Development of human resources -- Part 3
This is the third in a series of articles which originally appeared in Tappi Journal in 1995-96, to introduce methods addressing the development of individuals and organizations through the field of Human Resource Development. (The article has been updated, and is reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.)
WHAT IS OD?
Beckhard (1) defines Organization Development (OD) as "an effort, planned, organization-wide,
and managed from the top, to increase organization effectiveness and health through planned
interventions in the organization's processes, using behavioral-science knowledge." In
essence, OD is a planned system of change.
- Planned. OD takes a long-range approach to improving organizational performance and
efficiency. It avoids the (usual) "quick-fix".
- Organization-wide. OD focuses on the total system.
- Managed from the top. To be effective, OD must have the support of top-management.
They have to model it, not just espouse it. The OD process also needs the buy-in and
ownership of workers throughout the organization.
- Increase organization effectiveness and health. OD is tied to the bottom-line. Its goal is
to improve the organization, to make it more efficient and more competitive by aligning
the organization's systems with its people.
- Planned interventions. After proper preparation, OD uses activities called interventions to
make systemwide, permanent changes in the organization.
- Using behavioral-science knowledge. OD is a discipline that combines research and
experience to understanding people, business systems, and their interactions.
We usually think of OD only in terms of the interventions themselves. This article seeks to
emphasize that these activities are only the most visible part of a complex process, and to put
some perspective and unity into the myriad of OD tools that are used in business today. These
activities include Total Quality Management (an evolutionary approach to improving an
organization) and Reengineering (a more revolutionary approach). And there are dozens of
other interventions, such as strategic planning and team building. It is critical to select the
correct intervention(s), and this can only be done with proper preparation.
WHY DO OD?
- Human resources -- our people -- may be a large fraction of our costs of doing business.
They certainly can make the difference between organizational success and failure. We
better know how to manage them.
- Changing nature of the workplace. Our workers today want feedback on their
performance, a sense of accomplishment, feelings of value and worth, and commitment to
social responsibility. They need to be more efficient, to improve their time management.
And, of course, if we are to continue doing more work with less people, we need to make
our processes more efficient.
- Global markets. Our environments are changing, and our organizations must also change
to survive and prosper. We need to be more responsible to and develop closer
partnerships with our customers. We must change to survive, and we argue that we should
attack the problems, not the symptoms, in a systematic, planned, humane manner.
- Accelerated rate of change. Taking an open-systems approach, we can easily identify the competitions on an international scale for people, capital, physical resources, and
WHO DOES OD?
To be successful, OD must have the buy-in, ownership, and involvement of all stakeholders,
not just of the employees throughout the organization. OD is usually facilitated by change
agents -- people or teams that have the responsibility for initiating and managing the change
effort. These change agents may be either employees of the organization (internal
consultants) or people from outside the organization (external consultants.)
Effective change requires leadership with knowledge, and experience in change
management. We strongly recommend that external or internal consultants be used,
preferably a combination of both. ("These people are professionals; don't try this at home.")
Bennis (2) notes that "external consultants can manage to affect ... the power structure in a
way that most internal change agents cannot." Since experts from outside are less subject to
the politics and motivations found within the organization, they can be more effective in
facilitating significant and meaningful changes.
WHEN IS AN ORGANIZATION READY FOR OD?
There is a formula, attributed to David Gleicher (3, 4), which we can use to decide if an
organization is ready for change:
Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance to Change
This means that three components must all be present to overcome the resistance to
change in an organization: Dissatisfaction with the present situation, a vision of what is
possible in the future, and achievable first steps towards reaching this vision. If any of the
three is zero or near zero, the product will also be zero or near zero and the resistance to
change will dominate.
We use this model as an easy, quick diagnostic aid to decide if change is possible. OD
can bring approaches to the organization that will enable these three components to surface,
so we can begin the process of change.
OD IS A PROCESS
Action Research is a process which serves as a model for most OD interventions. French and
Bell (5) describe Action Research as a "process of systematically collecting research data
about an ongoing system relative to some objective, goal, or need of that system; feeding
these data back into the system; taking actions by altering selected variables within the system
based both on the data and on hypotheses; and evaluating the results of actions by collecting
The steps in Action Research are (6, 7):
It would be nice if real OD followed these steps sequentially. This rarely happens. Instead,
the consultants must be flexible and be ready to change their strategy when necessary. Often
they will have to move back and repeat previous steps in light of new information, new
influences, or because of the changes that have already been made.
- Entry. This phase consists of marketing, i.e. finding needs for change within an
organization. It is also the time to quickly grasp the nature of the organization, identify
the appropriate decision maker, and build a trusting relationship.
- Start-up and contracting. In this step, we identify critical success factors and the real
issues, link into the organization's culture and processes, and clarify roles for the
consultant(s) and employees. This is also the time to deal with resistance within the
organization. A formal or informal contract will define the change process.
