with degrees of compro-
mise, there can be erosion of consulting
effectiveness.

Effective Use of Self. Use of self is
well documented in OD literature, primar-
ily in the senses of awareness and agency
(Cheung-Judge, 2001; Curran, Seashore,
& Welp, 1995). In other words, with an
effective use of self, the consultant is fully
aware and informed, to the extent pos-
sible, of how his or her actions influence
actions. Awareness and choice affect many
practice elements, including decision-
making, execution, and planning. Greater
self-awareness leads to increased choice,
providing greater opportunities for self-
expression and increasing abilities to create
impact in OD interventions.

Competence. It may be odd to consider
competence as a value; however, it under-
lies all acceptable work of those providing
professional services. Competence not only
refers to the skill in providing OD services
but also extends to an ability to integrate
into an organization. Managers of OD
professionals, and sophisticated consum-
ers of OD services, expect OD consultants
to be active agents of their own growth and
development. In other words, there are
expectations that consultants continue to
learn and to focus their contributions to
OD practice.

53What is Happening with Values in Organization Development?

Demonstration of Values

In the consulting relationship, it is rare,
except in certain instances, to discuss
values. While this is typical of many
consulting relationships, it is particularly
noticeable in internal OD consulting. In
part, this occurs because of either a desire
to conform to organizational norms, or
because the internal and consultant and
client are subject to the powerful influence
of organizational norms, often includ-
ing values. It is true that many organiza-
tions, particularly those with any size,
have identified values. There is, however,
often a divide between stated values and
values in practice. In some circumstances,
values are not enacted – values are merely
words on paper. In addition, some values
have become commonplace in organiza-
tional, and among those are the value of
integrity and passion. If values remain
words on paper, it may be reasonable
to discover transgressions or the com-
plete absence of actions associated with
stated values.

I have noted that values are often
tested in OD consulting. Values may be
tested at contact with an organization – for
example, do I work in this particular indus-
try? By way of further example, values can
be tested in contracting – what is a reason-
able fee? How will my work be assessed?
Each phase in the consulting engagement
provides additional opportunity for the
discussion and enactment of values. In
internal consulting, there are practice
approaches whereby the consultant can
actively demonstrate his or her values.

Trust is a fundamental pillar of
effective consulting relationships. With-
out trust, progress is difficult to cred-
ibly maintain. Surely, results might be
delivered, but those results come at a cost
with the absence of trust. Trust, as others
have noted, also includes the notion of
trustworthiness (Covey, 2004). Trust and
trustworthiness are companions of effec-
tive consultation. Lacking either reduces or
eliminates a desire for others to work with
the consultant. Likewise, it is difficult to
work with clients, who, by reputation or by
practice, lack the components of trust and
trustworthiness. Trust and trustworthiness

relate directly to confidentiality, a funda-
mental to many OD interventions.

The maintenance of confidentiality
is central to many OD activities, and yet,
our notions and ideas of confidentiality
continue to be challenged by the com-
panion notion of transparency. However,
in interviews, surveys, and other aspects
of data gathering in OD, we often assure
clients of confidentiality. In other words,
confidentiality means that names will never
be associated with data. Yet, what does
that mean for contemporary internal OD
practice, where knowledge is often power
in organizational settings? Many long for a
day when anonymity is no longer a factor
and employees and others are free to speak
up and to proudly associate with their
ideas and feelings. Any time that there is
an absence of confidentiality, it produces
the potential to eliminate or to erode trust.
While it is true that everyone cannot be
trusted with everything, confidentiality
holds a different standard. In organiza-
tions, you can often find abuses of confi-
dentiality. This has contributed to practices
where some label emails with remarks
such as “Do Not Forward” or “Internal: Not
for Distribution Outside of the Company.”
Internals who do not maintain confidenti-
ality not only diminish their effectiveness
with clients, but also with colleagues.

Values can also be demonstrated
through the practice of empowerment.
Too often, expertise is trumping empow-
erment. In a world where organization
development is often interpreted through
survey results, expertise foolishly trumps
empowerment. It is better, as the statement
goes, to teach one to fish than to provide
a fish to the person. Similarly, in internal
OD, it is superior practice to encourage
the involvement of others as active partici-
pants in the consultative enterprise. This
requires a leap of faith from the consultant,
expanding notions of trust and confiden-
tiality beyond the consultant and into the
organizational system. It is one thing for a
consultant to plot a course of action based
on survey results and a completely differ-
ent circumstance to have others involved
in diagnosis that leads to action. In these
and in other ways, values can come to life
through empowering others to develop the

organization. This can often unsettle inter-
nals, as greater emphasis is placed on the
helping nature of the OD relationship as
opposed to any individual heroics that may
be employed by the internal consultant.

Much of this relies on an approach
of collaboration, a fundamental way to
demonstrate values central to internal OD
practice. Collaboration is a process of work-
ing together. While this may seem endemic
to any approach in OD, it is difficult for
many trained to achieve to let others into
the work. However, organizational change,
growth, and development are unlikely with-
out collaborative effort; and collaboration is
fostered through trust, self-awareness, and
an ability to embrace change and transi-
tion. The pace and demands of many inter-
nal projects require speed, and the ability
to effectively collaborate provides further
opportunity to display values central to
internal OD practice.

Expectations of Organizations

Any time there is a working relationship,
there is an exchange of value. For internals,
this not only typically includes some form
of monetary payment, but also includes
psychic income in terms of recognition,
contribution, or impact. In this exchange,
the consultant may also realize or expect an
organization and its leaders to provide an
environment and conditions that will foster
success, not only for the consultant but
for a particular OD initiative and for the
organization itself. The following shortlist
provides insight into the conditions, or
expectations, that internals can expect of
organizations relative to the expression
of values:

Exciting and challenging work. Can
you imagine an OD practice formed on one
aspect of work? In some large organiza-
tions, OD has been relegated to the admin-
istrative role of analyzing and warehousing
employee feedback. This falls into what has
become the periodic reporting of “survey
says” in organizational life. While engage-
ment and satisfaction are essential ele-
ments of an organizational life well lived,
these measures fall short of creating enter-
prises in which employees can do their
best work. The client organization must be

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 4 201454

able to provide a consultant with meaning-
ful work opportunities. Good measures of
interesting and meaningful work are often
demonstrated in what is being discussed
in boardrooms, around executive confer-
ence tables, and in formal and informal
employee gatherings.

Met goals effectively. Many OD
projects fail. Failures occur for a variety
of reasons, including consultant skill,
executive sponsorship, effective decision
making processes, and resistance. When
organizational leadership does not support
the consultant’s work, it becomes increas-
ingly difficult to sustain an OD practice.
The OD practice becomes a fragment of
someone’s good idea from the past, or,
becomes disguised as some other form of
Human Resources or other organizational
practice. All parties need to commit to the
consulting relationship, so that goals can
be met effectively.

Ability to influence the way work gets
done. OD work is far from data entry into
an organizational system. It goes beyond
the successful completion of enduring OD
tasks. To succeed, the consultant requires
autonomy in his or her collaborative prac-
tice. While autonomy and collaboration
may initially seem at odds, it goes to the
heart of influencing work. The consultant
must have the freedom to design work free
of constraints that limit access and influ-
ence. The best designs will incorporate OD
values and participative approaches. OD
is more than a rote set of activities; OD
requires engagement of others. It is in this
engagement that collaboration unfolds.
Carrying out the wishes of a client, while
desirable in certain circumstances, does
not create the environment for influence.
There is a desire to see the outcome of
consulting work through newly established
processes or ways of working that inform
and influence behavior.

Awareness of growing. Leaders who
value OD consulting provide a wider range
of professional development activities
than to others in organizations. While
this may seem at odds with egalitarian-
ism, the demands to bring the new and
different require that the consultant be
exposed to trends that are shaping organi-
zational experience. It does not mean that

these experiences need to come through
courseware or external ventures. Rather,
in effective client-manager-consultant
relationships, there is an effective design of
learning that takes place within the organi-
zation. The consultant, taking the stand of
a researcher, can use organizational experi-
ences as a teacher or guide to improve
consulting effectiveness.

Values help us to connect to the world in
ways that are larger than the individual and
the organization. This is important because
internal OD serves something much larger
than the self or the organization; the stan-
dard might be in creating better leaders for
the world or making organizations better
places. My intent is not to describe “better”
in a rehabilitative sense, but rather in a way
of continually – and sustainably – improv-
ing experience in organizations. This
means a demonstration of the humanistic
values that support OD. Consequently,
effective OD practices increase democ-
racy and participation in organizational
life. When democracy and participation
are realized in organizational life, it often
comes at a cost of control. However, the
results can be immeasurably superior to
those achieved through command and
control practices.

Values will continue to be influenced
by many events, including education,
media events, and other aspects of social
experience. In addition, organizational
factors such as job opportunity, income,
and career development, affect the practice
of organization development. The dem-
onstration of values in OD is collaborative
work among an organization’s leadership,
the consultant, and the systems that are
designed to support or to detract effective
practice. An appreciation of core OD val-
ues, the consultant’s personal values, and
organizational values, provide an extraordi-
nary field in which to explore, to test, and
to fully live values that contribute to better
ways of working and a better world.

References

Anderson, D. L. (2011). Organization
development: The process of leading

organizational change. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage.

Cheung-Judge, M. (2001). The self as
instrument – A cornerstone for the
future of OD. OD Practitioner, 33(3),
11–16.

Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly
effective people. New York, NY: Free
Press.

Curran, K. M., Seashore, C. N., & Welp,
M. G. (1975). Use of self as instrument
of change. Presented at The 1995 ODN
National Conference, Nov. 17, Seattle
Washington. Retrieved from http://
www.equalvoice.com/use_of_self.pdf

Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. R. (2005).
Organization development and change
(8th ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Southwest-
ern College Publishing Co.

Jamieson, D., & Gellerman, W. (2006).
Values, ethics, and OD practice. In B.
B. Jones & M. Brazzel (Eds.), The NTL
handbook of organization development
and change: Principles, practices and
perspectives (pp. 46–65). San Francisco,
CA: Pfeiffer, A Wiley Imprint

Margulies, N., & Raia, A. (1972). Organiza-
tion development: Values, process, and
technology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Value. (2014). In Merriam-Webster.com.
Retrieved from http://www.merriam-
webster.com/dictionary/value

Mike Horne, PhD, currently leads
an Organization Development
practice at Genentech, a member
of the Roche Group. In addition
to Genentech, Horne led the OD
function at Nortel Networks and
Marriott International. He was
an employee partner at Watson
Wyatt Worldwide (Towers Watson).
He has served as a Trustee of
ODN since 2010. Horne is in a
certification process as an Immu-
nity to Change Coach, led by
Professors Bob Kegan and Lisa
Lahey. Horne can be reached at
[email protected]

55What is Happening with Values in Organization Development?

Copyright of OD Practitioner is the property of Organization Development Network and its
content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the
copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email
articles for individual use.

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35Buono and Subbiah

Internal Consultants as Change Agents:
Roles, Responsibilities and Organizational Change Capacity

Anthony F. Buono, PhD
Bentley University

Karthik Subbiah, PhD
Dell Global Analytics

Anthony F. Buono, PhD, is professor
of Management and Sociology and
founding director of the Alliance for
Ethics & Social Responsibility at
Bentley University. He is also a

former chair of Bentley’s Management Department. Tony’s
interests include organizational change, inter-organizational
strategies, and stakeholder engagement. He has written
or edited seventeen books including The Human Side
of Mergers and Acquisitions (1989, 2003), A Primer on
Organizational Behavior (7th ed., 2008), and, most recently,
Facilitating the Socio-Economic Approach to Management
(2014). He is editor of the Research in Management
Consulting Book series (Information Age Publishing).

Karthik Subbiah is Senior Manager
at Dell Global Analytics, Bangalore,
India. Throughout his 16 years in the
industry, he has been responsible for
assessing organizational performance,
studying competitive landscape, and

selecting, devising and deploying appropriate change
initiatives to achieve advantage over competition. As
a senior manager with Dell Global Analytics, he is
responsible for providing business partners with key
insights and recommendations for staying competitive and
gaining competitive advantage in their domains. He has a
PhD in engineering and an MBA in General Management.

Abstract

While organizations often hire external consultants

(ECs) to assist them with change initiatives, the

use of internal consultants (ICs) also offers many

advantages and benefits. Although ICs have been

characterized as the “poor cousin” of their external

counterparts, they can be a vital organizational

resource through their ability to play multiple roles.

Drawing on experience as an IC and EC, the article

addresses IC roles and responsibilities and how they

can help organizations build their change capacity.

_______________

Organization Development Journal l Summer 201436

Introduction

The current global business environment is

shaped by an array of factors and forces, including

globalization itself, liberalized trade and tariff

regimes, varied demographics, rapid technological

innovation, and competition from all corners of

the world. While these factors offer substantial

opportunities for businesses to grow and expand

their operations and/or market presence, they also

present unprecedented challenges. Diverse market

needs and the attendant explosion in product and

service variety, increased rates of product and

service obsolescence, and tremendous pressure on

pricing, to name a few, are creating myriad stressors

and problems for managers.

The basic reality is that as such change has

become the “new normal” (Jørgensen, Owen, &

Neus, 2008, p. 1), businesses increasingly compete

on the basis of their ability to change and innovate

on a continual basis, especially in comparison with

their competition. The capacity to manage change

has thus become a key strategic capability—and

an important component of this capacity is internal

expert support. Accordingly, this article focuses on

the role of the internal consultant (IC), an individual

who is on the payroll of the organization for which

he or she provides consulting services.

An underlying challenge concerns how to

most effectively manage and guide the change

Contact Information:
Anthony F. Buono

Department of Management
Bentley University
175 Forest Street
Waltham, Massachusetts 02452 USA

Email: [email protected]

Karthik Subbiah, PhD

Dell Global Analytics, India
B-102, Tower 1, Adarsh Palm Retreat,
Bhoganahalli, Bellandur Post
Bangalore – 560103 INDIA

Email: [email protected]

37Buono and Subbiah

and development process as many organizations

continue to struggle with change-related initiatives

(Barton & Ambrosini, 2013; Decker, Durand,

Mayfield, McCormack, Skinner, & Perdue, 2012;

Meaney & Pung, 2008; Raelin & Cataldo, 2011).

The dynamic capability to change and redefine the

business underlies the ability to respond to new

opportunities and/or to fulfill existing needs both

nimbly and accurately to the fullest satisfaction of

key stakeholders. The array of ultimate goals includes

facilitating committed employees, developing loyal

customers, generating increased revenue and stable

margins, and increasing investor confidence, public

goodwill, and organizational longevity.

Given the increasing number, frequency, and

complexity of such change initiatives, researchers

and practitioners point to the need to build capacity

for change (Buono & Kerber, 2010; McLagan,

2003; Soparnot, 2011), both in response to and

in anticipation of these changes. Similarly, it has

long been suggested that embracing organization

development (OD) based principles that promote

and sustain the change (Kolb, 1970; Worley &

Lawler, 2006) can help organizations develop the

ability to create timely innovations and adaptations

without creating “toxic” consequences for people,

processes, and the institution’s culture (Barnett &

Shore, 2009).

Many business organizations bring in external

consultants (ECs) to help guide and facilitate this

process, drawing on their expertise and insight

into change and change-related processes (Buono

& Jamieson, 2010). Although internal consultants

(ICs) have been described as the “poor cousin” of

their external counterparts (Sturdy & Wiley, 2011),

research suggests that a potentially more powerful

intervention is to combine the insights of ECs with

the experience base of ICs to overcome change-

related resistance and build commitment to the

change (Lambert, 1998; Savall & Zardet, 2009).

Indeed, as suggested by a post-hoc analysis of

why a change effort was not sustained, the internal

and external consultants involved in the process

emphasized different aspects of the situation and

change process (Noumair, Winderman, & Burke,

2010). Yet, the role and responsibilities of ICs in

change-related interventions are often overlooked

and understudied (Alfes, Truss & Gill, 2010;

Hartley, Benington & Binns, 1997; Sturdy & Wiley,

2011).

Internal consultants can exert a significant

influence on the development and augmentation

of an organization’s change capacity. Within

this context, an IC’s effectiveness is shaped by a

number of factors including the ability to analyze

and understand the environment, influence key

organizational players, facilitate learning, serve as a

mentor and role model for organizational members,

Organization Development Journal l Summer 201438

and select an appropriate change approach with the

intent of maximizing the probability of success for

the initiative and its stakeholders.

This article focuses on the role and

responsibilities of the IC in change initiatives, with

the underlying objective of understanding how this

role might enhance and augment an organization’s

capacity for change. The discussion draws on a

combination of field work as an internal and external

consultant and reflection on the management of

change and consulting literature. Beginning with a

brief discussion of organizational change capacity,

the paper examines the IC role and potential in

building and enhancing an organization’s capacity

for change.

Understanding Organizational Change Capacity

Researchers in the OD area call for the creation

of change-friendly and nimble organizations,

that is, organizations with an in-built capacity to

change (Klarner, Probst, & Soparnot, 2008; Myers

& Stensaker, 2006; White & Linden, 2002). An

underlying challenge is to design organizations and

their processes so that they are able to implement

and sustain change on an ongoing basis, in essence

surviving the barrage of changes characteristic of

today’s complex business environment (Buono &

Kerber, 2010; Kotter, 2008). As research indicates,

to have an enduring effect change initiatives

(e.g., problem-solving, brainstorming, continuous

experimenting) must be supported by a coherent set

Figure 1: Change Capacity and its Constituent Factors

39Buono and Subbiah

of organizational values and management systems.

This combination can create the basis for a capacity

for learning, commitment to continuous innovation,

and, in general, greater capability to change

(Leonard-Barton, 1992).

This ability has been characterized as change

capacity, in essence, the capability of an organization

to change not just once, but as a normal practice

in anticipation of and in response to changes in its

environment (Buono & Kerber, 2010; By, 2007;

By, Diefenbach & Klarner, 2008; Klarner, Probst

& Soparnot, 2008). A common theme across this

work is the conceptualization of change capacity in

terms of its core factors and their respective

indicators, which are depicted in Figure 1.

As illustrated in Figure 1, the organization’s

culture provides the foundation and supports and

encourages (1) open-mindedness, (2) a pluralistic

viewpoint on issues and matters of concern, (3) a

commitment to experimentation and learning, and

(4) the creation of a shared purpose among all

stakeholders. Change capacity is also dependent

upon organizational members who are (1)

knowledgeable about different change approaches,

(2) the contingency factors that lead to their

selection and deployment, and (3) who are able

willing to embrace and manage change. Finally,

the organization must have sufficient infrastructure

in place to support systems for training, learning,

knowledge sharing and experimentation, and

sufficient resources in terms of sponsorship, budget,

personnel, and mindshare required for successful

adoption of change initiatives. Collectively, the

interaction among these factors—culture, people,

and infrastructure—creates a learning environment

that enables the organization to draw on its

experiences, comprehend the nature and impact

of impending change, and prepare its response, in

essence, enhancing its change capacity.

Along similar lines, Meyer and Stensaker

(2006) define change capacity as the key to

maintaining daily operations while adopting change

on a continual basis. They postulate that developing

change capacity is the key for sustaining long-term

organizational performance in a global business

environment, especially one that is increasingly

unstable and often unpredictable, requiring agility

and flexibility on the part of organizations and their

members. The inability to balance the needs of day-

to-day operations with longer-term development

and improvement-related activities often prevents

companies from achieving their competitive

advantage. This inability, despite the intent of

the leaders of the businesses to develop a greater

capacity for change, stems from a host of reasons

that can be traced to short-sightedness and the

inability and/or unwillingness to operationalize that

intent.

Organization Development Journal l Summer 201440

The Role And Potential of the Internal Consultant

The term “consulting” discourages any

attempt to influence the course of a situation

without directly having the authority for the

implementation of the suggested course (Block,

2011). External consultants are hired by the client

organization based on a particular need or problem;

ICs, in contrast, are members of the organization

for which they provide advisory and support

services. An IC’s deliverables typically include

some combination of (1) recommendations for

intervention in such areas as policy, structure, and/

or procedures, (2) implementation plans that are

sensitive to the sociocultural and political realities

in the organization, and (3) the ability to transfer

knowledge to those who manage and/or do the

work (Bellman, 1981; Scott & Barnes, 2011).

External consultants may have similar deliverables,

but the ongoing, day-to-day interactions ICs have

with internal stakeholders provide opportunities

for greater levels of access and influence, being

“on hand” to assist those who have functional

Table 1: Benefits and Limitations of External and Internal Consultants
(Adapted and developed from Miller & Subbiah, 2012)

41Buono and Subbiah

2011). For example, given their position within the

organization ICs typically have more insight into

internal systems, creating the ability to trouble-shoot

problems facing the organization and understand

changes in the broader environment as they relate

to potential opportunities (and challenges) for the

firm. They also have a greater opportunity to transfer

knowledge and mentor managers and staff, exposing

them to the current developments in the field, though

recent research (Sturdy & Wiley, 2011) suggests

that ICs often give low priority to such scanning and

dissemination roles. Internal consultants are also in

a good position to research and analyze non-crisis

situations, helping to generate recommendations for

improvement that would otherwise be overlooked

or ignored. Their role within the organization has

the potential to enhance operational effectiveness

and efficiency, guide strategic analyses and

assessments, and conceptualize and support OD-

related interventions. At the same time, ICs can

be biased due to their financial dependence on the

organization and concerns about internal politics,

“hot” issues, and their own career possibilities

(Kelley, 1979; Barnes & Scott, 2012), and ECs are

often in a better position to stimulate changes in

the ways executives think about their environment

(Ginsburg & Abrahamson, 1991).

and/or business responsibilities in implementing

recommendations (Bellman, 1981; Barnes & Scott,

2012).

Although this dynamic is beginning to change as

ECs are increasingly expected to go beyond providing

advice (Buono & Poulfelt, 2009), ICs typically play

a more active support role in implementation, even

if they have less direct control over the extent to

which their recommendations and project work are

carried out than they might like (Study & Wiley,

2011). In some instances, ICs can be thought of

as “internal outsiders,” especially when they act as

specialist staff, seeing their role as providing advice

to operational groups (see Sturdy & Wiley, 2011). In

fact, particularly in large organizations, there may

be a blurring of the differences between internal and

external consulting roles. External consultants who

work with a client for an extended period of time

can begin to take on many of the characteristics of

ICs through “constructive binding,” a combination

of intimate and strategic interactions, but these

activities typically go well beyond traditional

consulting roles (Untermarzoner, 2011). Key

benefits and limitations of using each of the two

types of consultants are summarized in Table 1.

In addition to being a readily accessible resource

that can provide expert knowledge, ICs can also

provide a range of services that often go beyond

those offered by ECs (Kelley, 1979; Scott & Barnes,

Organization Development Journal l Summer 201442

Internal Consultants And Change Capacity

The IC’s diverse roles and influence they can

exert on the development of organizational change

capacity are illustrated in Table 2. The Table

captures the various ways in which ICs, by playing

various roles, impact the core factors of change

capacity—people, structure, and culture. Internal

consultants often play the role of trouble-shooter

of minor and major problems that an organization

faces, in essence serving as an expert operational

resource. One of the co-authors who worked as an

IC for 11 years was often tasked with (1) identifying

and prioritizing key issues that impacted the bottom

line of the firm’s many business units on an annual

basis, and (2) determining and deploying the

methodology to resolve those issues. Thus, he was

viewed as a key resource to the operations of the

business.

Internal consultants are also sensors of the

organization’s internal and external environment,

helping to create a foundation for sufficient

mindshare on issues of importance to the

Table 2: Illustrative Impacts of IC Roles on Organizational Change Capacity
(Adapted and developed from: Buono & Kerber, 2010; Kelley, 1979; and Field-work)

43Buono and Subbiah

to support his request for the acquisition and use of

training resources, which were made available from

the corporate office.

Through their roles as coach and mentor, ICs

have the potential to impact the knowledge, ability,

and motivation of an organization’s people, helping

develop the part of its infrastructure focused on

training, education, and development. Again, in his

work as an IC, the co-author spent a significant part

of his time on training, mentoring, and certifying

150 “green-belts” and 6 “black-belts” in six sigma

methodologies over a span of 4 years. Reflecting

on this experience, he felt this role was significant

in developing both trained resources and the

infrastructure that were used to solve significant

business problems. Through these initiatives, the

organization gained knowledgeable and experienced

employees and developed a problem-solving

methodology that had added approximately 5% to

the annual operating margin of the organization

over the 4-year period.

Internal consultants can also be an

implementation supporter, either by being on hand

to assist those who have functional and/or business

responsibilities, helping to oversee implementation

of those responsibilities, and, in general, serving as

an operational resource. As an example, drawing on

our experience, ICs are often tasked with analyzing

and improving performance. The steps involved

organization’s success and survival. For example,

the IC co-author persuaded the leadership team

of the automotive division of the organization to

embark on a lean transformation initiative. Based

on his analysis of the changing marketplace, he

pointed to the reality that in order to continue to

successfully supply parts to Asian car makers that

were increasing their US market share, the firm

need to develop just-in-time (JIT)/lean capabilities,

which was a key consideration of the Asian

carmakers’ supplier selection process.

Engaging the organization as a researcher-

analyst, ICs can draw attention to non-crisis

situations, which are often overlooked or

ignored, aiding in the development of appropriate

recommendations for improvement. Within this

context, ICs can also play a vital role in helping

managers in planned interventions, such as action-

research efforts in resolving performance issues

and back-staging dimensions of the manager’s

and employees’ responsibilities (van Aken, 2004).

One of the IC responsibilities of a co-author was

to setup a database for capturing performance

from 27 locations from three global regions on key

operational metrics. The underlying objective was

to present the analysis to the company’s executive

team with recommendations for focused operational

excellence initiatives in areas that needed

improvement. He found this responsibility critical

Organization Development Journal l Summer 201444

efficient, and enduring manner. Compared to

ECs, ICs can respond quickly since they require a

shorter learning curve, which saves both time and

money for an organization. In addition, historically

most organizations have found that engaging ICs

to solve problems cost them approximately one-

third to one-half of the cost of external firms due to

lower compensation costs, development costs, and

overhead (cf. Kelley, 1979; Neal & Lloyd, 2001;

Nevo, Wade & Cook, 2007).

To be successful in such roles as trouble-

shooter, environmental sensor, and researcher-

analyst, consultants must have an intimate

knowledge of the organization and its internal

and external environments. As ICs are part of

the organization, they have the opportunity to

engage in such long cycle-time activities, where

ECs typically have shorter interactions (Kitay &

Wright, 2004). Similarly, the roles of coach and

mentor, implementation supporter, and advisor-

critic demand trust and credibility on the part of a

consultant, both of which require time, interaction

and experience. Again, by using their continued

presence and establishing daily contacts and/or

“face time” with the organization’s key players, ICs

are in a good position to successfully fulfill these

roles.

Internal consultants are also in position to

successfully help develop an organization’s change

in this situation were to: (1) identify the functional

areas related to the issue, and (2) work with the

heads and team members of those functions to

eliminate or mitigate the causes of the issues

through the development and joint implementation

of corrective actions. Such engagements have also

involved supporting and performing activities such

as task and resource analyses, redesigning value-

creating processes, restructuring organizational

configurations, and tracking performance

improvement.

Finally, much like ECs, ICs can also serve in

advisor and critic roles, expanding the outlook of

key people in the organization with the intent of

helping them make more robust decisions. Within

this context, by drawing on their local knowledge

and insight, ICs can also provide a more critical

appraisal of initially appealing external “solutions”

that might not be a good fit with the organization for

a variety of reasons. If an IC is viewed by his or her

colleagues as having limited or outmoded expertise

or is unable to demonstrate ongoing value and the

capacity to extend their work to other parts of the

organization, their credibility and effectiveness

in these roles will clearly suffer (Sturdy & Wiley,

2011).

An IC, by virtue of being a part of the

organization, is able to fulfill the roles and

responsibilities discussed above in a rapid, cost-

45Buono and Subbiah

observers have noted, a waning focus on any of

these activities can undermine the change (Jamieson

& Armstrong, 2010; Mintzberg & Westley, 1992).

In examining why change initiatives often fail,

Mabey (2008) points to inadequate emphasis on

the structural, cultural, and procedural changes that

are required to sustain any initial gains. In essence,

successful change programs re-create and/or

reposition the organizational architecture, and ICs

can help align the ensuing roles, responsibilities,

and relationships (Beer, Eisenstat & Spector, 1990).

Insufficient preparation of key stakeholders, in terms

of shaping their perspective and their disposition

vis-à-vis the change, can result in widely different

interpretations and assessments of the change, which

can also result in self-interest overriding broader

organization interests (Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979).

Conceptualizing and Implementing Change

Approaches

Reflecting on the role that ICs can play in

facilitating the development of an organization’s

capacity for change, it is also important to understand

the basic ways in which change can be approached,

especially from the standpoint of when they are

likely to be successful. The most straightforward

approach is change is to explicitly direct the change.

This approach is most useful when the problem

confronted by an organization puts its “performance

and survival at risk” (Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979),

capacity through the achievement of change-related

goals. Over time, as ICs succeed in engagements

through the various roles discussed above, they

establish a track record that can readily influence

the way they are seen in the organization, creating

needed levels of trust and credibility. An IC

colleague noted,

My main goal is to ensure that my clients

are successful and are seen as driving the

change. I don’t want to be seen as the hero,

that’s not important at all, in fact, it really

can be detrimental. The important thing is

if my client sees me as being helpful, that

what we have done together worked. That

is what creates trust and a foundation for

future work and development (Personal

Communication, 2009).

ICs are also well positioned to counsel their

colleagues against hasty adoption of pre-designed

solutions, which critics suggest are often offered

by external consultants (Kam, 2004; Maybe, 2008;

Pringle, 1998). Within this context, it is critical

that ICs devote sufficient attention to due diligence

with respect to the fit with the organization and its

timing. Internal consultants can also help ensure that

organizational members learn about and internalize

the change initiative by co-developing a vision as

to the relevance of that change for the organization

as well as a plan for its implementation. As many

Organization Development Journal l Summer 201446

Kerber and Buono (2005) refer to this approach as

“guided changing,” most appropriate in situations

that are characterized by uncertainty and ambiguity.

Mabey (2008) uses the term “stakeholder approach”

and calls for its deployment to reconcile “competing

values and conflicting agendas,” drawing on the

insight, expertise, and commitment of organizational

members.

In practice, the distinction among these different

approaches to change typically blur along a change

continuum (e.g., directed change can develop

planned change characteristics, planned change

can involve guided changing improvisations),

which makes the role of the IC that much more

important. Each change approach can be relevant

for an organization based on key situational factors,

but due to their inherent features each of these

approaches to change has differing impacts on key

outcomes. Therefore, it is important to understand

when to adapt the change strategy, an assessment

that ICs are likely to be able to successfully carry

out given their experience and insight into the

organization.

As an example of the interaction among these

different approaches to change, one of the co-

author’s primary responsibilities as an IC was

implementing six sigma and lean production

methodologies. This assignment began as a directed

change, since projects were identified, selected,

and when the solution to the problem can be found

through “sound data and careful analysis” (Mabey,

2008), drawing on “business necessity and logical

arguments” (Kerber & Buono, 2005). McLagan

(2002) suggests the use of a directed approach in a

situation where a clear solution is found to resolve

the issue/problem and the probability of achieving

the predicted outcome is very high.

Planned change is typically used when the

change initiative covers many facets and/or is broad

and deep in scope, requiring a considerable amount

of planning to obtain and manage resources, engage

key stakeholders, and increase the probability of

success in achieving the sought-after objectives. One

of the driving forces toward this approach to change

is increased business complexity, which is related to

the extent to which a change cuts across horizontal

levels, work units and geographic locations, involves

reciprocal or team interdependence, affects a range

of products/services, and requires buy-in from key

stakeholders (Bennis, Benne & Chin, 1961; Cawsey

& Deszca, 2007; Kerber & Buono, 2005).

A different approach to change that is more

fluid in nature is reflected when a change initiative’s

outcome is unpredictable or even unknown, and the

“solution” to move forward from the current state is

unclear, requiring significant input, improvisation,

and innovation through the participation of many

stakeholders in both its design and implementation.

47Buono and Subbiah

ensure that the change is clearly communicated

throughout the organization, that organizational

members fully understand the reason, rationale,

and expected outcomes of the change (e.g., the

“so that” question—“We are changing X so that

we can accomplish Y”; Kerber & Buono, 2005;

Ulrich, Zenger & Smallwood, 1999). Key features

of a planned change approach typically involve a

combination of technical and political dynamics

and a medium to high level of participation

by stakeholders in early stages. In addition to

assuming a predictable causal relationship between

the planned actions and expected outcomes, this

approach can overwhelm organizational members

with its complexity and alienate key stakeholders as

a result of …

Introduction: Why Does Change Fail,
and What Can We Do About It?

BERNARD BURNES

University of Manchester, UK

‘Change? Change? Why do we need change? Things are quite bad enough as they

are.’

– Lord Salisbury, 19
th

century British

Prime Minister, to Queen Victoria

(as cited in Wilson, 1999, p.).

In an era when politicians can only get elected by promising change, it seems
strange, as the above quote shows, that there was time when their inclination
was to resist, rather than promote, change. However, the above quotation,
though over 100 years old, neatly sums up many people’s attitude to organiz-
ational change: ‘we don’t like it; it’ll just make things worse’. Yet, even though
many people are doubtful that change will be for the better, we live in an era
where change is seen as essential if organizations and, indeed, the human race
are to survive (Dunphy et al., 2007; Kanter, 2008; Sackmann et al., 2009).
Such is the importance now given to change that it is seen as the prime responsi-
bility of those who lead organizations, as the rise of the transformational leader
shows (Burns, 1978; Bass, 1995; Yukl, 2010).

A global survey by McKinsey & Company (2008) concluded that only by chan-
ging constantly could organizations hope to survive. There is nothing remarkable
in this finding; it echoes what most writers and commentators have been saying for
the past two decades (Kanter et al., 1992; Kotter, 1996; Beer and Nohria, 2000;
Stacey, 2007). However, the McKinsey survey also claimed that some two-
thirds of all change initiatives failed, which may account for why so many
people appear to have a negative perception of change. Whilst two-thirds seems

Journal of Change Management

Vol. 11, No. 4, 445 – 450, December 2011

Correspondence Address: Bernard Burnes, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Booth Street

West, Manchester, M15 6PB, UK. Email: [email protected]

1469-7017 Print/1479-1811 Online/11/040445 – 6 # 2011 Taylor & Francis
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14697017.2011.630507

to be a staggeringly high rate of failure, it is not out of line with the majority of the
change literature which regularly quotes failure rates of between 60% and 90%
(Burnes, 2009). For example, Bain & Co. claim the general failure rate is 70%
(Senturia et al., 2008), but that it rises to 90% for culture-change initiatives
(Rogers et al., 2006). In a survey of the change literature, Smith (2002, 2003)
found similar failure rates. Nor does this level of failure appear to be new. In the
1990s, Hammer and Champy (1993) claimed that 70% of all BPR initiatives
failed. In the 1980s, the failure rate for the introduction of computer-based technol-
ogies was estimated at around 60% (Bessant and Haywood, 1985; A. T. Kearney,
1989;), and in the 1970s, Crosby (1979) claimed that 90% of quality-improvement
initiatives failed.

It seems, therefore, that for the last 40 years, at least, far more change initiatives
have failed than have succeeded. However, this raises an important issue – how
reliable and representative are these figures? Claims of high failure rates tend to
fall into three categories. The first contains writers who cite a high failure rate,
but offer no evidence to support the claim (e.g. Hammer and Champy; 1993;
Kotter, 1996; Beer and Nohria, 2000). In the second category, claims of high
failure are substantiated by reviews of the change literature (e.g. Smith, 2002,
2003; Burnes, 2009 ). The final category of claims are those which are based on
empirical evidence collected by the authors themselves (e.g. Whyte and
Witcher, 1992; Rogers et al., 2006; Senturia et al., 2008; Tarokh et al., 2008).

Obviously, the first category, regardless of the experience and standing of the
authors, has to be treated with a degree of caution. Though one might assume
that the second category of claims, those based on reviews of the literature,
could be treated with a greater degree of confidence, this rather depends on the
literature surveyed and how the survey was conducted. For example, a survey
which was heavily weighted in favour of category-one evidence would have
much less validity than one which was based on category-three. Similarly, a
survey which merely accepted the headline claims of the studies it included
would have less validity than one which examined the studies in detail. This
brings us to category three claims – those based on evidence collected by the
authors themselves. Such evidence, one might think, can be relied upon.
However, this is not necessarily the case. It depends on the nature of the research
and the evidence that is produced to support claims of a high failure rate. For
example, is enough evidence presented to judge the methodological rigour of
the survey? Does the research cover change in general or is it specific to one
form of change? Who is the evidence collected from and are they in a position
to judge?

As can be seen, at a time when the received wisdom appears to be that most
change initiatives fail, a questioning of the validity and nature of the various
claims of change failure is timely. However, though we need to question estimates
of the level of failure, it would be wrong to deny that many organizations do seem
to struggle to implement change successfully. This raises a second important issue
– why do change initiatives fail? Strangely enough, this is a question which has
attracted only limited attention (Buchanan et al., 2005). Some writers point to
shortcomings in either the planning or execution of the change process (Burnes
and Weekes, 1989; Dent and Goldberg, 1999; Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001;

446 B. Burnes

Hoag et al., 2002). Others identify a lack of competence or commitment by those
commissioning or managing the change process (Boddy and Buchanan, 1992;
Kotter, 1996; Kirkman and Shapiro, 1997; Caldwell, 2003, 2006). However, the
evidence for any of these explanations is limited.

Nevertheless, this raises a third important, and related, issue – how can organ-
isations manage change successfully? In looking at the change literature,
implicitly or explicitly, there is an assumption that there is a ‘one best way’ to
manage change and that failure arises from not adhering to it (Burnes, 1996).
Confusingly, there are quite a few ‘one best way’ approaches to change (Collins,
1998; By, 2005; Boje et al., 2011). For example, Kanter et al. (1992) offered
their 10 commandments for successful change, Pugh (1993) has his four principles
of change, and Kotter (1996) put forward his eight-step model. There are two
approaches to change, however, which have stood out from the rest: organization
development (OD) and emergent change (Beer and Nohria, 2000). Though its
fortunes have waxed and waned, from its origins in the late 1940s, OD has
tended to dominate the change field (French and Bell, 1999; Cummings and
Worley, 2005; Burnes, 2011). In the 1980s and 1990s, the emergent approach
posed a significant challenge to OD, at least among academics (Dawson, 1994;
Orlikowski, 1996; Weick, 2000). Nevertheless, it is difficult to support the notion
that one or even two approaches to change can cover the full gamut of change
situations (Storey, 1992; Stickland, 1998; Pettigrew, 2000). Instead of seeking a
‘one best way’ approach to change, Dunphy and Stace (1993,p. 905) argue that:

. . .managers and consultants need a model of change that is essentially a ‘situational’

or ‘contingency model’, one that indicates how to vary change strategies to achieve

‘optimum fit’ with the changing environment.

Academics and practitioners are continually producing studies of, and offering,
supposedly new approaches to change. Some of these do offer new and useful
insights into organizational change others stress academic rigour but lack practical
relevance and vice versa, whilst some appear to contain neither. The problem is
that it is difficult to see how the field of organizational change can progress
effectively unless it addresses the three issues raised above – the reliability of
failure data, the causes of failure, and how to manage change successfully. We
also have to recognise that these three issues are interrelated: unless we have
reliable data on failure, we don’t know the size of the problem and how concerned
we should be; unless we know why change fails, we may be offering change
approaches which address the wrong problems; and unless we can provide a
range of appropriate approaches to change and identify their strengths and weak-
nesses, organizations are unlikely to be able to address change successfully.

The purpose of this special issue is to encourage research and debate about these
issues by posing the following questions:

1. How reliable is the data on change failure? Does the data show whether or not
some types of change and organizations are more prone to failure than others?

2. Why does change fail? Is each change failure due to the unique circumstances
in which it is undertaken or are there common causes?

Introduction 447

3. What can organizations do to improve their success rate? Are some approaches
more successful than others? Should, and can, organizations undertake less
change?

In order to start this debate, this special issue offers three articles which each
contributes to addressing these questions.

The article by Mark Hughes examines a number of claims that the failure rate
for change is 70%. He reviews five separate published instances identifying a 70%
failure rate. In each instance, the review highlights the absence of valid and
reliable empirical evidence in support of the espoused 70% rate. Hughes goes
on to question the utility of inherent rates of failure and stresses the need to
take account of that context within which change takes place and the different
views of participants as to whether change has been successful. Provocatively,
he also raises the issue of whether it is even appropriate to seek to prove or
disprove an inherent failure rate, given the disparity between types of change
between, and within, organisations.

John McClellan, in his article, examines the role of communication in the failure
of organizational change. The article adopts a discourse-and-power perspective on
change. McClellan argues that change fails because those who manage it often
suppress the emergence of conflicting organizational meanings, rather than
seeing them as a method of allowing participants to constitute new organizing
discourses. In support of this argument, McClellan presents a case study of organ-
izational change at a college of art and design. This illustrates how the suppression
of conflicting narratives contributes to failing change practices. McClellan main-
tains that organizational scholars and practitioners need to consider how the
complex relationship between communication and change not only provides
insight as to why change fails, but can also enable alternative ways to promote
successful change practices.

In the final article, Jonathan Raelin and Christina Cataldo examine the crucial
role of middle managers in the change process. They argue that though middle
managers were once seen as obstacles to change, they are now seen more as facil-
itators of change. However, a lack of empowerment, due to executive constraints,
means they are often ineffective in promoting change. Raelin and Cataldo present
a case study of a failed change initiative at a large financial services firm. This
shows that the failure can be attributed to the evolution of closed-executive and
rank-and-file systems, leaving middle managers powerless. Raelin and Cataldo
argue that empowerment is critical for middle managers involved in change as
it helps ensure that interaction will cross systems, resulting in cascading empow-
erment that can prevent change failure.

Whether one likes it or not, organizational change plays a significant role in our
lives. In our own organizations, it affects the nature of our jobs, or even if we have
a job. In our everyday life, it impacts on the cost, quality, and availability of the
services and goods we rely upon. In the broader scheme of things, the ability of
organizations to manage change successfully may have profound implications
for global warming, and the availability and cost of energy, food supplies, and
other vital raw materials. Few would doubt that we do not always manage
change as well as we should, but what is the scale of the problem? Is it just

448 B. Burnes

certain types of change or certain organisations where problems occur or does
failure occur on a much wider scale? What causes change to fail? Are there
common causes or is each failure unique? Just as importantly, what can organis-
ations do to improve their success rate? The intention of this special issue is to
raise these questions and encourage scholars and practitioners to debate them.
Each of the three articles in this special issue makes, in its own way, an important
contribution to this debate. The Journal of Change Management now offers an
open invitation to others to respond and contribute.

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However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.

PEOPLE + STRATEGY8

Perspectives | POINT | COUNTERPOINT

Riding the Performance Management Rollercoaster

One topic that consistently draws strong interest among conference participants is
best practices and innovation in per-
formance management (PM). At the
HR People + Strateg y annual con-
ference in April, Perspectives Editor
Anna Tavis hosted a keynote panel
on the main stage, leading a vibrant,
thought-provoking discussion of how
this area is evolving and what factors
are driving significant change.

With this installment of Perspec-
tives, we bring to you a slice of that
energy and experience, with the
lead perspective laying out the ways
performance management is being
reinvented. Panelists each share a
synopsis of their own experience and
how their companies are experiment-
ing and adapting the process.

The panel members, which includ-
ed Deborah Becker of Eli Lilly, Jenni-
fer Beihl of GE, and Jeffrey Orlando
of Deloitte, each share their company
experiences as well as viewpoints
on the subject. Contributions from
Julie Gravallese, Priscila Metzgar,
and Dan Ward of MITRE and Holly
Engler, Joe Kutter, and Don Moretti
of Sears Holdings round out these
perspectives.

If you believe performance man-
agement should be improved or even
entirely overhauled at your company,
or you just want to learn more about
what other companies are pioneer-
ing at theirs, then this Perspectives
is for you. After reading the lead
Perspectives and commentaries that
follow, you can contact the authors to
ask a question or share how you are
approaching this issue in your com-
pany. Or, contact Anna to find out
more about what factors are shaping
the future of PM and what other
changes we can expect to see in the
near future.

POINT

When the
Performance
Management
Bubble Burst
By Anna A. Tavis

When the full story of the ongoing
performance management transforma-
tion is finally told, the years 2014 and
2015 will go down in history as the time
when the annual performance appraisal
bubble finally burst. After decades of
increasingly loud signals of discontent
and mounting evidence that the legacy
process was not delivering on its intend-
ed value, a few pioneering companies
broke out of the mold and were able
to face the urgency for change. Adobe,
Medtronic, Juniper Networks, and Kelly
Services, to name just the first few, made
news with their radical departure from

the heavily administrative annual em-
ployee performance evaluation exercise.
The traditional annual performance
review finally met its end.

Dropping performance ratings and
replacing the once-per-year appraisal
process with regular “check-ins” became
business’s battle cry for change. The first
“rateless” performance management
cases unsettled the behemoth of HR
bureaucracy, built on top of a single
rating. From then on, the monolith
process that used to be known as perfor-
mance management split into multiple
manager–employee conversations, often
blending informal touch points with
“shadow” ratings and talent calibrations
on the backend.

Every one of these pioneering compa-
nies would admit that it was not about
the ratings for them to begin with. Every
part of the legacy performance system
had to undergo a review. With the rate-
less idea being novel and benchmarking
scarce, the original science was called
upon to help review the underlying
assumptions about employee motiva-

Perspectives | POINT | COUNTERPOINT

VOLUME 39 | ISSUE 3 | SUMMER 2016 9

tion, engagement, and overall work
experience.

The new language of progress, mas-
tery, and purpose emerged to replace
appraisal reports. “Check-ins” and “pay
for contribution” became the preferred
vocabulary of the day, leading the reeval-
uation of the entire performance system
to start with purpose and goals and to
back into the larger systems for talent
and rewards. As the new growth mindset
toward managing and assessing perfor-
mance began to gradually replace the
ratings fetish, ditching ratings became
the trigger event that got everyone’s
attention.

The Media Factor
The change might have taken its mea-
sured evolutionary course, were it not
for the media. The performance man-
agement revolution owes its meteoric
ascendance to gaining status as the hot-
test business news item partly due to the
enormous amount of media attention it
received.

Take Adobe’s story that set pace for
the trend worldwide. It all started with
the Economic Times of India getting an
interview with Donna Morris, then Ado-
be’s chief people and places officer, who
admitted that “the performance review
was an antiquated, painful, and unpro-
ductive HR process that had outlived
its time.” Her revelation made the front
pages in India, with the headline, “Ado-
be Set to Scrap Performance Review.”
Furthermore, the news got worldwide
coverage before it was vetted with Ado-
be’s CEO, and Donna’s peers. Luckily,
the organization was ready for the
change and got behind the new perfor-
mance management agenda. Hundreds
more interviews and thousands more
citations followed, marking the end of
the “quiet” phase in the performance
revolution.

Media for Months to Come
From there, performance management
became the hot topic to capture the
headlines of every important business
publication in the United States and
beyond. Harvard Business Review covered
“the performance revolution” extensive-
ly with Deloitte’s milestone story, “Rein-
venting Performance Management,” co-
authored by Ashley Goodall and Marcus

Buckingham. Strategy+Business featured
David Rock’s eye-catching feature, “Kill
Your Performance Ratings.” The New
York Times followed suit with the head-
lines such as, “10 Reasons Performance
Reviews Do Not Work,” and Forbes joined
in with its own, “Let’s Kill Performance
Reviews.” In 2015, the Washington Post,
called PM the “corporate Kabuki”
and Vanity Fair went as far as to blame
Microsoft’s PM for the company’s sliding
market performance.

What the Media Got Wrong
The media helped bring attention to the
issue, but it did not always ask the right
questions and did not have the answers
to bring to the table to help get the right
decisions made. If you were wondering
why the complex issues of measuring,
incentivizing, and rewarding employee
performance came down to the simple
question of ratings, and ratings only,
it has to do with the choices that the
media made for us.

Performance appraisals have always
been everyone’s dreaded workplace
experience, which is why the headlines
got public attention in the first place.
We brought the story of “ratings” back
from the media. Some lessons need to
be learned here. The power of (social)
media needs to be faced up to even if
lived behind the tallest corporate fire-
walls. Now is the time for HR to reclaim
performance back again from the legacy
of the past and from the media hype of
the present. The actual story of perfor-
mance management transformation still
needs to be told in full, as we are settling
in with a distinctive new pattern for man-
aging performance in the 21st century.

The Next Practice and
the Best Practice
As HR professionals, we have learned a
great deal from walking the path of per-
formance management transformation
in just these last few years. There seem
to be two distinct directions to take
when joining the performance transfor-
mation movement:
• The innovator path has opened up

to many more companies than ever
before. These bold companies broke
away from the past early and set
themselves up to discover solutions
aligned with their own unique

purpose (Adobe, Juniper, Gap, and
the companies represented in the
Perspectives that follow: GE, Deloitte,
Eli Lilly, Sears, and MITRE). Facing
the unknown, the innovators turned
to science, analytics, and technology
to look for guidance in designing
their singular future.

• The second cohort of companies has
been more circumspect. These com-
panies have been looking for more
evidence and more compelling prac-
tices around them before starting on
their own change journey.

Both approaches are legitimate, both
ultimately lead to desired change. The
difference has been in the role that the
HR function has played. The innova-
tors boldly took on strategic leadership
roles in their businesses. In the second
scenario, the HR function gained more
internal confidence but remained to be
the “partner” to the business it has been
up until then.

Looking ahead, it has become even
clearer that the future of HR will be
more with the innovators and pathfind-
ers among us. Reinventing performance
management is the first step in giving
HR its strategic mission it is beginning
to embrace. It will most likely take a few
more rounds of these types of “revolu-
tions” to move the function solidly to
the new role of organizational inno-
vators and talent leaders in their own
businesses.

Where Do We Go From Here?
By mid–2016, the new practice has
matured enough to be learned from
and applied in organizations looking for
more guidance. The new norms have
been settling in, presenting an achiev-
able standard for those catching up on
the trend.

Despite the attention it initially has
gotten, the “ratingless” process now is
one of the options to follow, but definite-
ly is not the universal rule on how to
do performance management going
forward.

With or without ratings, most com-
panies already now follow much shorter
evaluation cycles, decentralize goal
setting, and determine quantitative and
qualitative measurement of “contribu-
tion,” “impact,” and “value.” Managers

PEOPLE + STRATEGY10

are expected to play the coaching role
and own key decisions on employee
performance standing, rewards, and
development needs.

The performance management
revolution started as a trend launched
around 2011 by a few bold detractors. It
reached its peak in 2014 and 2015, and
now it is a global phenomenon, usher-
ing in a massive shift in organizational
cultures and challenging HR functions
to step up to innovator roles in moving
their business forward through people.

As the cases of GE, Deloitte, Eli Lilly.
MITRE, and Sears Holdings presented
here show, each company’s innovation
scenario is a solution that could be
learned from and inspired by, but it
could not be imitated.

Anna A. Tavis, Ph.D., is Perspectives editor
and a faculty member at New York Univer-
sity and Columbia University. She can be
reached at [email protected]

COUNTERPOINT

GE: Staying True to
Its DNA
By Jennifer Beihl,
Janice Semper, and
Valerie Van den Keybus

At GE, evolution and change have been
part of our DNA for 130 years. Today,
GE’s transforming itself as the leading
digital industrial company. By pairing
digital technology with deep expertise
in building powerful machines—from
jet engines to gas turbines to health care
imaging equipment—GE is transform-
ing industry with software-defined ma-
chines and solutions that are connected,
responsive, and predictive.

As part of this transformation, we
recognized the need to infuse new
ways of working in a company that had
developed an intrinsic bias toward com-
plexity and process perfection, when in
fact the world and our employees were
expecting us to act more simply and
nimbly. We responded in three ways:
• We introduced FastWorks, our ver-

sion of a stronger and more entre-
preneurial focus on our customers

and competency in experimentation
working with Eric Ries of Lean Start-
up and other Silicon Valley advisors,
married with the work of thought
leaders in the company.

• We took a strong position that the
go-forward leadership and per-
formance expectations are very
different from our long-held and
often-tweaked values and introduced
a new set of aspirational GE Beliefs
to guide us.

• We then reexamined at our per-
formance management approach,
which did not support or help build
these new behaviors described by GE
Beliefs and FastWorks.

The New Approach
In 2014, we introduced performance
development, a more personalized,
real-time, and flexible approach to per-
formance and development. It empha-
sizes coaching and continuous dialogue
(touch points) between manager and
employee, instead of heavy, once-a-year
evaluations. “The world isn’t really on
an annual cycle anymore for anything,”
said Susan Peters, GE’s senior vice presi-
dent of human resources.

The approach reflects the mindset
and behaviors that are driving GE’s
culture forward:
• Strengthening our muscle in sharing

real-time, contextual feedback with
both our manager and colleagues
to increase self-awareness about
behaviors that support our effective-
ness and impact and that minimize
the same

• Becoming much more connected
and dialoging early and often with
our customers to understand what
work we need to prioritize to get to
outcomes important to them

• Completing a simple annual sum-
mary narrative about the employ-
ee’s impact and behaviors which
is co-created by the manager and
employee together

Replacing a backward-looking yearly
assessment on a long form, performance
development focuses on real-time con-
versations—facilitated and supported
by a simple, digital app that functions
as a notebook to capture key comments,
serves as an aid to alignment and mem-
ory, and simplifies the year-end process.

Finally, we are testing a no ratings
approach to find alternative ways to
motivate and build performance, as a
subset pilot of the overall performance
development approach.

Where Are We?
We are about two years into the perfor-
mance development journey. Through a
phased approach of testing and learn-
ing (FastWorks), we started by intensive-
ly dialoguing with our customer groups
(employees, managers and senior lead-
ers) to understand their most important
needs, then testing components of the
approach with several dozen employees
to validate (or invalidate) our assump-
tions. We transitioned around 6,000
employees to a “wing to wing” approach
developed based on those learnings.
Since the beginning of 2015, we have
continued to scale and increase adop-
tion amongst larger populations. We
have tested, learned about the impact,
and iterated along the way to increase
that impact. We will continue to do so.

We have learned that when employ-
ees and managers actively engage in
performance development behaviors,
it has significant positive impact on the
outcomes that are important to them in-
dividually and us collectively as an evolv-
ing organization. And we know from
the data we have collected that there are
some who are still trying to make sense
of it. It is where we are now focusing our
efforts and testing new ways to acceler-
ate adoption that will in turn accelerate
our ability to deliver on the future for
GE—the digital industrial.

Advice
• Validate assumptions early with small

tests. If something does not work
for 10 customers, it won’t work for
200,000.

• Calibrate for a marathon. Changing
mindset and behavior to evolve a
company culture does not happen
overnight. But it is very possible. And

Performance
development focuses on
real-time conversations—
facilitated and supported
by a simple, digital app.

Copyright of People & Strategy is the property of HR People & Strategy and its content may
not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s
express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for
individual use.

Coaching: from challenge
to opportunity

Athanassios Mihiotis and Niki Argirou
School of Social Sciences, Hellenic Open University, Patras, Greece

Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present coaching opportunities and applications in the
workplace as well as to point out that organizations that want to leverage the benefits of coaching must
be mature enough to have certain processes and practices in place. A further purpose of this paper is to
gain some insight regarding several critical success factors are not well understood by organizations
and to identify possible areas for improvement for them.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors first presents the environment in which coaching
was developed, from which disciplines was it affected, and how it was shaped into its current form.
Then the authors focus on coaching used as a business development tool and critical factors that play
an important role in the effectiveness of coaching from the organizations’ side are presented. The paper
ends with some qualitative conclusions.
Findings – The value that organizations realize form coaching is proportional to the quality of
coaching delivered. Organizations that invest in quality coaches, have, themselves, a clear
understanding of what coaching really is and actively support coaching initiatives at every aspect of
coaching’s procedure, can reap the greatest benefits from it.
Originality/value – Several studies have been conducted to determine the organization-dependent
factors that affect coaching and the quality of the result. However, do date it has not been highlighted
that organizations that want to leverage the benefits of coaching must be mature enough to have
certain processes and practices in place. Furthermore, possible areas for improvement for companies
are identified regarding several critical success factors that are not well understood by them.
Keywords Workplace, Best practices, Coaching, Business coaching
Paper type Research paper

1. Introduction
Coaching, which evolved as a developmental practice over the last few decades, is now
among the most widely used development techniques in the business environment on
an international level. Yet, despite its growing tenure as a developmental practice,
executive coaching has remained underutilized by many organizations and does not
always achieve desired outcomes and impact. This is mainly due to organizations’
immaturity and lack of knowledge in the proper use of this tool, since there are various
critical factors that can determine the success of such an initiative. Several critical
success factors are not well understood by organizations and this is derived from the
fact that they do not pay adequate attention to the factors that define coaching
effectiveness and enable companies to benefit from coaching’s potential outcomes. This
paper aims to gain some insight regarding these critical success factors and attempts to
identify possible areas for improvement for companies. A further purpose of this paper
is to present coaching opportunities and applications in the workplace as well as to
point out that organizations that want to leverage the benefits of coaching must be
mature enough to have certain processes and practices in place.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows: the first section presents the
environment in which coaching was developed, from which disciplines was it affected,
and how it was shaped into its current form. The second section is designed to
familiarize the reader with the essence of coaching. What it is about, which are its

Journal of Management
Development
Vol. 35 No. 4, 2016
pp. 448-463
© Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0262-1711
DOI 10.1108/JMD-10-2014-0139

Received 29 October 2014
Revised 10 February 2015
22 May 2015
15 November 2015
Accepted 14 January 2016

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/0262-1711.htm

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forms, applications and key principles are the questions to be answered in this section.
In the third section the paper focusses on coaching used as a business development
tool. It presents the different types of workplace coaching and focusses further on
executive coaching, which is the most important form. A demarcation of executive
coaching from other developmental approaches is also presented and this chapter ends
with an explanation of the critical factors that play an important role in the
effectiveness of coaching from the organizations’ side. The last section aims at inferring
some qualitative conclusions.

2. Evolution of coaching
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins states in his book The Selfish Gene that all life
evolves by the survival of replicators that differentiate and adjust to their environments.
Such replicators in biological evolution are genes. Considering other aspects of evolution,
like culture in humans, he coined the word “meme” to describe a unit of cultural information
or idea that can be transferred from one person to another, basically through imitation and
telling. Once the idea is created in the human brain, the individual familiarizes with it and if
he likes it, starts spreading it. The receiver does the same and the meme propagates itself
from brain to brain. Moreover, consistently with natural selection theory, if memes fit the
cultural and social values of the time they can develop and survive, otherwise they become
extinct (Dawkins, 2006). They also need a means by which to travel. We could say that
coaching has been a “meme,” evolved in a changing socioeconomic and business
environment and spread rapidly during the past few decades (O’Connor and Lages, 2007).

2.1 Socioeconomic environment
The 20th century brought many changes from the beginning of the modern period
toward the postmodern period. The modern period was mainly focussed on a scientific,
rational and analytical worldview with a mentality of progress and improvement
through economic and technical growth. The Industrial Revolution caused a separation
of work and family and created industrial mass urban societies. Pursuit of wealth,
stability, directive mentality and social responsibility were also some characteristics of
this era. In the 1950s, the postmodern period emerged with humanistic and
collaborative principles, resistance toward making sacrifices in the name of progress
and the climate turned to a service and information-oriented mobile society which
allowed reintegration of work and family. Pursuit of happiness and purpose,
uncertainty, need for improvement, spirituality and personal responsibility came on the
scene and gained importance. It was the same period that organization development
and systems theory appeared in business culture. Thus, as the world’s business and
social environment changed, the needs of human beings changed as well, and coaching
sprung up to meet them (Brock, 2012).

2.2 Root disciplines
Coaching has been a child of many parents and was nourished mostly by the root
disciplines of philosophy, psychology, business, sports and adult education.

Philosophy provided the foundation for coaching as for all disciplines of the modern
world. Western philosophy contributed with the view of reason and logic whereas
Eastern philosophy promoted spirituality and oneness.

Psychology, which emerged in the early 1990s, provided many of the essential
theories, as well as a practical toolset, with a focus on the individual. From Freudian

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psychoanalysis and subconscious states it evolved, through behaviorist and cognitive
stages, to the humanistic sub-discipline, which is one of the principal roots of coaching.
It was in the 1950s that Maslow and Rogers came up with a humanistic approach in
psychology, which took into account human experience, feelings, values and goals.
At the heart of humanistic psychology lie basic principles like each person’s
uniqueness, wholeness and ability of choice that later, during the 1960s, set the basis
for the human potential movement, which in turn advised employers that people need
to be treated well. It was during this period, that major management theories
completely changed the scenery of the business sector. Therefore, management,
leadership and related business disciplines also contributed to the development of
coaching. In fact we could argue that coaching could not have its present form had the
business world not provided such a fertile field for its growth.

The contributions of sports and adult learning and development have been very
significant too. The sports world provided not only the use of the word “coaching” as a
title, but also the fundamental model of the field and pointed out the differences of
individual and team coaching, whereas adult learning provided multiple practical
methods and educational research from the fields of training and career development
(Brock, 2012).

It goes without saying that coaching is essentially a hybrid; a complex field that has
its roots in multiple disciplines and has been able to develop in the tremendously
changing environment of the late twentieth century.

2.3 Tipping points and important transmitters
Coaching was previously referred to as a “meme,” a set of cultural information that was
transmitted in the postmodern period through its “hosts” or pioneers. There are various
people that originated and spread coaching; others acted as originators and others as
transmitters. By the term originators we refer to those who created the principal
theories even if they originally developed them for other principles. Transmitters, on
the other hand, were basically the first coaches who synthesized theories and models
and developed coaching gradually to its current existence. They customized models
and concepts and thus led coaching to emerge as a separate field (Brock, 2012).

The first, let’s say, transmitter of coaching was the Harvard educationalist
and tennis expert Timothy Gallwey who published his particularly influential book
The Inner Game of Tennis, in 1974. The word “inner” was used to describe an internal
state of the player’s self and argued that the player in fact faces two opponents, the
outer and the inner, with the latter being the most formidable because he knows all of
your weaknesses and problems and is judgmental. He then claimed that if a coach could
help the individual overcome his internal obstacles, his performance would then arise to
meet the goals (Gallwey, 1975). Any form of directive instruction and tuition by the
coach was more likely to inhibit the process of learning because it would stimulate the
inner part of the player and magnify the fear of failure (Whitmore, 2011). Gallwey’s
ideas were quite novel for the time and were not readily accepted, considering that a
coach’s role at the time was precisely to instruct players, practice with them and give
feedback. Gallwey had made the first exploratory step and had put his finger on the
essence of coaching. At the same time, Werner Erhard established EST (“it is” in Latin)
training at Esalen Institute, which was a very popular self-awareness training. He is
considered one of the most important influencers of coaching, since his ideas and
approach to self and personal development impacted management of the time
(O’Connor and Lages, 2007).

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Soon after Gallwey, in 1992, Sir John Whitmore, an ex-motor racing champion,
published Coaching for Performance wherein he developed one of the most influential
models of coaching – the GROW model (an acronym for goal, reality, options, will) –
and made coaching accessible to the workplace. He stated that “coaching is unlocking
people’s potential to maximize their own performance” and that awareness and
responsibility of the individual are basic components for their development and
performance (Whitmore, 2011). It is worth mentioning one more important transmitter
of coaching, Thomas Leonard, who is mostly responsible for popularizing coaching.
He was a synthesizer of the various tools, methods and techniques who later helped
establishing the International Coach Federation (ICF), (Brock, 2012).

3. What is coaching?
3.1 Origin of the word and concept
Before trying to define coaching as it is today, let’s refer to the origin of the word and
concept of coaching. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the verb “to coach” (in the
1840s) as to tutor, to train; it was first used to describe a private tutor, not related to the
university, who “carries” a student through an exam (Morrison, 2010). Going back in time,
around 1,500, the very first use of the word in the English language, referred to a particular
type of carriage, something that takes you from where you are to where you want to be
(Brock, 2012). An interesting finding, that digs deeper into the origin of the word, is that of
the Hungarian village Kocs. Kocs held a very important geographical position and was a
trading center of the time, so villagers made a horse-drawn carriage in the fifteenth
century, called “cart of Kocs.” That particular style of carriage became so popular that the
term “Kocs” was soon used for all carriages (O’Connor and Lages, 2007; McLeod, 2003).

