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Organization Development

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Lesson # 45
Seven Practices of Successful Organizations
Seven dimensions that seem to characterize most if not all of the successful organizations are:
1. Employment security
Most research on the effects of management systems has incorporated security as a critical element of
high-performance management systems. One of the most widely accepted propositions is that
innovations in work practices or other forms of worker-management cooperation or productivity
improvement are not likely to be sustained over time when workers fear that they will be out of their
jobs.
This was recognized long ago by Lincoln Electric, the successful arc welding and electric motor
manufacturer that has dominated its markets for decades. Years ago, it began offering guaranteed
employment to workers after two (and now three) years on the job. It has not had a layoff since 1948.
Nor is it the case that this is just because the company has never faced hard times. In the early 1980's, a
recession and high interest rates caused the company domestic sales to fall about 40 percent over an
eighteen-month period. Nevertheless, it did not resort to layoffs. One thing the company did to avoid
laying off people was to redeploy them. Factory workers who made Lincoln's products were put in the
field with the tasks of selling them, which increased its market share and penetration Over the years,
Lincoln has enjoyed gains in productivity that are far above those for manufacturing as a whole, and its
managers believe that the assurance workers have that innovations in methods will not cost them or
their colleagues their jobs has significantly contributed to these excellent results.
Many additional benefits follow from employment assurances besides worker's free contribution of
knowledge and other efforts to enhance productivity. One advantage to firms is the decreased
likelihood that they will lay off employees during downturns. How is this a benefit to the firm? In the
absence of some way of building commitment to retaining the work force ­ either through pledges
about employment security or through employment obligations contractually negotiated with a union -
firms may lay off employees too quickly and too readily at the first sign of financial difficulty. This
constitutes a cost for the firm that has done a good selecting, training and developing their work force.
Layoffs put important strategic assets on the streets for the competitor to employ. The Vice President
for People at Southwest Airlines said that she had never had a layoff. She views people as strategic
assets rather than as costs. "Why would we want to put our best assets, our people, in the arms of the
competition?" she said. Southwest has pursued a careful growth strategy that avoided overexpansion
and subsequent cuts in personnel.
Employee security policies will also lead to more careful and leaner hiring because the firm knows that
it cannot simply let people go quickly if it has overestimated its labor demand. Leaner staffing can
make the work force more productive, with fewer people doing more work. The people are often
happy to be more productive because they know they are helping to ensure a result that benefits them
­ having a long-term job and a career. Furthermore, employment security maintained overtimes helps
to build trust between people and their employer, which can lead to more cooperation, forbearance in
pressing for wage increases, and better spirit in the company.
The CEO of Southwest has written:
"Our most important tools for building employee partnership are job security and a stimulating
environment... This has helped to keep our labor force smaller and more productive than our
competitors."
When you look at the complaints from the executives of "finding difficulty in recruiting qualified
personnel", you find that these very same firms laid off engineers, technicians, and other skilled
workers, years ago ­ before subsequently complaining about labor scarcity.
By hiring when times are poor and developing a set of policies, including assurance that people will be
retained, a firm can become an employer of choice, and the organization will not have to enter the
labor market at its very peak to acquire the necessary work force.
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Employment security can confer yet another benefit, in that it encourages people to take a longer-term
perspective on their jobs and organization performance. In a study of the financial performance of 192
banks, it has been observed that "The greater the employment security given to a loan officer, the
greater the returns to banks." In a bank that hires and lays off loan officers quickly to match economic
fluctuations, the typical loan officer will worry only about booking loans. With employment security
and a longer-term perspective on the job, the bank officer may be more inclined to worry about the
repayment prospects of the loan and about building customer relationships by providing high level of
service.
