A Model for Implementation of Organizational Development in the Human Resources Area






By Arnie Witchel


Witchel & Associates

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This paper defines Organizational Development in the Human Resources setting and examines conditions, both external and internal, that affect Organizational Development in Human Resources. Approaches and strategies to Organizational Development in Human Resources are discussed, as well as methods to assess the nature of the change, problems associated with change and assessing change success or failure. How Human Resources can aid in the development of a learning organization and individual self-actualization are also reviewed.


















†††††† Organizational Development in the human resources area consists of developing an external fit of human resources to the developmental stage of the organization itself, and an internal ft, whereby the human resources management components complement each other (Baird & Meshoulan, 1988). A planned intervention occurs when there is a discrepancy between the organizationís desired state of human resource development and where the organization actually is. Organizational Development in the human resource area should start with a problem definition. What is the problem that exists? Is it in the area of culture, performance, diversity, intellectual capital, learning? Organizational Development interventions in the human resources area usually address one of two internal issues: human (people) development and process (performance) improvement (Robbins, 1998). The two concepts are closely linked. The first step in understanding the problem and planning an intervention strategy is to gather information. The information that needs to be gathered for human resources development is diagnostic in nature and should analyze two components: Where is the organization itself in its developmental stage and where does it want to go? Where is the organization in human resources development and how does that need to be changed in order to accomplish the organizational goals? These questions are more than intellectual musings. Bouillon, Doran and Orazem (1996) suggest that firms receive measurable rates of return by investing in their human resources .

††††††† The information the organization gathers to define the problem can come from strategic assessment of the environment, survey feedback, and observation (Hodge, Anthony & Gales, 1996). An evaluation can then be made about what the organization needs to change in order to improve either the quality of the human resources or the quality of the processes.

†††††† The Organizational Development consultant should carefully assess the current state of the organization before planning the change. In addition, the context of the environment in which the organization operates should be considered through environmental scanning. These factors will affect whether the planned intervention is reactive or proactive in nature. For example, as an organization matures, it may move from basic considerations such as industry salary parity (reactive) to training considerations (future oriented) to interdisciplinary programs (cross-training) to long-range planning (growing the organizationís future leaders). Missing a basic component in an organizationís life cycle (for example, fundamental training) can be as critical as maintaining a balanced profile whereby the organization meets basic human resources needs and develops future needs such as succession development (Baird & Meshoulam, 1988).

†††††† Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborne (1997) offer a model that leads to diagnostic foundations of the interactions between the external internal environment (Appendix A). At the organizational level are concerns for strategy, technology, structure, culture and systems that interact between organizational effectiveness and the external environment. At the group level are concerns about tasks, membership, norms, cohesiveness and processes that interact between the organizational group effectiveness and the organizational environment. At the individual level are concerns for tasks, goals, needs, abilities and relationships that interact between individual effectiveness and the workgroup environment. All have considerations in the relationship of the external and internal environment and in the planned development of humans and processes that affect human resources.

†††††† Therefore, the basic Organizational Development model for Human Resources should be strategic in nature. This means taking into account both the external and internal conditions affecting Organizational Development in Human Resources, evaluating approaches and implementing those that fit the environmental conditions.

External Conditions Affecting Organizational Development in Human Resources


††† †††A critical consideration in the external environment for Human Resources is the munificence of resources in the environment (Hodge, Anthony & Gales, 1996). Scarcity of resources, human or otherwise, means that organizations cannot freely set productivity goals, work schedules, or economic goals. The environmentís ability to support organizations and their resource needs should be realistically evaluated. Deficits in the availability of external and internal resources, and how they may affect the organizationís environmental interface, should be compensated through internal development or through improved processes. The concept of environmental munificence leads the organization to understand what it needs to be effective in any particular environmental situation, directs the attention of the organization toward these needs and what it must do to at both the organization and environment and group-to-group levels (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1969).

