BACKGROUND AND THEORY
FOR LARGE SCALE
ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE METHODS
(C) copyright 1995 by Robert H. Rouda -- all rights reserved.
This paper was originally developed as part of an Internship Project
on Large Scale Organization Development Change Methods
at the University of St. Thomas.
This is a summary of many of the most widely used methods for managing organizational
change with large groups. Much of this information was gathered by Smith and Smith
(1994), and by Bunker and Alban (1992).
The major features of large-scale, real-time change management process include:
Of course, this all goes back to Kurt Lewin (1951). The basic outline of the OD
interventions are to first "unfreeze" the current situation so change can occur, then to make
changes, and finally to refreeze the new situation in place.
- the theory-base uses less action research and discrepancy theory, and focuses on
application of systems theory (see Senge, 1994)
- the data base source is no longer internal to the organization, but now involves both the
organization and its environment (an open-systems approach)
- the data base, which formerly had limited availability, is now widely shared throughout
- time: what was formerly a slow "waterfall" process is now a fast, quick response which
results in immediate action taking place
- learning moves from the individual or unit to the whole organization
- the responsibility and accountability moves from senior management to a mixture of
senior management plus the whole system
- the consultant role, formerly reserved for data collection and feedback, now also includes
structures and facilities for data analysis and action planning
- the change process moves from incremental change to fundamental, organization-wide
SOME MAJOR LARGE GROUP APPROACHES
Dannemiller-Tyson Interactive Strategic Planning
Kathie Dannemiller and her co-workers use a 2 to 3 day event of from 100 to 2300 people, to
roll out a new strategic direction, to get clear on their strategy, and to provide feedback to the
top people in the organization. They stress planning: the use of a planning team, with much
up-front advance work to make the event successful. Their approach is very task-focused and
very structured, and involves interaction in small groups as part of the full-group proceedings.
The theory of the Dannemiller approach is based on a formula that Beckhard and Harris
(1987) attribute to David Gleicher:
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. The purposes of these OD interventions are to bring approaches to the organization
that will enable these three components to surface so that the process of change can begin.
They also use the strategy suggested by Drucker (1974) of converting words into actions.
They believe that there should be a common activity focus which is highly reactive, yet highly directive from above. Their focus is on results, on prioritizing choices, and on keeping
the participants from feeling overwhelmed.
Dannemiller also cites an "Arthritic Model" of organizations. This refers to an
"organizational arthritis" where there are blockages at every joint of the traditional
management-structure pyramid. Their task is to exercise the organization so that change is
not only possible but is inherent in the structure and design of the organization.
Their process is to first develop a database of the current reality. This is accomplished by
getting views from the customer, the leaders, workers throughout the corporation, and their
industry. They then proceed to organizational diagnosis -- identifying the problems that are
impeding change and progress.
They send "valentines" to each other -- messages covering what they appreciate from each
other, and what is needed for others to help each of them to do their jobs in a more
The rest of the Dannemiller approach involves setting strategy and gathering and processing
feedback on this strategy. They use a method of "preferred futuring" (much like Weisbord,
below), and concentrate on action planning to secure commitments to make the proposed
strategy develop into reality.
Marv Weisbord's Future Search Conference
This is a planned 2-1/2 day event. Ideally, it involves 64 people, with a maximum of 72.
This is clearly too small a group for many whole-organization large-scale change events, but
it works well for smaller groups.
Weisbord's conference is designed to define and move towards the preferred future, through
finding common ground among the diverse participants. The preferred future approach
involves an examination of the past, present, and future -- for the whole system. Weisbord
also uses a planning team approach to define and focus on the stakeholders. The Future
Search Conference is based on Asch's conditions for effective dialogue (1952), with an
emphasis on finding common ground.
The process involves looking at the past -- examining the state of the people, the business, the
industry, and the global environment. It also looks at the present -- examining events that
shape their reality. Weisbord uses "prouds and sorries", a look at successes and failures in
the organization, to develop scenarios of their preferred future (keeping some of the past,
changing where needed for the future). And, like other practitioners, Weisbord puts an
emphasis on action planning to define the steps that will be taken so that the process does not
end with the conference itself but is translated into future action steps.