The idea of employment security does not mean that the organization retains people who don't
perform or work effectively with others ­ that is, performance does matter. Lincoln Electric has very
high turnover for employees in their first few months on the job, as those who don't fit the company
culture and work environment leave. Southwest will fire people who don't provide the level of
customer service the firm is well-known for delivering and don't want to improve. Employment
security means that employees are not quickly put on the streets for things, such as economic
downtown or strategic mistakes of the senior management, over which they have no control. The
policy focuses on maintaining total employment, not on protecting individuals from the consequences
of their individual behavior on the job.
Employment security is fundamental to the implementation of most other high performance
management practices such as selective hiring, extensive training, information sharing and delegation.
Companies are unlikely to invest the resources in careful screening and training of new people if these
are not expected to be with the firm long enough to recoup these investments. Similarly, delegation of
operating authority and the sharing of sensitive performance and strategic information requires trust,
and that trust is much more likely to emerge in a system of mutual, long-term commitments.
2. Selective hiring
Good organizations ensure that they recruit the right people in the first place. This requires several
things.
First, the organization needs to have a large applicant pool from which to select. For example,
in 1993, Southwest Airlines received about 98000 applications, interviewed 16000 and hired 2700.
Some organizations see processing this many job inquiries as an unnecessary expense. Southwest sees it
as the first step toward ensuring that it has a large applicant pool from which to select its people.
Singapore Airlines is extremely careful and selective in its recruiting practices. Flights attendants are an
important point of contact with the customer. Consequently, senior management becomes personally
involved in the flight attendant selection. From an initial pool of candidates, about 10% are short-listed
and only 2% (one out of 50) are selected.
Second, the organization needs to be clear about what are the most critical skills and attributes
needed in its applicant pool. The notion of trying to find "good employees" is not very helpful -
organizations need to be as specific as possible about the precise attributes they are seeking. At
Southwest Airlines, applicants for flight attendants are evaluated on the basis of initiative, judgment,
adaptability and their ability to learn. These attributes are assessed in part from interviews employing
questions evoking specific instances of these attributes. For instance, to assess adaptability, interviewers
ask, "Give an example of working with a difficult coworker. How would you handle it?" To measure
initiative, one question asked is, "Describe a time when a co-worker failed to deliver and what you did
about it."
Third, the skills and abilities hired needed to be carefully considered and consistent with the
particular job requirements and the organization's approach to its market. Simply hiring "the
best and the brightest" may not make sense in all circumstances. Enterprise Rent-A-Car is today the
largest car rental company in the US. It has grown by pursuing a high customer strategy and
emphasizing sales of rental car services to repair garage customers. In a low wage, low employee skill
industry, virtually all of the Enterprise's people are college graduates. But these people are hired
primarily for their sales skills and personality and for their willingness to provide good service, not their
academic performance.
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Fourth, organization should screen primarily on important attributes that are difficult to
change through training and should emphasize qualities that actually differentiate among
those in the applicant pool.
An important insight on the selection process comes from those organizations that tend to hire more
on the basis of basic ability and attitudes than on applicants' specific technical skills, which are much
more easily acquired. This has been the practice of Japanese organizations for some time. "Japanese
recruitment seeks to find the individual with the `proper character whom it can train.' Instead of
searching for the skills for the job, the focus is on social background, temperament, and character
references."
At Southwest Airlines, a top pilot working for another airline who actually did stunt work for movie
studios was rejected because he was rude to a receptionist. Southwest believes that technical skills are
easier to acquire than a teamwork and service attitude. Ironically, many firms select for specific, job-
relevant skills that, while important, are easily acquired. Meanwhile, they fail to find people with the
right attitudes, values, and cultural fit ­ attributes that are harder to train or change and that are quite
predictive of turnover and performance. To avoid having to retrain or re-socialize people that have
acquired bad habits at their previous employers, some companies prefer to hire individuals without
previous industry experience. Many prefer to hire individuals who are eager to prove themselves and
who don't know what can't be done. (For them everything is possible)
Stanford Business School has a class of about 370 MBAs, selected from a pool of over 6,000
applicants. These are obviously talented, motivated, and very intelligent individuals. Distinguishing
among them on those criteria would be difficult, if not impossible. But many firms seek to do the
impossible ­ they try to get around the school's policy of not releasing grades in an effort to figure out
who are the smartest students and to assess differences in ability among a set of applicants through
interviewing techniques such as giving them problems or cases to solve.
