Organisational Devlopment: Levels of Diagnosis

It is pointless conducting diagnosis at the individual level, because most issues can be addressed at the organization and group level. Discuss. Within modern business practices continual evolution is essential for long term organisational outcomes. With economic pressures, a growing demand for perceptibly social and environmental responsibility and an increasingly focus towards international and worldwide trade, modern organizations are confronted with an almost constant need for change (Waddell, Cummings and Worley, 2007).

Thus it is important for leaders to have a sound understanding of change issues and theories (Waddell, 2002). Organisational development (OD) is described as a systematic application of behavioral science knowledge to the planned development and reinforcement of organizational structures, processes and strategies for improving organisational effectiveness (Waddell et al. , 2007). Diagnosis it an integral part of successful OD implementation and is performed on one or more levels including ‘individual’, ‘group’ and ‘organisational’ diagnosis.

Thus for successful long term outcomes it is necessary to investigate the role of diagnosis within successful OD implementation, with a focus on ‘individual’ level diagnosis in contrast to both ‘group’ and ‘organisational’. Diagnosis within organisation development is described as an intervention that develops information about the various subsystems of an organisation as well as the patterns and processes that take part in an organisation (Beckhard, 1969). Similarly, Waddell et al. 2007) depict diagnosis as the process of understanding how the organisation is currently functioning, in order to successfully develop change intervention. Thus within modern firms this process develops insight for both the client and OD coordinator into the functioning and efficiency on individual, group and organisational levels. Aldefer and Brown (1975) suggest that the process of diagnosis also serves to motivate organisational members to engage in change. Nadler (1977) reinforces this, depicting that diagnosis provides employees or members with a direction for change.

As such, diagnosis within OD has been described as the ‘key’ in developing successful interventions (Burton & Obel, 2004). As well the diagnostic process is referred to as collaborative between OD consultant and client (Stacey, 2007), in which the two parties work together to develop action plans for effective change process. Waddell et al. (2007) reinforces this suggesting that the values and ethics that underlie OD suggest that both change agents and organisational members should be involved in developing and implementing appropriate interventions.

Organisations, when viewed as open systems can be diagnosed as three levels, including organisation, group and individual (Waddell et al. , (2007). The highest level is the organisational level and includes the design of the organisations structure, strategy and processes. The next level consists of groups or departments within the organisational structure, including group design and interaction devices. The lowest level of organisational diagnosis is the individual level, including job design and personnel characteristics.

Todnem (2005) suggest organisational diagnosis can occur at all three levels or it may be limited to problems that occur at a single level. For example, if there was a problem with output resulting from a single job design there would be only need for individual level diagnosis. Similarly Coghlan (1994) illustrates that the key to effective diagnosis is to know what to look for at each level, as well as how the levels affect each other. Waddel et al. (2007) depict the organisational level of diagnosis as the broadest systems perspective that is typically taken in diagnostic activities.

This level focuses on the organisation against inputs such as the general environment and industry structure to achieve outputs such as performance, efficiency and stakeholder satisfaction through strategy and organisational design. Todnem (2005) suggests that design components within this level can also include HRM, culture and technology. Similarly the general environment can include a vast amount of extraneous variables including social, technological, economical, ecological and political (Stahl, 1997). Thus this level provides a broad basis for diagnosis within the largest environment.

As such this level of diagnosis is most crucial when designing or redesigning action plans focused around the organisation as a whole. These strategies may include organisational goals and objectives, mission or organisational policies. (Waddell et al. (2007). Modern organizations are developing action plans in order to change practices to incorporate environmental and social responsibility. These plans and interventions designed at achieving change include organisational wide strategies, such as redesigning business infrastructure as well as changing major mission values/goals and policies within those companies.

An example of integrating effective organisatinoal diagnosis is RIO TINTO’s continual development and change towards more sustainable, environmentally responsible mining processes in order for long term outcomes (RIO TINTO, 2010). Through external forces or inputs they developed and integrated various interventions to remodel major sectors within the firm completely. Thus developing and maintaining successful strategic design requires effective organisational diagnosis.

The next level of diagnosis is group, and can apply to both larger operating division of firms such as BHP Billiton, or to smaller departments within organisations (Waddell et al. , 2007). Coghlan (1994) depicts that division or larger groups within such multinational firms generally follow the same dimension and relational fits applicable to organisational level development. Inversely Waddell et al. (2007) suggest that small departments and groups behave differently from larger divisions or organisations and thus require a suitable diagnostic model to reflect those dimensions.

