Identify the two OD theories you selected. Explain how the two theories you selected reflect an issue the organization is currently facing.
Using theories to explain what is occurring within an organization as well as designing strategies to implement change is important as it reflects research that has been tested and found effective. Theories offer frameworks from which to work from and build upon. Theories inform practice and when seeking to improve performance, using existing theories is vital to the success of implementation as far as using what works (Lynham et al., 2004). Utilizing theories adds to the credibility of the intervention and performance strategies and guides the consultant in their work, as well as keeping them anchored to the principles of the chosen theory. Theories offer a lens from which to view dysfunction, success, and a myriad of issues the organization may be facing. Integration of theoretical foundations into OD guides the practice of performance improvement, which is the overall goal (Lynham et al., 2004). Austin et al. (2013) and Jex and Britt (2014) also cite research that pushes for increased attention to theory in the OD field as it drives and informs practice.
The organization is a college that is currently facing issues of not being able to adapt effectively to COVID restrictions that affected their fall semester plans. Their niche in the community is their small, community-like feel of having students on campus. The students that typically attend prefer to be in-person and have difficulty maintaining well with online only instruction. Further, the instructors are struggling to adapt to an online-only environment. Communication between staff members has broken down, roles have been abandoned, and essentially, chaos has ensued with the initial COVID adaptation plan to return to school failing. The first theory selected in response to this problem is action research, attributed to Kurt Lewin and that emphasizes a collaborative problem-solving approach between the consultant and client. The goal is to solve the problem while simultaneously generating new knowledge. This becomes a cycle of knowledge-gathering, implementing strategies based on that knowledge, and then learning from intended and unintended outcomes (Asumeng & Osae-Larbi, 2015). Because the school is facing a brand new problem that has never before been faced, the process of seeking knowledge that will inform problem-solving is essential and fits well with their need.
A second theory is Lewin’s change theory which is a three-step model of planned change. Lewin purported that unless group norms and routines changed, individual behavior would not. Change begins by unfreezing or challenging the current situation and behaviors that are hindering the desired behavior. Once these behaviors or dynamics are identified, the goal is to decrease their influence and increase the forces that drive the desired behavior. Actively engaging employees in the process by creating psychological safety and ensuring them it will not cost them psychologically by blaming them or humiliating them is part of the change process (Asumeng & Osae-Larbi, 2015). Lastly, “the planned change is integrated into the organizational values and traditions in order to stabilize the new quasi-equilibrium state and prevent regression to the previous problem situation” (p. 32).
Explain how you could use these two theories to help the organization better understand and resolve the issue.
For action research, this theory can be explained as a step process where eight main components are involved and include problem identification, consulting with a behavioral science expert, data gathering and preliminary diagnosis, feedback to client, joint diagnosis of the problem, joint action planning, action, and data gathering after action (p. 33). At each step, planning, action, and fact-finding occur (Asumeng & Osae-Larbi, 2015). The emphasis is on collaboration and the process involves joint diagnosis of the problem and joint action planning. This way, the organization is on board the whole time and takes an active and participative role in identifying and solving the problem. Lastly, during the data gathering after action step, the organization is empowered to give feedback on what worked and this includes at the group level, involving all the team players. At the school, this would also involve students.
Regarding Lewin’s three-stage model of change, this theory is desirable for the school issue as it will help identify the behaviors that are contributing to the chaos and confusion. The employees need to understand what behaviors are undermining the higher goal of sticking to their mission and values during this challenging time. It will also empower the team members to engage if they feel safe and that they can be part of the solution, working towards getting back to their values and equilibrium.
Describe some methods and processes that you would use to explain these two theories, and their relevance, to your client.
It would be beneficial to explain the purpose of using theories to the client first. Lynham et al. (2004) asserts that “a greater appreciation of OD’s theoretical underpinnings has the potential for providing clients with a higher likelihood that comprehensive diagnosis will be matched to appropriate intervention plans” (p. 157). Therefore it is vital to the change process that the client has an understanding of what theories provide. Theories are foundational and will drive the process. Lynham et al. (2004) writes that “…without integrating OD theory and interventions with specific impact on performance improvement and increased production and financial performance, the field of OD will likely become less relevant to organizations seeking performance improvement through deliberate and planned change interventions” (pp. 155-156). In speaking with the client, the key would be integrating theory with practice, ideally using a graphic or visual of the model to demonstrate how it works. Models “provide the grounds on which change agents might proceed with designing, planning, and implementing change” (Asumeng & Osae-Larbi, 2015, p. 29). Additionally, using a case study as an example would be helpful to assist the client in visualizing how theory is applied practically. Also, citing research that supports the view that theory is relevant to improved practice can help the client make the connection between theory and the practices in their agency. Laying the foundation with theory sets the stage for buy-in from the client, provides context, and makes a case for what is about to occur in their organization. They can know more of what to expect in the process. It also creates a collaborative relationship where once the client has seen the model and understands how their organization might fit into it, they can assist the OD professional with filling in the blanks as they are the expert on their workplace. Lastly, explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the theory being used can help the client assess the process better. Knowing what the theory can and cannot provide can increase credibility for the consulting process. For example, while action research is known for its rigor, it is also the most extensive and demanding to use (Asumeng & Osae-Larbi, 2015). Likewise, the three-step model of change is known for its simplicity and group approach, but is criticized for its linearity and being overly simplistic.
Asumeng, M. A., & Osae-Larbi, J. A. (2015). Organization development models: A critical review and implications for creating learning organizations. European Journal of Training and Development Studies, 2(3), 29–43. http://www.eajournals.org/wp-content/uploads/Organ…
Austin, J. R., & Bartunek, J. M. Organizational change and development: In practice and in theory. In I. B. Weiner, W. C. Borman, D. R. Ilgen, & S. Highhouse. (2013). Handbook of psychology: Volume 12 industrial and organizational psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Jex, S. M., & Britt, T. W. (2014). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Lynham, S. A., Chermack, T. J., & Noggle, M. A. (2004). Selecting organization development theory from an HRD perspective. Human Resource Development Review, 3(2), 151–172. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534484304265484