One MBA job applicant reported that, in interviews with a company, the company asked very little
about personal or academic background and focused on whether the person is team oriented or an
individual achiever. Questions asked were: "Do you have a personal mission statement. If you don't,
what would it be if you were to write today?"
A great deal of research evidence shows that the degree of cultural fit and value congruence between
job applicants and their organizations significantly predicts both subsequent turnover and job
performance.
Firms serious about selection put applicants through several rounds of interviews and a rigorous
selection procedure. A manufacturing company in the US could take as long as six months or more.
Such a lengthy selection process has several outcomes. First, it ensures that those who survive it have
been carefully scrutinized. Second, it ensures that those eventually hired into the firm develop
commitment. Third, this type of process promotes the feeling on the part of those who are finally
selected that they are part of an elite and special group, a feeling that causes them to enter the
organization with a high level of motivation and spirit.
Rigorous selection requires a method, refined and developed over time through feedback and learning,
to ensure that the firm can identify the skills it is seeking from the applicant pool. At Southwest
Airlines, the company tracks who has interviewed job applicants. When someone does especially
poorly, the organization can actually try to assess what the interviewers saw or missed, and why. It is
puzzling that organizations will ensure the quality of their manufacturing or service delivery process by
closing the loop on that process through feedback, while almost no organizations attempt to do the
same thing with their recruiting process. Sources of applicants, scores on tests or interview ratings, and
other selection mechanisms must be validated against the subsequent performance of the people
selected if there is to be any hope of improving the effectiveness of the process over time.
3. Self-Managed Teams and Decentralization as Basic Elements of Organizational Design
Organizing people into self-managed teams is a critical component of virtually all high performance
management systems.
Workers in self-managed teams enjoy greater autonomy and discretion, and this effect translates into
intrinsic rewards and job satisfaction;
Teams offer several advantages:
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First, teams substitute peer-based for hierarchical control of work. "Instead of management
devoting time and energy to controlling the work force directly workers control themselves." Peer
control is frequently more effective than hierarchical supervision. Someone may disappoint his or her
supervisor, but the individual is much less likely to let down his or her mates.
As a consequence, "all the difficulties of one person's absence fall on those in daily contact with the
absentee ­ the co-workers and immediate supervisor ­ producing enormous peer pressure against
absenteeism." Team-based organizations also are largely successful in having all of the people in the
firm feel accountable and responsible for the operation and success of the enterprise, not just a few
people in senior management positions. This increased sense of responsibility stimulates more initiative
and effort on the part of everyone involved.
World Food Markets, a food chain store in the US, has a team-oriented philosophy, which works as
follows:
Each store is a profit center and has about ten self-managed teams in it, with team leaders and clear
performance targets. Moreover, "the team leaders in each store are a team, store leaders in each region
are a team, and the company's six regional presidents are a team." Although store leaders recommend
new hires, teams must approve hires for full-time jobs, and it takes a two-thirds vote of the team
members to do so, normally after a thirty-day trial period. Through an elaborate system of peer store
reviews, Whole Foods encourages people to learn from each other. By sharing performance
information widely, the company encourages peer competition. "At Whole Foods, pressure for
performance comes from peers rather than from headquarters, and it comes in the form of internal
competition."
