Change Interventions and Their Applicability

Introduction

Change intervention refers to a set of planned programmatic activities that internal or external people perform to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of an organization. The changes ensure that the organization improves its functioning. The employees in the organization are involved in the change interventions while consultants and executives facilitate the change process. All interventions involve close interaction between the employees of an organization, executives, and consultants. The paper reviews a broad range of academic literature and assets that change interventions improve the effectiveness and efficiency of organizational individuals, groups and processes.

Characteristics of Change Interventions

The change interventions that improve the quality of work life and the organization’s productivity have three features. First, the information about the functioning of the organization helps inform about their establishment. The change agents accurately diagnose the functioning of the organization to obtain valid information. The change interventions are a fair reflection of the perception and feelings of the organizational members about their major issues and concerns. Second, they provide the members of the organization the discretion of making informed and free choices, implying active involvement of the members in making decisions concerning the changes that will affect them. Third, they help gain the internal commitment of the organizational members to the decisions. The internal commitment is important because the organizational members own the interventions and consider their implementation as their responsibility. The change interventions should be compatible with the goals of the organization and should meet its strategic vision and direction. The organization should have the technical, human and financial resources necessary to implement the interventions and win the support of stakeholders.

Ways of Conducting Interventions

An organization can conduct change interventions in three ways. They can hire an external consultant who will cooperate with the client members. An in-house consultant, who is a member of the organization, can also conduct the intervention. Another alternative is the organization conducting the interventions without hiring external or internal consultants. In case the organization employs a consultant; the client and the consultant collaborate to conduct the intervention.

Change intervention can occur at the process, task, and system levels or any level of the hierarchy in an organization. At the task level, a change intervention can take place in terms of making decisions. Change interventions can also occur in multiple tasks to facilitate their interconnectivity. Interventions at the team level may aim at improving synergy at work. Interventions in the whole organization may aim at achieving horizontal or vertical integration on various levels or solve the organizational problems. The organizations that carry out interventions design an intervention strategy. The strategy guides the decisions on the areas that need interventions, the procedure and time of conducting the interventions.

Categories of Change Interventions

Individual Change Interventions

The interventions help individuals cope with organizational change or upcoming situations. One of the techniques is personal coaching. It involves expanding the capacity of individuals in the organization to achieve new goals. Coaching aims at altering the context, in which an organization conducts goal setting, giving feedback and improving motivation. Personal coaching stirs up personal transformation and behavior change. The facilitator teaches the individuals the behavior that is supportive and counterproductive to the outcome they expect such as effective teamwork. An effective coach builds vision and shapes the values of the person they coach.

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The coaching process involves several engagements. The process begins with the instilling stewardship. The coach encourages the employees to choose quality services over personal interests, implying that they will create an organization that will encourage continuous growth and learning. The second engagement is to encourage personal reinvention and transformation. The coach empowers employees to create the future of their desire and instills the need for change in the employees. The coach teaches the employees the skills they need for combining personal aspirations and collaborative actions to create a community of collaboration and commitment. Finally, the coach identifies personal strengths of the employees and teaches how to make them productive for both the employees and the organization.

Coaching has a wide application in organizations. Particularly, the middle managers need coaching with the aim of transforming them into coaches. Coaching gives the managers ownership over the teams, builds trust among employees and elevates their status. It aligns individual interests with those of the team making the team members share the team accomplishments.

Interpersonal Interventions

The management designs interpersonal interventions with the aim of enhancing individual knowledge, skills, and effectiveness. Kurt Lewin founded T-groups, and his research showed that the combination of feedback with informal discussions concerning group and individual behavior provided better results than seminars and lectures (Wheelan 1990). The T-groups help workers gain awareness of their behaviors and those of their coworkers. A standard T-group consists of volunteers ranging from 10 to 20 individuals. The members set a specific meeting time for a period of one or two weeks. They engage in unstructured meetings where they determine the subject matter that depends on the goals that the facilitator sets for the team. In the process when the group members try to exert structure on fellow members, the members gain greater awareness of their behaviors and feelings and those of fellow members.

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For example, the participation of a group of managers in a marketing department in a T-group may enhance the understanding of their behaviors. The members describe how they perceive the behavior of each member. The group then suggests possible improvements. The group members identify their individual areas of improvement and change behavior according to the improvements they realize. The team becomes more efficient because the members understand the desirable behavior and become committed to improving.

Process consultation that Edgar Schein has created is an intervention that helps the change agent work with the client. It helps an organization understand and change processes by resolving interpersonal dilemmas (Coghlan 1998). Process consultations focus more on tasks and depend on the input of the change agent. In an organization, a change agent may observe the behavior of a departmental manager in his working routine or meetings and then suggest some behavior changes in the leader to encourage performance improvement. Other interpersonal intervention types include those formed to improve training programs, create a better performance review process and conflict resolution, and facilitate the workers’ realization of their true wishes. 

