Organization Development – 2.3 Selecting an approach

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2.3    Selecting an Approach

After building a strategy and considering organizational dynamics, the practitioner is ready to select an approach for initiating the effort.  Several options exist, and combinations of these options may be appropriate in some situations.  Each option has, of course, certain advantages and disadvantages.

Option 1:  Selection of a winner

With this approach the practitioner selects a project that is associated with a high probability of success and little chance of failure.

Advantages

  • Low risk for the practitioner as well as the organization;
  • A potentially high, quick return;
  • The opening of doors to other opportunities as a result of early success.

Disadvantages

  • The practitioner may be perceived as simply being in the right place at the right time rather than as working diligently on the organization’s behalf;
  • The problems addressed by the project may be seen as minor or of relatively little impact;
  • Those involved in the project may be perceived as special or as ‘different’ from the rest of the employees.

Option 2:  Use of a power play

This approach involves starting with the most influential and powerful group in the organization.  A suitable project might be a team-building activity conducted with the manager of this group and his or her staff.

Advantages

  • A high potential for change because of the target group’s power to implement the change;
  • A high return or impact attributable to the group’s control over numerous variables;
  • The fact that if the project is successful, the practitioner gains a great deal of credibility, as does the OD process.

Disadvantages

  • This approach may make an overly powerful group even more so, thereby threatening the rest of the organization;
  • The practitioner may be seen as part of the organization’s power structure;
  • If such a project fails, there is high risk to the organization and to the future of other OD projects.

Option 3:  Limitation through a pilot project

In using this approach the practitioner proposes and gains acceptance for completing a project that is limited to one or two areas of the organization.  Examples include a job-development project accomplished in one department or a team-skills workshop conducted for a particular level within the organization.

Advantages

  • It is often more acceptable to key managers than a large-scale effort;
  • Its limitation in scope affords greater manageability;
  • It gives the practitioner an opportunity to demonstrate what can be done;
  • If the initial effort is successful, the practitioner will find it easier to intervene in other parts of the organization on the strength of this success.

Disadvantages

  • Such a project may be seen as successful only because it is ‘special’;
  • It may be rejected on the basis that it is threatening to the rest of the organization;
  • Further intervention may become difficult due to scepticism about activities that were ‘not invented here.’

Option 4:  Concentrating on a business problem

With this approach an attempt is made to concentrate on attacking an acknowledged business problem such as turnover, absenteeism, poor quality, high waste or deteriorating relationships.  An example of such a project might be the use of problem-solving groups to improve service quality.

Advantages

  • The effort is perceived as legitimate because it is directed toward an acknowledged problem;
  • As with the pilot-project approach, the chance for success is enhanced because the effort is limited in scope;
  • If such a problem is successfully resolved, everyone benefits;
  • The organization gains a solution to the problem, and both the practitioner and OD itself gain credibility.

Disadvantages

  • Success may be limited because of the many variables that influence business problems;
  • The organization’s personnel may be impatient with the time required to obtain visible results;
  • If the project is unsuccessful, the practitioner may lose the opportunity to gain entry into other parts of the organization.

Option 5:  Control through action research

In this situation the practitioner institutes a controlled experiment in which some aspect of the organization is changed and the impact is then monitored and evaluated.  This type of activity is similar to the pilot project, but it is generally even more tightly controlled and limited in scope.

Advantages

  • It is often more acceptable to key managers than a large-scale effort;
  • Its limitation in scope affords greater manageability;
  • It gives the practitioner an opportunity to demonstrate what can be done;
  • If the initial effort is successful, the practitioner will find it easier to intervene in other parts of the organization on the strength of this success.

Disadvantages

  • Such a project may be seen as successful only because it is ‘special’;
  • It may be rejected on the basis that it is threatening to the rest of the organization;
  • Further intervention may become difficult due to scepticism about activities that were ‘not invented here’;
  • The practitioner may be viewed as a ‘researcher’ who is separated from the mainstream of the organization.