Labor Availability

†††††† The environmental munificence is not the only factor that needs to be evaluated, however. The external availability of labor, particularly a scarcity of labor as in todayís economy, should encourage programs to attract and retain labor. In a labor surplus, organizations may be drawn into programs that seek to increase the quality of the labor force that it employs and capitalize on employee involvement (Tannenbaum & Dupuree-Bruno, 1994). In either case, these programs should be planned interventions to address the environment and compensate for a need that produces a sustainable competitive advantage in the human resource area (Aaker, 1989).

†††††† Public scrutiny may also affect the organizational development strategies regarding human resources (Tannenbaum & Dupuree-Bruno, 1994).Adapting the concepts of Lawrence and Lorsch (1969), if an organization is under a large amount of scrutiny from the external environment, it may be perceived in a high state of uncertainty. Organizations with less scrutiny by the public may be perceived as more certain in terms of risk factors. Where the organization exists along the certainty-uncertainty continuum may certainly affect its ability to draw and retain human resources, and consequently, its need to actively plan interventions in human resource availability and development.

Competitive Environment

†††††† The competitive environment is an additional factor that should be addressed when considering external conditions that affect Organizational Development in Human Resources. The way an organization competes and where it competes is balanced by the basis on which the organization competes. Often, this is based on skills that the competition does not possess in the same abundance of skills that the organization can develop better than the competition (Aaker, 1989). Identifying those skills that will yield sustained competitive advantages, that are relevant to the marketplace, and which are feasible and affordable, and then intervening in their development is the primary focus of Organizational Development in the Human Resources arena. The development of these skills may lead to further genuine business opportunities that increase the organizationís success in managing its relationship with the external environment.

Internal Conditions Affecting Organization Development in Human Resources

Developmental Stage of the Organization

††††††††††††† The developmental stage, or life cycle, of the organization should be considered in creating development programs in Human Resources. The current state of the organization and its future state should be assessed before planning the change. Whether the organization is new, growing functionally (in terms of structure and specialization), in a state of controlled growth (characterized by a divisional structure), functionally integrated (such as matrix organizations), or strategically integrated (characterized by mature organizations) should affect the nature of the change contemplated and how the change will be implemented (Baird & Meshoulam, 1988). This directly affects how processes are done and how human resources need to be trained to cope and master future developmental stages of organizational growth or decline.

Organization Size

†††††† Organization size directly affects the way the organization is structured, as well as the developmental needs of the organization and the processes they adapt. However, the relationship between size and structure is not linear. Size becomes less important as the organization expands and influences structure at a decreasing rate (Robbins, 1998). Size can create economies of scale or be a juggernaut to the organizationís ability to interact with the environment (Tannenbaum & Dupuree-Bruno, 1994). Organizational size can even dictate the services offered by Human Resources and the processes by which people are evaluated in the workplace (Kavanagh, Gueutal, & Tannenbaum, 1990).

Organizational Structure and Complexity

†††††† Organizational structure and complexity can affect the information flow in the organization and create mismatches between the effective use of human resources and the demands of the environment (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1969). The development of proper structure affects Human Resources and matching the needs of the organization to the proper alignment of units and the scope of business (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1969). Formalization and centralization of structure should adapt as the environment changes; one characteristic may be advantageous in stable environments, but not in rapidly changing environments. Human Resources should be aware of the changing environment and seek to structure work and its complexity according to the match needed. This includes where emphasis should be placed in regard to specialization, independence, and standardization (Prien, 1989). Even popular concepts such as team structure should be structured by Human Resources according to need. The team structure should be matched to the task, the technology, the environment, the managerial style and the degree of differentiation, not the blind adaptation of ideology (Sinclair, 1992).