Dick Axelrod's Conference Model Redesign
This method uses a series of four 3-day conferences, held a month apart. It is based on
reengineering as defined by Hammer and Champy (1993). Its purpose is organization
redesign -- radical changes to be made quickly and permanently in the organization, not in
incremental change and improvement methods like TQM (Total Quality Management; many
references -- see works by Deming and Juran).
Axelrod's conferences are fast, and highly-participative. Axelrod also uses a thorough
planning approach, using a steering committee, a data assist team, and a walk-through (a
"staging") in advance of the meeting. His approach is customer-focused, concentrates on the
technical work flow, and develops a preferred design for the organization.
The theory behind the Conference Model includes Socio-Technical Theory, search theory,
and experiential/creative methods.
Axelrod's process involves four conferences:
This is followed by a succession of implementation steps to put the plans into action.
- Vision Conference -- similar to Weisbord's Future Search Conference
- Customer Conference -- defining the requirements, the business and relationships, their
roles, and their customers
- Technology Conference -- to identify redundancy and variance, and clarify their
assumptions about their business
- Design Conference -- to develop a preferred design, to use "treasure hunt" features
Harrison Owen - Open Space
Owen uses a 1 to 3 day event for 20 to 100 people. The purpose is to surface information
and promote dialogue. He uses the concept of an idea marketplace, and emphasizes learning,
networking, and community building.
Part of the planning for Open Space involves open facilities, an open agenda, breakout rooms,
and blank walls.
The approach of this method can be characterized as relevant, emerging, creative, and self-
shaping with personal responsibility for self learning.
The Open Space model is based on the use of ground rules, focusing on the "here and now",
and is partially based on Chaos Theory (see Wheatley, 1992) to have order emerge from an
apparent lack of planning, structure, and order.
The process involves networking, clearly stating meeting themes, identifying and posting
issues, breakout discussions, and sharing in the whole group.
Owen summarizes his method as:
- "whoever comes"
- "whatever happens"
- "whenever it starts"
- "when it is over it's over"
ICA Strategic Planning
Spencer (1989) describes the ToP (Technology of Participation) process and results of the
work of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). This group sponsors 2 day events for 10 to
300 people. Their purpose is to delineate and move toward a practical vision. Their planning
consist of using working groups with trained facilitators and lots of Post-ItŪ notes.
The ICA approach can be characterized as participative, creative, fast, action-oriented, and
synergistic. The ICA model is based on Spencer's Dialogue, on community building,
participation, and especially empowerment.
The process involves an environmental scan, followed by developing a shared vision (of what
they see in place). They look for contradictions (what is blocking them from reaching their
vision). They then set a strategic direction, by dealing with these blocks and moving their
vision forward. They are heavy into setting action plans, with a 90 day calendar for
They have a process for discussion (structured conversation), for workshops, and for action
planning. It is a very useful approach to design and implement facilitation in a diverse
variety of settings.
The ICA approach is very people-centered. It puts an emphasis on ambiance, on
environment, and on personal involvement of the participants. It is the closest of all of these
approaches to incorporating both spiritual and humanistic components into OD.
OTHER LARGE GROUP APPROACHES:
Simu-Real. Don Klein (1992) has developed a method involving a combination of reality
and simulation for large-group interventions.
The Mobius Model. Bill Stockton (1985) and Marjorie Herdes developed the Mobius
Model for large-group interaction. The model is a guide to the assessment and design of
appropriate OD interventions; it is not a plan for the events themselves. It is a model which
can also serve as a real-time guide to facilitating during these events. It works very well in
integrating spiritual and community approaches to the technology of large-scale processes.
Some of their methodology has its roots in the ICA Strategic Planning Approach.
