Breaking down the term Organizational Development commonly referred to as OD, we come up with organization and development. An organization can be defined as when two or even more people come together to work towards a common goal(s). Development refers to the step by step process by which the organization grows more effective with time in achieving its set goals. OD is an effort to improve the performance of the organization by improving its problem solving and the renewal process.
It can be defined as “the contractual agreement between a change agent and the organization involved that is agreed upon so as to use behavioral science and other organizational transformation tactics so as to improve the organization in its various aspects”. This is principally done through its collaborative management of the existing organizational culture, mostly with the important help of a catalyst or change agent coupled with the application of technology of applied behavior science and theory.
Even though behavioral science provides the groundwork for the application and study of OD, there are innovative and developing arenas of study which have continually made their existence known. Specialists in leadership studies, systems thinking, organizational leadership and learning whose opinion is not focused on behavioral sciences only, but in the more multi discipline and internal discipline tactic that have arisen as Organizational development catalysts. OD is thus an ongoing and methodical process to manage an actual change the sponsoring organization.
In this paper, research will be documented on Democracy Resource Center (DRC). The organization underwent development strategies to help change employees output by changing their attitudes.
Liz Natter, the executive director at DRC states that OD is the task that involves building an organization so that it is strategic, antiracist and is very effective. She adds that away of making this happen is ensuring that the organization’s work is consistent to its stated values. Work to build the organization into an anti-racist firm has been done since 1994 when the company was still known as Kentucky Local Governance Project. The founders directly forwarded the racist agenda as it emerged. The work eventually became the firm’s primary goal leading to the management setting up a separate and clearly stated mission. The DRC board members and staff were assisted by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation in using the process of OD to help the firm fight racism at work. (www.mrbf.org/resource_serve.aspx?resId=10&fileId=4)
DRC began war on racism by building concrete relationships with the organizations that represent and are headed by people of color. It was in the staff’s belief that this relationship building was the only way that they could create a common vision with these communities to be able to shape DRC’s mission and it’s work to work in relation to the common vision. Staff was also taken through on racism education so as to have the required knowledge to tackle the case.
Liz natter states that some of the efforts were highly successful while others failed. There was need for more resources for the work to be done right but they seized the opportunity the best way they could. To bolster their knowledge, the staff participated in various anti-racism workshops for example those offered by the Peace Development Fund. In addition to this, staff worked with a special consultant to come up with a single year’s work plan for this particular task.
Ms. Natter acknowledges that the support received from Babcock foundation was the primary and most significant step. She took up outside help as the leadership felt they did not have the capability to effect the changes through internal staff alone.
The firm at first had difficulties determining which particular OD issues to tackle first but at last settled on fundraising and anti-racism. There was plan to deal with strategy development but it was important to do board development first. With the board developed, other OD targets would fall in place easily. In developing a board of directors who were to lead organizational development work, the company aimed at being a solid stand alone firm. The company sought to put together a powerful multiracial leadership team that cold effectively share power. Since DRC had worked with various leaders from people of color committees, it was easy to include them in their board. This generally assisted in building concrete and strong collaborations while building mutual trust between the involved parties. She admits that pulling different people together was quite hard and tasking. It took time for the new board to settle in and be able to run things.
The staff at DRC greatly benefited from the board members contribution in the Babcock OD meetings. Here they were able to compare and contrast and hence be able to know what they were lacking in their board. This was a learning process as they came to realize. It has jargons that are sometimes not very clear until one has used in conversation. The initial development of the firm’s leadership board was looked at as a major pillar for the creating the way forward for the eventual development of DRC. The fact that DRC was committed to anti-racism both within and externally meant that it had to build a diverse board. Currently and due to thus efforts, the board is half women and the other half are people of color.
The next phase was to work on the culture of the organization as a whole. The goal of commitment against racism externally and internally also encompassed shaping the firm’s culture and the associated practices that stem from it. Ms. Natter admits that the need to change culture was necessitated by the fact that they had earlier had racism issues among employees. The firm developed a shared study in the organizations arms of staff, board and core leaders through seminars and workshops that eventually led to the acknowledgement of the presence of racism as an hindrance to social change. DRC has, to be true to its set values, had to contend to how racism can plays out in the firm’s daily activity. DRC is now committed to antiracist behavior among employees and will delegate duties without having to worry about poor communication. The antiracist work at DRC has been a chief boost for its fundraising activities. DRC has been able to be regarded as socially responsible and its collaboration with others has made it link up with donors and funders for projects. The firm is now capable of being able to count on the backing of the many sister organizations it has made due to its development.
DRC also, apart from working from within has also utilized the capacities of a few consultants (catalyst) in its quest if achieving its Organizational Development goals (McLean G. 2005). The firm has actually hired people of color whom they consider qualified on this field to assist in in the firm’s OD process. It was clearly stipulated for the consultants that their work was going to help DRC to forward the agenda of ant-racism as a section of all its OD activities. Ms. Natter explains that using outside help in terms of trained consultants really helped DRC to be exposed to their experience, talent and tales of how the organizations they have worked with managed to transform. This boosts the morale of the staff and gives them the strength to work to an achievable goal. It challenges them to make it.