Group Interventions

The management designs group change interventions to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of groups and teams within the organization. The interventions work on the assumption that most effective groups establish a balance between the needs of the individual and the group, communicating efficiently and functioning by consensus. The interventions discourage autocracy or majority rule.

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The interventions work through group diagnostic meetings where team members evaluate their performance, interrogate about the requirements for improvement, and seek potential solutions to the group’s current problems. The intervention generates many benefits including regular communication with the members about the existence of problems their coworkers did not know about or thought they were non-existent. The meetings unearth and resolve many problems and improve group dynamics.

Team-building meetings are another form of group intervention. According to Topchik (2007), they expose teams to the challenging outdoor tasks such as rafting, ropes course, mountain climbing and survival events. The activities focus on specific team development needs such as risk-taking, problem-solving, and trust building. The facilitators let the team members have fun together, learn new skills and unite to find out how they can apply these teamwork lessons to situations at work. The facilitators match the activities with the organization’s current needs and create a lasting impact on team performance. The team building intervention may help the facilitators identify the employees’ strengths or a potential leadership talent. The success in the outdoor challenges boosts the productivity and morale of the teams in the workplace. The team building intervention can also be the problem-solving. The members of the team gather to identify and solve the group’s current key challenges. The members brainstorm to unearth the success barriers to the team. When identifying the symptoms, they examine the possible causes until they come up with the main cause. The members develop an action plan to deal with the problem. The problem-solving intervention relieves stress and fosters positive emotions towards the work environment. The members vent out their frustrations and gain motivation. Such interventions are advantageous because they help the team design problem-solving approaches away from workplace pressure.

Condrey (2010) explored skill-based interventions and asserted that they involve the team members participating in workshops. They learn specific skills such as giving and receiving feedback, reaching group consensus, and conflict resolution. The facilitators teach the team members about task accomplishment, role and goal clarification, boss-subordinate relationships, and resource utilization. The participants can apply the skills they learn in their immediate work environment. The human resource managers can use these interventions to develop the members’ leadership potential. The skill-based team interventions have a wide application in boosting the performance levels of teams. The workshop sessions enhance open communication and free discussion on issues that affect the teams and facilitate formulation of new approaches to the problems. It develops self-understanding and increases the members’ commitment to change the status quo.

Personality-based interventions involve team members filling out a psychometric test. The tests help them understand their personalities and those of their teammates better. The facilitators give back the results of the assessment to the team to form a basis for discussion and development of action steps. The intervention is effective in helping team members identify the differences between other employees and facilitating the members’ behavior change to match their teammates’.

Ordinarily, individuals differ in their motivational needs, reactions to change, stress or work situations. The differences can result to team members misinterpreting actions and intentions. The understanding of differences among individuals greatly improves collaboration, conflict resolution, and team effectiveness.

The management uses the Role analysis technique (RAT) to help employees increase the understanding of their roles in an organization. In their explanation of group interventions, Cummings and Worley (2005) said that RAT intervention begins when people in front of a team of coworkers define how they perceive their roles. They also define how the role contributes to the overall company effort. The group members respond by defining the role more clearly. The individuals and the group then examine how the employee depends on coworkers in the company. They also explain how the co-workers define the expectations of the employee. RAT interventions reduce role confusion and prevent potential conflicts. 

Intergroup Intervention

Intergroup interventions facilitate cooperation between different groups in an organization. Tropp (2012) provided an example of the interaction between different departments. He said that the communication may worsen in larger organizations because of battles in different divisions for limited resources. In such a case, the management can organize conflict resolution meetings as an intergroup intervention. The meetings gather different group leaders with the aim of making them get involved in the intervention. The teams then hold separate meetings to list their feelings about the conflicting group. Next, the groups hold a joint meeting to share their lists. The conflict resolution meetings end when the teams meet to discuss the problems and design deliberations that are beneficial for both groups. The intervention helps gradually diffuse the tension between the groups, the reason for which was lack of understanding and communication. 

The management uses rotating membership interventions to minimize the adverse effects of intergroup rivalry that emanates from employees identifying with divisions or groups (Tropp 2012). The intervention involves temporarily relocating members of a group to their rival groups. Greater understanding may result in interaction with the rival members.

Comprehensive Interventions

The management uses comprehensive interventions to create change throughout an entire organization instead of creating change by means of subgroup interventions. According to Anderson (2010), the popular intervention under this category is survey feedback. The intervention involves collecting information about attitudes of employees at all levels of hierarchy and then presenting the findings back to them. The employees hold feedback sessions where they create solutions to the problems using the information in the findings. 

