Archive for June, 2018

Revisiting Seminal roots of OB, OD, and Planned Change for Improvement Processes

June 23, 2018

Revisiting Seminal roots of OB, OD, and Planned Change for Improvement Processes.

by Wm (Bill) J. LeGray, Sr.RODC
Cedar, MI

What Kicked Off this Review?

Recently an ODNET Online Discussion group (mostly involving old timers) dug into the topics of who/how/& what events occurred that motivated so many practicing professionals (degreed and with experiential learning) to evolve the field as it exists today.

I have traced back to the origins on my own, previously, but discovered new insights with the advantage of others perspectives. The field evolved by continued pursuit of Kurt Lewin’s interests in Group Dynamics Field Theory and desires to explore how to promote and accelerate practices associated with Democracy’s principles and behavior as they exist in America. Reportedly, he began by conducting related research with Ron Lippett of UofM(MI). My own finding was that he conducted fresh air camp studies with youngsters with Rensis Likert (also of UofM) in 1938. I’m sure he worked extensively with both. Ron went forward at the school in Social Psych, and Rensis formed the Institute of Social Research there. Ron authored an academic book re “Change Methods” and Rensis authored a management book re “New Patterns in Management.”

Kurt, a resident professor at MIT, passed away in 1944. Before then, there were reportedly several versions of incidents which led to the “Personal and Group Growth & Development” explorations with Sensitivity Training via T-Groups. The theories reflected thoughts of unfreezing, exploring and learning “new behavior” possibilities, and then returning to life situations for improved collaborative participations.

There were three big auto companies around at that time that were highly competitive for improving performance, productivity, and earnings. I am familiar with how Human Relations evolved at GM, and with the writings of Maier and Floyd Mann at UofM. In 1974, GM had already evolved an OD Department level activity (guided by Stephen Fuller). It disbanded shortly thereafter. At Ford, three individuals in Personnel Research helped establish an Executive Development Center with OD Leadership (Nancy Badore), and supported widespread Personnel activities throughout the organization. Ford also participated with about 13 other companies (GE, etc) by administering “Mayflower Survey” questionnaires. They facilitated and encouraged large group and work group discussions with the results. Also, there were Socio-tech Team Development efforts with program management groups and in one particular component manufacturing segment with John Cotter. And, Mike King (a graduate of Robert Blake’s UofTX program) helped facilitate a “corporate committee implementation” of a new revolutionary “holistic” design analysis methodology.

Regarding T-Groups, specifically, I just now (2018) learned that Chrysler actually did explore this particular venue. Lately, their focus has been on the “Good to Great” study series, as a supplement to Leadership Development activities. Certainly worthy of mention is that TRW’s STL (Space Technology Labs in CA) evolved a very successful “Career Development” program. It was a leading effort resulting from the original T-Group thinking (via Herb Shepard at CIT and Robert Tannenbaum at UCLA). And, I was enabled, via a Summer OB Internship arrangement, to help institute the STL CD findings within NASA’s Manned Space effort in 1964.

New Questions about the History and Outcomes Formed?

– Is “Democracy” really inevitable?

This is the title of a paper written by Warren Bennis. Warren became renown as a USA Leadership expert. And it was interesting to learn (only recently) that he coauthored a related book with Edgar Schein, when at MIT. I actually met Warren while in the 1st OB doctoral program in Cleveland. Warren and Herb Shepard (who initiated the program and was my advisor) authored the Theory Chapters re T-Groups (in “T-Group Theory and the Laboratory Method”). And, Edgar Schein remains the leading spokesman for “OD & Change” at MIT yet today.

– Should avoidance of “Professional Suicide” be studied more in depth and be taught?

This was the subject of Don Cole’s PhD sociological thesis. Don, with Herb, created the “International Registry of OD” and the original “OD Journal.” Today, the Journal is once again being published quarterly, and is supported by a large cadre of ISOD&C practitioners.

– Should “Creative Leadership” be facilitated for mixed professional roles?

A question because the possibility of subsequent hurts and difficulties due to the extra dissonance created.

– Should more efforts be devoted to “Reducing Alienations” (a leading cause of obsolescence of spirits and related disruptions)?

– Should “Group Think” be allowed to flourish and override individuals and dominate excessively (under the guise of extraordinary freedoms for self development and innovations)?

– What about Self Worth and Belonging for genuineness and authenticity versus alienation and loneliness (associated with feelings of being cut off (alienated)?

– Why is the Human Side of Enterprise now apparently being surpassed in importance by Artificial Intelligence based on automatic constructions of assumed reference behaviors?

I was very surprised the ODNet dialog contained no mention of the roles Douglas MacGregor handled re Organization Development. He grew up in Detroit, and was director of the NEA (National Education Association) when the first OD consultants went to the Esso Bay Way Refinery, and when NTL (the National Training Labs) was formed.

What to say now, and “topics to explore”, and learn, more about?

– Broad, non-functional, daily devotions for promoting more meaningful transformations- yielding personal and societal benefits!

– And, needs for more “human interaction” awareness regarding occupational hazards- while deliberating and scheming to improve human health, safety, and occupational conditions on the “Human Side of Enterprises.” We live together, we must work and play together, for life and happiness. We need more progressive human conditions and commissioning efforts for “this.”

– More Study and Devotion to remedies re the “trip ups, sticky wickets, heavy lifting, slam dunks, and falls occurring during social interactions” are as necessary for care and safety awareness as when dealing with the physical and material dangers we encounter!

– There are “few and far between” mental health experts- as we each know best our respective circumstances and seek to navigate for successes. Care is necessary to avoid being overwhelmed, when we approach daily tasks and chores reflecting different levels of difficulty. AND, credentials and monetary constraints do not “have to be” regulating and providing reasons for quitting! Some of the “best medicines and things in life and living are free” for taking. About face(s), and walk aways, are sometimes “decent options” too.

– Regardless time for exercise, rest, and meditations is remedial and functional for gathering up fresh assessments, attack plans, and skills development. Also, associations with appropriate alter-egos can help immensely.