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Intervention

What is Intervention?

After the diagnosis of an organizational situation, the OD practitioner analyzes the organizational data and provides feedback to the management to address the problems within the scope agreed upon.

The OD practitioner then decides on the method and manner with which he or she would initiate the action or process towards the planned change. This action or process of ‘Intervening’ the organization is referred as Intervention.

CHRIS ARGYRIS (1970) in his book Intervention Theory & Method (ADDISON WELSELY) says “To intervene is to enter an ongoing system of relationships, to come between or among persons, groups or objects for the purpose of helping them”.

Smither, R. et al 1970 Organizational Development: Strategies for Changed Environment (Harper Collins) says – (Intervention is any event, directed towards improving organizational effectiveness, that disrupts an organization’s normal way of operating).

Thus, though interventions sometimes involve an external OD practitioner, however, often the organization leadership itself intervenes to make organizational changes. This leads to an understanding that any specific leadership response may also be classified as a Level of Intervention. Any Intervention is identified by three principle characteristics:

  • The Level of Intervention i.e. whether the intervention is directed towards a Group, Interpersonal or Individual.
  • The Type of Intervention i.e. whether the deployed Intervention is of Conceptual, Experiential or Structural in nature.
  • Intensity of Intervention – The word Intensity when used with interventions is used to assess and measure as to what extent, how directly or indirectly the chosen action or processes of intervening addresses the central feeling of the core issue that the Group, the Individual or the Interpersonal entities are involved in. Usually, Interventions are rated as Low, Medium & High intensity.

The three fundamental characteristics constitutes an intervention is best understood from the Intervention Cube Model below given by Arthur Cohen & Douglas Smith.

Intervention-Cube

The easiest way to interpret Arthur & Smiths Intervention Cube is to visualize Rubik’s Cube. Just like Rubik’s Cube is a three dimensional cubicular assembly of 3 x 3 matrix, the intervention cube is also the same. In one plane, the three layers are represented by 3 levels of the Intervention which are the Group, Individual & the Interpersonal. The second plane represents the types of intervention which are Conceptional, Experiential & Structural. The third plane, represents the intensity of the Interventions, namely Low, Medium and High. This expertise of the OD practitioner, lies in making choices of different permutations and combinations of the Level, Type and Intensity of Interventions in the facilitation process. Metaphorically speaking, an expert OD practitioner has the intervention cube in his hand and the facilitation process is like that of choosing the planes and rotating the various levels in several ways as if in a Rubik Cube.

What are Effective Interventions?

Organization Development being a process of achieving planned change through a series of planned actions and events, every such action and event must be effective in a way that it directs the organization and its individual towards the planned change. For an intervention to be effective, three principle criteria’s need to be fulfilled.

  • The chosen action or event as an intervention must directly address the needs of the organization and aid its movement towards the desired state from the current state.
  • The extent to which the intervention is based on and could be linked to reasons of outcomes once the intervention is deployed.
    This firms the logical reasoning of the choice of Intervention because if what is intended to be brought out as a result of intervention, must be actually possible to be brought out, lest the intervention becomes an action or event which has no basis and link to planned change.
  • An effective intervention also must orient and help the organizational members to display critical behaviors to cope, manage and adopt the changing environment.

How to design Effective Interventions?

The extent of the area, the opportunity or possibility to do or deal with organizational processes and planned change is such an immense and expanding continuum that barely sufficient or adequate research literature can be zeroed upon to offer specifics in the area of designing effective interventions. This makes the role of the OD practitioner even more significant as it is the practitioner skill and knowledge that are the only keys to the interventions that are deployed.

However, in the OD body of knowledge, for the interventions to be effective, two principle Contingent Factors have been talked about – the first being the ‘environment of change’. This refers to a number of factors present in the environment where a planned change is intended. For example, Interpersonal relationships and differences among organizational members, the hierarchy and authority structure in the organization. The leadership style that members of the organization experience and the ambiguities that the organization experiences to name a few. These factors play a significant role and thus the OD practitioner when designing interventions must be mindful of these factors or else the interventions may have no impact on the organization. OD practitioners are aware that all interventions do not fit all organizations and any generalized untested attempt of an intervention may jeopardize the entire OD process. The criticality of this can be assessed from the fact that once a wrong step is taken in the delicate part of managing change, the extent of regression could be difficult to recover from.

Thus, the environmental factors which an OD practitioner considers while designing an intervention are organization’s:

  • Overall readiness for change
  • Inherent capability of the organization to change, and
  • Larger cultural system and context in which the organization currently exists.

The second contingent factor for designing intervention is the ‘area of change’. Though the objective of OD is change at the organizational level, often this change is initially graded down and targeted to specific areas and portions of the organization.

Further for OD practitioner and the organizational leadership these areas become the chief targets of change interventions and certain issues related to these areas selected for change must be considered by the OD practitioner in designing interventions.

  • ‘Issues of Strategic’ intent of the organization with the specific area where the strategic intervention is to be deployed with respect to the area chosen for the OD intervention, the long term objectives of the organization needs to be known, for example, a particular business area in the organization would continue the way it has enjoyed investments in terms of time, energy or money of the leadership of it is on the cards of the leadership to separate it as an entity or to merge it with mother company or even to wind-up or dissolve the area. In designing the OD intervention specific to this area of the organization, the OD practitioner needs to be aware of these aspects in order to deploy an intervention which corroborates to the larger intent.
  • Similarly, the Socio-Technical aspects of the area chosen for change and where intervention has to be deployed, must also be considered. Effective OD practitioners offer effective interventions in this context believing that – people run technological processes. So, as the technology changes, people also need to change, in their minds to adopt the change successfully.
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