Much later, during the 1880s, the term “coach” was mainly used to describe a sports
coach. Given that coaching has its roots in the area of sports it also dates back to
ancient Greece where coaches trained many of the athletes for the Olympic Games
(American Management Association, 2008).

Last but not least, the concept of coaching can be traced back to Socrates, who
believed that individuals have their own answers to the questions raised and learn best
when they have ownership of their situation. In this way he stimulated critical thinking
and passed responsibility on to the individual, with the latter being the fundamental
principle of coaching (O’Connor and Lages, 2007). “I can not teach anybody anything –
I can only make them think!.”

3.2 Definitions and essential principles
Coaching is one of the hottest topics of management, leadership and people
development in the past few decades. In this section we will try to understand what
coaching really is, state some definitions and delve into its essence.

Starting this journey we will cite some of the multiple definitions available, due to
the broad variety of books and schools of coaching that exist and the implicit difficulty
of defining a qualitative concept such us coaching:

• “A collaborative, solution-focussed, results-oriented, and systematic process in
which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience,
self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee” (Grant, 1999).

• “A deliberate process using focussed conversations to create an environment for
individual growth, purposeful action and sustained improvement” (Miller and
Homan, 2002).

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• “The art of facilitating the unleashing of people’s potential to reach meaningful,
important objectives” (Rosinski, 2003).

• “Unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance” (Whitmore, 2011).
• “Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process

that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (ICF).

All of the above definitions, as well as many more that exist in literature, try to describe
the same phenomenon. So, what is this phenomenon all about? What are its
characteristics, essential elements, and goals and how are they achieved? These are the
questions that need to be answered in order to attain a comprehensive understanding
of the nature of coaching.

The first thing that comes to mind is finding an appropriate noun to describe it.
Coaching is a process, a technique, a method, a dialogue, a partnership, a service, a
discipline maybe. Sir John Whitmore says that is not merely that. It is a way of
managing and treating people; a way of thinking; a way of being; while Rosinski
considers it an art.

This process usually involves two parties, the coach and the coachee, i.e. the
individual being coached, and is usually a one-to-one relationship (however there is
group coaching as well). It is probably the only non-therapeutic kind of relationship
where the individual, or coachee, has nothing to worry about regarding the other party.
The sole interest in the conversation and the only focus is the coachee, not the coach.
The coachee does not need to give back the attention he receives (Bossons et al., 2009).
It is generally used for development and growth, to improve performance and achieve
goals pertaining either to personal or professional issues.

Given that all individuals have the native potential to find solutions to their own
problems (humanistic movement), the principal purpose of every coaching interaction
is to build the coachee’s awareness, self-belief and responsibility. These three elements
are crucial in their entirety in order to unlock the human potential and set the base
toward change and goal realization. Awareness is just as much about understanding
and clarifying their own thoughts, emotions and actions as it is about other people and
the environment around them. Coaches help them broaden the limits of their views and
see what is no longer necessary, what might be rearranged and to identify possible
gaps that need to be filled (Wilson, 2007). By taking responsibility and ownership of his
personal decisions, the individual has an opportunity to learn and develop, and
increases his will and engagement toward his goals. This, in turn, helps him build
confidence, which is a keystone for unleashing potential and growth. Moving forward,
some other key principles of coaching are blame-free, solution focus, challenge and
action. Obviously, a judgmental angle in the coaching process would, at the very least,
be out of scope and opposing to its fundamental nature. The coach is not there to form
any kind of opinion on the coachee’s actions, behaviors or thinking, but instead to
remain an external neutral and objective “eye” of the individual who then will challenge
them to look for new perspectives in a supportive way (Wilson, 2007). It is an open
relationship based on trust, which is non-directive, non-judgmental and full of what
Rogers called “unconditionally positive regard” (Rogers, 1961). Throughout the
coaching dialogue, a solution-focussed mindset governs; a good coach will support,
listen and direct the coachee’s focus to resolving the problems they face. Dwelling on
the problem is certainly not useful and it is the coach’s job to shift the focus of the
individual to the solution and toward future. On ending this procedure, the coachee

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should be feeling ready to make the change(s) needed and proceed to action,
considering that he has set new, clear goals and has gained insight of the situation
(Wilson, 2007).

On the whole, these seven principles and key elements of coaching (awareness,
self-belief, responsibility, blame-free, solution focus, challenge, action) create an
environment in which the individual will learn and behave differently, thus resulting in
enhancing that person’s capability of performing or realizing long and short-term goals
(Miller and Homan, 2002). The process is 100 percent coachee-led, with the coachee
setting the content and agenda and the coach managing and facilitating it.

According to Lenhardt (2004), organizations cannot be satisfied with the logic of
objectives and planning and he offers an interesting approach to the coaching concept,
which he called “integrative management” and extends the concept from individual
perspective of individual coaching to collective phenomenon in team coaching (support
for the individual) and team building (support for the team). Lenhardt defines coaching
as: “Help, guidance and a co-construction that is offered to a person or team through
timely intervention, or more often long-term support.” For Lenhardt (2004), coaching is
the major ingredient of creating Collective Intelligence which is the essential concept of
“working on a vision.” This perspective is connected to the managerial development
and its individual and collective dimension (Lenhardt et al., 2007).

Coaching has a broad spectrum of applications not only for the business
environment and corporations but also for individuals who want to improve
relationships, make career transitions, change lifestyle and/or empower themselves.

In the next section, we are going to focus on business coaching and its uses. Before
going there, the main regulatory bodies created to support the rapid expansion of
coaching as a profession are mentioned below.

3.3 Professional associations, accreditation and training bodies
The rapid growth of this new discipline soon created the need for both training and
accreditation for its supporters and adopters.

The earliest training programs were created during the 1980s, for individuals who
were interested in personal growth and improvement. Almost a decade later, coaching
training companies shaped programs for those who wanted a career in coaching.
In parallel, after 1990, the need for professional associations emerged in order to shape
the field of coaching; develop the professional literature around it; create networking and
increase its visibility; and acquaint practitioners with the field’s values and philosophy.
The number of these associations rose to 20 very soon, which implies the maturity that
the coaching field was developing. The variety of these bodies on one hand, allowed
coaching to self-regulate with numerous and multiple standards, however, on the other
hand, it resulted in no one-code of ethics, credentials and accreditation for the coaching
industry, which remains the case today. Apart from the inside “confusion” that this
situation has created, it has also had a great impact on clients, regarding qualifications
required to become a coach and what constitutes coaching (Brock, 2012).

Some of the most important bodies are mentioned below.
International Coaching Federation. Founded by Thomas Leonard, in 1995, as a

non-profit organization, the ICF fulfilled the need for a professional association to act as
a source of information, setting standards of practice and ethical guidelines around the
profession. Also within its scope is to provide accreditation to ensure consistency in
coach training and certification to professionals coached at three levels: associate,

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professional and master certified coach. It also hosts annual conferences and
symposiums globally and provides a coach referral service. Based in California, the
ICF is the largest worldwide association for coaching with a membership base of
over 20,000 (ICF).

Worldwide Association for Business Coaches (WABC). The WABC is the first
coaching association dedicated exclusively to serving the business coaching industry.
It was founded in 1997 in Canada and sets high standards for membership based on
business experience, coaching experience and references. These standards have
resulted in attracting some of the most influential business, corporate and executive
coaches in the world. It is also one of the few for-profit associations for coaches and
provides a three-level coaching certification: registered, certified and certified master
business coach. Graduate degrees in business coaching are also available in WABC.

Association for coaching (AC). Based in the UK, the AC was launched in July 2002 as
an independent non-profit professional body for coaches, training providers and
corporates interested in coaching. There are three types of membership: individual,
corporate and organizational. The AC provides a Code of Ethics and Good Practice, a
list of core coaching capabilities, conferences, workshops, networking and international
coaching journal as well as published books (AC).

European Mentoring and Coaching Council. Founded in the UK in 1992, this
organization was created to promote good practice in mentoring and coaching across
Europe. They provide ethical standards, support forums, research papers, conferences
and a library of continuously updated resources. Four types of membership are
available: individual, organizational, provider and academic, as well as two types of
accreditation: the European Quality Award and the European Individual Accreditation.

At this point in the evolution of the coaching industry, there are still no regulatory
authorities, such as a government body, that could provide concrete accreditation or
recognition to both coaching professionals and training providers. An attempted
search of how many accreditation programs exist resulted in confusion. This finding,
juxtaposed with the fact that qualification, accreditation and certification are conducted
on a voluntary basis by anybody in the industry without concern, has created
numerous misconceptions among coaching clients. The industry needs to preserve
itself and the quality standards of coaching. In doing so, apart from creating more and
more vigorous accreditation systems the industry should consider the path toward
regulation of the profession (Association for Coaching, 2010).

4. Business coaching
As we have seen so far, coaching has grown tremendously over the past few decades,
and business environments were a catalyst in this. Coaching opportunities and
applications in the workplace are numerous, and so within corporations, coaching
found rich soil to grow and flourish.

4.1 Why business coaching?
Literature strongly suggests that coaching can both play a key role in
improving individual and organizational performance (Evered and Selman 1989;
Popper and Lipshitz, 1992) and assisting individuals or teams to reach their
full potential through learning and development processes. (Grant, 2006; Anderson
et al., 2009).

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We are living in an era of continuous rapid changes wherein the only constant is
change itself. By nature, all humans are reluctant to change; coaching helps people
accept and promote it. Moreover, given that coaching focusses on the individual and we
live and work in a fairly complex system as Grant states, a change in the individual
could result in changing the organization (Greene and Grant, 2003).

Another facet of the importance and need for coaching in business is that of
executives. Executive leaders play a tremendous role in such times. Their work is
crucial to the company’s success; they are expected to have all the answers and produce
positive results for the organization. However, executives stand at the top
alone, frequently in a turbulent environment. Executive coaches can provide all the
necessary support and help their strategy formulation and decision making (O’Connor
and Lages, 2007).

Furthermore, corporate uncertainty has increased the level of pressure and stress.
In addition to the increased pace in which work is conducted and the long working
hours, managers are expected to coach their people to adapt, learn quickly and be
effective. Coaching is the only way they can achieve this (Miller and Homan, 2002).
Another point is that flat organizations have created the need for a broad spectrum
of managerial skills and competencies (especially those of coaching), the development
of which can be enhanced by their own individual coaching, as a learning process
(O’Connor and Lages, 2007). Finally, the social capital of the organization is nowadays
its most competitive advantage. Therefore supervision is no longer enough as a
managerial skill. Cooperation, inclusion, empowerment and motivation are of high
importance. People need relationships of trust and open communication with managers
and peers in order to fulfill their needs and increase their performance. Once again,
coaching is the means to that end.

4.2 Types of coaching in the workplace
Executive coaching. Coaching in the workplace can be conducted at multiple levels in an
organization. Starting from the top toward bottom, executive coaching has its place with
top leaders and executives. According to the Sherpa (2010) executive coaching survey.

“Executive coaching means regular meetings between a business leader and a
trained facilitator, designed to produce positive changes in business behavior in a
limited time frame.” Most executive coaching is primarily aimed at leadership
development; enhanced strategic planning; stress and conflict management and
executive team building; and is most often delivered by professional coaches who are
not part of the client organization (The Coaching and Mentoring network, 2013). Unlike
in the past, executive coaches today are mostly used for high-potential executives, not
underperformers, and receiving professional coaching could be interpreted as a sign of
upcoming success and honor (Coutu and Kauffman, 2009).

Another more analytical and descriptive definition of executive coaching is that
presented in the executive coaching handbook: “Executive coaching is an experiential
and individualized leader development process that builds a leader’s capability to
achieve short- and long-term organizational goals. It is conducted through one‐on‐one
and/or group interactions, driven by data from multiple …

AI Practitioner November 2015

23

Volume 17 Number 4 ISBN 978-1-907549-25-0

More Articles at www.aipractitioner.com

We hope to inspire team leaders to try Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Lean by asking a few

simple questions and then evaluate if the value of this approach is big enough to use

it more systematically. In the process, we also hope to show Lean practitioners how

to integrate AI into their practice. We think both AI and Lean can be useful even if you

do not implement it 100% in everything you do. For most companies it will be better

to let the results speak for themselves, instead of insisting on all or nothing. Both AI

and Lean have valuable contributions to all companies. Finally we hope to inspire AI

practitioners to join the language of Lean, so they can join forces with kindred spirits,

who just happen to speak another language.

The core AI processes

Inquiry is all about asking questions and looking for inspiring answers and responses.

The questions we use in AI are open questions that invite people to share their

personal experience and points of view. You can decide to inquire into specific

issues or many issues, and you can choose to inquire into details or into the whole.

Appreciative Inquiry can be used for all combinations of inquiry.

The five processes that create an appreciative conversation are shown in Figure 1.

Notice that the question marks are situated in the areas where two processes overlap.

We highly recommend that you follow the process in designing and conducting your

inquiry implied by the circular arrow. Without an appreciative focus to your inquiry,

the conversations will not release their full potential.

Appreciative Inquiry makes
it easy to increase the quality
of all conversations aimed
at improving performance,
competence development,
team learning and innovative
competences. This article
shows how team leaders
can apply AI in a Lean-based
organisation, and how to
think big and start small. AI
works like a virus: it takes
off when you infect as many
conversations as possible.

dx.doi.org/10.12781/978-1-907549-25-0-4

Appreciative Inquiry Lean

Jacqueline Bustos Coral
Jacqueline Bustos works as a systemic consultant
and university teacher. She teaches in the master’s
program Intervención en Sistemas Humanos of the
Central University in Bogota (Colombia). Jacqueline
has accompanied appreciative communication
processes in organizational, educational and
therapeutic contexts.
Contact: [email protected]

AI Practitioner November 15 Bustos Coral et al: Appreciative Inquiry Lean

A New Route to Success for Team Leaders

Juan Pablo Ortiz Jiménez
Juan Pablo Oritiz is a senior performance
consultant, keynote speaker and facilitator at
YesP in Gothenburg, Sweden and a member of the
International Society for Performance Improvement,
which links organizational goals and strategies with
the workforce responsible for them. He has worked
at the UN and as vice president of an IT company.
Contact: [email protected]

Kaj Voetmann
Kaj Voetmann has worked as an Appreciative Inquiry
practitioner for more than 20 years in private, public
and non-governmental organizations in Denmark,
Norway, Sweden, Austria, United Kingsom and
Colombia. He is also one of the editors of one of the
most important Danish books on the practice and
theory of Appreciative Inquiry.
Contact: [email protected]

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In each of the processes, you also have to keep three aspects in mind simultaneously:

• What are the desired outcomes (both visible and invisible) of the inquiry?

• What are the steps you need to break the inquiry down to, and in which

order should these steps be taken?

• How are you going to organise the participants in each step to make sure

the outcomes are achieved?

Choosing an appreciative focus for the inquiry

You first need to choose an appreciative focus – or topic – for your process of inquiry.

This is a way to define the desired outcomes explicitly before you start doing anything

else. To create an appreciative focus, you have to express what you really want to

create, more so than what you want to remove. Here are some examples of how to

change to an appreciative focus.

Normal focus Appreciative focus

Reducing waste Create value for the customers

Not meeting the expected results Examples of results above the expected

Conflicts among team members Examples of collaboration in a diverse team

Resistance to change Examples of real changes

Notice that the appreciative focus aims at creating the preferred future, the future

you want, and that the appreciative focus usually opens many more aspects of life

than the normal performance improvement focus.

You can increase the power of the appreciative focus by lifting your ambitions

to extreme levels. It seems that small ambitions create small results, while large

ambitions create large results. Some people call this the ‘coal–diamond strategy’. If

you squeeze coal very hard, it is transformed into diamonds.

Figure 1: The five processes of an
appreciative conversation

Table 1: Choosing an appreciative focus of
inquiry

AI Practitioner November 15 Bustos Coral et al: Appreciative Inquiry Lean

Example

Kaj was once asked to undertake a large inquiry by a management team, who

were wondering where all the good ideas were hiding in their company. He

asked the management team if he could change one thing, the name of the

inquiry. He asked them if it was allright to invite people to a workshop with

the title ‘Let the thousand ideas blossom’. Then 200 people came and told

amazing stories about the ideas that had grown from small seeds into large

changes without much fuss.

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Large ambitions create large results:
coal turns to diamonds

Collecting appreciative experiences

We are always looking for the experiences that are mostly appreciated by the people

we ask questions of. These experiences do not need to be 100% positive. It is natural

to include problems, conflicts and other things usually seen as negative. One way to

think about them is that they represent the frustrated dreams that the inquiry should

find solutions for. If you ignore them, you might lose the connection to these very

important dreams.

Notice that questions 1 and 2 ask for past and present experiences, while questions

3 and 4 begin to show the preferred future.

The part of first question that is italicised is the appreciative focus of the inquiry. All

you need to do if you change the focus to another topic is to replace this part of the

question! When you have tried to undertake your own inquiry a couple of times, you

can experiment with other questions. Until then we recommend that you try these

questions, which have proven their effectiveness in many different inquiries around

the world, in many different industries.

You should add one core ingredient to the inquiry: having an interviewer who asks

questions and helps the person describing the experiences include all aspects

of the story – with respect for the fact that it is not the interviewer’s story to tell.

As interviewer, you can ask open questions that highlight missing aspects of the

AI Practitioner November 15 Bustos Coral et al: Appreciative Inquiry Lean

Problems, conflicts and
other things usually seen
as negative … represent the
frustrated dreams that the
inquiry should find solutions
for. If you ignore them, you
might lose the connection
to these very important
dreams.

Example

In a large inquiry Jerry Porras and James Collins examined the qualities of

successful visionary companies. They found that one factor that distinguished

successful efforts from unsuccessful ones was the use of ambitious, even

outrageous, goals to motivate people and focus them toward concrete

accomplishments.

1. What are the best experiences you have had where your customers

were very pleased with your products and services?

2. What made it possible for you to have these experiences?

• What did you do?

• What did other people do?

• What were the special circumstances?

3. What could have made these experiences even better?

4. What can we learn from these experiences and how can we apply the

learning to our practice?

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experiences. The point is to be as curious as possible and help the person to tell a

good and important story filled with the drama and emotions that are just under the

surface of good experiences. It is much easier for interviewers to be curious if they do

not know the person or their work.

Sharing and mapping appreciative experiences

In this situation, an appreciative inquiry is more a collective inquiry than a personal

one. Therefore, in addition to the interviewer there should be witnesses to listen to

the story. This is easy if you have three or more people present at the interview. These

witnesses can listen in general, or they can be asked to listen for specific things in the

interview. If we keep to the appreciative focus we used before, you could ask:

If you ask the witnesses to write the things they notice on a post-it note (one post-it

for each item), it will be much easier to map the ‘ingredients’ (ideas, models, tools,

methods etc.) in the next step.

After conducting a series (three or more) of interviews with witnesses, ask the

participants to create a map of how the experiences are created. Ask the team to

answer these questions:

One of the strengths in both Lean and AI is that they inspire people to redesign

present situations and begin to visualise the new whole. Most adults are a little

reluctant to begin to make drawings because they don’t think they are ‘good’

at drawing. Yet drawings on napkins from lunch or coffee breaks have been the

inspiration for great improvements. You should always try to visualise your ideas,

and especially the whole, if you can. You only need a sketch. You can also use other

available materials to build the visualisation, such as Lego bricks.

Visualisation of the whole is a very powerful tool to apply in building the preferred

future. Notice that the visualisation begins to integrate many different experiences

into a coherent whole.

LEGO® bricks can help people to visualise a
desired future

AI Practitioner November 15 Bustos Coral et al: Appreciative Inquiry Lean

5. What are the main ‘ingredients’ (ideas, models, tools, methods etc.)

that go into creating these experiences – either from the story or from

your own experiences?

6. When you look across the experiences we have collected, what are

the main “ingredients” (ideas, models, tools, methods etc.) that go into

creating these experiences?

7. How are these main ingredients connected?

8. How can we visualise a new practice based on these ingredients and

connections?

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Exchange stories (and visualisations) about the preferred future

Stories become powerful by sharing them, including all the details, dramas and

emotions they contain. Logical and rational stories seem to spread less well. When

you share the stories, it is important to engage the audience in the storytelling.

This can be done by inviting the audience to ask questions, add new pieces, revise

pieces or suggest competing ideas to all details and even the whole. As long as we are

building stories and visualisations of the preferred future, we want to think like the fox,

which has many entrances to and exits from its home.

Exploring paths to the preferred future

When you have a good idea about the kind of preferred future you want to build, you

can begin looking at what you already have and find out what it will take to build the

rest.

Imagine you are building a bridge to the preferred future: start by defining the gap

between the present state and the preferred future.

Then you can begin to prepare the bridge to the preferred future. Both the preferred

future and the present state have two parts: the foundations for the work; and the

competences people bring to work.

It is, psychologically, much easier to plan backwards from the future, rather plan

forwards through talking about all the obstacles to be overcome.

(Repeat the questions until you arrive back at the present state.)

It is, psychologically, much
easier to plan backwards
from the future, rather plan
forwards through talking
about all the obstacles to be
overcome.

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9. Looking at the visualisations and listening to the stories, which

questions, additional (or even alternative) ideas do you have?

10. If we base our new practices on this visualisation, which things would

we have to do differently

11. If we base our new practices on this visualisation, will we be more

effective than we are today?

12. Imagine that we have built the preferred future and describe:

• What was the last step we took to get to this point?

• What was the last foundation we built before we took that last step?

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Moving to the next step in the spiral of progress

When you have completed the last process, one question still remains to work with.

This is the evaluation after you have made the preferred future come true.

When you reach the end of the inquiry process, you will always have lots of inspiration

for new appreciative topics you can inquire into.

Think big, start small

We recommend that you think of the whole process when you try to apply this

approach, and that you start by trying each step of the inquiry one at a time. You can

start by creating an appreciative focus for a meeting and see what happens. If you

want the new approach to take off in your team, you should finish every new part you

introduce with a small appreciative evaluation, which you can put into a scorecard.

Each evaluation should use this instruction:

AI Practitioner November 15 Bustos Coral et al: Appreciative Inquiry Lean

13. Imagine that we are at the celebration of the amazing success the

inquiry has generated and describe:

• What are the most important contributions you have observed of

yourself, from your team and from the management team?

Please talk to the person next to you for the next three minutes and answer

these questions:

a. What special moments were there in our meeting today that really made a

difference for you?

b. What made it possible for us to have these special moments?

c. What can we do to create more such special moments in our meetings?

The bridge to the preferred future

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After three minutes, ask the participants to put their answers into this scorecard:

Our Special Meetings

To keep: To improve:

List the answers to questions a and b List the answers to question c

• •

• •

• •

• •

Notice the title is an appreciative focus for evaluation of meetings and that the

scorecard is a visual tool for collecting and sharing ideas. You can take other AI

processes one-by-one and evaluate them in the same way.

Buen viaje, have a safe trip, god rejse

We wish you a great journey into the new practice in your team. If you find the courage

to embark on this journey, you run the risk of becoming a better leader, creating a

dream team, and creating unprecedented results with fewer frustrations and less

lack of implementation. If you can do that, you might even inspire your own leaders to

follow the path you have chosen.

Copyright of AI Practitioner is the property of AI Practitioner and its content may not be
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express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for
individual use.

Emotional Intelligence: Implications for Personal, Social,
Academic, and Workplace Success

Marc A. Brackett*, Susan E. Rivers, and Peter Salovey
Yale University

Abstract

This article presents an overview of the ability model of emotional intelligence and includes a dis-
cussion about how and why the concept became useful in both educational and workplace set-
tings. We review the four underlying emotional abilities comprising emotional intelligence and
the assessment tools that that have been developed to measure the construct. A primary goal is to
provide a review of the research describing the correlates of emotional intelligence. We describe
what is known about how emotionally intelligent people function both intra- and interpersonally
and in both academic and workplace settings.

The facts point in one direction: The job offer you have in hand is perfect – great sal-
ary, ideal location, and tremendous growth opportunities. Yet, there is something that
makes you feel uneasy about resigning from your current position and moving on.
What will you do? Ignore the feeling and choose what appears to be the logical path,
or go with your gut and risk disappointing your family? Or, might you consider both
your thoughts and feelings about the job in order to make the decision? Solving prob-
lems and making wise decisions using both thoughts and feelings or logic and intuition
is a part of what we refer to as emotional intelligence (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Salovey
& Mayer, 1990).

Linking emotions and intelligence was relatively novel when first introduced in a theo-
retical model about twenty years ago (Salovey & Mayer, 1990; but see Gardner,
1983 ⁄ 1993). Among the many questions posed by both researchers and laypersons alike
were: Is emotional intelligence an innate, nonmalleable mental ability? Can it be acquired
with instruction and training? Is it a new intelligence or just the repackaging of existing
constructs? How can it be measured reliably and validly? What does the existence of an
emotional intelligence mean in everyday life? In what ways does emotional intelligence
affect mental health, relationships, daily decisions, and academic and workplace perfor-
mance?

In this article, we provide an overview of the theory of emotional intelligence, includ-
ing a brief discussion about how and why the concept has been used in both educational
and workplace settings. Because the field is now replete with articles, books, and training
manuals on the topic – and because the definitions, claims, and measures of emotional
intelligence have become extremely diverse – we also clarify definitional and measure-
ment issues. A final goal is to provide an up-to-date review of the research describing
what the lives of emotionally intelligent people ‘look like’ personally, socially, academi-
cally, and in the workplace.

Social and Personality Psychology Compass 5/1 (2011): 88–103, 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00334.x

ª 2011 The Authors
Social and Personality Psychology Compass ª 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Initial conception of emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence was described formally by Salovey and Mayer (1990). They
defined it as ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to dis-
criminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’
(p. 189). They also provided an initial empirical demonstration of how an aspect of emo-
tional intelligence could be measured as a mental ability (Mayer, DiPaolo, & Salovey,
1990). In both articles, emotional intelligence was presented as a way to conceptualize
the relation between cognition and affect. Historically, ‘emotion’ and ‘intelligence’ were
viewed as being in opposition to one another (Lloyd, 1979). How could one be intelli-
gent about the emotional aspects of life when emotions derail individuals from achieving
their goals (e.g., Young, 1943)? The theory of emotional intelligence suggested the oppo-
site: emotions make cognitive processes adaptive and individuals can think rationally
about emotions.

Emotional intelligence is an outgrowth of two areas of psychological research that
emerged over forty years ago. The first area, cognition and affect, involved how cognitive
and emotional processes interact to enhance thinking (Bower, 1981; Isen, Shalker, Clark,
& Karp, 1978; Zajonc, 1980). Emotions like anger, happiness, and fear, as well as mood
states, preferences, and bodily states, influence how people think, make decisions, and
perform different tasks (Forgas & Moylan, 1987; Mayer & Bremer, 1985; Salovey &
Birnbaum, 1989). The second was an evolution in models of intelligence itself. Rather
than viewing intelligence strictly as how well one engaged in analytic tasks associated
with memory, reasoning, judgment, and abstract thought, theorists and investigators
began considering intelligence as a broader array of mental abilities (e.g., Cantor & Kihl-
strom, 1987; Gardner, 1983 ⁄ 1993; Sternberg, 1985). Sternberg (1985), for example, urged
educators and scientists to place an emphasis on creative abilities and practical knowledge
that could be acquired through careful navigation of one’s everyday environment. Gard-
ner’s (1983) ‘personal intelligences,’ including the capacities involved in accessing one’s
own feeling life (intrapersonal intelligence) and the ability to monitor others’ emotions
and mood (interpersonal intelligence), provided a compatible backdrop for considering
emotional intelligence as a viable construct.

Popularization of emotional intelligence

The term ‘emotional intelligence’ was mostly unfamiliar to researchers and the general
public until Goleman (1995) wrote the best-selling trade book, Emotional Intelligence: Why
it can Matter More than IQ. The book quickly caught the eye of the media, public, and
researchers. In it, Goleman described how scientists had discovered a connection between
emotional competencies and prosocial behavior; he also declared that emotional intelli-
gence was both an answer to the violence plaguing our schools and ‘as powerful and at
times more powerful than IQ’ in predicting success in life (Goleman, 1995; p. 34). Both
in the 1995 book and in a later book focusing on workplace applications of emotional
intelligence (Goleman, 1998), Goleman described the construct as an array of positive
attributes including political awareness, self-confidence, conscientiousness, and achieve-
ment motives rather than focusing only on an intelligence that could help individuals
solve problems effectively (Brackett & Geher, 2006). Goleman’s views on emotional
intelligence, in part because they were articulated for ⁄ to the general public, extended

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beyond the empirical evidence that was available (Davies, Stankov, & Roberts, 1998;
Hedlund & Sternberg, 2000; Mayer & Cobb, 2000). Yet, people from all professions –
educators, psychologists, human resource professionals, and corporate executives – began
to incorporate emotional intelligence into their daily vernacular and professional practices.
Definitions and measures of emotional intelligence varied widely, with little consensus
about what emotional intelligence is and is not.

Alternative models of emotional intelligence

Today, there are two scientific approaches to emotional intelligence. They can be charac-
terized as the ability model and mixed models (Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 2000). The
ability model views emotional intelligence as a standard intelligence and argues that the
construct meets traditional criteria for an intelligence (Mayer, Roberts, & Barsade, 2008b;
Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2008a). Proponents of the ability
model measure emotional intelligence as a mental ability with performance assessments
that have a criterion of correctness (i.e., there are better and worse answers, which are
determined using complex scoring algorithms). Mixed models are so called because they
mix the ability conception with personality traits and competencies such as optimism,
self-esteem, and emotional self-efficacy (see Cherniss, 2010, for a review). Proponents of
this approach use self-report instruments as opposed to performance assessments to mea-
sure emotional intelligence (i.e., instead of asking people to demonstrate how they per-
ceive an emotional expression accurately, self-report measures ask people to judge and
report how good they are at perceiving others’ emotions accurately).

There has been a debate about the ideal method to measure emotional intelligence.
On the surface, self-report (or self-judgment) scales are desirable: they are less costly, eas-
ier to administer, and take considerably less time to complete than performance tests
(Brackett, Rivers, Shiffman, Lerner, & Salovey, 2006). However, it is well known that
self-report measures are problematic because respondents can provide socially desirable
responses rather than truthful ones, or respondents may not actually know how good they
are at emotion-based tasks – to whom do they compare themselves (e.g., DeNisi &
Shaw, 1977; Paulhus, Lysy, & Yik, 1998)? As they apply to emotional intelligence, self-
report measures are related weakly to performance assessments and lack discriminant
validity from existing measures of personality (Brackett & Mayer, 2003; Brackett et al.,
2006). In a meta-analysis of 13 studies that compared performance tests (e.g., Mayer,
Salovey, & Caruso, 2002) and self-report scales (e.g., EQ-i; Bar-On, 1997), Van Rooy,
Viswesvaran, and Pluta (2005) reported that performance tests were relatively distinct
from self-report measures (r = 0.14). Even when a self-report measure is designed to map
onto performance tests, correlations are very low (Brackett et al., 2006a). Finally,
self-report measures of emotional intelligence are more susceptible to faking than perfor-
mance tests (Day & Carroll, 2008).

For the reasons described in this section, we assert that the ability-based definition and
performance-based measurement of emotional intelligence should be preferred. This
makes it possible to both operationalize the construct distinctly and assess its unique
contribution to important life outcomes over and above personality attributes. This view-
point is supported by researchers not associated with any of the established measures of
emotional intelligence (e.g., Matthews, Zeidner, & Roberts, 2002). The focus for the
remainder of this article, therefore, is on the ability model of emotional intelligence.
A more thorough review of the validity of both ability and mixed models of emotional

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intelligence can be found in a recent meta-analysis (O’Boyle, Humphrey, Pollack,
Hawver, & Story, 2010).

The Mayer and Salovey Model of Emotional Intelligence

The Mayer and Salovey (1997) model of emotional intelligence defines four discrete
mental abilities (also referred to as ‘branches’) that comprise emotional intelligence: (i)
perception of emotion, (ii) use of emotion to facilitate thought, (iii) understanding of
emotion, and (iv) management of emotion. These four inter-related abilities are arranged
hierarchically such that more basic psychological processes (i.e., perceiving emotions) are
at the base or foundation of the model and more advanced psychological processes (i.e.,
conscious, reflective regulation of emotion) are at the top. Empirical demonstrations of
whether the higher-level abilities are dependent, to some extent, upon the lower-level
abilities, have yet to be conducted. Here, we provide a brief description of the four abili-
ties, which are described more fully elsewhere (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Mayer et al.,
2008a,b).

The first branch, ‘Perception of emotion,’ includes the ability to identify and differen-
tiate emotions in the self and others. A basic aspect of this ability is identifying emotions
accurately in physical states (including bodily expressions) and thoughts. At a more
advanced level, this ability enables one to identify emotions in other people, works of art,
and objects using cues such as sound, appearance, color, language, and behavior. The
ability to discriminate between honest and false emotional expressions in others is consid-
ered an especially sophisticated perceiving ability. Finally, appropriately expressing emo-
tions and related needs represents more complex problem solving on this branch.

The second branch, ‘Use of emotion to facilitate thinking,’ refers to harnessing emo-
tions to facilitate cognitive activities such as reasoning, problem solving, and interpersonal
communication. A basic aspect of this ability is using emotions to prioritize thinking by
directing attention to important information about the environment or other people.
More advanced skills involve generating vivid emotions to aid judgment and memory
processes, and generating moods to facilitate the consideration of multiple perspectives.
Producing emotional states to foster different thinking styles (e.g., people’s thinking is
more detail-oriented, substantive, and focused when in sad versus happy moods) consti-
tutes an especially high level of ability on this branch.

The third branch, ‘Understanding and analyzing emotions,’ includes comprehension of
the language and meaning of emotions and an understanding of the antecedents of emo-
tions. Basic skill in this area includes labeling emotions with accurate language as well as
recognizing similarities and differences between emotion labels and emotions themselves.
Interpreting meanings and origins of emotions (e.g., sadness can result from a loss, joy
can follow from attaining a goal) and understanding complex feelings such as simulta-
neous moods or emotions (feeling both interested and bored), or blends of feelings (e.g.,
contempt as a combination of disgust and anger) represent more advanced levels of
understanding emotion. Recognizing transitions between emotions (e.g., sadness may lead
to despair which may lead to devastation) is an especially sophisticated component of this
branch.

The fourth branch, ‘Reflective regulation of emotions,’ includes the ability to prevent,
reduce, enhance, or modify an emotional response in oneself and others, as well as the
ability to experience a range of emotions while making decisions about the appropriate-
ness or usefulness of an emotion in a given situation. Basic emotion regulation ability
involves attending to and staying open to pleasant and unpleasant feelings, while more

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advanced ability involves engaging or detaching from an emotion depending on its per-
ceived utility in a situation. Monitoring and reflecting on one’s own emotions and those
of others (e.g., processing whether the emotion is typical, acceptable, or influential) also
represents more complex problem solving within this branch.

Measuring emotional intelligence

There are a number of published performance tests that measure distinct components of
emotional intelligence (i.e., one or more of the branches of Mayer and Salovey’s model,
but not all branches). For example, two frequently used measures of perceptual accuracy
of emotion are the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy Scales (DANVA and
DANVA-2; Nowicki & Duke, 1994). Elsewhere, these and other measures are described
in detail (Brackett & Geher, 2006; Mayer et al., 2008a,b). A comprehensive performance
test of emotional intelligence is the Mayer–Salovey–Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test
(MSCEIT; Mayer et al., 2002) for adults and the Mayer–Salovey–Caruso Emotional
Intelligence Test, Youth Version (MSCEIT-YV; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2005) for
adolescents (ages 12–17). These are considered performance tests because they require
individuals to solve tasks pertaining to each of the four abilities defined by the theory
(Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, & Sitarenios, 2003). The adult version of the MSCEIT has
eight tasks (two for each of the four branches), as depicted in Figure 1. The test takes
about 45 minutes to complete and yields scores for each of the four branches and a total
score. Here, we provide a brief overview of the adult version of the test. More detailed
descriptions of both the adult and youth versions of the tests can be found elsewhere
(Rivers, Brackett, & Salovey, 2008).

The first branch, Perceiving Emotions, is measured by asking respondents to identify
the emotions expressed in photographs of people’s faces (Faces) as well as the feelings
suggested by artistic designs and landscapes (Pictures). For example, in the Faces task, par-
ticipants are presented with a picture of a person expressing a basic emotion like joy.

Figure 1 Graphical representation of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso model of Emotional Intelligence.

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Below the picture is a list of five emotions; the test-taker is asked to rate on a five-point
scale how much of each particular emotion is expressed in the picture.

The second branch, Using Emotion to Facilitate Thought, is measured by two tests
that assess people’s ability to describe emotional sensations and their parallels to other sen-
sory modalities using a non-feeling vocabulary (Sensations) and identify the feelings that
might facilitate or interfere with the successful performance of various cognitive and
behavioral tasks (Facilitation). For example, the task measuring Sensations presents partici-
pants with a sentence asking them to imagine feeling an emotion such as guilt. Partici-
pants are then given a list of adjectives pertaining to other sensory modalities (e.g., warm,
blue, and sour) and are asked to rate on a five-point scale from ‘Not Alike’ to ‘Very
Much Alike’ how much the feeling of guilt is similar to the adjectives.

The third branch, Understanding Emotion, is measured by two tasks that pertain to a
person’s ability to analyze blended or complex emotions (Blends) and to understand how
emotional reactions change over time or how they follow upon one another (Changes).
For example, a question on the Blends task presents a statement such as ‘Anticipation and
joy often combine to form…’. Participants are then presented with a list of response
alternatives and choose the most appropriate.

The fourth branch, Managing Emotions, has two subtests that assess how participants
would manage their own emotions (Emotion Management) and how they would manage
the emotions of others (Social Management). For example, the Social Management task
asks participants to read a vignette about another person, and then determine how effec-
tive several different courses of action would be in coping with emotions in the vignette.
Participants rate a number of possible actions ranging from ‘Very ineffective’ to ‘Very
effective.’

On the MSCEIT, better and worse answers are determined by consensus or expert
scoring. Consensus scores reflect the proportion of people in the normative sample (over
5,000 people from North America) who endorsed each MSCEIT test item. Expert norms
were obtained from 21 investigators, including psychologists and philosophers who were
members of the International Society for Research on Emotion (ISRE). These scientists
and scholars provided their expert judgment on each of the test’s items based on findings
from the professional literature on emotion. Scores are weighted by the proportion of the
normative or expert sample that provided the same answer. Full-scale MSCEIT scores
based on both the consensus and expert norms correlate quite highly, r = 0.91 (Mayer
et al., 2003). Generally, correlations with various outcomes are replicated across the two
scoring methods as well. The MSCEIT is reliable at the full-scale level and at the area
and branch levels (Mayer et al., 2003), but it should not be scored at the level of individ-
ual tasks.

Mayer, Salovey, Caruso, and Sitarenios (2001b) and Mayer et al. (2003, 2008a,b) claim
that the MSCEIT meets the criteria for a test of intelligence because: (i) it has a factor
structure congruent with the four branches of the theoretical model; (ii) the four abilities
have expected convergent and discriminant validity (Brackett & Mayer, 2003; Gil-Olarte,
Palomera Martin, & Brackett, 2006; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2004; Lopes, Salovey, &
Straus, 2003; Van Rooy et al., 2005; Warwick & Nettelbeck, 2004); that is, they are
statistically independent from other well established constructs (including personality traits),
are meaningfully related to other mental abilities such as verbal intelligence, and are asso-
ciated with conceptually-related constructs such as empathy; (iii) emotional intelligence
develops with age and experience, and finally; (iv) the abilities are measured objectively.

The MSCEIT has been criticized on a number of grounds (for reviews see Matthews
et al., 2002; Rivers et al., 2008). Here, we point out a few valid concerns about the test.

Emotional Intelligence 93

ª 2011 The Authors Social and Personality Psychology Compass 5/1 (2011): 88–103, 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00334.x
Social and Personality Psychology Compass ª 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

First, the MSCEIT was designed as an easy-to-administer test that can be completed
using either paper-and-pencil or online versions. This structure does not allow for the
direct assessment of certain skills such as the appropriate expression of emotion and the
ability to regulate emotions in realtime, which would require either sophisticated techo-
nology or experimental conditions. Thus, the MSCEIT may be more closely related to
crystallized intelligence (the ability to use skills and knowledge) rather than fluid intelli-
gence (the capacity to think logically and problem-solve) (Farrelly & Austin, 2007). Sec-
ond, certain dimensions on the MSCEIT, like the perception of emotion, have a small
number and range of facial expressions. The test also taps a limited scope of non-verbal
channels; it does not capture gesture, voice, or posture (O’Sullivan & Ekman, 2004).

With respect to scoring, both consensus and expert methods have their limitations.
Day (2004) questioned whether high EI individuals know what everyone else knows
about emotion or know more about emotion. It may be that agreement with the consen-
sus reflects average emotional intelligence, not high emotional intelligence. MacCann,
Roberts, Matthews, and Zeidner (2004) found that emotion ability measures using veridi-
cal scoring (i.e., tasks that have a true or real answer as opposed to those that are rated as
more or less effective according to a consensus; Geher & Renstrom, 2004) might be ideal
because they converge better with other ability measures than those using consensus-
based scoring.

Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life

Even though the Adult Version of the MSCEIT was published in 2002 and the Youth
Version is still under development, a number of studies have provided evidence support-
ing the validity of both tests. The findings with adults, in particular, indicate that the
MSCEIT is measuring something different than other intelligence and personality assess-
ments, and that it predicts psychological constructs and behavior above and beyond exist-
ing measures of intelligence and personality (see Cherniss, 2010; Mayer et al., 2008a,b,
for reviews). Scores on the test are associated with relevant outcomes across multiple
dimensions, including cognitive and social functioning, psychological well being, psycho-
pathology, academic performance, and leadership and other behaviors in the workplace.
In this section we provide an overview of studies that demonstrate the validity of both
versions of the test.

Relation to cognitive abilities

According to the ability model of emotional intelligence, each ability influences how
individuals utilize emotions to facilitate thinking or regulate emotions to focus on impor-
tant information. For these reasons, emotional intelligence is hypothesized to correlate
moderately with other intelligences, like verbal-propositional intelligence (Mayer & Salo-
vey, 1997). A recent meta-analysis of 18 studies that used the MSCEIT and its predeces-
sor test, the Multi-factor Emotional Intelligence Scale (Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 1999)
supports these hypotheses. Van Rooy et al. (2005) reported correlations in the 0.30 range
between MSCEIT scores and assessments of both verbal and spatial intelligence. Other
studies have shown that MSCEIT scores correlate moderately (rs = 0.20–0.50) with ver-
bal SAT scores (Brackett, Mayer, & Warner, 2004; David, 2005), WAIS-III scores (Lopes
et al., 2003), ACT scores (O’Connor & Little, 2003), reasoning ability (O’Connor &
Little, 2003), academic giftedness (Zeidner, Shani-Zinovich, Matthews, & Roberts,
2005), and measures of general intelligence (e.g., Gil-Olarte et al., 2006). In general,

94 Emotional Intelligence

ª 2011 The Authors Social and Personality Psychology Compass 5/1 (2011): 88–103, 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00334.x
Social and Personality Psychology Compass ª 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

scores on the test correlate more highly with measures of crystallized rather than fluid
intelligence. The Understanding of Emotion domain on the MSCEIT tends to have the
strongest relationship to measures of general cognitive function (rs = 0.40–0.60). This is
not surprising as this subtest relies on knowledge of a sophisticated emotional vocabulary
(Lopes et al., 2003).

MSCEIT scores are related to the amount of cognitive effort employed to solve
problems (generally) and performance on emotion-laden social problems, in particular.
In one study, individuals with higher MSCEIT scores used less cognitive effort while
solving emotion-laded problems, as assessed by patterns in theta and alpha frequency
bands of electroencephalographic activity of the brain (Jausovec, Jausovec, & Gerlic,
2001). In another study, individuals with higher MSCEIT scores solved social problems
that were affective in content more quickly than those with lower scores (Reis et al.,
2007). These studies provide preliminary evidence for the neural correlates of emotional
intelligence.

Mental health and well being

The most common complaints that lead people to psychotherapy are anxiety and depres-
sion. The skills associated with emotional intelligence, therefore, should help individuals
to deal effectively with unpleasant emotions and to promote pleasant emotions in order
to promote both personal growth and well being. MSCEIT scores correlate (rs = 0.10–
0.40) with psychopathologies that have roots in emotional disturbances, including
depression, social anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia. David (2005) reported negative
correlations between MSCEIT scores and depression and anxiety. O’Connor and Little
(2003) showed that MSCEIT scores correlated negatively with anxiety. Gardner and
Qualter (2009) found a relationship between MSCEIT scores and Borderline Personality
Disorder (BPD) criteria in a large sample of non-clinical adults. MSCEIT scores also were
lower among inpatients diagnosed with major depressive disorder, substance abuse disor-
der, and BPD when they were compared to a matched control group sample (Hertel,
Schutz, & Lammers, 2009). In another study, patients with schizophrenia performed
significantly worse than controls on the MSCEIT. Among the patients, lower MSCEIT
scores also were associated with higher negative and disorganized symptoms, as well as
worse community functioning (Kee et al., 2009). On the positive side, among college
students, MSCEIT scores correlated positively with measures of psychological well being
(Brackett & Mayer, 2003; Lopes et al., 2003). It also appears that individuals with higher
MSCEIT scores are more likely to seek psychotherapy in times of need (Goldenberg,
Matheson, & Mantler, 2006).

Rivers et al. (2010) conducted an initial validity test of the MSCEIT-YV using student
and teacher reports of academic, social, and personal functioning on the Behavior Assess-
ment System for Children (BASC; Reynolds & Kamphaus, 1992). Students scoring
higher on the MSCEIT were less likely to be rated by their teachers as having externaliz-
ing problems (e.g., hyperactivity, aggression, conduct problems), internalizing problems
(e.g., anxiety, depression), and school problems. The association between MSCEIT scores
and school problems was particularly high (r = )0.57), indicating that students with
higher emotional …

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Organization Development 49

The Role of Emotional Intelligence
in Organization Development

© 2014 IUP. All Rights Reserved.

Sangeeta Yadav*

In the fast changing corporate world, employees need to adapt themselves and their ways of working to
organizational changes. Organizations are no longer dependent only on people who voice out their
opinions. The management leadership has learnt the SMART way to evaluate the performance of an
individual considering various dimensions and emotional intelligence. In an era of corporate diversity,
emotional competence is the trait that is most needed. The understanding and creation of ideal self is the
first step towards achieving emotional competence. The next important objective is taking stock of one’s
real self, a balance sheet of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Emotional intelligence plays a prominent
role in intelligent decision making. Goleman (2001) found that the emotionally competent individual
encounters significantly less perceived stress than the emotionally incompetent. People have different
abilities when it comes to dealing with emotions just like they have different abilities in language, logic,
mathematics, music, etc. The ability to use one’s emotions in a positive and constructive way in
relationship with others is emotional intelligence. To appraise people and to determine the capabilities of
an individual, today’s leadership is banking on emotional intelligence. The present paper examines the
role of emotional intelligence in the development of an organization.

* Lecturer, Department of Management Studies, CMR Institute of Technology, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
E-mail: [email protected]

Introduction
In today’s world, people who do not adapt to changes may find themselves headed for
extinction. At the same time, every person should realize what his strengths and capabilities
are. “In a moment of decision the best thing one can do is the right thing. The worst thing
one also can do is nothing” (Theodore Roosevelt). Various prominent authors and gurus,
including Peter Drucker, have stressed that self-actualization and teamwork are the backbone
of a long-lasting and strong management. Having great intellectual abilities may make you a
superb fiscal analyst or legal scholar, but highly developed emotional intelligence will make
you a candidate for CEO or a brilliant lawyer (Goleman, 1995). Elias (1997) opines that
emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and express your emotions to meet the
requirements of day-to-day living, learning and relating to others. Emotional intelligence
has an impact on self-efficacy through its influence on emotions involved in reacting to
important workplace outcomes as highlighted by Gundlach (2003).

The term emotional intelligence draws on two simple concepts: to be intelligent or
‘applying knowledge appropriately’; and to be ‘emotionally astute’ or tuned in or ‘applying
feeling appropriately’. This paper looks at the application of knowledge and feelings on a

The IUP Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. XII, No. 4, 201450

combined or balanced basis or in an emotionally intelligent way by adapting a generalized
four-step model of Understand, Learn, Assess and Review:

• Understand: To understand yourself and your goals;
• Learn: Learn to adapt and control your feelings;
• Assess: Evaluate your personal ability; and
• Review: Monitor how well you apply your skills.

Why are organizations interested in emotional intelligence? The ability of an organization
to perform depends on the relationships of the people involved, which ultimately relates to
the degree of emotional intelligence of its employees and leaders. 50% of work satisfaction is
determined by the relationship a worker has with his/her boss. The worker productivity
increases when proper support is provided by the supervisor and co-worker. It is difficult to
get bigger wins by just improving engineering efforts. Thus, blending knowledge with
emotional intelligence can lead organizations to a higher level of success. Emotional
intelligence is a prerequisite for effective leadership across borders.

In today’s corporate world, emotions of employees are given utmost importance in
successful business units. As such the present study was taken up to examine the different
elements of emotional quotient that contribute to the productivity of an organization. The
study also intends to explain the significance of emotional intelligence from the perspective
of Superiors/Managers (winning people over and using complex strategies like indirect
influence to build consensus and support); Subordinates (expressing their views openly and
understanding the superiors); and Management (taking several managerial decisions and
maintaining good organizational climate).

Literature Review
The concept of emotional intelligence has been around for some time in one form or the
other: Social Intelligence (1920 – Thorndike); Social Competence (1935 – Doll); Non-
intellective Intelligence (1940 – Wechsler); Emotional Thought (1948 – Leeper); Emotional
Intelligence (1966 – Leuner); Personal Intelligence (1983 – Gardner); EQ (1985 – Bar-On);
Emotional Competency (1989 – Saarni); Emotional Intelligence (1995 – Goleman); and IQ,
EQ and MQ (1996 – Dulewicz and Higgs).

Wechsler outlined intelligence as “the aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act
purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment”. In early 1940,
his reference to non-intellective as well as intellective elements implied affective, emotional,
personal and social factors (Wechsler, 1958). Wechsler was not alone in the race to demonstrate
non-cognitive faces of intelligence to be significant for prosperity and adaptation, Thorndike
penned articles on social intelligence in the late 1930s (Thorndike and Stein, 1937).
Regrettably, the study of these early groundbreakers was largely discounted or forgotten until
the early 1980s (1983) when Howard Gardner started writing about multiple intelligence.
Gardner anticipated that intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences are as crucial as the
type of intelligence usually measured by psychometric test or by IQ skills.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Organization Development 51

Goleman (2001), who pioneered in emotional intelligent movement focusing on
emotional intelligence at workplace, says that emotional intelligence is twice as important
in star performers as is cognitive ability. According to him, emotional intelligence refers to
“the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others for motivating ourselves
and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationship”. In other words, what
matters is “not just using your head but also your heart”. Thus, emotional intelligence has
been broken down into six areas: Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Self-Control, Empathy,
Motivation and Social Competency.

The model of intelligence is inclined in favor of qualities usually attributed to men with
high energy, drive, achievement and competitiveness. Emotional intelligence stresses on
significanct characteristics conventionally attributed to women—empathy, self-control,
emotional facility, etc. Block (1995), psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley,
has made a comparison between two types: people high in IQ versus people high in emotional
aptitudes. The difference found is—high IQ had prominent place among intellects from
different walks of life. They are ambitious and productive, predictable and dogged, and
untroubled by concerns about themselves, unexpressive and detached, and emotionally bland
and cold.

It has been realized that rich emotional intelligence leads to sound satisfaction. Hence
emotionally intelligent people are cheerful and have a different outlook. The leaders who are
rich in emotional intelligence may inculcate in their organizations a sense of enthusiasm,
positive attitude, excitement, and atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust through
their support to develop a rich atmosphere of quality interpersonal relationships with their
co-workers. High quality interpersonal relationships among seniors and their subordinates
have been found to produce several advantages for organizations, leaders, and the followers
(Graen and Uhl-Bien, 1995; and Gerstner and Day, 1997). A study based on the successes and
failures of 11 American presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton evaluated six
successful qualities—communication, political skill, vision, organization, rationalization and
emotional intelligence. The findings stated that the key quality that distinguished the
successful (like Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan) from the unsuccessful (like Johnson, Carter
and Nixon) was emotional intelligence.

In the competitive global environment, organizations are showing a greater interest in
accepting how employees build and carry on the organizational performance essential for
competitive advantage (Becker and Gerhart, 1996). “As much as 80% of adult ‘success’ comes
from EQ,” said Goleman, and he asserts that the difference between a ‘good’ leader and an
‘excellent’ leader is 85-95% attributable to emotional intelligence.

Objectives
• To know the emotional intelligence of select superiors in an organization.

• To know the opinion of the subordinates about their superiors and how they are
perceived by the concerned superior.

The IUP Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. XII, No. 4, 201452

Hypothesis
H

0
: There is no significant difference between the superior’s views and subordinate’s view.

Data and Methodology
The population considered for this study was the employees of different departments and
their respective immediate reporting heads and managers from one of the largest electronics
multinational company (name of the company kept confidential on request). Hence, the
population was not just focused on one set of people, and it was a combination of various
levels. The sample included six managers, and under each manager five subordinates were
included. Descriptive research methodology was applied in the study. The quantitative and
qualitative data were collected through objective questionnaire to address the various levels
of the study. The questionnaire consisted of 20 closed-ended questions for superiors (Appendix
1) and 17 closed-ended questions for subordinates (Appendix 2), and verbal questions to the
HR head. As the questions were complex, to know the spontaneous answers of the respondents
a brief interaction session was conducted on the sample size. Other relevant information
(secondary data) was collected from journals, articles, books, magazines, and web resources.

Results and Discussion
The survey data was classified into various criteria, and the summary of statistics is presented
in Table 1.

Correlation analysis reveals that there is no correlation between superior views and
subordinate views. The results of t-test, comparing the means of X

1
and X

2
(mean X

1
– mean

X
2
= 44.667; SE of difference = 9.335; t-stat. = 4.7847; df = 16), indicate that by

conventional criteria this difference is considered to be extremely statistically significant at
95% confidence level. Therefore, the null hypothesis (H

0
) that there is no significant

difference between the superior’s views and subordinate’s views is rejected.

Table 1: Summary Statistics

S. No. Criteria Superior Views (X
1
) Subordinate Views (X

2
)

1. Decision Based on Facts 99 80
2. Risk Taking 99 20
3. Patience 100 30

4. Performance in Tense Situation 80 20
5. Good Lateral Thinker 66 40
6. Self-Confidence 99 40

7. Communication of Weakness 99 50
8. Confidence in Subordinates 100 80
9. Informal Relationship 100 80

SD 12.1769 SD  
Variance = 148.277 Variance = 636.111

Mean = 93.555 Mean = 48.888

N = 842 N = 440

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Organization Development 53

Figure 1: Superior’s View (Self-Analysis and About Subordinates)

120

100

80

60

40

20

0

Strongly Agree Agree Unknown Disagree

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Criteria

V
ie

w
s

(%
)

Figures 1 and 2 graphically represent the responses of the participants. The following
observations are made:

• Almost 60% of seniors do resolve the faults of subordinates patiently, however at
times under pressure they lose control of their emotions.

• Superiors are optimistic of subordinates.

Figure 2: Subordinate’s View (Self-Analysis and About Superior)

90

80

70

60

50

40

30

20

10

0

V
ie

w
s

(%
)

Criteria
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Agree Disagree Strongly Agree

The IUP Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. XII, No. 4, 201454

• There exists excellent relationship between them.
• About 66% of seniors strongly agree with respect to their abilities of attaining

higher position and this is agreed with by 70% of their subordinates.

• 66% of seniors give their opinion based on facts which is disagreed with by 40% of
subordinates who state that judgments are not on realistic approach.

• Subordinates are not convinced with the view that seniors take risks and do often
try new ideas.

• About 50% of superiors strongly agree about their lateral thinking which is not
accepted by subordinates.

• Communication about weaknesses needs to be done.

Conclusion
Emotions need not be a problem at workplace, the right ones augment productivity and
workplace harmony, but it takes Emotional Quotient (EQ) to know how to manage them.
We, therefore, infer that in an organization there are superiors who are confident, efficient
and maintain good relations, but need to be emotionally intelligent, and also superiors who
believe and consider the views of their subordinates opting for new ideas. Thus, only when
you are self-aware you can manage yourself better. In turn, only if you can manage yourself,
you can handle relationships well and hope to achieve personal and professional goals. The
importance of emotional intelligence hinges on the link between sentiment, character and
moral instincts. Three attributes, i.e., technical skills, IQ or emotional intelligence, are
important for a leader.

Recommendations: Counseling sessions can be conducted at regular intervals where the superior
has to provide information regarding areas in which the subordinate has to improve. It is
suggested that the management may conduct development programs in psychological aspects
so that superiors can have better understanding about subordinates. In order to know the job-
related behaviors, these aspects can be included in the performance appraisal techniques.

In order to develop the number of emotionally intelligent managers, organizations can
utilize Organization Development (OD) techniques like Gestalt Therapy. Employees are the
main assets of any organization. Therefore, it is important for the management to consider
the feelings of employees and their problems. An organization’s collective level of emotional
intelligence determines the degree to which that organization’s intellectual capital is realized
and its overall performance.

Limitations: One of the limitations of the study was the heavy reliance on the respondents’
information. The entire study was based on perception, which might change from time to
time and therefore the conclusion drawn cannot be generalized.

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Intelligence and Leadership Styles: A Pilot Study”, Quinnipiac University Leigh Farrell,

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Organization Development 55

Quinnipiac University, available at http://www.aibse.org/Proceedings/Proceedings%
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7. George Jennifer M (2000), Emotions and Leadership: The Role of Emotional Intelligence,
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The IUP Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. XII, No. 4, 201456

Appendix 1

Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (Superiors)

Emotional intelligence consists of two dimensions: (a) Self-dimension; and (b) Social
dimension. Self-dimension deals with self-awareness, self-control and self-confidence,
whereas social dimension deals with opinion about others.

The present questionnaire consists of three parts. Part A deals with personal data,
Part B deals with self-dimension and Part C deals with social dimension. Do not guess
how you should act in future. Be sure to circle the number that most closely applies to you.

5 – Strongly Agree 4 – Agree 3 – Unsure 2 – Disagree

1 – Strongly Disagree

Part A
Name:

Age:

Qualification:

Dept.:

Service (No. of years):

17. Lynn Adele B (2005), “The EQ Difference a Powerful Plan of Putting Emotional at
Work”, pp. 10-13, Amacom, New York.

18. Panda Yoga Maya (2008), “Emotional Intelligence and Perceived Stress”, The ICFAI
University Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. VII, No. 3, July, pp. 13-15.

19. Pareek Udai (2004), Understanding Organisational Behavior, pp. 57-59, 1st Edition, Oxford
University Press, New Delhi.

20. Rathi Neerpal and Rastogi Renu (2008), “Effect of Emotional Intelligence on
Occupational Self-Efficacy” , The ICFAI University Journal of Organizational Behavior,
Vol. VII, No. 2, April, pp. 46-53.

21. Thorndike R L and Stein S (1937), “An Evaluation of the Attempts to Measure Social
Intelligence”, Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 5, pp. 275-284.

22. Wechsler David (1958), The Measurement and Appraisal of Adult Intelligence, 4th Edition,
The Williams & Wilkins Company, Baltimore, MD.

Websites
1. www.globalmarketbriefings.com

2. www.measuring-emotionalintelligence.com

3. www.eiconsortium.org

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Organization Development 57

Part B
Self-Awareness

1. I am clear about my goals, my role and my job requirement. 5 4 3 2 1

2. I will take decision based on facts and applying realistic 5 4 3 2 1
approach rather than making snap judgments.

3. I enjoy risk-taking and thus frequently try with new ideas 5 4 3 2 1
and options.

Self-Control

4. I believe that I am patient enough to rectify the mistakes of 5 4 3 2 1
my subordinates when they do things in a wrong way.

5. I never found myself punishing or scolding an innocent 5 4 3 2 1
subordinate till now.

6. I always try to communicate about the weaknesses 5 4 3 2 1
of subordinates in a non-threatening way.

Self-Confidence

7. I see myself as a good lateral thinker. 5 4 3 2 1

8. I believe that I know the best way to handle people. 5 4 3 2 1

9. I am confident of my abilities and the possibility of 5 4 3 2 1
reaching the top/higher position.

Part C
10. I enjoy talking to new and different people. 5 4 3 2 1

11. Subordinates in the organization are dynamic and 5 4 3 2 1
committed and thus constant supervision is not required.

12. Subordinates will discuss their problems openly and try to 5 4 3 2 1
solve them, rather than keep accusing others.

13 Subordinates have control over their emotions. 5 4 3 2 1

14. Subordinates are good enough to understand others’ problems. 5 4 3 2 1

15. When weaknesses are communicated, they take them 5 4 3 2 1
in a positive way and try to overcome them.

16. Subordinates have clear-cut career goals and are aware of 5 4 3 2 1
their strengths and weaknesses.

Appendix 1 (Cont.)

The IUP Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. XII, No. 4, 201458

Appendix 2

Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire (Subordinates)

Emotional intelligence consists of two dimensions: (a) Self-dimension; and (b) Social
dimension. Self-dimension deals with self-awareness, self-control and self-confidence,
whereas social dimension deals with opinion about others.

The present questionnaire consists of three parts. Part A deals with personal data,
Part B deals with self-dimension and Part C deals with social dimension.

Do not guess how you should act in future. Be sure to circle the number that most
closely applies to you.

5 – Strongly Agree 4 – Agree 3 – Unsure 2 – Disagree

1 – Strongly Disagree

Part A

Name:

Age:

Qualification:

Dept.:

Service (No. of years):

17. Subordinates are ready to take up responsibility when 5 4 3 2 1
they are experimenting new means.

18. Subordinates are helpful to each other and take active 5 4 3 2 1
interest in maintaining good relations.

19. Subordinates are very informal and express problems in a 5 4 3 2 1
dignified way.

20. Subordinates adjust themselves as per the requirements with 5 4 3 2 1
regard to working hours, additional work, etc.

Appendix 1 (Cont.)

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Organization Development 59

Reference # 29J-2014-10-04-01

1. I am competent enough to take decision depending 5 4 3 2 1
upon a situation.

2. I have control over my emotions. 5 4 3 2 1

3. I am good enough to understand others’ problems. 5 4 3 2 1

4. I accept my mistakes and try to rectify them. 5 4 3 2 1

5. I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses and have clear-cut goals. 5 4 3 2 1

6. I am ready to take up responsibility when experimenting 5 4 3 2 1
with new means.

7. I am helpful to other colleagues and highly interested in 5 4 3 2 1
maintaining good relations with them.

8. I express my problem in an informal but dignified way. 5 4 3 2 1

9. I adjust myself as per requirements with regard to working 5 4 3 2 1
hours, additional work, etc.

10. Superior takes decision based on facts and applying realistic 5 4 3 2 1
approach rather than snap judgments.

11. Superior often tries new ideas and options, and good 5 4 3 2 1
enough at risk-taking.

12. Superior is patient enough to rectify the mistakes of the 5 4 3 2 1
subordinates when they do things in a wrong way.

13. Superior was never found punishing or scolding an innocent 5 4 3 2 1
subordinate till now.

14. Superior tries to communicate about the weakness of a 5 4 3 2 1
subordinate in a non-threatening way.

15. Superior is a good lateral thinker. 5 4 3 2 1

16. Superior knows the best way to handle people. 5 4 3 2 1

17. Superior is confident about his abilities and possibility of 5 4 3 2 1
reaching higher position.

Appendix 2 (Cont.)

