Organizational Diagnosis and Development

Organizational Diagnosis and Development

Introduction to Organizational Diagnosis and Diagnostics

Organizational Diagnosis is an effective ways of looking at an organization to determine gaps between current and desired performance and how it can achieve its goals.

In recent years organizational diagnosis has evolved from a technique used as part of the organizational development process to a major technique in its own right.

Effective diagnosis should be an organic process in that as you start to look at an organization and its structures and what it does and does not do, change starts, as change progress so does the ‘now’ performance and as such the diagnosis process also needs to re-start.

The BIR methodology looks at taking a ‘snapshot’ in time in a way which is quick and relatively unobtrusive. This allows decisions to me made, plans developed and actions implemented rapidly… Then using the benchmarking facility another snapshot of the organzation can be made and new plans developed. A bit like the old story of “how do you eat an elephant? … one bite at a time. Developing an organization is no different.

With each iteration of a diagnostic process so new changes are identified and prioritized. This not only keeps the development process alive – it makes it “the way we do business here”.

Remember the basics

All too often in organizational diagnostics and development we focus on the ‘new’ and ‘interesting’ aspects of what we do. It is however vital that we periodically bring ourselves back to the basics…

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The purpose of the organization is essentially a vehicle for producing profits for its owners. Or delivering valued services to its clients in not for profits. To meet the goals and get the best return on investment (ROI), the owners of a company employ managers who are responsible for setting performance objectives and reaching then through the appropriate use of a number of resources such as people, equipment, machinery etc.

The Diagnostic Cycle

The purpose of a diagnosis is to identify problems facing the organization and to determine their causes so that management can plan solutions.

An organizational diagnosis process is a powerful consciousness raising activity in its own right, its main usefulness lies in the action that it induces.

The major steps of a diagnostic cycle include

  • Orientation
  • Goal setting
  • Data gathering
  • Analysis/ Interpretation
  • Feedback
  • Action Planning
  • Implementation
  • Monitoring/ Measure
  • Evaluation

Forms of Diagnostic

The focus of organizational diagnostics will be different in a range of situations, for example diagnosis for development or improvement will be different from diagnosis for remedial or problem solving, although the methodologies may be similar. While the diagnostic tools may well be similar, the application and outputs can be very different.

History of Organizational Development and the lead to Organizational Diagnostics

Kurt Lewin is said to have played a key role in the early development of organization development as we understand it today. As early as the 1940s, Lewin experimented with a change process which was collaborative in nature and involved himself as consultant and a client group.  The process was based on a three-step approach of planning, taking action, and measuring results.

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This was the beginning of what has become known as action research. This is a fundamental part of Organizational development. Later Lewin participated in the beginnings of laboratory training, or T-groups when after his death in 1947, his associates in the field continued to develop survey-research methods at the University of Michigan. These procedures became important parts of OD as developments in this field continued at the National Training Laboratories (US) and in growing numbers of universities and private consulting firms across the world.

The failure of off-site laboratory training to live up to its early promise was one of the important forces stimulating the development of OD. Laboratory training is learning from a person’s “here and now” (Gestalt) experience as a member of an ongoing training group (T Group). Such groups usually meet without a specific agenda. Their purpose is for the members to learn about themselves from their spontaneous “here and now” responses to an ambiguous hypothetical situation. Problems of leadership, structure, status, communication, and self-serving behavior typically arise in such a group. The members have an opportunity to learn something about themselves and to practice such skills as listening, observing others, and functioning as effective group members.

Initially the approach was practiced in stranger groups, or groups composed of individuals from different organizations, situations, and backgrounds. Over time a major difficulty developed, however, in transferring knowledge gained from these stranger labs to the actual situation back home. This required a transfer between two different organizational cultures, the relatively safe and protected environment of the T-group (or training group) and the give-and-take of the organizational environment with its traditional values. This led the early pioneers in this type of learning to begin to apply it to family groups, that is groups located within an organization. From this shift in the locale of the training site and the realization that culture was an important factor in influencing group members (along with some other developments in the behavioral sciences) emerged the concept of organization development.

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Diagnosis of the culture was the next phase and has remained critical for long term success ever since.

For information on the RapidBI tools for organisational diagnosis see our pages on diagnostic tools

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