The experts gave them material and the staff agreed on who could play that role best. It was however harder to practice than they thought. This in turn challenged them more, energized them and got them more interested in the workshop. The biggest challenge for DRC was to find a full time consultant who was ready to work for a long period of time. It is recorded that only a few of the long term OD plans have gone through from start to end with the same catalyst. While this has been a problem, Ms. Natter acknowledges the fact that other consultants have been able to pick and take control from the last.
As is the case with all big projects, there were challenges that arose in the implementation. Liz Natter learnt from her board that tackling anti-racism was going to be an uphill task, with consequences. It was not easy to implement new laws that should have been implemented many years ago. This was never going to be easy and it proved to be even harder when they came to the ground even though the staff and board alike shared the same opinion on racism.
It is essential to discuss the role taken up by the organizational leader in OD. The role is the facilitator who works hard to encourage staff and the leadership team which in our case is the board to play their roles so as to transform the organization to what they have planned. In DRC’s case, it was Ms. Natter’s role to initially find the information regarding OD and to channel it to the board. She, for example reported to the board her choice of consultants and the various strategies and requirements for the success of the process. Once everything was in place, she set out to distribute the job so everyone was actively involved in the process. This was important so as to get everyone on the same boat.
She notes that as the leader, when it was done, she knew that she was re-doing it. It is a continuous area and thus on is continually re-plowing the same patch year in year out (The University of Michigan 1976). This is because new people will join the organization each year meaning they have to be trained too. They are also open to train others on the knowledge from previous employment. The process is not linear; the leader will always go back to the starting point again.
As at now, DRC has a solid vision, the mission is executable, and the values are achievable. The strategic plan is well set out for all employees. However, the organization has to always re-visit all of them to make sure they are executable and current. Some of the goals that were to be accomplished in the first year have been met ad there is a structure set to accommodate the changes they come with. Yet others have not been accomplished.
There is need for the leader to be very flexible and open-minded in their work. The leader has to be ready to watch people push the company but be very careful it is not pushed off the course. The OD will actually impact on the leader the art and skill of management for change. This is good for any manager’s portfolio as it teaches how to be effective even when under pressure. Ms. Natter admits that it is hard for the leader to watch as others take the leadership and course of the company but one learns to be persevering for the best results. It is tough to keep the equilibrium between accountability for daily running and staff empowerment. It could be very draining for the director to just watch as others steer the company specifically if you have been behind the wheel for years. If you come to think of the seniors, like the board who entrust you with the company, you realize it is it is all a learning process, even for them. Knowing this is the key to a successful organizational development.
To look at the value of planned change in the DRC case, we reflect on the case, the reason for a need for change; it was racism and its effects. All major approaches of organizational development try to yield a kind of adjustment in each employee, working groups and the whole organization. This will be the aim of the four Organizational Development interventions that will be used to review the DRC case;
The first is survey feedback. This follows a three step process that is meant to ensure the employees understand the weakness and also the strong points of the organization (Harvey & Broyles, 2010). It is thus done by consultants. DRC hired outside consultants who were to follow the steps; they were to collect the data fro employees, report the feedback to seniors and help in development of action plans (Brown & Harvey 2001). It was found that all agreed that the problem existed and greatly affected the organization. However, some employees through the questionnaires did not approve the method management had chosen to tackle it. The findings were not enough to halt the process as the majority agreed there was immediate need to tackle it.The second is the quality of work life programs. It is meant to survey the employee’s attitude to work. It is clear that most employees at DRC had associated work with drudgery. This is very common at the place of work. Recently, more employees continue to demand personal fulfilling and satisfactory jobs. It was the duty of the catalyst to try and get rid of this attitude. They were also tasked with giving workable solutions to this common problem. These efforts are what is known as quality of work life (QWL) programs (Gallos J. 2006). DRC employed the consultants to try to maximize output by creating a comfortable environment for the employees. There were clear cases of employees who really disliked their job at DRC. The goal for the consultant was to simply humanize the place of work.
They came up with various ways of making the job interesting; redesigning jobs, office facelift, job enrichment, and altering job characteristics. One popular approach to improving the quality of work life involves work restructuring-the process of changing the way jobs are done to make them more interesting to workers. Another approach that is still in use is quality circles. Employees were put into groups of 8 with race being mixed equally. They meet every week to discuss problems at work and how best to tackle them.
The third is the management of objectives. The “management by Objectives” method was chosen. The board together with subordinate staff met and set goals under a mutual agreement. All goals had a time frame attached to them so as to make sure they were achievable. Once the goals had been set and the action plan set up, what followed was assessing the progress regularly. The plan worked so well and Ms. Natter thus adopted it as the plan and then followed the step of assessing the goal attainment itself. It was found out that the goals were all achieved in time as the organization acquired a better status with funders. The three year plan was successful.
The last was team building. This was of course fundamental for an organization fighting racism internally. Team building was applied among the formed groups to compete with other groups with voluntary shuffling allowed. There were surprisingly few conflicts but they can not be fully attributed to racism.
The plan could have been greatly improved if the team building activities had been a retreat for example in a camp. Grouping them within the same groups that were involved in quality circles meant that they cold only familiarize within the same group with little attention to people in other groups. In the survey feedback style, direct interviews would have been more effective. People tend to have a negative attitude towards questionnaires. A direct interview would have served to pass the message better and to record different employee preference and observations.