Part B

Part C

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Kurt Lewin and the Planned Approach to Change:
A Re-appraisal

Bernard Burnes
Manchester School of Management

 The work of Kurt Lewin dominated the theory and practice of change
management for over 40 years. However, in the past 20 years, Lewin’s approach to
change, particularly the 3-Step model, has attracted major criticisms. The key ones
are that his work: assumed organizations operate in a stable state; was only suitable
for small-scale change projects; ignored organizational power and politics; and was
top-down and management-driven. This article seeks to re-appraise Lewin’s work and
challenge the validity of these views. It begins by describing Lewin’s background and
beliefs, especially his commitment to resolving social conflict. The article then moves
on to examine the main elements of his Planned approach to change: Field Theory;
Group Dynamics; Action Research; and the 3-Step model. This is followed by a brief
summary of the major developments in the field of organizational change since
Lewin’s death which, in turn, leads to an examination of the main criticisms levelled
at Lewin’s work. The article concludes by arguing that rather than being outdated or
redundant, Lewin’s approach is still relevant to the modern world.

INTRODUCTION

Freud the clinician and Lewin the experimentalist – these are the two
men whose names will stand out before all others in the history of our
psychological era.

The above quotation is taken from Edward C Tolman’s memorial address for Kurt
Lewin delivered at the 1947 Convention of the American Psychological Associa-
tion (quoted in Marrow, 1969, p. ix). To many people today it will seem strange
that Lewin should have been given equal status with Freud. Some 50 years after
his death, Lewin is now mainly remembered as the originator of the 3-Step model
of change (Cummings and Huse, 1989; Schein, 1988), and this tends often to be

Journal of Management Studies 41:6 September 2004
0022-2380

© Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2004. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ ,
UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

Address for reprints: Bernard Burnes, Manchester School of Management, UMIST, Manchester M60
1QD, UK ([email protected]).

dismissed as outdated (Burnes, 2000; Dawson, 1994; Dent and Goldberg, 1999;
Hatch, 1997; Kanter et al., 1992; Marshak, 1993). Yet, as this article will argue,
his contribution to our understanding of individual and group behaviour and the
role these play in organizations and society was enormous and is still relevant.

In today’s turbulent and changing world, one might expect Lewin’s pioneering
work on change to be seized upon with gratitude, especially given the high failure
rate of many change programmes (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2001; Kearney,
1989; Kotter, 1996; Stickland, 1998; Waclawski, 2002; Wastell et al., 1994;
Watcher, 1993; Whyte and Watcher, 1992; Zairi et al., 1994). Unfortunately, his
commitment to extending democratic values in society and his work on Field
Theory, Group Dynamics and Action Research which, together with his 3-Step
model, formed an inter-linked, elaborate and robust approach to Planned change,
have received less and less attention (Ash, 1992; Bargal et al., 1992; Cooke, 1999).
Indeed, from the 1980s, even Lewin’s work on change was increasingly criticized
as relevant only to small-scale changes in stable conditions, and for ignoring issues
such as organizational politics and conflict. In its place, writers sought to promote
a view of change as being constant, and as a political process within organizations
(Dawson, 1994; Pettigrew et al., 1992; Wilson, 1992).

The purpose of this article is to re-appraise Lewin and his work.. The article
begins by describing Lewin’s background, especially the origins of his commitment
to resolving social conflict. It then moves on to examine the main elements of his
Planned approach to change. This is followed by a description of developments
in the field of organizational change since Lewin’s death, and an evaluation of the
criticisms levelled against his work. The article concludes by arguing that rather
than being outdated, Lewin’s Planned approach is still very relevant to the needs
of the modern world.

LEWIN’S BACKGROUND

Few social scientists can have received the level of praise and admiration that
has been heaped upon Kurt Lewin (Ash, 1992; Bargal et al., 1992; Dent and
Goldberg, 1999; Dickens and Watkins, 1999; Tobach, 1994). As Edgar Schein
(1988, p. 239) enthusiastically commented:

There is little question that the intellectual father of contemporary theories of
applied behavioural science, action research and planned change is Kurt Lewin.
His seminal work on leadership style and the experiments on planned change
which took place in World War II in an effort to change consumer behaviour
launched a whole generation of research in group dynamics and the imple-
mentation of change programs.

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For most of his life, Lewin’s main preoccupation was the resolution of social con-
flict and, in particular, the problems of minority or disadvantaged groups. Under-
pinning this preoccupation was a strong belief that only the permeation of
democratic values into all facets of society could prevent the worst extremes of
social conflict. As his wife wrote in the Preface to a volume of his collected work
published after his death:

Kurt Lewin was so constantly and predominantly preoccupied with the task of
advancing the conceptual representation of the social-psychological world, and
at the same time he was so filled with the urgent desire to use his theoretical
insight for the building of a better world, that it is difficult to decide which of
these two sources of motivation flowed with greater energy or vigour. (Lewin,
1948b)

To a large extent, his interests and beliefs stemmed from his background as a
German Jew. Lewin was born in 1890 and, for a Jew growing up in Germany, at
this time, officially-approved anti-Semitism was a fact of life. Few Jews could expect
to achieve a responsible post in the civil service or universities. Despite this, Lewin
was awarded a doctorate at the University of Berlin in 1916 and went on to teach
there. Though he was never awarded tenured status, Lewin achieved a growing
international reputation in the 1920s as a leader in his field (Lewin, 1992).
However, with the rise of the Nazi Party, Lewin recognized that the position of
Jews in Germany was increasingly threatened. The election of Hitler as Chancel-
lor in 1933 was the final straw for him; he resigned from the University and moved
to America (Marrow, 1969).

In America, Lewin found a job first as a ‘refugee scholar’ at Cornell University
and then, from 1935 to 1945, at the University of Iowa. Here he was to embark
on an ambitious programme of research which covered topics such as child-parent
relations, conflict in marriage, styles of leadership, worker motivation and perfor-
mance, conflict in industry, group problem-solving, communication and attitude
change, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-racism, discrimination and prejudice, integra-
tion-segregation, peace, war and poverty (Bargal et al., 1992; Cartwright, 1952;
Lewin, 1948a). As Cooke (1999) notes, given the prevalence of racism and anti-
Semitism in America at the time, much of this work, especially his increasingly
public advocacy in support of disadvantaged groups, put Lewin on the political
left.

During the years of the Second World War, Lewin did much work for the
American war effort. This included studies of the morale of front-line troops
and psychological warfare, and his famous study aimed at persuading American
housewives to buy cheaper cuts of meat (Lewin, 1943a; Marrow, 1969). He
was also much in demand as a speaker on minority and inter-group relations

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(Smith, 2001). These activities chimed with one of his central preoccupa-
tions, which was how Germany’s authoritarian and racist culture could be replaced
with one imbued with democratic values. He saw democracy, and the spread
of democratic values throughout society, as the central bastion against auth-
oritarianism and despotism. That he viewed the establishment of democracy as a
major task, and avoided simplistic and structural recipes, can be gleaned from the
following extracts from his article on ‘The special case of Germany’ (Lewin,
1943b):

. . . Nazi culture . . . is deeply rooted, particularly in the youth on whom the
future depends. It is a culture which is centred around power as the supreme
value and which denounces justice and equality . . . (p. 43)

To be stable, a cultural change has to penetrate all aspects of a nation’s life. The
change must, in short, be a change in the ‘cultural atmosphere,’ not merely a
change of a single item. (p. 46)

Change in culture requires the change of leadership forms in every walk of life.
At the start, particularly important is leadership in those social areas which are
fundamental from the point of view of power. (p. 55)

With the end of the War, Lewin established the Research Center for Group
Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The aim of the Center
was to investigate all aspects of group behaviour, especially how it could be
changed. At the same time, he was also chief architect of the Commission on
Community Interrelations (CCI). Founded and funded by the American Jewish
Congress, its aim was the eradication of discrimination against all minority groups.
As Lewin wrote at the time, ‘We Jews will have to fight for ourselves and we will
do so strongly and with good conscience. We also know that the fight of the Jews
is part of the fight of all minorities for democratic equality of rights and oppor-
tunities . . .’ (quoted in Marrow, 1969, p. 175). In pursuing this objective, Lewin
believed that his work on Group Dynamics and Action Research would provide
the key tools for the CCI.

Lewin was also influential in establishing the Tavistock Institute in the UK and
its Journal, Human Relations ( Jaques, 1998; Marrow, 1969). In addition, in 1946,
the Connecticut State Inter-Racial Commission asked Lewin to help train leaders
and conduct research on the most effective means of combating racial and reli-
gious prejudice in communities. This led to the development of sensitivity train-
ing and the creation, in 1947, of the now famous National Training Laboratories.
However, his huge workload took its toll on his health, and on 11 February 1947
he died of a heart attack (Lewin, 1992).

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LEWIN’S WORK

Lewin was a humanitarian who believed that only by resolving social conflict,
whether it be religious, racial, marital or industrial, could the human condition be
improved. Lewin believed that the key to resolving social conflict was to facilitate
learning and so enable individuals to understand and restructure their perceptions
of the world around them. In this he was much influenced by the Gestalt psy-
chologists he had worked with in Berlin (Smith, 2001). A unifying theme of much
of his work is the view that ‘. . . the group to which an individual belongs is the
ground for his perceptions, his feelings and his actions’ (Allport, 1948, p. vii).
Though Field Theory, Group Dynamics, Action Research and the 3-Step model
of change are often treated as separate themes of his work, Lewin saw them as a
unified whole with each element supporting and reinforcing the others and all of
them necessary to understand and bring about Planned change, whether it be at
the level of the individual, group, organization or even society (Bargal and Bar,
1992; Kippenberger, 1998a, 1998b; Smith, 2001). As Allport (1948, p. ix) states:
‘All of his concepts, whatever root-metaphor they employ, comprise a single well-
integrated system’. This can be seen from examining these four aspects of his work
in turn.

Field Theory

This is an approach to understanding group behaviour by trying to map out the
totality and complexity of the field in which the behaviour takes place (Back, 1992).
Lewin maintained that to understand any situation it was necessary that: ‘One
should view the present situation – the status quo – as being maintained by certain
conditions or forces’ (Lewin, 1943a, p. 172). Lewin (1947b) postulated that group
behaviour is an intricate set of symbolic interactions and forces that not only affect
group structures, but also modify individual behaviour. Therefore, individual
behaviour is a function of the group environment or ‘field’, as he termed it. Con-
sequently, any changes in behaviour stem from changes, be they small or large, in
the forces within the field (Lewin, 1947a). Lewin defined a field as ‘a totality of
coexisting facts which are conceived of as mutually interdependent . . .’ (Lewin,
1946, p. 240). Lewin believed that a field was in a continuous state of adaptation
and that ‘Change and constancy are relative concepts; group life is never without
change, merely differences in the amount and type of change exist’ (Lewin, 1947a,
p. 199). This is why Lewin used the term ‘quasi-stationary equilibrium’ to indicate
that whilst there might be a rhythm and pattern to the behaviour and processes
of a group, these tended to fluctuate constantly owing to changes in the forces or
circumstances that impinge on the group.

Lewin’s view was that if one could identify, plot and establish the potency of
these forces, then it would be possible not only to understand why individuals,

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groups and organizations act as they do, but also what forces would need to be
diminished or strengthened in order to bring about change. In the main, Lewin
saw behavioural change as a slow process; however, he did recognize that under
certain circumstances, such as a personal, organizational or societal crisis, the
various forces in the field can shift quickly and radically. In such situations, estab-
lished routines and behaviours break down and the status quo is no longer viable;
new patterns of activity can rapidly emerge and a new equilibrium (or quasi-
stationary equilibrium) is formed (Kippenberger, 1998a; Lewin, 1947a).

Despite its obvious value as a vehicle for understanding and changing group
behaviour, with Lewin’s death, the general interest in Field Theory waned (Back,
1992; Gold, 1992; Hendry, 1996). However, in recent years, with the work of
Argyris (1990) and Hirschhorn (1988) on understanding and overcoming resis-
tance to change, Lewin’s work on Field Theory has once again begun to attract
interest. According to Hendry (1996), even critics of Lewin’s work have drawn on
Field Theory to develop their own models of change (see Pettigrew et al., 1989,
1992). Indeed, parallels have even been drawn between Lewin’s work and the work
of complexity theorists (Kippenberger, 1998a). Back (1992), for example, argued
that the formulation and behaviour of complex systems as described by Chaos
and Catastrophe theorists bear striking similarities to Lewin’s conceptualization of
Field Theory. Nevertheless, Field Theory is now probably the least understood
element of Lewin’s work, yet, because of its potential to map the forces imping-
ing on an individual, group or organization, it underpinned the other elements of
his work.

Group Dynamics

. . . the word ‘dynamics’ . . . comes from a Greek word meaning force . . . ‘group
dynamics’ refers to the forces operating in groups . . . it is a study of these forces:
what gives rise to them, what conditions modify them, what consequences they
have, etc. (Cartwright, 1951, p. 382)

Lewin was the first psychologist to write about ‘group dynamics’ and the impor-
tance of the group in shaping the behaviour of its members (Allport, 1948; Bargal
et al., 1992). Indeed, Lewin’s (1939, p. 165) definition of a ‘group’ is still gener-
ally accepted: ‘. . . it is not the similarity or dissimilarity of individuals that con-
stitutes a group, but interdependence of fate’. As Kippenberger (1998a) notes,
Lewin was addressing two questions: What is it about the nature and characteris-
tics of a particular group which causes it to respond (behave) as it does to the forces
which impinge on it, and how can these forces be changed in order to elicit a more
desirable form of behaviour? It was to address these questions that Lewin began
to develop the concept of Group Dynamics.

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Group Dynamics stresses that group behaviour, rather than that of individuals,
should be the main focus of change (Bernstein, 1968; Dent and Goldberg,
1999). Lewin (1947b) maintained that it is fruitless to concentrate on changing
the behaviour of individuals because the individual in isolation is constrained by
group pressures to conform. Consequently, the focus of change must be at the
group level and should concentrate on factors such as group norms, roles, inter-
actions and socialization processes to create ‘disequilibrium’ and change (Schein,
1988).

Lewin’s pioneering work on Group Dynamics not only laid the foundations for
our understanding of groups (Cooke, 1999; Dent and Goldberg, 1999; French and
Bell, 1984; Marrow, 1969; Schein, 1988) but has also been linked to complexity
theories by researchers examining self-organizing theory and non-linear systems
(Tschacher and Brunner, 1995). However, understanding the internal dynamics of
a group is not sufficient by itself to bring about change. Lewin also recognized the
need to provide a process whereby the members could be engaged in and com-
mitted to changing their behaviour. This led Lewin to develop Action Research
and the 3-Step model of change.

Action Research

This term was coined by Lewin (1946) in an article entitled ‘Action research and
minority problems’. Lewin stated in the article:

In the last year and a half I have had occasion to have contact with a great
variety of organizations, institutions, and individuals who came for help in the
field of group relations. (Lewin, 1946, p. 201)

However, though these people exhibited . . .

. . . a great amount of good-will, of readiness to face the problem squarely and
really do something about it . . . These eager people feel themselves to be in a
fog. They feel in a fog on three counts: 1. What is the present situation? 2. What
are the dangers? 3. And most importantly of all, what shall we do? (Lewin, 1946,
p. 201)

Lewin conceived of Action Research as a two-pronged process which would allow
groups to address these three questions. Firstly, it emphasizes that change requires
action, and is directed at achieving this. Secondly, it recognizes that successful
action is based on analysing the situation correctly, identifying all the possible alter-
native solutions and choosing the one most appropriate to the situation at hand
(Bennett, 1983). To be successful, though, there has also to be a ‘felt-need’. Felt-

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need is an individual’s inner realization that change is necessary. If felt-need is low
in the group or organization, introducing change becomes problematic. The the-
oretical foundations of Action Research lie in Gestalt psychology, which stresses
that change can only successfully be achieved by helping individuals to reflect on
and gain new insights into the totality of their situation. Lewin (1946, p. 206) stated
that Action Research ‘. . . proceeds in a spiral of steps each of which is composed
of a circle of planning, action, and fact-finding about the results of the action.’ It
is an iterative process whereby research leads to action and action leads to evalu-
ation and further research. As Schein (1996, p. 64) comments, it was Lewin’s view
that ‘. . . one cannot understand an organization without trying to change it . . .’
Indeed, Lewin’s view was very much that the understanding and learning which
this process produces for the individuals and groups concerned, which then feeds
into changed behaviour, is more important than any resulting change as such
(Lewin, 1946).

To this end, Action Research draws on Lewin’s work on Field Theory to iden-
tify the forces that focus on the group to which the individual belongs. It also draws
on Group Dynamics to understand why group members behave in the way they
do when subjected to these forces. Lewin stressed that the routines and patterns
of behaviour in a group are more than just the outcome of opposing forces in a
forcefield. They have a value in themselves and have a positive role to play in
enforcing group norms (Lewin, 1947a). Action Research stresses that for change
to be effective, it must take place at the group level, and must be a participative
and collaborative process which involves all of those concerned (Allport, 1948;
Bargal et al., 1992; French and Bell, 1984; Lewin, 1947b).

Lewin’s first Action Research project was to investigate and reduce violence
between Catholic and Jewish teenage gangs. This was quickly followed by a
project to integrate black and white sales staff in New York department stores
(Marrow, 1969). However, Action Research was also adopted by the Tavistock
Institute in Britain, and used to improve managerial competence and efficiency in
the newly-nationalized coal industry. Since then it has acquired strong adherents
throughout the world (Dickens and Watkins, 1999; Eden and Huxham, 1996;
Elden and Chisholm, 1993). However, Lewin (1947a, p. 228) was concerned
that:

A change towards a higher level of group performance is frequently short
lived; after a ‘shot in the arm,’ group life soon returns to the previous level.
This indicates that it does not suffice to define the objective of a planned change
in group performance as the reaching of a different level. Permanency at
the new level, or permanency for a desired period, should be included in the
objective.

It was for this reason that he developed his 3-Step model of change.

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3-Step Model

This is often cited as Lewin’s key contribution to organizational change. However,
it needs to be recognized that when he developed his 3-Step model Lewin was not
thinking only of organizational issues. Nor did he intend it to be seen separately
from the other three elements which comprise his Planned approach to change
(i.e. Field Theory, Group Dynamics and Action Research). Rather Lewin saw the
four concepts as forming an integrated approach to analysing, understanding and
bringing about change at the group, organizational and societal levels.

A successful change project, Lewin (1947a) argued, involved three steps:

• Step 1: Unfreezing. Lewin believed that the stability of human behaviour was
based on a quasi-stationary equilibrium supported by a complex field of
driving and restraining forces. He argued that the equilibrium needs to be
destabilized (unfrozen) before old behaviour can be discarded (unlearnt) and
new behaviour successfully adopted. Given the type of issues that Lewin was
addressing, as one would expect, he did not believe that change would be easy
or that the same approach could be applied in all situations:

The ‘unfreezing of the present level may involve quite different problems
in different cases. Allport . . . has described the ‘catharsis’ which seems nec-
essary before prejudice can be removed. To break open the shell of com-
placency and self-righteousness it is sometimes necessary to bring about an
emotional stir up. (Lewin, 1947a, p. 229)

Enlarging on Lewin’s ideas, Schein (1996, p. 27) comments that the key to
unfreezing ‘. . . was to recognise that change, whether at the individual or
group level, was a profound psychological dynamic process’. Schein (1996)
identifies three processes necessary to achieve unfreezing: disconfirmation of
the validity of the status quo, the induction of guilt or survival anxiety, and
creating psychological safety. He argued that: ‘. . . unless sufficient psychologi-
cal safety is created, the disconfirming information will be denied or in other
ways defended against, no survival anxiety will be felt. and consequently, no
change will take place’ (Schein, 1996, p. 61). In other words, those concerned
have to feel safe from loss and humiliation before they can accept the new
information and reject old behaviours.

• Step 2: Moving. As Schein (1996, p. 62) notes, unfreezing is not an end in itself;
it ‘. . . creates motivation to learn but does not necessarily control or predict
the direction’. This echoes Lewin’s view that any attempt to predict or iden-
tify a specific outcome from Planned change is very difficult because of the
complexity of the forces concerned. Instead, one should seek to take into
account all the forces at work and identify and evaluate, on a trial and error

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basis, all the available options (Lewin, 1947a). This is, of course, the learning
approach promoted by Action Research. It is this iterative approach of
research, action and more research which enables groups and individuals to
move from a less acceptable to a more acceptable set of behaviours. However,
as noted above, Lewin (1947a) recognized that, without reinforcement, change
could be short-lived.

• Step 3: Refreezing. This is the final step in the 3-Step model. Refreezing seeks to
stabilize the group at a new quasi-stationary equilibrium in order to ensure that
the new behaviours are relatively safe from regression. The main point about
refreezing is that new behaviour must be, to some degree, congruent with the
rest of the behaviour, personality and environment of the learner or it will
simply lead to a new round of disconfirmation (Schein, 1996). This is why
Lewin saw successful change as a group activity, because unless group norms
and routines are also transformed, changes to individual behaviour will not be
sustained. In organizational terms, refreezing often requires changes to orga-
nizational culture, norms, policies and practices (Cummings and Huse, 1989).

Like other aspects of Lewin’s work, his 3-Step model of change has become
unfashionable in the last two decades (Dawson, 1994; Hatch, 1997; Kanter et al.,
1992). Nevertheless, such is its continuing influence that, as Hendry (1996, p. 624)
commented:

Scratch any account of creating and managing change and the idea that change
is a three-stage process which necessarily begins with a process of unfreezing
will not be far below the surface.

LEWIN AND CHANGE: A SUMMARY

Lewin was primarily interested in resolving social conflict through behavioural
change, whether this be within organizations or in the wider society. He identified
two requirements for success:

(1) To analyse and understand how social groupings were formed, motivated
and maintained. To do this, he developed both Field Theory and Group
Dynamics.

(2) To change the behaviour of social groups. The primary methods he devel-
oped for achieving this were Action Research and the 3-Step model of
change.

Underpinning Lewin’s work was a strong moral and ethical belief in the impor-
tance of democratic institutions and democratic values in society. Lewin believed

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that only by strengthening democratic participation in all aspects of life and being
able to resolve social conflicts could the scourge of despotism, authoritarianism
and racism be effectively countered. Since his death, Lewin’s wider social agenda
has been mainly pursued under the umbrella of Action Research (Dickens and
Watkins, 1999). This is also the area where Lewin’s Planned approach has been
most closely followed. For example, Bargal and Bar (1992) described how, over
a number of years, they used Lewin’s approach to address the conflict between
Arab-Palestinian and Jewish youths in Israel through the development of inter-
group workshops. The workshops were developed around six principles based on
Lewin’s work:

(a) a recursive process of data collection to determine goals, action to imple-
ment goals and assessment of the action; (b) feedback of research results to train-
ers; (c) cooperation between researchers and practitioners; (d) research based on
the laws of the group’s social life, on three stages of change – ‘unfreezing,’
‘moving,’ and ‘refreezing’ – and on the principles of group decision making; (e)
consideration of the values, goals and power structures of change agents and
clients; and (f ) use of research to create knowledge and/or solve problems.
(Bargal and Bar, 1992, p. 146)

In terms of organizational change, Lewin and his associates had a long and
fruitful relationship with the Harwood Manufacturing Corporation, where his
approach to change was developed, applied and refined (Marrow, 1969). Coch and
French (1948, p. 512) observed that, at Harwood: ‘From the point of view of
factory management, there were two purposes to the research: (1) Why do people
resist change so strongly? and (2) What can be done to overcome …

27

P E R F O R M A N C E I M P R O V E M E N T Q U A R T E R L Y , 2 5 ( 2 ) P P . 2 7 – 4 1
© 2012 International Society for Performance Improvement
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com). DOI: 10.1002/piq.21118

Implications of Job Rotation
Literature for Performance
Improvement Practitioners

Scott Casad

T
he emergence of a complex, decentralized,

and global economy with dynamic organiza-

tional workplaces has driven leaders and man-

agers to consider performance improvement and job

enrichment strategies that extend beyond traditional

classroom training, tenure promotions, and senior-

ity perks (Daft, 2009; Friedman, 2007). Among the

diverse human resource management and develop-

ment practices, job rotations have theoretical, empir-

ical, and practical signifi cance to the ever-evolving

work environments of organizations. Job rotations

aff ord the opportunity to design work systems lever-

aging individual desires for growth and organiza-

tional needs for optimizing the workforce. A concept

and practice with a long history, job rotations off er

the opportunity for improved employee satisfaction,

increased skill development, and greater understand-

ing of employees’ strengths; however, the realized

benefi ts must be balanced with the potential negative

impacts and challenges of rotating employees within

an organization.

Organizational Context

As Cosgel and Miceli (1998) noted, job rotations
date back as far as the industrial revolution when

developing industries rotated apprentices through

various jobs, functions, and duties in preparation for

Job rotations have existed as
a means of developing individual
knowledge and skills since the indus-
trial revolution, and in today’s dynamic
global workplace, they a? ord orga-
nizations an opportunity to man-
age changing psychological work
contracts and employee desires for
self-managed careers. Through the
systematic mining of psychology, busi-
ness, management, and educational
databases, this literature review pro-
vides a summary of job rotation prac-
tices, individual and organizational
beneB ts, likely costs associated with
job rotations, and implications for
practitioners. Findings indicate that
while employees seek learning and
marketability over job security and sta-
bility, organizations strive to maintain
continuity and internal growth and
development of their workforce. Job
rotations can appease both individuals
and organizations through enhanced
knowledge and skills, facilitation of
greater job satisfaction, and identiB ca-
tion of individual strengths for optimal
organizational performance. However,
these beneB ts come at a price to the
individual and the organization in
the form of increased work/life conD ict,
potentially higher training costs, and
possible lower work unit morale. Con-
clusions are presented on the practical
implications and recommendations
for implementing job rotations and
integrating the practice into perfor-
mance improvement models.

28 DOI: 10.1002/piq Performance Improvement Quarterly

becoming a journeyman and eventual master. 1 is practice was known

as migration due to the continual relocation of individuals until they

developed enough skill to hold a permanent job. Job rotations experi-

enced a rebirth in the 1950s when Japanese fi rms adopted the practice to

rebuild their nation and economy following World War II. 1 e strategy

gained signifi cant recognition during the 1980s when the United States

began integrating quality management practices into auto manufacturing

(Deming, 1986). Most recently, the focus on job rotation has shifted to

further defi ning the concept and identifying the context and impacts of

its implementation.

De� nition and Framework
Over the past two decades, organizational psychologists and busi-

ness management experts have conceptualized a variety of defi nitions

and frameworks for the application of job rotations. Wexley and Latham

(1991) visualized the practice as a sequence of lateral assignments across

organizational boundaries with the intent of inducing meaningful job

content in a variety of ways. In their comprehensive review, Earney and

Martins (2009) off ered similar defi nitions of job rotations: “the lateral

transfers of employees between jobs in an organization” (Campion,

Cheraskin, & Stevens, 1994, p. 1518), “the planned movement of people

between jobs over a period of time and for one or more of a number

of diff erent purposes” (Bennett, 2003, p. 7), and “a policy of periodi-

cally switching the work assignments of employees” (Arya, 2004, p. 400).

Campion et al.’s contribution, the seminal contribution to job rotations,

provides the most widely accepted framework for job rotation.

To diff erentiate job rotations from other job enrichment practices,

the intent of the assignments must be considered. First, individuals rotat-

ing to a new job are not expected to remain in the job permanently

(Campion et al., 1994). 1 e move occurs without increased compensation

and therefore should not be confused with a promotion, which serves

vastly diff erent purposes than job rotations do, specifi cally increased

responsibilities for increased pay and benefi ts. Job rotations serve the

sole purpose of developing skills, providing job variety, and identifying

individual strengths. 1 ey can be a key factor in determining promotions,

but they are not promotions, and vice versa.

Second, rotated individuals do not return to their previous job (Burke &

Moore, 2000). 1 is distinction prevents job rotations from being confused

with cross-training. In both the private and public sectors, government

and industry embrace cross-training for professional and organizational

development and often label it ”job rotation”; however, consistent with

the literature, the acquisition of new competencies through cross-training

is not a job rotation. During cross-training, the workforce is diversifi ed

through developing new skills outside primary duties, thereby allowing the

organization increased fl exibility to reassign personnel temporarily during

periods of high demand or reduced manpower. Following cross-training

Volume 25, Number 2 / 2012 DOI: 10.1002/piq 29

or temporary reassignment, individuals return to their original, primary

job; in contrast, in a job rotation, individuals remain in their new assign-

ment and continue to apply their newly acquired skills to the current job.

1 ird, job rotations occur in two ways: individuals can rotate cross-

functionally or within function (Bennett, 2003). A cross-functional rota-

tion moves employees across organizational boundaries to diff erent jobs

throughout the organization (e.g., from manufacturing to human relations).

In the second type of rotation, an individual remains within the same

organizational function (e.g., manufacturing) but assumes a new primary

duty (e.g., from bumper assembly to engine assembly). 1 ese moves are

lateral and off er no increased responsibilities or compensation. 1 e scope

of the work may increase, but the degree of decision-making responsibil-

ity or organizational authority does not change.

Shifting Organizations
1 e new global economy has driven organizations to expand

their approaches to managing internal and external environments.

Simultaneously, psychological contracts at work have also evolved.

Whereas workers in the past demanded job security from their employers

in exchange for performance and productivity, employees now value learn-

ing and marketability over stability (Rousseau, 1989). 1 is is consistent with

Arthur and Rousseau’s (1996) boundaryless career. As a result of evolving

psychological contracts, Sullivan (1999) surmised there has been decreased

job security (Batt, 1996; Beckman, 1996; Scott, O’Shaughnessy, & Cappelli,

1996), decreased employee loyalty (Goff ee & Scase, 1992; Murrell, Frieze, &

Olson, 1996), and increased worker cynicism (Kanter & Mirvis, 1989).

As a result of these changes, organizations have embraced and

adopted philosophies targeted at creating learning organizations.

Originally conceived in the 1970s (Argyris & Schön, 1978, 1996), learning

organizations seek to maintain a competitive edge through the constant

development and advancement of its people and through a continuous

process of transformation across all levels, from individuals to teams

to work units to the organization (Senge, 1990). Consistent with learn-

ing network theory (Poell, 2000; Van der Krogt, 1998) and job-based

experiential learning (Noe & Ford, 1992), the emphasis is on formal and

informal, and structured and unstructured learning embedded within the

work environment, so employees can move along in their own develop-

ment and career management while simultaneously delivering value and

productivity to the organization (De Vos, Dewettinck, & Buyens, 2009;

Poell, van Dam, & van den Berg, 2004). 1 e benefi ts of harmonizing

individual and organizational developmental and career needs include

improved satisfaction, commitment, motivation, involvement, and exec-

utive development (see Campion et al., 1994, for a full review). Further

support for integrating learning and work for optimal outcomes comes

from Quionones, Ford, and Teachout’s (2001) meta-analysis of learned

work experience, which found a positive and signifi cant correlation with

performance.

30 DOI: 10.1002/piq Performance Improvement Quarterly

To address these dynamic demands, organizations have turned to job

rotations as a means for leveraging both individual and organizational

development opportunities. Data on job rotation use among organiza-

tions are diffi cult to obtain due to concerns about competitive advan-

tage and employee retention strategies; however, Eriksson and Ortega

(2006) found the most frequent use within manufacturing, transporta-

tion, and communications industries and increasing use as the number

of employees increased (10% with 21 to 50 employees, and 37% for 500

or more employees). In their investigation of senior executive develop-

ment, Suutari and Viitala (2008) observed that 18% of managers studied

participated in job rotations, and from among the numerous professional

development opportunities, job rotations ranked third in total eff ective-

ness behind international assignments and personal career planning.

Interestingly, those same managers ranked formal training as the least

eff ective despite being the most common developmental opportunity.

Considering the specifi c practices of organizations, Campion et al.’s

(1994) seminal work found that in general, job rotations were most often

provided for those in management or executive positions, and on aver-

age, employees with less tenure and higher performance engaged in job

rotations, while there was no signifi cant correlation with education level.

Rotations typically occurred once every two years, with executives having

more time between rotations than managers did. Overall, job rotations

had a positive relationship to salary and promotions.

Finally, it is worth noting that growing concerns with workplace

equality and corporate social responsibility have entered the discussion

on the need or desire for job rotations. Executives have recognized that

job rotations can be a means for promoting, communicating, and diff using

an organization’s culture (Campion et al., 1994). Concerns with busting

the glass ceiling (Eriksson & Ortega, 2006) and addressing social, racial,

and economical inequalities in the workplace (Kalev, 2009), often a prod-

uct of the organizational culture, can be attended to through increased

cross-functional communication and boundary spanning job rotations.

As Muller (2010) noted, rotating managers and executives through the

organization may eliminate organizational confi rmation bias (e.g., group-

think) by bringing fresh and innovative perspectives to various functional

and operational units. 1 ese perspectives align well with the learning

organization strategy and are consistent with the three primary reasons

for implementing job rotations: skill development, employee satisfaction,

and strengths identifi cation.

Job Rotation Triad

Job rotations developed primarily as a means for developing skills of

the workforce and are still used for this purpose, but as organizational

psychology moved from technology-driven workplaces to sociotechnical

Volume 25, Number 2 / 2012 DOI: 10.1002/piq 31

designs centered on human needs and desires (Morgeson & Campion,

2003), a second purpose emerged to address employee motivation. Most

recently, advances in strength-based management and positive psy-

chology (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003; Luthans, 2002; Seligman &

Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) have highlighted the third purpose of identify-

ing and matching individuals’ unique characteristics with organizational

needs.

Skill Development
From the earliest rotations of apprentices in migration practices of

the industrial revolution, organizations have recognized that exposing

individuals to a variety of jobs, tasks, skills, and knowledge better pre-

pares them for future duties and responsibilities. Not surprisingly, among

government agencies, private service companies, and private manu-

facturing companies, the most frequent and strongest criterion for job

rotation is development of knowledge, skills, and abilities (Jaturanonda,

Nanthavanij, & Chongphaisal, 2006). 1 is breadth aff ords an organiza-

tion a degree of workforce fl exibility, but requires a more holistic and

systems thinking approach to ensure that the selection of personnel

and investment of resources provide a return on investment worthy of the

commitment. For this reason, most job rotation focus is on leadership and

management development. Specifi cally, evidence supports that individu-

als receive more business and administrative knowledge than technical

knowledge from a job rotation, despite their preconceived expectations

to receive more technical development (Campion et al., 1994). 1 e qual-

ity of the job assignment positively correlates with the quality of end-state

competencies (Dragoni, Tesluk, Russell, & Oh, 2009) and further sup-
ports the need for organizations to evaluate carefully who and what job

rotations occur. If implementing a job rotation program, organizations

may reap the greatest benefi ts if they are in need of customer service,

self-confi dent employees, or transfer of best practice (Earney & Martins,

2009), and there is some speculation that job rotations can improve inno-

vativeness (Cosgel & Miceli, 1998).

Employee Satisfaction
Although it seemed intuitive that job rotations would improve

employees’ skills, it was not until after the Hawthorne studies in the mid-

20th century that organizations began to explore employee motivation

as a critical element of the workplace environment. 1 is quickly led to

motivation research in the areas of career management, career identity,

corporate strategy, plateaued employees, job socialization, and manager

development (see Campion et al., 1994, for a review of the literature).

At the core of this evidence is the underlying concept that job rota-

tions alleviate boredom and fatigue by introducing variety and special-

ization to individuals. Learning a new skill or exploring new behaviors

32 DOI: 10.1002/piq Performance Improvement Quarterly

allows employees to feel they have a reason for work-

ing and can continue to add value to the organization

after potentially years of doing the same repetitive

job. Arguably, rotating through assignments devel-

ops individuals’ fresh perspective as they see and

experience the workload and workplace conditions

of others in the organization, which helps develop

empathy and apathy (Farrant, 1987). As an outcome

of increased motivation due to job rotations, employ-

ees reported greater career aff ect, career success, stimulation, and per-

sonal growth (Arthur, Khapova, & Wilderom, 2005; Campion et al., 1994).

Furthermore, and important to predictions of organizational commit-

ment and turnover intention, job rotations increased employee job satis-

faction (Gurbuz, 2009; Hsieh & Chao, 2004). Nevertheless, some evidence

exists to dismiss the entire motivation aspect of job rotations (Eriksson &

Ortega, 2006), and others have supported increased dissatisfaction

and lower motivation due to additional stress from job–person misfi ts

and having to learn a new set of duties and responsibilities (Earney &

Martins, 2009).

Strengths Identi� cation
While the discussion of job–person fi t has existed since the late 1970s

(Jovanovic, 1979; Kristof, Zimmerman, & Johnson, 2005; Miller, 1984), it

has been only in the past decade that job rotations have been discussed

as a means of identifying individuals’ strengths and matching them with

optimal jobs within an organization. During times of economic hardship,

such as the current global recession, organizations must work harder to

optimize every competitive advantage, including leveraging the strengths

of their human capital to meet organizational needs. Some have argued

this is the most critical aspect of job rotations (Erikkson & Ortega, 2006).

Frase-Blunt (2001) asserted that job rotations allow an organization to

assess new employee desires and motivations and socialize employees

to organizational culture and work climates, which supports evidence

that organizations recruiting from more external than internal sources

are more likely to use job rotations as a strategy to overcome a new

employee’s lack of knowledge of the organization and the organiza-

tion’s lack of knowledge about the new hire (Erikkson & Ortega, 2006).

1 is understanding of individuals allows them to be placed in new roles

where they can build social capital and practice new managerial identities

(Bennett, 2003; Ibarra, 1999), which are key elements of strength-based

assignments and crucial to successful succession planning (Hicks, 2000).

1 is perspective on job rotations also aligns with the growing dis-

cipline of positive psychology. Positive psychology emerged in the

late 1990s in response to nearly 50 years of psychology predominantly

focused on the diagnosis and treatment of ailments, which neglected

the psychological elements of fulfi llment, vitality, energy, and strength.

Evidence supports
that individuals

receive more business
and administrative

knowledge than
technical knowledge

from a job rotation.

Volume 25, Number 2 / 2012 DOI: 10.1002/piq 33

1 e discipline seeks to balance traditional work in treating the ill and

distressed by illuminating strengths representing the best in life and incor-

porating them into support for human fulfi llment and fl ourishing (Fowler,

Seligman, & Koocher, 1999; Gillham & Seligman, 1999; Peterson & Seligman,

2003; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Within the workplace, positive

psychology has emerged through positive organizational scholarship (POS)

(Cameron et al., 2003; Ko & Donaldson, 2011) and positive organizational

behavior (POB) (Luthans, 2002; Luthans & Church, 2002; Luthans & Youssef,

2007). Using job rotations to identify the best in individuals would benefi t

POBs associated with strength-based practice (Clifton & Harter, 2003);

positive leadership including authentic (Avolio, Luthans, & Walumbwa,

2004), transformational (Walumbwa, Avolio, & Zhu, 2008), ethical

(Brown & Trevino, 2006), and spiritual (Pandey & Gupta, 2008) leader-

ship; organizational virtuousness (Cameron, Bright, & Caza, 2004); and

fl ow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991).

Negative Consequences

1 e benefi ts of skill development, employee motivation, and strength

identifi cation can come at a cost to organizations. Although the goal is

improved performance and increased output, job rotations have demon-

strated negative consequences associated with decreases in productivity

due to negative employee perceptions, lost knowledge, poor person–job

fi t, and workplace inequalities.

Employee Perceptions
In their infl uential study, Campion et al. (1994) not only identifi ed

the positive outcomes of implementing job rotations, but also uncovered

negative perceptions and impacts that resulted from moving employees

laterally through the organization. Primarily, job rotations resulted in

perceived additional work and cost for units that were losing and receiv-

ing a newly rotated employee. For those losing an employee, the vacated

position meant a smaller workforce but with the same work demands,

and once the opening was fi lled with a new employee, there was further

burden and cost to train and socialize the replacement. Similarly, a unit

receiving a rotated employee had to integrate the individual into exist-

ing organizational and social circles and adapt to any new policies and

procedures implemented by the new arrival, which was perceived as add-

ing work and stress to existing duties and responsibilities. Ultimately, as

Campion and his colleagues discovered, these shifting demands and asso-

ciated turnover costs led to decreased productivity and dissatisfaction.

Lost Knowledge
Today’s global, information-driven economy demands precise

knowledge and execution to maintain a competitive advantage; however,

34 DOI: 10.1002/piq Performance Improvement Quarterly

organizations with high voluntary and involuntary turnover rates within

and between work units lose knowledge, thereby hindering their abil-

ity to compete (Parise, Cross, & Davenport, 2006). Job rotations can fi ll

critical job vacancies, but they also contribute to the turnover dilemma

by removing individuals who possess the critical knowledge. As Parise

et al. noted, it is not only the loss of technical expertise, but also the inter-

nal and external organizational connections developed through social

and professional networking. 1 ey recognized that these “central connec-

tors” play a strong role in maintaining corporate knowledge and indoc-

trinating new employees, while “brokers” serve to maintain relationships

between numerous central connectors and external “peripheral players.”

1 e loss of central connectors and brokers to job rotations substan-

tially diminishes the knowledge and production of a work unit. As an

example, passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 mandated the rota-

tion of audit partners as a means of reducing accounting fraud; however,

as Sanders, Steward, and Bridges (2009) noted, the regulatory edict for

rotations contributes to a loss of organization-specifi c knowledge, which

potentially jeopardizes high-quality audits, compromises auditor judg-

ment, and allows greater inconsistencies. In addition, Hsieh and Chao

(2004) found that job specialization within high-technology industries

related to higher professional effi cacy and reduced employee burnout,

which is contrary to many commonly held beliefs regarding the benefi ts

of broad skill development from job rotations. 1 e continuous advance-

ments in technology and shortening of product and service life cycles

will likely continue to challenge the value of job rotations for knowledge

development and management.

Poor Person–Job Fit
Inherent within the practice of job rotations is an underlying assump-

tion that rotated individuals are suited to and desire their new assignment.

Sanders et al. (2009) cautioned that person–job fi t must be considered

prior to rotation; otherwise, the motivational benefi ts expected from the

job rotation may in fact never materialize if the individual is incapable of

performing the new duties. 1 e classic representation is the Peter princi-

ple (Peter & Hull, 1969), which posits that individuals will continue to be

given new assignments as a reward or motivation for good work until they

reach a job for which they are not competent and therefore reach their

level of incompetence. 1 ese individuals often remain in these positions of

incompetence and slowly lose the self-effi cacy that motivated them to take

the rotation. In addition to potential negative eff ects on individual self-

effi cacy, organizations also suff er ineffi ciencies due to reduced employee

motivation and performance (Nafziger, 2011).

Workplace Inequality
1 ere has been a consistent voice of concern that job rotations cre-

ate inequality and injustices in the workplace. In considering the early

Volume 25, Number 2 / 2012 DOI: 10.1002/piq 35

impacts of computer technologies and associated work practices related

to job rotations, Shaiken, Herzenberg, and Kuhn (1986) expressed appre-

hension that “current shop-fl oor reorganization often intensifi es work

and reduces autonomy on the job” (p. 168).

Campion et al.’s (1994) fi ndings support these early speculations

regarding the potential negative impacts on those who remain behind

following a job rotation and those who have to adjust to a newly reported

colleague. More recently, this position has been expanded to explore

how job rotations infl uence the division of labor, distribution of power,

and the allocation of incentives and rewards (Shin, 2009). 1 e argument

places job rotations as a detriment to individuals’ organizational power.

Arguably, employees who are frequently rotated have a limited ability

to develop expert power through specialized knowledge and skills and to

develop referent power by remaining in one location long enough

to establish and develop meaningful relationships and networks. Without

organizational power, broadly skilled and motivated employees from job

rotations potentially have limited impact on an organization’s eff ective-

ness and productivity.

1 ere is also substantial support for the position that job rotations cor-

relate with employee wage inequalities. Shin (2009) speculated, “Job rota-

tion programs might intensify work, erode workers’ autonomy and, as a

result, widen the earnings dispersion” (p. 234). While most of the research

has been limited to manufacturing industries, studies found that employees

in nonmanagerial positions involved in job rotations had lower wages than

those who did not participate, and the salaries of those in management did

not show any signifi cant relationship to job rotations (Osterman, 2000;

Shin, 2009). In their review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Survey

of Employer-Provided Training, Handel and Gittleman (2004) did not fi nd

a signifi cant relationship between job rotation and wages when consid-

ering all occupations; however, when they limited the work to produc-

tion and service industries, they found a signifi cant negative relationship.

Interestingly, Osterman’s (2006) comparison of high-performance work

organization practices, which included job rotations, showed a signifi cant

and positive eff ect on wages for teams, quality circles, and total quality

management but a signifi cant negative association for job rotations. In sup-

port of this disparity, Nafziger (2011) demonstrated that job rotations used

as motivating work assignments resulted in lower organizational effi ciency

and lower wages; specifi cally, motivated individuals seeking rotation to a

new job do not require as high a monetary incentive as someone who is

enticed into the job by the prospect of greater fi nancial compensation.

Performance Improvement Implications

1 e breadth of knowledge regarding job rotations supports their

value and worth to organizations and human performance technologists.

Job rotations fi t well within four of the six conditions of performance in

36 DOI: 10.1002/piq Performance Improvement Quarterly

Gilbert’s (1978) behavior engineering model. Within the work environ-
ment, job rotations can create nonmonetary incentives through opportu-

nities for growth and advancement that would not otherwise be available

for plateaued employees. 1 ese opportunities enhance career manage-

ment, succession planning, and employee retention, which support many

organizations’ human capital strategic plans. For individuals, job rotations

develop skills and abilities (e.g., knowledge), help to identify and optimize

an individual’s strengths (e.g., capacity), and infl uence employees’ will-

ingness to work (e.g., motives). Together, the impact and interaction of

these infl uences at multiple levels of the organization are consistent with

Gilbert’s diff usion of eff ect and support the potential value of job rota-

tions as a performance improvement intervention.

1 e challenge is for practitioners to integrate these fi ndings into

practical and executable strategies. Rummler and Brache (1990) off ered

the multilevel approach of focusing on the work, worker, and workplace.

Looking fi rst at the worker, a decision must be made on who should par-

ticipate in a job rotation program. Campion and Berger (1990) suggest

that job rotations are a good fi t for any employee needing job enrichment

without expanding his or …

By Edgar H. Schein The purpose of this paper is to explore the
connection between the Human Resource
Function in organizations and the evolving
field of Organization Development, and to
do this in a historical context with an eye
toward future challenges. The connection
between the field of Organization Develop-
ment (OD) and the Human Resource (HR)
function is complex because both OD and
HR are themselves evolving in response to
many global forces. We are so preoccupied
with the economic factor in the organiza-
tional world, both in business and in the
nonprofit sector, that we may have failed to
note five important trends that are influ-
encing both HR and OD.

First, all the organizational func-
tions are becoming more complex and
technologically sophisticated leading to
the creation of subcultures based on dif-
ferent occupational technologies. In OD
the technology of survey methodology,
strategic analysis, leadership development,
large systems change, group dynamics,
culture change, and lean manufacturing
have evolved complex processes leading
to specialized training and the licens-
ing of practitioners. In the HR area pay
systems, labor relations, management
development programs, and health/
environment/safety programs have
become similarly specialized.

Second, the rapid evolution of infor-
mation technology has changed the nature
of work and the nature of organizing in

dramatic ways, stimulating innovation
in OD and challenging some of the most
sacred cows of the HR culture. Specifically,
the basic assumption that good commu-
nication, trust, and effective supervision
all hinge on face to face contact has clearly
been challenged by the myriad of organiza-
tions that today consist of large numbers
of employees who are not co-located, who
may never have met each other, yet who
are required to build trusting relationships
and work as teams. Increasingly organiza-
tions are becoming complex networks held
together by new communication and con-
trol mechanisms that are being invented
out of necessity.

Third, the world is becoming more
of a global village in which the inter-
dependencies between countries and
between organizations are increasing
dramatically. Through subsidiaries, joint
ventures, and partnerships of various sorts
more and more companies are reaching
across national boundaries. The basic
driver is of course, economics. In the effort
to be competitive, more and more orga-
nizations are discovering the need to go
beyond their own boundaries for mar-
kets, cheaper labor, and scarce resources.
Evolving policies that cut across nations
and geographies is a challenge to both OD
and HR.

The fourth major force is, in a sense,
derivative from the others—the complexity
that arises from cultural diversity. Culture
is a group’s learned response to the prob-
lem of survival in the external environment
and the problem of internal integration.
If there is no history of problem solving,

The Role of Organization
Development in the
Human Resource Function1

“OD has always been the more innovation oriented function, while HR is typically expected to
be stable and conservative. How people are paid and disciplined requires systems that are
reasonably transparent and predictable. This asymmetry has important implications for the
relationship between OD and HR.”

1. This paper is based partly on an invited address

to the Human Resource Forum, IEDC, Bled Busi-

ness School, Bled, Slovenia, September 1, 2007.

6 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 42 No. 4 2010

there is no culture. So countries or regions
of countries have cultures, organizations
have cultures, and occupations develop
cultures. So when sales people with a sales
culture are talking to engineers with an

engineering culture mentality and they
come from different countries and differ-
ent parent organizations, it is a wonder
that they can communicate at all, much
less solve problems together. Multicultural
groups will become more of a fact of life
(Schein, 2009a, 2010).

Fifth, the fundamental function
of organizations is being reexamined
around the issues of social responsibility
and business ethics. As we become more
multicultural we are discovering that the
basic functions of organizations, their
ethical systems, their rules and proce-
dures for how to deal with each other, with
customers, shareholders, employees, and
the community all vary across cultures.
Even the definitions of work, of career,
of work-family balance, of gender roles,
of rules about the age of entry and retire-
ment are all being discovered to be highly
variable. The vaunted western system,
most highly evolved in the US, simply
does not work in or even apply to most
other countries.

The implications of these five factors
for both OD and HR are staggering, but the
impact is not the same on both functions.
OD has always been the more innovation
oriented function, while HR is typically
expected to be stable and conservative. How
people are paid and disciplined requires

systems that are reasonably transpar-
ent and predictable. This asymmetry has
important implications for the relationship
between OD and HR. Let’s examine each
function first.

Historic Evolution of HR—Four Roles

To understand how these forces will impact
the HR function, we must first look histori-
cally at the different roles that HR manag-
ers have played and see which of these
roles is most relevant today and for the
future. We can distinguish four basic roles:

Role 1: Champion of the Employees
One of the first and most important roles
of the HR Manager was to be the spokes-
person for the employee. Not all companies
honored this role; but in the heyday of the
human relations movement of the 1940s
and 1950s, it fell to HR to show manage-
ment how the employees’ working condi-
tions, wages, and benefits needed to be
upgraded.

To play this role effectively required a
certain set of attitudes, values, and skills.
The HR Manager, usually called Person-
nel Manager in those days, had to have
empathy for the employees, the desire to
improve the lot of the worker even if this
meant less profit for the company, and the
skills to influence upward. Fulfilling this
role effectively often put the HR manager
in opposition to higher levels of manage-
ment. To play this role effectively, it was
useful to know something of individual
psychology, and this field was rapidly

evolving under the impetus of WW2 in
which the need for effective selection
methods stimulated industrial psychology
(Schein, 1980).

The domination of psychology in HR
was established early but continues to this
day in the obsession with surveys, individ-
ual selection testing and interviewing, the
search for competency profiles for effec-
tive leaders, and the popularity of concepts
such as emotional intelligence. The basic
focus of HR in this role has been and
continues to be the individual, reflecting
Western cultural traditions.

Role 2: Expert Administrator
The Personnel Departments of most orga-
nizations had and continue to have the job
of managing the pay and benefits system,
which requires efficiency and precision.
The HR Manager, for whom this role is
central, had to have a good knowledge of
the relevant systems and procedures, must
believe in the value of standardization, had
to defend procedures that often appear
to be too bureaucratic to the employees,
and had to have the administrative skills
to build and manage the pay and benefits
organization. If Labor Relations is an
issue in the organization, the HR Manager
had to also know the laws and have the
negotiating skills to deal with the contract
negotiations process. Training and develop-
ment in this role was typically conceived
of as indoctrination of the employees
in the organization’s values and ways of
doing things.

The individualistic psychological bias
showed itself in this role as well in that
administrative functions leaned heavily on
individual incentives, on individualistic
discipline systems, and on the assumption
that economic incentives are the key to
good administration.

Role 3: Partner in Strategy
As corporations became more complex
and recognized the centrality of human
resources to the success of their longer-
range strategies, they began to demand of
the HR function some participation in the
strategy and planning process. How many
people with what talent will be needed?
How are the relevant people to be found,

As we become more multicultural we are discovering that the
basic functions of organizations, their ethical systems, their
rules and procedures for how to deal with each other, with
customers, shareholders, employees, and the community all
vary across cultures. Even the definitions of work, of career, of
work-family balance, of gender roles, of rules about the age
of entry and retirement are all being discovered to be highly
variable. The vaunted western system, most highly evolved
in the US, simply does not work in or even apply to most
other countries.

7The Role of Organization Development in the Human Resource Function

developed, and integrated? Can career sys-
tems be designed to insure prepared people
for succession in all key jobs? It was this
period, sometime in the 1960s and 1970s
that led to the conversion of the Person-
nel Manager title into Manager of Human
Resources to acknowledge the importance
of people in the longer run strategy of
the organization.

In most organizations a problem arose
since senior management wanted help
from HR in strategy, but the HR Managers
were not trained in that kind of thinking
and, worse, often had pro-employee values
that made them fight rather than help
senior management. The HR manager
who could play this role would have to have
empathy for the strategic issues facing the
CEO, would have to have the skills to think
strategically and in systemic terms, would
have to have a broad view of all elements of
the business, and, most important, would
have to share the value that the ultimate
goal of the business is to increase share-
holder value. The conflict with Role 1—The
Champion of the Employees—is obvious.
In the meantime, OD as a field of practice
was evolving rapidly and creating ambigu-
ity concerning the issue of how much OD
should be part of or independent of HR.

Role 4: The Professional HR Manager
In a 1975 article for the Journal of the Col-
lege and University Personnel Association, I
outlined what at that time seemed to be the
major change that the HR function was
undergoing (Schein, 1975). I noted that
HR Managers were, of necessity, becoming
change agents and process consultants.
This role shift was in part the result of the
professionalization of the function. More
was known about employee motivation,
career development, leadership and man-
agement development, and it was often
the role of the HR manager to bring the
research knowledge and practice into the
organization.

Instead of identifying with the
employee (Role 1), the administrative func-
tions of the company (Role 2), or the senior
management (Role 3), HR managers began
to identify with each other and with the
profession of HR. In the other three roles,
the HR manager was still an organization

person. In Role 4 the HR manager was a
professional whose loyalties lie outside the
organization. The correct way to fulfill the
HR function now was to be based on the
best practices in the profession, and the
HR manager became de facto both mar-
ginal in terms of the role in the company
and an outside conscience to the organiza-
tion, bringing knowledge, new attitudes,
and new practices into the organization.

However, in order to fulfill this role,
the HR manager had to have new and pow-
erful influence and change agent skills. In
particular, he or she had to be able to think

of the organization in broader systemic
terms and be able to get that perspective
across to the executive suite. So paradoxi-
cally, as HR managers got pulled up into
the strategy discussion, they also found
themselves in the difficult role of influ-
encing that discussion in value directions
that the executives might not want to hear.
Being both a conscience with outsider
responsibilities and an effective admin-
istrator with inside responsibilities could
create role conflict. The relationship to OD
with its more systemic emphasis became
more visible.

Some History of Organizational
Development

To understand the evolution of this fourth
role of the HR manager, we need first
to look at some aspects of the history of
OD, which was quite different from the

evolution of HR. I believe that OD got
its biggest stimulus from the post war
problems of WW2, specifically the need to
help reconstruction in war-torn countries.
While Kurt Lewin and others were working
on trying to understand how Nazism could
have occurred in the first place, Eric Trist
and others at the Tavistock Institute were
helping the British Coal Mining Industry to
reconstruct itself (Schein, 1980).

The Tavistock projects were more
sociologically oriented and laid the founda-
tion for what came to be seen as a new core
concept—sociotechnical systems with which

one worked in an action research model.
Large-scale social projects were launched
by Rice in the textile mills, Jaques in fac-
tories, and by Menzies in hospitals (Rice,
1963; Trist & Bamforth, 1951). European
psychiatrists were beginning to experiment
with therapeutic communities in which
the helpers were not professional psychia-
trists and social workers, but healthy young
adults who could serve as role models for
the patients and establish normal relation-
ships with them.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s Lee
Bradford and others formed the National
Training Labs (now NTL Institute) that
began to run group dynamics and lead-
ership workshops in Bethel, Maine and
Ojai, California (Bradford, et al., 1964;
Schein & Bennis, 1965). The need to
understand group dynamics and leader-
ship led naturally to the emphasis on
organizations. My book Organizational

In most organizations a problem arose since senior manage-
ment wanted help from HR in strategy, but the HR Managers
were not trained in that kind of thinking and, worse, often had
pro-employee values that made them fight rather than help
senior management. The HR manager who could play this role
would have to have empathy for the strategic issues facing the
CEO, would have to have the skills to think strategically and in
systemic terms, would have to have a broad view of all elements
of the business, and, most important, would have to share
the value that the ultimate goal of the business is to increase
shareholder value.

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 42 No. 4 20108

Psychology was first published in 1965 and
pulled together in its last chapter what
had evolved through McGregor, Likert,
the Lippitts, Tannenbaum, Bennis and
Shepard, Blake and Mouton, Dyer, and
especially Richard Beckhard into the field
now labeled Organization Development
(Schein, 1980). One wing of Sensitivity
Training became more oriented toward
“therapy for normals,” continuing the
strong individualistic psychological focus.
However, as organizations became more
interested in the powerful impacts of
experiential learning, they stimulated more
labs, research projects, and in-house experi-
ments that de facto created the OD field
that was more oriented toward systems and
group dynamics.

At the same time, applied anthro-
pology was entering the organizational
domain and creative new research
approaches were spawned in places like
the Western Electric Hawthorne Works.
Instead of just doing psychological
experiments, parts of the research program
consisted of having observers just sit and
observe how work groups actually func-
tioned. Experiential learning, observation
and analysis of group and interpersonal
processes, and community role playing
evolved in the NTL and Tavistock A.K.Rice
workshops, which gave real meaning to the
concept of systems.

OD as a concept and a set of practices
was premised on the idea that the con-
sultant/helper was not working with an
individual or even a small group, except as
a means for helping the organization or
some larger segment of that organization.
The concept of client shifted to the orga-
nizational unit (Schein, 1999). The skills
required to do this could not be learned
from traditional psychology. One had to
attend workshops and develop one’s own
capacity to observe systemic processes
and develop personal skills to intervene
in such processes. All through the 1950s
and 1960s innovations of all sorts were
developed as a result of stimulus and
support from large organizations such as
Exxon, Union Carbide, Hotel Corporation
of America, TRW Systems, and various
European companies. Some of the indi-
vidual innovators in the US were Blake and

Mouton, Beckhard, Shepard and Bennis,
Benne, Gibb, Tannenbaum and Schmidt,
and Miles at the Columbia University
Teachers College.

The rapid expansion of the OD field
was symbolized by the Addison-Wesley
series of OD books edited originally by
Beckhard, Bennis, and Schein. Though
integrative books were available, the feel
of the OD arena was one of diversification
and innovation highlighted by the fact that
the OD series had more than 30 titles by
the 1980s.

Connection Between the
HR’s Fourth Role and OD

The role of HR as a profession required
some form of integration or at least align-
ment between HR and the growing OD
field. As I have observed this over the
last 50 years, there are three different
patterns visible.

Pattern 1—Integration. The OD role is
integrated into the job of the HR execu-
tive, which implies that the senior HR
manager fulfills all four roles. Needless
to say, very few HR executives have the
breadth of insight, values, and skills to
actually perform all four roles. It is also
not clear whether the deep assumptions of
the HR culture and the OD culture can be
integrated because some of the HR func-
tions are entirely driven by organizational
needs while many OD functions require
consideration of broader concepts of client,
which may run counter to some immediate
organization needs.

Pattern 2—OD Bias. The HR function is
skewed toward OD by hiring an OD trained
and skilled HR executive who may or may
not have the administrative or strategic
skills to play the other roles. I have encoun-
tered many organizations that had creative
OD functions but their administrative
systems were in disarray and senior man-
agement felt that the OD function was not
always aligned with corporate strategy.

Pattern 3—HR Bias. The HR function
is skewed toward administration and/or
corporate strategy with the OD function

either missing altogether or is set up as a
separate function reporting to HR. This
solution usually leaves the OD consultants
in a compromised and sometimes frustrat-
ing position because they have to influence
upward through the bureaucracy in order
to get projects approved and implemented.

Pattern 4—Separate and Independent
Functions. The solution that seems to me
to work best is where HR and OD are
treated as separate functions that report
independently to senior line management.
For example, when Digital Equipment
Corp. (DEC) first hired Dennis Burke, they
appointed him as head of management
development reporting directly to founder
and CEO Ken Olsen. The head of HR,
who had all the administrative functions
and Labor Relations, reported to Olsen
separately. Burke had the independence to
create a variety of developmental activi-
ties that worked very well as DEC grew
(Schein, 2003).

When they later hired Sheldon Davis
from TRW systems as the senior VP of HR,
OD was supposed to be integrated with
HR, but this solution did not work because
Davis was skewed toward OD. The admin-
istrative side of HR suffered, and Davis
often attempted to change Ken Olsen’s
behavior without success and to his own
ultimate detriment.

In Procter and Gamble it was notable
that the new designs of production units
always had both an HR manager and
an OD manager reporting to the plant
manager. The OD managers were often
recruited from the employment pool,
often the union, because of their interest
and skill in working on group and orga-
nizational process. They were then sent
to workshops at NTL to learn the specific
OD skills they would need, and then they
joined the plant manager’s staff as full time
employees on the same level as the HR
manager for the plant.

In Ciba-Geigy in the 1970s and early
1980s the CEO had reporting to him a
Senior VP of Development whose job it
was to oversee the care and feeding of the
top several hundred executives (Schein,
2010). He had only a small staff but, more
importantly, he reported directly to the

9The Role of Organization Development in the Human Resource Function

CEO, which made him superior in rank to
the VP of HR. All the work on culture that
I was able to do in that organization was
stimulated and supported by this executive.
In fact, I never met the manager of HR,
whose job was entirely to administer the
bureaucratic side of the HR function such
as pay and benefits.

Preliminary Conclusion
and Emerging Issues

One important conclusion is that the skills
and attitudes required in each HR role
and the OD role are quite different, and,
to some degree in conflict with each other,
setting up potential role conflicts within
the person occupying the HR job. Which
role to treat as paramount and which sets
of attitudes, skills, and values to culti-
vate can become a difficult psychological
balancing act. As tempting as it may be to
resolve these issues by looking at what has
happened historically, i.e., just separate the
functions because that has worked well in
the past, I believe that the trends I outlined
at the beginning of this paper may require
new patterns and new role definitions for
both HR and OD.

I previously mentioned the broad
trends toward globalization, technological
complexity in all areas of business, and
growing cultural diversity. In addition
one should note that the level of educa-
tion worldwide is slowly increasing, which
means that organizations will be deal-
ing with smarter and more educated and
sophisticated employees. There is also a
change in the expectations of top manage-
ment as to the role that HR should play.
There are growing pressures toward being
able to play Role 3 (Partner in Strategy)
and Role 4 (Professional HR Manager).
There is clearly a change in social values
around the importance of work/life balance
and the psychological contract between
company and employee (Bailyn, 2006).
Employment security is rapidly migrating
into employability security. Companies like
Apple have argued that even if they fire
you, you will have learned important new
skills that will make you more employable
elsewhere. This may not be objectively
true, but many companies argue that they

are, therefore, justified in hiring and firing
at will.

The concept of career is itself slowly
metamorphosing into a variety of concepts,
especially as globalization reveals that in
different cultures work and career have
different meanings and are differently inte-
grated with family and self. In the western
world this shows up most clearly in the
increasing mobility that employees display
(as well as sometimes, the refusal to move),
in the decline of company loyalty, and the
growing concern for self and family. Much
of this is due to the growing number of
dual career families in which the family is

managing two full careers. In this arena
HR and OD will have to work together to
shape appropriate development policies.

Research on employees has shown
increasing variability in what they are good
at, seek, and value. My own research on
Career Anchors shows that organizations
must be prepared to respond to a wide
variety of employee needs and avoid the
stereotype of “everyone wants to climb the
corporate ladder” (Schein, 2006). This
impacts HR directly because incentive,
reward, and discipline systems have to
become much more differentiated in order
to seem fair to people with different skills,
needs, and aspirations. With increas-
ing technological complexity, work itself
becomes more complex. The HR manager
will have to help line and other staff man-
agers to develop better tools for figuring
out what needs to be done and how to com-
municate that to employees.