- Assessment and diagnosis. Here we collect data in order to find the opportunities and
problems in the organization (refer to DxVxF>R above.) For suggestions about what to
look for, see the previous article in this series, on needs assessment (8). This is also the
time for the consultant to make a diagnosis, in order to recommend appropriate
- Feedback. This two-way process serves to tell those what we found out, based on an
analysis of the data. Everyone who contributed information should have an opportunity to
learn about the findings of the assessment process (provided there is no apparent breach of
anyone's confidentiality.) This provides an opportunity for the organization's people to
become involved in the change process, to learn about how different parts of the
organization affect each other, and to participate in selecting appropriate change
- Action planning. In this step we will distill recommendations from the assessment and
feedback, consider alternative actions and focus our intervention(s) on activities that have
the most leverage to effect positive change in the organization. An implementation plan
will be developed that is based on the assessment data, is logically organized, results-
oriented, measurable and rewarded. We must plan for a participative decision-making
process for the intervention.
- Intervention. Now, and only now, do we actually carry out the change process. It is
important to follow the action plan, yet remain flexible enough to modify the process as
the organization changes and as new information emerges.
- Evaluation. Successful OD must have made meaningful changes in the performance and
efficiency of the people and their organization. We need to have an evaluation procedure
to verify this success, identify needs for new or continuing OD activities, and improve the
OD process itself to help make future interventions more successful.
- Adoption. After steps have been made to change the organization and plans have been
formulated, we follow-up by implementing processes to insure that this remains an
ongoing activity within the organization, that commitments for action have been obtained,
and that they will be carried out.
- Separation. We must recognize when it is more productive for the client and consultant
to undertake other activities, and when continued consultation is counterproductive. We
also should plan for future contacts, to monitor the success of this change and possibly to
plan for future change activities.
But for successful OD to take place, all of these steps must be followed. It works best if
they are taken in the order described. And, since learning is really an iterative, not a
sequential process, we must be prepared to re-enter this process when and where appropriate.
If you would like to know more about OD, we highly recommend the books by
Cummings and Worley (9), and by Rothwell, Sullivan and McLean (10).
In future articles in this series, we plan to discuss some of the major OD interventions in
common use today, and to classify these into systematic categories.
WHERE YOU COME IN
- TAPPI has a Training and Development Subcommittee (of the Board's Education Committee.)
Its current tasks include developing a getting-started guide for people newly assigned to
training responsibilities in the pulp and paper industry. Join us -- contact Clare Reagan at Tappi if you would like to get involved.
- TAPPI in 1997. We are in the preliminary stages of planning for events at future TAPPI conferences. These events will focus on
education and Human Resource Development, and may include a workshops on
Organization Development. We invite your participation.
- Case studies. In future articles, we plan to include some case histories of the successes
(and failures) of applying OD practices in the paper industry. If you are involved in OD
and would like to join us in this effort, please contact us.
- Beckhard, R., Organization development: Strategies and models. Reading, MA: Addison-
Wesley, Reading, MA, 1969, p. 9.
- Bennis, W., Organization development: Its nature, origin and prospects. Addison-Wesley,
Reading, MA, 1969, p. 12.
- Beckhard, R. & Harris, R. Organizational Transitions. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA,
- Jacobs, R., Real Time Strategic Change. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San
Francisco, 1994, p.122.
- French, W., & Bell, C., Jr., Organization development: Behavioral science interventions for
organization improvement (4th ed), Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1990, p. 99.
- Burke, W., Organization development: Principles and practices. Boston: Little, Brown &
Co., Boston, 1982.
- Rothwell, W., Sullivan, R., & McLean, G., "Models for Change and Steps in Action
Research", in Practicing OD: A Guide for Consultants, Pfeiffer, San Diego, 1995, pp. 51-69.
- Rouda, R. & Kusy, M., Jr., "Needs assessment - the first step", Tappi Journal 78 (6): 255 (1995).
- Cummings, T.G., & Worley, C.G., Organization Development and Change, 5th edition,
West Publishing, St. Paul, 1993.
- Rothwell, W., Sullivan, R., & McLean, G., Practicing OD: A Guide for Consultants,
Pfeiffer, San Diego, 1995.
Bob Rouda is a consultant on human resource development and process engineering, and is a research
associate and student of organization development and change management at the University of St. Thomas. He has practiced education and training in the paper industry for 20 years. Mitch Kusy is professor
of organizational learning and development at the University of St. Thomas, and is a practicing organization development consultant.
other articles in this series:
- Human Resource Development: Beyond training - a perspective on improving organizations and people
- Needs Assessment - the first step
- Organization Development - the management of change (this article)
- Career Development - personal career management and planning
- Managing Change with Large-Scale, Real-Time Interventions
- High Performance Training
This page is maintained by Robert Rouda.
CONTACT webmaster for information.
Last update 5/4/96.