Organizational Climate/Work Setting Characteristics

†††††† Another internal condition that affects Organization Development in Human Resources are the climate and work setting characteristics of the organization. Prien (1989) suggests that there are as many as 14 components that can assist in measuring whether or not human resources management is complementary in nature. They include the dimensions of constraining conformity and propriety, responsibility, reward and feedback, task identity, emphasis on effectiveness, emphasis on change management, emphasis on crisis management, communication, formalization of job roles, standardization of tasks, role specialization, management control, centralization of authority, and technology. These dimensions constitute and describe the organizational climate. The context of these work settings can aid the Organizational Development consultant in planning changes that develop internal consistency while addressing the needs of the organization in its current strategic state. For example, if the organizationís external context in calls for quick reaction and innovation to address the market environment there should be internal consistency in the work setting to allow human resources to act accordingly. If there is a high level of centralization of authority and conformity or low levels of communication in the organization, the planned intervention should address these factors in order to bring about the change that will best place the organization in a competitive advantage in the environmental context. These might include training on responsibility, empowerment, or communication. On the other hand, if management is consciously moving toward an organizational strategy that provides more feedback and linking reward to feedback (an internal adjustment), the change will not be effective without some type of intervention that raises awareness and standardizes the administration of the program.


†††††† The organizationís culture often affects Organizational Development in Human Resources. In many instances, it is the organizationís culture that is planned to respond to the environment. The cultural conditions and availability of labor capable of performing tasks at certain levels influence the establishment of cultural systems and expectations (Goe, Contreras, Romero, & Bustos, 1998). Assessing the culture through a cultural stage or typology through a cultural audit allows a comprehensive examination of the organizationís cultural characteristics and how the organization sees, and is viewed by, the external environment (Hodge, Anthony & Gales, 1996). Schneider & Bowen (1993) postulate that he role of Human Resource Management in developing culture may be especially critical in the growing field of service organizations, where employee perceptions of practices and procedures to facilitate service and be rewarded and supported for excellent service are defined; they have even examined strong correlations between how employees feel about their organizationís HR practices and how customers feel about the service they receive from the same organization.


†††††† Technology may be considered both an external and internal factor that affects Organizational Development in Human Resources. In one sense technology is an external pressure that affects the organizationís development of skills to meet new environmental demands. From an internal viewpoint, technology is the work that the organization does, and this also will affect the knowledge, information and skills necessary to complete tasks (Hodge, Anthony & Gales, 1996). When considering technology as the method the organization uses to transfer inputs into outputs, the developmental consideration that technology brings to Organizational Development is the degree of routineness of the work (Robbins, 1998). Routine activities that are automated may require less intervention than non-routine activities that require more customization. In either case, planned development by Human Resources of the workforce assures the organization of its ability to meet the technology demands and sustain competitive advantage.

The Perceived Role of Human Resources in Organizational Development

†††††† How the organization perceives Human Resources will also affect organizational development in this area. Church & McMahan (1996) observe, many rapidly growing organizations do not take full advantage of all that Organizational Development and Human Resources have to offer; while many practitioners from these organizations seem well versed in change management, only a third describe the practice of Organizational Development in Human Resources as being recognized for their contribution. The Human Resources management function should be organized according to the needs of the organization and its developmental stages (Baird & Meshoulam, 1988). As Theodore (1999) points out, one of the major characteristics of Organizational Development is true commitment from the top. This would indicate also recognition of Human Resourcesí role in Organizational Development.

The Education/Developmental Level of the Human Resources Staff

†††††† The success of the planned intervention in either human resource development or processes is also dependent on the developmental level of the Human Resources staff itself (Tannenbaum & Dupuree-Bruno, 1994). The skills that Human Resources staffs need to develop include information management skils, planning skills, management skills, integration skills and change management skills (Baird & Meshoulam, 1988). Theodore (1999) describes, as one of the major conditions for success of an organizational development program, is the willingness to take risks. Further, the eight building blocks he illustrates would indicate that Human Resources staff should be sufficiently developed in an organization to ensure success in continuing the amount of training and development of design, structure, organization and performance systems to continue development (Appendix B).