Around these last points I see a

potential conflict between HR’s need to
develop standard systems and OD’s view of
diagnosing and working with subsystems
and microcultures. What OD brings to the
party is more of a process concern of how
to align different individual needs and
different subcultures into a functioning
whole. For HR, jobs are individual sets of
responsibilities and accountabilities often
captured in the job description. From an
OD perspective I have argued that jobs
should be seen as roles that are embedded
in an ever changing role set that needs
to be perpetually examined and updated
(Schein, 2006).

Cultural diversity is increasing and
so is management’s discovery of culture.
Culture and sub-cultures have always been
with us, but the discovery of the impor-
tance of culture in the performance of
the firm is fairly recent (Denison, 1990;
Denison et al., 2003; Sackman, 2006).
Managers don’t quite know how to deal
with an abstraction like culture, so it will
fall to the HR and OD functions to educate
management on what culture is and does,
and beyond that both functions will be
involved in the implementation of culture
evolution, culture change, and, in the case
of sub-culture conflicts, culture alignment
(Schein, 1996).

The dispersion of employees into net-
works and the loosening of organizational
boundaries will be a special challenge to
OD and a source of difficulty for HR. The
OD function will have to evolve concepts of
teamwork and collaboration in a network
in which face to face contact may never

The dispersion of employees into networks and the loosening
of organizational boundaries will be a special challenge to OD
and a source of difficulty for HR. The OD function will have to
evolve concepts of teamwork and collaboration in a network in
which face to face contact may never take place. HR will have
to develop policies that are consistent across various kinds
of spatial and cultural boundaries, which will be especially
difficult around pay systems since we know that money and
rewards are perceived very differently in different cultures.

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 42 No. 4 201010

take place. HR will have to develop policies
that are consistent across various kinds of
spatial and cultural boundaries, which will
be especially difficult around pay systems
since we know that money and rewards
are perceived very differently in different
cultures.

Organizations are increasingly catch-
ing on that people (human resources) are
not an expendable resource and a cost
factor in the economics of the firm but
rather a capital investment to be valued
and nurtured. No matter how much we
automate, downsize, or break up organiza-
tions geographically, people will always, in
the end, be the key to performance. The
reason for this is simple—no amount of
engineering and planning can predict all
of the contingencies that will arise in a
dynamic world. It will always fall to some
people somewhere to make sense of the
new data and new problems that will show
up. So whether we like it or not, people will
continue to be central to the organization
and the HR function will continue to be
central to the management of those people.

With that insight will also come the
recognition that collaboration, mutual help-
ing, leaders as providers and consumers of
help will become more and more impor-
tant (Schein, 2009b). OD will play a critical
role in developing concepts and processes
that will facilitate more mutual help and
HR will have to develop administrative
policies that value help and collaboration.
Both functions will be needed and we can
all watch with interest how they will evolve
and eventually align and/or integrate.

A Final Thought—Whither Management?

Though it is beyond the score of this paper,
we should consider that the biggest impact
on both HR and OD might be the slowly
evolving but significant growing compe-
tence of line executives in human process
skills. As general managers become more
aware of the value of humans and as they
develop skills in handling interpersonal
relationships, group dynamics, and inter-
organizational dynamics, and as they
become more culturally sophisticated they
will take on many of the roles that HR and
OD play today. As managers are defined

increasingly as HR and OD practitioners,
it remains to be seen how the HR and OD
specialists will adapt.

References

Bailyn, L. (2006). Breaking the mold (2nd
ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press.

Bradford, L. P., Gibb, J. R., & Benne, K. D.
(Eds.). (1964). T-Group theory and labo-
ratory method. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Denison, D. R. (1990). Corporate culture
and organizational effectiveness. Hobo-
ken, NJ: Wiley.

Denison, D. R., Haaland. S., & Goelzer,
P. (2003). Corporate culture and orga-
nizational effectiveness: Is there a similar
pattern around the world? Greenwich:
Jai Press.

Rice, A. K. (1963). The …

The Art and Science of Evaluating Organization Development Interventions.

166

Designing Organizational Change: Learning from a Grounded Research Project JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT AND CHANGE

No 30/31 2013

Designing Organizational Change: Learning from a
Grounded Research Project

Alessandra Mazzei, Luca Quaratino,

IULM University of Milan

Abstract

This article aims to investigate whether an
intense exploratory listening phase at the
beginning of the change process can enhance
organizational readiness for change. It presents
a study of a change process conducted with the
action research approach and using qualitative
methods. The study offered the opportunity to
conduct a grounded research study based on a
large amount of field evidence, which in turn
made it possible to explore the implications for
theory building.

The study is based on the experience of a
leading Italian multinational company in the
furniture industry, which was facing many
challenges and decided to revisit its corporate
values and management style.

The study demonstrates the utility of a listen-
ing phase based on multiple qualitative meth-
ods: this approach supports a comprehensive
understanding of the specific situation, raising
awareness of the inner elements at the root of
the resistance to change.

From a practical point of view, the study shows
that in order to put the change into action,
people should be committed by means of an

explicit consensus and a mutual agreement
with the company.

The main limitation is that the single case
study cannot be generalized beyond the limits
of the evidence that emerged. Further research
in companies facing similar situations would
be useful, to observe if similar dynamics are
present or not.

The study adds to the debate about orga-
nizational change, and contributes a clear
understanding of the relevance of adopting a
relationship-based approach from the begin-
ning of the process.

Keywords

Action research, grounded research, qualita-
tive methods, relational approach to change,
resistance/readiness to change, role of com-
munication in change management.

Introduction

The current debate about organizational
change stresses the relevance of a relational
approach to change management, as opposed
to the linear and deterministic approach. The

Alessandra Mazzei is Associate Professor of Corporate
Communication and Public Relations at IULM University,
Milan, Italy. She is the Co-Director at IULM University of the
Master in Intercultural Communication organized by the Geert
Hofstede Consortium and a member of the Faculty of the Doc-
toral School in Economics, Management and Communication
for Creativity at IULM University. She has worked as a busi-
ness consultant and management education trainer.
Her primary research interests and publications focus inter-
nal communication, internal crisis communication, corporate
communication, reputation management, communication for
credence goods, communication planning and evaluation.
E-mail: [email protected]

Luca Quaratino is a Assistant Professor in Organization
Theory and Human Resource Management at IULM Univer-
sity of Milan. He graduated in Law and completed his studies
at the Industrial and Labour Relations Department at Cornell
University (USA). For more than fifteen years he has worked
as consultant/trainer in HRM and organizational development
issues for major Italian companies. Today his research interests
deal with “train the trainer” processes in transition economies,
the relationship between organizational culture, business strat-
egy and performance, and the evolution of HRM in Italian com-
panies. E-mail: [email protected]

167

Alessandra Mazzei, Luca Quaratino JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT AND CHANGE

No 30/31 2013

relational approach calls for participation in
order to facilitate successful transformation
of the behaviours of members of the organiza-
tion.

This study suggests an understanding of how
an exploratory listening phase at the beginning
of the change process might promote people’s
involvement and participation, so enhancing
the probability of a successful change.

The study is data driven and started from an
actual experience of change management in
a multinational company. This has been an
opportunity to study an organizational change
case using the action research approach,
which involves investigating the process while
implementing it.

The data driven nature of the study, in contrast
with the hypothesis driven research strategy,
implied a wide exploratory approach in the
research design and data collection phases.
The wide pool of data provided the research-
ers with the basis for interpretation and con-
ceptual insight.

The company in the study is an Italian multi-
national operating in the furniture industry. It
faced critical challenges and sought to resolve
them through the definition of new corporate
values and a style of management that was
appropriate for the changing context, while
remaining deeply grounded in its history and
culture.

This article first describes the situation of the
company at the beginning of the study. Then
it discusses the conceptual background and
research methods adopted in order to conduct
the analysis of the situation. Thereafter, it pres-
ents some of the most relevant findings emerg-
ing from the diagnosis of the existing culture
and the output of the design phase, aimed at
defining new corporate values, a management
code of conduct, and guidelines for translating
the change into action. A discussion section
elaborates on the evidence in order to interpret
and generalize the findings. In conclusion, the

article brings together some managerial impli-
cations and suggestions for future research.

The Starting Point

The company in the study is an Italian mul-
tinational in the furniture industry. It was
founded in the 1950s and is located in the
south of Italy. It manufactures and sells sofas,
armchairs and living room accessories all over
the world, and has about 6,500 employees. The
sofas and armchairs are designed in Italy and
hand-made in 11 factories in Italy and abroad.
The company sells its brands in both the f lag-
ship stores, galleries and retail chains (Com-
pany profile, 2011).

After two decades of development in the Ital-
ian market, in the 1980s the company began
its expansion in the US. In the following years,
the company continued to grow in other Euro-
pean markets.

From the end of the 1990s the company experi-
enced a drop in revenue and workforce redun-
dancy due to decreasing demand and a loss of
market share to increasing competition from
emerging countries. The company faced these
challenges by adopting new strategies: inter-
nationalization of the manufacturing process,
high positioning of its brands, direct retail-
ing and strategic communication. In addi-
tion, organizational development intensified
through the rationalization of the production
processes, the establishment of a managerial
system, the development of professional com-
petencies and the hiring of managers from
other multinational companies. Despite these
efforts, the company situation remained criti-
cal and the company was looking for new solu-
tions to re-launch the company.

The way identified by the management of the
company was a major organizational change
process, starting from the identification to the
corporate values and ending into the redefini-
tion of managerial culture and tools.

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No 30/31 2013

A previous attempt to redefine and deploy the
corporate values failed. In the perception of
the company this attempt was very well for-
mally managed, following the golden rules set
out by consultancy best practices. Neverthe-
less, the set of values did not seem to belong
to the company history: “They appeared very
attractive, but somehow alien to the company
because they came from an external process
instead of stemming from our own history”
[1].

The company defined this experience as “The
‘colonization’ model… management models
that had shown their effectiveness in other
companies were imported into our company”.
In contrast, the new attempt was based on
“The ‘enhancement’ model… the company’s
best practices are selected and developed,
looking for a unique model and a specific
change path”.

So, the company decided to revisit its corpo-
rate values and management style, looking
at the roots of its success; going back to its
original identity and values, understanding to
what extent they had changed over 50 years of
history and what steps were required to move
the corporate identity and the company values
forward.

The company decided to engage a university
research team to ensure an accurate diagno-
sis, the use of scientific research methods, the
development of ad hoc solutions, and a unique
route for change.

The main goal of the project was to define
the New Corporate Values Chart and the New
Management Style Code of Conduct. The
expected advantages were the reinforcement
and visibility of the entrepreneurial model of
the company, a widespread awareness of the
corporate values and unique success factors,
the clear definition of the Corporate Values
and the Management Style Code of the com-
pany as stable points of reference for manage-
ment, decision making and daily activities,

and, lastly, a company-specific framework for
future human resource management practices.

Conceptual Background and Research
Method: the Analysis

The research approach was chosen taking into
account the relational paradigm of change
management, based on a complex and adap-
tive process stemming from participation.
It is the opposite of the top-down, planned,
linear step approach to change management
(Stroh, 2007). The distinction between these
two archetypes is deeply rooted in the litera-
ture on change management, even if different
theorists have different terms for them, for
example Theory E and Theory O (Beer and
Nohria, 2000) and hard systems models and
soft systems models (Senior, 1997).

Furthermore, employees need to be involved
in the changes to accept and implement them
(Stroh, 2007). Nevertheless, the planned
approach to change management should not be
abandoned. It should instead be considered as
a framework for participatory activities (Stroh,
2007). Change management is effective only
when members’ behaviours change. A direct
predictor of changing behaviours is supposed
to be the readiness for change, including a
low level of resistance and support for change
(Elving, 2006).

In the attempt to explore how to enhance the
design of an organizational change process,
the research team designed a wide exploratory
listening phase at the beginning of the change
process, bearing the following question in
mind:

RQ: Can an exploratory listening phase at
the beginning of the change process enhance
organizational readiness for change?

The study described in this article is an evi-
dence based study, starting from a wide
exploratory approach in the research design
and data collection phases, as opposed to

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the hypothesis driven research strategy that
is usually employed, and which starts from
a pre-defined theoretical background. Evi-
dence gathered from the fieldwork offered
the researchers the basis for new conceptual
development. It consisted of an ethnographic
oriented case study conducted using the action
research approach and a multidisciplinary per-
spective.

Studying an actual experience of change
management in a multinational company has
offered a unique opportunity to observe the
change design phenomenon in the context
where it takes place, and this is coherent with
the case study approach (Eisenhardt, 1989;
Yin, 1994; Patton, 2002; Dubè and Parè, 2003).

Furthermore this situation made it possible
to study an organizational change case using
the action research approach (Lewin, 1946;
White, 1989), a method that does not separate
the investigation from the action needed to
solve the problem. Therefore, the project was
not just a research study or a consulting pro-
cess. It employed research as a means for orga-
nizational change and investigated the change
management process while designing it.

This study is grounded in fieldwork in order
to explain what has been observed. According
to the grounded theory approach, the aim is to
develop theories rather than test them, seeking
for the meaning of phenomena (Glaser, 1978
and 2000; Strauss and Corbin, 1998).

In accordance with the nature of grounded
study, the researchers adopted a wide range
of data gathering methods. Following that, all
collected data were rigorously described, ana-
lysed and conceptually organized. Finally, the
findings have been interpreted into an explan-
atory scheme (Strauss and Corbin, 1998).

The research adopted a cross-disciplinary per-
spective, drawing on organizational and com-
munication backgrounds, following the idea
that both the study and the practice of change
management processes can benefit consider-

ably from transcending disciplinary barriers
(By, Burnes et al., 2011).

In line with the ethnographically oriented
(Van Maanen, 1988) and case study (Yin,
1994) research methods, the researchers used
analysis of official corporate documents,
semi-structured interviews (Daymon & Hollo-
way, 2002; VanderStoep and Johnson, 2009),
focus groups (Morgan, 1988) and direct obser-
vation (Yin, 1994). The multiple data gather-
ing bases supported the triangulation of data
and the “development of converging lines of
inquiry” (Yin, 1994: 92).

The analysis comprised a pilot phase aimed
at understanding the organizational context,
defining the areas of investigation, and pre-
paring the data-gathering strategies and tools.
It consisted of document analysis and inter-
views with the CEO and with four company
champions. The document analysis included
the Company Profile, the company’s Annual
Reports, the Industrial Plans, the Quality
Manual, the organizational chart, documents
about the company history, copies of the in-
house newsletter, the intranet, web site, letters
and audio-video messages from the CEO to
all employees, video of the company’s con-
vention, print clippings, the declaration of
corporate values, the Corporate Ethical Code
of Conduct, internal and external communica-
tion documents, and books and articles about
the company.

Following the pilot phase, the analysis con-
sisted of:

a) semi-structured interviews with the 3
majority shareholders, belonging to the CEO’s
family and in some cases having managerial
responsibility;

b) semi-structured interviews with 29 manag-
ers including all those who report to the CEO
as well as their direct subordinates;

c) a focus group involving middle-managers
and workers.

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The research team chose both the interview-
ees and the participants in the focus groups
taking into account the aim of representing all
the company’s areas, sub-cultures and points
of view.

The interviews lasted one and a half hours and
focused on personal professional biography,
perceptions of the company, critical events
in the company history, success factors, key
people in the company’s development, unique
features of the company, “the ideal” company,
relationships with the local region, ideas about
the future of the company, and open obser-
vations. The researchers recorded and tran-
scribed all the interviews and prepared a final
report with anonymous quotations.

Four focus groups were organized; each lasted
4 hours and involved 8 to 12 participants with
a moderator and an assistant. The aims were
to understand the corporate values held by
employees, their idea of “the ideal manager”,
the most important motivational levers, “the
ideal” company, and their perception of the
most urgent issues faced by the company,
through the use of metaphors and drawings.
The researchers wrote a report for each focus
group, and analysed the drawings and minutes
of the brainstorming.

The interviews and meetings with the com-
pany provided the occasion to visit the pro-
duction and administrative sites and created
the opportunity for direct observation (Yin,
1994). This was useful for gathering addi-
tional information and impressions about the
company’s habits, the organizational climate
and the corporate values and features.

The multiple sources of evidence – document
analysis, interviews, focus groups, direct
observation – made it possible to broaden and
articulate the data collection process, giving
the researchers a better knowledge base. The
adopted approach also has some weaknesses.
Firstly, being based on a single case study
and qualitative methods, the results, although
valuable, cannot be considered valid in all

cases. Secondly, the research project included
only the analysis, diagnosis and design pro-
cess, while excluding the implementation step.
The researchers could not observe and verify
the success of the change implementation.

Findings: the Diagnosis

The diagnosis phase of the field research
involved the identification of the desired
corporate values, expressed by the majority
shareholders, and the level of their alignment
with the actual values held by managers and
employees.

The research team identified the desired cor-
porate values from the interviews with the
CEO and the other majority shareholders, and
then confirmed them by the analysis of docu-
ments. “Desired values” express the strategic
orientation of the company, are part of the
distinctive corporate identity and are vital for
company success.

The researchers grouped the desired values
into four areas. A first area of values refers
to “responsibility” and includes ethics, social
mission, focus on the region, and foresight.
According to the CEO, “My company has
always had a social mission. We can grow cre-
ating wealth for the region and today we want
to stay here”.

A second area focuses on “relationships” and
includes family, dialogue, and direct contact.
In the words of one shareholder, “Our CEO
likes to see his employees around him, as
a father with his family during the Sunday
meal”.

A third area is related to the “working style”,
involving passion, understanding before
acting, simplifying complexity and innova-
tion. The founder declared, “I put my heart and
soul into my job and everybody knows that”.

A fourth area deals with competition in the
“market”, with the customer being the most

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valuable asset, along with quality, and eco-
nomic sustainability. The CEO has it clear in
his mind that in each decision it is very impor-
tant “to evaluate the resources required. Prob-
ably we have learned this type of discipline
over the last few years. Traditionally we were
used to thinking that if you did your best on
the job, the results would follow”.

Each of these desired corporate values was
compared with findings from interviews and
focus groups in order to identify the level
of alignment with the actual values spread
among managers and employees. The diag-
nosis benefited from the AC2ID framework
(Balmer and Greiser, 2002) to analyse and
diagnose corporate values. In particular, the
researchers adapted the theoretical model to
the specific situation – using the categories of
“identity”, “known” and “out of awareness”
values – in order to check the level of align-
ment between the values desired by the owner
and those expressed and embodied by manag-
ers and the employees.

The researchers diagnosed three distinct cat-
egories of corporate values, ref lecting a differ-
ent level of alignment.

a) Identity values (high level of alignment):
desired values consciously described by man-
agers and employees as part of the spirit of
the company and translated into everyday
actions. In this case, the company is expected
to maintain them. They were ethics, a sense
of family, passion, social mission, and focus
on the region. For example, most of the trees,
representing the company, drawn during the
focus groups had a lot of roots described as a
symbol of how much the company is embed-
ded in the local region.

b) Known values (medium level of alignment):
desired values mentioned by the interviewees
and formally appreciated, but according to
the overall findings of the research, not put
into action. The company should foster them.
They were dialogue, direct contact, simplify-
ing complexity, understanding before acting,

innovation and quality. Interviewees high-
lighted quite opposite behaviours and practices
referring to their daily working experience.
For example, one said, “We work as separate
islands… Our bosses do not listen, they do not
talk with us, they just give us orders”.

c) Out-of-awareness values (low level of
alignment): desired values neither known nor
acted upon by managers and employees. In
this case the company should cultivate them
and make people aware of their relevance.
They were that the customer is the most valu-
able asset, economic sustainability and fore-
sight. For example: “We made some decisions
‘off the cuff’ and then later we evaluated the
economic implications”.

This distinction underlines the different inten-
sity of the necessary effort to be put into each
value during the process of changing the orga-
nizational culture.

The diagnosis was presented and discussed
inside the Steering Committee whose mem-
bers were the owner, the 3 majority sharehold-
ers, the Human Resources (HR) Director and
the person in charge of Internal Communica-
tion.

The knowledge gained during the research in
the field, further enhanced through the dis-
cussion with the Steering Committee, helped
in the process of designing the possible evo-
lution of the corporate values. Concerning
the values related to responsibility, it seemed
important to harmonize the social mission of
the company with its economic responsibility
and to reinforce the long term orientation of
all the people in the company in their decision-
making processes. Regarding the values in the
area of relationships, it seemed important to
modify the concept of ‘family’, which is very
Italian and traditional, to that of ‘community’,
more understandable at an international level
and also related to the notions of cooperation
and membership. Moreover, the managerial
relationships needed to evolve from hierarchy
to coaching. With regards to the working style

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area of values, it was felt important to include
the quality of working life in addition to work-
ing very hard, to develop personal account-
ability and creativity, and to change the search
for simplicity to the management of complex-
ity. Finally, the values related to market needed
to be centred on attention to the efficient use
of resources and profitability. Moreover, a sig-
nificant shift was perceived as crucial, moving
from product quality to consumer orientation/
satisfaction.

5. The New Corporate Values Chart and the
New Management Code of Conduct: the
Design

After the diagnosis of corporate values and its
discussion with the Steering Committee, the
researchers prepared a proposal for the New
Corporate Values Chart and Management
Style of Conduct. This was a process com-
posed of many working sessions with the CEO
and the Steering Committee, taking fully into
account what people had said during the work
in the field.

The New Corporate Values Chart

Each proposed value really belongs to the
company, because they were all identified on
the basis of in-depth research. They are the
expression of the company history and, at the
same time, they are future oriented.

The focal point of the new set of corporate
values is the concept of responsibility, a unique
common thread in the spirit of the company.
Thus the company feels responsible towards:

customers, offering them a unique buyer
experience, excellent furnishings and service
matching their expectations;

commercial partners, building relationships
with them based on cooperation, respect of
rules, ethics, and transparency in the interest
of customers;

shareholders, with the mission of achieving
economic success, paying attention to finan-
cial resources and looking for market oppor-
tunities;

employees, showing personal respect and cre-
ating professional opportunities;

society, with the duty of operating for the
development of the region, looking after the
environment, and integrating social solidarity
with economic sustainability.

The Managerial Style Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct approved by the com-
pany states that each “company manager” is
expected to share the spirit of the company.
He/she interprets the company vision, imparts
the corporate values, gives value to all expe-
riences, resources, competencies, looks for
innovation, acts as an integrator of different
organizational areas, is a talent scout and seeks
his/her employees’ professional development.

The Code of Conduct is very important for
the company because it specifies how to
involve and engage managers in translating
the new corporate values into action. Instead
of prescribing certain abstract behaviours, the
company wants to come to an agreement with
its managers about the distinctive corporate
values, share them and, after that, expects that
managerial principles, coherent with the cor-
porate values, will be put into practice.

To drive a major cultural change, it is crucial
to reach an agreement on corporate values at
all organizational levels, through a participa-
tory bottom-up approach, that the company
was only partially able to realize, for reasons
that were both logistic and cultural.

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The Guidelines for Organizational
Development, HR Systems and Training

Based on the main results of the research and
on the on-going discussion with the Steering
Committee, some guidelines about organiza-
tional development, human resource manage-
ment and training processes were drawn up.
They represent the final step of the design
phase and build a bridge towards future devel-
opment in line with the revised corporate
values and managerial style of conduct.

With regard to human resource management
(HRM), the guidelines focus on ensuring the
highest level of coherence between HRM
systems and the new values and manage-
ment style. Moreover, each phase of the HRM
cycle should also take into account the fact
that a f lexible organizational model has been
adopted.

Firstly, recruitment of both young and expe-
rienced staff has to be based on a “person-
nel specification” deeply grounded in the
new values and managerial styles, in order to
ensure alignment with the company culture.
Secondly, the performance appraisal pro-
cess should include the evaluation of results
and behaviours directly drawn from the new
values and management style of conduct, in
order to ensure their translation into prac-
tice. Thirdly, a significant investment should
be made in evaluating the potential of young
people and middle-managers with the aim of
supporting internal career development. This
choice appears to be consistent with the strong
need for personal and professional recognition
expressed during both interviews and focus
groups. It is likely to improve both individual
motivation and the organizational climate
and, consequently, avoid the dangerous level
of turnover in managerial positions experi-
enced over the last ten years. Finally, the f lex-
ible organizational model also recommended
the creation of horizontal development paths,
based on job rotation, inter-functional and
international mobility and assignment to tem-
porary projects.

The guidelines regarding training were con-
ceived starting from the multiple functions
that training can play in a cultural change
process. First of all, training was thought of
as one of the main ways to communicate to all
employees about the transformation of the cor-
porate values, discussing with them not only
the practical implications of change, but also
the importance of adopting a different mind-
set, from the perspective of “dialogic change”
(Bushe and Marshak, 2009). As a matter of
fact, the training setting potentially repre-
sents, from an anthropological point of view, a
“neutral space” where interests and meanings
can be more easily negotiated.

Secondly, training was seen as crucial in order
to recognize and reward commitment and
performance from employees, to foster their
motivation and enhance their engagement in
the organizational change. Lastly, training had
a less symbolic and much more practical end:
to fill the …

Change Management: The Road Ahead

RUNE TODNEM BY∗, BERNARD BURNES∗∗ & CLIFF OSWICK†

∗Staffordshire University Business School, UK, ∗∗Manchester Business School, The University of
Manchester, UK,


Cass Business School, City University London, UK

Where We Are and Where We Are Going

Welcome to the 11th volume of Routledge’s Journal of Change Management
(JCM). 2010, our 10th anniversary, was a great year for JCM as we continued
to attract and publish high-quality contributions in the specific field of change
management, and in the wider fields of organizational studies and behaviour.
JCM is committed to publishing peer-reviewed, high-quality empirical and con-
ceptual research, and to become the journal of choice in its field. JCM will
clearly establish itself as the journal which spans the entire field of organizational
change, ranging from mainstream and established viewpoints to innovative
unorthodox, critical and challenging contributions. As such, it will be essential
reading for all academics, students and practitioners of change management.

The inclusion of JCM in the ABS journal rankings during 2010 offers external
corroboration and acknowledgement of the work we are undertaking as a commu-
nity of scholars and the high-quality of articles published. This is the first step
towards securing three ABS stars and inclusion in Thomson Reuters’ Social
Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). Our strategy for achieving these aims is both rig-
orous and proactive – something that is reflected in a high rejection rate, timely
decision-making process (the average turnaround from manuscript submission
to receiving a decision was four weeks in 2010), and the impressive composition
of our Editorial Board. In fact, we have been quite overwhelmed by the support
provided by the leaders in our field, as well as that shown by up and coming aca-
demic talent. This augurs well for the prospects for creating and establishing a
world-leading academic journal.

Thank you to the Editorial Board members, reviewers, submitting authors,
readers, subscribing libraries and the Routledge editorial and production team

Journal of Change Management

Vol. 11, No. 1, 1 – 6, March 2011

Correspondence Address: Rune Todnem By, Staffordshire University Business School, Brindley Building, Leek

Road, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 2DF, UK. Email: [email protected]

1469-7017 Print/1479-1811 Online/11/010001 – 6 # 2011 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/14697017.2011.548936

for your invaluable and continuous support. In particular, we are indebted to
Christine Teelken (VU University, The Netherlands), Ingrid Nembhard (Yale Uni-
versity, USA), Suzanne Benn (Macquarie University, Australia) and Ashley Brag-
anza (Brunel Business School, UK) for their immense support as Associate Editors
(2009 – 2011). In the remainder of this Editorial we would like to do two things.
First, we offer some reflections upon the nature of the field of change management
and the scope for future work. Second, and more specifically, we want to consider
the role that we as a community of change management scholars might collec-
tively play in moving the JCM agenda forwards.

Change Scholarship and the Future of Change Management

The roots of change management can be traced back to the pioneering work of the
National Training Laboratories in the late 1940s and 1950s (Lewin, 1947). An
enduring aspect of work on organization development and change management
over the years has been a strong humanistic orientation (i.e. a concern for
people and increasing human potential). That said, this strand of humanism has
typically been subordinated in the pursuit of efficiency and profit maximization
(Grieves, 2010). The marginalization of human needs is further reinforced in
Brown and Harvey’s (2004, p. 5) assertion that ‘A change leader is a person in
an organization responsible for changing existing patterns to obtain more effec-
tive organizational performance’. This raises an important question: Should
change management be primarily concerned with enhancing organizational
performance?

Arguably, change practitioners (i.e. managers and consultants) are often
immersed in the everyday life of organizations to an extent which makes it diffi-
cult to see beyond organizational ends. However, as academics, we are perhaps
better placed to step back from the hegemonic grasp of corporate interests and
acknowledge our responsibility to the wider society. Hence, our role as scholars
is not simply to educate the managers of tomorrow or to inform management prac-
tice. It is to provide an independent and critical voice. To this end, and in keeping
with the aims and scope of the JCM, we need to embrace a polemic stance (i.e. to
problematize conventional wisdom and challenge orthodoxy) while striking a
balance between a phenomenological orientation (i.e. doing research on change
management) and an applied focus (i.e. doing research for change management).

For us, the future directions for change management research are closely
aligned with the JCM agenda. We anticipate, and would encourage, work which
engages with the core tenets and very nature of change management. In particular,
this involves revisiting some fundamental questions, such as: Who manages
change? For whom is change managed? What is changed? And, how is change
managed? Let us elaborate briefly on these issues.

Traditionally, the management of change has been something which has been
undertaken by managers and consultants with employees and subordinates posi-
tioned as the recipients of change. In effect, managers and consultants have
been largely portrayed as having agency (i.e. as change agents and change
leaders), while workers are depicted as relatively agentless (Grieves, 2010). In
this regard, the change literature is perhaps guilty of conflating ‘change

2 R.T. By et al.

management’ with ‘change managers’ and overemphasizing actors over acts. A
parallel problem existed within the literature on leadership which for many
years focused on leadership as an activity undertaken by leaders (as actors).
However, the idea that leadership is something that only leaders do was under-
mined by the emergence of the notion of ‘distributed leadership’ (Gronn, 2002)
which drew attention to the fact that leadership is also a pervasive, everyday
activity undertaken by groups of stakeholders. In a similar vein, we could
reframe change management as a micro-situated, everyday, distributed practice
rather than perpetuating the dominant perspective which treats it as a strategic
tool deployed by key actors in the corporate hierarchy.

Beyond challenging taken-for-granted assumptions about the role of agents, we
believe that future research might reinterpret the application of change manage-
ment in a more expansive and less constrained way. There is no obvious reason
why the focal point of change management should be limited to organizations.
For example, we could instead think in terms of change activity within a
variety of social settings (i.e. changing communities rather than just changing
organizations). The implication here is that researchers broaden their horizons
to encompass processes of social change rather than concentrating on organiz-
ational change. More proactively, we might even consider the extent to which
‘community organizers’ and ‘social activists’ are as much agents of change
as management consultants. The extensive uptake of ‘appreciative inquiry’
(Cooperrider et al., 2008), as a change approach which is not constrained by tra-
ditional organizational boundaries and which meaningfully engages with personal
value systems and processes of collective social change, illustrates how change
management research could be re-oriented in the future. Other recent approaches
to change – such as ‘open space’ (Owen, 2008) and ‘world café’ (Brown and
Issacs, 2005) – also encourage us to reconceptualize the nature of change manage-
ment over the coming decade.

Finally, another developing line of inquiry is concerned with addressing the
limitations of change management. This research is progressing in two ways.
First, there is a growing body of work which questions whether it is possible to
meaningfully ‘manage’ change at all (Hughes, 2006). The ability to manage
and control change is disputed on the basis of the inherent complexity of organiz-
ations and the self-organizing properties of systems (Stacey, 2001; Shaw, 2002).
Second, change initiatives have tended to adopt a problem-centred approach and
focus on changing tangible processes. Bushe and Marshak (2009) refer to this as
‘diagnostic change’ and they contrast it with emerging patterns of practice which
they term ‘dialogic change’. Dialogic changes centre on the processes of social
construction and systems of meaning-making with a view to changing mindsets
rather than changing more concrete phenomena (e.g. behaviour, procedures or
structures). The real-time social negotiation of meaning associated with dialogic
change offers a significant challenge to the manageability of processes
of change management insofar as it involves ‘coordinating’ and ‘facilitating’
change conversations in the moment and on a largely improvised and unscripted
basis rather than engaging in more established forms of planned change. These
developments, and the disjunctures in change management that they reveal,
clearly undermine conventional wisdom and established practices, but they also

Change Management: The Road Ahead 3

signal the opportunities for fresh avenues of innovative and critical research that
exist within the field.

Creating a Community of Scholars

There is a well-known 19th-century poem by John Godfrey Saxe which tells the
story of six blind men who go to see what an elephant is like. The poem is
based on an old Indian legend and tells how each blind man touched a different
part of the elephant. One man touched the side and declared that an elephant
was very like a wall, another touched a tusk and stated that an elephant was
very like a spear, and so on. All six described the elephant in different ways,
depending on which part they had touched, and all declared that their description
was the correct one. Obviously, none of their descriptions is totally wrong per se,
but neither are they totally correct – they describe only one part of an elephant.

To anyone who has studied the field of organizational change, this poem has a
certain familiarity. As Stickland (1998, p. 14) remarked:

. . . the problem with studying change is that it parades across many subject domains

under numerous guises, such as transformation, development, metamorphosis, trans-

mutation, evolution, regeneration, innovation, revolution and transition to name but

a few.

Like the blind men attempting to describe an elephant, we tend to look at change
from our own perspective, which is shaped by our disciplinary background and
experience. Psychologists, sociologists, economists, accountants, engineers and
so on can see change from very different viewpoints. This does not mean that
they are wrong, but it does mean that their description is incomplete. Only by
sharing and debating our views of change can we begin to build a more compre-
hensive picture. The blind men were hindered by a lack of sight; we have three
different obstacles in the way of our understanding change.

First, all elephants have very similar characteristics – if you can describe one,
you can describe them all. This is not the same with change, which comes in many
shapes, sizes and guises. Second, the blind men shared a common language. All
knew what a wall was, a spear was, etc., and were consistent in their use and
understanding of the words. However, those of us seeking to understand change
share neither a common language nor a consistency of use. For example, one
person’s transformational change may be another person’s evolutionary change,
and one person may use the word metamorphosis to describe a range of change
outcomes and different words, such as piecemeal, gradual, incremental and evol-
utionary, to describe the same event. Last but not least, all the blind men were in
the same place and could converse together. This is not the same with the change
community. We operate in different geographical locations, different disciplinary
spheres, we go to different conferences and, crucially, we publish in different
journals.

There are many very good general journals which publish articles on change,
such as the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Management
Studies and Human Relations. However, none of these general journals provides

4 R.T. By et al.

a dedicated space for exploring, debating and developing the study of change. That
is not their purpose. There are also a small number of journals which focus mainly
on change, like the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (JABS) and the Journal
of Organizational Change Management (JOCM). Both are very good journals.
However, they tend to look at change from particular perspectives. JABS, for
example, is published by the NTL Institute and, as the journal’s name implies,
focuses on applied behavioural science. In many respects, it can be seen as the
standard-bearer for Organization Development (OD). By contrast, JOCM declares
that its purpose is the exploration of philosophies, including critical theory, post-
modernism and poststructuralism, as they apply to change and development.
Given the disciplinary perspectives of JABS and JOCM, by and large, articles
in them tend to be written and read by different groups of scholars using different
language and seeing the world in different ways – like the blind men, they focus
on different parts of the elephant.

The strength of change journals such as these is that they provide a forum for a
community of scholars with a specific orientation to join together to explore their
interests and to develop a common language for doing so. The weakness is that
they become one of many islands in the sea of change which are isolated from
each other. This is why when we look at the field of change we do not see a
single community of scholars and practitioners attempting to understand and
develop the study and practice of change. Instead, we see a sea populated with
islands, atolls, reefs and a lot of individuals madly paddling boats between
them who are frustrated by the fact that no one seems to speak the same language
or see the world in the same way.

The revitalization of the JCM offers a unique opportunity to create a home for
the change community as a whole which transcends disciplinary barriers. A glance
at the Editorial Board shows it comprises leading scholars from across the field.
Similarly, if one considers the articles which have appeared over the last couple
of years, it can be seen that they come from a wide range of disciplines and inter-
ests. The challenge for all of us involved in the JCM – the Editor, the Editorial
Board, contributors and readers – is to seize the opportunity to engage with
each other. Like all communities, if the change community is to prosper, we
need a community centre where we can meet, discuss, debate and develop our
common interests. The JCM offers such a place; we would be foolish to ignore
the offer.

References

Brown, D.R. and Harvey, D. (2004) An Experiential Approach to Organization Development (Upper Saddle

River, NJ: Prentice Hall).

Brown, J. and Issacs, D. (2005) World Café: Shaping our Futures through Conversations that Matter

(San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler).

Bushe, G.R. and Marshak, R.J. (2009) Revisioning organization development: diagnostic and dialogic premises

and patterns of practice, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 45(3), pp. 348–368.

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Change Management: The Road Ahead 5

Hughes, M. (2006) Change Management: A Critical Perspective (London: CIPD).

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6 R.T. By et al.

Copyright of Journal of Change Management is the property of Routledge and its content may not be copied or

emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission.

However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.

© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com). DOI 10.1002/ert.21449

17

questions use a 1-to-5 scale, where 1 is no
confidence at all, and 5 is very confident.
The overall mean in the survey, which was
conducted in March–April 2014, was 3.38,
and this was with approximately 550 leaders
from multiple firms reporting.

Examining the details of the confidence
question shows that from 2012 (the last time
the question was asked) to 2014, the mean
score dropped by .05 points overall, but for
the subset of people who responded both
times (151), the decline was .08 points.

In this same survey, we collected data
on the firm’s financial performance. Using
these data, we found a significant correlation
between confidence in ability to change and
firm-level performance. We cannot, in this
study, lay claim to causation; however, we
can say these two variables are related in a
positive direction. When change confidence
improves, firm performance also is higher.
We also found that change confidence is sig-
nificantly related to employees’ perceptions
that their firms can execute on vision.

In our fieldwork, we see within individual
organizations that confidence is an influen-
tial factor in driving growth and success in
meeting firm-level goals. Consider the paral-
lel case of consumer confidence. When cus-
tomers are confident, they buy more. When
employees are confident, they give more time
and energy to their companies. High levels of
confidence result in reduced turnover, more
positive attitudes toward the organization,

Change is escalating, and the current mod-els of managing change do not seem to
be working well. Numerous reports concur
with the following from a summary of the
report by Ken Blanchard’s team1: “Up to 70
percent of all change initiatives fail; a figure
so high it means that most change initiatives
are doomed to failure from the start.”

This fact seems to be supported by some
of our own data showing that the leaders
who are managing these changes are report-
ing a lack of confidence in their own organi-
zations’ ability to change, and it seems to be
getting worse over time. For these reasons,
the art and science of change management
is due for a change. For openers, managers
should:

❏ Quit thinking about change as something
that is negative.

❏ Stop talking about change management as
an event.

❏ Use new models and move away from
those based on grief management.

DATA FROM LEADERSHIP PULSE

In the most recent Leadership Pulse2 (survey
of panel of leaders done quarterly), we asked
questions about leadership confidence. These
questions have been used with the group
periodically since 2003, and as can be seen in
the trend chart in Exhibit 1, confidence in
ability to change is declining. The confidence

Change Management Needs a Change

Theresa M. Welbourne

18 Theresa M. Welbourne
Employment Relations Today DOI 10.1002/ert

Employment Relations Today

problems), was used to design interventions
and change processes to help employees
accept change. The assumption is that change
is bad; employees need to grieve the loss of
their prechange conditions, and through a
drawn-out recognition of how negative the
change is, employees can learn to move on.

The reason these models were used by
organizations was that consultants saw a par-
allel between grieving loss in health-related
issues and grieving loss of a job or depart-
ment. The grief models applied to business
change worked well when change was an
event. One could see a clear starting and stop-
ping point of the change event, and then a
path for recovery could be plotted out. This
change strategy recognized the full range of
emotions laid out in the health-related grief
models. The concept of mourning the loss of
the prior organization and job was quite useful
in helping employees move through change.

Cycles of Change Are Different Today

However, our Leadership Pulse research and
client work suggests that these grief-based
models are not appropriate 50 years later.

positive energy, and higher productivity.
Thus, seeing confidence continue to decline
is problematic.

In interviews with leaders, we are find-
ing that confidence declines are related to an
awareness that organizations are lacking the
right tools to manage in today’s high-change,
fast-paced business environment. In fact,
many of the recommended tools and pro-
cesses date back to a time when business was
much slower. One of those areas of work that
needs evolving is change management. In this
article, I focus on one way in which change
management can be altered and provide
examples from the field on how businesses
have used these ideas to change the way they
think about and act on change.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT HAS ROOTS
IN STUDIES OF GRIEF

Many change-management models and asso-
ciated processes are based on early learning
from grief management. This work, which
started in the 1960s and focused on the
experience of personal loss (e.g., death of a
loved one and experiencing significant health

Exhibit 1. Trend Chart of Response to Question Asking Leaders to Rate Their
Confidence in the Organization’s Ability to Change

19Change Management Needs a Change
Employment Relations Today DOI 10.1002/ert

Summer 2014

to conclude that human nature is simply intrac-
table. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Yet neuroscience has discovered that the human
brain is highly plastic. Neural connections can be
reformed, new behaviors can be learned, and even
the most entrenched behaviors can be modified at
any age.

Thus, if we change our assumptions a bit
that people can change more easily, then we
also can use alternative models for thinking
about change management. In a high-change
world, the more effective models should be
those creating an environment that is entre-
preneurial in nature, focused on ongoing
change, viewing newness as posing oppor-
tunities, and creating work environments
where employees thrive.

One of the theories that we use to convert
grieving models to entrepreneurial, continu-
ous-change systems is protection-motivation
theory. This theory is useful if a change event
or ongoing change process is designed to lead
to different employee behaviors. Protection-
motivation theory has been used to develop
interventions for large-scale attitude and
behavioral changes in other fields (e.g., for
people to stop smoking or to change other
habits to improve health). The core concepts
of the theory are:

1. High emotional charge is needed to get
people to listen to the change message.
The message must be strong, and it must
be targeted or important to the individual.

Today, the cycles of change have escalated;
there is no relief time between change events
because business continues to speed up. Lead-
ers, managers, and employees need to keep
up with the frantic pace of business. Today’s
global organization does not have time for the
long grief cycle–focused change-management
processes that the earlier models require. It is
time for successful organizations to reinvent
change management based on what is known
about business today.

Today, things are different:

❏ Change is constant.
❏ Change needs to be embraced, not

mourned.
❏ Resilient employees who know how to

make change work for their own careers
will embrace change and thrive with new
change-making skills.

❏ It is critical to learn how to develop orga-
nizational and employee resiliency.

Marketing and Sales Models Replaced
the Grief-Based Models

There are some old wives’ tales that still exist
in organizations, and one such strong notion
is that people cannot change. However,
there is evidence to the contrary. One body
of work focuses on study of brain function.
According to David Rock3:

The track record of failed efforts to spark high-
performance behavior has led many managers

Today, the cycles of change have escalated;
there is no relief time between change events
because business continues to speed up. Lead-
ers, managers, and employees need to keep up
with the frantic pace of business.

Protection-motivation theory has been used to
develop interventions for large-scale attitude and
behavioral changes in other fields (e.g., for peo-
ple to stop smoking or to change other habits to
improve health).

20 Theresa M. Welbourne
Employment Relations Today DOI 10.1002/ert

Employment Relations Today

measurement work using the Change Lens.4
The study was designed to do two things.
First, we wanted to validate the hypothesis
that employees were not at their best at low
levels of change, and second, we used the
research to create and modify the interven-
tions based on marketing methodologies.

The Change Lens grid (see Exhibit 2)
measures employee perceptions of their per-
sonal rate of change and the rate of change
of the group in which they are working (e.g.,
department or team). The questions used a
0- to 100-point scale, and we then bundled
answers into three sections: low, medium,
and high scores. Using the answers to these
questions, we created a 3 × 3 lens and then
plotted the percentage of people in each
bucket along with the employee engagement
scores of people in each group.

Counter to what most people expected
from this first phase of the experiment, we
found that the most engaged people were
those at higher rates of change. Employees in

Note that the message does not have to be
negative; it can be positive in nature.

2. As you raise the emotional charge (sense
of urgency to change a habit or do some-
thing differently), people need to feel
confident that they can be successful in
this new environment. Thus, marketing
processes become useful in creating inter-
ventions. By marketing and telling stories,
one can build confidence while creating
excitement and positivity around the new
state of the business.

CASE STUDY: CHANGE LENS™ RESEARCH

The ideas and models previously discussed
were tested out in a large, global telecom-
munications organization. This business was
in the middle of a large-scale reorganization
as a result of several acquisitions. Signifi-
cant funding had been allocated to rolling
out change-management models steeped in
assumptions from the grief-focused literature.
As an experiment, we altered the strategy for
one of the firm’s divisions.

The first step was to test out our assump-
tions that employees in this division, from the
start, may not be as negative about change
as we assumed. To do that we conducted

Counter to what most people expected from this
first phase of the experiment, we found that the
most engaged people were those at higher rates
of change.

Exhibit 2. Change Lens Grid

21Change Management Needs a Change
Employment Relations Today DOI 10.1002/ert

Summer 2014

and leaders. Additionally, the measurement
process was part of the intervention with
questions strategically selected to support
the conversations needed to retain a posi-
tive approach to change.

❏ Messages to reinforce the fact that change
will not end were added to all meetings
and communications.

In a posttreatment survey, we assessed
survey scores using the Change Lens work.
Exhibit 3 shows an analysis of engagement
survey data in this project. The data are
organized by rate of change for both depart-
ment and personal ratings. Seven engagement
survey questions are included in this graphic.
Looking at each group of questions per per-
sonal rate of change (see areas highlighted by
boxes), one can see that scores are higher at
higher rates of department change. The data
highlighted on the far right focus on personal
rates of change at the highest level. One can
see that at the high, high levels, some of the
questions start to dip to lower levels, but
these scores are still not as low as those for
people with low, low ratings.

These data and research from other orga-
nizations show that organizations that keep
the overall sense of change at a high level are
managing change well because they are really
not managing change at all. It is part of the
way they do business; they are creating an
entrepreneurial climate, even if the firm does
not consider itself to be a truly entrepreneur-
ial firm.

BENEFITS OF MARKETING CHANGE VERSUS
TREATING IT LIKE A DEATH SENTENCE

As we analyzed data from other firms going
through change, we found that organizations
using more aggressive and positive marketing

the low/low quadrant were the most dissatis-
fied and least engaged. The highest scores on
all metrics assessed were, in general, at levels
of medium personal change and high depart-
ment change. We also found low scores asso-
ciated with bigger gaps in change-assessment
numbers. People with low personal levels of
change and high department change as well
as those with high personal change and low
department change also had lower numbers.

The learning from this phase of work did
two things for us. First, we reallocated the
funds for the change-related interventions.
The people at higher levels of change were
the original target, but the analysis showed
this group did not need much help.

Second, the work allowed us to continue
to reinvent the interventions used during the
reorganization. The work pivoted to take on a
more marketing-oriented approach. Advertis-
ing change, rather than apologizing and griev-
ing change, was the new imperative. Tasks
associated with this approach include:

❏ Revisit all communications and training
materials to delete any of the informa-
tion focused on older change models. This
information was replaced with language
focused on the marketing messages about
new opportunities.

❏ Employees were exposed, early on, to the
messaging being developed for customers
as that particular campaign had nothing at
all to do with grief and suff ering.

❏ As managers are key carriers of messages
during change, considerable time was
taken via focus groups and subsequent
training to assure that managers were
active participants in the campaign.

❏ Measurement was used to continually keep
tabs on employee reactions to the events.
The data were reported out to all managers

22 Theresa M. Welbourne
Employment Relations Today DOI 10.1002/ert

Employment Relations Today

of their change campaigns had more posi-
tive outcomes. Employees recovered quickly
if there were negative spikes, and in many
cases, employee engagement, energy, fairness,
and confidence scores were positively rather
than negatively affected by the changes. In
as many cases as possible, we encouraged
organizations to move language from change
management to anything else that would sug-
gest an ongoing, positive journey—and not a
“thing” that will start and stop.

We also learned that continuous change or
entrepreneurial, high-change companies work
to create an overall high sense of urgency. Note
that urgency is not equal to being busy or lots

of activity.5 Urgency is the motivation to keep
moving forward versus standing still. Urgency
is the opposite of mediocrity. Firms that retain
urgency do not fall into the performance trap
that demands “change-management programs.”

The implications for leaders who want to
create entrepreneurial, agile, and fast organiza-
tions that sustain high-change-ready people are:

❏ Increase organizational sense of urgency
targeted at continuous improvement.

❏ Use sales and marketing models to inspire,
energize, and build confi dence.

❏ Stop using grief models.
❏ Build employee coping skills.

Exhibit 3. Posttreatment Survey Analysis with Change Lens™ (Percent Reporting Positive, 4 or 5
on Survey Scale, on Left Side of Graph)

23Change Management Needs a Change
Employment Relations Today DOI 10.1002/ert

Summer 2014

❏ Use data; managing blindly doesn’t work
when you’re going fast.

The challenge for today’s leaders is to deter-
mine how to keep overall employee momentum
and energy moving forward. Grief-based models
and tools suggest to employees that change will
end, and that is not the case. A change in man-
agement is needed today.

NOTES

1. Blanchard, K. (2010). Mastering the art of change. Training
Journal, pp. 44–47.

2. The Leadership Pulse™ is a research project conducted by
Dr. Welbourne and administered by eePulse, Inc. (www
.leadershippulse.com). Leadership Pulse is a trademarked
and copyright-protected term.

3. Rock, D. (2009). Managing with the brain in mind.
Strategy-Business, 56, 1–10.

4. The Change Lens™ work is copyright protected by Dr.
Welbourne. Permission to use it must be obtained before
utilizing this model.

5. See Kotter, J. (2008). A sense of urgency. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard Business Press. Also see series of articles under
research section of www.eepulse.com. In particular, see
articles under “From the Energy Files” for more on
managing a sense of urgency.

Theresa M. Welbourne, PhD, is the FirsTier Bank’s distinguished professor of busi-
ness and director of the Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nebraska,
Lincoln. She is an affiliated professor with the Center for Effective Organizations in
the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, as well as
the founder and CEO of eePulse, Inc. (www.eepulse.com). eePulse is a human-capital
technology and consulting firm helping firms grow and innovate by optimizing and
directing employee energy at work. With over 30 years’ working with high-growth
and high-change organizations, her expertise is in the areas of creating organiza-
tional and HR systems to sustain growth. Her research and work have been featured
in several publications, including Inc. magazine, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times,
and BusinessWeek, and published in books and journals. She is a prolific writer and
well-known speaker and consults with numerous organizations in multiple industries.
She was awarded the 2012 Academy of Management Distinguished HR Executive. She
may be contacted at [email protected]

Copyright of Employment Relations Today (Wiley) is the property of John Wiley & Sons,
Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv
without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print,
download, or email articles for individual use.

Organization Development and
Human Resources Management
Knowing Our Place for the First Time?

“We like to say it is synergy that makes business teams so effective—the whole being greater
than the sum of its parts. But for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, new
relationships must be forged among those parts. If all the parts do is co­exist side by side,
there is no synergy.”

By Dave Hanna Four decades ago, Herb Stokes, a pioneer-
ing change agent and my first mentor at
Procter & Gamble, told me, “The organi-
zational forces for stability are always in
conflict with the organizational forces for
change. [Human Resources] represents the
forces for stability. Organization Develop-
ment represents the forces for change.
That is why [HR] and OD never should be
housed in the same department.”

Most of us OD practitioners in those
days indeed were housed in Personnel or
Industrial Relations (both known today as
HR). And while we all enjoyed associat-
ing with our HR colleagues, we did have
frequent disagreements with them on
what to change in the organization and
how to go about making those changes.
If OD consultants recommended a more
innovative pay system based on contribu-
tion vs. seniority or job title, HR managers
would present a long list of reasons why
such a change was very risky and uncer-
tain in the benefits it would deliver. When
HR would present the revised plant safety
policy, OD would cry “bureaucracy” and
point out how the policy failed to mesh
with the empowerment initiative that
was underway.

Pick the right issue in the right orga-
nization at the right time and you could
find HR and OD being each other’s chief
antagonist. Many years have passed since
those days, but some of the enmity still
persists between the two groups.

The last thing either of these players
needed was someone else complicating
their attempts to improve things. The HR
function traditionally has fought to gain

respect as a legitimate partner at the busi-
ness table. Conventional wisdom said HR
was supposed to take care of the people
business so managers could take care of
the “real” business. Accordingly, HR has
been valued by its business partners as
long as it could prevent people problems
from landing on the calendar or inbox of
the responsible manager. HR’s role evolved
primarily to one of conducting wage
and job classification surveys, handling
employee relations and union nego-
tiations, hiring people, finding the best
values in plans and benefits, managing
safety and hygiene, communicating with
employees, and protecting the corporate
image in the community. When the era of
downsizing began in the 1980s, HR was
at the top of the list of those targeted to
add value to the bottom line by reducing
their headcount.

This traditional HR role is what
Herb Stokes was talking about when he
described the forces for stability. Take care
of the employee systems and services; keep
things stable so managers can keep their
attention on the changing business needs.
And find ways to do all of the above with
fewer and fewer people.

The only trouble with this thinking is
that the people variables always have been
connected with the business variables. In
recent years this connection has become
more obvious to everyone. Global mar-
kets, rapidly changing technologies, and
economic turmoil have led to products of
shorter shelf life, unprecedented move-
ment of people from home to foreign
cultures, and traumatic measures like

12 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 42 No. 4 2010

downsizing and outsourcing. All of these
strike a dagger at the stability of people
systems and practices. More and more
of today’s managers realize they have to
handle people issues with the same level of
priority as marketing, financial, or tech-
nical issues. There is a seat at the busi-
ness table for HR professionals who can
measure up to the partners’ demanding
expectations.

OD has had its own interesting
journey in the past 40 years. Internal and
external consultants multiplied greatly
in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.
The OD consultants were considered by
many clients to be a bit strange in their
approach, but they went along in the hope
that improvements would be seen at the
bottom line. Eventually the curiosity and
patience subsided and by the late 1970s
Japanese companies were winning more
and more of the world’s consumers with
products of top quality and low cost. Many
OD positions went away in the 1980s, but
their contributions were still needed and
emerged in the new Quality departments
that were springing up everywhere. As
the Quality tide has ebbed, the remaining
internal change agents have been absorbed
back into HR departments.

So today we find HR and OD back in
the same homeroom, both seeking more
respect and both fewer in numbers than
before. I myself have experienced both
sides of the homeroom. Most of my career
has been on the OD side, but a number
of my corporate roles, projects, and cli-
ent engagements have been focused on
employee relations, safety and hygiene,
compensation systems, talent manage-
ment, personnel research, performance
management, and HR organization
effectiveness. Based on my personal experi-
ences and, with all due respect to Herb
Stokes’ valid observation about the conflicts
between stability and change, I believe
the coming together of OD and HR is
long overdue.

I say coming together because OD
and HR should not be content merely to
be siblings living under the same roof. We
need to leverage our different strengths
for the greater good. In the words of noted
historians Will and Ariel Durant,

So the conservative who resists
change is as valuable as the radical
who proposes it—perhaps as much
more valuable as roots are more
vital than grafts. It is good that new
ideas should be heard, for the sake
of the few that can be used; but it is
also good that new ideas should be
compelled to go through the mill of
objection, opposition, and contumely;
this is the trial heat which innovations
must survive before being allowed
to enter the human race. (Durant &
Durant, 1968, p. 36)

In other words, regardless of who is pro-
posing what, an examination by contrary
views is healthy. Diversity of thought and
experience can indeed lead to the critical
screening the historians say is so important
for constructive, innovative breakthroughs.

The Durants’ statement explains why
a multifunctional business team adds value
through its 360° analysis before prioritiz-
ing and implementing corporate strategies.
We like to say it is synergy that makes
business teams so effective—the whole
being greater than the sum of its parts. But
for the whole to be greater than the sum of
its parts, new relationships must be forged
among those parts. If all the parts do is
co-exist side by side, there is no synergy.
Like a business team, our different human
systems disciplines, including HR and OD,
could add greater value to the business
through our interactions before bringing
forward new organizational innovations
and business solutions.

The 2007 HR Competency Study,
co-sponsored by the RBL Group and

the University of Michigan Ross School
of Business, yielded some provocative
insights into the need for synergy in HR
(Ulrich, et al., 2008). This study sampled
more than 10,000 HR professionals and
their business clients in all regions of the
world and identified six competencies as
being essential for an HR professional who
adds value to the business:
» The Credible Activist: being credible

(respected, listened to) and active (offer-
ing a point of view and challenging
others’ assumptions)

» The Operational Executor: flawlessly

executing the operational aspects of
managing people and organizations

» The Business Ally: contributing to the
success of the business by understand-
ing its social context, how it makes
money, and how to organize its parts to
make more money

» The Talent Manager/Organization
Designer: mastering theory, research,
and practice in both talent management
and organization design

» The Strategy Architect: having a vision
of how the organization can succeed in
the marketplace and actively shaping
the strategy to fulfill this vision

» The Culture and Change Steward:
recognizing, articulating, and shaping
corporate culture and facilitating the
change processes required to keep the
culture aligned with the business needs

The results of this study show us how
much the world has changed in the last
four decades. Business leaders are actu-
ally aware of the need for HR to shed its

Eventually the curiosity and patience subsided and by the
late 1970s Japanese companies were winning more and more
of the world’s consumers with products of top quality and
low cost. Many OD positions went away in the 1980s, but
their contributions were still needed and emerged in the new
Quality departments that were springing up everywhere. As
the Quality tide has ebbed, the remaining internal change
agents have been absorbed back into HR departments.

13Organization Development and Human Resources Management: Knowing Our Place for the First Time?

traditional role. They want HR profes-
sionals to step up to a more value-adding
contribution. They are looking to HR for
help in crafting strategy, determining
priorities in running the business, design-
ing and structuring how work gets done,
shaping culture, and, yes, managing people
systems to give a sense of stability. More-
over, the business leaders know they need
HR professionals who are credible activists
who will push, prod, and even lead some
discussions that chart the course for the
future.

Looking over the list of the six HR
competencies, I am unable to choose which
ones are essential only for OD and which
are relevant only for HR. Our business
partners in this survey said these are the
competencies they expect us HR profes-
sionals to deliver if we are to add value to
the issues that most concern them. If HR
professionals were to become proficient in
the six competencies, regardless of what
their current assignment might be, where
would you find “OD types” and “HR types”
in the future? There would not be a mean-
ingful distinction between the two.

So, let’s face up to this scenario and its
implications for us collectively and individ-
ually. First of all, regardless of our heritage,
we, in both HR and OD, are all profession-
als today in the function known by our
business partners as Human Resources
Management. But this is today’s HR, not
the HR of yesteryear. Not the HR with OD
and HR silos. Not the HR that managed
the forces for stability and opposed the
forces for change. It is no longer a mat-
ter of stability or change; every organiza-
tion requires some of both. Today’s HR
needs professionals who can find the right
balance between stability and change. So
I am proposing that the function be called
HR or HRM with centers of expertise in
talent management, HR operations, OD,
change management, compensation and
benefits, etc.

Let us be clear that it is the global
market place and economic fluctuations
that are shaping today’s HR. The mar-
ketplace requires organizations as never
before to design, assess, and redesign
their strategies and systems to improve
the bottom line. Adding value in this

complex situation represents more work
than any army of HR specialists could
handle (and remember the “army” is more
like a “squadron” when compared to past
staffing). The mere sum of our individual
HR contributions won’t do. A squadron of
professionals, each skilled in the six HR
competencies, can deploy its resources
against critical business needs in a wide
variety of combinations. A few true HR
professionals can do the same work that
many isolated specialists were required to
do previously.

Come to think of it, this is precisely
the same approach OD consultants have
been advocating to their clients for years—
tear down the silo walls, develop multi-
skilled flexibility and team up as required
to meet the challenges of change. Now we
need to apply this same process to our-
selves and to our own profession.

How can we succeed at changing
ourselves after all these years? There has
been much discussion about why change
is needed. After all is said and done, a lot
more has been said than done. This is a
change process as complex as any I have
been involved with.

I believe each of us has to look at the
big picture outside ourselves to appreciate
the context for what we do in HR. I call
this looking from the “outside in” and it
will change the way we think about our
work. Then each of us has to get centered
personally and become committed to the
ways we can add the most value to the big
picture. This will lead us to initiate actions
and work differently within our sphere of
influence for the good of the business. This
internal centering and commitment pro-
cess I call working from the “inside out.”

Looking outside in means we first have
to expand our perspective. Some ways to
do this:

1. Think of the business need first. We
need to deeply understand the global
marketplace and the business realities
facing our own organization and set
our priorities accordingly. This is not
some nice-to-know theoretical con-
struct. In many companies in different
parts of the world, HR professionals,
when asked to identify a business

challenge they need to work on, invari-
ably describe something that is valuable
from an HR point of view. They identify
the challenge as meeting the recruiting
goals rather than building leadership
capacity for global growth. They want
to build a stronger culture rather than
improve flexibility and productivity to
respond to changing business require-
ments. Are these just differences in
semantics? I think not. The words we
use reveal what matters most to us. If
meeting the recruiting goals is on my
To Do List, then I check the box and
congratulate myself if we get enough
people in the door. I consider that item
done even if we don’t yet have the lead-
ership capacity for global growth. I have
met my HR target, but may not have
helped the business. Rethinking our
priorities is the beginning of becoming
a business ally.

2. Participate in your company’s HR
rotation program or work with your
leaders to organize a rotation plan for
yourself. Many companies have a rota-
tion program for new HR associates.
The rotation enables associates to get
experience in several HR functions over
a period of a few years. This may seem
“beneath” you if you are a veteran in
HR, but don’t dismiss the concept out
of hand. See if there are ways you could
participate in the rotation program to
build up your competencies. Or find
some alternatives for short-term assign-
ments or special projects that require
you to get immersed in those areas of
HR in which you have little or no expe-
rience. Learn and appreciate how these
functions add value to the business.
Consider how your skills and experi-
ence might synergize with these other
functions.

3. Show how much you value diversity
by seeking out and digesting different
points of view and critiques of your
own work. Remember the Durants’
statement about the need for radicalism
and conservatism on any major issue—
how the grafted branches and roots are
interdependent. If we HR professionals

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 42 No. 4 201014

are truly committed to fulfilling real
business needs, as opposed to merely
getting approval for our individual
proposals, then we ought to welcome
discussions that examine any potential
flaws in our plans. Approach colleagues
and other associates (especially those
who tend to approach things very dif-
ferently than yourself ) and use them
as a sounding board and think tank for
important initiatives you are working
on. Enjoy the discussions that follow!
Debate with our colleagues is not bad,
different approaches are not distrac-
tions and none of us starts out with
THE solution.

Having looked (and worked) from the
outside in, you will see yourself, your col-
leagues and your work in a different light.
Now internalize this outside-in perspective
into personal insights and commitments
that can add much more value to the busi-
ness. Work from the inside out to translate
personal commitments into new ways of
working together that will yield much syn-
ergy. Some suggestions on how to do this:

4. Team up with those whose expertise is
needed to fill the business needs. We
all need improvement in some of the
HR competencies. An informal, but
effective way to build these competen-
cies is to partner with someone else
and learn from each other’s strengths
through your teamwork. Pick one of
the business needs you uncovered in
#1 above and identify one or more col-
leagues to partner with who are skilled
in important areas that are your current
weak spots.

For example, Marissa was the
epitome of the outsider’s assessment
of HR: “I love my HR person, but I hate
HR.” Marissa was a “can do” person,
who immediately volunteered to solve
transactional problems involving any
HR system, policy, or practice. Health
insurance problem? Marissa would
contact the provider and get it cleared
up. Need to replace a director who
just left the company? Marissa would
work with the talent management
system to get the replacement. The

bigger business problem, however, was
Marissa’s research division and the
company’s sales and marketing division
were always at war. This schism slowed
down the product pipeline. Revenue
targets were being missed. Relation-
ships between the two organizations
needed to improve, and the entire
process needed to be redesigned to hit
the targets. Marissa admitted to a close
friend, “I don’t know how to do any of
that stuff.”

