The aim of this report is to analyze a case study of the Quay International Convention Centre (QICC), which is a successful hospitality organization that has recently been experiencing a substantial downturn in the motivation and performance of its employees. The report will describe an intervention implemented by an experienced OD practitioner, which is aimed at the elimination of structural, personal, and interpersonal inefficiencies that have resulted in the diminished productivity of the center.
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It will be argued that an underlying problem within the operations department of the company is the lack of effective leadership, which manifests in a variety of other issues such as a stultifying hierarchy, poor communication skills of the workforce, and insufficient employee development. The paper will outline the organizational development theory, which will be used to understand the change and manage the change process. All activities related to the OD project will be described. The report will also discuss effective strategies for overcoming resistance to change.
Organizational Development Theory
Organizational Development and Change Management
For many years, scholars have tried to come up with a comprehensive definition of OD. However, their attempts have resulted in a variety of explanations for the concept, each of which emphasizes a different aspect of OD. Beckhard has highlighted the importance of applying behavioral science to OD and argued that it is a planned, top-down effort that increases the effectiveness and health of an organization (as cited in Aziz, 2013).
Burke has recognized that the concept is inevitably linked with change and implies knowledge transfer from psychology and sociology (as cited in Burnes & Cooke, 2012). However, probably the aptest definition of OD has been recently suggested by Cummings and Worley (2014), who argue that it is an organization-wide application and transfer of knowledge from behavioral sciences “to the planned development, improvement, and reinforcement of the strategies, structures, and processes that lead to organizational effectiveness” (p. 2).
It is clear that although these definitions imply change, they are inextricably linked with change management. It has to do with the fact that change is a continuing process that occurs without planning. A case in point is non-adherence to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in QICC. Change management, on the other hand, is a planned and highly organized occurrence that requires a commitment to change and is not possible without transformational leadership (Hechanova & Cementina-Olpoc, 2013; Schachter, 2017).
Lewin’s Theory of Planned Change
Lewin’s theory of planned change (TPC) is widely recognized as the scholar’s main contribution to change management. The theory states that every successful change project presupposes three steps: unfreezing, moving, and refreezing. Therefore, it is often referred to as the Three-Step model (see Figure 1).
The first step in the model entails recognition of a problem and the creation of a sense of urgency, which is necessary for overcoming the forces of inertia that prevent people from changing their behavior. The second step necessitates the creation of an actionable plan and engagement of people involved in the change. The final step in the model involves the stabilization of the change and transformation of culture, policies, and practices of an organization (Shirey, 2013).
It is clear that the moving stage in the Lewin’s TPC model is similar to the learning approach of Action Research; therefore, its philosophical foundation is not outmoded, despite critics who suggest otherwise. For example, Cummings, Bridgman, and Brown (2015) argue that the scholar has oversimplified the change process. Hendry, on the other hand, maintains that a great number of change models are based on an irreducible three-stage process described by Lewin (as cited in Boje, Burnes, & Hassard, 2012). Given that Lewin’s TPC model has been successfully applied in a variety of contexts ranging from nursing to informational technology (IT), it is hard to diminish its importance and claim that it is simplistic and outmoded (Sutherland, 2013).
Understanding the Change
After analyzing the state of affairs in the company, the OD practitioner came to the conclusion that the performance of the organizational department is hindered by the rigid hierarchy of the company. QICC’s managers had applied a top-down approach in daily operations, which stultified innovation and impacted the morale of employees. The OD practitioner realized that an interpersonal intervention is needed to ameliorate the situation and help the management of the company to recognize and utilize the talent of their workforce (Waddell, Creed, Cummings, & Worley, 2017).
Another problem within the operations department was the lack of communication skills among the company’s employees, which was indicative of both poor human resources (HR) practices and quality management practices (Ahmad et al., 2015). The intended interpersonal and HR intervention was to develop a strategy for achieving excellent performance by improving the interpersonal communication skills of the workforce.
The OD practitioner also recognized that employee development and performance management were lacking in QICC. These two areas of organizational functioning are associated with HR practices that do not function in isolation (Jiang et al., 2012). Appendix A shows the relationships between selection, training, and performance management practices within an HR system. As is evident from the appendix, all HR practices are additive and synergistic. Furthermore, their outcome is the enhancement of employee performance. Therefore, there was a need for a comprehensive HR intervention with the aim of improving the training and performance management policies of the company. Also, these three problems indicated that the company’s leadership was not effective.
Managing the Change Process
Entering and Contracting
Entering was the first phase of the OD process. The implementation of this phase was key to the success or failure of flawless consulting. Leading the change from the outside required the establishment of a synergistic relationship between the OD practitioner and the management of the company (Bushe & Marshak, 2015). During the entering stage, the initial scope of the subsequent OD phases was established. The process involved clarifying the organizational issue that had caused the management of QICC to consider help from the OD professional. It was a part of the first step within the Three-Step model.
After gaining a clearer perspective on the underlying problem and the issues that had affected the organization’s internal operations, the OD practitioner defined relevant parties that had to be engaged during the OD process.
