Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Greed and OD: Redefining the Values of Organization Development

Greed and OD: Redefining the Values of Organization Development


Why do OD efforts in India do not give any visible results? Why is it after so many years of OD work neither OD interventions nor OD specialists seem to be widely acknowledged? Does OD result in any thing substantial or does it lead to anything at all apart from occupying the time and lives of a few people? Has it become a “time pass” activity when there is nothing else to do? These are some of the questions that are bothering me. These have bothered me for long and have begun to bother me more as I see that sixty three years after independence and sixty years after the Indian republic was formed we seem to be nowhere near Nation building.

Divisiveness continues. It spreads from caste and religion based divisiveness, to political divisiveness to linguistic, regional, colour, education, health, batch, sector, section, department etc everywhere. Some divisiveness for improving the disadvantaged is fine but divisiveness leading to self destruction of a large part including that of the Nation is not acceptable.

We seem to live today in a scam driven world. Every day morning you wake up to hear what new scam has been unearthed. Starting with Satyam in the corporate world to CWG, 2G, Adarsh Housing, Mining and Land grab to everywhere. The nation’s time is taken away for protesting MPS, MLAs and various other agents who should be spending their time in Nation Building.

Are the Indian corporations saved from this? Has OD brought in certain amount of integrative outlook in our corporations? In a world where organizations are built and developed to sell than to build more, has OD done some good? Organizations built by the sweat capital of many people suddenly get sold and the employees discover that they belong to a new management and a new organization that they have not heard before and they need to learn a new culture. . This has become the world order and Iida is no exception. Sometimes it appears that we are truly in the business of business and not that of service. In the past organizations used to be set up to serve others and in the process make some money to sustain themselves and grow. Today it appears that some organizations are being set up to make money and money alone. Even hospitals performance is being measured by the numbers in monetary measures rather than patients served and benefits to society. Government performance is also being measured by the numbers of schools and hospitals set up rather than what they are doing after they are set up.

In other words short term orientation emerging out of greed has become the order of the day. The concept of service to society and working for larger cause is being forgotten except occasional when we talk of corporate social responsibility. Even this CSR gets reduced to projects to take care of the neighbourhood rather than getting integrated into everything that w e do in our corporations.

What are the implications of all this to OD today? Should OD change its course? I have chosen to present a few extracts on this occasion from our forthcoming book on “ Organization Development: Accelerating learning and Transformation” edited by Prof. S. Ramnaraayn of ISB and T. V Rao to be published by Sage response books this year. As a part of this book which contains about 37 chapters on various issues, my colleague Prof. Ramnarayan interviewed a few OD practitioners in India. I take this opportunity to present some extracts from these interviews and my own views and experiences of OD. These experincecs indicate that OD is a lot more successful than what it has been widely known. However it has not reached all the sections and sectors it ahs to reach. We have a long way to go and perhaps we need to revisit and redefine its values or at least add to the list a core value of “Extension”.

Extracts from Interviews With Prof. S Ramnaraayn from the forthcoming book on OD (Ramnarayan and Rao, 2011)

Santrupt Misra on OD in Birla Group in an interview to Prof. Ramnarayan:

“Some of the interventions were extremely powerful for the organization. Every intervention communicated multiple messages to the organization. For instance, the Chairman and the top managers started participating in the 360 degree feedback. It was an intervention that changed the cultural norm – the junior could also provide feedback to the senior. It created a sense of trust and transparency. It has prepared the top management of organization to receive and discuss feedback openly by sitting together. That was a powerful intervention.

Similarly, several team building exercises were introduced across functions to support structural changes as we moved from functional to SBU structure and also created global structures.

In doing all of these interventions, we used various resources and range of expertise from Indian, international, firms, individuals, teams, and so on. A number of consultants helped us carry out those interventions. The emphasis was on churning the organization and creating new ideas and frameworks, and holding mirrors to help critical questioning and introspection, say through 360 degree feedback, survey feedback and numerous such approaches.