Bill was an organizational consul-
tant who prided himself on being an

unorthodox, “out of the box” manager.
He believed revolution, not evolution,
was the only way to make change.
The problem was that Bill’s approach
did not win much support from his
clients. He had great difficulty speaking
corporate language, following protocol
in making a proposal and appreciating
how much (or little) shock his col-
leagues could absorb in the process of
organizational change. Clients didn’t
trust Bill. And Bill bemoaned how tradi-
tion bound his clients were. Bottom
line: Bill changed jobs about every two
to three years.

If Marissa and Bill were to team
up to address a business priority, they
would collectively have many of the
needed skills and they could help
address each other’s needs for improve-
ment. Marissa could ensure their work
was practical and earned commitment
from the client. Bill could provide some
of the organization design expertise
that Marissa lacked. If their personal

commitments were aligned, each would
learn from the other and as a team they
would add more value than either could
produce individually. This is the nature
of synergy.

5. Take on a new assignment/role. Based
on your new perspective from looking
outside in, you may find a different
assignment or role that aligns well with
your current competencies, your learn-
ing needs, and the business needs. You
may change assignments within HR.
Or you may apply your strengths to a

new client group that needs what you
can provide. Or you may change mem-
bers in your work group to learn from/
mentor each other.

For example, Wayne had earned a
PhD in organizational psychology and
had applied his trade in his employer’s
personnel research department for
many years. He was somewhat of a
celebrity at national conferences and
workshops because of his practical
experience and adherence to pro-
fessional standards. If you had an
employee turnover problem, Wayne
was someone you would call on the
phone to explore ways of researching
the issue. Then Wayne accepted a new
assignment to be the HR Generalist
supporting a business unit that was
struggling to keep its best talent. He
applied his skills against a divisional
priority, but also learned a lot about
the rest of the HR world through the
daily issues that came to him. He was
a subject matter expert and a student at

Let us be clear that it is the global market place and economic
fluctuations that are shaping today’s HR. The marketplace
requires organizations as never before to design, assess,
and redesign their strategies and systems to improve the
bottom line. Adding value in this complex situation represents
more work than any army of HR specialists could handle
(and remember the “army” is more like a “squadron” when
compared to past staffing). The mere sum of our individual HR
contributions won’t do.

15Organization Development and Human Resources Management: Knowing Our Place for the First Time?

the same time. The division eventually
solved its turnover problem and Wayne
expanded his credibility as a generalist.

6. Based on business needs, define those
projects that require multifunctional
resources from HR and staff them
appropriately. Outsourcing initiatives
require consultation that addresses
operational efficiency, people policies,
organization design, talent manage-
ment, and change management.
Union contract negotiations should
be approached with a clear sense of
common values, corporate strategy,
high performance principles, corpo-
rate policy, and labor law. Too often we
tackle such issues individually, as the
generalist or as the consultant that is
supposed to ensure success. The more
complex the issue, the more likely it
is that one HR person won’t have all
of the required expertise. Organizing
a multifunctional HR team to address
tough issues is another way to build
synergy through new work relation-
ships and expand each person’s compe-
tency in the process.

I saw such synergy in one of my
clients that had experienced a melt-
down in HR effectiveness. The parent
company was under tremendous cost
pressure, the lure of business growth
had left many parts of the business
overextended with shrinking resources.
And HR had been downsized and its
transactional functions outsourced as
one way of coping with the situation.
But the business pressures hadn’t gone
away and morale among all associ-
ates was at an all time low. And just to
rub salt in the wound, HR was given
much of the blame for the low morale.
The most senior HR leaders left the
company and the HR function that was
needed to regain corporate momentum
was itself in a shambles.

Weeks of interviews with business
unit and functional leaders as well as
with many HR associates documented
all of the dynamics that were now play-
ing out. Three teams were formed, each
with a mix of HR functional experts and
credible leaders from different business

units/functions of the company. The
three teams each pursued a different
target for redesigning the HR function:

» Design the leanest, most efficient
HR organization imaginable.

» Design an HR organization that
will deliver a talent powerhouse in
the future (the company expected to
lose some 6,000 employees due
to retirement in the next five years).

» Design the HR organization to
provide the ultimate in customer
service.

Each team had to consider transactional
as well as transformational issues
in formulating their organizational
proposals. All three had to include
specific staffing headcounts, organiza-
tion structures, development plans,
and change management provisions in
their proposals. When the three came
back together, the company’s General
Counsel was asked to review their pro-
posals and give feedback. This leader
was impressed with what was delivered
to him. He suggested that representa-
tives of the three teams get together and
combine their pieces into one package
with this logic:

» The lean, mean machine option
serves as the foundation.

» If the Board of Directors would like
to have the foundation plus the
talent powerhouse and/or customer
service benefits, the cost for each
addition would be $XXX and $YYY.

» The Board makes the final decision,
based on the most critical needs
facing the company.

In the end, the Board chose to pay for
all three benefits. All board members’
questions were answered in the teams’
package. The case for all three options
was compelling. Those in HR were
shocked that the Board was willing to
spend more than the bare minimum
for HR resources. Such a decision could
not have been reached without the com-
ing together of all HR competencies to
meet the business needs.

Putting together all the elements of
this outside in and inside out process
will require much exploration and

collaboration. There will be moments of
pain as we move out of our comfort zones
and build a stronger HR community and
stronger business results. In the words of
T.S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from explora-
tion. And the end of all our exploring will
be to arrive where we started and know the
place for the first time” (“Little Gidding,”
1944).

HR and OD may have co-existed in
the past, but as we discard old beliefs and
habits, we will truly come together—and
know the place for the first time.

References

Durant, W., & Durant, A. (1968). The
lessons of history. New York: Simon &
Schuster.

Hanna, D. P. (1988). Designing organiza-
tions for high performance. Reading:
Addison-Wesley.

Hanna, D. P. (2001). Leadership for the ages.
Provo: Executive Excellence.

Hiebert, M., & Hiebert, E. (Eds.). (1999).
Powerful professionals: Leveraging your
expertise with clients. Victoria: Trafford
Publishing.

Ulrich, D., & Brockbank, W. (2005). The
HR value proposition. Boston: Harvard
Business School Press.

Ulrich, D., Allen, J., Brockbank, W.,
Younger, J., & Nyman, M. (2009).
HR transformation: Building human
resources from the outside in. New York:
McGraw-Hill.

Ulrich, D., Brockbank, W., Johnson, D.,
Sandholtz, K., & Younger, J. (2008).
HR competencies: Mastery at the inter-
section of people and business. Alexandria:
SHRM.

Copyright © 2010 by the Organization Development Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

Dave Hanna is a principal with
the RBL Group, a global profes­
sional services firm committed to
creating value through the effec­
tive management of people and
organizations. He has worked with
Global 500 clients in every region
of the world and is the author of
two books and several articles on
leadership and organization ef­
fectiveness. He can be reached at
[email protected]

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 42 No. 4 201016

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“Given all this change over time, in a field that is grounded in and obsessed with change and
self-reflection, is it any wonder that we continue to question the past, present, and future of
OD and to explore our own evolution?”

Something Old, Something New
Research Findings on the Practice and Values of OD

By Amanda C. Shull,
Allan H. Church, and
W. Warner Burke

In God we trust, all others bring data.
—W. E. Deming

Organization Development (OD) as a field
is now well established. In the fifty-five
years since its origins in 1959 one could
argue that we have seen it all. There has
been evolution, revolution, indifference,
and even outright resistance at times in
various aspects of OD models, tools, and
applications when it comes to change
from within. In that time we have seen the
introduction of new science, total systems
interventions, appreciative inquiry, and
diversity and inclusion emerge as discrete
areas of practice within the field. The tried
and true frameworks of consulting skills,
action research, survey feedback, and
individual development efforts to enhance
self-awareness and growth have remained
at the core all along. We have also seen for-
mal academic programs in OD emerge and
flourish while corporate OD groups have
been downsized in the name of productiv-
ity. And we have seen solo consultants
grow their practice in scale until acquired
by the big professional service firms and
then start all over again with new ventures.
Given all this change over time, in a field
that is grounded in and obsessed with
change and self-reflection, is it any wonder
that we continue to question the past, pres-
ent, and future of OD and to explore our
own evolution?

In fact, some have argued that the role
of the OD consultant is now out-of-date,
with various aspects being encroached
by other professionals and scholars such
as those in Industrial-Organizational

Psychology (I/O), Human Resource Devel-
opment (HRD), Organizational Behavior
(OB), and most recently the emerging field
of Neuroscience. On the practice side, there
is an increasing trend in organizations for
OD functions to get absorbed into broader
Talent Management functions that encom-
pass a whole host of activities beyond the
traditional realm of OD. In fact, much has
been written in the OD Practitioner recently
about similarities and differences between
the TM and OD mindsets and clarifying
different roles and values in practice with
respect to issues of broad-based develop-
ment versus differentiation, and enhanc-
ing high-potential versus human potential
(Church, 2013; Church, 2014). Interest-
ingly enough, while some practitioners
questioned the death of the field in the
1990s (e.g., Golembiewski, 1990), if we
look at the trends today, the picture would
appear to be that much more concerning.
For example, a quick search of job titles
on the networking site LinkedIn shows
there are over 400% more job titles with
Talent Management than OD in the listing.
While clearly a limited and biased sample,
it is still troubling, particularly given the
increasingly widespread use of the social
network for resumes and online staffing.
So what does this mean for the future of
OD? Where are the OD practitioners of
today and what are they doing? Do aspiring
OD practitioners and new entrants to the
field need to rethink their career choices?
Do they need to migrate to other fields with
more contemporary areas of focus?

We think that that they should not; OD
is alive and well today. Although the field

23Something Old, Something New: Research Findings on the Practice and Values of OD

has been and will continue to evolve over
time, it represents a critical and unique
perspective on individual and organization
change. As scholar-practitioners we must
ensure that we continue to codify, articu-
late, build capability, and reinforce the core
aspects of the field that make it unique.
To do this, however, we do believe that
we need to take a look at where the field
has been and where it is today, in order to
better understand where it is headed in
the future. While anyone can implement
a certain set of interventions, one of the
key aspects that makes OD unique is its
values. It is critical then to take the pulse
of and understand the values and percep-
tions of practitioners in the field of OD
periodically in order to understand how
things have changed or stayed the same
over time. Recently, we undertook such a
survey research study as a follow-up to one
that had been conducted in the early 1990s
(Church, Burke, & Van Eynde, 1994). The
purpose of this paper is to summarize the
key highlights of that research. While the
detailed findings can be found elsewhere
(e.g., Roloff, Fudman, Shull, Church, &
Burke, 2014; Shull, Church, & Burke,
2013), the intent here is to focus and
reflect on what these findings tell us about
the current and future state of the values
inherent in the OD community today. More
specifically, how have we evolved in the
last 20 years and where are we heading
in the future as a profession?

Background

Since the original research study con-
ducted 20 years ago, much has changed
in the business and global environment
to influence the field of OD. In addition to
the broader social, political, and macro-eco-
nomic external forces that have resulted in
a need for increased breadth, other closely
related fields, including HRD, OB, and I/O
have continued to emerge putting greater
emphasis on specialization and deep
content knowledge of theory and practice.
These trends have contributed to the fur-
ther fragmentation of the field of OD, and
as a result, practitioners continue to debate
the differences and similarities of their
work compared to those in other areas.

Should OD professionals also be serving as
executive coaches or stick to process con-
sulting? What is the role of an OD practitio-
ner in a change and productivity initiative
run by a top notch management consult-
ing firm? What is the role of OD in talent
selection and assessment efforts? Should
OD practitioners be designing and lead-
ing leadership programs anymore or are
those best left to the professional learning
people? These are all tough questions in
corporations and in the marketplace.

It did not used to be like this. At the
onset of OD, while closely related fields
existed, it was easier to distinguish the
democratic, humanistic values of OD work
from others. However, as more time has
passed and the business environment has
continued to change, the field of OD has
continued to struggle with distinguish-
ing itself from other closely related fields.
Others have adopted from us just as we
have adopted from them. As a result, some
might argue that OD practitioners have
moved farther away from the founders’
original focus on interpersonal, humanistic
values to a focus on business efficiencies
and effectiveness. While the “right mix”
has always been a debate in the field (e.g.,
Burke, 1982; Church, 2001; Friedlander,
1976; Greiner, 1980; Margulies & Raia,
1990), the dual emphasis appears to
remain a constant. This shift that started
almost since the beginning of the field but
has accelerated reflects business conditions
of recent decades, including factors such as
globalization, the pace of change, growing
diversity, and technology and innovation.
These factors have all had an impact on the
type of work being done by practitioners in
the organizational sciences field in general,
and OD in particular (Greiner & Cum-
mings, 2004). It is both broader and yet
more specialized at the same time.

This begs the question again; have
the underlying values of the field really
changed? While we know the field has
evolved over the years, trying to hold on
to its core values and founding principles,
while adapting to the new challenges faced
by organizations, is OD different at the
core? The research described in this article
sought to explore these questions. More
specifically, we were interested in three

fundamental areas: (a) understanding the
perceptions of OD practitioners today,
(b) determining if and how the attitudes,
values, motivators, and practices in the
field have changed in the last 20 years,
and (c) whether the founding principles
still guide professionals working in the
field today. The following section provides
a summary of the key themes across mul-
tiple sets of analyses from the 2012 survey
research study along with parallels with the
research conducted in 1993.

Method

The data presented here were collected as
part of an applied survey to measure the
values, attitudes, motives, and activities of
practitioners and academics in the field of
OD, and the organizational sciences more
broadly. This research was undertaken as
an update of and expansion to the original
study conducted by Church, Burke, and
Van Eynde (1994; 1995). The survey instru-
ment was adapted from the questionnaire
used in the prior study, and contained
sections pertaining to values, motivators,
and attitudes regarding the field today, and
utilization questions based on a large num-
ber of activities and interventions. Some
questions were modified and/or expanded
to better reflect and measure current trends
in practice (e.g., regarding sustainability,
talent management, inclusion, and coach-
ing). Respondents were invited to partici-
pate in this anonymous survey conducted
online using the email mailing lists and/or
LinkedIn groups of multiple professional
associations (including the OD Network’s
discussion group).

In total, we received 388 survey
responses. Although it is impossible to
determine a response rate for a “snowball”
survey of this nature, based on the demo-
graphic data collected the sample obtained
was quite robust in terms of background,
experiences, tenure, and industry repre-
sented. Details regarding the sample are
described below.

Based on self-reported affiliation,
respondents represented membership
across a variety of groups including the
Organization Development Network
(ODN) (55%), Society for Industrial and

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 4 201424

Organizational Psychology (SIOP) (18%),
the International Society for Organization
Development (ISOD) (12%), the National
Training Laboratories (NTL) (11%), the
Organization Development and Change
Division of Academy of Management (AoM
ODC) (3%), and the American Society
for Training and Development (ASTD)
(1%). These are very similar to the mix of
groups from which data were gathered
20 years ago.

About half of participants responding
(50%) were external consultants, 39% were
internal practitioners, 10% academics, and
1% pure researchers outside of a university

setting. In addition, many respondents
indicated they had some further type
of educational affiliation on top of their
primary role: 15% were guest lecturers/
speakers, 14% part-time faculty, 7% visiting
faculty/instructors, 5% full-time faculty, 4%
held tenured positions, and 9% indicated
some other academic affiliation.

The majority of respondents were
highly educated with 60% of respondents
having a Master degree, 31% with Doc-
torates, and 9% with some other type of
degree. Regarding OD experience, the
sample represented the full spectrum from
old guard to new entrants to the field with
35% having worked in the field for twenty
or more years, 21% between 16-20 years,
11% between 11-15 years, 17% between 6-10
years, and 16% five years or less.

Other information collected included
the size and sector of the respondent’s
current company. In terms of company
size, over half of individuals (53%) indi-
cated they work in a very small company
with 1-100 employees, 7% from 101-500

employees, 5% from 501-1000 employees,
14% from 1001-10,000 employees, and
21% with more than 10,000 employees.
This makes sense given the large pro-
portion of consultants (probably in very
small firms) included in the sample. More
specifically, for company sector, 42% of
participants were in the consulting indus-
try, 10% in government, 9% in health care
services, and 5% in education, with small
representations from over twenty other sec-
tors including pharmaceuticals, consumer
products and goods, automotive, construc-
tion/real estate, telecommunications, and
nonprofits.

Before moving into the results of the
study, there are a number of differences in
the composition of the samples between
the past and present surveys that should be
noted for context. The most recent survey
sample was significantly more diverse with
a greater proportion of women (47% versus
36%) and people of color (22% non-White
compared to 4% non-White) responding.
Interestingly, the current sample was also
somewhat older (average age of 54 versus
46) than the 1994 survey sample. This
suggests at least that the field is continuing
to evolve to a more diverse and inclusive
set of practitioners compared to 20 and
certainly 40-50 years ago.

The following section describes a
high-level summary of results and trends
identified for each major section of the sur-
vey interpreted in the context of the values
of the field. For more detailed empirical
analyses of the survey results and informa-
tion about the survey methodology refer to
Shull, Church, and Burke (2013) and Roloff
and colleagues (2014).

What do OD Practitioners Value?

When looking at perceptions of the values
in the field of OD today, it would appear
that they have remained relatively stable
over time. OD practitioners remain largely
focused on employee welfare and driving
positive change in the workplace. Human-
istic values such as empowering employ-
ees, creating openness of communication,
promoting ownership and participation,
and continuous learning remain strong
compared to 1992, and all are rated by
survey respondents in the top five values
then and today.

Interestingly, however, while increas-
ing effectiveness and efficiency was ranked
as the number one value 20 years ago,
in the most recent survey it was rated
below the top 5 at seventh on the list. This
is somewhat surprising given that sur-
vey respondents continue to believe that
OD practitioners should focus more on
effectiveness, efficiency, and competitive
advantage to remain competitive for the
future (71% in 2012; up slightly from 69%
in 1992). Thus, while belief in the need to
focus on effectiveness remains as strong
as ever, ratings of values-in-action lean
more toward the humanistic side than in
the 1990s. Given the continued emphasis
in the business environment on balancing
global economic forces, driving productiv-
ity year over year for investors (at least in
publically traded companies), widely touted
failure rates of organizational change
efforts, and the need to demonstrate
ROI, we expected to see OD practitioners
reporting an even greater emphasis on the
bottom-line impact of their work.

Seeing the reverse trend is encourag-
ing to say the least. It suggests that while
enhancing effectiveness and efficiency
remain critical elements of OD efforts, they
have not overtaken the humanistic core val-
ues of the field despite the concerns raised
in the 1960s and 1990s by many practi-
tioners and scholars in the field. While the
balancing act remains, we might even go so
far at this point to suggest that the debate
between humanistic and bottom-line values
may be over. Although an emphasis on the
bottom-line was arguably not a core value
in OD originally and is even somewhat

Interestingly, however, while increasing effectiveness and
efficiency was ranked as the number one value 20 years ago, in
the most recent survey it was rated below the top 5 at seventh
on the list. This is somewhat surprising given that survey
respondents continue to believe that OD practitioners should
focus more on effectiveness, efficiency, and competitive
advantage to remain competitive for the future (71% in 2012;
up slightly from 69% in 1992).

25Something Old, Something New: Research Findings on the Practice and Values of OD

contradictory with OD’s humanistic roots,
it can coexist, and in 50 years’ time has not
entirely overshadowed the “missionary”
components of the field (Harvey, 1974).

Aside from this trend, we saw another
interesting outcome with respect to values.
More specifically, some seemingly “hot”
topics today in other closely related fields,
such as I/O and HR, including having a
global mindset, protecting the environment
(sustainability), and promoting diversity
and inclusion received surprisingly low
rankings on the list of OD values (25th,
28th, and 34th respectively) in the present
study. Protecting the environment was also
at the bottom of the list of core values for
OD 20 years ago; however, it was not a hot
topic at the time. This time around we fully
expected that rating to jump to the top of
the list. It did not. Similarly, while diversity
has been a core component of OD since
its inception, having shared similar roots
in the 1960s social movements, and close
links to OD’s change management per-
spective (Church, Rotolo, Shull, & Tuller,
2014) this was not a top ranked value
today either. It may be that these concepts
are subsumed under other labels that did
receive higher rankings (e.g., openness,
communication, and learning) or perhaps
this is a reflection of these areas not being
core to OD applications today. Either way,
the trend is interesting to note and counter
to expectations.

Other areas that did receive higher
ratings were more in-line with OD prac-
tice as well, albeit reflective of trends in a
different direction. In looking more closely
at differences from 20 years ago, we noted
that developing organizational leaders had
risen to the top of the list (ranked as #1
of all values) up from 11th in 1992. While
this is not surprising given that develop-
ing leaders is consistent with the long held
value in OD of bettering and empowering
people, and leadership development was
always a part of OD (e.g., Burke, Richley,
& DeAngelis, 1985), its rise in importance
for the field is consistent with observations
made elsewhere (Church, 2013, 2014) that
OD practitioners are increasingly engaging
in talent management efforts.

In contrast it was interesting to note
that change management-related values,

such as enabling organizations to grow
more effectively, did not receive as high
ratings as one might be expecting (ranked
#9), and in looking across the survey,
we noted that efforts to achieve long-
term change ranked as #13 on the list of
common practices and interventions in
OD. This was very surprising given that
planned, long-term change has been con-
sidered at the core of OD work since the
founding of the field (Burke, 1994). This
raised a new set of questions for us. What
has happened to OD’s role in large-scale
change? Are OD practitioners moving away
from systems level interventions in their
efforts to focus even more on the individ-
ual? Has the role of change management
been taken over by other disciplines and/

or practitioners (e.g., strategy consultants,
HR business partners), and if so, are they
trained properly for that type of work? Or
is the nature of change different today than
in the past? Perhaps it is less planful and
more unexpected and continuous. What
does all of this mean for the future of OD’s
involvement in change efforts, and even
more importantly, is anyone asking if those
who are doing the work have the right
skill set? Although the humanistic versus
bottom-line debate may be over, these data
could be signaling a new trend to watch for
the future.

Finally, if developing organizational
leaders is listed first in the set of core
values in the field of OD today perhaps that
explains the increasing focus and energy
dedicated to coaching in the field today as
well. We know from the high level of agree-
ment (87%) in the survey that coaching
is now considered an integral part of OD
and 67% of OD practitioners are actively

engaging in coaching efforts today. The
fact that coaching is a hot topic in almost
every field of practice today has led many to
debate about those who are most qualified
to deliver various types of interventions
(Peterson, 2010). Based on this trend we
wonder what does OD do about other
closely related fields that are also heavily
practicing coaching? Does OD get involved
or leave that type of work to the psycholo-
gists and retired senior executives? In our
opinion this is an area that needs some
further discussion and clarification for the
field to better inform practice and educa-
tion of OD practitioners going forward.
Next, we’ll take a closer look at the motiva-
tors for why people join the field of OD in
the first place.

What Motivates OD Practitioners?

In general, similar to the results regarding
the values of OD, what motivates people to
join the field appears to have not changed
much in the last 20 years since the last
survey of practitioners. Helping people
remains at the top on the list (ranked #1
in this study, up from #2 in 1992), which
highlights the altruistic tendencies preva-
lent in the field of OD since its origins.
Interestingly, enhancing self-awareness has
increased from 7th in 1992 to 2nd in 2012,
which is consistent with the trend dis-
cussed above regarding leadership devel-
opment as a top value in OD today. Also
ranked near the top, making the world a
better place, a new item added for this sur-
vey, and having social contact and human
interaction were ranked 3rd and 4th,
respectively. Again these findings reinforce
the altruistic and interpersonal orientation
of those attracted to the OD field.

The fact that coaching is a hot topic in almost every field
of practice today has led many to debate about those who
are most qualified to deliver various types of interventions
(Peterson, 2010). Based on this trend we wonder what does
OD do about other closely related fields that are also heavily
practicing coaching? Does OD get involved or leave that type
of work to the psychologists and retired senior executives?

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 4 201426

On the other end of the spectrum, it
was a little concerning to note that collect-
ing data and generating theory remained
relatively low as a motivator, at 11th both in
1992 and today. This finding is similar to
what we found on the values section of the
survey, promoting evidence-based practices
grounded in science was ranked quite low
(21st) on the list of values. Similarly, using
research and statistical skills was cited by
only 29% of OD practitioners as being part
of their toolkit today. What does that imply
about data in the practice of OD?

While the field of OD is clearly
grounded in data-driven methods as many
have written about over the years (e.g.,
Burke, 1982; 1994; Nadler, 1977; Phillips,
Phillips, & Zuniga, 2013; Waclawski &
Church, 2002), it would seem that the
more theoretical and analytical aspects of
the field are not what drives many people
in practice. While this motivator is higher
for those with more advanced degrees, it
nonetheless represents a potential concern
for the future of the field particularly as
data and Big Data becomes even more cen-
tral to individual and organizational reality.
Given the continued dual importance of
humanistic values and organizational effec-
tiveness, who better to balance these two
core values in organizations when thinking
through Big Data applications than OD
practitioners as Church & Dutta (2013)
have suggested? Interestingly, however, in
looking at the activities and interventions
further, it was positive to note that OD
practitioners still use survey feedback today
as a key intervention (51% of the time).
This supports the action research com-
ponent of data-driven OD dating back to
interventions from the 1970s and consis-
tent with many models of OD today. There
may be a subtle distinction here, however,
which is manifested in practitioners’ level
of interest in data analysis and theory
generation itself versus the use of survey
methodology with clients to create collab-
orative solutions. Still, if OD practitioners
are not motivated by and do not embrace
data and theory, the field may be limited in
its impact and relevance long term as data
is indeed all around us – just ask Google.
In the next section, current practices in the

field of OD as compared to interventions of
the past will be discussed.

What are the OD Interventions of Choice?

Overall, the survey data on current and
past activities and interventions in the
field of OD today are consistent with other
trends with regard to leadership develop-
ment, coaching, and data feedback as noted
above. There are, however, some surprising
findings to highlight as well. First, while
management development remained at
the top of the list (ranked 1st in 1992 and
2nd in 2012), efforts to achieve long-term
change dropped from 2nd in 1992 to 13th
among the present sample. Consistent with
the themes raised earlier, this suggests
that OD practitioners today may be less
engaged in change management practices
than they used to be.

Second, process consultation, a
practice aimed at increasing group aware-
ness and dynamics remained one of the
more commonly used interventions in
the present sample. This suggests that
focusing on interpersonal relationships,
which was an integral part of the origins of
OD in T-group settings in the 1960s, has
remained a primary intervention in the OD
toolkit despite all the pressures to focus on
other types of outcomes. Of course in a way
this makes sense if practitioners are focus-
ing less at the systemic level and more at
the individual level of change (Church,
Walker, & Brockner, 2002). However, it is
surprising to us that it is still listed as such
a commonly used intervention given that
it is such a unique skill set and one that we
feel is not being developed or emphasized
as much as it once was.

Of course what was not so surprising
given the data we have reported so far is
prevalence of practitioners doing indi-
vidual and executive coaching in OD. At
47% (and 12th on the list) almost as many
are engaged in coaching today as are in
conducting survey feedback. Interestingly
enough, however, individual assessment
and succession planning, areas that com-
monly are connected with talent manage-
ment and coaching efforts at the C-suite
level (and when conducted by other types
of consultants such as I-O psychologists)

were not heavy practice areas for OD
practitioners, ranking 30th and 33rd
respectively amongst the list of 63 total
interventions and activities. This would
suggest that while OD practitioners may
be starting to enter the talent management
arena, they are not yet fully engaged in
that work as has been suggested elsewhere
(Church, 2013).

Finally, there are a few surprises
with regard to which interventions were
not reported to be in use today in the OD
practitioners’ toolkit with any regularity.
Diversity training, for example, was quite
far down the list (39th), a focus on genera-
tional differences was ranked 45th, quality
of work life efforts at 46th, and initiatives
and programs for women and minori-
ties was ranked at 53rd. These are very
troubling results to us given the changing
demographics of the workforce and the
critical nature of diversity and inclusion
(D&I) efforts in organizations today. While
there are clear synergies and connections
between D&I and OD which have been
described at length elsewhere (Church et
al., 2014) the fact that the present sample
is not engaged in these efforts suggests
a real disconnect in the field of OD itself.
While this has not changed much in the
20 years since the last survey when it was
also at the bottom of the list at the time
then as well (18th out of 19 items), we fully
expected many of these areas of practice
and the values of diversity and inclusion
to be at the very top of the ranking in
today’s environment.

In addition to the lack of emphasis
on D&I, however, helping organizations
integrate technology into the workplace
was also not a major area of focus for OD,
which was somewhat surprising given
the field’s socio-technical roots. More
specifically integrating technology into
the workplace was ranked 40th, and the
development of socio-technical systems all
the way at 56th. Of course, the technology
finding is troubling given the emergence of
new forms of organizations, virtual teams
and communication methods, hoteling and
changing work settings, personal connec-
tivity devices, and of course the resulting
emphasis on data generated from all of
these advancements in organizations today.

27Something Old, Something New: Research Findings on the Practice and Values of OD

We doubt that many would argue that
there is more we could be doing to leverage
technology in OD, but perhaps the data are
suggesting that OD practitioners have sim-
ply abdicated the systems integration work
to the professional change management or
even IT folks instead, thank you very much.
Again, this is an area to watch particularly
as technology is so integral to large scale
organizational change efforts. Take for
example the implementation of massive
talent management, talent acquisition (i.e.,
staffing), and performance management
systems in corporations today. Implement-
ing …

6 Reference & User Services Quarterly

MANAGEMENT
Marianne Ryan, Editor

Effectively addressing diversity issues can be a challenge in
any organization—yet, when done well, it can manifest as
more of an opportunity to foster a strong sense of commu-
nity and maximize potential within it. In this column, Sarah
Leadley maps the robust approach taken at the University
of Washington Bothell/Cascadia College Library to develop
cultural competencies among staff and establish diversity as
a strategic priority. The library’s integrated agenda, grounded
in the principles of social justice and built around teachable
moments, suggests a noteworthy facet of organizational de-
velopment that is well worth modeling.—Editor

Diversity is an essential component of any civil society. It is
more than a moral imperative; it is a global necessity. Ev-
eryone can benefit from diversity, and diverse populations
need to be supported so they can reach their full potential
for themselves and their communities.1

We believe that libraries can and should play a key role
in promoting social justice; and that a commitment to di-
versifying our profession, our collections, and our services
is critical to social justice work in and for librarianship.2

T
his essay is a reflection on the diversity work our
library has been engaged in over the last few years,
led by our Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice
Team. As director, my role has been largely behind

the scenes: supporting the formation of this team, provid-
ing time for all staff workshops, and helping manage both
internal and external requests for the team’s time and assis-
tance, all with the goal of building an inviting, sustainable,
reflective, and intellectually challenging approach to doing
this work throughout the library. For me, this has also been
about more intentionally aligning my long-standing commit-
ment to teaching and learning with social justice theories
and practice. I believe that our efforts to build capacity and
deepen our collective understanding of diversity within the
contexts of higher education and our campus community
have strengthened our instruction and public-service offer-
ings significantly, fostered a deeper engagement with these
issues among staff, and positioned us to contribute more
fully to campus diversity committees and programs.

I open with the two quotes at the beginning of this ar-
ticle to provide some framing for this essay, but also to ac-
knowledge that I’m stepping into an existing and very robust
conversation. From a brief survey of the literature it is clear
that there are many innovative programs and dedicated in-
dividuals doing work in this area.3 That said, the literature

Sarah Leadley

Sarah Leadley is Director, University of Washington
Bothell/Cascadia College Library, Associate
Dean of University of Washington Libraries.

Correspondence concerning this column should
be addressed to Marianne Ryan, Associate
University Librarian for Public Services, Northwestern
University, 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208;
email: [email protected]

Reflections on
Diversity and
Organizational
Development

volume 54, issue 4 | Summer 2015 7

Reflections on Diversity and Organizational Development

also clearly points to the complexity of this work and to the
challenges in having this work result in substantive change
to our working lives. The many demands on our time mean
that all too often, diversity and cultural-competency training
for library staff is a one-time occurrence, or, because of the
intensity of the issues, is dealt with only at the surface level.
But for many of us in higher education, our student demo-
graphic is, or is becoming, more diverse, with greater racial
and ethnic diversity, more returning veterans, and larger
numbers of students with disabilities. A recent PBS Newshour
story reports numbers that are probably not surprising, but
perhaps worth repeating: “In 1976, white students made up
84 percent of the college student body. Now they represent
just under 60 percent. At the same time, more students are
returning to college after years in the workforce. Many come
from low-income households and juggle classes along with
the responsibilities of work and family.”4

There is abundant literature on teaching and learning
that contributes to framing diversity and social justice as
issues that are central to our work as librarians. As a former
instruction librarian, my work was informed (and trans-
formed) by the writings of “critical pedagogy” scholars,
including James Elmborg, Rolf Norgaard, and Heidi Jacobs.
Elmborg’s 2006 article on critical information literacy was
inspirational to me as an instruction librarian.

Critical theory brings new dimensions to academic
thinking about education and literacy, and these theo-
ries have made teaching and learning more interesting,
complex, and, in some ways, problematic processes
than past educational models have implied. . . . Critical
literacy and critical pedagogy have led us to a differ-
ent discussion of the means and ends of education.
Its most influential theorists, including Paulo Freire,
Peter McLaren, and Henry Giroux, argue that schools
enact the dominant ideology of their societies—either
consciously or unconsciously. Viewed this way, educa-
tion is a profoundly political activity. Educators must
either accept the dominant ideology of their society
or intentionally resist it and posit alternative models.
Neutrality is not an option.5

Norgaard writes, “Literacy is too often conceived of in nor-
mative terms along a deficit model (literacy, of course, being
something we ‘ought’ to acquire). In such a model, informa-
tion literacy can easily be reduced to a neutral, technological
skill that is seen as merely functional or performative.”6 Jacobs
notes that “information literacy not only incorporates the
recurrent concepts of identifying, locating, evaluating, and
using information but also encompasses engendering lifelong
learning, empowering people, promoting social inclusion, re-
dressing disadvantage, and advancing the well-being of all in
a global context.”7 She cites the work of Rebecca Powell, “who
reminds us literacy is both a cultural and a social expression,
and therefore it is always inherently political. Literacy prac-
tices operate within a sociopolitical context, and that context

is defined and legitimated by those who have the power and
authority to do so.”8 For me, the work we do as teachers is
also grounded in the ongoing struggle to understand the
relationship of the library (and higher education generally)
to the power structures within our own and our stakeholder
communities, and to foster reflective practice in exploring
questions of power, access, and inequality.

This also extends to our library’s public service philoso-
phy—at all service points staff take seriously their role in
retention and student success. From the field of social work,
Sue and Sue provide an excellent summary of the skills I
believe all of our staff should have:

A culturally competent professional is one who is
actively in the process of becoming aware of his or
her own assumptions about human behavior, values,
biases, preconceived notions, personal limitations,
and so forth.

Second, a culturally competent professional is one
who actively attempts to understand the worldview of
culturally diverse populations. In other words, what
are the values, assumptions, practices, communication
styles, group norms, biases and so on, of culturally
diverse students, families, communities and colleagues
you interact with?

Third, a culturally competent professional is one
who is in the process of actively developing and prac-
ticing appropriate, relevant, and sensitive strategies
and skills in working with culturally diverse students,
families, communities and colleagues.

Thus, cultural competence is active, developmen-
tal, an ongoing process and is aspirational rather than
achieved.9

We are a profession that celebrates a long history of ser-
vice and activism on behalf of our users. Librarians have long
advocated for access; we serve vulnerable populations and we
participate in education and open-access initiatives. But we
also function within institutions and structures that are them-
selves often oriented and shaped by the dominant culture. As
Todd Honma writes, “All too often the library is viewed as an
egalitarian institution providing universal access to informa-
tion for the general public. However, such idealized visions
of a mythic benevolence tend to conveniently gloss over the
library’s susceptibility in reproducing and perpetuating racist
social structures found throughout the rest of society.”10 This
may be a challenging statement to process, but I think it’s use-
ful to consider those aspects of our internal workings that may
be masking or complicating our efforts around diversity. In
the case of my library, expressions of this are evident in that
we are predominantly white, female, and middle class, which
is not at all a reflection of our student population. It also is
not all that unusual nationally.11 Even when changes suggest
themselves, compounding this are the all-too-real resource
constraints that can make it challenging to be agile, to redirect
people’s time and efforts to new initiatives.

8 Reference & User Services Quarterly

MANAGEMENT

Locally, our campus context is a driver for this work.
Our university comprises 42 percent students of color; 46
percent are first generation and 60 percent receive financial
aid. We have a strong academic transition/bridge program, a
year-long academic preparation program designed to provide
assistance for historically disadvantaged, low-income, and
first-generation college students. We are collocated with a
community college, where a commitment to social justice is
woven deeply into the mission and operations of the institu-
tion. We have had opportunities over the years to serve on
a variety of diversity and inclusiveness committees on our
campus, but until recently had not formed our own inter-
nal group. When a librarian approached me with the idea
of creating a team, informed by the publication of the ACRL
Diversity Standards and his own work on hip-hop,12 I was
thrilled. Being someone who came to academic librarianship
with an interest in social justice, this resonated deeply, but I
also realized that this work could potentially align well with
our campus priorities and the shifting demographics of our
students. Dedicating resources and time to this work is not
optional; it’s an imperative. While interest and commitment
among library staff has always been there, our efforts were
diffuse and intermittent until the formation of our diversity
team. This column is very much an acknowledgement of
their efforts. I think they have clearly demonstrated not only
the importance of this work, but perhaps more importantly,
that it can reside within and permeate the collective that is
our library community, not as an add on. Workshops based
on critical race theory can be hard work, but they also cre-
ate new connections and understandings among staff. As the
team wrote in a recent C&RL News article:

Building cultural competency among a library staff is
complicated work that is never finished, as our staff
and student populations grow and our understanding
of the work deepens. Discussing difference, even in the
most celebratory way, brings up feelings of guilt, ex-
clusion, anger, and frustration that can be challenging
to confront in the work-place. We found that despite
the challenges, however, this work is also rejuvenat-
ing and joyful. Talking about differences we normally
minimize creates understanding and intimacy that
make it possible to connect more authentically with
our colleagues. Our assessments showed that staff
members appreciated structured time to share the
personal experiences they would not normally feel
comfortable bringing up at work.13

WHAT’S WORKED—SOME PRACTICAL
APPLICATIONS

About the Equity, Diversity,
and Social Justice Team
All employee groups are represented on the team: librarians,
professional staff, and classified staff.14 I do not serve on the

team, but meet with them to review their work plan for the
year and as needed. I find it essential to be part of the co-
creation and adjustments to each year’s work plan, sharing
with them what I learn by serving on a variety of campus
and university leadership groups. I can also speak to their
excellent work in these leadership meetings, which has led
to them being tapped to lead or contribute to campuswide
diversity initiatives, raising the visibility of the library on
campus. I can and do push-back if I think the team is taking
on too much, one major challenge being that this could easily
be full-time work for the entire team. Making sure that the
program we’re developing is sustainable is one of my highest
priorities. I want to be able to look back in five or ten years
and see that we have a rich and intellectually robust cultural
competency program in place.

Integrating Language about Diversity
into Our Major Documents
The team took the lead in crafting our Diversity Strategic
Direction. I wanted to give this the prominence of a strategic
direction rather than relying just on embedding language
about diversity in our other strategic directions or a values
statement. It seemed important to raise the visibility of this
work and be able to connect tangible initiatives and accom-
plishments to this actionable section of our strategic plan.
The Diversity Strategic Direction reads as follows:

The Library serves one of the most ethnically diverse
higher education communities in the state. We seek
to provide culturally relevant services and resources
that reflect the diversity of our user community and we
work to foster an inclusive organizational structure in
which staff from all different backgrounds can thrive.
As cultural competency is not intuitive and must be
learned, library staff will regularly and continuously
expand their understanding of the impact of culture on
behavior, attitudes, and values, and the help-seeking
behaviors of diverse constituent groups. Adapted from
the ACRL Cultural Competency Standards: http://
www.ala.org/acrl/standards/diversity

The librarians also created a goal within our Information
Literacy Instruction Program Plan:

GOAL: Support Diversity and Inclusiveness

Objectives:

1. Provide instructional services inclusive of the diverse
perspectives and needs of the campus communities
served.

2. Deliver instruction that is inclusive of a variety of teach-
ing and learning styles, and cultural backgrounds.

3. Encourage diverse inquiry-based and creative processes
for engaging students in research.

http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/diversity

http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/diversity

volume 54, issue 4 | Summer 2015 9

Reflections on Diversity and Organizational Development

4. Value cultural ways of knowing through respect for
non-dominant or non-Western thought and modes of
knowledge production.

5. Participate in professional development, educational
opportunities, and critical reflection that help advance
cultural competence of the librarians and staff within
the program.

Workshops and BrownBags
Our All Staff Workshops take an incremental approach, in-
tegrating theory and praxis. They are also highly interactive
and interspersed with humor. We didn’t want to try to move
too quickly, but to establish comfort around talking about
difference before taking on issues around discrimination.
Assessments (typically via brief feedback forms and offers of
in-person follow-up) are conducted following each workshop.

Here are some of the learning outcomes that have framed
our trainings:

Workshop #1: Cultural Awareness

Learning Outcomes:

1. Staff should gain a fuller picture of the demographics of
the library user community.

2. Staff will think more in-depth about their own cultural
heritage to better understand how their own cultures
and biases may affect interactions with library patrons
and each other.

Workshop #2: Intersectionality

Learning Outcomes:

1. Staff will explore the intersection of power, culture, and
identity to better identify the everyday power dynamics
that shape our service delivery and experience of the
workplace.

2. Staff will reflect on their own identities and cultures
to better understand how these may affect interactions
with each other and our user community.

Workshop #3: Microaggressions

Learning Outcomes:

1. Staff will understand the concept of microaggressions to
identify and articulate their understanding of microag-
gressions in the workplace.

2. Staff will explore behaviors and environmental factors
that can make patrons and staff with marginalized iden-
tities uncomfortable in a library setting.

Workshop #4: Interrupting

Learning Outcomes:

1. Participants will increase their comfort level with inter-
rupting acts of oppression.

2. Participants will develop and learn strategies and tools
that will equip them to interrupt oppressive situations.

The brownbags are held outside of the monthly all-staff
meeting times and are entirely optional. Topics have in-
cluded the following:

z generational poverty
z race in library and information studies, with the suggested

reading Todd Honma’s “Tripping Over the Color Line”
z race and higher education, with the suggested reading

by Douglas A. Guiffrida and Kathryn Z. Douthit, “The
Black Student Experience at Predominantly White Col-
leges: Implications for School and College Counselors”15

z undocumented students, with the suggested short docu-
mentary The Dream is Now (2013), directed by Davis
Guggenheim

Teaching Meetings
The librarians dedicated one of their regular teaching meet-
ings to a discussion of a chapter on culture and communi-
cation in the classroom from Culturally Responsive Teaching:
Theory, Research, and Practice by Geneva Gay.16

CONCLUSION

What I have appreciated about these activities is the atten-
tion given to addressing the emotional components of this
work, combined with the intellectual challenge, framed by
the work of scholars in the field. I think an approach that
can foreground scholarship from a variety of fields (such
as ethnic studies, counseling, and disability studies) along
with well-established active learning techniques, creates
openings into the work for a range of individuals. Adding
to this, the workshop assessments indicate that having our
colleagues within the library implement this first phase of
trainings is a powerful strategy for building trust and en-
thusiasm for doing this challenging work as a community.
Our workshop leaders are very clear in articulating their
goals of facilitating learning; they do not position them-
selves as experts, and they take risks in expressing their
perspectives and experiences. I know that we are in the
early stages of this work, and that the challenges are large.
Our work to date has focused primarily on building aware-
ness and capacity among library staff, but there is certainly
a whole constellation of concerns requiring my ongoing
attention, among the most pressing being our recruitment
and retention of diverse staff.

10 Reference & User Services Quarterly

MANAGEMENT

As director, after more than two years of doing this
work very intentionally, I feel that my understanding of
how to align our expertise with campus diversity initiatives
has increased significantly. Most recently this resulted in
a yearlong project to assess international student percep-
tions and usage of the library, led by our Assessment Team,
which includes several members of the Equity, Diversity,
and Social Justice Team. I think the focused expertise of
the team, in tandem with the increased capacity of all staff,
will also contribute to building our collective understand-
ing of issues related to retention and persistence generally,
an area of keen interest among our campus leaders. I think
it would be dangerous to approach this via a deficit model
without engaging fully in an examination of how our con-
text may privilege the practices of the dominant culture.
Finally, with our emphasis on exploring power dynamics
and practicing self-reflection, I can also envision this work
building our capacity generally around communication and
conflict resolution, key skill areas for navigating and thriv-
ing in this dynamic environment of sustained technological
and organizational change.

References

1. “ACRL Diversity Standards: Cultural Competency for Academic
Libraries (2012),” Association of College and Research Librar-
ies, accessed November 20, 2014, www.ala.org/acrl/standards/
diversity.

2. Myra Morales, Em Claire Knowles, and Chris Bourg, “Diversity,
Social Justice, and the Future of Libraries,” portal: Libraries and
the Academy 14, no. 3 (2014): 440.

3. See for example Jeffrey Knapp, Linda Klimcyk and Loanne
Snavely, “Speaking Up: Empowering Individuals to Promote
Tolerance in the Academic Library,” Library Leadership & Man-
agement 26, no. 1. (2012), https://journals.tdl.org/llm/index
.php/llm/article/view/5508; “Diversity Recruitment,” Associa-
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4. Kayla Calvert, “As Student Bodies Get More Diverse, Colleges
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-growing-diversity.

5. James Elmborg, “Critical Information Literacy: Implications
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.acalib.2005.12.004.

6. Rolf Norgaard, “Writing Information Literacy in the Classroom:
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8. Ibid., 258.
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http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/diversity

http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/diversity

https://journals.tdl.org/llm/index.php/llm/article/view/5508

https://journals.tdl.org/llm/index.php/llm/article/view/5508

http://www.arl.org/leadership-recruitment/diversity-recruitment

http://www.arl.org/leadership-recruitment/diversity-recruitment

http://www.ala.org/acrl/aboutacrl/directoryofleadership/committees/racialethnic

http://www.ala.org/acrl/aboutacrl/directoryofleadership/committees/racialethnic

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/one-size-wont-fit-rethinking-campuses-growing-diversity/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/one-size-wont-fit-rethinking-campuses-growing-diversity/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/one-size-wont-fit-rethinking-campuses-growing-diversity/

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2005.12.004

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2005.12.004

http://www.jstor.org/stable/20864203

http://www.jstor.org/stable/20864203

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2008.03.009

https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4nj0w1mp

The unbearable whiteness of librarianship
The unbearable whiteness of librarianship

http://crln.acrl.org/content/75/6/332.full

http://crln.acrl.org/content/75/6/332.full

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24

Performance Improvement, vol. 53, no. 8, September 2014
©2014 International Society for Performance Improvement
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) • DOI: 10.1002/pfi.21432

EVALUATION AND REWARD SYSTEMS: THE
KEY SHAPERS OF ORGANIZATION CULTURE

William F. Roth, PhD

Evaluation and reward processes, more so than communication, access to information, problem

solving, work design, and training shape an organization’s culture and employee’s attitudes.

The three most popular evaluation systems—MBO, BARS, and the 360 degree—encourage

competition and even conflict by emphasizing individual performance. This emphasis is made

stronger when the bell-shaped density curve is used to categorize employees so that the weakest

can be terminated. The evaluation and reward process should, instead, encourage cooperation.

MANY PROCESSES CONTRIBUTE to the shaping of
an organization’s culture. They include planning—who
controls it, who provides the input, and who makes
the decisions. They include communication and access
to information—who is allowed to talk to whom, can
employees go directly to the source for desired informa-
tion, or must they seek it through hierarchical channels.
They include work design—who shapes organizational
roles, departmental responsibilities, individual jobs, and
how much input are workers allowed to provide. They
include training—who decides what training modules
should be offered, how they are offered, and who receives
training.

While all of these processes help shape organizational
culture, the evaluation and reward system has the great-
est influence on how employee efforts to help maintain or
improve the bottom line are evaluated and who receives
what types of reward and how much of it.

EVALUATION AND REWARD AS KEY
Why does the evaluation and reward process have the
greatest effect? If communication and access to infor-
mation are not flowing smoothly, the process itself is at
fault and should be redesigned. People are natural-born
communicators. The major problem is found not in the
individual employee but in the involved linkages.

If one focuses on problem solving, decision making,
and planning processes that are not producing the desired
results, improving the communication and access to
information process might help. But how are employees
encouraged to make the necessary efforts when they are
already overworked and when the environment and chal-
lenges are constantly shifting?

If work design is the issue, the increasingly obvious
answer is to have the people actually doing the jobs
involved in redesigning them. They do not need training
in problem-solving skills, and they do not need better
access to information. What they need is the opportu-
nity to meet the challenge and the incentive to address it
effectively.

Finally, if training is not producing the desired results,
it is not usually because the trainers lack professional
skills but because the model used emphasizes the wrong
things. Training traditionally is something done to
employees who have little say as to what they need. When
the training is based on a desire to improve ongoing
in-house systems, those best qualified to identify needs
and to provide the training are actually the employees
themselves. But how do we encourage employees to take
up the challenge?

The answer to all of these questions has to do with the
evaluation and reward process, the one organizational
process capable of encouraging positive change in all of

Performance Improvement • Volume 53 • Number 8 • DOI: 10.1002/pfi 25

the others. Pat Carrigan, famous for her turnaround of
the Bay City, Michigan, General Motors component parts
plant, said in Tom Peters’s film The Leadership Alliance ,
“People do what they are rewarded for doing” (Peters,
1988). If employees are rewarded for improving the
communication and access to information process, the
planning and problem-solving process, the organization
approach to work design, and the organization’s approach
to training, they will do so. It is that simple.

Problem solved, right? Well, actually, not quite. It turns
out that most evaluation and reward systems are anti-
thetical to the shifts we are talking about. And because
evaluation and reward is what most often dictates the
success of all other processes, until we get it straightened
out, little else will change.

INTERNATIONAL PAPER FALLS VICTIM
TO THE BELL-SHAPED DENSITY CURVE
The challenge, first of all, is to get beyond the belief that
has so long been a cornerstone of U.S. management the-
ory: that employees should be forced to compete for raises
and promotions and that such an atmosphere causes
them to work harder.

My first job in the corporate world was with the
International Paper Company (IP) in the late 1980s.
Rebuilt European and Japanese economies had discovered
the United States’ vulnerability in the world marketplace:
the quality of its products. Because we were the only
player left on the block following World War II, someone
was always ready to buy; consequently the emphasis was
on getting products out of the door with a focus on quan-
tity rather than quality. When European and Japanese
industries began taking advantage of this weakness, U.S.
companies rapidly mounted quality improvement efforts
to counter the threat.

The first meeting I attended at IP corporate head-
quarters featured a speech by then CEO John Georges,
announcing the creation of a quality improvement
department. The emphasis in his speech was on team-
work. Teams would be formed to identify weaknesses in
products and in manufacturing and support processes
and to suggest ways to correct them. Teamwork was the
key; the entire corporation would quickly become one
well-integrated team.

Later that day I attended a session sponsored by the
human resources department for new employees in which
our benefits were explained. When the presenter finished,
he added, “Oh, and by the way, IP, as you know, has
adopted the Hay System for evaluation because it is built
around the bell-shaped density curve concept” (Roth &
Ferguson, 1994). The curve provides a clear-cut means for

making decisions concerning who should get raises, who
should get promotions, and who should be fired.

Based on this system all employees would fall into
one of three categories after their periodic evaluation.
Approximately 20% in each department would be ranked
as superior performers, 60% as average, and the remain-
ing 20% would end up in the weak performer category.
All supervisors would be required to break their work-
force down this way, 20–60–20. “And oh, by the way, if an
employee remains in the weak category for two evalua-
tions in a row, that person will be terminated.”

So, on the same day that I heard the CEO of IP strongly
emphasize the need for cooperation and teamwork, I was
also told that in reality the corporate culture was dog-eat-
dog. Quite obviously, any employee who ended up in the
weak category would do anything possible to claw his or
her way out. If that person succeeded, according to the
rules, another person would have to take his or her place,
encouraging those in the average category to do whatever
was necessary not to drop into the pit. “And oh, by the
way,” the presenter added as a final note, “one of the traits
that will be surveyed during your all critical evaluation
will be your ability to work as part of a team, your ability
to cooperate.”

With the Hay System in place at IP, we were being
forced to compete to show that we could work most effec-
tively as team members and that we were the most coop-
erative employees in our department. Enough said? The
way IP’s evaluation system was set up obviously thwarted
any attempt to generate fruitful cooperation. Sharing
what we knew would make us vulnerable in a struggle for
survival where there had to be losers.

The challenge, first of
all, is to get beyond the
belief that has so long
been a cornerstone of U.S.
management theory: that
employees should be forced
to compete for raises and
promotions and that such an
atmosphere causes them to
work harder.

26 www.ispi.org • DOI: 10.1002/pfi • SEPTEMBER 2014

are: management by objective (MBO), the behaviorally
anchored rating system (BARS), and the multi-rating
assessment or 360-degree evaluation. MBO was designed
in the mid-1900s by Peter Drucker, one of the founding
fathers of modern management theory. His desire was to
ensure that the work-related objectives of each employee
supported those of his or her boss and of the organization
as a whole (Roth, 2009 ).

Once a year, or every six months, employees would
meet with their bosses to discuss and decide on objectives
for the following period. At the end of that period, they
would sit down to discuss how much had been achieved.
Raises and promotions are based largely on the results of
this discussion.

MBO has shown serious drawbacks in recent times.
First, the rate of change in both an organization’s internal
and external environments continues to accelerate. As
a result, an agreed-on objective might become obsolete
within several months—or several weeks or even days.
So, what happens next? Does the employee meet again
with the boss to redo it, then again two months later,
then again? Or does the employee just muddle through
and try to explain what happened during the next formal
meeting?

The second serious drawback is that although team-
work is increasingly important, the MBO focuses entirely
on defining and achieving individual objectives. And
what if my objectives conflict with your objectives, and
what if there is a shortage of a resource required by both
of us? Do I grab as much as I can to ensure my raise and
not worry about you? But, then, how do you react?

With a BARS approach, a range of categories is estab-
lished for employees to fit into—excellent, good, and fair
(Lloyd, 2009). This range is used to evaluate performance
in different areas of a job such as performance involving
technical skills, performance involving personal skills, or
performance involving accounting skills. A brief com-
ment is included for each rating. One weakness of this
approach is that the categories are very general. Another
is that the comments made, to be of real value, should
be comprehensive and discussed at length with the
employee. If an evaluator is responsible for 15 or 20
employee discussions, this will consume a lot of time.

When a company uses the multi-rating assessment or
360-degree evaluation, everybody an employee interacts
with evaluates that person and reports. Then the evalua-
tions are consolidated and given to the employee with no
names attached (Lloyd, 2009). This approach is used so
that no aspect of job performance is left out. The major
drawback, once again, is the amount of time required,
each employee being responsible for evaluating at least
one boss and five or six co-workers, involving several

POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE ENERGY?
In today’s corporate world there are still many who believe
that competition and even conflict in the workplace gen-
erates more productivity than cooperation. Conflict being
competition without rules, without some sort of referee
whose decisions all players must accept. They are wrong.
A simple model exists to prove this. It has to do with the
amount of energy an employee expends in the workplace
and how it is expended.

We all have a limited amount of energy. How we ration
that energy is obviously critical to our success. Two types
of expenditures are possible in the workplace— positive
and negative. Positive energy expenditures include those
focused on performing our duties effectively, on improv-
ing the way we work, and on improving the tools and
techniques we use.

It is also a well-accepted reality that the greater the
amount of input from those who will be affected by any
decision we make, the more comprehensive the outcome
will be. Stakeholders will better understand the change
and, having provided input, will be part owners. Finally,
synergies will occur. Additional energy not possessed by
any of the participants will be generated through their
interaction.

Negative energy is energy expended to stop other
employees from making contributions. It is energy
expended on stealing ideas. It is energy spent on guarding
against such attacks. It is energy spent on listening to the
grapevine and learning what somebody might be up to so
that a preemptive strike can be staged. The worker’s use
of energy in this manner, if successful, will decrease tar-
geted productivity. At the same time, however, due to the
limited amount of overall energy available, it will cut into
the amount of positive energy at the attacker’s disposal
and the amount available for progressive efforts. Synergy
is also less likely to occur because employees will be wary
of each other and will fear being taken advantage of.

PUSHING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
According to this logic, organizations that have a coop-
erative culture enjoy an advantage. More positive energy
is available for the pursuit of the organization’s objec-
tives. Less negative energy is wasted on defensive tactics.
As previously mentioned, the organizational process
most responsible for shaping the organization’s culture
is evaluation and reward. So, how do we shape this pro-
cess to encourage cooperation? Let us start with where
most companies are today, a place not that different from
where IP was so many years ago.

The actual evaluation process has grown increas-
ingly sophisticated. Three major popular approaches

Performance Improvement • Volume 53 • Number 8 • DOI: 10.1002/pfi 27

All three of these evaluation
systems have crippling
flaws. All three help create
a competitive environment
by individualizing what is
required in order to improve
performance.

reports. Another drawback, even more so than with the
BARS method, is the issue of accuracy. Do I interact with
this person enough to accurately judge his or her per-
formance? A further drawback is the syndrome of Who
said that? The 360-degree approach allows employees to
take shots at people they do not like or are competing
with when no retaliation is possible. This misuse leads to
suspicion as people waste time trying to figure out Who
said that?

AND THE WORST IS YET TO COME
All three of these evaluation systems have crippling flaws.
All three help create a competitive environment by indi-
vidualizing what is required in order to improve perfor-
mance. Even if one of the suggested requirements is to
learn to function more effectively as a team member, the
competition does not disappear. The employee must now
compete against those he or she should be cooperating
with for the pay raise or promotion.

The worst part is that once the evaluation is completed,
those making the decisions must find some way to com-
pare ratings. A new scale must be developed to decide
who gets the highest raise. Do all those who are rated
superior in all phases of their job get it? Or do all those
who are judged superior in 50% of their ratings? But what
if everybody in the office rates everybody as superior
when there is not enough money in the budget to give
everyone the highest raise?

To deal with these issues a large number of companies
have adopted the bell-shaped density curve approach
the author became familiar with at IP. Its purpose is to
encourage employees to work harder, using fear as a moti-
vator. Its purpose is also to get rid of weaker workers with
policies like “two times and you’re out.” But this leads to
rising tensions as employees jockey for position. In addi-

tion, replacements must be hired, and these new people
need training that often costs more than has been saved
by getting rid of an employee.

One suggested alternative is to flatten the curve so that
fewer employees end up on the upper and lower ends.
However, this approach obviously fails to support the
initial purpose of the evaluation process—to encourage
improved productivity.

The only people who might truly benefit from use of
the bell-shaped curve approach are managers who want
or need to be in total control. It increases their power.
They decide who falls into which category. The game
becomes “please the manager, no matter what or who has
to be sacrificed.” The bell-shaped curve does not stand
alone in this respect. Just about every evaluation system
the author has had experience with creates the same
competitive environment where fear is the motivator and
managers reign supreme. The word evaluate in the world
of business means to compare an employee against some-
thing. In the workplace that something is almost always
other employees.

WHEN WINNING IS ALL
A great number of managers, though they might under-
stand the superior rewards of cooperation, actually want
their employees to compete. They have been programmed
to believe this way by academia, by a society that applauds
winners, and by a mind-set left over from laissez-faire
economics even though these mind-sets have proven time
and again to have negative consequences. Willingly or
not, these managers are at least partially victims of ado-
lescent arrest , a psychological phenomenon that describes
individuals who never outgrow a need to win, no matter
what the situation and no matter what the consequences
for others (Roth, 2005).

All species go through a stage labeled adolescence. It
is a testing stage where the young compete against each
other to discover their strengths and weaknesses and
where they fit into their peer group. Eventually, most
of us progress to another stage where we realize that as
individuals we can gain more by working together than
by beating everybody we interact with.

Adolescent arrest occurs when a person fails to make
this transition. The individual is never able to overcome
the need to win, be it by talking louder and longer or
by working more hours to make sure a promotion or
raise is won. The problem is that those trapped in ado-
lescent arrest tend to win because they are willing to
expend their energy in whatever way necessary. They
also see peers as pawns rather than as partners, the goal
being to leave them behind. Such an attitude, of course,

28 www.ispi.org • DOI: 10.1002/pfi • SEPTEMBER 2014

breeds resentment so that the amount of negative energy
expended on all sides increases.

START WITH THE REWARD SYSTEM
How, then, do we evaluate employee productivity and
reward it in a way that encourages cooperation rather
than competition? To begin with, we skip over evalua-
tion and go directly to the reward part of the process. If a
reward system is put into place that encourages employee
cooperation throughout the organization, an atmosphere
of positive energy will be generated.

One approach that achieves this is the three-tiered sys-
tem (Roth, 2000). On the individual level, each employee
at first receives a relatively small salary. Periodic raises
are based on the number of years employed. On the
second level, workers become members of a team and
are rewarded for their cooperative efforts, a percentage
of the profits generated by the team being split among
members. Two basic types of teams exist in the normal
workplace—product teams and support teams. Product
teams include workers who design and manufacture a
physical item or service as well as those involved directly
in selling and delivering the good or service. Product
teams are traditionally profit centers and have a bottom
line. The number of smartphones produced and sold,
the number of therapy sessions provided, the number of
banking services provided, and the number of haircuts
delivered can easily be counted and the amount of money
generated easily calculated.

The major challenge with this model is to find a way
to reward support teams that do not have a bottom
line. Such teams as marketing, accounting, human
resources, finance, and research and development are
traditionally treated as cost centers. The solution is
to turn them into profit centers as well. This can be
accomplished by adopting an approach designed by
Jamshid Gharajedaghi while at the Wharton School,
University of Pennsylvania. It is called “the multidimen-
sional, modular design” (Gharajedaghi, 1984). Support
function teams will sell their services to product teams
rather than simply providing them. According to the
model, product teams will also be allowed to purchase
the involved support service from an outside source,
thus forcing the in-house unit to do what is necessary to
remain competitive. At the same time the in-house unit
will be allowed to sell its service to other companies so
long as no conflict of interest arises.

So, now we have a salary on the individual level as well
as a profit-sharing arrangement on the team level that
encourages employees on each team to cooperate and to
work together to increase the amount of money generated

and shared. At the third level of the model a portion of all
profits generated will be put into a common pot and dis-
tributed periodically as a companywide bonus. This part
of the individual reward will purposely be larger than the
profit-sharing portion to keep employees focused on the
productivity of the company as a whole rather than solely
on that of their team.

The only other issue is that the top-level management
team should not generate an individualized bottom line
as the result of its activities. Therefore, it cannot par-
ticipate in the profit-sharing scheme. However, top-level
managers can participate in the companywide bonus
program and their base-level salaries can be higher.

EMPLOYEES TAKE OVER EVALUATION
One company that tried this approach was the start-up
Bridgeport Paper, a paper distributor trying to penetrate
the Philadelphia area market (Roth, 2000). The workforce
was involved in designing the team model. Employees
decided that each team should comprise an outside sales
person, an inside sales person, secretarial support people,
warehouse people who did the loading and unloading,
and truck drivers.

Once the reward system was spelled out and accepted
by all, attention turned to designing the employee per-
formance evaluation process. Nobody had previously
worked in a company without an evaluation process, so it
seemed the natural next step.

Such processes allow a review of the employee’s per-
formance. They facilitate the setting of future employee
objectives that support those of the organization. They
influence pay raises and promotions. They provide proof
when an employee is being disciplined or fired.

MBO, BARS, and the multi-rating assessment
approaches were all discussed as alternatives. None, how-
ever, seemed to fit with the new reward system. Finally,
it was realized that a formal employee evaluation was
not necessary. Because the performance of each team
member would now affect how much the others made,
employees would be constantly evaluating each other and
would constantly be seeking to improve the performance
of their peers—not on a once-a-year or an every-six-
months basis, but daily.

