Business organizations often undertake to initiate change because they find they are in predicaments that could lead to their collapse. There are many instances where changing the top management or appointing a new Chief Executive Officer leads to reviving the business. IBM recruited Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., who changed the way that the company conducted business. General Electric settled on an insider, Jack Welch, as the CEO. His "fix, sell, or close" policy earned him the name "Neutron Jack."
Much earlier in the 1950s, General Motors' Alfred P. Sloan introduced "planned obsolescence," a system of managed change that propelled the company to the top in the auto industry – overtaking and surpassing Ford company in the USA.
The IBM's, General Electric's, and General Motors' stories demonstrate how difficult it can be to introduce and manage change – especially a cultural shift - in an organization. Secondly, there is no single prescription for every change process.
Space does not allow the narration of the three companies' stories, but they all have a common thread:
Each had problems to overcome to remain competitive and survive.
Each had the leadership that recognized the existing problems and the need to do something about it.
In each case, the leadership recognized the importance of involving the organization as a whole in the change process. In both IBM and General Electric, the top leadership brought along change agents to guide the process.
IBM's Gerstner, Jr. hired Abby Kohnstamm to spearhead the change process, while Jack Welch engaged six sigma professionals to help change the culture at General Electric. The change agents in both cases were highly trained professionals and were directly responsible to the top leadership.
The OD process is about organization-wide change, often led by the top management. The OD practitioner may be an internal or an external consultant. His or her job is to help the organization identify the problem by asking the right questions. Assisting the organization in identifying the problem is the first step.
The second step is to collect information and data using a multi-faceted approach, e.g., focus groups, questionnaires, and interviews. Once the information and data are available, the OD professional can help the organization identify the real problem(s) to eliminate the possibility of dealing with just the symptoms.
The OD process is an organization-wide change initiative led by top management.
The initiative comes after acknowledging the existence of a problem. The organization must be ready for the OD process. Otherwise, it does not work.
The OD practitioner comes into the organization with no pre-conceived ideas.
The OD practitioner assists the organization in identifying the actual problem(s).
A thorough diagnosis is necessary to establish the actual problem. The OD Practitioner does not solve theoretical problems, but a real organizational problem(s) using appropriate interventions for a specific situation.