Second, teams permit employees to pool their ideas to come up with better and more creative
solutions to problems. The idea, similar to brain storming or group problem solving, involves pooling
ideas and expertise to increase the likelihood of that at least one member of the group will come up
with a way of addressing the problem. In the group setting, each participant can build on the others'
ideas, particularly if the members are trained in effective group process and problem solving.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, by substituting peer for hierarchical control, teams
permit removal of layers of hierarchy and absorption of administrative tasks previously performed
by specialists, avoiding the enormous costs of having people whose sole job is to watch people who
watch other people do the work. Administrative overhead is costly because management is typically
well-paid. Eliminating layers of management by instituting self-managing teams saves money.
The AES Corporation is a global power plant developer. The company "has never formed corporate
departments or assigned officers to oversee project finance, operations, purchasing, human resources,
or public relations. Instead, such functions are handled at the plant level, where plant managers assign
them to volunteer teams." Front-line people develop expertise in these various task domains, including
finance, and receive responsibility and authority for carrying them out. They do so effectively. Of
course mistakes get made, but learning follows. The AES structure saves on the cost of management ­
the organization has only five levels ­ and it economizes on specialized staff. The company developed
a $400 million plant with a team of just ten people. Normally project of this size requires hundreds of
workers.
4. High Compensation Contingent on Organizational Performance.
Although labor markets are far from perfectly efficient, it is nonetheless the case that some relationship
exists between what a firm pays and the quality of the work force it attracts. It is amusing to see firms
announce simultaneously that first, they compete on the basis of their people and that their goal is to
have the very best work force in their industry, and second, that they intend to pat at (or sometimes
slightly below) the median wage for comparable people in the industry. The level of salaries sends a
message to the firm's work force ­ they are truly valued or they are not.
When John Whitney assumed the leadership of Pathmark, a large grocery store chain in the US, the
company had 90 days to live according to the banks and was in desperate final shape. He looked at the
situation and found out that 120 store mangers were paid terribly. One of the first things he did was to
give them a substantial raise ­ about 40 to 50%. The subsequent success of the chain was because the
store managers could now focus on improving performance instead of worrying and complaining
about their pay. Furthermore, in a difficult financial situation, the substantial raise ensured that talent
would not be leaving for better jobs elsewhere, thereby making a turnaround more difficult.
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Contingent compensation figures importantly in most high performance work systems. Such
compensation can take a number of different forms, including gainsharing, stock ownership, pay for
skill, or various forms of individual or team incentives.
Many successful companies encourage share ownership. When the employees are owners, they act and
think like owners.
Paying for skill acquisition encourages people to learn different jobs and thereby to become more
flexible. Gainsharing differs from profit sharing in that it is based on incremental improvements in the
performance of a specific unit. If a plant becomes more efficient in its use of labor and materials, the
people share in the economic gains, even if profits in the firm as a whole are down. Why should
employees in a plant in which they have achieved efficiency gains be penalized for problems in the
general economy that have adversely affected sales or, for that matter, by the performance of other
parts of the organization over which they have no control.
Contingent compensation helps to motivate effort, because people know they will share in the results
of their work. At Whole Foods, a gainsharing program "ties bonuses directly to team performance ­
specifically, sales per hour, the most important productivity measurement."
Managers sometimes ask how to prevent employment security into something resembling the civil
service, with people just marking time. The answer is by coupling employment security with some form
of group-based incentive, such as profit or gainsharing or share ownership. The organization thus
unleashes the power of the team, whose economic interests are aligned with the higher levels of
economic performance.
5. Training
Virtually all descriptions of high-performance management practices emphasize training, and the
amount of training provided by commitment as opposed to control-oriented management systems is
substantial. Training is an essential component of high-performance work systems because these
systems rely on front-line employee skill and initiative to identify and resolve problems, to initiate
changes in work methods, and to take responsibility for quality. All of this requires a skilled and
motivated work force that has the knowledge and capability to perform the requisite tasks.
The difference in training reflects the different views of people held by different firms and their
corresponding production systems.
Japanese appear to train a lot because they rely heavily on flexible production. The US owned plants
train very little because they follow traditional mass production practices and philosophies.
