Human Resource Development

Day 1, Session 1: An Introduction to Organization Development: How It Applies to Asia.

The Human Resource Conference my company sent me to are now half way finished. Here is a brief overview of what 650 USD had bought.
Organization development is an effort (1) planned, (2) organization-wide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organization's "processes," using (6) behavioral-science knowledge.

The way I interpreted is that Organization Development is the study of psychology for corporation. The 500 pound company will lie on OD's sofa, tell OD its possible internal problems, and then expect advice or course of action from an OD.

One stressed key point is "Organization Culture" - the values, norms, customs, and assumptions held by people that serve as a guide to their behavior. It influences how people make decisions, treat others, and determine what is right or wrong.

For example let me compare between eastern and western human resource development. Eastern philosophy is about "Master and Pupil method". A teacher who is judged as superior and near infallible transfer the knowledge to someone who absorbs by memorization. The Western philosophy is about "Free Speech method" and "Christian method". Free Speech learning is the exchange of information between equals. 2 parties may question freely and debate the validity of statement. Christian method is about love and guilt. You motivate and train people not in terms of argument but by emotion. If you do this you are a good person or if you do this you will be loved. On the other hand, if you don't obey certain behavior or development then guilt will be applied to you and you should modify your behavior.

All culture use these 3 methods to a certain extend, but those are the core behavior development of east and west. The need to emphasize specific HRD technique in Asia is clear.

HDR is the science of change and its application. We briefly talked about "How People React to Change".
  • People will fell awkward, ill-at-ease, and self-conscious.
  • People will think first about what they have to give up.
  • People will fell alone, even if everyone is going through the change.
  • People are at different levels of readiness for change.
  • People will be concerned that hey do not have enough resources.
  • If you take the pressure off, people will revert back to old behavior.
We did an interesting exercise to demonstrate a particular human reaction to change:
everyone paired up and stood back to back in the conference room. We are then asked to make 5 changes to ourselves and let the partner discover the change. Now you might think the point of the exercise is to discover the change, which I am ashamed to say I only discovered 2 out of 4.

The important part of the exercise turned out to be the change and not discovery. 93% of people change themselves by modifying what already existed or taking off what they own. Some change the shape of the hair, watch position, take off the jacket, ring position...etc. Only 7% of people picked up something new and change by addition. For example, pick a pen or notebook on the table.

What does this prove? At no point did the direction forbid change by addition. Humans by habit when forced to change will think of what they must give up. Less than 10% of people will think of what they might gain in times of change. This is important because many valuable opportunity would have been lost in the transition of development.

Take a look from another example. 20 years ago people only go to their doctor when there is a problem. It is called the patching method. You are sick then you go get the medicine. Now-a-days, people do check up, which is the preventive method. You stop the heart attack before it happens. You take the vaccine before the flu season. It has been proven in the medical field to be much more cost effective.

Take that preventive method and apply to Organization Development. You don't just hire a consultant before things go wrong. You hire a consultant to do a check up - strengthen the strength (the addition part of change) and minimize the weakness.

But why use Organizational Development as suppose to other types of adaptation? The reason is that OD uses "System Thinking" that is better than the more common "Traditional Thinking".

How we Tend to Think:
  1. Connections between problems and causes are obvious and easy to trace.
  2. Others are to blame for our problems and they must change
  3. Short-term policies assure long-term success
  4. To optimize the whole, we must optimize the parts.
  5. To implement change, tackle many independent initiatives simultaneously.
Complex Systems:
  1. Such relationships are indirect and not obvious.
  2. We unintentionally create our own problems; we solve them by changing our behavior.
  3. Quick fixes make no difference or make things worse in long term.
  4. To optimize the whole, improve relationships among parts.
  5. Only a few key coordinated changes sustained over time will produce large systems change.
Yet how do you know what to change? How dose the 'check-up' of corporation proceed? Since Organization Development is such a soft science, meaning there aren't usually any concrete numbers, statistics, or case studies, it demands a more rigorous standard of feed back. Assessment takes 4 forms - Observations, secondary data, interview, and survey. A proper study needs at least 3 out of 4 for triangulation. In addition, the result must be fed back to the source for second confirmation.

I think that is an important point. My biggest problem with this "science" is that it never set a limitation. No one knows when not to use it. It promises the world but unlike engineering or math has no concrete evidence to back it up. Everything is very based on theory. The lack of evidence and excessive faith troubles me a bit.


At 12/08/2005 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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