This step of the entering was relatively straightforward since the issue had to be addressed in a specific unit of the company—the operations department. The OD specialist examined company records and interviewed some employees in order to determine the key members of the QICC unit. The practitioner understood that entering is an intervention in the company; therefore, they used this stage of the OD process for preparing the organization for the state of heightened self-awareness that was necessary for meaningful change (Bushe & Marshak, 2015).
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Contracting was an essential step in the OD process that addressed the following points: outlining mutual expectations, dedicating resources and setting timetables, and establishing the ground rules for cooperation. The client was encouraged to describe their desired outcomes from the intervention. They expected to improve the performance of the convention center. In addition to obtaining a solution to the immediate problem, the client wanted to learn how to avoid similar situations in the future. The OD practitioner also expressed their expectations for the process, which included appropriate compensation and referrals to other clients.
Initially, QICC was not committed to dedicating a suitable amount of time and resources to the project. However, the OD specialist managed to convince the client that in order to complete the intervention, numerous parties had to be engaged in order to establish real causes of poor productivity in the company as well as to develop and implement appropriate solutions to the problem. This was an extreme activity because it helped to clarify the OD professional’s intentions and overcome surface resistance to the change.
The last step in the contracting stage was to establish ground rules which were needed to guide the OD process. The practitioner discussed interpersonal issues with the client and established parameters of confidentiality (Cummings & Worley, 2014). At the end of the stage, a formal contact that intended dates, activities, responsibilities, and outcomes was signed.
Diagnosing and Providing Feedback
Diagnosing the problem was a vital step towards a departure from the status quo, which prevented the company from unlocking its full potential. This step, along with the provision of feedback to the company’s leadership about the nature of the problem, was a part of the first phase in Lewin’s TPC model. Namely, it helped to create a sense of urgency, which was essential for meaningful transformation.
The main purpose of the organizational diagnosis was to develop a shared understanding of organizational health, which could be used for planning and implementing corrective measures. There are many organizational diagnostic methods such as Leavitt’s model, Weisbord’s model, congruence model, McKinsey 7S model, Buke-Litwin’s model, and Bilal and Wang model, among others. However, empirical evidence suggesting their effectiveness is lacking (Saeed & Wang, 2014). Therefore, the OD practitioner opted for a model developed by McFillen and associates, which stems from formal theories refined through practice. Figure 2 shows the evidence-based diagnostic model.
The OD practitioner followed the first step in the diagnostic approach proposed by the scholars and collected subjective and objective data relevant to the problem. An emphasis was made on management processes and HR systems of QICC. In addition, the basic information about key cultural elements of the company was gathered, since culture “orients employees to company goals and suggested the kinds of behaviors necessary for success” (Cummings & Worley, 2014, p. 99). The diagnostic process was conducted on the group and individual levels. Data collection was performed with the help of surveys, questionnaires, and interviews.
The second step involved analysis of the data, which was needed to synthesize patterns and establish causal relationships between essential elements of performance based on the framework for assessment provided by the management of QICC. When assessing the data, the company’s general and task environments were analyzed. It helped to better understand the underlying causes of the performance issues.
The third step was to develop the initial diagnosis regarding the investigated problem. The process of the preliminary diagnosis formation was informed by contingency theory, which suggests that a company should “maintain a fit between its structure and its contextual factors in order to achieve high-performance levels” (Taylor & Taylor, 2014, p. 849). Moreover, the company was treated as an open system that was influenced by inputs from the external environment (Cummings & Worley, 2014).
The fourth and the fifth steps in the diagnostic process involved testing of the preliminary diagnosis and the development of the final diagnosis. The final diagnosis contained several factors that were used for the development of appropriate interventions.
They were providing Feedback
After analyzing the data generated by the diagnostic process, the practitioner initiated the feedback process at the top of QICC. Such a top-down approach helped to ensure that all parties involved in the change received appropriate information (Anderson, 2016). Feedback meetings were scheduled during which diagnosis data was discussed. In the discussion of diagnosis feedback, an emphasis on the internal dynamics within the operations department was made.
Planning and Implementing Change
At the planning stage of the OD intervention, activities, actions, and events derived from the final diagnosis were designed. When developing appropriate intervention strategies, the OD practitioner was guided by the principle of free and informed choice according to which all individuals involved in the change chose to participate rather than had the interventions imposed on them. Also, all change measures were designed in such a way as to help QICC to enhance its capacity to effectively manage change in the future.
The introduction of this focal point into the change planning process was extremely valuable because by improving organizational change management capabilities, it was possible to achieve “the processual dynamics of stability,” which is a state that through “ongoing repair and reconstruction” (Langley, Smallman, Tsoukas, & DeVan, 2013, p. 4) allows key managerial concepts to endure. Moreover, the OD practitioner adhered to the 5W1H (who, what, where, when, why, and how) framework that helped them to better understand the specifics of organizational process and environment that had to be changed (Rothwell, Park, & Lee, 2017). At the end of this stage of the intervention, and the actionable plan was drafted and signed.