Approaches to Organization Development in Human Resources

†††††† Baird and Meshoulam (1988) observe that the first stage of Human Resources development is admittedly a reactive strategy. By identifying the stage an organization is in and then developing appropriate human resources strategies, a response to the environment, not an anticipation of future needs is created. However, they continue, human resource management must then proceed to the proactive stage and anticipate future needs; human resource professionals must develop the ability to recognize the current stage of development and anticipate the next stage. Schneider and Bowen (1993) argue that Human Resources must approach Organizational Development in four ways: strategically, contingent with the environment, scientifically, and cross-functionally. The strategic approach indicates that Human Resource Management is viewed as a distinct competitive advantage in developing the organization and moving it in the direction of goal attainment. This aligns itself with Aakerís notion of a sustained competitive advantage (1989). The organization actively seeks the skills and competencies that will make it ďstand apartĒ competitively. The second approach, contingency, supports the concept that Human Resources management and development practices depend on the organization and the environment it faces. An organization that does not face an abundant supply of trained labor may not want to empower every employee (Schneider & Bowen, 1993). It may, however, want to plan programs to train the workforce so they can develop. This is demonstrated by the different approaches that Japanese managers take toward labor practices in Japan and Mexico within the same industry context. While Japanese factories are managed as learning environments that concentrate on production and increasing knowledge, these same practices are not being shared with the maquiladoras laborers in factories that Japanese consumer electronics companies operate in Mexico (Kenney, Goe, Contreras, Romero & Bustos, 1998).

†††††† Human Resources should also manage and implement Organizational Development programs scientifically This approach exhorts Human Resource professionals to measure before the implementation of an Organizational Development program, to ensure it is needed, and after, to measure its success (Schneider & Bowen, 1993). Human Resources should contemplate Organizational Development programs on a cross-functional basis. Managers who concentrate on high performance teams recognize that there is an internal tension that arises from efficient manufacturing and marketing of the product and developing innovative behavior that thinks beyond the current processes (Trott, 1998). Tannenbaum & Dupuree-Bruno (1994) indicate that many of the factors that are related to administrative innovations (organizational size, climate, structure, external conditions and nature of the work force) also affect innovations in Human Resources. External factors, including labor conditions and public scrutiny, have a high correlation to innovative Human Resource practices. However, a supportive climate by itself does not appear to determine formal innovations in Human Resources (Tannenbaum & Dupuree-Bruno, 1994). Innovation by itself does not produce effectiveness. Again, the strategic considerations and the match of the external environment and the internal considerations of the organization should take primacy.

Implementing Changes in Human Resources Development

††††††† The relationship between change and the organizationís ability to learn and grow are already well proven. The shift of the focus has moved from the need to change to how best to accomplish it. There are three essential requirements for change: 1) Sufficient dissatisfaction with the current state; 2) A strong attraction toward a more desirable state (shared vision); 3) The appeal of a well thought out strategy to achieve the more desirable state (Dervitsiotis, 1998).

Intervention delivery can take on numerous forms and the form of delivery should be consistent with the scope of the intervention. This is a much different approach than re-engineering. Re-engineering, has a basic goal of bringing about fast improvement through radical redesign of processes. However, re-engineering has two impairments. The first is the lack of shared vision, which hampers employee participation and commitment. The second is that re-engineering sometimes offers superficial changes that may not address deeper patterns (Dervitsiotis, 1998). Re-engineering corresponds to the need for a fast, dramatic change in performance through restructuring and infusion of technology. However, the lack of participation and low added value may offset temporary gains that this approach yields (Dervitsiotis, 1998).

†††††† The methods and instruments used should be clearly identified in the planning stages. The overall goal of the intervention is to raise awareness and to implement change. Change requires information, action and reinforcement before it is effectively implemented. Or, as Lewin (1951) pointed out, there are three stages: Unfreezing the status quo, moving to the new state, refreezing the new behavior. The nature of the change may affect the depth and duration of the Organizational Development intervention. Introduction of new products and services may require information and training. Process changes may simply require formal training in the new method of accomplishing the task (for example, how to do a new type of performance appraisal in the human resources area). Other changes such as cultural changes, may be more extensive and demand constant reinforcement and education. Extensive changes need to be tied to rewards and is the subject of continuous education in the learning organization model. A few years ago, Walt Disney World consciously decided to move its culture toward a paradigm of ďPerformance ExcellenceĒ. This concept affected all human resource areas, with concentration on eight key actions that would affect the culture, including breaking down barriers, sharing information, risk taking, teamwork (Performance Excellence, 1994). This is an ongoing change that is constantly reinforced, tied to rewards and is the subject of continuous education in their learning organization model.

