Development of human resources -- Part 5
This is the fifth in a series of articles which originally apseries of articles peared 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.)
Most of us have been involved in activities designed to bring change and strategic planning
into our organizations. We've been to training courses, to numerous meetings, and sometimes
taken time off for strategic planning retreats. We talked a lot, made some plans, went back to
work. But we know that little was really accomplished; that these activities had no follow-up.
We felt that it was a waste of our time. (It probably was.)
LARGE-SCALE, REAL-TIME STRATEGIC CHANGE
It can be different. Meaningful change can happen in organizations. Organization
development -- the management of change in organizations -- was introduced in a previous article in this series
, and is being applied in a new way to make these changes actually
happen. Here are the major features of methods of large-scale, real-time change:
- Large-scale -- The change involves the entire organization, meeting and working together
in one place, at the same time.
- Real-time -- What was formerly a slow "waterfall" process (i.e. originated at the top,
flowing down through the organization) is now a fast, quick response which results in
immediate action taking place.
- Learning is no longer just for the individual or unit, but also applies to the entire
- Responsibility and accountability moves from senior management to a mixture of senior
management plus the whole system.
- The change process moves from incremental change to fundamental, organization-wide
- Dissatisfaction is allowed and encouraged to emerge, to develop a common database of
information and an open sharing of ideas.
- Vision -- A common vision of the future is created with the buy-in and ownership by
everyone throughout the organization.
- Action planning -- First steps are taken to be sure that there is follow-up, commitment,
and accountability -- that change really will happen.
- Participation -- Everyone throughout the organization actively participates in designing the
change event, and in the event itself.
- Strategic -- This process makes permanent changes in the organization and addresses the
real problems. It is NOT a quick fix. Paradigm shift -- For major changes to occur, it may be necessary to change the culture
of the organization. This is especially true for major changes, as for example to bring
about employee empowerment, to change to a team management approach, and for
- Systems approach -- Meaningful change must involve the entire organization and its
- Open-systems approach -- All stakeholders (that is, all individuals and groups having an
interest in the changes) must be included in the planning and implementation. This
especially includes the suppliers (inputs) and customers (outputs) of our production
- Open information -- Knowledge is power, so empowered employees need information.
The organization's database, which formerly had limited availability, is now widely shared
throughout the organization.
- Highly-adaptive process -- The change event is specifically tailored and designed by the
organization to fit their culture, employees, organizational norms, management style,
vision, markets, and customers and other stakeholders.
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY
The large-scale change process is unique for every organization. It has been used and has
worked very successfully for many Fortune 500 companies (including Ford, Boeing, Marriott),
as well as for much smaller groups. Here's a typical case history of what it might look like
for a paper mill or similarly-sized organization:
PREPARATION AND PLANNING
Senior management realized that, for the long-term survival and prosperity of the
company, it would be necessary to have empowered workers who were capable of, and
responsible for, making their own decisions. They also felt that some type of team
environment would be desirable.
Knowing that effective change requires leadership with knowledge and experience in
change management, they brought in external consultants with experience in designing and
managing large-scale change events for organizations outside the paper industry. A Planning
Team was created, which included management representatives, and internal and external
This Planning Team, in turn, created a Design Team where a representative sample of the
entire organization would be involved in designing the organization development intervention
meeting itself. This Design Team met several times before the event. It had representation
vertically among all levels of the management and workers, and also had horizontal
representation across the entire organization. They produced a plan for a meeting that was
highly-adaptive and tailored specifically to fit their needs, their wants, and their situation.
They did not use any one specific model or consultant's approach. The team created a list of
specific outcomes that they wanted from the process, and circulated it for comment
throughout the organization.
They created a highly structured design for a future off-site meeting of the entire
organization. This was centered on the use of modern adult learning techniques with an
emphasis on involvement and interaction -- not on information and visions presented from the
top. The Design Team created detailed written instructions and worksheets, and appointed a
Logistics Team to work out and manage the details for the change event.
It took almost a year from the initial decision to begin the process until the actual change
event occurred. But when it did, it was held off-site over a consecutive 3-day period. To
allow everyone to participate, they shut down production for three days!
THE CHANGE CONFERENCE
All of the 800 people (just about everyone) were assigned to specific tables, with 8 people at
each of 100 total tables in one large room! There was a "max-mix" seating arrangement, to
ensure a maximum-mixing of people both vertically and horizontally throughout the company.
Nobody sat with anyone in their own functional group or at their own level of management.
Vice presidents were mixed right in with production people, engineers, secretaries, sales and
FIRST DAY -- DISSATISFACTION, DIALOGUE, DISCOVERY, DATA
The day was spent developing a common database of the current reality. Views were
presented by customers, management, representative workers throughout the corporation, and
outside companies that had successfully completed this process in their own industry.