The Mobius Model, like a mobius strip, has no difference between the inside and the
outside. It promotes wholeness, there being no difference between who you are and what you
do (congruence). It reflects internal dialogue, as people follow their own internal voices, their
anger and their fears. It develops understanding, by bringing the inside (the covert,
suppressed truth) to the outside (as overt, shared data and understanding).
World Healing Model. Bob Rouda (1995) has developed a revolutionary model based on a
combination of ancient and modern wisdom applied to repairing the world. This begins with
ourselves and progresses through organizations to communities and our ecological system.
This model is guaranteed produce long-term results, but this success requires that the details
of the theory and methodology not be revealed in advance. Trust me.
REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
- Smith, J. & Smith, J. (1994). Notes from ASTD Future Search Conference. Apple Valley,
MN: Southern Minnesota Section, American Society for Training and Development.
- Bunker, B. & Alban, B. (1992). What Makes Large Group Interventions Effective?, Journal
of Applied Behavioral Science 28(4).
- Senge, P. (1994). The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization.
New York: Currency-Doubleday.
- Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York: Harper & Row.
- Dannemiller, K., et.al. (1994). Consultant Guide to Large-Scale Meetings. Ann Arbor:
- Jacobs, R.W. (1994). Real Time Strategic Change. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers,
- Dannemiller, K. & Jacobs, R. (1992). Changing the Way Organization Change: A Revolution
of Common Sense, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 28(4).
- Beckhard, R. & Harris, R. (1987). Organizational Transitions. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
- Drucker, P.F. (1974). Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. New York: Harper &
- Weisbord, M. & Janoff, S. (1995). Future Search -- An Action Guide to Finding Common
Ground in Organizations & Communities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
- Weisbord, M. (1992). Discovering Common Ground. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
- Asch, S. (1952). Social psychology. New York: Prentice-Hall.
- Axelrod, R. (1995). The Conference ModelTM Approach, Perspectives (a newsletter of the
Axelrod Group). Wilmette, IL: The Axelrod Group.
- Axelrod, R. (1992). Getting Everyone Involved: How One Organization Involved Its
Employees, Supervisors, and Managers in Redesigning the Organization, Journal of Applied
Behavioral Science 28(4).
- Axelrod, R.. (1993). Using the Conference ModelTM for work redesign. Journal for Quality
and Participation, December 1993, pp. 58-61.
- Hammer, M. & Champy, J. (1993). Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business
Revolution. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
- Cummings, T. & Srivastva, B. (1977). Management of Work: A Socio-Technical Systems
Approach. San Diego: University Associates.Owen, H. (1992). Open space technology: A
user's guide. Potomac, MD: Abbott.
- Owen, H. (1992). Open space technology: A user's guide. Potomac, MD: Abbott.
- Wheatley, M. (1992). Leadership and the new science: learning about organization from an
orderly universe. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler. (Chapter 7.)
- Spencer, L.J. (1989). Winning Through Participation: Meeting the Challenge of Corporate
Change with the Technology of Participation. Dubuque, IA: Kendell/Hunt.
- Klein, D. (1992). Simu-Real: A Simulation Approach to Organizational Change, Journal of
Applied Behavioral Science 28(4).
- Stockton, W. (1985). The Mobius ModelSM. St. Louis Park, MN: Mobius, Inc. (unpublished
- Rouda, R.H. (1995). A model for repairing the world. Roseville, MN: Simulation Software
- Rouda, R.H. (1995).
Organization Development - the management of change,
Tappi Journal 78(8).
- Rouda, R.H. (1995).
Managing Change with Large-Scale, Real-Time Interventions , Tappi Journal 78(12).
Robert 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 pulp and paper
industry and in university settings for 20 years. He is actively involved in consulting in
large-scale strategic change. He can be reached c/o Simulation Software, 946 Lydia Drive,
Roseville, MN 55113; phone 612-483-5801; fax 612-483-0610; e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org, URL http://www.alumni.caltech.edu/~rouda/
(C) copyright 1995 by R. H. Rouda -- all rights reserved.
This page is maintained by Robert Rouda.
CONTACT webmaster for information.
Last update 5/9/96.