The difference in training levels also reflects differences in time horizon - the Japanese intend to keep
their people longer therefore it makes sense for them to invest more in developing them.
Studies of firms in the US and the UK consistently provide evidence of inadequate levels of training
and training focused on the wrong things: special skills rather than generalist competence and
organizational culture.
Training can be a source of competitive advantage in numerous industries for firms with the wisdom to
use it. Successful firms that emphasize training do so almost as a matter of faith and because of their
belief in the connection between people and profits.
Taco Inc., for instance, a privately owned manufacturer of pumps and valves, with annual sales of
under $100 millions, offers its employees "astonishing educational opportunities ­ more than six dozen
courses in all." In an on-site learning center. It cost the company $ 250,000 to build the center and
annual direct expenses and lost production cost about $300,000. When asked to put a monetary value
on the return from operating the centre, the CEO said. "It comes back in the form of attitude".
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Table
6:
Reduction of Status Differences
High-performance management systems can perform only when they are able to tap the ideas, skills,
and efforts of all of their people. One way to do this is to organize people in team works. But neither
individuals nor teams will feel comfortable or encouraged to contribute if they feel that they are neither
valuable nor valued. In order to help make all organizational members feel important and committed,
one has to reduce the status distinctions that separate individuals and groups and cause some to feel
less valued.
This is accomplished in two principal ways - symbolically, through the use of language and labels,
physical space, and dress, and substantively, in the reduction of the organization's degree of wage
inequality, particularly across levels. Subaru-Isuzu, everyone from the company president down was
called an Associate. The Company's literature stated "SIA is not hiring workers; it is hiring Associates
... who work as a team to accomplish a task."
At Kingston technology, a private firm manufacturing add-on memory modules for personal
computers, with 1994 sales of $2.7 million per each of its 300 people (a higher level of revenue per
employee than Exxon, Intel, or Microsoft), the two co-founders sit in open cubicles and do no have
private secretaries.
The reduction of status differences encourages open communication, necessary in an organization in
which learning and adaptation are encouraged. Status differences are reduced and a sense of common
fate is developed by limiting the difference between senior management and other employees.
The CEO of Southwest Airlines who has been on the cover of Fortune earned about $500,000 per
year. When the company negotiated a five year wage freeze with its pilots, he agreed to fix his basic
salary at $395000 a year for 4 years.
Practices that reduce status differences are consistent with rewards contingent on performance - as
long as these contingent rewards are applied on a group or organizational level so that the benefits of
the performance of the many are not awarded to the few. Reducing wage inequality does limit the
organization's ability to use individual incentives to the extent that the application of individual rewards
increases the dispersion of wages. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Many managers and human
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resource executives mistakenly believe that placing individual pay at risk increases overall motivation
and performance, when it is actually the contingency of the reward itself, not the level at which it is
applied (individual, group, or organizational) that has the impact. Contingent rewards provided at the
group or organizational level are at least as effective, if not more so, than individual incentives and,
moreover, they avoid many of the problems inherent in individual merit or incentive pay.
6. Sharing Information
Information sharing is an essential component of high-performance work systems for two reasons:
First, the sharing of information on things such as financial performance, strategy, and operational
measures conveys to the organization's people that they are trusted.
The CEO of Whole Foods Markets has stated, "If you are trying to create a high trust organization ....
an organization where people are all-for-one and one-for-all, you can't have secrets." The company
shares detailed financial and performance information with every employee.
Second, even motivated and trained people cannot contribute to enhancing organizational performance
if they don't have information on important dimensions of performance and, in addition, training on
how to use and interpret that information.
The famous case is of a CEO who purchased an old harvester plant worth $100000 and a debt of $8.9
million. He knew that if the plant was to succeed, every one had to do their best and share all his
wisdom and ideas for enhance the plant performance. He came up with a system called "open book
management". The philosophy underlying this system states that:
"Don't use information to control or manipulate people. Use it to teach people how to work together
to achieve common goals and thereby gain control over their lives. Cost control happens at the
individual level. The best way to control costs is to enlist everyone in the list. This means provide
people with the tools that allow them to make the right decisions."
