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ABA, a German trading company with 15,000 employees, embarked on a major strategic change initiative driven by stiff competition. A global expansion prompted the company to reorganize into a three-division structure. A decentralized shared services model, comprised of 14 new groups, was created for administrative departments that would now support internal divisions. To support the culture of the new organization, executives developed a mission and vision statement that explained the company’s new values and asked managers to cascade these messages to their staffs. This effort was kicked off and managed from the top of the organization. The director of the newly formed shared services centers contacted external consultants, suspecting that a simple communication cascade to employees would not result in the behavioral changes needed in the new structure. The new administrative groups would have significant changes to work processes, and the lead managers of each of the 14 new groups would need assistance to put the new values and beliefs into practice. The consultants proposed an employee survey to gauge the beliefs and feelings of the staff and to provide an upward communication mechanism. Survey results were available to managers of each center, and the external consultants coached the managers through an interpretation of the results to guide self-exploration and personal development. Internal consultants worked with the managers of each of the new centers to facilitate a debrief of the survey results with employees and take actions customized to the needs of each group. Consultants conducted workshops for managers to help them further develop personal leadership and communication skills, topics that the survey suggested were common areas of improvement across the management team. Over a period of 4 years, the cycle was repeated, using variations of the employee survey questions, a feedback step, and management development workshops covering new subjects each time. Interviews and surveys conducted late in the process showed that employees had a positive feeling about change in general. Leaders reported noticing a more trusting relationship between employees and their managers characterized by more open communication. Center managers took the initiative to make regular and ongoing improvements to their units.
This organization experienced changes in strategy, structure, management instruments, leadership, employee orientation, and the organization’s culture context, which required a broad set of surveys, coaching, and workshops to support. These change supporting activities helped implement the change with lasting effect.
As you can see from this example, OD is concerned with a diverse variety of issues to address problems involving organizations, teams, and individuals. OD is also conducted in a diverse variety of organizations around the world, health care organizations, educational settings, government and public sector, and nonprofit and private enterprises. Interventions can involve a single individual, a small team, multiple teams, or a whole organization. It can also consist of multiple targets of change, such as large-scale culture change but also the implementation of teams and individual coaching. OD can also deal with multi-organization efforts, or it can involve multiple national governments. The target of change can be something as seemingly simple as increasing employee involvement or developing coworker relationships, or it can be as potentially large as creating the vision or strategy of an entire organization or documenting the 10-year future of a large county.