The new reward system took the pay-raise issue out
of the hands of managers. Such raises were now either
automatic or were tied to productivity. Concerning pro-
motions, employees working in the involved area were
encouraged to decide who should move up when an
opening occurred, the rationale being that they knew
better the expertise of the candidates and would pick the
person most capable of benefiting the whole. Disciplinary

Performance Improvement • Volume 53 • Number 8 • DOI: 10.1002/pfi 29

issues were taken out of the hands of managers and left to
team members who dealt with them directly; if you came
in drunk or stoned, for example, you were affecting the
reward shares of others as well as your own.

SO, THERE IT IS
In summary, the evaluation and reward process of an
organization does more to shape its culture than any
other thing. In most present-day companies such pro-
cesses continue to encourage competition or conflict
when they should encourage cooperation. Companies
using the bell-shaped density curve model as a means
of driving increased productivity are headed in the
wrong direction. This model creates a defensive climate;
energy that could be used to help improve productivity
is instead wasted on defensive maneuvering. To move
in the right direction, companies should focus on the
reward part of the process rather than the evaluation
part. Setting up a reward system that encourages coop-
eration is not that difficult. Once the reward is truly tied
to team productivity, the evaluation of individual efforts
takes care of itself as team members themselves become
the evaluators.

References

Gharajedaghi ,   J. ( 1984 ). Organizational implications of systems
thinking: Multidimensional modular design . European Journal
of Operations Research , 18 ( 2 ), 155 – 166 .

Lloyd ,   K. ( 2009 ). Performance appraisals and phrases for dum-
mies . Hoboken, NJ : Wiley .

Peters ,   T. ( 1988 ). The leadership alliance (DVD). Cambridge,
MA : Enterprise Media .

Roth ,   W. ( 2000 ). Getting beyond the myth of the bell-shaped
density curve . National Productivity Review , 19 ( 2 ), 29 – 32 .

Roth ,   W. ( 2005 ). Ethics in the workplace: A systems perspective .
Upper Saddle River, NJ : Pearson Prentice Hall .

Roth ,   W. ( 2009 ). Is management by objective obsolete ? Global
Business and Organizational Excellence , 28 ( 4 ), 36 – 43 .

Roth ,   W. , & Ferguson ,   D. ( 1994 , September). The end of per-
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Recommended Readings

Brown ,   D. , Glenn ,   S. , & Armstrong ,   M . (n.d.). Evaluating
reward effectiveness survey report. Institute for Employment
Studies . Retrieved from www.employment-studies.co.uk/pubs
/summary.php?id±erew0110

Gary ,   L. ( 2001 , April). For whom the bell curve tolls—The
controversial practice of forced ranking . Harvard Business
School Working Knowledge. Retrieved from www.hbswk.hbs
.edu/archive/2605.html

Kerr ,   J. , & Slocum ,   J. ( 2005 ). Managing corporate culture
through reward systems . Academy of Management Executive ,
19 ( 4 ), 130 – 138 .

Rogers ,   D. ( 2005 , November). Answer to big three’s “Black
October” is people, says Pat Carrigan. Retrieved from www
.Mybaycity.com. business article 934

Scholl ,   R. ( 2014 , March). Reward and evaluation systems.
Retrieved from www.uri.edu/research/Irc/scholl/webnotes
/Reward_Systems.htm

Tornow ,   W. ( 1993 , Fall). Perception or reality: Is multi-per-
spective measurement a means or an end ? Human Resource
Management , 32 ( 2–3 ), 221–229 .

WILLIAM F. ROTH, PhD, is currently a professor at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He earned his
master’s degree in social work at the University of Pennsylvania and his PhD in social systems sciences
at the Wharton School, where he is now a senior fellow. He has eight books and over 50 articles on
management theory in print, the latest texts being Comprehensive Healthcare for the U.S.: An Idealized
Model ; Ethics In the Workplace: A System Perspective ; The Roots and Future of Management Theory ; and
Quality Improvement: A Systems Perspective . He is currently working on another book titled Breaking the
Mold: Education for the 21st Century . He previously served as a management consultant to corporations,
as manager of organization design with the International Paper Co. (where he designed the company’s
quality improvement effort), and as director of planning and programs with the Charleston, S.C., poverty
program. He may be reached at [email protected]

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articles for individual use.

O R I G I N A L P A P E R

Using Kotter’s Eight Stage Process to Manage
an Organisational Change Program: Presentation
and Practice

Julien Pollack • Rachel Pollack

Published online: 23 March 2014
� Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Abstract Kotter’s eight stage process for creating a major change is one of the most widely
recognised models for change management, and yet there are few case studies in the academic

literature that enquire into how this process has been used in practice. This paper describes a

change manager’s action research enquiring into the use of this Process to manage a major

organisational change. The change was initiated in response to the organisation’s ageing

workforce, introducing a knowledge management program focusing on the interpersonal

aspects of knowledge retention. Although Kotter’s process emphasises a top-led model for

change, the change team found it was necessary to engage at many levels of the organisation

to implement the organisational change. The process is typically depicted as a linear sequence

of steps. However, this image of the change process was found to not represent the complexity

of the required action. Managing the change required the change team to facilitate multiple

concurrent instances of Kotter’s process throughout the organisation, to re-create change that

was locally relevant to participants in the change process.

Keywords Change management � Organisational change � Kotter’s eight
stage process � Knowledge management � Aging workforce � Action research

Introduction

This research reports on action research (AR) into an organisational change program in the

Australian Finance and Insurance Sector. The use of Kotter’s eight stage process of cre-

ating a major change (Kotter 1996) is studied in detail, providing insight into the use of this

process that can be of benefit to other change managers seeking to apply it.

J. Pollack (&)
University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123 Broadway, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia
e-mail: [email protected]

R. Pollack
Sydney, Australia

123

Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66
DOI 10.1007/s11213-014-9317-0

The relevance of this research becomes clear on recognising the significant divide that

has been identified between the academic and practitioner change management commu-

nities. In 1993, it was identified that a boundary existed between theoreticians and prac-

titioners (Buchanan 1993, p .684), with both being dismissive of each others’ work, and

that there was little connection between their contributions (1993, p. 685). More recently,

Saka (2003, p. 481) identified a similar division between how change management is

described and how it is practiced. This situation has apparently not changed, with Ap-

pelbaum et al. (2012), p. 764) calling for a greater emphasis on producing research in a

form that is usable by those who practice change management.

There appears to be little research that enquires into the practicalities of using change

management techniques to effect organizational change, either with regard to their suit-

ability or appropriateness. Although there is a significant body of literature which provides

advice for practitioners, there remains little research on how to actually apply change

management techniques, or critically questions their effectiveness (Raineri 2011, p. 267); a

lack that this research helps to address.

Kotter’s (1996) eight stage process of creating a major change has been recognised as

one of the most well known approaches to organisational transformation (Mento et al.

2002, p .45), as the mainstream wisdom for leading change (Nitta et al. 2009, p .467), and

the most compelling formula for success in change management (Phelan 2005, p .47).

Kotter’s work became highly sought after by leaders of organizations who were planning

on implementing organizational change initiatives (Brisson-Banks 2010, p. 248). The

Process ‘‘…became an instantaneous success at the time it was advocated and it remains a
key reference in the field of change management’’ (Appelbaum et al. 2012, p. 765).

Given the popularity of Kotter’s eight stage process it may be reasonable to assume that

claims of a divide between research and practice are not relevant in this case. However, a

thorough study of the literature by Appelbaum et al. (2012) has revealed that this is not

necessarily true. Their review of the change management literature revealed that ‘‘…most
of the evidence found during the search points to data that has been compiled by Kotter

himself … In essence Kotter validated Kotter’’ (Appelbaum et al. 2012, p. 776). Aca-
demics appear to have used Kotter’s findings about change management as if verified and

tested. ‘‘Kotter’s change management model appears to derive its popularity more from its

direct and usable format than from any scientific consensus on the results’’ (Appelbaum

et al. 2012, p. 764).

A variety of reviews of the field of organisational change can be found in the literature

(e.g. Cao and McHugh 2005). Although some authors (e.g. Tsoukas and Papoulias 2005)

refer to an abundance of case studies examining organizational change, there are few case

studies of changes managed using Kotter’s Process (Appelbaum et al. 2012, p. 776). The

weight of research that references Kotter’s work does not investigate how the process can

be used, but instead either discusses Kotter’s writing in the context of the broader literature

on change management, or uses the process as a framework for conducting a post hoc

analysis of a change (e.g. Yauch and Steudel 2002; Sikorko 2008; Smith 2011; Casey et al.

2012; Nitta et al. 2009; Goede 2011; Gupta 2011).

Studies by Cole et al. (2006, p.363) and Paper et al. (2001), p.85) have found the actual

execution of a change to be one of the key factors in determining success or failure. Of the

various ways in which Kotter’s work has been used in the change management literature, it

is arguably AR, rather than literature reviews or post hoc analyses, that have the greater

potential to contribute to improved execution. Some case studies of changes managed

using Kotter’s process do stand out (e.g. Springer et al. 2012; Lintukangas et al. 2009; Day

and Atkinson 2004; Ansari and Bell 2009; Joffe and Glynn 2002), and it is to this small but

52 Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66

123

important literature to which this research contributes. This research critically examines

how Kotter’s (1996) eight stage process of creating a major change has been used to

manage an organisational change; a process that despite its popularity, has rarely been

studied in the academic literature.

The Eight Stage Process of Creating a Major Change

The eight stage process is ‘‘…as a vision for the change process’’ (Mento et al. 2002, p .45)
describing a series of steps to be taken to achieve mandated organisational changes. A wide

variety of models for managing organisational change exist in the literature (Sikorko 2008,

p. 307; Stewart and Kringas 2003, p .676; Buchanan 1993, p. 684; Smith 2011, p. 115;

Pillay et al. 2012, p .59), and is not the place of this research to analyse Kotter’s process in

relation to other models. Readers are instead referred to authors who have already done this

(e.g. Brisson-Banks 2010; Stewart and Kringas 2003). However, it is worthwhile to note

some ways in which the Process has been characterized: as placing a strong emphasis on

leadership (Pillay et al. 2012, p .61; Raineri 2011; Choi et al. 2011, p. 12) and viewing

change as top-led (Abraham et al. 2002, p. 36; Choi et al. 2011, p. 12; Day and Atkinson

2004, p. 258). Kotter’s approach has also been described as focusing on organisational

culture (Casey et al. 2012, p. 112), and of being typical of private sector change models

(Stewart and Kringas 2003). Disagreement also exists, with some (Pillay et al. 2012, p. 60)

describing the process as centrally planned change, while By (2005) has described it as

emphasising an emergent, rather than a planned, approach to change management.

Kotter’s eight stage process of creating a major change as detailed in Leading Change

(1996) and later works can be summarised as follows:

1. Establishing a sense of urgency

2. Creating the guiding coalition

3. Develop a vision and strategy

4. Communicating the change vision

5. Empowering broad-based change

6. Generating short-term wins

7. Consolidating gains and producing more change

8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

The efficacy of Kotter’s process has been broadly supported in the literature (e.g. Ansari

and Bell 2009, p. 160; Cegielski et al. 2006, p. 311). Despite its popularity, the process has

also been criticised. It has been claimed that this, and other, change management processes

describe what has to be done but provide little detail in how it should be achieved (Pfeifer

et al. 2005, p. 297), and that it is not sufficiently detailed to guide change management in

all situations (Appelbaum et al. 2012, p. 775). Conversely, the Process has also been

criticised as not general enough for some kinds of change (Ansari and Bell 2009, p. 157),

and of being overly planned, and therefore not representation of the realities of organi-

sational life (Hay et al. 2001, p. 243). However, these criticisms need to be tempered by

Sikorko (2008) observation that ‘‘…no single model can provide a one-size-fits-all solution
to organisational change.’’

Springer et al. (2012)provides a detailed case study which reviews the use of the process

to implement a cultural change at the Boise State University School of Nursing. The case

provides detail about the changes that were implemented within the organisation, but does

not focus on how the process was used to facilitate this change. This case study leaves the

Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66 53

123

reader with the impression use of Kotter’s Process was uncontentious. Perhaps this was the

case, although without specific comment to this effect it is not possible to say.

The Process was also used to facilitate change in an aerospace industry study presented

by Day and Atkinson (2004). In this case, the process was used as a planning tool and to

communicate the nature of the change to procurement functions in the early stages of the

change program. However, the practitioners in this case study had limited success using the

process as a guide for future action, finding the process to be of ‘‘…limited use over and
above the raising of personal awareness about the range of factors that are to be considered

throughout a change programme…’’ (Day and Atkinson 2004, p. 266).
Kotter’s process was also used in the implementation of a Shell Gabon strategic cost

initiative in the initial planning phases of the change program (Ansari and Bell 2009).

However, the change team found that not all stages of Kotter’s process suited their

environment, needing to add other conceptual frameworks. Joffe and Glynn (2002) also

present a study of the use of Kotter’s process in the pharmaceutical industry, while

Lintukangas et al. (2009) present a case study of a forestry company which aimed to follow

Kotter’s process in implementing an organisational change. However, neither of these

latter two cases provide significant critical reflection on the use of the process, and so are of

limited use in understanding how the process can be applied in practice.

Methodology and Structure of the Paper

This research was conducted at UGF (a pseudonym), an Australian organisation in the

Finance and Insurance Sector with over 10,000 employees and offices worldwide. The

change manager used Kotter’s eight-stage process of creating a major change to guide and

structure change management action, and the use of this process forms the focus for this

research.

This research was managed using AR. There are a wide variety of forms of AR,

although it would be fair to say that most could be described as cyclic and reflective

methodologies (Swepson 2003, p. 102), which are primarily focused on intervention, rather

than observation (Midgley 2003, p. 81). AR is an approach to research which allows a

researcher to engage in an organisation, and simultaneously create knowledge about that

process (Olsen and Myers 1999, p. 323).

AR is particularly appropriate for organisational settings, where the need to produce

organisational outcomes may be more significant in securing ongoing research participa-

tion than the promise of research outcomes. AR requires involvement in problem situations

and a ‘‘… readiness to use the experience itself as a research object about which lessons
can be learned by conscious reflection’’ (Checkland and Scholes 1990, p. 16). AR has also

been identified as appropriate for organisational change research, as it assists in developing

an understanding of the ways that social systems change (Lau 1999, p. 149), and has been

used to study a wide variety of business problems, including: organisational change and

transformation; marketing; product development; manufacturing; engineering; information

systems and e-commerce; accounting; small business; and management development

(Sankaran and Tay 2003, pp. 1–2).

Flood (1999, p. 53) has noted the development of a unique form of AR as one of the key

strands in Checkland’s work. Checkland’s FMA model has been identified as one of the

most widely used forms of AR (Champion 2007, p. 455), and it is this model which has

been followed in this research. The main components of this model are a research

framework (F); a methodology (M); and an area of application (A). Simply, particular ‘‘…

54 Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66

123

linked ideas F are used in a methodology M to investigate an area of interest A’’

(Checkland and Howell 1998, p. 13). Being explicit about these three elements may lead to

learning not only about the area of application, but also about the adequacy of the

methodology and the research framework (Checkland and Howell 1998, p. 13). Indeed, the

majority of learning resulting from the research presented in this paper is at the level of

methodology.

Clear distinction between a framework of ideas and a methodology for the organised

application of those ideas differentiates this approach to AR from others (Checkland 2003,

p. 291). Most other AR ‘‘… omits the need for a declared-in-advance intellectual frame-
work of ideas, a framework in terms of which what constitutes ‘knowledge’ about the

situation researched will be defined and expressed’’ (Checkland and Holwell 1998,

pp. 22–3). What constitutes knowledge in a problem situation should not be taken as given.

In defining F, the researcher is in effect defining the epistemology of the research and

defining what will count as knowledge (p. 24). Declaring the intellectual framework for an

AR project can be thought of as a way of contextualising the research in relation to the

range of possible forms of knowledge extant, allowing any research findings to be

appropriately judged and understood.

It is perhaps because of clear identification of the components of research that

Checkland’s FMA model has been found to add rigour (Sarah et al. 2002, p. 537) and

provide clarity (p. 539). The FMA model has been used to study organisational change

(Molineux and Haslett 2002), and readers are referred to West and Stansfield (2001, p. 251)

for an in-depth review of the use of the FMA model.

In terms of the FMA model, this research can be summarised as follows:

• F: Interpretivist epistemology and the academic literature on organizational change
• M: Kotter’s eight stage process of creating a major change
• A: Action taken at UGF

Data for this paper was gathered through semi-structured interviews between the

authors as a way of facilitating reflection, one of whom was the change manager for the

Knowledge Management Program at UGF. At the time of initial submission of this

research for publication, the organisational change had been running for over 2 years.

The remainder of this paper will be structured according to Kotter’s process. Each stage

will be discussed in terms of principles for action as described in the literature, before

actions taken at UGF are examined. Observations and conclusions about the overall use of

the process will then follow.

Stage 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency

The first stage in Kotter’s eight stage process is to create a sense of urgency; an awareness

of the need for the organisation to change. Kotter notes the failure to create a sense of

urgency to be the single biggest error made when trying to change organisations (Kotter

2008, p. viii), and has written a whole book, A Sense of Urgency, exclusively focusing on

this stage.

Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed cooperation. With

complacency high, transformations usually go nowhere because few people are even

interested in working on the change problem. With urgency low, it’s difficult to put

Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66 55

123

together a group with enough power and credibility to guide the effort (Kotter 1996,

p. 36).

Complacency, rather than a desire for change, has been identified as more likely to be

the norm in established organisations (Kotter 2008, p. 15). Considerable effort may be

required to motivate organisational personnel to invest their time and effort and to put up

with the inconveniences of change (Ansari and Bell 2009, p. 157).

Although in Australia the Financial and Insurance Services sector has a relatively

younger workforce than many other sectors (Department of Education, Employment and

Workplace Relations 2010, p. 12), the issues that could result from a failure to respond to

their aging workforce were apparent to the senior management team at UGF. It was

identified that aging workforce issues could negatively impact upon core business areas if

left unaddressed. In particular, senior product roles were identified as under threat, due to a

lack of younger personnel able to fill these roles.

An aging workforce is typically represented as a threat; as a ‘‘… demographic time
bomb…’’ (Crampton et al. 1996, p. 243), a ‘‘…baby-boom-retirement tsunami…’’
(Leonard and Swap 2004, p. 90), or ‘‘…a threat to sustaining competitive advantage’’
(DeLong 2004, p. 19). However, the risks associated with an aging workforce are typically

faced equally by all companies within that industry sector. Risks can be considered to

include both threat and opportunity (Hillson 2003). There is an opportunity for competitive

advantage for those companies who respond most effectively to these issues.

Senior management at UGF established a Knowledge Management Program to mitigate

retirement knowledge loss. The initial focus in the Knowledge Management Program was

on exploring the risks associated with continuing with business as usual, and why change

was needed. Change management personnel reported that the need for change was easy to

sell as a message, due to widespread awareness of the looming demographic shift, but that

it was important to raise awareness that this was an issue that the company was looking to

do something about.

Stage 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition

The second stage in Kotter’s process involves forming a group who have enough power to

lead the change (Kotter 1996, p. 21). Guiding coalitions for the Knowledge Management

Program were created at multiple levels. Most prominently, the executive management

coalition was championed by the CEO and direct reports, and provided ongoing strategic

direction for the program.

The General Management Advisory Group, the second coalition, was also formed to

provide project governance. It has been identified that it is often problematic to identify

isolated factors that are responsible for the successful implementation of changes in or-

ganisations (Van der Meer 1999). However, Helm and Remington (2005) have identified

that the role of program sponsor is vital. This is particularly true in complex organisational

change programs (Remington and Pollack 2007). The involvement of these groups of

senior personnel met the need for a strong guiding coalition for the program, something

that Kotter (1996) identifies as essential.

A third prominent coalition was formed at a technical level of the organisation. One of

the projects within the program involved the development of a mentoring network, using a

risk based approach to knowledge management consistent with the approach reported on

by Sherman (2008). The change manager put considerable effort into bonding the senior

56 Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66

123

personnel invited to be coaches into a group. It was made clear that the success of the

program depended upon their involvement and drive for change. The group received

personalised communication from the sponsor EGM and CEO, and would go on to have

guiding influence beyond the limits of their project.

Stage 3: Develop a Vision and Strategy

UGF was described by the change manager as an organisation that culturally understands

and responds to risk. One of the key strengths of the organisation lay in the knowledge of

talented senior technical personnel. The organisation was already in a strong market

position. However, long-term contextual changes threatened this key strength. Upon

retirement employees take the unique skills, knowledge, experience and relationships that

they embody with them as they walk out the door. This is a commonly acknowledged

threat (e.g. Malone 2002, p. 112; DeLong 2004; Burke and Ng 2006, p. 88). Transfer of

knowledge from an older generation of experienced personnel to the generations following

was considered vital to UGF maintaining performance. This is consistent with the litera-

ture. Burke and Ng (2006) noted that those organisations that effectively transfer knowl-

edge between generations will be the least susceptible to issues associated with retiring

workers (p. 88). Knowledge transfer programs are acknowledged as a significant response

to an aging workforce in a wide variety of research (IAEA 2004, pp. 18–9; Krail 2005,

p. 35; Sherman 2008, p. 45). The vision for the program was to minimise this large risk to

the organisation’s competitive advantage, and was mostly defined in negative terms, as the

need to avoid the consequences of inaction.

The strategy to address this issue involved launching a wide variety of projects,

including: a mentoring project; developing communities of practice; role redefinition to

allow for accelerated specialist development; the introduction of a graduate program;

introduction of software supported discussion forums and analysis tools; development of

seminars focused on knowledge sharing; and a retirement preparation project focusing on

retention and workload issues. It was found that developing a vision and gaining accep-

tance for projects was relatively uncontentious. This can be attributed to broad and

common acceptance of the need to change. Of the four types of organisational change

identified by Cao et al. (2004, p. 105), this program would come to emphasise change of

cultures and values.

Stage 4: Communicating the Change Vision

The fourth Stage in Kotter’s Process is to communicate the vision for change. However,

Kotter notes that managers underestimate the amount of communication required to

develop a consistent understanding, an effort which may be hampered by inconsistent

messages, and lead to a stalled change implementation (1996, p. 85). Other research has

observed that ‘‘…in any company there is twice as much discussion about the weather than
about new strategies’’ (Pfeifer et al. 2005, p. 302). Ansari and Bell (2009, p. 159) have

identified the need to communicate the change as one of the two most important stages in

Kotter’s process.

Kotter identifies the error of ‘‘…under communicating the vision by a factor of 10 (or
100 or even 1,000)…’’ (1996, p. 9). In this organisational change at UGF more time and
effort was devoted to spreading the message and developing the visibility of the program

Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66 57

123

than any other program activity. However, adequately communicating the program vision

proved to involve more than repetition; something which is consistent with Sikorko (2008)

findings about change communication.

The change team focused on two broad groups of activities in communicating the

vision: visible senior support; and harnessing existing activities. Senior leaders were

regularly enlisted to talk about the need for change, and this was found to be an effective

strategy in developing senior support. For instance, on one occasion it was noted that an

executive appeared bored with the progress reports he had received. However, when he

was given slides and asked to present on the topic he became interested. In front of an

audience, he was animated and engaged, and afterwards requested more material to

present. This approach of engaging senior leaders through presentation to their teams and

to other product areas was reported as effective. It was also reported that the change team

needed to take the initiative to find new forums at which senior leaders could present,

rather than assuming this would happen without prompting. Despite CEO endorsement of

the Program, initiative could not be assumed.

The change team built on already planed activities within the organisation, often taking

senior managers’ presentation slides on other topics to draw out links to the program,

rewriting parts of the presentations to provide examples of the importance of the change,

including for the CEO. One example included the annual CEO and Executive road-show,

which was adapted to feature a strong emphasis on the program. The change team also

approached the EGM of HR and suggested that he may also want to discuss the program at

the road-show. This gave the EGM of HR an opportunity to join a politically expedient

movement, and helped to promote the program in multiple forums; at the road-show itself,

and later again when the EGM of HR reported to his leadership team.

Developing relationships with the organisation’s communications department also

proved significant. Good news articles about the program, such as updates about recent

coaching workshops, would be posted on the intranet. The change team nurtured positive

relationships with the communications department, which helped to keep news about the

Program at the top of the intranet news list for longer and with greater prominence.

Stage 5: Empowering Broad-based Change

The fifth stage in Kotter’s process involves removing obstacles to change, changing

structures or systems that undermine the vision, and encouraging innovative ideas (Kotter

1996, p. 21). As relationships with the communications team helped in the previous stage,

relationships with HR and other business units helped to remove structural barriers to

empowerment. For instance, unit business plans were centrally controlled for some units,

and locally controlled for others. The change team talked to each unit individually and to

the group overseeing central control of business plans to have aspects of the program

included in all business plans. Relationships with key personnel in HR helped to ensure

approval, and when it was approved the relationships with the communications team

helped to ensure that the program priorities featured prominently in unit plan

documentation.

Many of the blocks removed were at the project, rather than the program, level and can

be most clearly illustrated through reference to the mentoring project. To ensure coach

performance, all coaches attended training. The need for coaching training is consistent

with observations in the literature (Lubit 2001 p. 176). It has been identified that many

organisations have lost the ability to coach upcoming generations (Crawford et al. 2006,

58 Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66

123

p. 727). Coaches were also provided with a resource to assist with ongoing coaching on

coaching.

The sponsor encouraged coaches, protégés, and participants to experiment, with the

intention of empowering them to take independent action. Coaches were allowed to define

their coaching roles to suit their interests and skills. For instance, at one community of

practice it was revealed that a coach had taken his protégés on a field trip. Another coach

felt that their protégés’ negotiation skills needed to be further developed, and engaged an

external training provider. These actions were neither suggested nor pre-sanctioned, but

when revealed were actively supported.

Emphasis was also placed on ensuring that the coaches knew they had senior …

9Volume 29 � Number 1 � Spring 2011

Abstract

With the current environmental turmoil that is forc-
ing rather dramatic organizational changes today,
stress has become a particularly important issue with
which responsive leaders are being called upon to
deal. The purpose of the present treatise is to address
the nature of stress, the causes of stress, the impor-
tance of The Key for effective leadership in this
undertaking—and value of The Key in contemporary
organizational development. The opening analogy
of the leadership perspective of Aristotle will be used
in helping to focus on the need for successful leaders
to “be a very great many” in the process of effective
organizational stress management.

The Key with which a leader communicates with
employees and other individuals resides in the
thoughts and feelings that are based upon his atti-
tudes. Due to the fact that potential stressful issues
and events arise only when one’s thoughts and feel-
ings label them as such, The Key therefore becomes a
very important element in effective stress manage-
ment. The self-perception, purpose, internal power
versus external force, and adaptive skills and strate-
gies of effective leaders are also addressed. The
nature of stress, stress-reducing guidelines, recogni-
tion and response to stress, and the A-B-C paradigm
of stress management are dealt with as important
dimensions for the responsive leadership of stress
management in organizational development.
Throughout the material, examples are used to illus-
trate more fully the importance of The Key for effec-
tive stress management by responsive organizational
leaders.

The Key for Effective Stress
Management:
Importance of Responsive
Leadership in Organizational
Development

John R. Darling
Victor L. Heller

John R. Darling is a Distinguished Visiting
Professor of Management, TheUniversity of
Texas at San Antonio; and concurrently a
DistinguishedVisiting Professor of
International Business, Aalto University
School ofBusiness, Finland. He has served as
an administrator and/or professor atvarious
US and foreign universities, and is the author
of 12 books andmonographs, and over 250

journal articles. He has also served as aconsultant to such US
firms as Texas Instruments, AT&T, Citi Bank, PizzaHut, Holiday
Inns, Marriott, and Delta Airlines; and several foreignbusiness
firms.

Contact Information:
John R. Darling, Ph.D.
Distinguished Visiting Professor of Management
The University of Texas – San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas U.S.A.
E-mail: [email protected]

Aristotle, the renowned Greek philosopher, was once
asked by Philip of Macedonia, the ruler of
that day, to tutor his young son. His name was
Alexander, and in time he would become known
as Alexander the Great. Aristotle taught Alexander
about mathematics and other subjects, including the
fundamentals of leading people. In the middle of a
mathematics lesson one day, Alexander asked his
teacher: “How many can one person be?” Aristotle
then taught to this future extender of Greek civilization
throughout the known world—this very important
leadership lesson: “In the arena of human affairs—of
organizational leadership—one person can be a very
great many.”

Introduction

In virtually all dimensions of the socioeconomic
environment today, a state of enormous change is
occurring. Concerns focusing on such general
issues as business, government, politics, educa-
tion, health and social care, and religion, as well
as the specifics of managing, leading, investing,
borrowing, buying, owning, working and inno-
vating are permeating societies as never before
(Coy, 2008). However, it is not a situation to bring
fear or panic, but one that offers as no other peri-
od of human history opportunities in which many
creative and concern-based leaders can function
as a very great many in helping make a difference
in the personal and professional lives of individu-
als who are involved as stakeholders in their
organizations.

In times of change, opportunities abound. But
meaningfully responding to them requires quality
and versatile leadership, with sensitive and cre-
ative attitudes, thoughts and feelings, in order to
often address the adjustments needed by those
individuals affected within an organizational
arena (Thornton, 2009). This era offers opportuni-

10 Organization Development Journal

Dr. Victor L. Heller is the Director of
Executive Education, Learning
Community Advocate (Ethics Officer)
and an Associate Professor of
Marketing at the University of Texas
at San Antonio. His higher education
degrees are from Arizona State
University.

His thirty-six year career has blended academic and practi-
cal experiences. He has taught at Arizona State University,
Northern Arizona University, and the American Graduate
School of International Management (Thunderbird).

Vic’s practitioner experiences include; CEO of a non-profit
association, CFO of a not-for-profit organization, registered
lobbyist, director of a state agency, university administra-
tor, and an assistant to a mayor, a city manager and an
university president.

Dr. Heller has been active in numerous local, state, nation-
al and international professional boards and organizations.
His higher education degrees are from Arizona State
University.

Contact Information
Victor L. Heller, Ph.D.
Center for Professional Excellence
College of Business
The University of Texas at San Antonio
One UTSA Circle
San Antonio, Texas 78249-0634
210.458-7135

ties for growth and development, but this period
of time also places before leaders the basic issue
of adaptive and supportive involvement.
Therefore, a new “spirit of creative thinking and
opportunity awareness and response” must be
borne within these leaders, a spirit that evolves
from a commitment to the thought processes that
focuses on the opportunities that exist for creative
change within their organizations, and a sensitivi-
ty to the inevitable stress-based concerns that
reside within the individuals who will be called
upon to implement organizational responses to
those opportunities.

The most important freedom that human beings
possess is the freedom to make choices; and the
most important choice they make is that which they
think about. Why? With regard to individuals in
leadership roles, their thoughts and feelings, fun-
damentally based on attitudes, thereby also con-
trol the levels of organizational success, and every
other aspect of an organizational leader’s arena of
endeavor. Leaders become that which they think
about most of the time. Earl Nightingale (1956)
originally referred to this perspective as “The
Strangest Secret.” The Key to the successful lead-
ership of organizational enhancement and devel-
opment in today’s era of dramatic environmental
changes is thereby embedded in the leader’s
thoughts and feelings. This treatise focuses on
The Key, and its important role in guiding and
directing organizational leaders in dealing effec-
tively with the management of stress. Stress typi-
cally arises when organizations are confronted
with an environment of change, corresponding
with the consequent adjustments required. But
what is the essence of The Key to success in leader-
ship endeavors in today’s often chaotic arena of
change?

Concept of The Key

There is a fundamental basis for successful stress
management in today’s environment of change,
and it is basically found in the nature of the atti-
tudes and commensurate thoughts and feelings
generated by leaders (Byrne, 2006). When a
leader generates a thought and thereby creates a
feeling, those are communicated (vibrated) to oth-
ers with whom he (masculine terms are used as a
gender neutral reference in this material) is asso-
ciated—both within the internal universe of an
organization, and in the broader external universe
that includes the organization’s customers, suppli-
ers, investors, and other stakeholders. Similar
thoughts and feelings are then attracted from
individuals in both dimensions of the universe.
This comes about via the law of attraction on the
fundamental basis of the principle that “like
attracts like” (Losier, 2006). A leader’s thoughts
have a frequency and are magnetic. As that indi-
vidual generates thoughts, these are transmitted
(vibrated) out into the universe, and they magnet-
ically attract similar thoughts (Hanson, 2004).
The term “universe,” as used here, refers to all of
the elements to which a leader’s thoughts and
feelings are consciously or unconsciously con-
veyed, and the sources from which responses to
these thoughts and feelings are returned to that
individual. For the leader, the universe, therefore,
simultaneously exists in two major dimensions:
that which is internal to the organization and that
which is external. Employees comprise the major
dimension of the universe that is internal, and
customers, suppliers and investors the major
dimensions of the universe that is external. When
environmental changes bring about the necessity
for change within an organization, these changes
have the potential of creating stress in the individ-
uals affected. Therefore, effective stress manage-

11Volume 29 � Number 1 � Spring 2011

ment must be a constant companion in the
thoughts and feelings of responsive organization-
al leaders. Such has been the case of Cisco’s CEO,
John Chambers, as he has led the development of
his business firm to its position as the world’s
leading enterprise, despite the environmental
changes that have negatively affected many of its
competitors. In his leadership position, John
Chambers has become known as a positive
thinker and reflector of The Key, first class. He is
thereby recognized among the management lead-
ership of Cisco, and its major competitors, as a
superb leader in the arena of stress management
(McGirt, 2009).

A leader’s thoughts are thereby The Key that plays
a major role in creating not only the future for
that particular individual, as well as the organiza-
tion with which the leader is involved. A leader’s
real passions for an organization are significantly
facilitated by that which is attracted from the
stakeholders, as well as others in the multi-
dimensioned universe in response to the leader’s
thoughts and feelings. The Key for successful
leadership during times of change, and the com-
mensurate organizational development and
enhancement that must occur in response to these
changes, is, thus, a profound paradox—on the
surface appearing to be quite simple, but in reali-
ty enormously complex. As implied in the
metaphor noted at the beginning of this treatise, a
leader’s effective management of stress in times of
change requires a persona of being “a very great
many” in helping to address the perceptive needs
of many different individuals both within and
outside of an organization.

Whatever the leader basically summons into the
endeavors relating to organizational development
is therefore a reflection of that individual’s per-

sistent thoughts and feelings—and are thus his
direct responsibility. The leader’s thoughts there-
by determine the nature of the communications
(vibrations) that are emitted to the universe
(Hicks & Hicks, 2006). When the leader thinks
positively and creatively in responding to the con-
ditions and opportunities that exist, positive and
creative thoughts, and feelings are emitted, there-
by typically attracting positive responses from the
universe via the law of attraction. Positive fre-
quencies include courage, charity, joy, concern,
appreciation, hope, acceptance, patience and
peace. On the other hand, when the organization-
al leader thinks negatively, he is on a frequency of
typically attracting negative responses. Negative
thoughts, feelings and frequencies include disap-
pointment, anger, fear, jealousy, apathy, anxiety
and regret. These negative frequencies reduce a
leader’s power and influence, and tend to make
that individual weak—thereby generating addi-
tional negative influences into the organization
from the universe within the firm as well as from
outside of the firm, via the law of attraction.
Responses of the leadership of Toyota to product
quality issues that were documented by the inter-
national marketplace to be inaccurate and gener-
ated by inappropriate negative thoughts and feel-
ings thus resulted in a year-long period of extend-
ed crises within that firm. Due to this inaccurate
management of a severe crisis within Toyota, it is
expected to take several years before Toyota again
reaches its previous position as the world’s lead-
ing automobile manufacturer—if it ever does
obtain this position again (Heller & Darling,
forthcoming 2011).

A successful leader must, therefore, carry within
himself a recognition that his thoughts and feelings
do make a difference within an organization faced
with today’s conditions of global change and

12 Organization Development Journal

unrest. The leader sets a tone via his thoughts
and feelings—a tone that permeates the cultural
fabric of the organization. And those thoughts
and feelings are communicated (vibrated) to the
universe both consciously and unconsciously. For
example, whatever is assumed by the leader to
have worked in the past, under conditions of nor-
mal environmental conditions, must be given way
to whatever will work in the present—requiring a
creativeness in thought processes focusing on
communicating, motivating, mentoring, investing,
producing and innovating as never before experi-
enced relating to the involvement of employees
and others deemed necessary for success
(Engardio, 2008).

These contemporary times of change and even
varying degrees of turmoil therefore require posi-
tive and expectant thoughts and feelings in order
to provide the operational foundation for the
organization’s continuing or renewed quest for
meaningful development. The successful leader
must establish and maintain this foundation par-
ticularly during times in which it is necessary to
institute organizational changes and develop-
ments by taking strong action, and taking it
quickly, openly, straightforwardly and honestly
(Welch & Welch, 2008). Together, speed, trans-
parency, simplicity and forthrightness form a very
important “credibility thought-based scenario,”
and the closer any leader comes to meeting all
four of these particular issues and responsibilities,
the more credibility that he will establish.

Self-Perception and Purpose

In an era of environmental changes, a primary
test of successful organizational development lies
in a leader’s focus on people (e.g., employees, cus-
tomers and suppliers) and their meaningful con-

cerns within the context of change. For example,
this helps in the process of providing focused
meaning and a sense of worth and purpose for
the individuals in the organization—such as been
the leadership position established by Apple’s
CEO, Steve Jobs. His very positive self-perception
and well-known service-oriented purpose has
continued to lead Apple in its continuing quest
for innovative excellence and its leading position
in creative and innovative technology develop-
ment of products—the result of which has been
unmatched customer acceptance in the world
marketplace (Manjoo, 2010). One does not have to
be brilliant and well-educated to be a successful
leader; but one does have to deeply understand
people—how they feel, their thought and feeling
priorities, their primary concerns, and the most
effective ways to assist and influence them. This
is particularly important during periods of insecu-
rity and concern that typically prevail in organiza-
tional development’s responsive to today’s
requirements for change—and the potential
thoughts and feelings of stress. In reality, the con-
temporary environment setting calls for leaders
who can function successfully in times of poten-
tially high stress and turmoil, with the abilities
and skills to achieve the desired results.

Implementation of The Key by the successful and
resourceful leader begins with an awareness of
how he thinks and feels about himself (Hanson,
2004). How that individual views himself, posi-
tively or negatively, is an interactive aspect of The
Key and will thereby affect the organization’s
responsiveness to development needs in an era of
environmental turmoil. The prerequisite to
appreciating and respecting others within an
organization rests with the appreciation and
respect the leader has for himself. The leader
must thereby internally and externally think

13Volume 29 � Number 1 � Spring 2011

opportunistically, expectantly and successfully,
and must play positive attitudinal messages in his
mind moment after moment, over and over again.
In doing so, positive organizational development
in an era of operational change can become a
greater reality for the organization. The opportu-
nities that therefore emerge can become major
positive and innovative transformational turning
points for the future of the organization.

In potentially stressful situations that evolve in
the present era of change, the leader’s self-percep-
tion is also affected by his genuine concern for
and service to others. If one desires the quality of
professional accomplishments to increase, to
improve organizational fulfillment and be more
successful, the leader must positively and cre-
atively help improve the lives of employees and
others within his arena of endeavor (Hicks &
Hicks, 2006). Identifying, focusing on and imple-
menting a focal purpose of service to others in an
era of change are paramount to achieving the
leader’s ultimate personal and professional fulfill-
ment and success. When one seeks and chooses
to lead, particularly in times of environmental
changes, via a model of integrity, of dedication,
and of making a positive difference in the lives of
others with whom he is involved, it is absolutely
incredible what the leader can thereby accom-
plish.

In achieving success, there are issues on which
the leader needs to remain focused regarding his
service and involvement with employees and oth-
ers (Goldsmith & Reiter, 2007). These include the
following. (1) Judge others less. Realize that any
unusual behavior by these individuals may have
deeper causes. Be increasingly more empathetic
and tolerant. (2) Help those who are emotionally
down. Some associates and employees are dealing

with unusual amounts of personal stress them-
selves. Help them now and they will be motivated
to return that loyalty. (3) Focus on the future. Most
people want to talk and focus on “what could
have been.” Forget that tendency. The leader
should focus those with whom he is involved on
what’s possible and opportunistic for the future.
(4) Understand personal emotions. The leader may
also have some personal feelings of stress and
insecurity. Get help, be professional, and be very
cautious about conveying those feelings to others.

The thoughts and feelings of leaders during eras
of change and potential stress must be a reason-
ably optimistic reflection of the purpose (mission,
dream) to which they have dedicated themselves.
The tenor of responses they receive from the uni-
verse via the law of attraction become an affirma-
tion of the value given to the purpose on which
the leader has focused endeavors, and the impor-
tance of that purpose as perceived by others with-
in the organization and marketplace. The more
the leader identifies his purpose with making a
positive difference in the development of the
organization, and correspondingly uses the enor-
mous power of positive thoughts, the more posi-
tive power and support he will draw from the
universe via the law of attraction as enabling fac-
tors for success. This perspective is very impor-
tant in an organization faced with the stresses and
strains encountered during times of change. The
competitive and innovative turmoil of the interna-
tional marketplace for computer technology is a
case in point. Michael Dell, known by many in
and around this industry as The Comeback Kid,
and CEO of the Dell Computer Company, is a
strong adherent to The Key via his identified pur-
pose of making a positive difference in his organi-
zation. As an entrepreneurial icon and a Wall
Street phenom in his initial development of Dell

14 Organization Development Journal

into the world’s leading maker of personal com-
puters, he stepped away from that leadership
position for two and a half years during which
the firm suffered loss of market position.
However, in early 2007 he took back the CEO’s
position and began the process of reestablishing
the firm to its former position (Helman, 2007).

The leader’s individual purpose in fulfilling his
professional responsibilities is that to which he
chooses and agrees, and that in which he is per-
sonally aligned. A leader’s purpose on a journey
of professional fulfillment and success must fun-
damentally be oriented in service to others—pri-
marily the stakeholders in the organization, such
as employees and customers (Hicks & Hicks,
2006). One’s basic rewards in life come from that
which is first given—and for the leader to win,
others must also win. Therefore, the most mean-
ingful and rewarding purpose for fulfillment and
success in professional endeavors, particularly in
times of potential operational stress, is to focus on
making a positive contribution and difference in
the lives of others with whom he is involved—
thereby making a valuable and memorable posi-
tive footprint in the identified arena of endeavor
to which he has devoted himself. Perhaps Ralph
Waldo Emerson said it best in referring to success,
“ To laugh often and much; to win the respect of
intelligent people and the affection of
children…to know that even one life has breathed
easier because you lived; this is to have succeed-
ed” (Handy, 1998).

The power of a leader’s focused purpose of serv-
ice to others—particularly in an era of change,
finds its fruition in the leader’s achievement of
professional fulfillment and success, increased
perception of individual worth and value as a
person, and a quality of life for all that is achiev-

able in no other manner. When the leader focuses
on a purpose that takes him and his associates
outside of themselves and focuses dedication to a
purpose (mission) of serving others and making
their arenas of life better places, the leader has
taken a step that legitimately enhances a sense of
professional value, and an understanding that
one’s world is a better place because he has been
there and has accepted this unique calling. The
fulfillment of such a purpose brings a genuine
level of fulfillment and success to the leader and
his organization.

But what is the professional reward for establish-
ing and working towards such a purpose? It is
precisely the process of doing so! Said another
way: the foundational pillars of a leader’s life
(physical, intellectual, emotional, social, financial
and spiritual) are made more secure, and one’s
world is a better place because he has profession-
ally responded in such a manner. But the organi-
zational leader is never alone in such an endeav-
or—because as he thinks and feels with this type
of purpose, positive vibrations radiate out to the
universe which responds accordingly, via the law
of attraction. Therefore, the positive responses
that flow back to the established leader and his
organization typically will bring a sense of sup-
port, fulfillment, success, and an increase of addi-
tional opportunities for the leader and the organi-
zation.

The Focal Point of Stress

The Nature of Stress
During times of organizational change, potential
stressful events may occur in many different situ-
ations that may be overly complex, demanding or
unclear. Events that can generate potential stress
for organizational leaders and their employees

15Volume 29 � Number 1 � Spring 2011

and other stakeholders could focus on such issues
or events as individuals, tasks, organizational
changes, and/or environmental conditions that
may pose some degree of challenge or threat
(Hughes et al., 2009). In fact, however, experienc-
ing stress is, and always has been, based upon the
manner in which an individual thinks and feels
about an event. Thus, The Key, as noted earlier
becomes a very important element with regard to
the nature of stress—one empowers external
events and situations by the ways in which they
are viewed (Elkin, 1999).

Stress-Reducing Guidelines
Guidelines that can help the leader to effectively
deal with, reduce, or even eliminate a potentially
stressful event within himself and others during
times of change include the following: (1)
Recognize and continually review the primary pur-
pose(s) in life. When one’s purpose is grounded in
establishing and maintaining a positive footprint–
-supported by service to others—-such a purpose
greatly reduces the tendency to define events and
issues as stressful. (2) Constantly review the nature
of thoughts and feelings. As noted previously, when
individuals generally reflect positive thoughts
and feelings, the tendency to view events and
issues as stressful is greatly inhibited. (3) Monitor
potential warning signals. These include individuals
who are especially defensive or sensitive, appear-
ing to have little energy, excessive worrying, and
being overly nervous. (4) Identify causes of potential
stress. These may include responsibilities with
unusually high workloads and deadlines, or asso-
ciations with disorganized and demanding indi-
viduals.

(5) Discipline and enhance self-worth and self-talk.
When one can appropriately do these for himself,
the probably of viewing an event or issue as

stressful is greatly reduced, and even eliminated
in most situations. (6) Prioritize and manage time
and activities carefully. It is said in many ways that
the probability of encountering stress in life
increases when one’s time and activities are not
disciplined appropriately. (7) Be concerned with
that which one can do something about, and eliminate
worry over that which one has no control. Too often
stress occurs because an individual worries about
things over which they have virtually no control
or influence. (8) Follow a healthy lifestyle. This
includes a focus on balanced nutrition, regular
exercise, adequate sleep, absence from tobacco
(and drugs), and consumption of moderate
amounts of alcohol (if at all).

(9) Learn how to relax. This would include regular-
ly-scheduled activities such as deep-breathing
techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, think-
ing of calming words and images, listening to
pleasant music, and meditation. (10) Develop sup-
portive relationships. This would include having a
network of close and supportive associations with
colleagues and/or friends, and supportiveness of a
close companion is helpful. (11) Keep things in per-
spective. The stressfulness of any event depends
on the manner in which one thinks and feels
about it, not on the event itself, and one’s self-per-
ception, as previously noted. (12) Strive to identify
a purpose in every major event or issue that arises in
and around the organization. This may not always
be possible in the short-run, but in the long-run
positive-thinking individuals will usually be able
to understand the meaning and value in virtually
all events and issues.

All 12 of these guidelines can serve the concerned
and positive-thought-based leader well in efforts
that are generated to address stress in his/her per-
sonal endeavors, as well as assisting the leader in

16 Organization Development Journal

helping employees, customers, suppliers and oth-
ers to meaningfully deal with events and issues
that may be viewed by them as at least potentially
stressful. There is a basic fundamental principle
that responsive organizational leaders should
keep in mind in the process of fulfilling responsi-
bilities—particularly with regard to stress man-
agement and the commensurate organizational
development. This principle is that a basic purpose
for which such a leader is accountable in leadership
endeavors is to contribute in making the organization
in which he is involved a better place—to establish,
maintain and leave a positive and meaningful footprint
that helps to make a difference in the lives of those with
whom he shares the professional journey.

Recognition and Response to Stress
The importance of the leader’s and his employees
and others thoughts and feelings are thus a signif-
icant factor that is reflected in the manner to
which stress-related events and issues are recog-
nized and responded. Stress may therefore be
viewed as a negative-based external force that
occurs in one’s arenas of involvement—and the
leader’s and others’ responses to that force is the
power that resides within them in the form of
thoughts and feelings—based on the foundation
of their attitudes. (The issue of power versus force
is discussed below.) The degree of stress associat-
ed with a particular organizational change or situ-
ation therefore depends on one’s responsive
thoughts and feelings—the leader’s and others’
exercise of The Key—and is their direct personal
responsibility.

The concerned leader should keep in mind that
nothing in one’s personal or professional life
comes along …

Vol. 41, No. 2, March–April 2011, pp. 204–208
issn 0092-2102 �eissn 1526-551X � 11 � 4102 � 0204

informs®
doi 10.1287/inte.1100.0519

© 2011 INFORMS

People Skills: Optimizing Team
Development and Performance

Robert E. Levasseur
Walden University, St. Augustine, Florida 32084, [email protected]

This is another in a series of articles about some of the most effective models, methods, and processes of orga-
nization development (OD), also known as change management, a discipline that offers much to professionals
intent on solving real-world problems. Because it is based on a systemic view of organizations, OD includes
the whole universe of fuzzy people issues that increasingly determine the success or failure of efforts to imple-
ment otherwise flawless technical solutions. This article examines the stages of group development, the role that
conflict plays in the process, and the importance of conflict management in group development and team per-
formance. It also provides ideas for developing high-performing teams based on the application of established
change management principles and practices.

Key words: team development; team performance; change management; organization development.

How do you develop a high-performing team? Isit all about selecting the right team members, or
does leadership style play a role? If both are impor-
tant, whom do you select and what do you do to
motivate them to achieve the desired optimal per-
formance? Given the ubiquitous nature of teams and
their importance to organizational success, knowing
the answers to these questions is vital. Hence, the
focus in this article is on what it takes for groups to
develop into teams and how to optimize the process
(i.e., how to develop high-performing teams).

The Nature of Group Development
In a groundbreaking study, Tuckman (1965, p. 396)
studied the process by which groups develop and cat-
egorized this process into four stages: forming, storm-
ing, norming, and performing. In the forming (F )
stage, a group of individuals comes together for a spe-
cific purpose and spends an initial period adjusting
to one another and the stated group goal. Fueled by
resistance to group influence and to task requirements
for achieving the group goal, the storming (S) stage
is generally characterized by significant relationship
(i.e., interpersonal) conflict. To develop into a high-
performing team, a group cannot remain in this stage
because storming behaviors seriously impede, and in
many cases prevent, a group from making progress

toward its stated goal. If the group members can fig-
ure out how to do it, “resistance is overcome in the
third stage in which ingroup (sic) feeling and cohe-
siveness develop, new standards (for group behavior)
evolve, and new roles are adopted. In the task realm,
intimate, personal opinions are expressed” (p. 396).
This pivotal point in a group’s development is the
norming (N ) stage. In the final performing (P) stage
of group development, task work and teamwork (e.g.,
norms, roles, and processes) mesh to enable the group
to function as a high-performing team.

The Role of Conflict in Group
Development
It is evident from Tuckman’s model of the stages
of group development that conflict, particularly in
the storming phase, plays an important part in the
process. Jehn (1995) and Jehn and Mannix (2001)
examined the two primary types of conflict involved
in group development—task and relationship. With
regard to task conflict, they discovered that most
high-performing teams have low levels of task con-
flict at the beginning and end of a project, and mod-
erate levels in the middle. This corresponds to a high
degree of agreement on the group goal at the out-
set, a healthy disagreement over the pros and cons

204

Levasseur: People Skills
Interfaces 41(2), pp. 204–208, © 2011 INFORMS 205

0
0

20

40

60

80

100

120

20 40 60 80 100 120

Storming %

P
e
rf

o
rm

a
n
ce

%

Figure 1: This graph shows the relationship between storming �S� and
group performance �P �.

of various alternatives for achieving the goal in the
problem-solving middle phase, and a high degree of
agreement on the team’s output and its implemen-
tation at the conclusion of the project. Their finding
about relationship conflict made just as much sense:
“Teams performing well were characterized by ��� low
levels of relationship conflict, with a rise near project
deadlines” (Jehn and Mannix 2001, p. 238).

Figure 1 depicts the connection between storm-
ing (S) and performing (P) discovered by Jehn and
Mannix, which is that P is moderate or high only if
S is low. Note that the shape of the curve follows the
80–20 rule, as my experience in working with groups
as an organization development (OD) consultant sug-
gests, thus showing that even relatively moderate
levels of conflict (storming) prevent a group from
performing effectively. Tuckman’s model of group
development acknowledges the critical role of norm-
ing as an intervening variable between storming and
performing:

F → S → N → P� (1)
In effect, if a group continues to storm (i.e., experi-

ence moderate to high levels of relationship conflict),
it will not develop norms that support teamwork. As
a result of this low level of teamwork, the group will
continue to perform at a low level and probably not
achieve its stated goal.

With this basic knowledge of how groups develop,
and of the relationship of each stage of the pro-
cess to performance, what can a group leader do

to improve the chances of a group developing into
a high-performing team and achieving its goal? We
examine a number of ways in the remainder of the
article.

Optimizing Group Performance
Of the many things that a group leader might do to
develop high-performing teams, the following seven
are among those that seem to work the best.

1. Acknowledge the importance of task work and
teamwork from the outset.

2. Create ground rules for group behavior in the
first meeting and follow them.

3. Develop a shared vision of the group goal.
4. Use collaborative processes throughout the

process.
5. Use the action/research cycle to guide data col-

lection and decision making.
6. Manage conflict when it arises.
7. Involve users in the process from the outset.
Let us examine each in turn.

Task Work and Teamwork. Blake and Mouton
(1964) were among the first to identify the importance
of task work and teamwork to group success. They
defined the ideal management style as a combina-
tion of a “high concern for production” and a “high
concern for people” (p. 142). This ideal style, char-
acterized as highly collaborative, is a team-oriented
style. The connection to Tuckman’s final performing
stage of group development seems clear. Hence, the
message for a group leader who wishes to develop a
high-performing team is to approach the group devel-
opment process with the attitude that a continuous
focus on both task work and teamwork is essential to
the development of a high-performing team.

Ground Rules. One of the best ways to minimize
the storming phase on the way to high performance
is to establish ground rules for group behavior dur-
ing the group’s initial meeting in the forming stage,
and to apply and revise them as necessary through-
out the life of the group. A list of typical ground rules
might include items like the next four (Levasseur
2000, p. 44):

• We will encourage open and honest discussion.
• We will show respect for one another and not

engage in personal attacks.

Levasseur: People Skills
206 Interfaces 41(2), pp. 204–208, © 2011 INFORMS

• We will participate actively.
• We will listen attentively to what others have

to say.
Other ground rules that groups typically establish

include:
• We will start and stop on time.
• We will take frequent, short breaks.
• We will manage group conflicts openly and

actively.
Ground rules, although not norms, become norms

when the group accepts and uses them to guide the
interpersonal actions of its members. Much like an
agenda, which focuses a group on the tasks it must
accomplish, ground rules focus attention on how
group members want to behave.

If you refer back to Tuckman’s description of what
happens in the norming phase, you will recognize
that ground rules like the ones listed above corre-
spond to the norms that develop in groups in the
third stage of group development and signify the
group’s readiness to perform as a team. They also cor-
respond to the team behaviors described by Blake and
Mouton (i.e., exhibiting a simultaneous, high level
of concern for production and people). Does it not
stand to reason that developing what amounts to a
group code of conduct that fits the requirements for a
high-performing team at the very outset of a group’s
life, and applying and revising it whenever necessary
throughout the group’s life, can reap enormous bene-
fits over the life of the group? Believe me, it does! In
fact, this little gem of advice—develop ground rules
on day one—is probably the best-kept secret for suc-
cessful group development that I know about.

Shared Vision. Senge (1990) wrote a book about
system thinking, based on system dynamics model-
ing, as the critical fifth discipline required of modern
leaders. One of the other four disciplines he identi-
fied was the ability to create a powerful shared vision
that empowers followers and engages them in a col-
laborative effort to achieve an exciting, challenging,
and rewarding future state. Working with a group to
transform a stated group goal into a shared vision of
a desired future is another excellent way to accelerate
a group’s development into a high-performing team.
As such, it is a discipline that every leader who wants
to develop a high-performing team should master.

Collaborative Processes. The work of Johnson and
Johnson (1989), which summarized in a meta-analysis
the empirical findings of over 500 research studies
on the role of conflict versus cooperation in group
settings, strongly supports the findings of Blake and
Mouton about the importance of collaborative pro-
cesses to leadership and team performance. Johnson
and Johnson (1989) found that

On the basis of the research to date (which is consider-
able), it may be concluded that generally achievement
and productivity were higher in cooperative situations
than in competitive or individualistic ones, and that
cooperative efforts resulted in more frequent use of
higher-level reasoning strategies, more frequent gener-
ation of new ideas and solutions (i.e., process gains),
and greater transfer of learning (i.e., greater productiv-
ity on subsequent similar tasks done individually) than
did competitive and individualistic efforts. (p. 171)

Arguably, as organizations become more lateral and
distributed in response to changes in the modern
world, the importance of collaborative processes to
group development and performance will continue
to increase. The message for group leaders wishing
to accelerate a group’s progress towards becoming a
high-performing team is to employ such processes in
each stage of the group development process.

Action Research. Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in the
field of OD, developed the action research process
and applied it in his work. “Although Lewin was
an academician ��� he was just as eminent a man of
action ��� Moreover, he pulled it together when he
stated that there is ‘no action without research, and no
research without action’ ” (Burke 1987, p. 54). Lewin
advocated basing group decisions to take action to
change a system on solid research (in the form of
group analysis of data on system issues collected for
that purpose from the people in the system affected
by the potential decision) and collecting new data
after implementation to determine if further action is
necessary (Cummings and Worley 2008, pp. 24–27).
Essentially, the action research process is the scientific
method (Lewin was trained initially as a physicist)
applied to social systems, with one notable differ-
ence. Instead of one individual making the decisions
in a detached fashion based on hard data only, action
research is a democratic process that also utilizes the
subjective opinions of those potentially affected by the

Levasseur: People Skills
Interfaces 41(2), pp. 204–208, © 2011 INFORMS 207

decisions and involves them in the problem-solving
and decision-making process directly to the extent
possible (Gold 1999). The impact on group develop-
ment of using the action research process comes from
its egalitarian, collaborative nature, which of neces-
sity involves the group members from the outset in
a team effort with people in the organization affected
by the change. This focus on teamwork, as you will
recall, is a hallmark of high-performing teams.

Manage Conflict. It should be clear at this point
that minimizing interpersonal conflict is critical to
team development and performance. The previous
five strategies focus on creating a group culture that
supports shared purpose and collaborative effort,
thereby minimizing relationship conflict. However,
even in groups that apply these methods, conflicts
are inevitable. What do you as the leader do when
they arise?

First, and most importantly, you do not try to avoid
dealing with the conflict. Low-performing teams are
notorious for conflict avoidance, which has numerous
undesirable by-products, such as passive-aggressive
behavior and high degrees of emotional task con-
flict (which often masks high degrees of unresolved
relationship conflict). As we have seen, storming is
not conducive to team development and performance.
Hence, dismissing conflicts with such statements as
“Let’s stick to the agenda” is not an appropriate
response to conflict if the goal is to develop a high-
performing team.

The key to resolving group conflicts is to iden-
tify the root cause prior to taking action. Three pri-
mary sources of relationship conflict in groups are
(Levasseur 2000, p. 76):

• the natural evolution of the group;
• differences in people’s personality types;
• disruptive people.
As we have seen, all groups go through phases

in their development (if successful) into a high-
performing team. Initially, a group is dependent on
its leader, generally resulting in a low level of task
and relationship conflict and reasonable performance.
However, at some point the group needs to assume
responsibility for its own work and process if it is
to develop into a high-performing, self-directed team.
It is at this point that the potential for storming is
greatest. Leadership behaviors that help to mitigate

this crucial transition include (1) reminding the group
members that they must work through this stage to
achieve their goal of high performance, (2) point-
ing out that the longer they spend in the storming
stage, the less likely they are to achieve that goal, and
(3) insisting that they decide on any changes in tasks
or ground rules by consensus, i.e., in a collaborative
fashion.

If interpersonal (i.e., relationship) conflict arises
during other stages of a group’s development, look
for another potential cause—namely, a personality
conflict between two (or more) of the group’s mem-
bers. This type of conflict most often occurs in one of
two ways: either between extroverted and introverted
members, or between quick or deliberate decision
makers. The former conflict arises because extroverts
tend to dominate the discussion, if permitted. As a
result, introverts do not feel as if they have a say, and
extroverts feel like the introverts do not contribute.
The solution is to develop and enforce a ground rule
that provides air time for all group members to voice
their opinions if they wish.

The latter conflict arises because some group mem-
bers want to focus exclusively on the task work and
decide on necessary actions quickly, whereas others
prefer to go through a more structured process that
allows time for all to contribute, reflect, and then
make a joint decision. The solution is to point out (1)
the value of processes (such as ground-rule develop-
ment and maintenance) to teamwork (one of the two
essential elements of a high-performing team) and the
importance of taking time to develop them early on
when they are most needed, i.e., to minimize storm-
ing; and (2) that if the group members focus on devel-
oping necessary processes early on, it will free them
up to perform at peak effectiveness when the group
develops into a team.

One final source of group conflict, and one that
occurs all too frequently, involves a disruptive person.
Individuals who fit into this category include people
with preconceived ideas, who are unwilling to discuss
alternatives, and people who are highly competitive
and, therefore, averse to any kind of collaborative (i.e.,
team) effort. The key to handling disruptive group
members is to use peer pressure to keep them aligned
with group goals and processes. To do this, (1) do
not allow the disruptive person to provoke you into

Levasseur: People Skills
208 Interfaces 41(2), pp. 204–208, © 2011 INFORMS

a one-on-one confrontation. Instead, (2) ask the group
members if they agree with the individual’s criticism.
If they do, then lead a group discussion aimed at
resolving the issue(s) raised by the disruptive person.
If they do not, then urge them to discuss the impact of
the disruptive behavior and to develop a ground rule
that they can use to deal with it should that prove
necessary. If the disruptive behavior recurs despite
the presence of a ground rule aimed at prohibiting it,
then (3) ask the group to decide on the individual’s
fate, which may include expulsion from the group if
necessary.

These are, of course, just some of the methods you
as a group leader might employ to manage relation-
ship conflict. Nevertheless, they are among the most
useful ways I have found to help groups manage con-
flict and develop as rapidly as possible into high-
performing teams.

Involve Users. No list of ways to create success-
ful, high-performing teams would be complete with-
out this last piece of advice: “People support what
they help to create” (Levasseur 2007, p. 383), which
I learned from a very wise professor when I was in
business school, and which gets to the heart of what
it takes to be successful in implementing any new
method for supposedly doing things better. When a
group involves users of its anticipated group product
in the process of developing the product, it does two
things. First, it engages group members in a collab-
orative dynamic that, as described earlier, catalyzes
the group’s development as a high-performing team
and improves the chances of achieving the group’s
goal. Second, it engages and empowers the users, thus
reducing resistance to change and increasing the odds
of ultimate project success (Levasseur 2010).

Conclusion
In this article, we examined the stages of group devel-
opment, illustrated the role of conflict and the impor-
tance of conflict management in group development
and team performance, and provided ideas for devel-
oping high-performing teams based on the appli-
cation of established change management principles
and practices. Hopefully, as a result, more group lead-
ers will apply these proven methods to facilitate the
development of their groups into high-performing
teams, thus enabling greater levels of group and orga-
nizational effectiveness in the future.

References
Blake, R. R., J. S. Mouton. 1964. The Managerial Grid: The Key to

Leadership Excellence. Gulf Publishing Co., Houston, TX.
Burke, W. W. 1987. Organization Development: A Normative View.

Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.
Cummings, T. G., C. G. Worley. 2008. Organization Development and

Change, 9th ed. South-Western Cengage Learning, Mason, OH.
Gold, M., ed. 1999. The Complete Social Scientist: A Kurt Lewin Reader.

American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.
Jehn, K. A. 1995. A multidimensional examination of the benefits

and detriments of intragroup conflict. Admin. Sci. Quart. 40(2)
256–282.

Jehn, K. A., E. A. Mannix. 2001. The dynamic nature of conflict:
A longitudinal study of intragroup conflict and group perfor-
mance. Acad. Management J. 44(2) 238–251.

Johnson, D. W., R. T. Johnson. 1989. Cooperation and Competition:
Theory and Research. Interaction Book Company, Edina, MN.

Levasseur, R. E. 2000. Breakthrough Business Meetings: Shared Leader-
ship in Action. iUniverse.com, Lincoln, NE.

Levasseur, R. E. 2007. People skills: Marketing OR/MS—A people
problem. Interfaces 37(4) 383–384.