Implementing this system involved:
First, making sure that all of the people generated daily numbers reflecting their work performance and
productions costs.
Second, it involved sharing this information with all the people of the company. Third, it involved
extensive training how to use and interpret the numbers - how to understand balance sheet, cash flow
and income statements. Understanding the financials came to be the part of everyone's job.
Table of Contents:
  1. The Challenge for Organizations:The Growth and Relevance of OD
  2. OD: A Unique Change Strategy:OD consultants utilize a behavioral science base
  3. What an “ideal” effective, healthy organization would look like?:
  4. The Evolution of OD:Laboratory Training, Likert Scale, Scoring and analysis,
  5. The Evolution of OD:Participative Management, Quality of Work Life, Strategic Change
  6. The Organization Culture:Adjustment to Cultural Norms, Psychological Contracts
  7. The Nature of Planned Change:Lewin’s Change Model, Case Example: British Airways
  8. Action Research Model:Termination of the OD Effort, Phases not Steps
  9. General Model of Planned Change:Entering and Contracting, Magnitude of Change
  10. The Organization Development Practitioner:External and Internal Practitioners
  11. Creating a Climate for Change:The Stabilizer Style, The Analyzer Style
  12. OD Practitioner Skills and Activities:Consultant’s Abilities, Marginality
  13. Professional Values:Professional Ethics, Ethical Dilemmas, Technical Ineptness
  14. Entering and Contracting:Clarifying the Organizational Issue, Selecting an OD Practitioner
  15. Diagnosing Organizations:The Process, The Performance Gap, The Interview Data
  16. Organization as Open Systems:Equifinality, Diagnosing Organizational Systems
  17. Diagnosing Organizations:Outputs, Alignment, Analysis
  18. Diagnosing Groups and Jobs:Design Components, Outputs
  19. Diagnosing Groups and Jobs:Design Components, Fits
  20. Collecting and Analyzing Diagnostic information:Methods for Collecting Data, Observations
  21. Collecting and Analyzing Diagnostic information:Sampling, The Analysis of Data
  22. Designing Interventions:Readiness for Change, Techno-structural Interventions
  23. Leading and Managing Change:Motivating Change, The Life Cycle of Resistance to Change
  24. Leading and managing change:Describing the Core Ideology, Commitment Planning
  25. Evaluating and Institutionalizing Organization Development Interventions:Measurement
  26. Evaluating and Institutionalizing Organization Development Interventions:Research Design
  27. Evaluating and Institutionalizing Organization Development Interventions
  28. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Group Process
  29. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Leadership and Authority, Group Interventions
  30. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Third-Party Interventions
  31. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Team Building, Team Building Process
  32. Interpersonal and Group Process Approaches:Team Management Styles
  33. Organization Process Approaches:Application Stages, Microcosm Groups
  34. Restructuring Organizations:Structural Design, Process-Based Structures
  35. Restructuring Organizations:Downsizing, Application Stages, Reengineering
  36. Employee Involvement:Parallel Structures, Multiple-level committees
  37. Employee Involvement:Quality Circles, Total Quality Management
  38. Work Design:The Engineering Approach, Individual Differences, Vertical Loading
  39. Performance Management:Goal Setting, Management by Objectives, Criticism of MBO
  40. Developing and Assisting Members:Career Stages, Career Planning, Job Pathing
  41. Developing and Assisting Members:Culture and Values, Employee Assistance Programs
  42. Organization and Environment Relationships:Environmental Dimensions, Administrative Responses
  43. Organization Transformation:Sharing the Vision, Three kinds of Interventions
  44. The Behavioral Approach:The Deep Assumptions Approach
  45. Seven Practices of Successful Organizations:Training, Sharing Information