A process of structured listening was imposed. Working at their tables, the participants
proceeded to learn about each other -- about their environments, constraints, daily work
routines, pressures, problems, successes, values, and outside activities.
Participants were required to discuss what they heard, how they felt about it, and what
meaning it had for their own situation. It was important for everyone to see the information
generated by themselves and by everyone else in the organization.
The entire company heard from their leaders, from their customers, from organizations
outside the industry that have had successes with this large-scale change process, and from
SECOND DAY -- VISION
This day was devoted to defining and moving towards a preferred future for the
organization by finding common ground among the diverse participants. The Design Team
presented a working draft of a vision statement as a starting point for discussion. This was
then subjected to open criticism and revision.
Reality was brought in by having the participants work to analyze their strengths and
weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats. They then proceeded to a process of
organizational diagnosis -- of identifying the problems that are impeding change and progress.
A discussion and clarification of the mission identified what business the company was in,
and what business they should be in, considering their stakeholders' needs, their resources,
and their competitive environment. This reinforced some existing operational practices, and
suggested some new ones to be added and others to be eliminated.
The "max-mix" seating arrangement was then reconfigured to group people together by
functional groups (i.e. engineering, management, technical, production, marketing.) These
groups each prepared and sent messages to the other groups, covering what they appreciate
about each other, and what they need from the others to help them to do their own jobs in a
more productive way.
THIRD DAY -- ACTION PLANNING
If this is to be more than an informative exercise, the words must be converted into actions.
The last day was devoted to setting strategy, gathering and processing feedback on this
strategy, and especially on action planning to secure commitments to make the proposed
strategy develop into reality.
Written commitments were made for the entire organization, for the functional groups, and
by the individuals. A combination of individual, table-group, and plenary work was used to
insure that the commitments were heard, relevant, and agreed on. These objectives were
specific, measurable, realistic, and achievable.
OUTCOMES AND RESULTS
- Understanding -- People left with a better understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and
realities of others throughout the organization.
Cooperation -- With this new understanding, the organization became a unified team.
Much of the internal competition and complaining was reduced or eliminated.
- Simultaneous change -- Everything moved forward at once, because of the coordination
and implementation of changes throughout the organization. Groups no longer postponed
their own changes while waiting for others to make the first moves.
- Empowerment -- People now had knowledge of the complete organization which would
allow them to make decisions on their own, reflecting their understanding of the big
- Implementation Team -- A team (again, "max-mix", representative of the entire
organization) was created to continue the change process and motivate everyone to follow
up on their commitments.
- Actions -- Changes actually took place, because of the specific commitments which were
prepared to include assignments of "who", "what", and "when".
- Buy-in and ownership -- Everyone in the organization supported the change efforts,
because they had been actively involved in the action planning and goal-setting, and
because they felt that their viewpoints and ideas had been listened to. This would not have
happened with change managed from the top of the organization.
- Creativity -- Individuals and teams now were able to apply their own original, creative
ideas, with less interference from organizational politics and managerial restraints, and
with less fear of reprisals for failure.
- Spirit -- People now enjoyed their working environment more, with the feelings that they
were important, that their ideas counted, and that they would be listened to.
- Paradigm shift -- The organization was never the same again. A new spirit of cooperation
and individual responsibility permeated the organization.
The above scenario is only one possible implementation of large-scale, real-time change
management. An actual process would be designed by the organization to fit its staff,
stakeholders, and situation.
IT CAN WORK FOR YOU AND YOUR COMPANY
These large-group, real-time strategic change processes have worked, and worked very well,
in other industries. There is no reason they can't work in the paper industry. Who will be
the first to try it?
- Bunker, B. & Alban, B., What Makes Large Group Interventions Effective?, Journal of
Applied Behavioral Science 28(4), 1992.
- Jacobs, R.W., Real Time Strategic Change. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1994.
- Rouda, R. & Kusy, M., Jr., "Organization Development - the management of change", Tappi Journal 78(8): 253(1995).
- Senge, P., The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization. New
York: Currency-Doubleday, 1994.
- Weisbord, M. & Janoff, S., Future Search -- An Action Guide to Finding Common Ground in
Organizations & Communities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 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 human resource development at the University of St. Thomas, and is a practicing HRD consultant.
Both authors are actively involved as consultants in large-scale strategic change.
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
- Career Development - personal career management and planning
- Managing Change with Large-Scale, Real-Time Interventions (this article)
- High Performance Training
This page is maintained by Robert Rouda.
CONTACT webmaster for information.
Last update 5/4/96.