Development of human resources -- Part 3

the management of change

Robert H. Rouda & Mitchell E. Kusy, Jr.

(C) copyright 1995 by the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry.

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.)


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.

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.



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.


There is a formula, attributed to David Gleicher (3, 4), which we can use to decide if an organization is ready for 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.


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 more data." The steps in Action Research are (6, 7):
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 interventions.
  4. 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 interventions.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
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.

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.



  1. Beckhard, R., Organization development: Strategies and models. Reading, MA: Addison- Wesley, Reading, MA, 1969, p. 9.
  2. Bennis, W., Organization development: Its nature, origin and prospects. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1969, p. 12.
  3. Beckhard, R. & Harris, R. Organizational Transitions. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1987.
  4. Jacobs, R., Real Time Strategic Change. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, 1994, p.122.
  5. French, W., & Bell, C., Jr., Organization development: Behavioral science interventions for organization improvement (4th ed), Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1990, p. 99.
  6. Burke, W., Organization development: Principles and practices. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1982.
  7. 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.
  8. Rouda, R. & Kusy, M., Jr., "Needs assessment - the first step", Tappi Journal 78 (6): 255 (1995).
  9. Cummings, T.G., & Worley, C.G., Organization Development and Change, 5th edition, West Publishing, St. Paul, 1993.
  10. 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:
  1. Human Resource Development: Beyond training - a perspective on improving organizations and people
  2. Needs Assessment - the first step
  3. Organization Development - the management of change (this article)
  4. Career Development - personal career management and planning
  5. Managing Change with Large-Scale, Real-Time Interventions
  6. High Performance Training

This page is maintained by Robert Rouda.
CONTACT webmaster for information. Last update 5/4/96.