As such, group level diagnosis consists of organisational design as an input, resulting in outputs of team effectiveness through design components such as task structure, group functioning, performance norms, group composition and goal clarity. Stahl (1997) describes group diagnosis as relative to a small number of people working face to face on a shared task or program. Laser (1995) suggests supportive organisational design is crucial for effective groups to operate. Harrison and Shirom (1999) reinforce this depicting that group structure and components are highly interrelated to organisational wide strategy and design.

Goal clarity is a major design component within group level diagnosis, and refers to how well the group understands its objectives. Waddell et al. (2007) suggest that goals should be understood by all members, moderately challenging, measurable, and monitored and, have structure for providing feedback of achievement. An example may include group targets for sales teams. Stahl (1997) illustrates that goal clarity is of crucial importance to successful group outcomes. Coghlan (1994) reinforces this depicting that clear goals provide motivation and direction to group dynamics.

Group level diagnosis is considered a more specific approach to an internalized problem than organisational diagnosis and can include problem solving groups built for a specific function (Stahl, 1997). However organisational and group levels remain highly interrelated through organisational design. The lowest level of diagnosis is the individual job or position. Waddel et al. (2007) suggest that organisations are made up of numerous groups and in turn, those groups are composed of several positions.

Callan (1993) depicts individual diagnosis as highly specified and dynamic. Similarily Stahl (1997) described the individual level diagnosis as having a minimal effect on the organization as a whole. As the individual level focuses on a single job design it requires a new model of job-level diagnosis (Waddell et al. , 2007). The inputs within this level are organisational design, group design and personnel characteristics, and the resulting outputs aimed at achieving are individual effectiveness, through performance, job satisfaction and individual development.

The design components utilized to transform the inputs within this model are skill variety, task identity, autonomy, task significance and feedback about results. Coghlan (1994) suggests that effective feedback mechanisms are crucial to continual intervention and employee development. Feedback refers to the degree to which employees are provided with clear information about performance and effectives of their activities (Waddell et al. , 2007). Such mechanisms could include both formal and informal methods such as casual on the spot feedback or yearly performance appraisals.

Conversely Callan (1993) depicts task significance as a major influence on outcomes within the individual level, suggesting that the level to which the employee’s job impacts on other people’s lives has a powerful affect on resulted outcomes. Individual level changes and restructuring can result in higher outcomes of individual’s position through higher individual interest and personnel investment in their jobs (Waddell et al. , 2007). As well higher productivity on an individual level transfers to more successful organisational outcomes, and thus benefits both the workers and the firm.

The importance of diagnosis on an individual level can be relatively debatable dependent on organisational type, infrastructure and individual job function (Mclean, 2005). Individual level diagnosis relies on organisational design, group design and personal characteristics for transference into outputs (Waddle et al. 2007). Thus this job level is highly interrelated and dependent on the effectiveness of the design components of both organisational and group level.

Hence, effective intervention development within the first two levels of diagnosis would result in a large proportion of successful outputs on an individual level (Harrison and Shirom, 1999). Conversely personal characteristics can include dynamic and uncontrollable extraneous variables which may result in a varied output on the job level. (Burton & Obel, 2004). Thus in order to limit a varied result within output it may be necessary to conduct individual diagnosis of job design relevant to the specific problem or concern.

As well Mclean (2005) emphasizes the importance of employee satisfaction in relation to staff turnover in order for long term development and organisational outcomes. Waddel et al. (2007) reinforce this depicting a ‘two sided’ relationship between employee satisfaction and interest and the consequential favorable outcomes for the firm. Cobb (1986) illustrates that redesigning individual level jobs can be crucial for successful outcomes within specified problems. As well Beer and Spector (1993) suggest that the success of OD interventions rely heavily on the accuracy of diagnosis within organisations.

Thus for a higher probability of favorable outcomes for developed interventions it is necessary to conduct diagnosis over all three levels. Organisational development is a critical process for both short and long term outcomes within modern business practice. With growing economic, social and environmental pressure, there is a greater need for organisational change than ever before. Successful OD is heavily reliant on the effectiveness of diagnosis within an organisation in order to develop appropriate interventions to develop change within the firm.

All three levels of diagnosis within OD are important to developing effective mechanisms for change. Organisational diagnosis is more responsive to external influences and direct pressure for both social and environmental concerns. However both group and individual levels are highly interrelated with the success of change interventions and in particular the development of productivity and efficiency to provide support against the economic strain. Individual level diagnosis is highly interrelated within the other levels and as such may not be necessary within some OD applications.