Levasseur, R. E. 2010. People skills: Ensuring project success—A
change management perspective. Interfaces 40(2) 159–162.

Senge, P. M. 1990. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the
Learning Organization. Doubleday, New York.

Tuckman, B. W. 1965. Developmental sequence in small groups.
Psych. Bull. 60(6) 384–399.

Copyright 2011, by INFORMS, all rights reserved. Copyright of Interfaces is the property of INFORMS:

Institute for Operations Research and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a

listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or

email articles for individual use.

feature

44 TJ January 2010 www.trainingjournal.com

Mastering the art of
change Ken Blanchard offers some strategies for successfully leading change
I

t takes a whole team of
people to create a great
company but just one lousy
leader to take the whole
business down the pan.

Too many leaders’ egos are
far too big; they want to make
their mark by making changes
– maybe change is desperately
needed – but, because they try to
force results, the only outcomes
are lower productivity, time
and money wasted, and higher
employee turnover.

If people can’t see the need for
change, they don’t want it, won’t
stand for it and will go out of
their way to avoid, if not

sabotage, it.
Research

carried out

by my colleagues Pat Zigarmi
and Judd Hoekstra at The Ken
Blanchard Companies last year
revealed the shocking fact that
up to 70 per cent of all change
initiatives fail; a figure so high
it means that most change
initiatives are doomed to failure
from the start.

So, the question becomes
why bother trying to change?
Wouldn’t it be better to stick
with the status quo? After
all, if the current situation
isn’t working, a disruptive,
unpredictable and stressful
change effort that ultimately
falls flat on its face is only going
to make things much worse.

The outlook for change is even
gloomier when you consider
another surprising figure
uncovered during our research:
29 per cent of change initiatives
are launched without any formal
structure whatsoever. That’s 29
per cent of leaders with blind
faith in the power of prayer to
Saint Jude, the patron saint of
desperate cases and lost causes.

These figures are doubly
worrying given the current
financial climate, when most
changes that organisations
are having to initiate aren’t
even ones they want to make.

Companies already facing tough
times are compounding their
chances of collapse. Yes, they
might need to cut back on
product or service offerings; yes,
they might have to downsize; yes,
they might have to adapt their
business models, but poorly-
executed change can only deliver
a whole new set of far-reaching
and significant consequences in
the short- and longer-term –
consequences that are disruptive
at best, disastrous at worst.

There has never been a more
important time to ensure change
efforts intended to maintain
growth, expansion and morale are
properly managed. Almost every
company I talk to is facing some
kind of change implementation
because of competitive pressures,
economic challenges, skill
shortages, a necessity to grow
and expand, or the need for a
culture change. This is how I
believe change should be done.

Change fails for
predictable reasons
There are always a few people
who are up and raring to go with
change, but most are skeptical to
neutral at the start. People are
human; few of us like any kind
of change and our natural default
position when faced with it is to
stick our heads in the sand and
hope it will go away.

In the context of business,
everyone involved needs to
understand the business case for

Up to 70 per cent of all
change initiatives fail

www.trainingjournal.com January 2010 TJ 45

feature

www.trainingjournal.com January 2010 TJ 45

change or they will focus only on
what they have to lose, not what
they have to gain. The first step
on the road to successful change
is for leaders to recognise this;
just because you see the need for
change, don’t assume your people
will too.

Second, remember people
resist being controlled more
than they resist change. Don’t
confuse announcing the change
with implementing it. Too many
change efforts start with all
the managers getting together
behind closed doors and deciding
what should be done. They never
think of telling their people what
is going to happen and why, let
alone canvassing their opinions,
ideas or suggestions because
they are the people closest to the
front line and who just might be
able to see what ultimate impact
the change could have on the
customer.

This kind of top-down change
‘implementation’ is bound to
fail because of a lack of buy-in
due to low involvement on the
part of each individual involved.
Good leaders need to credit their
people with some intelligence
(why else did you hire them in
the first place?) and involve them
at every stage.

This move is crucial to the
successful, long-term outcome of
any change process. If you don’t
get buy-in from all your people,
they might comply with change
at the beginning but will revert
back to old behaviours when the
pressure to change is off. Change
will be seen as a time-specific
‘one-off ’ rather than a lasting
and positive programme for
development.

The six stages of concern
Getting buy-in from your
people means addressing their
predictable six stages of concern.

First, people want information;
not a pushy sales talk about the
change, just information and
answers to questions about what
the change will involve, why it

is needed, how fast the change
needs to be and why things can’t
stay as they are.

Next, things get personal.
What will happen to me
personally, because of this
change? What’s in it for me – or
not? Will I have the time to
implement the change and will
I need to learn any new skills?
These personal concerns are the
most crucial ones for change
leaders to address, individually,
right from the start. People
need clear answers to these
information and personal
change concerns well before
the change is started.

Once the change process is
in motion, implementation
concerns arise: questions
such as what do I need
to do, and when? What
help will I get? How
long will it take? How
will our structure and
systems change? Is what
we are experiencing
typical?

Fourthly
come impact
concerns: is
this making a
difference? Is it worth
it? Are we getting anywhere?
People want to know whether
their efforts are paying off. If
leaders have done a good job on
the first three concerns, they will
find people are more likely to
value, and see, the benefits of the
change themselves.

The next set of concerns that
need to be tackled are around
collaboration. Once employees
have seen the benefits of change,

they will want to share the good
news around and get any relevant
others involved.

The last stage of concern
revolves around refinement –
making continual improvements.
The leaders’ role is to facilitate
this process, modifying the
change approach where
appropriate to learn from lessons
of the past. This is the point at
which to ask ‘what ideas do you
have to make things even better?’

Change leadership strategies
Tackling all six stages of concern
requires leaders to master three

critical leadership
skills:

a) Diagnosis
To be able
and willing

to accurately
assess the
concerns
of people
being asked

to change
b) Flexibility

The ability to
use a

Twenty nine per cent
of change initiatives
are launched without
any formal structure
whatsoever

feature

46 TJ January 2010 www.trainingjournal.com

variety of change leadership
strategies effectively

c) Partnering for performance
The willingness to see people
being asked to change as
partners on the journey, to let
them express their concerns
and help increase their
commitment to the changes
needed.

We have developed the
Blanchard Leading Through
Change programme in response
to the high rate of change failure
and have identified nine specific
leadership strategies to initiate,
implement, develop and sustain

change:

Strategy 1: Expand
involvement and influence
I believe the best way
to help change work
is to increase the
amount of influence
and involvement of the
people being asked to
change, resolving their
concerns as you go.
Unless this happens,

life is going to be
very tough for

those

responsible for implementing
change. This is a strategy that
is best used consistently and
relentlessly throughout the
change process
Outcome: Buy-in

Strategy 2: Explore possibilities
If there’s one thing worse that
a change effort failing, it’s the
wrong change effort succeeding!

However pressured leaders feel
they may be into rushing into
a decision, not taking the time
to explore alternatives could be
disastrous. By involving others
in this process – particularly
those who are customer-facing,
because that is where any change
must reap benefits – information
concerns are immediately
lowered and better solutions
identified.
Outcome: Options

Strategy 3: Select and align
the leadership team Effective
change requires teamwork, not
dictatorship.

Teams chosen to lead change
should represent a range of
people from within your
organisation – advocates of
change and skeptics; formal and
informal leaders – all working
towards a compelling, inspiring,
and unified voice in favour of
change.
Outcome: One voice

Strategy 4: Explain the business case
for change Don’t make this too

revolutionary! You don’t
want people to get the
impression that nothing
has been working to date.
The attitude you want to
project is one of building

on the past, rather
than rejecting it

completely.
Explain
why, and
what,
change is
needed in

www.trainingjournal.com January 2010 TJ 47

feature

Ken Blanchard is the founder of The
Ken Blanchard Companies. He can be
contacted via www.kenblanchard.com

response to new market
forces, regulations, advances in
technology competitive pressures
etc. Continue to build buy-in by
seeking colleagues’ views on what
they see in the internal/external
environment that drives the need
for change.
Outcome: Compelling case for
change

Strategy 5: Envision the future
Creating a clear vision means not
only getting people on board for
change, but also enabling them
to see their role once the change
has been implemented.

Put forward a vision of an
inspiring new future for your
organisation but don’t forget to
put individuals in the picture
frame too, so they can get excited
about their future role.
Outcome: Inspiring vision

Strategy 6: Experiment and ensure
alignment For change to succeed,
leaders must be able to break
through walls separating
departments, units and
personalities.

From the start, figure out
who is up for change and who
isn’t and address their concerns,
courting those who are neutral.

Create a step-by-step plan
for implementation and
assessment; make sure you can
provide the right and sufficient
resources; create the necessary
infrastructure for change;
account for what could go wrong,
and plan for ‘quick wins’ and
implementation problems.

Remember that it is typical
for performance and, potentially,
profits to dip as change is
introduced. A pilot programme

helps identify and address
implementation problems.
Outcome: Collaborative effort
and infrastructure

Strategy 7: Enable and encourage
It might be necessary to
use coaches to instruct and
encourage people through the
change, especially regarding
implementation concerns. Such
coaches might be those early
adopters and supporters of the
plans for change, those who
participated in any pilot schemes
and can speak about their
experiences.

Leaders must accent the
positive, treating mistakes, for
instance, as ‘learning moments’
rather than opportunities to
apportion blame.
Outcome: New skills and
commitment

Strategy 8: Execute and
endorse Hold both leaders and
employees accountable for
implementing change. Measure
its impact and share the results.
Deliver swift feedback and
collect and distribute success
stories.

Ask customers if they have
noticed anything different;
remove any obstacles to
successful implementation,
and ditch anything that no
longer makes sense or feels too
bureaucratic.
Outcome: Accountability and
early results

Strategy 9: Embed and extend Our
goal is sustainable change! And
it’s great to reach the goal! But
don’t stop there – kick the ball
in and anchor it to the back of
the net.

Share best practice; document
how change works in practice
(not theory); offer cross-training
and mentoring opportunities;
indentify new challenges. Most
important of all, celebrate
success!
Outcome: Reach and sustainable
results

Mastering the art of change
There is no mystery about
change! The key to getting it
right is to take your time in the
planning process, investing in
people and pilots at the front-
end to test-drive change to save
time and increase buy-in and
performance in the longer term.
Then speak with one voice about
the proposed change, ensuring
change is done with your people,
not to them.

Collaboration, teamwork,
and engagement help build
up interest and excitement; a
combined effort from those who
will effect change, as well as
those on whom it has an impact,
will drive the process through.

And if leaders can address
individuals’ concerns, and
develop strategies to resolve
them throughout the process,
the likelihood of initiating,
implementing and sustaining
successful change will be
increased dramatically. 

You can download a copy of the
white paper produced following
Pat Zigarmi and Judd Hoekstra’s
research on change – Leadership
Strategies for Making Change Stick
– at http://www.kenblanchard.com/
Business_Leadership/Effective_
Leadership_White_Papers

The best way to help
change work is to
increase the amount of
influence and involvement
of the people being asked
to change, resolving their
concerns as you go

Copyright of Training Journal is the property of Fenman Ltd. and its content may not be copied or emailed to

multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users

may print, download, or email articles for individual use.

By Robert D. Greene and
Heather Berthoud1

1. This is a revised and updated version of an article
that appeared in the OD Practitioner, 39(2).

“In the past most clients may have called for a brief diversity training, or, perhaps, suggestions
on how to build a culture of inclusion; now many are asking how they can build organizations
that address bias and structural racism. These clients understand they are asking for longer
term work that will examine deep­seated issues in their internal and external practices.”

OD is Diversity
Differences are at the Heart of the Field

After meeting with the top executive
and the senior management team,
Jerry, an OD consultant, designs an
off-site to begin a change process for
a medium size organization. The off-
site proceeds apace until one partici-
pant makes a statement about race
that some take as charged. A heated
exchange between two staff—one
black, one white—ensues. Caught off-
guard and not sure what to do, Jerry
continues with the planned agenda,
though the tension remains for the
rest of the day.

The US Department of Justice issued
a report in March, 2015, showing
the practices of the police and courts
of Ferguson, MO, predictably and
disproportionately affected the Black
population as the outcome of a pat-
tern of civil rights violations.

The impact of historical national policies
and the impact of internalized bias are
receiving increased coverage in everything
from criminal justice to unemployment,
housing, healthcare, and technology. It is
vital to recognize these dynamics in our
OD work also. In the past most clients may
have called for a brief diversity training,
or, perhaps, suggestions on how to build
a culture of inclusion; now many are ask-
ing how they can build organizations that
address unconscious bias and structural
racism. These clients understand they are
asking for longer term work that will exam-
ine deep-seated issues in their internal and
external practices.

This article presents a case for diver-
sity2 being fundamental to OD and offers
ways to foster a diversity lens and improve
consultants’ work with diverse groups.

It is well understood that demograph-
ics in the US are changing rapidly. It is no
longer possible to assume that there is “no
diversity” in organizations. And with the
national discourse becoming more influ-
enced by concepts of implicit bias (Banaji
& Greenwald, 2013) and structural racism,
it is increasingly difficult for organiza-
tions and practitioners to escape their own
participation in the larger societal dynamic.
Failing to attend to diversity, that is, to fail
to note issues related to race, gender, sexual
orientation, ethnicity, physical disability,
and other identities and the relative power
assigned to them socially and institution-
ally can limit the impact of organizational
change processes. Practitioners are too
often “surprised” when issues related
to diversity arise in assessments, meet-
ings, and other interventions. This is due,
in part, to seeing diversity as a separate
specialty rather than a fundamental area
of competence critical to all dimensions of
OD practice.

Many OD practitioners focus on one or
a few areas or approaches, such as strategic
planning, appreciative inquiry, leadership

2. The word diversity, once favored, is often
replaced by several others expressions—diversity
and inclusion, cultural competence, equity, multi-
culturalism, pluralism, and more—as practitio-
ners grapple with how to name process, structure,
practice, outcome, and description in a single term.
In this article we use diversity though we acknowl-
edge it, like all other terms, is limited.

36 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 47 No. 4 2015

development, etc. It is, of course, reason-
able to focus on what one most enjoys and
does well. Diversity is seen as one of these
specialties, and many practitioners do not
believe they need skill or awareness if they
“don’t do diversity.”

Although we are not proposing that
every OD practitioner needs to be a diver-
sity “expert,” we believe it is impossible to
implement OD interventions effectively
in the 21st century without at least basic
awareness and competence in diversity
matters. The principles of diversity—
broad and meaningful participation by all

members of a system in order to maximize
available creativity and energy for organi-
zational learning and effectiveness—are
fundamental to OD. Meaningful participa-
tion is constrained or augmented by inter-
nalized and expressed biases and power
differentials. Diversity requires looking at
the impacts of any change effort on differ-
ent subpopulations within the system. Too
much is lost if diversity is ignored, and, in
fact, it is possible for an OD practitioner
to do harm in a system if diversity is not
adequately taken into account.

Rather than a specialty area, we see
diversity as, by definition, a fundamental
part of OD. Attentiveness to diversity is
critical for: taking a systems perspective,
using the OD process, and maximizing
stakeholder participation.

Taking a systems perspective. Understand-
ing a system in its complexity is aided by
recognizing multiple perspectives and the

interplay among departments, sub-units,
and identity groups. By paying atten-
tion to the impact of actions on different
populations, we make sure we account
for key aspects of the system, and, there-
fore, support comprehensive and last-
ing change. For us to help leaders guide
change, it is critical to know if responses
due to feeling listened to/ignored or highly
motivated/resistant break down along
the lines of identity groups. We therefore
need to be “tracking”—noting the different
experiences and perspectives of identity
subgroups within a system. Attention to

diversity encourages us to listen to key
stakeholders who might otherwise be
ignored in the assessment phase of an
engagement. While those in the majority
may be excited by the “preferred future”
identified through Appreciative Inquiry,
others may feel ignored or marginal-
ized (for a discussion of AI and diversity,
see Royal, 2006). For example, unless
intentionally engaged, an organizational
restructuring may further distance sup-
port staff, who in urban areas are often
primarily women of color, from program
staff, who are more likely to be majority
White. Attending to diversity increases
the likelihood that a change process will
benefit the system as a whole along with
its many parts. In one organization, solu-
tions for how to address tensions between
different ethnic and racial constituencies
was a conundrum until the organization
engaged staff from those same con-
stituencies as content experts rather than

just implementers of strategy they were
alienated from.

Taking a systems perspective also
extends to understanding the larger system
of which the organization is a part. For
example, internal tensions among sub-
groups may arise as a result of external
events. The challenges faced by Muslims
in the US in the wake of the September 11,
2001, attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon can all-too-easily become
workplace suspicion or hostility. Ignoring
the larger context readily leads to a feeling
of isolation for those in the minority. In
one organization, the lone Person of Color
on the management team found herself
feeling isolated when no one in the office
mentioned recent killings of unarmed
Black people. Similarly, silence on the
legalization of gay marriage left one staff
member of another organization wonder-
ing whether she was seen and valued.

Implementing the OD process from entry
through closure. At each step along the way
of the OD process—entry, contracting, data
gathering, and analysis, etc.—OD practitio-
ners must remain open to what is going on
in the system from multiple perspectives
and identity groups. To be blind to diversity
dynamics can mean missing subtle and
not-so-subtle forces driving or inhibiting
change. How can we do an adequate force-
field analysis if we miss important forces?
There is a growing literature showing how
to utilize OD to conduct diversity work (see
for example, Bailey W. Jackson, 2006)—
we are making a corollary point: that it is
actually impossible to do OD well without
attending to diversity.

Maximizing stakeholder participation.
When the field now called OD was in
formation, Kurt Lewin stressed that people
commit to what they help create. This
insight leads us to develop skills to foster
maximum participation. But if participa-
tion is to be meaningful, it is essential to
explore who is participating, who is not,
and the barriers that prevent some from
full inclusion. In fact, it is necessary to
watch for exclusion so that we and our
clients can foster inclusion. Having people
in attendance at a meeting, workshop,

The principles of diversity—broad and meaningful partici-
pation by all members of a system in order to maximize
available creativity and energy for organizational learning and
effectiveness—are fundamental to OD. Meaningful participation
is constrained or augmented by internalized and expressed
biases and power differentials. Diversity requires looking at the
impacts of any change effort on different subpopulations within
the system. Too much is lost if diversity is ignored, and, in fact,
it’s possible for an OD practitioner to do harm in a system if
diversity is not adequately taken into account.

37OD is Diversity: Differences are at the Heart of the Field

or whole-systems event is a good start. Is
there true dialogue that takes a variety of
interests into account? For example, are
women or people from a certain level in
the organization noticeably silent? It is
also important to look at how people from
different groups are included beyond
the meeting, and whether there is broad
participation in creating strategy and driv-
ing implementation. We can therefore
maximize inclusion by creating space to
dialogue and to demonstrate the integ-
rity of the process by including often
overlooked participants. For example, at
a planning meeting, one participant, an
administrative assistant, remained almost
completely silent. At a break, when asked
by the facilitator if there was anything
she would like to share, she said no, she
didn’t matter. Her organizational position,
in combination with her race, class, and
gender, rendered her silent and invisible.
Others in the group were happy to talk
around her. With further encouragement,
she did start to participate, and by engag-
ing her, not only did the group gain her
insight, they also had an opportunity to
examine ways they had been excluding her
and others.

Important to recognize here is that
the exclusion and marginalization in these
examples can happen even when leaders,
colleagues, and consultants are well-
intentioned and value full participation (we
explored this apparent paradox in a previ-
ous article: Berthoud & Greene, 2014). A
growing body of research documents deep-
seated bias even among those who honestly
profess to not being prejudiced (Banaji &
Greenwald, 2013). Among major corpora-
tions, Google has taken steps to explore
this kind of bias (Manjoo, 2014). This is
important work, as the numbers of women
and People of Color in the tech workplace
remain disproportionately low. And there
are emerging efforts to find ways to recog-
nize and address the impact of biases in
policing with hopes of reducing the unnec-
essary use of force (Neyfakh, 2014).

As stated above, diversity is crucial
to consider throughout the OD process—
from entry through evaluation. Along with
cultivation of our use-of-self as an instru-
ment of change, attending to diversity

opens us to tracking data we might oth-
erwise overlook. Upon entering a client
system, we can increase rapport and trust
with a wide range of individuals by perceiv-
ing accurately how people of different
demographic groups commonly respond
to us. For example, the authors, a Black
woman and a White man, frequently notice
that people from different groups respond
to us differently. Furthermore, we can use
how people respond to us as consultants
as a guide to how they might respond
to each other in the system. Attending

to diversity also impacts the choices of
interventions we make and helps us more
readily recognize the, possibly unintended,
consequences of our choices. At each step
we are working to build trust, scanning the
system, and increasing our and the client’s
awareness and options. Table 1 illustrates
some of what is to be gained when diversity
is attended to throughout the OD process
(and, therefore, potentially lost if diversity
is overlooked).

Returning to the first vignette men-
tioned at the beginning of the article,

Table 1. What is Gained by Attending to Diversity Throughout the OD Process

Attending to diversity strengthens our OD work. Fundamental information
necessary for a successful OD consultation is more readily available at each step
of the OD process when we remain aware of diversity. And, of course, much will be
overlooked if diversity is not intentionally tracked throughout the process.

» Taking a systems perspective.
Enhanced ability to use multiple perspectives to gain a more complete picture
of the organization. Greater ability to observe power in play. Greater attention
to the interplay among departments, sub­units, and identity groups within a
system.

» Enhanced insight/skill in use-of-self and presence.
Greater self­awareness and increased skill in using oneself as an instrument
of change. Better understanding of our presence in groups and the common
responses people of different identity groups have to us. Increased ability
to read subtle dynamics. Increased authenticity, including with people of
identity groups different from our own.

» Making stronger connections.
Enhanced ability to build rapport and trust with diverse constituencies from
first contact.

» Improved intervention choices.
Better awareness of likely consequences of choices, including potentially
unintended consequences. Enhanced skill in choosing data gathering and
group process methods and interventions that support all groups’ meaningful
participation.

» Maximizing stakeholder participation.
Greater ability to create a place to dialogue and to demonstrate the integrity
of the process by including often overlooked participants.

» Enhanced ability to observe and affect group dynamics.
Greater sensitivity to the unsaid, covert processes, and the voices not
speaking up. Reduced likelihood that we will impact the group negatively by
working unconsciously from our biases or ignorance.

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 47 No. 4 201538

a number of questions come to mind
about the consultant’s preparation for the
off-site and the entire change process.
What happened during the contracting
phase? What were the expectations shared
between consultant and client? How did
Jerry gather data and from whom? Who
seemed open and who appeared tentative
or reserved when interacting with him?
Were there indicators of racial tension

present that Jerry had failed to pick up
on? And why did the consultant attempt
to maintain the planned agenda when the
strong tensions surfaced?

So what is to be done? Practitioners
at all levels of experience, whether they
have developed skills and tools regarding
diversity or not, have options for action at
each step of the OD process. A few of the
options available are listed in Table 2.

An Example of Attending to
Organizational Diversity

The first vignette presented at the begin-
ning of the article is a composite of situ-
ations we have experienced. In contrast,
here is an actual case in which the con-
sultant, who is clear that she does not “do
diversity,” effectively handled a challenging
situation. An organization that promotes

Table 2. Ideas for Action on Diversity Throughout the Organization Development Process

Regardless of your experience consulting on diversity issues, here is a partial list of ideas for action for developing a diversity
lens and improving your work with diverse groups.

“Pre-Entry” (Continuous Learning)
» Build increased self­awareness and skill in diversity

by deeply exploring your own beliefs, values, blind
spots, and biases. Do this through reading, attending
workshops, requesting feedback, exploring your own
upbringing and cultural background. Articulate the
deepest values that motivate your work.

» Join in diversity discussions. Purposely join (or create)
groups where diversity is an intentional part of the
conversation. Request feedback about your presence
in groups.

Entry and Contracting
» Notice who is in the room when decisions are made. What

is the demographic composition of the client(s)? Noting
who is involved with gatekeeping and contracting begins
to give clues to power dynamics in the organization.

» Note the quality of participation in contracting. How
do parties converse and negotiate expectations? Who
speaks up? Who appears motivated, or not, to proceed?
Note whether the dynamics track by identity groups.

Data Gathering and Analysis
» Identify the demographics of the organization. How are

the various groups distributed in the organization, e.g.,
are women likely to be concentrated in certain functions
or levels? Be sure to see and hear any discrepancies
in viewpoints from different demographic groups,
in addition to views from people in different roles or
hierarchical levels.

» Determine what is rewarded in the organization.
What does it take to be successful? Is there an
embedded cultural bias, such that some groups are
disproportionately more likely to be hired, fired,
mentored, and/or promoted?

» Explore potential concerns of different subgroups
that may be interpreted as “resistance.” Be careful
not to simply accept one group’s frame of another’s
“resistance.”

Data Feedback
» Make sure that the full picture is shared with all.

Demonstrate the integrity of the process by including
commonly overlooked participants.

» Tell the truth. Name what you experience. Do not ignore,
brush aside, explain away, or blame.

Implementation Design
» Identify where diversity issues may come up. Consider

and plan for potential unintended consequences.
» Get support or additional resources, perhaps from a

shadow consultant, support group, books, etc.

Implementation
» Watch for dynamics in the group related to diversity, and

where useful, name what you see.
» Re­contract and redesign as needed.
» If you will not or cannot discuss a diversity issue in the

moment it arises, emphasize that the concerns have been
heard and negotiate how the issue will be followed up,
even if you will not be doing the follow­up work.

Evaluation/Closing
» Include diversity as part of the evaluation with the client.

Openly discuss the impacts of the consulting project
for different identity groups. Consider what has been
accomplished and what requires follow­up.

» Debrief with team members and colleagues to grow and
develop as a professional.

39OD is Diversity: Differences are at the Heart of the Field

healthcare for underserved people
embarked on strategic planning with the
consultant. In the course of gathering data,
the consultant learned that concerns about
racial discrimination in hiring, firing, and
promotions were at the forefront for many
staff. Rather than treat the diversity con-
cerns as “off-topic,” the consultant recog-
nized that unless the diversity issues were
addressed, the organization’s planning
efforts would rest on a shaky foundation.
At the same time, she did not consider her-
self skilled enough to address the diversity
issues that surfaced. She re-contracted with
the client to expand the consulting effort
to hire additional resources to address the
issues of diversity, which clearly from the
initial data gathered were critical to deal
with if the organization was going to be
successful in moving forward.

We were then hired to work in tandem
with the planning consultant. During our
initial conversations with the organization’s
leadership, we learned that at a full-staff
retreat a few years prior, a heated, racially-
charged, exchange occurred. Diversity was
not a planned part of the agenda, and the
facilitator was stymied. Two employees
involved in the exchange left the organi-
zation shortly after the retreat, sparking
numerous questions. Since then, it became
clear, many People of Color harbored
resentment and fear for their jobs (were
the retreat antagonists pushed out?) while
many White people “walked on eggshells”
fearing they would touch off another
“explosion.”

We worked to open multiple chan-
nels of communication and encourage
participation in reviewing policies to break
the silence about race and diversity. The
exploration led to helping management
recognize the staff’s frustrations with the
perceived lack of advancement for People
of Color in the organization. As it hap-
pened, standards for advancement and
mobility were not clear and paths were
not widely known. This murkiness in
the process advantaged those who were
well-educated and/or well-connected in
the system, who were typically White. A
combined staff and management task force
researched the options for development

and rewards, publicized them, and identi-
fied processes for selection. This group
also increased awareness among staff on
efforts that senior management had been
implementing over the past few years
to increase advancement opportunities
(management had been frustrated that
these efforts had not been appreciated).
Management and staff also increased their
skill in having conversations about their
cultural differences that had kept them

from these important discussions in the
first place. Not surprisingly, they were also
more able to address issues of difference
not only in their workplace but in their
work. They began to have color-cognizant
conversations, and as Foley and Buckley
(2014) describe, were, therefore, more able
to address their own needs and those of
their clients.

Concluding Points

In today’s workplace, diversity awareness
is a basic competency. As demographics
continue to change, diversity becomes
ever more important for OD to increase its
relevance and effectiveness. We conclude
with three points regarding OD practice in
the 21st century.

Diversity is a basic competency. While
not every OD practitioner needs to focus
their practice on diversity, we believe all
OD practitioners must be aware of diver-
sity dynamics and have skills to respond
to situations effectively. In short, diversity
is a basic component of effective OD. We

encourage OD practitioners to intentionally
continue their diversity journeys, growing
in awareness, skill, and confidence.

Diversity is critical if we are to be self-
aware as practitioners. Attention to
increasing awareness of presence and use-
of-self are fundamental to skillful practice.
If we do not become aware of how our
presence affects how we are perceived by
colleagues and clients of different back-

grounds, we significantly limit our effec-
tiveness. Without listening to the feedback
of people different from ourselves in some
respects, we cannot know what we do not
know. And this ignorance is the foundation
for acting based on biases and prejudg-
ments, which can do harm. We must learn
to better understand where we sit in the
multiple identity hierarchies structured
into the cultures in which we operate, so
we can more effectively recognize and work
with the reactions we get to even our mere
presence in an organizational system.

Diversity work connects current OD prac-
tice with the roots of the field: social jus-
tice, civil rights, and participation. We are
encouraging no less than an exploration
of the values in doing this work. Taking
diversity seriously keeps us from offering
incomplete analyses and limited solutions.
Embracing diversity not only makes our
work more effective, it means that we work
in congruence with the traditional values
of the field and provide the necessary
support increasing numbers of clients are
asking for.

Without listening to the feedback of people different from
ourselves in some respects, we cannot know what we do
not know. And this ignorance is the foundation for acting
based on biases and prejudgments, which can do harm. We
must learn to better understand where we sit in the multiple
identity hierarchies structured into the cultures in which
we operate, so we can more effectively recognize and work
with the reactions we get to even our mere presence in an
organizational system.

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 47 No. 4 201540

References

Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2013).
Blindspot: Hidden biases of good people.
New York, NY: Delacorte Press. [You
can take the Implicit Association Test
at: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/]

Berman, M., & Lowery, W. (2015, March
14). The 12 key highlights from the
DOJ’s scathing Ferguson report.
The Washington Post. Retrieved from
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/
post-nation/wp/2015/03/04/the-12-key-
highlights-from-the-dojs-scathing-ferguson-
report/

Berthoud, H., & Greene, B. (2014). The
paradox of diversity in social change
organizations. Practising Social Change.
Retrieved from http://www.ntl-psc.org/

Foldy, E. G., & Buckley, T.R. (2014). The
color bind: Talking (and not talking)
about race at work. New York, NY:
Russell Sage Foundation.

Jackson, B.W. (2006). Theory and practice
of multicultural organization devel-
opment. In B. B. Jones & M. Brazzel
(Eds.), The NTL handbook of organiza-
tion development and change: Principles,
practices, and perspectives (pp.139–154).
San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Manjoo, F. (2014, September 24). Expos-
ing hidden bias at Google. The New
York Times. Retrieved from http://www.
nytimes.com/2014/09/25/technology/
exposing-hidden-biases-at-google-to-
improve-diversity.html

Neyfakh, L. (2014, September 21). The
bias fighters. Boston Globe. Retrieved
from https://www.bostonglobe.com/
ideas/2014/09/20/the-bias-fighters/
lTZh1WyzG2sG5CmXoh8dRP/story.html

Royal, C. L. (2006). Appreciative Inquiry
as an organization development and
diversity process. In B. B. Jones & M.
Brazzel (Eds.), The NTL handbook of
organization development and change:
Principles, practices, and perspectives (pp.
440–455). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

US Department of Justice. (March 5, 2015).
Justice department announces findings of
two civil rights investigations in Ferguson,
Missouri. Retrieved from http://www.
justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-
announces-findings-two-civil-rights-
investigations-ferguson-missouri

Robert Greene has more than
20 years experience as a consul­
tant, coach, facilitator, and trainer.
He has worked with large and
small clients locally and nationally
in the nonprofit, government, and
private sectors. He is also a Learn­
ing Coach Team Lead with College
for America @ Southern New
Hampshire University, where he
works directly with adult students
and trains and mentors a team of
coaches. He created the Nonprofit
Leadership Institute at Montgom­
ery College (Maryland). Greene
has published articles and pre­
sented workshops and webinars
on various organization develop­
ment topics. He can be reached at
[email protected]

Heather Berthoud has been an
OD consultant for 22 years. Her
areas of focus include leadership
development, diversity, organi­
zational change, and planning.
She works primarily with nonprofit
and advocacy organizations, in
the US and internationally. In addi­
tion to her consulting practice,
she is faculty for the American
University Masters in Organiza­
tion Development, a Professional
Associate at the Gestalt Inter­
national Study Center, a Fellow
at the Cornell Worker Institute,
and a member of NTL Institute.
She can be reached at [email protected]
BerthoudConsulting.com.

41OD is Diversity: Differences are at the Heart of the Field

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/04/the

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/04/the

http://www.ntl-psc.org

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/09/20/the-bias-fighters/lTZh1WyzG2sG5CmXoh8dRP/story.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/09/20/the-bias-fighters/lTZh1WyzG2sG5CmXoh8dRP/story.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/09/20/the-bias-fighters/lTZh1WyzG2sG5CmXoh8dRP/story.html

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice

mailto:[email protected]

“Just as Kurt Lewin observed that the best way to diagnose an organization is to attempt
to change it, we may also state that it is easier to understand an organization when it is
disturbed by untypical events than when it is operating as usual.”

Who is the Client?
A Different Perspective

From the ODP Archive

By W. Warner Burke

First appeared in
OD Practitioner,
14 (1), 1982

During the years of my work in OD, I have
overheard or taken part in many discus-
sions about “Who is the client?” Is the cli-
ent the head person, the boss, a particular
unit or group, or the total system? In these
discussions, OD practitioners have identi-
fied at least one of the above.

Let me be concrete. I am currently in
the beginning stages of consulting with a
small, highly technical company, a subsid-
iary of a large corporation. I was introduced
by an employee relations person to explore
with the president the possibility of my
working with the company.

Contracting with the president
and later with his top group went fairly
smoothly. After some interviewing and
observing, I was soon able to provide them
with some preliminary feedback.

Although the employee relations
person did not accompany me during this
early stage, at my request he became my
internal counterpart as I began to move
downward through the organization.

I looked forward to this consulting
effort because I have rarely worked with so
small an organization—about 90 employ-
ees—and so interesting scientifically and
technically. It is developing commercial
lasers. In short, this is an organization of a
size that I feel I can “get my arms around”
and one that may be on the verge of excit-
ing technical advances.

The top management group is rela-
tively small, consisting of five persons
including the president.

Most of the staff resides within Opera-
tions, which consists of both manufactur-
ing and marketing/sales. At least a third

of my consulting effort will be within this
unit of the company.

Now to the central question: Who is
my client? Answer by responding to the
following multiple-choice question:

The client is:
(a) company president
(b) top management group
(c) employee relations person
(d) total company
(e) parent corporation
(f ) all of the above
(g) none of the above
To be au courant you would choose

either (d) or (f ). After all, OD is a total
system approach to planned change which
starts from the top. My contracting, how-
ever, was done first with the president and
next with his immediate reports as a group.
Perhaps a better answer is (a) or maybe
(b). But what about the employee relations
person? My coming in was originally his
idea and he paved the way. Also, he is now
very much involved in my efforts. Alterna-
tive (c) may be the best answer. But what
about the parent company? Am I not really
serving them? The president of the parent
company is chairman of the board of the
subsidiary. Although he is not the subsid-
iary’s CEO, he is nevertheless clearly in a
position of authority. Maybe (e) is the best
reply. These answers all seem reasonable.
Thus, the safest alternative should be (f ).

Consider the title I chose for this paper
and now, perhaps reacting to the way I
presented the multiple-choice question,
you already conclude that my answer is (g).
The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to
provide a rationale for that answer.

44 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 43 No. 3 2011

Relationships and Interfaces

I chose “none of the above” because I
believe that our client in OD consulta-
tion is never one individual, regardless of
position or role, or any particular group,
team or subsystem of the organization, or
any combination thereof. Even though I
generally subscribe to the idea of OD being
“total system,” I often wonder if changing·
a whole system is even possible. Besides, I
have trouble defining what the total system
is since each one resides within yet a larger
“total system.”

The truth is that I have come to think
of my client as the relationship and/or inter-
face between individuals and units within
and related to the system. This in-between-
ness is the main subject of my consulting.

From the perspective of the consultant
role, my notion of client is not new. Argyris
(1970) avoided terms such as consultant,
change agent, or practitioner, favoring
instead “intervener” and “intervention-
ist.” These terms were, of course, an
extension of his definition of a consultant
intervention:

To intervene is to enter into an ongo-
ing system of relationships, to come
between or among persons, groups,
or objects for the purpose of helping
them.

For Argyris, then, to consult is to intervene.
Margulies (1977) characterized the

role of the OD consultant as a marginal
one. He argued that the degree to which
the consultant is effective is a function of
how capable he or she is (a) at maintaining
a certain social distance between self and
other individuals in the client organization
and (b) at operating on the boundaries of
units rather than exclusively within them.
In these ways, the consultant can more
readily maintain an objective stance in
between persons and units in conflict rather
than by being with one or the other.

While I agree with both Argyris and
Margulies regarding the consultant role, I
am here focusing on the other side, the cli-
ent, and on the perspective of defining the
client as relationships and interfaces rather
than individuals and units, i.e., singular
entities within the organization. To pursue

this perspective, we shall first consider
theory and then practice—the why and
then the where and how.

Theory

General systems theory and the theory
that underlies Gestalt therapy have both
furnished me with useful conceptual
frameworks for understanding OD prac-
tice. Notions of entropy, input-throughput-
output, and equilibrium from the former
and the ideas of energy, existentialism, and
polarities from the latter have been particu-

larly helpful to me in understanding some
mistakes I have made in consultation, that
is, why some efforts turned out other than
as I had expected. Although I understand
only a limited part of what I have read, I
find the theoretical ideas of Capra in high
energy physics and Prigogine and Jantsch
in chemistry and evolution, respectively,
particularly stimulating since their think-
ing both confirms and challenges general
systems and related theory.

Capra (1975) has recently stimulated
me to consider organizational diagnosis
in quite new ways. Like most OD prac-
titioners, I have depended on models to
help me make sense of all the data I collect
from interviews, documents, observations,
and the occasional questionnaire. I have
relied on Weisbord’s six boxes at certain
times and on the Nadler-Tushman congru-
ence model with other clients. While they
have been invaluable, they have not been
the sine qua non of diagnosis. Their boxes
and connecting lines direct me where to

look and how to interpret certain informa-
tion, yet when I concentrate exclusively
on the components of these models I find
that I overlook other important data—the
nuances, certain reappearing yet inconstant
patterns of behavior, hidden agendas, and
collusions. Yes, I know it is imperative that
the client organization declare its purpose
and mission, clarify its strategy, design an
appropriate, workable structure, provide
for its members reasonable and attrac-
tive rewards, etc. But focusing entirely
on these dimensions obscures other data
that should enter the consultant’s field of

vision. It may be that what happens out
of the ordinary is just as important, if not
more so, than what happens routinely. It
may be that repercussions in one of more
of the boxes brought about by events in
another box in the model are more impor-
tant for diagnosis than what happens in the
changed box itself. For example, a change
of leadership may have stronger implica-
tions for organizational purpose than for
the organization’s leadership per se.

Let us now consider some of Capra’s
thoughts more directly. According to
Capra and other physicists, matter at the
subatomic level does not exist in terms
of “things” but as “probability waves.”
They only tend to exist. Those terms that
we learned in high school—protons and
neutrons—the subparts of an atom, are
not parts, particles, or tangible things as
we normally think of them. They may be
conceived of as entities but only as a conve-
nience. Capra’s own words may help:

Depending on how we look at them,

I have relied on Weisbord’s six boxes at certain times and on the
Nadler-Tushman congruence model with other clients. While
they have been invaluable, they have not been the sine qua non
of diagnosis. Their boxes and connecting lines direct me where
to look and how to interpret certain information, yet when I
concentrate exclusively on the components of these models
I find that I overlook other important data—the nuances,
certain reappearing yet inconstant patterns of behavior, hidden
agendas, and collusions.

45Who is the Client? A Different Perspective

they appear sometimes as particles,
sometimes as waves. This dual aspect
of matter was extremely puzzling. The
picture of a wave that is always spread
out in space is fundamentally dif-
ferent from the picture of a particle,
which implies a sharp location.

The apparent contradiction
was finally resolved in a completely
unexpected way that dealt a blow to
the very foundation of the mecha-
nistic world view—the concept that
matter is real. At the subatomic level,
it was found, matter does not exist
with certainty at definite pinpointable
places but rather shows “tendencies to
exist.” These tendencies are expressed
in quantum theory as probabilities,
and the corresponding mathemati-
cal quantities take the form of waves;
they are similar to the mathematical
forms used to describe, for instance,
a vibrating guitar string or sound
wave. This is why particles can be
waves at the same time. They are not
“real” three-dimensional waves like
sound waves or water waves. They
are “probability waves,” abstract
mathematical quantities related to the
probabilities of finding the particles
at particular points in space and at
particular times.

At the atomic level, then, the
solid material objects of classical
physics dissolve into wavelike patterns
of probabilities. These patterns fur-
thermore, do not represent probabili-
ties of things, but rather probabilities
of interconnections. (1977, p. 22)

Capra is therefore discussing relations of
abstract particles. These relations consti-
tute a unified whole. This kind of thinking
suggested to me that I should consider
more directly and diligently the web (to
use Capra’s term) of relations in organiza-
tions. It is this web, the interactions, the
interfaces that make up or at least define,
the total system more clearly than the units
and individuals that form the connecting
points. For me, this way of conceiving and
diagnosing a system depicts the reality of
organizational behavior more closely than
other models.

Jantsch (1980), basing much of his
theorizing on the prior work of Prigogine,
states that to understand the evolution of
living things, one must concentrate more
on disequilibrium than on equilibrium.
The former, he contends, is far more
natural, affirmative, and central to growth
and change. To achieve equilibrium is to
gain comfort, yet this victory may bring
us closer to stagnation and death than to
vibrancy and life. Jantsch also holds that
evolution is accelerating just as the overall
process of change appears to be.

His theory has been heralded by some

as a paradigmatic shift comparable to
Einstein’s move away from Newton. Just
as Einstein’s theory of relativity wrested
the physical sciences away from Newton’s
static ideas of gravity, Jantsch’s ideas chal-
lenge us to view movement, relativity, and
change in living systems as constant. He
argues that all living things are always
co-evolving yet maintaining a “relativity” to
one another. Both Jantsch and Prigogine
believe that the disequilibrium and pertur-
bation that arise from time to time in living
things are actually a kind of “molting,”
a shedding of the old within organisms
as they strive to attain a higher level of
existence. These perturbations, activities of
disequilibrium, are signs of positive change
that lead to self- organization rather than
to decline. Thus, out-of-the-ordinary events
may be more significant for organizational
understanding than ordinary ones.

A related principle from general
systems theory is the idea of the steady
state and dynamic homeostasis. According
to this principle, open systems to survive
must maintain a steady state.

However, a steady state is not

motionless or a true equilibrium. As Katz
and Kahn (1978) characterize this principle
for organizations, “There is a continuous
inflow of energy from the external envi-
ronment and a continuous export of the
products of the system, but the character
of the system, the ratio of the energy
exchanges and the relations between parts,
remains the same.” Even though their
theory contends that the steady state is not
motionless, Katz and Kahn do note that
“relations between parts remain the same”
and they conclude that “The basic principle
is the preservation of the character of the

system.” Perhaps their interpretation of
general systems theory and Jantsch’s think-
ing are not that different. Perhaps it is a
matter of emphasis.

But it nevertheless occurred to me that
in my practice I have been working too
much toward achieving a steady state and
equilibrium. Yes, OD is at heart identified
with change, yet one of our major interven-
tions—team building—is more often than
not a striving toward greater equilibrium.
(“Let’s learn to work better together; let’s
learn to trust; let’s build a more cohesive
unit;” etc.) These equilibrating goals are
worthy, but if I spend all my consulting
time in this manner and in resolving con-
flicts, I may be helping to squash needed
perturbations and disequilibrium.

Life cycle theory of organizations is
pertinent to this last point. Usually for an
organization to move successfully from one
stage of the cycle to another, wrenching
changes have to be made even to the point
of modifying the basic character of the
organization.

To summarize, theory from sources
other than the ones I usually turn to

Yes, OD is at heart identified with change, yet one of our
major interventions—team building—is more often than not a
striving toward greater equilibrium. (“Let’s learn to work better
together; let’s learn to trust; let’s build a more cohesive unit;”
etc.) These equilibrating goals are worthy, but if I spend all my
consulting time in this manner and in resolving conflicts, I may
be helping to squash needed perturbations and disequilibrium.

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 43 No. 3 201146

has challenged my way of understand-
ing and diagnosing organizations. These
ideas about matter and living things have
stimulated me to concentrate more on the
relationships between people and units
rather than the individuals and units per
se, and on unusual events rather than on
routine operations.

Let me now call attention to some
findings and different emphases from the
world of practice that have influenced my
outlook.

Practice

Some recent studies in management have
further influenced my thinking about the
importance of relationships’ and interfaces.
We shall consider these studies in four
different domains of relationships: (I) the
manager’s relationships downward with
subordinates; (2) the manager’s relation-
ship upward with his or her boss; (3) the
manager’s lateral relationships; and (4) the
manager’s unit’s relationships with other
individuals and units.

Managing Subordinate Relationships.
There is mounting evidence that, used
appropriately, a participative management
approach pays off. For example, some
recent research reveals that managers
who move rapidly up the hierarchy tend to
involve their subordinates in decision-mak-
ing more than managers who move up less
rapidly. These faster-rising managers were
rated by themselves and their subordinates
as having a participative style, whereas less
successful managers were rated as having
a persuasive, “selling” style or one that we
might characterize as laissez-faire.

In a study of executive competence in
a large federal agency, those executives who
were widely considered the most compe-
tent tended to (a) manage more collabora-
tively, (b) communicate more openly, (c)
solicit information from subordinates more
frequently, (d) more often establish trust
and mutual respect between themselves
and their subordinates, (e) provide more
opportunities for subordinates to express
openly their objections and disagreements
with their superiors’ proposed actions or
decisions, and (f ) manage work group

meetings in ways to ensure that a frank
and open exchange of ideas occurred.
There were at least sixteen other significant
differences between the most competent
executives and those who were less so. The
six I have cited sound to me like a partial
role description of a participative man-
ager. In any case, the other behaviors were
related to and supportive of the six above.

Blake and Mouton (1978) have also
recently provided further theoretical sup-
port for their advocacy of 9.9 or participa-
tive management as well as some indirect
empirical evidence.

While I believe that the overall pattern
of evidence respecting executive compe-
tence leans more and more toward partici-
pative management, my point here is not
to debate the issue of management style.
I do wish to emphasize that management
is becoming more and more a reciprocal
process and less and less a top-down, boss-
to-subordinate, one-way street. If reciprocal
relationships are a crucial ingredient of
management competence, then my job as
a consultant is to facilitate reciprocity, to
mediate a two-way street, in other words, to
work in-between.

Managing up. We have some findings
about the importance of learning how to
influence one’s boss. Failure to “manage
up,” to relate in an active rather than pas-
sive way with one’s superior, can readily
lead to grave problems in the organization
if not outright dismissal of a subordinate.

Gabarro and Kotter (1980) advise that
one should learn quickly the boss’s per-
sonal and organizational goals, strengths
and limitations, work habits and prefer-
ences, as well as one’s own patterns and
style and how they fit with the boss’s. The
more one knows about these subjects, the
more influential one is likely to be.

In the aforementioned study of federal
executives, we found that three competen-
cies in this domain are critical: the execu-
tive’s (1) going to bat for subordinates with
his or her superiors, (2) ability to present
bad news upward in a strategic way, and
(3) establishing good relations with upper
level executives.

As consultants, then, we can help
subordinates sharpen their abilities to

influence upwardly in the hierarchy. Help-
ing subordinates to disclose threatening
news, for example, will ensure that a boss
is never surprised (a sin). Likewise, know-
ing how to deflect one’s boss from his/
her preferred path is no small feat, yet it
is often critical to organizational effective-
ness. The point, once again, is that the
crucial consultant role here is to work in
between.

Managing lateral relationships. Another set
of competencies important to federal exec-
utives is skill at managing relationships
with outside contractors and with other
units within their organization. Moreover, a
recent intensive study of successful general
managers in the private sector found that
the ability and energy to maintain contact
with many people (in the hundreds) in
their organization was key to their effec-
tiveness. The managers knew an amazing
number of people throughout the orga-
nization on a first-name basis, and they
made frequent use of these relationships
to be effective in their work. Maintaining
a network is therefore highly significant to
success of a general manager just as it is to
the politician.

What struck me about these findings
is, of course, the importance of multiple
relationships, of establishing as well as
maintaining them. In the federal agency
study, we labeled one set of the competen-
cies (about a sixth of the total) “influence
management” since they were all con-
cerned with the executive’s ability to influ-
ence others by means other than formal
authority. It is perhaps in this domain of
management particularly, and organiza-
tional functioning in general, that Capra’s
“web of relations” becomes more salient.
The consultant’s being able to perceive
this web in all its intricacy is central to a
good diagnosis and vital to constructive
intervention.

Managing unit interfaces. In an impor-
tant recent paper about the dilemmas of
managing by participation, Kanter (1982)
treats the matter of linking teams with
their environment. This set consists of six
dilemmas:

47Who is the Client? A Different Perspective

1. “You had to be there:” problems of
turnover
A major outcome of good teambuilding
is an increase in member participation
accompanied by a lift in team spirit.
This same spirit becomes a problem
when new members join the team,
especially if a newcomer happens to be
a new boss. The boss can undercut the
group’s work and/or lead the team in
unwanted directions. If the team is to
remain effective, these new and chang-
ing relationships must be managed.

2. The fixed decision problem
When a group first begins to oper-
ate participatively so that a new team
starts to emerge, certain ground rules,
norms, and policies gradually become
decisions. Later, when membership
changes, the newer members do
not necessarily feel bound by these
decisions since they took no part in
framing them. Moreover, since all
team members should have influence,
prior decisions should not be viewed as
immutable, the new members might
argue. The dilemma, then, is how to
continue the process of participation yet
not to be obliged continually to re-nego-
tiate the team’s earlier decisions.

3. “Suboptimization:” too much team
spirit
A team can become so preoccupied
with itself that its members lose sight
of the team’s role and function within
the larger organization.

4. Stepping on toes and territories: the
problem of power
There may be other constituencies
within the overall organization who
believe that they have a stake in the
problem or issue which the team holds
as their exclusive domain. The team
feels that it has worked so well together
on this problem or issue that no one
else in the organization is qualified to
understand it as well, much less to deal
with it effectively. With this knowledge
and spirit comes a feeling of power
which may be difficult to share even

when it is clear that others outside the
team need to be involved.

5. “N.I.H.” (not invented here): the prob-
lem of ownership and transfer
It is a commonplace that individu-
als and organizational units want
to do things in their own way. And
the greater the team spirit, the more
reluctant members may be to adopt
someone else’s ideas, especially another
team’s. This reluctance, however, may
lead to the waste of “re-inventing the
wheel” and of not cooperating, say, in
the sharing of information. Diffusion of
innovation is one of the most difficult
problems of organizations.

6. “A time to live and a time to die”
Although the evidence is not yet con-
clusive, there is some indication that
participation needs regular renewal.
Members of intensive participation
groups, such as quality circles and
semi-autonomous work teams, have
experienced burnout after 18 months
of activity. Periods of interpersonal
intensity should alternate with periods
of distance. This suggests that some old
teams need to die and new ones formed
in their place. With other kinds of
groups and teams, such as task forces,
boards, councils, etc., perhaps it is best
to rotate membership rather than kill
off old teams and start anew. Kanter’s
point is that it is necessary for manage-
ment to find ways to sustain continuity
of participation as members of groups
and as units come and go.

Kanter covers other dilemmas of

management participation especially
within teams themselves and in leader-
member relationships. Her dilemmas
concerning a team’s linkage with its envi-
ronment are particularly pertinent to areas
of relationships and interfaces that OD
practitioners may overlook. Flushed with
the success of a teambuilding effort, the
consultant may be blind to the greater need
of helping the team to manage its relations
with (a) new members, (b) perhaps a new
leader, (c) other units that may have a stake
in some of the outcomes of the team’s
work, and (d) its own team members
over time since the need for renewal will
emerge sooner than one might expect.

Kanter’s dilemmas of managing par-

ticipation, particularly those dealing with a
team and its environment, represent fertile
ground for OD consultation, and further
illustrate that the ground for consultation
is comprised largely of relationships and
interfaces.

Summary and Conclusions

While I have usually been clear about the
person in the client organization with
whom I should contract for OD consulta-
tion, I have not always been clear that my
ultimate client was the same person, or his
or her boss, or a specific organizational
unit such as the top management group,
or the total system. It seems to me that
other OD consultants are likewise some-
what perplexed about the identity of their
ultimate client. As I read works about
living systems and reflect on OD practice,
I conclude that my ultimate client is that
behavior in organizations represented by

I should pay special attention to non-routine events of
organizational life since these occurrences generate energy
among members to return the system to a steady state,
to achieve homeostasis and equilibrium. It is this use of
energy and its direction that will tell me more about how
the organization really operates than the energy that the
members of the organization expend to maintain normal,
daily operations.

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 43 No. 3 201148

interactions, by relationships and interfaces.
These interactions represent the basic real-
ity of organizational life and therefore my
consultation should concentrate on them.
Furthermore, I should pay special attention
to non-routine events of organizational life
since these occurrences generate energy
among members to return the system to
a steady state, to achieve homeostasis and
equilibrium. It is this use of energy and its
direction that will tell me more about how
the organization really operates than the
energy that the members of the organiza-
tion expend to maintain normal, daily oper-
ations. Just as Kurt Lewin observed that the
best way to diagnose an organization is to
attempt to change it, we may also state that
it is easier to understand an organization
when it is disturbed by untypical events
than when it is operating as usual.

It is not my contention that one
should entirely ignore everyday routine,
the organizational structure with its boxes
and lines, individuals, work units, the
president, and the board of directors. It is
more a matter of emphasis for me to focus
especially on the in-between. I also believe
that relationships and interfaces in organi-
zations will grow even more important in
the future because of the changing nature
of authority, insofar as authority becomes
more of a function of expertise and
knowledge rather than position, and of the
increasing degree of complexity in manag-
ing organizations. It is virtually impossible
for a single individual to know a consider-
able amount, much less everything, about
running an organization or even a part of
it. This is especially true of high technol-
ogy organizations, public or private. Thus,
mutual dependency is more the rule than
the exception.

Because OD practitioners are knowl-
edgeable about interpersonal process and
are skillful in dealing with relationships,
there will be plenty of opportunity for
constructive work. We simply must become
clearer about the true subject (in my term,
client) of that work.

Epilogue (May, 2011)

Who is the client now that we are well into
the 21st century? The same as I maintained
in 1982. Not everything has to change even
though we are in the change business. In
fact, I am even more convinced than ever
that our client is in those interstices. A
consulting experience not too long ago with
a network type of organization brought the
point home—in a manner that was not
pleasant …

Organizational Diagnostic Models
A Review and Synthesis

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dedicated to advancing evidence-based management, people
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The information and commentary contained in this report reflect
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mailto:[email protected]

Introduction

As cliché as it sounds – globalization, rapid change, and disruptive technology have left organizational
leaders dazed and confused in terms of adapting to the new normal of the 21st century workplace.
Nonetheless, renewed attention to innovation, speed, customer and service quality, and efficiency of
operations have forced organizations to rethink, redesign, and reimage their business and human
resource strategies to remain competitive. These organizational dynamics support the use of diagnostic
models or frameworks for assessing organizational effectiveness, change, and renewal.

The purpose of this integrative review is to examine several organizational diagnostic models that have
been conceptualized in the literature, including the Organizational Intelligence Model (Falletta, 2008a
and 2008b). To understand these models, a brief explanation of organizational surveys and diagnosis is
warranted as well as a review of open systems theory (Katz & Kahn, 1978). Lastly, causal modeling
procedures such as path analysis and structural equations modeling are reviewed as techniques for
assessing the validity of organizational models.

Organizational Surveys

To measure organizational effectiveness and behavior, more and more organizations are using surveys
(Kraut, 1996; Falletta & Combs, 2002). Organizational surveys can be used to measure employees’
and/or customers’ attitudes, opinions, perceptions, beliefs, or intentions (Schmitt & Klimoski, 1991; Borg
& Mastrangelo, 2008). A very popular type of organizational survey is the employee satisfaction survey,
which is used to assess employees’ attitudes and opinions on various aspects of organizational life, such
as employee concerns, perceptions of work place conditions, management practices, employee
engagement, equity issues, or reward systems, to name a few. Many businesses collect employee survey
data annually to allow for the identification of trends over time. While the purposes of organizational
surveys vary, the survey method is an economical way to gather information for planning interventions
and improvement (Church & Waclawski, 1998).

The Notion of Organizational Diagnosis

Many organization development (OD) strategies exist for improving an organization’s effectiveness
(Beer & Spector, 1993; McLean, 2006; Cummings & Worley, 2009; Rothwell, Stavros, Sullivan, & Sullivan,
2010). One of these strategies, organizational diagnosis, involves “diagnosing” or assessing an
organization’s current level of functioning in order to understand problems, identify underlying causes,
and/or design appropriate interventions for change and improvement (Harrison & Shirom, 1999).
Organizational diagnosis also plays a role in determining an organization’s readiness for change
(Armenakis & Harris, 2009).

Metaphorically, the concept of diagnosis in organization development is used in a manner similar to the
medical model. For example, the physician conducts tests, collects vital information on the human
system, and evaluates this information to prescribe a course of treatment. Likewise, the organizational
diagnostician uses specialized procedures to collect vital information about the organization, to analyze
this information, and to design appropriate organizational interventions (Tichy, Hornstein, & Nisberg,
1977). Like the physician, the organizational diagnostician views the organization as a total system. In
the field of medicine, this is considered to be holistic medicine, while in the field of OD, the total system
view is considered to represent open systems theory (Katz & Kahn, 1978).

Like the patient visiting the physician, the process of collecting data during organizational diagnosis can
serve to motivate organizational members to learn about and participate in the change process or the
intervention in the medical scenario. The diagnosis, either medical or organizational, usually confirms

4

that a problem or an opportunity for improvement actually exists. Within an organization, the diagnostic
process often facilitates an admission by top management that the organization does indeed have
problems that should be addressed (Argyris, 1970; Harrison, 1987; Manzini, 1988). Further, a variety of
data collection techniques and/or procedures are often used to rule out presenting problems and to
search for the underlying problems (Fordyce & Weil, 1983; Kolb & Frohman, 1970; Porras & Berg, 1978).
Finally, within the organizational diagnostic process, the results of the data collection are fed back to
organizational members within the organization in order to begin the process of organizational
development and change (French & Bell, 1999; Cummings & Worley, 2009).

In viewing organizations as systems, organizational diagnosticians direct their attention to those
activities and processes within the system that are considered to be vital to organizational life. However,
the scope of a diagnosis may be either narrow and symptomatic or broad and systematic. For example, a
narrow and symptomatic diagnosis involves a very quick scan of the organization, focusing on trouble
spots (Tichy, 1983). The problem with this type of diagnosis is that, all too often, the problem keeps
reoccurring. Therefore, it is important to systematically examine the entire system when conducting
organizational diagnosis, rather than focusing on rapid “assessments” and “quick fixes” (French & Bell,
1999; Harrison & Shirom, 1999).

A Word about “Diagnosis” and Strength-Based Paradigms

In recent years, the term “diagnosis” has taken on a negative connotation by some OD practitioners who
subscribe to Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and other positive psychology approaches (e.g., The Positive
Model, Strength-based Paradigm, Social Constructivism) (Cooperrider, Whitney, & Stavros, 2008).
Scholars and practitioners in this camp take issue with the classical medical model and problem-centric
view of organizations; they criticize the idea of diagnosis because it too easily implies that organizations
are somehow sick or inherently dysfunctional (Cummings & Worley, 2009). They suggest that OD
practitioners concentrate on the strengths of an organization through positive inquiry and dialog to
understand the organization’s history, best-practices, and lessons learned (Cooperrider, Whitney, &
Stavros, 2008).

Despite decades of research in organizational theory, behavior, and psychology, AI proponents view
organizations as unique and unknowable “mysteries to be embraced” (Watkins & Stavros, 2010, pg. 169)
rather than human and organizational systems to be examined and fully understood. Mystifying
organizational phenomena, magical thinking, and reaffirmation alone may not identify and solve an
organization’s most pressing problems (e.g., narcissistic or toxic leaders, organizational politics,
dysfunctional teams, corporate cultism, symbolic or ineffective practices). However, the appeal of AI lies
is its politically palatable proposition. All you have to do is appreciate what’s working well, envision what
might be, dialog on what should be, and innovate on what will be in an iterative fashion, and presto the
human and organizational system will change (Watkins & Stavros, 2010).

After all, it can be a risky proposition for an OD practitioner to uncover and communicate the dark side
of organizational behavior – particularly when dealing with powerful, narcissistic leaders who have a
vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Hence, the medical metaphor and view of organizational
diagnosis does not accept the implicit assumption that something is inherently wrong with the
organization, but it does reject the false promise of the strengths-based approach and magical thinking
offered by AI proponents. Organizational diagnosis also advocates for an evidence-based approach
(McFillen, O’Neil, Balzer, & Varney, 2013). In short, organizational diagnosis is a collaborative,
systematic, and evidence-based process for assessing how an organization is currently functioning to
design interventions for change and improvement regardless of whether the change itself is planned or
emergent (Cummings & Worley, 2009).

5

Uses of Organizational Models

The use of organizational models facilitates the collaborative and systematic diagnosis of organizations.
An organizational model is a representation of an organization that helps us to understand more clearly
and quickly what we are observing in organizations. Burke explains the many ways in which
organizational models are useful (in Howard and Associates, 1994):

1. Models help to enhance our understanding of organizational behavior.

2. Models help to categorize data about an organization.

3. Models help to interpret data about an organization.

4. Models help to provide a common, short-hand language.

The model provides a systematic way to collect data on the organization and to understand and
categorize the data. Models often identify vital organizational variables which are hypothesized to exist
based on prior research. Models also depict the nature of the relationships between these key variables
(e.g, one organizational variable impacts another). Without a model to guide the collection of data and
to interpret the data, a diagnostician must instead collect data based on hunches and analyze it for
themes. While many practitioners have intuitive models in their minds, an explicit model greatly aids the
diagnostic process, given the complexity of organizations and the massive amount of information
available for analysis (Combs & Falletta, 2002).

Open Systems Theory

Many of the organizational diagnostic models to be discussed rely upon the abstract notion of open
systems theory as a basic assumption, thus, warranting a brief discussion of open systems theory. The
premise of the theory is that organizations are social systems which are dependent upon the
environment in which they exist for inputs (Katz & Kahn, 1978). Open systems theory allows for
repeated cycles of input, transformation (i.e., throughputs), output, and renewed input within
organizations. A feedback loop connects organizational outputs with renewed inputs (see Figure 1).

Input Output

Environment

Transformation

Figure 1. OPEN SYSTEMS THEORY

Traditional organizational theories have viewed organizations as “closed” systems which are
independent of the environment in which they exist (Katz & Kahn, 1978).

6

Descriptions of Organizational Diagnostic Models

The 12 models selected for this review are presented in the chronological order in which they first
appeared in the literature. The models reviewed in this section include:

1. Lewin’s Force Field Analysis (1951)

2. Leavitt’s Model (1965)

3. Likert’s System Analysis (1967)

4. Weisbord’s Six-Box Model (1976)

5. Nadler and Tushman’s Congruence Model for Organization Analysis (1977)

6. McKinsey 7S Framework (1980)

7. Galbrath’s STAR Model (1982)

8. Tichy’s Technical Political Cultural (TPC) Framework (1983)

9. Nelson and Burns’ High-Performance Programming (1984)

10. Harrison’s Diagnosing Individual and Group Behavior Model (1987)

11. Burke-Litwin Model of Organizational Performance & Change (1992)

12. Falletta’s Organizational Intelligence Model (2008)

Lewin’s Force Field Analysis (1951)

In 1951, Lewin developed a model for analyzing and managing organizational problems which he has
termed Force Field Analysis (French & Bell, 1999; Fuqua & Kurpius, 1993; Lewin, 1951). This model is
relatively simple to understand and easy to visualize. A depiction of the model (see Figure 2) identifies
both driving forces and restraining forces within an organization. These driving forces, such as
environmental factors push for change within the organization while the restraining forces, such as
organizational factors (e.g., limited resources or poor morale), act as barriers to change. To understand
the problem within the organization, the driving forces and restraining forces are first identified and,
hence, defined. Goals and strategies for moving the equilibrium of the organization toward the desired
direction can then be planned.