They were implementing Change
There was a high level of top-management support; therefore, the OD practitioner was able to properly address the human resources, the human processes, and the management issues uncovered during the diagnosis stage. At the level of the human process interventions, interpersonal and group approaches were taken. Individual interventions helped QICC’s employees to be more open in their communication. Also, they were used to teach the workforce to be more effective in both giving and receiving feedback, which is essential for enhancing performance in organizations (Kuhnen & Tymula, 2012).
Given the importance of communication and conflict resolution skills in a hospitality environment, members of the operations department were involved in role-playing exercises and team-building activities, which helped them to develop successful communication strategies (Chesser, 2016). This was an extremely valuable intervention since the improvement of interpersonal communication competencies of a workforce is associated with strong team cohesion that inevitably translates into better performance (Barrows, Powers, & Reynolds, 2012; Hynes, 2012).
The OD practitioner also helped to implement system-wide process interventions that substituted a rigid, top-down management approach to management for a more collaborative one. The introduction of some elements of bottom-up management was an extremely important change because it is linked with enhanced employee motivation and engagement (Breevaart, Bakker, & Demerouti, 2014). Since there is a direct connection between employee training and performance, which was conspicuously missing in QICC, the intervention involved the implementation of proper workforce development programs (Elnaga & Imran, 2013).
The final diagnosis showed that the underlying problem that caused the emergence of smaller issues was the lack of effective management. Therefore, the problem was addressed with the help of a management team building model. The model helped managers to “collectively commit to taking on new responsibilities and learn new methods for working together” (Gong, Kim, Lee, & Zhu, 2013, p. 829). Mentoring and action learning were also used as a means for sustainable leadership development (Day, Fleenor, Atwater, Sturm, & McKee, 2014).
Evaluating and Institutionalizing Change
The evaluation was conducted to assess both implementation feedback, which measured the immediate effects of the OD intervention, and evaluation feedback, which measured the long-term effects of the change program. The OD practitioner utilized a quasi-experimental research design that had three essential features: longitudinal measurement, comparison unit, and statistical analysis (Waddell et al., 2017). Multiple measures were gathered through the analysis of company data. The choice of the data collection method was justified by the fact that other approaches to observing results of an intervention are more obtrusive (Cummings & Worley, 2014; Rothwell, Stavros, & Sullivan, 2016).
Institutionalizing change was the third part of Lewin’s model. It was based on the institutional theory; therefore, the social context in which QICC operated became a focal point in the process of incorporating the change into the internal fabric of the organization. The framework of institutionalization involved three key areas: social, organizational, and individual (Grandien & Johansson, 2012).
Resistance to Change
Resistance to change was an inevitable part of the OD program dynamics. Both employees and managers of the operations department showed elements of technical resistance to the implemented measures. The OD practitioner was aware of the fact that the differences in meanings that people ascribe to change might impair mutual understanding, thereby precipitating resistance to change (Pieterse, Caniels, & Homan, 2012). Therefore, they took control of sense-making interactions during the implementation of the change.
The OD specialist raised awareness about differences in change discourses between various groups and individual employees involved in the OD process. Rules guiding a civil conversation on the change were written down and disseminated among the workforce.
It was an extremely effective measure that helped to facilitate cooperation and made discussions more productive. This approach to controlling a sense-making perspective of the workforce was based on the findings of the study conducted by Hon, Bloom, and Crant (2014), who proved that employees are less resistant to change-oriented situations “when environmental cues signal that change is desired” (p. 921). Guided by this valuable information, the OD practitioner instructed managers of the company to show empathy and support to those members of their teams who are struggling to accept the changes.
Another strategy for overcoming resistance involved organizational inducements that came in the form of “both intangibly developmental and tangibly materialistic” (Shin, Taylor, & Seo, 2012, p. 729) valued outcomes. Numerous scholars have recognized the effectiveness of this strategy and suggested that it “positively impacts employees’ commitment and behavioral responses to change” (Shin et al., 2012, p. 729). It should be mentioned that not all members of the workforce were incentivized in such a manner. The differences in structural and relational positions of QICC’s employees allowed to target key stakeholders of the operations division of the company, which encouraged their subordinates to participate in the change.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The paper has presented the results of the intervention in QICC conducted by the OD practitioner. The intervention was guided by the Lewin’s TPC model, the validity of which is recognized by numerous prominent scholars. Upon careful analysis of the state of affairs in the company, the practitioner realized that the problem was caused by the lack of effective leadership. Given that not every manager was capable of taking control of the operations department, a range of other issues emerged: insufficient employee development, rigid hierarchy, and lack of communication skills among the workforce. The practitioner developed and implemented a set of comprehensive solutions for addressing both the underlying problem and smaller issues.
In order to make sure that the change is institutionalized and transformation is successful over the long term, it is necessary to develop readiness for change within the QICC’s workforce by changing employees’ attitudes towards the new course of action. It is also important to ensure that the allocation of incentives is efficient and leads to the persistence of changes. Therefore, the management of the company has to regularly evaluate the relationship between the level of organizational rewards and contribution to the productivity of the operations department.
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