Are there some OD concepts that have outlived the utility?

The whole concept of the team needs to be revisited because today you have virtual teams. You have quick-set teams that come together for a purpose and break apart. They are not working together as teams over a longer period of time. So, the stability of team concept has changed. The entire issues around team interventions need to be revisited.

Extracts the Interview with Yogi Shriram of L&T

How do you think we should create and nurture OD practitioners?

It is important to think about this issue particularly when there are no formal courses. There are disparate small courses and certification, but I believe OD practitioners should be accredited by an institution. This should be based on practice and theory. It should be based on an actual OD change that the person has done in one or two years or even shorter duration in an organization and not on a project. The work should be examined and recognized by a set of practitioners. I would feel that the interns should be technically very sound and understand the literature. They may focus on one or two narrow areas of specialization, say appreciative inquiry, process consultation or coaching. I think it is very important to start a comprehensive OD course led by very senior people with a set of ethics with possibly collaboration with a reputed school abroad with a strong track record in OD.

The other key issue is that HR practitioners are scant in the leadership positions. Most HR practitioners are uncomfortable in discussing the business part and the conceptual part. Just as we need equal emphasis on both academic rigor and practice, we need equal attention to business issues and people issues.

P. M. Kumar of GMR on his experiences of OD and recommendations for future:

What would be your advice for learning and development professionals and young professionals getting to change and OD?

Have good networks, be resourceful to be able to connect with the right people and bring the most value based people in to work. Most importantly, you have to constantly ask yourself, is there any self interest that you are doing this in. Once the answer is ‘yes’ drop it like a hot potato. If you are ready as a practitioner, if it is in collective interest, then go. That’s my call. Timing and governance have to be made by every practitioner. Fortunately, we have people across. And also, one more thing helped me right through my career. I have been versatile. I did process work, lab work, systemic job evaluation work, strategy and HR work, industrial relations, unions, settlement, and facilitation. Fortunately, when I look back, this has been an excellent exposure. I believe versatility is important for trust worthiness. Otherwise, you say that I have one hammer and everything looks like a nail. There are practitioners today for whom there is one answer for everything. They will not be accepted. They will only play a very marginal role. You need versatility, openness and see a wide range of possibilities.

Warner Burke in conversation with John R. Schermerhorn Jr. ( see Ramnarayan and Rao, 2011)

Are there certain competencies that all OD specialists should have?

Too much specialization in OD can be unproductive. An OD consultant must be a generalist. If a high degree of specialization is needed for a certain change effort then the OD consultant brings in this specialist for the job. For example, OD consultants are typically not compensation specialists but on occasion such expertise is needed. This need is only an occasional one and not in general. In other words, an OD consultant does not need to be a specialist in compensation even though changing some aspect of the reward system is often required for an overall successful change effort. I have suggested a set of competencies (see Table 2) that all OD specialists should have (Burke, 1994) which include such abilities as tolerance for ambiguity, ability to confront difficult issues, self awareness, and abilities to conceptualize and teach.

What are the most important cross-cultural issues and considerations for those interested in global applications of OD, say in India?

I have some but limited experience with the culture of India. I first was there in 1972 when I spent part of the summer as a visiting professor with the Indian Institute of Management, and traveled around much of the country. Change in India today is occurring at an unprecedented rate, and OD can be very helpful with the process, that is, helping organizations to plan, change instead of change merely happening to them. Indians have been interested in and practising OD well before 1972 when I was there, and my presentations then were well received. So, there is much history, and I do not see major cross-cultural issues with the US way of practicing OD in India. It has always been my understanding that OD practitioners in India respect theory and research, and work to apply behavioural science knowledge. The differences cross-culturally are there for sure, but not that easy to see immediately (after all, Indians speak English very well). We, Americans, must be diligent, however, about understanding subtle yet real differences, for example, how the dynamics of power and politics are manifested.