Another form of the comprehensive intervention is the structural change intervention. They implement organizational alterations associated with the management hierarchy, departmentalization, work policies, compensation and benefit incentives programs. The feedback from other interventions is the common sources of the implemented changes. Change interventions are beneficial because relatively minor modifications can generate a significant and instant impact on organizations.

Sociotechnical system design interventions focus on the reorganization of work teams. They aim at creating independent groups in the organization that is self-supervised. The groups created administer their pay and benefits, monitor quality, observe discipline between team members and perform other responsibilities autonomously. The benefit of such interventions is that it increases the productivity and quality of employees’ and groups’ work because they have more control and satisfaction with the process that they initiate and undertake.

The Deming’s Total Quality Management (TQM) is a comprehensive intervention that gained popularity and wide applicability during the 1980s and 1990s (Schmoker & Wilson 1993). TQM interventions establish quality programs and techniques that ensure quality processes. TQM opposes quality achievement by inspecting products and services after completing processes. The emphasis on continuous improvement that TQM embodies is widely applicable to change interventions.

Richard Beckhard developed the idea of confronting meetings as a comprehensive intervention. Harrison (2005) described it as daily meetings with an organization’s management aimed at taking stock of the organizational health. The meetings involve the identification of the major problems faced by the organization, analysis of the possible causes, and development of an action plan to combat the problems and design a schedule for the follow-up activities. Confrontational meetings serve as a quick, reliable and simple means of generating organizational information and designing an action plan to improve the performance of the organization.

Structural Intervention

These are interventions that involve changes in tasks, technological and structural systems with the aim of improving organizational effectiveness (Condrey 2010). The basis of the intervention is the fields of sociology, engineering, and psychology. They involve job design and analysis and socio-technical systems. The idea behind this intervention is to find problems that need to be solved. Structural interventions improve the structure and technology of an organization in areas such as job design, task methods, hierarchy and division of labor. The change efforts involve changes in the organization’s division of the overall work of units, control methods, role definitions, procedures and workflow, and arrangement of people and equipment.

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An important intervention under this category is job design. It involves the organization of set tasks or the overall job. It determines which tasks to do, how to do them and the order of doing them. It considers factors affecting the work and organizes the tasks and content to minimize the level of the job risk to the employee. The activities in job design may involve job rotation, work breaks, job enlargement, working hours and task pacing.

The principles of job design help address problems of repetitiveness, work overload, excessive working hours, work shifts, limited work control, and sluggishness in filling vacant positions. Job design helps the management limit job stress. Job design interventions contribute to achievement and self-esteem.

Management by Objective (MBO)

According to Giegold (1978), the theoretical basis of MBO is the fact that different individuals and groups in an organization have a wide variety of objectives. The individuals have varied personal goals. Some aim at obtaining better-working conditions while others focus on better pay. Still other individuals even seek better training. Each department in an organization has its business targets. An individual department may target increasing output while the other departments may target better equipment or even more funding. The top management may also have its strategic aims that may include corporate identity and image or organizational success. MBO is an intervention that harmonizes all these varied interests for the sake of one common goal. The management conducts collective talks with teams from all departments. MBO aims at voluntarily merging the individual goals with the organizational top goals. It works when the staff and management reach an agreement in supporting mutual goals while maintaining confidence, commitment, motivation, and trust. The intervention assumes that employees maintain the willingness to perform. MBO is highly applicable in the organizations that maintain dialog on objectives between the management and employees in an environment of clarity and fairness. 

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Conclusion

The interventions that the paper focuses on help the organization achieve efficiency and effectiveness. The interventions are a review of academic literature and result from a deep foundation of behavioral science. They explore a wide range of aspects that the organizations need to address or change to achieve effectiveness and efficiency. A change in the organization begins with the individuals. The paper explores individual change interventions to ensure that the management initiates the change at the individual level. Coaching teaches the individual employees the behavior that facilitates the achievement of organizational goals and encourages behavior change for the benefit of the organization. The paper also addresses the interpersonal interventions for organizational effectiveness. The management intervenes to enable its members embrace the behavior of coworkers. The group interventions address the organizational teams such as departments. The interventions ensure that the group members avoid situations of misinterpretations by clarifying the role of each member of the team and solving the potential problems. The divergence in goals and objectives of different groups of the organization may hinder efficiency. In such case, the organizations can employ intergroup interventions to mitigate the differences between the groups. The efficiency of the organizations may require a change in the entire organization. The comprehensive interventions enable the organization to undertake the changes. Management by objective ensures that the organization aligns the objectives of individuals, groups, and departments with one common objective. The organizations conduct all these interventions in an environment of mutual trust, understanding and voluntary will to achieve effectiveness and efficiency.

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