Development of human resources -- Part 5


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

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

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.)


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:


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:


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 consultants.

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!


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 marketing personnel.


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 themselves.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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:
  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
  4. Career Development - personal career management and planning
  5. Managing Change with Large-Scale, Real-Time Interventions (this article)
  6. High Performance Training

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