Dr. S. Chandrasekhar of IBM to Ramnarayan

Based on your OD experiences – those that have worked well or not so well – what are a few key lessons for OD practitioners?

Leaders cannot “outsource” change related work to some OD consultant - external or internal. It won’t work. They have to lead change personally .Too much jargon and conceptual models alienate people. Initiatives started well and not sustained create huge credibility gap. It is not very useful to use workshops and people assessments to “fix’ the trouble makers. The business case for the change being sought needs to be very strong and explained very transparently. Else people will not be with you.

ow profile. Work across generations and leverage diversity. We cannot be world-class if we always have an excuse, ‘oh this won’t work in India’. Be truly global and bring best practices from all over the world.

T. V. Rao’s views and comments

Q: What do you conclude from Various OD in this part of the world?

OD as a planned change with long term involvement of OD facilitator has become a trend of the past. There have been many success experiences of the past. For example Dr. Udai Pareek, Dr. Abad Ahmed, Somnath Chattopadhyay, Dharni Sinha, Ishwar Dayal and Suresh Srivastava and such NTL trained OD facilitators worked with Organizations like the L7T, LIC, Medical Mission Sisters, ICI, State Bank of India etc. now a days you rarely find this work perhaps organizations like Tata Chemicals is an exception. As Dr. Santrupt Misra mentioned today OD has come to be short-term, quick and multiple intervention based. Specialization has gone up. So a variety of consultants are used. Some of assessment centers, other for 360 a few for executive coaching and the like. With enhancement of tendering process in PSUs, Component tendering process in PSUs, Component tendering has gone up rather than integrated development and planned and guided change. These have been successful with short-term gains. While they may cumulatively do some good for the organization, and integrated approach is still welcome. I have a feeling corporation like GE still continue to have long term engagement of the OD consultants.

Q: What do you consider as some of the success experiences in your own OD work?

The HRD work we had done both at L&T and State Bank of India is a success experience during that period. Recent work with Steel Authority of India and Bharat Electronics and Aditya Birla Group on Leadership Development using 360 Degree Feedback based interventions are another two examples of successful OD.

Everything is time bound. What is successful today may lay foundation for tomorrow. Once it is done the corporation grows and may not even remember that someone laid the foundation. For example strong foundations were laid in SBI through its training system in initial years. Later Udai and I worked for integrated HRD between 1975 and 1985. There was a sustained effort and hard work. It was successful. However it has gone to the background due to intensive dialogues with officers associations, change of leadership both at top level and in HRD. I re-entered along with Prof. S K Chakravarthy in mid nineties for specific task of a subsystem change. It was not continued beyond 5 years due to change of leadership both at the SBI top level and at Government level the Secretaries handling banking. They brought in new experts who did not have a clue of the history. For them it became a year to year event than planned change.

This is not to say short-term OD interventions don’t work. The HRD audit as a self-renewal mechanism, the 360 Degree Feedback as a change promoting intervention and Assessment Centers has worked well. As mentioned by Santrupt we were involved almost for a 5 year period with 360 DF in Birla Group. It was a great success as are of the inputs. In BEL we are involved in Leadership Development over the last seven years. A lot of change is taking place. A review of the work indicated both short and long term changes. For example short term it resulted in vision formulation, new product innovations and problems solving. Long term is resulted in increased openness and transparency.

A two day self-renewal workshop in XIM resulted in increased focus on Vision and deciding future course of action besides faculty involvement. A diagnostic study followed by a one day feedback workshop presenting the findings resulted in consolidation and increased focus on future strategies. So was the case of survey feedback in Bharat Petroleum, Cochin Refineries and the like. In Bharat Petroleum it was used to consolidate the gains of restructuring. After restructuring was done an employee satisfaction survey was conducted. The feedback communicated to employee revalidated the gains of restructuring and pointed the gaps in HR policies and helped BPCL to initiate new HR activities. Gati is a great example of sustained work coming out of top management commitment. There 360 DF has become of regular part of self renewal. Again a quick diagnosis of the Institutional concerns and a presentation to the entire team of the findings and with Aga Khan Foundation has become a stepping stone for consolidating gains and taking the Foundation in the direction its Founders have envisaged under the leadership of Dr Abad Ahmad is a success story of how short term interventions can lay foundation to facilitate the change process.