Option 6:  Reduction of organizational pain

This approach is similar to concentration on a business problem except that ‘pain’ is defined more broadly than is ‘problem.’  Organizational pain might include poor decision-making or problem-solving, the inability to obtain valid information from staff, excessive time spent in initiating and/or implementing change efforts, the unwillingness of staff to take the initiative in directing their own activities, and so on.

Advantages

  • The effort is perceived as legitimate because it is directed toward an acknowledged ‘pain’;
  • As with the pilot-project approach, the chance for success is enhanced because the effort is limited in scope;
  • The organization gains a relief from the pain, and both the practitioner and OD itself gain credibility. Managers who receive help in reducing the kinds of pain illustrated can become intense supporters of the practitioner.

Disadvantages

  • Success may be limited because of the many variables that influence the pain that develops in organizations;
  • The organizational personnel may be impatient with the time required to obtain visible relief;
  • If the project is unsuccessful, the practitioner may lose the opportunity to gain entry into other parts of the organization;
  • The pain may be social or psychological in nature, therefore improvement may be viewed as ‘soft’ or ‘fuzzy’ by personnel in other parts of the organization who are not actively involved in the effort.

Option 7:  Involvement in an imposed change

This approach consists of becoming involved in a project or change that the organization has already mandated.  Examples might include the promotion of a manager, a merger between two departments, the initiation of a new service procedure, or the launching of a new department or division.  This type of project might involve such interventions as a transition meeting, a merger meeting, or a new-division start-up.

Advantages

  • The need for change is already established;
  • The change itself is the natural process employed in the intervention, which may make the organization more receptive to other OD activities;
  • The practitioner is seen as assisting in a natural and/or legitimate process and thus is considered to have a relevant, helpful function;
  • The potential for success with such a project is relatively high, and the practitioner shares with others the responsibility for success.

Disadvantages

  • The practitioner may be seen as a meddler;
  • Success in the project may be attributed to factors other than the OD interventions;
  • The reasons for the change may not be consistent with OD values, therefore, the practitioner may be seen as hypocritical or unethical.

Option 8:  Association with the influence leader

This approach is similar to the power play except that the focus is on an individual rather than a group.

Advantages

  • A high potential for change because of the influence leader’s power to implement the change;
  • The fact that if the project is successful, the practitioner gains a great deal of credibility, as does the OD process.

Disadvantages

  • This approach may make an overly powerful influence leader even more so;
  • The practitioner may be seen as part of the influence leader’s power structure;
  • If such a project fails, there is high risk to the organization and to the future of other OD projects;
  • It may be extremely difficult for the practitioner to work in other areas of the organization in which the influence leader’s work is envied or suspect.

Option 9:  Association with OD support

With this approach, activities are initiated in those parts of the organization that are already supportive of OD values and activity.

Advantages

  • Projects can be initiated quickly;
  • The potential for their success is high;
  • The employees involved feel a strong sense of ownership of these projects and perceive the practitioner as valuable.

Disadvantages

  • Success with such projects may be viewed by personnel in other parts of the organization as merely perceived rather than real;
  • Success may accomplish little in the way of opening doors into other parts of the organization;
  • The practitioner may be seen by the rest of the organization as just ‘one of those OD people’;
  • If the practitioner’s support comes from a low-influence group, his or her own influence may actually diminish elsewhere.

Option 10:  Total-system intervention

The objective of this approach is to affect all parts of the organization almost simultaneously.  Such a project might be a new-division start-up in which the practitioner or a team of practitioners is involved in every aspect of planning and implementation.

Advantages

  • Being involved in every aspect of the organization;
  • Having more control of the variables;
  • If the project is successful, the practitioner gains great credibility and influence.

Disadvantages

  • Failure in this type of project has an extremely negative impact on the practitioner’s credibility;
  • Few managers consider this approach to be a viable starting point for OD.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …

http://www.theknowledge.biz/

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One thought on “Organization Development – 2.3 Selecting an approach

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