†††††† Organizational Development in human resources calls for evaluation of the change effort and reassessing needs. Did the intervention succeed? This may not be known for some time. Simpler process changes may be measured in shorter time spans. However, simply training may not be enough or there may be hidden issues that were not evident in the initial assessment. This calls for continual evaluation of the state of human resources and where the organization wants to see its human resources develop in the future.

Organization Development in Human Resources: Developing a Learning Organization

†††† ††Successful Organizational Development strategies in Human Resources can lead to what Senge (1990) describes as a learning organization. There are similarities between the learning organization approach and Total Quality Management approach. They are not mutually exclusive. Both aim to create new cultures, both strive to develop human resources, both focus on satisfying genuine needs, both attempt to solve problems based on facts, and both emphasize the long term view and draw on scientific fields (Dervitsiotis, 1998). Along with those similarities are substantial differences. TQM is more linear, while the learning organization model leans toward systems; TQM focuses on leadership, while the systems approach leans towards shared vision; the dialogue approach to the learning organization is more complex than TQM problem solving; bottom-up change is more likely to occur through TQM (Dervitsiotis, 1998). The learning organization approach takes preparation and a learning curve among management. It is characterized by moderate growth at first, then acceleration. A critical factor in selecting this approach is time: Can the organization reach the desired state in time (Dervitsiotis, 1998)? This is verified by Theodore (1999) who observes that Organizational Development is a long term endeavor, so the plans should be long term; this approach already has leadership as a major condition for success and that Organizational Development programs must be managed from the top.

†††††† Dessler (1997) indicates at least four critical roles that Human Resources can play in Organizational Development and the creation of the learning organization: problem solvers, experimenters, learning from experience and others, transfer of knowledge (organizational memory). Human Resources can aid the development of systematic problem solving skills in the organization through planned interventions in training (Dessler, 1997). This approach complements Schneider and Bowenís (1993) advice to Human Resources professionals to be scientific in their approach to human resource development. The learning organization also relies on experimentation. Systematic searching and testing creates innovation (Dessler, 1997). Human Resources can aid in developing innovation by developing atmospheres where testing and experimentation are safe. This complements Tannenbaum and Dupuree-Brunoís (1994) insights into the factors that influence innovation in human resource practices and administrative procedures. The learning organization learns from experience and others. This indicates taking corrective action for the mistakes that are made and scanning the environment to gain from othersí successes and failures (Dessler, 1997). Human Resources can play pivotal roles in defining and correcting mistakes made and alerting the organization to successes and failures that may affect the organizationís development. Learning organizations transfer knowledge (Dessler, 1997). They do this through team learning and through the transfer of organizational memory through mental models (Senge, 1990). Human Resources can assist through development of culture programs and individual development programs that enable the employee to attain self-actualization, the highest level of the building blocks for Organizational Development (Theodore, 1999).

†††††† The Organizational Development model for human resources, then, is dynamic. It is continually scanning the environment in which the organization exists and compares the current state of the organization to the environmental context. It monitors the internal organizational climate and maturity to eliminate discrepancies between the external state and internal readiness to meet the organizationís needs and goals. It is both reactive (to establish parity with factors in the environment such as competitors) and proactive (to develop the organization for future readiness to meet the environmental challenges). To accomplish this, programs of planned interventions are introduced to accomplish change. The magnitude or delivery form and instruments of the intervention are contingent on the magnitude of the change needed to meet the internal needs of the organization, and calls for continual assessment of the interventionís success and the organizationís future needs.






















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