Q: What are some of the challenges OD and OD practitioners face today?

Execution is the major issue. Organizations seem to be highly short term result driven. They profess culture and values as important dimensions but focus extraordinarily on results and short term targets. This creates enormous difficulty for OD practitioners who like to work on long term and sustainable change.

Second mergers and acquisitions have become very common. In one company the executives told me that four years ago they belonged to a different company, two years ago to a different company and since the last six months he is working for a different company. In a four year period his organization has gone through three changes. While this may be a little uncommon most organizations live with certain amount of uncertainty. Ironically when mergers and acquisitions take place that is the best time for process work as it calls for adjustments and cultural change. Under uncertainties sustained focus on values, culture and long term thinking becomes difficult. OD becomes a short term quick fix problem solving exercise than a planned change for long term.

Appreciation for behavioral science based interventions and behavioral scientists ahs not in any way gone up while appreciation for specific techniques and technologies has gone up. For example the top management seems to appreciate the use of assessment cents for a specific group of people and at a given point of time. For example when they need to develop a group of high fliers or when they find shortage of tenant rather than making it a continuous process to upgrade talent or as a talent development tool. Same way survey feedback or 360 degree feedback, or outbound training becomes a onetime exercise to bring in process sensitivity than a continuous effort.

On the positive side many technologies are being sued. The OD filed has expanded to include a variety of techniques and methods.

HRD and OD have come face to face. Two decades ago there used to be issues like whether OD is part of HRD or HRD is a part of OD. Today the content is not so much as what it is part of what but more on which technology or intervention works better and under what circumstances. Some organizations are using LSIP technologies and others role based interventions and while some others use Assessment centers and 360 Degree feedback and a few others HRD audit, survey feedback and vision mission exercises etc. What is being undertaken is a technology based OD rather than a change oriented value driven process sensitive OD.

OD specialists as class is on the decline and specialization has gone up so much like in medicine rather than general practitioners today e see Executive Coaches, Assessment Center experts, survey feedback experts and performance management specialists. Sub system specialization has gone up.

Training focus remained and continues to remain the same as before and so are the concerns.

Q: What do you think is the Future of OD and what Direction it is taking and it should take?

I think OD as discipline and science deserves more attention than what it has commanded so far. Process sensitivity and Behavioral science knowledge provides the base for good OD work. We need to understand people in different settings as individuals, role holders, dyads, teams or subsystem members and organizational members and multiple role holders and mute-organizational stake holders besides citizens of a nation or products of a culture. In Asian region people are highly talented and are products of complex interactions of history, culture, families, heritage and other dynamic factors. Modern organizations and competitive world adds to this complexity. Unlike in the west where people tend to be systems driven and norm respecting in this part of the world there is no one norm or no one system to follow. People seem to respect one another perhaps a lot more than they respect systems. Given these complexities of human nature, we need to study people in their current and changing contexts more deeply before we can plan and carry out interventions for change. Unfortunately such a systematic and scientific study of people is lacking. Psychologists in this part of the world have not enhanced our insights about human beings and their motivational patterns, learning styles etc. We are still dependent on the past knowledge and knowledge from the west. It is only in the recent past attempts to learn from our Vedic culture about the nature of human being has gone up. Even this is limited to a set of hypotheses of fitting ancient wisdom into the modern organizations.

What is needed in future is a systematic and scientific study of the human being and his nature in the current organizational contexts.