The model relies upon the change process, with the social implications built into the model (e.g.,
disequilibrium is expected to occur until equilibrium is reestablished). The general goal of this model is
to intentionally move to a desirable state of equilibrium by adding driving forces, where important, and
eliminating restraining forces, where appropriate. These changes are thought to occur simultaneously
within the dynamic organization.

7

Current State

of Affairs
(Problem) Driving

Forces
Restraining

Forces

Desired
State of
Affairs
(Goal)

Disequilibrium
During Change

Equilibrium
Reestablished

Equilibrium
Interrupted

Figure 2. LEWIN’S FORCE FIELD ANALYSIS

Leavitt’s Model (1965)

Sometime after Lewin conceptualized Force Field Analysis, Leavitt designed another relatively simple
model. This model does specify particular variables within organizations, rather than driving forces;
these variables include: task variables, structure variables, technological variables, and human variables
(Leavitt, 1965) (see Figure 3).

Structure

Task Technology

People/Actors

Figure 3. LEAVITT’S MODEL

The structure variable refers to the authority systems, communication systems, and work flow within
the organization. The technological variable includes all the equipment and machinery required for the
task variable; the task variable refers to all the tasks and subtasks involved in providing products and
services. Finally, the human variable (i.e., people/actors) refers to those who carry out the tasks
associated with organizational goals (i.e., products and services). The diamond shaped arrows in the
model emphasize the interdependence among the four variables. Leavitt has postulated that a change in
one variable will affect the other variables. For example, with a planned change in one variable (e.g., the
introduction of advanced technology), one or more variables will be impacted. Such interventions are
typically designed to affect the task variable (e.g., to affect positive changes in products or services). In
this example, the other variables would also likely change, as morale (i.e., people) might increase and
communication (i.e., structure) might be improved due to the new technology.

8

Although Leavitt describes the variables within his model as dynamic and interdependent, the model is
too simple to make any direct causal statements regarding the four variables. Similar to the Force Field
Analysis model, Leavitt suggests that a change in one variable may result in compensatory or retaliatory
change in the other variables; this notion is similar to the opposing forces in Lewin’s model. However,
unlike Force Field Analysis, Leavitt does not address the role of the external environment in bringing
about change in any of the variables.

Likert System Analysis (1967)

The organizational dimensions Likert addresses in his normative framework include motivation,
communication, interaction, decision making, goal setting, control, and performance (Likert, 1967).
While Likert did not use an illustration to depict his framework, like the earlier models reviewed thus far,
he describes four different types of management systems within organizations, which take into account
the organizational dimensions he identifies (see Figure 4).

System 1: Exploitative-Authoritative

System 2: Benevolent-Authoritative

System 3: Consultative

System 4: Participative Group

Figure 4. LIKERT’S SYSTEM ANALYSIS

In order to determine the management system operating in any given organization, Likert developed a
43-item survey instrument with questions related to the seven organizational dimensions. The purpose
of the instrument was to measure employees’ perceptions (e.g., upper management, supervisors, and
staff) of the organizational dimensions within the organization.

Interestingly and contrary to popular belief, Likert’s original scale did not have standardized scale labels
such as “strongly agree,” “agree,” “neither agree nor disagree,” “disagree,” and “strongly disagree.”
Instead, Likert provided customized scale labels for each item stem (i.e., for all 43 items). The first
response alternative, in this case “provides minimum information,” represents Likert’s System 1:
Exploitative-Authoritative. The second response alternative, “gives subordinates only information
superior feels they need,” represents System 2: Benevolent-Authoritative, and so forth. To determine
the perceived functioning of the organization, the responses of various employee groups are averaged
across items and dimensions. A profile is graphically plotted, indicating the current management system
level for each of Likert’s seven dimensions.

The terminology and system devised by Likert have been adapted and/or changed by other researchers
over the years. For example, Nelson and Burns (1984) have introduced a version of Likert’s framework
with the following terminology: the reactive organization (System 1), the responsive organization
(System 2), the proactive organization (System 3), and the high-performing organization (System 4).
These changes have been made to reflect more modern terminology and contemporary theory. Nelson
and Burn’s High-Performance Programming framework will be discussed in greater detail later in this
review.

9

Weisbord’s Six-Box Model (1976)

Weisbord (1976) proposes six broad categories in his model of organizational life, including purposes,
structures, relationships, leadership, rewards, and helpful mechanisms. The purposes of an organization
are the organization’s mission and goals. Weisbord refers to structure as the way in which the
organization is organized; this may be by function – where specialists work together – or by product,
program, or project – where multi-skilled teams work together. The ways in which people and units
interact is termed relationships. Also included in the box of relationships is the way in which people
interact with technology in their work. Rewards are the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards people associate
with their work. The leadership box refers to typical leadership tasks, including the balance between the
other boxes. Finally, the helping mechanisms are the planning, controlling, budgeting, and information
systems that serve to meet organizational goals. The external environment is also depicted in
Weisbord’s model, although it is not represented as a “box” (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. CONCEPTUALIZATION OF WEISBORD’S SIX-BOX MODEL

Weisbord identifies as inputs the money, people, ideas, and machinery which are used to fulfill the
organization’s mission. The outputs are products and services.

Two premises which are not apparent in Weisbord’s model are crucial to understanding the boxes in the
model. The first premise refers to formal versus informal systems. Formal systems are those policies and

10

procedures the organization claims to do. In contrast, informal systems are those behaviors which
actually occur. The bigger the gap between the formal and informal systems, the less effective the
organization is consider to be. The second premise concerns the fit between the organization and the
environment, that is, the discrepancy between the existing organization and the way the organization
should function to meet external demands. Weisbord defines external demands or pressures as
customers, government, and unions.

Weisbord poses diagnostic questions for each box of his model. For example, he suggests that OD
consultants determine whether organizational members agree with and support the organization’s
mission and goals within the purposes box. This question refers to his premise regarding the nature of
the formal and informal systems within the organization. A sample of some of the questions he poses is
as follows in Table 1:

Table 1. Sample Questions for Weisbord’s Six-Box Model

Purposes Do organizational members agree with and support the organization’s
mission and goals?

Structure Is there a fit between the purpose and the internal structure of the
organization?

Relationships What types of relations exist between individuals, between departments,
and between individuals and the nature of their jobs? Is their
interdependence? What is the quality of relations? What are the modes
of conflict?

Rewards What does the organization formally reward, and for what do
organizational members feel they are rewarded and punished? What
does the organization need to do to fit with the environment?

Leadership Do leaders define purposes? Do they embody purposes in their
programs? What is the normative style of leadership?

Helpful
Mechanisms

Do these mechanisms help or hinder the accomplishment of
organizational objectives?

In summary, Weisbord’s model focuses on internal issues within an organization primarily by posing
“diagnostic questions” which have to do with the fit between “what is” and “what should be.” The
questions he poses are not predicted by the model; rather, they appear to be based on his OD practice.
These questions serve to convolute the model because they do not flow from the logic of the model.
Moreover, Weisbord omits many interconnections between the boxes of the model. Finally, Weisbord
only tangentially addresses the impact of the external environment in the model.

11

Nadler and Tushman’s Congruence Model for Organization Analysis (1980)

The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a more comprehensive model, specifying inputs,
throughputs, and outputs, which is consistent with open systems theory (Katz & Kahn, 1978). This model
is very similar to Leavitt’s model; it also retains the formal and informal systems of the Weisbord six-box
model (see Figure 6).

Environment
Resources

History
Task

Informal
Organization

Formal
Organizational
Arrangements

Individual

Organization
Group

Individual

Inputs Outputs

Transformation Process

strategy

feedback

Figure 6. NADLER-TUSHMAN’S CONGRUENCE MODEL

The model is based on several assumptions which are common to modern organizational diagnostic
models; these assumptions are as follows:

1. Organizations are open social systems within a larger environment.

2. Organizations are dynamic entities (i.e., change is possible and occurs).

3. Organizational behavior occurs at the individual, the group, and the systems level.

4. Interactions occur between the individual, group, and systems levels of
organizational behavior.

These assumptions have been used in some of the previous models examined, although only implicitly.

The inputs within the Nadler-Tushman Congruence model include such factors as the environment,
resources, history (i.e., patterns of past behavior), and organizational strategies. Nadler and Tushman
are explicit in their conceptualization of each of the factors (see Table 2). For example, they describe the
resources available to the organization as human resources, technology, capital, information, and other
less tangible resources. While strategy is an input in the model, it is the single most important input to
the organization and is depicted by the arrow from the input box to the organization.

The system components of the whole organizational transformation process are informal organizational
arrangements, task, formal organizational arrangements, and individual components. Similarly, the
outputs of the model include individual, group, and system outputs: products and services,
performance, and effectiveness. While outputs such as products and services are generally understood,
specific examples of organizational performance and effectiveness are identified by Nadler and
Tushman in Table 2.

12

Table 2. Inputs, System Components, and Outputs of the Congruence Model

Inputs
Environment Resources History Strategy

All factors, including
institutions, groups,
individuals, events, and
so on, that are outside
the organization being
analyzed, but that have a
potential impact on that
organization

Various assets to which
the organization has
access, including
human resources,
capital, information,
and so on, as well as
less tangible resources
(recognition in the
market, and so forth)

The patterns of past
behavior, activity, and
effectiveness that
may affect current
organizational
functioning

The stream of decisions
about how
organizational
resources will be
configured to meet
demands, constraints,
and opportunities
within the context of
the organization’s
history

System Components (i.e., throughputs)

Task

Individual
Formal Org.

Arrangements
Informal Organization

The basic and inherent
work to be done by the
organization and its parts

The characteristics of
individuals in the
organization

The various
structures, processes,
methods, and so on
that are formally
created to get
individuals to perform
tasks

The emerging
arrangements,
including structures,
processes,
relationships, and so
forth

Outputs (e.g., performance and effectiveness)
Individual behavior

and affect
Group and

Intergroup Behavior
System Functioning
(i.e., organizational)

Absenteeism, lateness, turnover,
levels of satisfaction, drug usage,
and off-the-job activities which
impact performance

Intergroup conflict,
collaboration, and quality of
intergroup communication

Attainment of desired goals of
production, return on investment,
etc.; utilization of available
resources; adaptability to external
environmental demands

Source: Nadler & Tushman, 1980

Nadler and Tushman apply the concept of congruence to their model. They describe congruence, or fit,
as “the degree to which the needs, demands, goals, objectives, and/or structures of one component are
consistent with the needs, demands, goals, objectives, and/or structures of another component” (i.e.,
how well pairs of components fit together). For example, a task demands a level of skill and knowledge
and likewise, the individuals available to perform the task possess varying levels of skill and knowledge.
Nadler and Tushman (1980) explain that the greater the skill and knowledge match between the task
and the individual, the more effective the performance will be. Six paired comparisons within the
system are possible based on the four components. Through analysis of the congruence between the
system parts, the whole organization is diagnosed (Nadler & Tushman, 1980).

13

McKinsey 7S Framework (1980)

The McKinsey 7S Framework was named after a consulting company, McKinsey and Company, and first
introduced in 1980 (Waterman, Peters, & Phillips 1980). The McKinsey 7S Framework was created as a
recognizable model for business and industry and largely popularized through two best-selling books
namely, The Art of Japanese Management (Athos & Pascale, 1981), and In Search of Excellence (Peters &
Waterman, 1982). …

O R I G I N A L P A P E R

Using Kotter’s Eight Stage Process to Manage
an Organisational Change Program: Presentation
and Practice

Julien Pollack • Rachel Pollack

Published online: 23 March 2014
� Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Abstract Kotter’s eight stage process for creating a major change is one of the most widely
recognised models for change management, and yet there are few case studies in the academic

literature that enquire into how this process has been used in practice. This paper describes a

change manager’s action research enquiring into the use of this Process to manage a major

organisational change. The change was initiated in response to the organisation’s ageing

workforce, introducing a knowledge management program focusing on the interpersonal

aspects of knowledge retention. Although Kotter’s process emphasises a top-led model for

change, the change team found it was necessary to engage at many levels of the organisation

to implement the organisational change. The process is typically depicted as a linear sequence

of steps. However, this image of the change process was found to not represent the complexity

of the required action. Managing the change required the change team to facilitate multiple

concurrent instances of Kotter’s process throughout the organisation, to re-create change that

was locally relevant to participants in the change process.

Keywords Change management � Organisational change � Kotter’s eight
stage process � Knowledge management � Aging workforce � Action research

Introduction

This research reports on action research (AR) into an organisational change program in the

Australian Finance and Insurance Sector. The use of Kotter’s eight stage process of cre-

ating a major change (Kotter 1996) is studied in detail, providing insight into the use of this

process that can be of benefit to other change managers seeking to apply it.

J. Pollack (&)
University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123 Broadway, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia
e-mail: [email protected]

R. Pollack
Sydney, Australia

123

Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66
DOI 10.1007/s11213-014-9317-0

The relevance of this research becomes clear on recognising the significant divide that

has been identified between the academic and practitioner change management commu-

nities. In 1993, it was identified that a boundary existed between theoreticians and prac-

titioners (Buchanan 1993, p .684), with both being dismissive of each others’ work, and

that there was little connection between their contributions (1993, p. 685). More recently,

Saka (2003, p. 481) identified a similar division between how change management is

described and how it is practiced. This situation has apparently not changed, with Ap-

pelbaum et al. (2012), p. 764) calling for a greater emphasis on producing research in a

form that is usable by those who practice change management.

There appears to be little research that enquires into the practicalities of using change

management techniques to effect organizational change, either with regard to their suit-

ability or appropriateness. Although there is a significant body of literature which provides

advice for practitioners, there remains little research on how to actually apply change

management techniques, or critically questions their effectiveness (Raineri 2011, p. 267); a

lack that this research helps to address.

Kotter’s (1996) eight stage process of creating a major change has been recognised as

one of the most well known approaches to organisational transformation (Mento et al.

2002, p .45), as the mainstream wisdom for leading change (Nitta et al. 2009, p .467), and

the most compelling formula for success in change management (Phelan 2005, p .47).

Kotter’s work became highly sought after by leaders of organizations who were planning

on implementing organizational change initiatives (Brisson-Banks 2010, p. 248). The

Process ‘‘…became an instantaneous success at the time it was advocated and it remains a
key reference in the field of change management’’ (Appelbaum et al. 2012, p. 765).

Given the popularity of Kotter’s eight stage process it may be reasonable to assume that

claims of a divide between research and practice are not relevant in this case. However, a

thorough study of the literature by Appelbaum et al. (2012) has revealed that this is not

necessarily true. Their review of the change management literature revealed that ‘‘…most
of the evidence found during the search points to data that has been compiled by Kotter

himself … In essence Kotter validated Kotter’’ (Appelbaum et al. 2012, p. 776). Aca-
demics appear to have used Kotter’s findings about change management as if verified and

tested. ‘‘Kotter’s change management model appears to derive its popularity more from its

direct and usable format than from any scientific consensus on the results’’ (Appelbaum

et al. 2012, p. 764).

A variety of reviews of the field of organisational change can be found in the literature

(e.g. Cao and McHugh 2005). Although some authors (e.g. Tsoukas and Papoulias 2005)

refer to an abundance of case studies examining organizational change, there are few case

studies of changes managed using Kotter’s Process (Appelbaum et al. 2012, p. 776). The

weight of research that references Kotter’s work does not investigate how the process can

be used, but instead either discusses Kotter’s writing in the context of the broader literature

on change management, or uses the process as a framework for conducting a post hoc

analysis of a change (e.g. Yauch and Steudel 2002; Sikorko 2008; Smith 2011; Casey et al.

2012; Nitta et al. 2009; Goede 2011; Gupta 2011).

Studies by Cole et al. (2006, p.363) and Paper et al. (2001), p.85) have found the actual

execution of a change to be one of the key factors in determining success or failure. Of the

various ways in which Kotter’s work has been used in the change management literature, it

is arguably AR, rather than literature reviews or post hoc analyses, that have the greater

potential to contribute to improved execution. Some case studies of changes managed

using Kotter’s process do stand out (e.g. Springer et al. 2012; Lintukangas et al. 2009; Day

and Atkinson 2004; Ansari and Bell 2009; Joffe and Glynn 2002), and it is to this small but

52 Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66

123

important literature to which this research contributes. This research critically examines

how Kotter’s (1996) eight stage process of creating a major change has been used to

manage an organisational change; a process that despite its popularity, has rarely been

studied in the academic literature.

The Eight Stage Process of Creating a Major Change

The eight stage process is ‘‘…as a vision for the change process’’ (Mento et al. 2002, p .45)
describing a series of steps to be taken to achieve mandated organisational changes. A wide

variety of models for managing organisational change exist in the literature (Sikorko 2008,

p. 307; Stewart and Kringas 2003, p .676; Buchanan 1993, p. 684; Smith 2011, p. 115;

Pillay et al. 2012, p .59), and is not the place of this research to analyse Kotter’s process in

relation to other models. Readers are instead referred to authors who have already done this

(e.g. Brisson-Banks 2010; Stewart and Kringas 2003). However, it is worthwhile to note

some ways in which the Process has been characterized: as placing a strong emphasis on

leadership (Pillay et al. 2012, p .61; Raineri 2011; Choi et al. 2011, p. 12) and viewing

change as top-led (Abraham et al. 2002, p. 36; Choi et al. 2011, p. 12; Day and Atkinson

2004, p. 258). Kotter’s approach has also been described as focusing on organisational

culture (Casey et al. 2012, p. 112), and of being typical of private sector change models

(Stewart and Kringas 2003). Disagreement also exists, with some (Pillay et al. 2012, p. 60)

describing the process as centrally planned change, while By (2005) has described it as

emphasising an emergent, rather than a planned, approach to change management.

Kotter’s eight stage process of creating a major change as detailed in Leading Change

(1996) and later works can be summarised as follows:

1. Establishing a sense of urgency

2. Creating the guiding coalition

3. Develop a vision and strategy

4. Communicating the change vision

5. Empowering broad-based change

6. Generating short-term wins

7. Consolidating gains and producing more change

8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

The efficacy of Kotter’s process has been broadly supported in the literature (e.g. Ansari

and Bell 2009, p. 160; Cegielski et al. 2006, p. 311). Despite its popularity, the process has

also been criticised. It has been claimed that this, and other, change management processes

describe what has to be done but provide little detail in how it should be achieved (Pfeifer

et al. 2005, p. 297), and that it is not sufficiently detailed to guide change management in

all situations (Appelbaum et al. 2012, p. 775). Conversely, the Process has also been

criticised as not general enough for some kinds of change (Ansari and Bell 2009, p. 157),

and of being overly planned, and therefore not representation of the realities of organi-

sational life (Hay et al. 2001, p. 243). However, these criticisms need to be tempered by

Sikorko (2008) observation that ‘‘…no single model can provide a one-size-fits-all solution
to organisational change.’’

Springer et al. (2012)provides a detailed case study which reviews the use of the process

to implement a cultural change at the Boise State University School of Nursing. The case

provides detail about the changes that were implemented within the organisation, but does

not focus on how the process was used to facilitate this change. This case study leaves the

Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66 53

123

reader with the impression use of Kotter’s Process was uncontentious. Perhaps this was the

case, although without specific comment to this effect it is not possible to say.

The Process was also used to facilitate change in an aerospace industry study presented

by Day and Atkinson (2004). In this case, the process was used as a planning tool and to

communicate the nature of the change to procurement functions in the early stages of the

change program. However, the practitioners in this case study had limited success using the

process as a guide for future action, finding the process to be of ‘‘…limited use over and
above the raising of personal awareness about the range of factors that are to be considered

throughout a change programme…’’ (Day and Atkinson 2004, p. 266).
Kotter’s process was also used in the implementation of a Shell Gabon strategic cost

initiative in the initial planning phases of the change program (Ansari and Bell 2009).

However, the change team found that not all stages of Kotter’s process suited their

environment, needing to add other conceptual frameworks. Joffe and Glynn (2002) also

present a study of the use of Kotter’s process in the pharmaceutical industry, while

Lintukangas et al. (2009) present a case study of a forestry company which aimed to follow

Kotter’s process in implementing an organisational change. However, neither of these

latter two cases provide significant critical reflection on the use of the process, and so are of

limited use in understanding how the process can be applied in practice.

Methodology and Structure of the Paper

This research was conducted at UGF (a pseudonym), an Australian organisation in the

Finance and Insurance Sector with over 10,000 employees and offices worldwide. The

change manager used Kotter’s eight-stage process of creating a major change to guide and

structure change management action, and the use of this process forms the focus for this

research.

This research was managed using AR. There are a wide variety of forms of AR,

although it would be fair to say that most could be described as cyclic and reflective

methodologies (Swepson 2003, p. 102), which are primarily focused on intervention, rather

than observation (Midgley 2003, p. 81). AR is an approach to research which allows a

researcher to engage in an organisation, and simultaneously create knowledge about that

process (Olsen and Myers 1999, p. 323).

AR is particularly appropriate for organisational settings, where the need to produce

organisational outcomes may be more significant in securing ongoing research participa-

tion than the promise of research outcomes. AR requires involvement in problem situations

and a ‘‘… readiness to use the experience itself as a research object about which lessons
can be learned by conscious reflection’’ (Checkland and Scholes 1990, p. 16). AR has also

been identified as appropriate for organisational change research, as it assists in developing

an understanding of the ways that social systems change (Lau 1999, p. 149), and has been

used to study a wide variety of business problems, including: organisational change and

transformation; marketing; product development; manufacturing; engineering; information

systems and e-commerce; accounting; small business; and management development

(Sankaran and Tay 2003, pp. 1–2).

Flood (1999, p. 53) has noted the development of a unique form of AR as one of the key

strands in Checkland’s work. Checkland’s FMA model has been identified as one of the

most widely used forms of AR (Champion 2007, p. 455), and it is this model which has

been followed in this research. The main components of this model are a research

framework (F); a methodology (M); and an area of application (A). Simply, particular ‘‘…

54 Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66

123

linked ideas F are used in a methodology M to investigate an area of interest A’’

(Checkland and Howell 1998, p. 13). Being explicit about these three elements may lead to

learning not only about the area of application, but also about the adequacy of the

methodology and the research framework (Checkland and Howell 1998, p. 13). Indeed, the

majority of learning resulting from the research presented in this paper is at the level of

methodology.

Clear distinction between a framework of ideas and a methodology for the organised

application of those ideas differentiates this approach to AR from others (Checkland 2003,

p. 291). Most other AR ‘‘… omits the need for a declared-in-advance intellectual frame-
work of ideas, a framework in terms of which what constitutes ‘knowledge’ about the

situation researched will be defined and expressed’’ (Checkland and Holwell 1998,

pp. 22–3). What constitutes knowledge in a problem situation should not be taken as given.

In defining F, the researcher is in effect defining the epistemology of the research and

defining what will count as knowledge (p. 24). Declaring the intellectual framework for an

AR project can be thought of as a way of contextualising the research in relation to the

range of possible forms of knowledge extant, allowing any research findings to be

appropriately judged and understood.

It is perhaps because of clear identification of the components of research that

Checkland’s FMA model has been found to add rigour (Sarah et al. 2002, p. 537) and

provide clarity (p. 539). The FMA model has been used to study organisational change

(Molineux and Haslett 2002), and readers are referred to West and Stansfield (2001, p. 251)

for an in-depth review of the use of the FMA model.

In terms of the FMA model, this research can be summarised as follows:

• F: Interpretivist epistemology and the academic literature on organizational change
• M: Kotter’s eight stage process of creating a major change
• A: Action taken at UGF

Data for this paper was gathered through semi-structured interviews between the

authors as a way of facilitating reflection, one of whom was the change manager for the

Knowledge Management Program at UGF. At the time of initial submission of this

research for publication, the organisational change had been running for over 2 years.

The remainder of this paper will be structured according to Kotter’s process. Each stage

will be discussed in terms of principles for action as described in the literature, before

actions taken at UGF are examined. Observations and conclusions about the overall use of

the process will then follow.

Stage 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency

The first stage in Kotter’s eight stage process is to create a sense of urgency; an awareness

of the need for the organisation to change. Kotter notes the failure to create a sense of

urgency to be the single biggest error made when trying to change organisations (Kotter

2008, p. viii), and has written a whole book, A Sense of Urgency, exclusively focusing on

this stage.

Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed cooperation. With

complacency high, transformations usually go nowhere because few people are even

interested in working on the change problem. With urgency low, it’s difficult to put

Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66 55

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together a group with enough power and credibility to guide the effort (Kotter 1996,

p. 36).

Complacency, rather than a desire for change, has been identified as more likely to be

the norm in established organisations (Kotter 2008, p. 15). Considerable effort may be

required to motivate organisational personnel to invest their time and effort and to put up

with the inconveniences of change (Ansari and Bell 2009, p. 157).

Although in Australia the Financial and Insurance Services sector has a relatively

younger workforce than many other sectors (Department of Education, Employment and

Workplace Relations 2010, p. 12), the issues that could result from a failure to respond to

their aging workforce were apparent to the senior management team at UGF. It was

identified that aging workforce issues could negatively impact upon core business areas if

left unaddressed. In particular, senior product roles were identified as under threat, due to a

lack of younger personnel able to fill these roles.

An aging workforce is typically represented as a threat; as a ‘‘… demographic time
bomb…’’ (Crampton et al. 1996, p. 243), a ‘‘…baby-boom-retirement tsunami…’’
(Leonard and Swap 2004, p. 90), or ‘‘…a threat to sustaining competitive advantage’’
(DeLong 2004, p. 19). However, the risks associated with an aging workforce are typically

faced equally by all companies within that industry sector. Risks can be considered to

include both threat and opportunity (Hillson 2003). There is an opportunity for competitive

advantage for those companies who respond most effectively to these issues.

Senior management at UGF established a Knowledge Management Program to mitigate

retirement knowledge loss. The initial focus in the Knowledge Management Program was

on exploring the risks associated with continuing with business as usual, and why change

was needed. Change management personnel reported that the need for change was easy to

sell as a message, due to widespread awareness of the looming demographic shift, but that

it was important to raise awareness that this was an issue that the company was looking to

do something about.

Stage 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition

The second stage in Kotter’s process involves forming a group who have enough power to

lead the change (Kotter 1996, p. 21). Guiding coalitions for the Knowledge Management

Program were created at multiple levels. Most prominently, the executive management

coalition was championed by the CEO and direct reports, and provided ongoing strategic

direction for the program.

The General Management Advisory Group, the second coalition, was also formed to

provide project governance. It has been identified that it is often problematic to identify

isolated factors that are responsible for the successful implementation of changes in or-

ganisations (Van der Meer 1999). However, Helm and Remington (2005) have identified

that the role of program sponsor is vital. This is particularly true in complex organisational

change programs (Remington and Pollack 2007). The involvement of these groups of

senior personnel met the need for a strong guiding coalition for the program, something

that Kotter (1996) identifies as essential.

A third prominent coalition was formed at a technical level of the organisation. One of

the projects within the program involved the development of a mentoring network, using a

risk based approach to knowledge management consistent with the approach reported on

by Sherman (2008). The change manager put considerable effort into bonding the senior

56 Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66

123

personnel invited to be coaches into a group. It was made clear that the success of the

program depended upon their involvement and drive for change. The group received

personalised communication from the sponsor EGM and CEO, and would go on to have

guiding influence beyond the limits of their project.

Stage 3: Develop a Vision and Strategy

UGF was described by the change manager as an organisation that culturally understands

and responds to risk. One of the key strengths of the organisation lay in the knowledge of

talented senior technical personnel. The organisation was already in a strong market

position. However, long-term contextual changes threatened this key strength. Upon

retirement employees take the unique skills, knowledge, experience and relationships that

they embody with them as they walk out the door. This is a commonly acknowledged

threat (e.g. Malone 2002, p. 112; DeLong 2004; Burke and Ng 2006, p. 88). Transfer of

knowledge from an older generation of experienced personnel to the generations following

was considered vital to UGF maintaining performance. This is consistent with the litera-

ture. Burke and Ng (2006) noted that those organisations that effectively transfer knowl-

edge between generations will be the least susceptible to issues associated with retiring

workers (p. 88). Knowledge transfer programs are acknowledged as a significant response

to an aging workforce in a wide variety of research (IAEA 2004, pp. 18–9; Krail 2005,

p. 35; Sherman 2008, p. 45). The vision for the program was to minimise this large risk to

the organisation’s competitive advantage, and was mostly defined in negative terms, as the

need to avoid the consequences of inaction.

The strategy to address this issue involved launching a wide variety of projects,

including: a mentoring project; developing communities of practice; role redefinition to

allow for accelerated specialist development; the introduction of a graduate program;

introduction of software supported discussion forums and analysis tools; development of

seminars focused on knowledge sharing; and a retirement preparation project focusing on

retention and workload issues. It was found that developing a vision and gaining accep-

tance for projects was relatively uncontentious. This can be attributed to broad and

common acceptance of the need to change. Of the four types of organisational change

identified by Cao et al. (2004, p. 105), this program would come to emphasise change of

cultures and values.

Stage 4: Communicating the Change Vision

The fourth Stage in Kotter’s Process is to communicate the vision for change. However,

Kotter notes that managers underestimate the amount of communication required to

develop a consistent understanding, an effort which may be hampered by inconsistent

messages, and lead to a stalled change implementation (1996, p. 85). Other research has

observed that ‘‘…in any company there is twice as much discussion about the weather than
about new strategies’’ (Pfeifer et al. 2005, p. 302). Ansari and Bell (2009, p. 159) have

identified the need to communicate the change as one of the two most important stages in

Kotter’s process.

Kotter identifies the error of ‘‘…under communicating the vision by a factor of 10 (or
100 or even 1,000)…’’ (1996, p. 9). In this organisational change at UGF more time and
effort was devoted to spreading the message and developing the visibility of the program

Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66 57

123

than any other program activity. However, adequately communicating the program vision

proved to involve more than repetition; something which is consistent with Sikorko (2008)

findings about change communication.

The change team focused on two broad groups of activities in communicating the

vision: visible senior support; and harnessing existing activities. Senior leaders were

regularly enlisted to talk about the need for change, and this was found to be an effective

strategy in developing senior support. For instance, on one occasion it was noted that an

executive appeared bored with the progress reports he had received. However, when he

was given slides and asked to present on the topic he became interested. In front of an

audience, he was animated and engaged, and afterwards requested more material to

present. This approach of engaging senior leaders through presentation to their teams and

to other product areas was reported as effective. It was also reported that the change team

needed to take the initiative to find new forums at which senior leaders could present,

rather than assuming this would happen without prompting. Despite CEO endorsement of

the Program, initiative could not be assumed.

The change team built on already planed activities within the organisation, often taking

senior managers’ presentation slides on other topics to draw out links to the program,

rewriting parts of the presentations to provide examples of the importance of the change,

including for the CEO. One example included the annual CEO and Executive road-show,

which was adapted to feature a strong emphasis on the program. The change team also

approached the EGM of HR and suggested that he may also want to discuss the program at

the road-show. This gave the EGM of HR an opportunity to join a politically expedient

movement, and helped to promote the program in multiple forums; at the road-show itself,

and later again when the EGM of HR reported to his leadership team.

Developing relationships with the organisation’s communications department also

proved significant. Good news articles about the program, such as updates about recent

coaching workshops, would be posted on the intranet. The change team nurtured positive

relationships with the communications department, which helped to keep news about the

Program at the top of the intranet news list for longer and with greater prominence.

Stage 5: Empowering Broad-based Change

The fifth stage in Kotter’s process involves removing obstacles to change, changing

structures or systems that undermine the vision, and encouraging innovative ideas (Kotter

1996, p. 21). As relationships with the communications team helped in the previous stage,

relationships with HR and other business units helped to remove structural barriers to

empowerment. For instance, unit business plans were centrally controlled for some units,

and locally controlled for others. The change team talked to each unit individually and to

the group overseeing central control of business plans to have aspects of the program

included in all business plans. Relationships with key personnel in HR helped to ensure

approval, and when it was approved the relationships with the communications team

helped to ensure that the program priorities featured prominently in unit plan

documentation.

Many of the blocks removed were at the project, rather than the program, level and can

be most clearly illustrated through reference to the mentoring project. To ensure coach

performance, all coaches attended training. The need for coaching training is consistent

with observations in the literature (Lubit 2001 p. 176). It has been identified that many

organisations have lost the ability to coach upcoming generations (Crawford et al. 2006,

58 Syst Pract Action Res (2015) 28:51–66

123

p. 727). Coaches were also provided with a resource to assist with ongoing coaching on

coaching.

The sponsor encouraged coaches, protégés, and participants to experiment, with the

intention of empowering them to take independent action. Coaches were allowed to define

their coaching roles to suit their interests and skills. For instance, at one community of

practice it was revealed that a coach had taken his protégés on a field trip. Another coach

felt that their protégés’ negotiation skills needed to be further developed, and engaged an

external training provider. These actions were neither suggested nor pre-sanctioned, but

when revealed were actively supported.

Emphasis was also placed on ensuring that the coaches knew they had senior …

“To ensure we are addressing the critical differences in an organization, we must pay attention
to both the national overlay and organizational narrative, including the social, historic, and
political perspectives of those within the system. These shape how people relate to one another,
even if all of the participants are of the same nationality or home culture.”

Defining Diversity and Adapting
Inclusion Strategies on a Global Scale

Lessons from the Field, for the Field

By Judith H. Katz and
Frederick A. Miller

One of the foundational questions for the
field of Organization Development, and
for OD practitioners, is how to ensure our
work is seen and experienced as relevant
wherever we practice around the globe
and to ensure that individual training and
experience (in our case, as United States-
based practitioners) does not limit us from
effectively understanding and working in
other cultural contexts.

As a White woman and African-
American man born, raised, and educated
in the United States, we have had to navi-
gate our own identities as we have worked
both in the US and globally and adapt our
theory and practice of strategic culture
change to the cultural contexts in which
we work. This is even more critical as our
practice focuses on helping clients create
higher-performing, inclusive organiza-
tions that leverage differences to be more
effective in their interactions and in the
marketplace.

In this article, we will share what we
have learned from our work in organiza-
tions around the globe. This involves first
addressing the concern that “diversity”
itself is often thought of as a US concept
primarily related to race and gender. We
will address how we have been able to use
inclusion in a culturally-sensitive way as
a key to strategic culture change. With
that foundation, we will illustrate how we
have successfully adapted frameworks and
change models.

Diversity: A Concept to Translate

Foundational to the work on diversity
and inclusion has been the very concept
of diversity itself. In the US, conscious-
ness about diversity as something to be
unleashed in the workplace grew out of
the Civil Rights Movement and initially
focused on race and subsequently gen-
der. Over time, collective understanding
of diversity has grown to include other
underrepresented groups, and diversity
work in some organizations is now focused
on a wider range of differences, including
sexual orientation, gender identity, age,
religion, nationality, work style, and more.

In our work, we focus not only on
leveraging differences, but also on con-
scious inclusion, knowing that is important
to not only have differences in the work-
place, but to enable each individual to do
their best work. This means ensuring that
an organization’s culture and interactions
support individuals of all identities and
their different perspectives, backgrounds,
and experiences to contribute to enhance
problem solving and innovation.

Shifting from Diversity to “Differences
that Make a Difference”
No matter where we are in the world,
getting the right people in the room to do
the right work is critical to organizational
success. This means working with the
organization to think about how best to
ensure people at all levels of the organiza-
tion and of all backgrounds can contribute.
The challenge is to understand and find
out which differences make a difference

42 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 48 No. 3 2016

within that country or region and how
those differences play out within that orga-
nization (Miller & Katz, 2013a). Figure 1,
above, refers to some of the differences that
seem to make the biggest difference in how
people are included—or not—in an orga-
nizational culture. This model provides an
opportunity for people in the client system
to consider and discuss which differences
are being joined with or judged the most,
thereby having the greatest impact on inter-
actions and performance.

When working with clients outside
the United States, we often encounter
concerns that we will put a US lens on our
work related to differences, specifically, a
focus on race and gender. Our identities
have also led some clients to believe we
will focus on these issues. Of course, this

speaks to the assumptions and frames
many bring about the US and our iden-
tities, all of which need to be worked
through, either directly or indirectly.

Using the “differences that make a
difference” framework when entering the
system allows us to begin with a larger
conversation with the client about differ-
ence as we work together to identify which
differences are most important within their
organization and country. We have found
that the reality of differences is universal—
every society has some groups that hold
more power than others and some history
of oppression. As we engage within orga-
nizations, we also hear about the pain and
barriers individuals and groups experience
due to a variety of differences in addition to
social identify, such as function and level.

Finding out early on what differences
make a difference through these conversa-
tions with people at all levels in the organi-
zation, understanding the cultural context
and organizational challenges, and using
our own skills of observation has proven
critical to our success in client systems
globally and has enabled us to effectively
address the differences that create chal-
lenges to higher individual, team, and
organization performance.

For instance, as part of a change effort
in a Mexico City plant, we used Conscious
Actions for Inclusion (Katz & Miller,
1995/2016) (see Figure 2, next page), a
model that is a foundational part of our
practice, for creating common language
across the organization and providing
a common set of behaviors that were
expected of each individual. Seeing the
model for the first time, senior leaders
claimed that focusing on the behaviors
was unnecessary because the culture was
already inclusive. The leaders indicated
how they always greeted people and that
they indeed had a “warm” culture. How-
ever, interviews with members of the orga-
nization clarified that while people were
outwardly very friendly to one another—
certainly more so than we might experience
in some U.S. organizations—the leaders
were not treating everyone equitably. Lead-
ers would say hello to everyone, but gender
and level in the organization determined
who got the most opportunity to share
their perspectives in conversations and
meetings. Many people said that they did
not feel safe speaking up to leaders, which
led them to hold back ideas for improve-
ment. When we shared these observations
with leaders, they realized they indeed had
work to do to create an environment where
people felt they were listened to and it was
safe to speak up to solve problems.

Gaining Context with
One Up and One Down
To ensure we are addressing the critical
differences in an organization, we must
pay attention to both the national overlay
and organizational narrative, including
the social, historic, and political perspec-
tives of those within the system. These
shape how people relate to one another,

Figure 1. Judging or Joining: It Makes a Difference

© 1992–2012 The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No duplication permitted without

written consent. 518 271-7000. www.kjcg.com. Adapted with permission from the work of Bailey Jackson, Ed.D.

43Defining Diversity and Adapting Inclusion Strategies on a Global Scale: Lessons from the Field, for the Field

www.kjcg.com

even if all of the participants are of the
same nationality or home culture. We know
from research that prejudices exist (Allport,
1954) and we all carry implicit and uncon-
scious bias (Ross, 2014), so the question
becomes, in what ways are these showing
up within the organization?

These dynamics were clear in an
engagement we undertook with leaders
of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa
(EMEA) division of a large, multinational
company. The focus of the work was leader-
ship team alignment and creating a clear
strategy for moving the region forward.
The group of 50 leaders included members
from countries throughout that vast EMEA
geography. Early on, it was clear to us that

the leaders from countries in Europe inter-
acted with leaders from African countries
in ways that reinforced one-up and one-
down dimensions. Similarly, there were
jokes and stereotypes expressed among the
European leaders about their colleagues
from other European countries. While not
naming that some of their challenges were
due to “diversity” issues, our work needed
to help them find new ways of interacting
and addressing the biases that were actu-
ally holding their performance back due
to a lack of trust and collaboration. Our
work in creating alignment incorporated
looking at the assumptions that people
were making based on their worldview and
breaking through some of the judgments

that were being made as people had dif-
ferent styles and approaches to achieving
their agreed-upon outcomes. As the group
worked toward creating alignment of their
goals and objectives, it was equally impor-
tant to achieve alignment on their need
to interact in more joining ways (Katz &
Miller, 2013b).

Knowing there is a different worldview
of barriers and challenges based on the
experience of being one-up and one-down
also helps drive strategies for change. For
instance, when we first started working
in Singapore in 1987, many Singaporeans
believed theirs was a very diverse and
inclusive country. However, it was clear
that, despite these values, there was a peck-
ing order within our client organization in
which the Chinese held the most senior
positions, people of Indian descent were
next most senior, and Malaysians were
most junior. Understanding these dynam-
ics was critical to the success of our work
and to the organization’s commitment to
becoming more inclusive.

Laying the Groundwork for
Conscious Inclusion Work

Creating a Safe Container for
Working with Difference
Following understanding of the context and
the ways in which differences are playing
out, our next critical task is to intervene
in a way that creates the container for the
work we are going to do in a system. Our
charge is to create a safe space and to gar-
ner the trust needed so people in the client
system believe that, as consultants from
another culture, we can support them in
their work (Katz & Miller, 1995/2016).

As we start our engagement with cli-
ents, we know it is critical to meet face-to-
face as soon as possible. Often, that is not
an initial option, so we ensure that we meet
via videoconference so we can see non-ver-
bal signals and begin to establish both con-
nection and safety for the client and for us.
For many in high-context cultures, this type
of connection is a critical element to estab-
lishing trust and overcoming cross-cultural
hurdles (Hall, 1976; Hofstede, 2001).

Creating a safe container is founda-
tional in our entry into the system. Like

Figure 2. Conscious Actions for Inclusion

Copyright © 1995–2014. The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No duplication permitted

without the written consent of The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Inc. 518 271-7000. www.kjcg.com.

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 48 No. 3 201644

www.kjcg.com

many OD consultants, informational
interviews enable us to meet with people
one-on-one or in small groups to under-
stand the challenges they and the organiza-
tion are facing and to shape our work and
specific interventions. Being effective in
listening is a culturally-aware practice that
cannot be overvalued.

Once on the ground, we strive to
spend enough time with people so that
they begin to know us and feel safe telling
us what is going on and what we need to
know to be successful. For instance, in
Singapore, the CEO and HR leader coached
us on mannerisms that came across as too
aggressive and helped us change how we
describe “straight talk” to a more culturally
appropriate “communicating clearly and
directly.” Positioning is critical, so we walk
around numerous times, seeing people
again and again in the canteen and in their
work spaces.

The process of getting to know
individuals and groups in a system also
provides an early forum in which people
can deal with any discomfort and voice
their concerns about working with US
consultants so that we can address their
concerns. During an engagement in the
Netherlands, many of those we met with
said there were issues among people,
but that these were not “diversity issues”
and that they were skeptical of a “US
diversity” project. By framing the work as
being focused on the outcome of inclu-
sion, people were much more open to
engaging and saw the value of the work
that we were going to undertake. Over the
years, we have found that, regardless of
culture, most people want to be included,
contribute, and have an environment in
which they can do their best work. Our
job working in any organization is to find
out what that means for the people of that
organization and co-create with the client
how to best make that happen. Framing
work around inclusion—the outcome of
leveraging differences—enables people to
lean in and see their self-interest in join-
ing the effort. Once people are clear that
inclusion is not just for inclusion’s sake,
but rather a core element of achieving
the organization’s mission, strategy, and
goals and enabling them to be successful,

people see the effort as having local and
personal importance.

Using Oneself
Critical to working globally—and—
domestically—is entering a system with
a clear awareness of our own culture and
our cultural and individual biases, both
conscious and unconscious (Katz & Miller,
2003). When working outside of our home
country, it is even more critical for us to
avoid entering a system with assumptions
about a common worldview and value sys-
tem. We each carry our own gender, racial,
national, professional identities, and other
backgrounds with us and continually seek
to understand the impact of our cultural
identities and experiences on our behav-
iors and how we appear to others. Really
understanding our own cultural baggage is
foundational to being able to hear, partner
with, and understand how others are both
similar and different.

Early on in our careers, we participated
in an interview process with a Singapor-
ean company for which we were flown to
London to meet with two executive leaders
and a local consultant. We came prepared
to share our models and approach, but
instead ended up spending the day talk-
ing about our values. We were surprised
that this potential client did not first want
to hear about what we would do; their
worldview was that if we were aligned on
values, the rest of the engagement could
be worked out in partnership and would be
successful. This was and continues to be
dramatically different from our experience
working with US companies.

The same client showed us again the
importance of being mindful of our own
biases when conducting a session with
the CEO and his leadership team of three.
As part of the session, we asked the team
to complete a survival-type activity in which
all team members were charged with com-
ing to consensus on the priority issues.
Teams we had worked with in the United
States often completed the task in about
45 minutes, but this team was still work-
ing on the task three hours later. One team
member held a very different point of view
about what the team needed and the rest
of the team held the position that the task

would not be complete until each team
member was “happy” with the outcome.
They approached other tasks similarly
throughout our engagement, providing
us with new insights about cultural differ-
ences in decision making and the true
meaning of consensus.

Inclusion as Strategic Culture Change

Our clients bring us in because they need
to achieve particular business objectives
that will be facilitated by making inclusion
critical to HOW they work. Just as engage-
ment is an organizational value around the
globe, inclusion is also an outcome organi-
zations strive for, regardless of geography.
The challenge for each organization is to
determine what inclusion looks like in light
of their particular business objectives.

We address the creation of inclusive
interactions as an element of culture
because it requires a comprehensive and
targeted systems approach, tailored to the
needs of the business, in which differences
and inclusion are a means to achieving
higher performance rather than ends unto
themselves. A total systems change effort
(Katz & Miller, 2016) is required to create a
major shift in what is valued, who is at the
table, how people interact, and how work
gets done. When inclusion is the common
language of the organization, people under-
stand one another more quickly and more
accurately. They have the sense of safety
needed to speak up, make problems visible,
and address problems quickly rather than
being afraid of being seen as the dissenting
voice or the bearer of bad news. As a result,
problem solving and decision making are
accelerated and waste is eliminated (Katz
& Miller, 2013a; 2009). Inclusion as a
cultural element can increase productiv-
ity, profitability, engagement, and a host of
other positive indicators in organizations.
However, achieving it requires transform-
ing systems—what we call an inclusion
breakthrough (Miller & Katz, 2002).

The common element of this
approach, regardless of where the work
takes place, is opening the door to con-
scious inclusion to enable higher per-
formance and sustain culture change.
Opening that door involves several steps:

45Defining Diversity and Adapting Inclusion Strategies on a Global Scale: Lessons from the Field, for the Field

» Selecting, educating, and supporting
a core group of internal change agents
who focus on accelerating culture
change through peer-to-peer interaction
and influence.

» Conducting organization-wide educa-
tion on the practice of consciously
inclusive behaviors to create common
language, develop skills, and leverage
difference across the organization.

» Implementing just-in-time coaching to
enable people to effectively and quickly
apply inclusive mindsets and behaviors
in their teams.

» Implementing tools that enable clear
communication and eliminate waste in
meetings and day-to-day interactions.

Sustaining culture change calls for
implementing a measurement tool to hold
people accountable for demonstrating
consciously inclusive behaviors, identify-
ing core business processes and metrics
that would improve to a significant degree
if greater inclusion existed, and revising
people policies to reflect inclusive values
and practices in selection, hiring, coach-
ing, development, performance reviews,
rewards/bonuses, and promotions.

Two engagements in Asia illustrate
how measurement sustains culture change
in our client organizations.

In a recent engagement in Singapore,
many of the leaders, who were expats, expe-
rienced the largely Singaporean workforce
as not speaking up in team meetings or
formal forums. One of the early steps in
the effort was to create a cohort of change
agents, a diverse group of 50 people from
across the plant. The pre-session interviews
we conducted with the potential partici-
pants featured very engaged conversations
and we observed that people were very
engaged with one another during session
breaks, yet when they came together as a
group, there was almost silence. We shared
our observations about the silence in the
room and one person remarked, “We have
a lot to say, but no one wants to listen.”

The reticence the largely expat senior
leadership team attributed to cultural
differences was actually due to an organi-
zational culture that made it difficult for
people to speak up and rarely listened to

those who did speak up. By creating space
to surface this information, consciously
changing the cultural norms, and creating
the cohort so people knew they would not
be speaking out alone, the group eventually
became very active in the change process,
shared their views more, and gave more
and more leadership to the plant. Members
of this early change agent group went on
to bring issues to leadership and work for
greater inclusion by ensuring their peers’
voices were heard and that issues that
impacted people’s ability to contribute to
organizational success were addressed.
People had lots of ideas for improvement,
but found that, when they spoke, others
often interrupted them, leading many to
feel that their contributions were unwel-
comed. A major part of the intervention
was working not only with the cohort, but
with the expats, teaching them skills to
foster greater inclusion and truly listen to
what people had to say. Once the environ-
ment shifted toward greater openness and
listening, plant performance improved dra-
matically. The change agent group was able
to extend their learnings to others through
peer-to-peer leadership and helped others
find their voices to share their ideas.

Another team of plant and functional
leaders from China, Japan, Indonesia, Sin-
gapore, and Australia (including Irish, UK,
and US expats), also faced the challenge of
team member reluctance to speak up. This
was exacerbated by the fact the team oper-
ated primarily in English, which was a sec-
ond or third language for many members
of the group. Conversations would happen
rapidly and in a Western cultural style,
which made it challenging for Asian team
members to speak up and be heard. Often,
when an Asian team member sharing an
idea paused to take a breath or a moment
to think, another team member would cut
her or him off. And, because of their chal-
lenges with English, the Asian leaders were
being judged as less effective, regardless of
their actual results, making them less likely
to move into positions of greater leader-
ship. While we had talked with each person
prior the session and heard great thinking,
much of the Asian members’ thinking
was not a part of the conversation once the
team assembled and interacted.

At dinner with this group after our
first day of work with them, Judith was
seated next to one of the plant leaders from
China. She was struck by how much the
woman had to say—her lively and robust
conversation was nothing like her behavior
in the group earlier in the day. On the sec-
ond day with the group, we decided to ask
each member to stand up when they talked,
allowing them to physically claim space in
the conversation, regardless of their facility
with English. Standing signaled that they
still had things to say, even if they paused
to think and mentally translate. This also
allowed them share their thinking without
being interrupted or having conversations
overlap. While standing initially seemed
awkward, the impact on the quality of work
and the ability to get everyone’s thinking
was immense as some members of the
team learned how much their colleagues
had to offer and others found a new pro-
cess for contributing.

Later, the team applied a similar pro-
cess in conference calls, with a new norm of
waiting two beats after someone shared her
or his thoughts and checking that they were
done speaking before someone else started
to speak. They came to realize that by slow-
ing down, they were in fact speeding up
their own process of problem- solving and
decision-making, which increased inclusion
and helped eliminate waste in their interac-
tions (Katz & Miller, 2010).

Adapting Approaches and Models

Effectively adapting organization develop-
ment approaches and models—both ours
and others’—to our client engagements
outside of the US has been essential to
facilitating the culture change and inclu-
sion breakthroughs that have impacted
our clients’ productivity and success. The
concepts we use are basically the same
globally, but how we implement our work
can vary dramatically based on national
and organizational contexts. By being able
to adapt, flex, and create new methodolo-
gies, we have been able to address concerns
about our ability as US consultants to be an
effective and adaptable partner.

Our experience has been that most
models and approaches can work globally

OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 48 No. 3 201646

if they are properly translated into the cul-
tural context and are aligned with the goals
of the system and people’s self-interest.
They have to make sense to people—people
need to see some immediate advantage to
using new behaviors and changing how
they interact. “Making sense” often means
the proof is in seeing both short-term and
long-term success achieved.

Cultural Adaptation
Some examples of successful cultural adap-
tation we have found include the following.
In Japan, it was critical that members of a
client system did not feel we were advo-
cating they go against the cultural norm.
One of the key cultural dynamics we have
often heard in Japan is “the nail that sticks
out gets hammered.” This cultural saying
translates into a strong need for harmony
within a group or team, which often
makes people reluctant to raise issues that
might be problematic. Having worked in
Toyota in the US, we were familiar with a
major component of the Toyota Produc-
tion System that called for anyone on the
production line who saw a quality issue to
pull the “andon cord” and stop the line’s
operations. This experience helped us
bridge the gap and reframe speaking up
as a practice that creates greater harmony
by letting others know of an issue before
it becomes a big problem for the team.
This framing—for the good of the group—
made people more willing to raise issues
in the spirit of helping the team be better.
Similarly, we used the lean manufacturing
concept of eliminating production waste as
a framework for considering how inclusive
behaviors eliminate waste in human inter-
actions (Miller & Katz, 2013b).

Conclusions

Our experiences working with clients
around the globe continue to reinforce the
major tenets of OD, particularly the need to
constantly develop and grow ourselves as
instruments of change and the importance
of not only bringing our skills but also
shaping and co-creating strategy with our
clients. Working on differences that make a
difference in each organization (locally and
regionally) creates a space for the issues of

difference that matter in that system to be
identified and addressed. Adapting models
and frameworks for change so that they
are relevant to our client systems is not
only a need in working globally, it is the
very essence of OD work. Such adaptation
requires us to constantly adjust our own
attitudes, beliefs, and methodologies to the
local national, cultural, and organizational
circumstances. Our job as change agents
is to understand, adjust to, and challenge
the system and ourselves in the process.
In doing so, we are able to help our clients
achieve their ultimate goals while hewing
to the values that are central to our practice
and our field.

References

Allport, G.W. (1954). The nature of prejudice.
Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

Hall, E.T. (1976). Beyond culture. New York,
NY: Random House.

Hofstede, G. H. (2001). Culture’s conse-
quences: Comparing values, behaviors,
institutions and organizations across
nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Publications.

Katz, J. H., & Miller, F.A. (2003). Diversity
consultation skills. In D. Plummer
(Ed.), Handbook of diversity management:
Beyond awareness to competency based
learning (pp. 427–447). Lanham, MD:
University Press of America, Inc.

Katz, J. H. & Miller, F. A. (2008). Be BIG:
Step up, step out, be bold. San Francisco,
CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Katz, J. H., & Miller, F. A. (2010). The need
for speed: It starts with interaction.
Chief Learning Officer, 9(6), 34.

Katz, J. H., & Miller, F. A. (2013a). Open-
ing doors to teamwork and collaboration:
4 Keys that change everything. San Fran-
cisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Katz, J. H. & Miller, F.A. (2013b) Judg-
ing others has not worked so let’s
join them. Executive Forum: Leader to
Leader, 70, 51–57.

Katz, J.H., & Miller, F.A. (1995/2016). Con-
scious actions for inclusion. Unpublished
manuscript.

Katz, J. H., & Miller, F.A. (2016). Leverag-
ing diversity and inclusion for perfor-
mance. In W. Rothwell, J. M. Stavros, &

R. Sullivan (Eds.). Practicing organiza-
tion development: Leading transformation
and change, 4th edition (pp. 366–375).
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Miller, F.A., & Katz, J. H. (2002). The inclu-
sion breakthrough: Unleashing the real
power of diversity. San Francisco, CA:
Berrett-Koehler.

Miller, F.A., & Katz, J. H. (2013a). If differ-
ences are to make a difference we need
an “inclusion breakthrough.” Retrieved
from www.diversitycentral.com/tools_
and_resources/featurearticle.php.

Miller, F.A., & Katz, J. H. (2013b). Eliminat-
ing waste through global standard …

By D.D. Warrick

“The irony is that while virtually everyone believes in teamwork, leaders passionately preach the
importance of teamwork, an abundance of research supports the value of teamwork, and teamwork
is almost always a central theme of text books and practitioner books on leadership and how to
build successful organizations, most organizations do little if anything to build teamwork.”

What Leaders Can Learn About
Teamwork and Developing
High Performance Teams From
Organization Development
Practitioners

Introduction

The ability of organizations to be skilled
at teamwork and building high perfor-
mance teams is a major key to competitive
advantage and may very well determine the
future success or failure of many organiza-
tions. The payoffs of teamwork are well
documented (see for example, Katzenback
& Smith, 1993; LaFasto & Larson, 2001;
McShane & Von Glinow, 2010; Hellriegel
& Slocum, 2011; Levi, 2011). Teamwork can
significantly improve performance, effec-
tiveness, efficiency, morale, job satisfaction,
unity of purpose, communications, inno-
vative thinking, quality, speed in getting
things done, and loyalty to an organization.
By contrast, organizations that are not
skilled at teamwork are sure to underutilize
their potential and are just as sure to suffer
the many internal and external conse-
quences that a lack of teamwork brings. It
makes sense that organizations of all types
and sizes from the private, public, non-
profit, athletic, military, and other sectors
should make teamwork a high priority and
that leaders should be trained to be skilled
in developing high performance teams.

The irony is that while virtually
everyone believes in teamwork, lead-
ers passionately preach the importance
of teamwork, an abundance of research

supports the value of teamwork, and
teamwork is almost always a central theme
of text books and practitioner books on
leadership and how to build successful
organizations, most organizations do little
if anything to build teamwork. In fact,
leaders are rarely trained how to build
teamwork and high performance teams,
and organization cultures, designs, priori-
ties, pressures, and rewards often discour-
age teamwork. Yes, there are excellent
examples of teamwork in some organiza-
tions, athletic teams, the military, and a few
other organizations. However, excelling
at teamwork is not the norm. If you want
a reality check on how effective organiza-
tions are at teamwork, gather a sampling
of people from your own organization or
different organizations together and ask
the following questions:
a. Do you believe that teamwork is

important to the success of an
organization?

b. Does your organization excel at team-
work at the top, within teams, and
between teams?

c. Do you believe that your organization
values and rewards teamwork and
being a team player?

d. What does your organization do to
train leaders how to build high perfor-
mance teams?

68 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 3 2014

The Valuable Contribution Organization
Development Practitioners Can Make in
Training Leaders How to Build Teamwork
and High Performance Teams

Organization development practitioners
are uniquely qualified to address the
teamwork dilemma by championing
the importance of teamwork and by
multiplying their effects by training
leaders in the fundamentals of what OD
practitioners do to build teamwork and
high performance teams. For purposes
of this article, I am defining OD practi-
tioners as those who are trained in OD
and practice OD as a profession, or use
OD in how they approach their jobs. For
readers who may not be familiar with OD,
there are many definitions of OD (Cum-
mings & Worley, 2001; Warrick, 2005;
Rothwell, Stavros, Sullivan, & Sullivan,
2010). The definition that I am using for
this article is that OD is a planned and
collaborative process for understanding,
developing, and changing organizations
to improve their health, effectiveness, and
self-renewing capabilities.

One of the early distinctives of OD
was its emphasis on teamwork, collabora-
tion, and team building, and on the core
value of transference, meaning that OD
practitioners are committed to transferring
what they know. Thus, OD practitioners
should be well trained in how to foster
teamwork and high performance teams
and should be willing to share what they
have learned.

The purpose of this article is to point
out the need for organizations to excel
at teamwork if they are going to succeed
in these times of dynamic change and
unrelenting competition, and to encourage
OD practitioners to champion the need
for teamwork, to help organizations build
teamwork, and to multiply their efforts by
training leaders in the fundamentals of
what they know and do to develop team-
work and high performance teams. The
potential payoffs of these efforts to organi-
zations could be substantial and could even
determine their future success or failure.
In this article, a prototype of how this can
be done is provided to encourage OD prac-
titioners to create their own approaches.

Communicating the Important Difference
Between Experiential and Action Team
Building

To gain the interest of leaders in learn-
ing how to build high performance
teams, it is important to clarify the dif-
ference between experiential and action
team building. If you ask leaders what
comes to mind when they hear the term
team building, they will typically say that
it means doing a series of experiential
exercises such as trust walks and trust falls
that some would just as soon avoid. The
field of organization development bears
some of the responsibility for misconcep-
tions about what team building is as early
team building efforts tended to be heavily
experientially-oriented, which sometimes
gave OD the reputation of being a “touchy
feely” field.

Experiential team building typically
does indeed consist of a number of experi-
ential exercises. It has a valuable purpose
in that it can be used to build camaraderie
and help people understand important
concepts. However, it would be a mistake
to conclude that by doing experiential exer-
cises a team will suddenly become a high
performance team. Doing a trust walk may
illustrate the importance of trust, but build-
ing trust takes time and real life actions
that earn trust.

Building a high performance team is
hard work, does not happen overnight, and
comes primarily from action team build-
ing. Action-oriented team building involves
participants in the specific actions needed
to build a high performance team. For
example, a team may need to agree on the
purpose of the team, on what it will take for
the team to be successful, on the vision and
mission of the team, on the responsibili-
ties of the team and each team member,
on the standards the team will operate by,
and on the goals of the team. Once these
fundamentals are established, it takes time,
practice, and continuous improvement to
build a high performance team.

In preparing leaders to understand
team building, it is also important to point
out that teams have different situations and
purposes, and that what it will take for a
particular team to be a high performance

team, and if a team even needs to be a high
performance team, will differ with each
team. The point is that there are many
valuable lessons leaders can learn about
teamwork and building high performance
teams from OD practitioners, and that OD
practitioners can do a better job of transfer-
ring what they know to leaders.

A Prototype for Transferring What OD
Practitioners Know to Developing Leaders
Skilled in Building Teams and Teamwork

There are a number of resources available
on how to build high performance teams
(for example, see Larson & LaFasto, 1989;
Wheelan, 2005; Leading Teams published
by the Harvard Business School Press,
2006; Anderson, 2012). The most popular
model was developed by Tuckman and Jen-
sen (1977) that includes five stages of team
development:
1. Forming: getting to know the team

members and the team;
2. Storming: team members struggle to

establish roles, norms, and goals;
3. Norming: roles, norms, and goals are

established;
4. Performing: team members have

learned to efficiently coordinate activi-
ties, resolve conflicts, and work together
with a high level of trust;

5. Adjourning: the team is about to
disband and team members shift their
focus from a task to a relationship
focus.

While this is an excellent model, the focus
is primarily on forming new teams and
showing the life cycle of teams.

Based on a review of various models
for developing high performance teams
and my own experience in working with
hundreds of teams, I have identified five
fundamentals for championing efforts to
improve teamwork and to train leaders
how to build high performance teams.
Keep in mind that the goal is not to present
one approach, but rather to encourage OD
practitioners to develop their own approach
based on what they know and have seen
work. Also, keep in mind that this proto-
type addresses basic, fundamental con-
cepts, and that once the fundamentals

69What Leaders Can Learn About Teamwork and Developing High Performance Teams From Organization Development Practitioners

are learned, more advanced concepts can
be presented.

1. Provide compelling reasons to focus on
teamwork and building high perfor-
mance teams. For OD practitioners,
and I might add leaders who are willing
to champion efforts to improve team-
work, it is important to know reality
before treating reality, and to make the
incentive for change greater than the
incentive to stay the same. In other
words, it is important to know what
is working and not working regard-
ing teamwork, and where needed, to
build a case for a greater emphasis on
teamwork and developing leaders into
skilled team builders. Depending on
the situation and the need, this could
be as simple as using a questionnaire
like the one in Figure 1 to engage lead-
ers in evaluating how well an organi-
zation excels at teamwork, building
high performance teams, and training
leaders to be skilled team builders, and
showing a chart that includes the many
payoffs of teamwork and costs of a lack
of teamwork. It could also include a
more in-depth analysis through open
dialogs, interviews, questionnaires,
and a variety of other ways to present
compelling information to motivate a
greater emphasis on teamwork.

2. Develop a systems view of teamwork.
Rarely does a high level of teamwork
happen by random chance. People
do not automatically become team
players just because they are people,
and teams, which have a tendency to
focus on their own needs and perspec-
tives, do not automatically cooperate
with other teams just because they are
teams. Leaders need to develop a big
picture, systems view of teamwork, and
to purposely develop teamwork at the
top, within teams, between teams, and
outside the organization with key stake-
holders that can influence the success
of the organization. One of the keys to
promoting a systems view of teamwork
is to see the top level leaders become a
model for effective teamwork. What-
ever happens at the top gets multiplied

throughout the organization whether
it is unity and a common focus, or
disunity and confusion.

3. Develop a model of the characteristics
of high performance teams. It is impor-
tant to have a clear concept of the char-
acteristics of high performance teams
before encouraging leaders to work
towards building something they do
not understand. How can leaders build
a high performance team if they do not
know what one looks like? It may be
helpful to have leaders study available
literature on the characteristics of high
performance teams (see, for example

the references in this paper and in
particular Katzenbach & Smith, 1993;
Robbins & Finley,

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