Change and drivers of change and success stories and failure of change are required in large quantities and with more perspectives- psychological, sociological and anthropological and organizational. Only when such studies are conducted can a body of knowledge develop. The future therefore ahs to focus on more systematic research to discover he fundamental nature of the human being in the context of modern organizations and enhance our ability to predict behavior. Therefore there is a need for scientific base for OD. More researches need to be trained in OD.

Institutions like the ISABS have got reduced some times to social networks without any scientific rigor and research base. The involvement of Institutions like the IIMA that used to happen in seventies has tremendously come down. As a result the teams of Applied Behavioral scientists that get trained or certified from these institutions have become at best factories for conducting training programs with limited knowledge. The future has to be research driven and should lay more foundation for scientific knowledge. If this does not happen OD will die its natural death and at best will be handled by a few people who lack depth and get called as OD Facilitators mainly on the basis of a few programs they attended than out of scientific study and affecting change.

We need to revisit the values of OD and underline those that have to do with short term orientation and greed.

Warrick (2005) from his research on OD identified the following 13 characteristics and 15 values of OD:
Characteristics of OD (Warrick, 2005)

1. Recognizes what you change and how you change as equally important and emphasizes health, effectiveness, and adaptability of an organization.

2. OD can be used with all sizes of organizations and at all levels of an organization.

3. Recognizes the dynamic process of change and that change takes time and quick fix solutions rarely last.

4. Approaches change from systems or big picture perspective and considers interrelatedness of various systems and components.

5. OD is an interdisciplinary approach and draws heavily from behavioural science knowledge.

6. OD is data driven.

7. OD uses action research process and involves key stake holders.

8. OD is typically facilitated by professionally trained change agents who believe in helping others to discover solutions to their own issues than dictating what should be done.

9. OD is a value driven approach that seeks to instil values and build cultures that bring out the best in people.

10. OD is collaborative top down and bottom up process.

11. OD is an education based strategy.

12. OD is committed to transference of knowledge and skills

13. OD emphasizes the importance of reliable feedback in monitoring and managing the change process.

OD values

1. Development

2. Professionalism

3. Helping people and organizations

4. Respect to all individuals

5. Inclusion, collaboration and participation

6. Open , honest and candid communications

7. Authenticity

8. Inquiry

9. Community

10. Diversity

11. Personal and organization awareness, growth and learning

12. Experimentation

13. Creating a realistic hope

14. Integrity

15. Confidentiality

Udai Pareek’s eight values as OD values OCTAPACE seem to take care of most of these values. (Openness, Collaboration, Trust, Authenticity, Proactivity, Autonomy, Confrontation, and experimentation). It is time to add to this list Extension Value coming out of Udai Pareek’s concept of Extension Motivation. Extension value is a value of extending oneself to others in the larger society or working for a larger cause. It is further defined as having a larger and long term orientation for the good of the “People and Society; making sacrifices for larger good and not being greedy ( a strong and selfish desire for personal possessions, personal wealth or personal power beyond limits, for their own sake and at the cost of deriving others in the society and an inability to use them for the larger good not using them for serving others). This is in tune with large amount of professed concern of the country and its leaders for sustainability, environment, saving the earth, reducing pollution, conserving energy and building for the future.

All OD effort should include besides OCTAPACE, extention value. Every OD facilitator should focus on larger good as a part of  OD's objectives. When this is done divisiveness will reduce and integration will take palce and the larger good of the society will be taken care of. Extension Motivation is a counter dose for Greed.

Ramnarayan, S and Rao, T. V. (editors) Organizational development for Learning and transformation: New Delhi: Sage India, Response Books Forthcoming, 2011

Rao, T. V. Organization Development Experiences – A case for enriching HRD through OD: Ahmedabad: IIMA Working Papers, 2009.

Warrick, D. D. (2005) Organization development from the view of the Experts, in Rothwell, W J and Sullivan, Roland (cited below pages 164-186).

Worley, C. G, Rothwell, W J and Sullivan, Roland. (2005) Competencies of OD practitioners, in Rothwell and Sullivan (editors, cited earlier, 2005 pages 135-163)

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