According to Meyer (2017), Amazon.com has become one of the most innovative companies in the retail market and is considered to be one of the most powerful companies in the world. The convenient website and new products offered has allowed Amazon.com to become an innovative and successful business. The organizational structure of Amazon.com allows for control of global e-commerce operations and creates the design and interactions between members of the organization. The Organizational Development (OD) process enhances the effectiveness of an organization through the use of models. This research will define and review the characteristics of OD, as well as the weaknesses and strengths-of several OD models, and the correlation to the entire OD process. The models being reviewed are appreciative inquiry, the three-step and general planned change. This research will explain the importance of OD and the relevance of these models to the success of companies, such as Amazon.com.
What is Organizational Development?
According to Abad (2014), Organizational Development (OD) is a technique of scientific behavior, designed and implemented for change within an organization. OD can be used to increase the performance of its employees and the systems used in an organization. OD is a long term effort that requires the support of upper management, with the purpose of improving the results at all levels of the organization (both teams and individuals). The OD process consists of a full analysis of the organization to discover the current and future needs. The goal is to create an organization that can adapt to the ever-changing environment of new technology, regulations and markets.
To improve the vision, empowerment, problem solving and learning of the organization, top management must lead and support the long-term effort of OD. There are theories, activities and processes that encompass the overall goal of OD, which is for improvement of the organization, as well as its employees. OD is used to plan changes being made to the organizational processes or structure, with a minimum negative effect and increased effectiveness. Appreciative inquiry, the three-step and general planned change model will be explored for its strengths, weaknesses and effectiveness for positive change within an organization.
Appreciative Inquiry Model
According to Mishra (2012), Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a positive engagement model that was created in 1986 by David Cooperrider, to solve problems within an organization by focusing on what went wrong or what the problem is. AI works on the assumption that people will act and communicate their expectations of the organization in a positive manner and this will, in turn, create anticipation, which will energize their behaviors towards the desired changes. This model approaches change in a positive manner with the understanding that in order for change to occur, new ideas need to be introduced. The basis for AI is if the strengths and assets are appreciated the best results will be produced. There are four phases within the AI model: discovery, dream, design and the delivery or destiny of the desired change (4D).
Organizational change is a recurring process and the discovery phase is the first phase. This is the phase when an inquiry is made on the focus for change and specific participants provide ideas on what is best for the organization. During the discovery phase, scheduled interviews occur where stories are shared about people’s best experiences and times when they felt the organization was at its finest. An example of this is, if an organization wants to improve customer service, they would interview with customers and get examples of customer satisfaction, instead of the normal dissatisfaction surveys that are usually solicited.
The next phase of the 4D model is the dream phase, when members envision the organization in its current state, as it relates to proposed changes. This is when an effort is made to identify the common dreams of the members of the organization. Based on the information collected during the discovery phase, members are also asked to visualize the future of the organization, as well as where they would like to be in the future the organization. According to Popa (2013), it is leadership’s responsibility to get the utmost effort and support of employees, as well as stimulating them to get things done beyond the usual accomplishments. By getting the input of people within the organization, on where they see the organization headed, it creates a sense of ownership to the changes that will take place.
After the dream phase is the design phase, which is when the focus shifts into achieving the dream set for the organization, when ideas are discussed on ways to make the ideal organization. Looking at the positives of the organization’s past creates the vision for a brighter future. This phase is the key to developing systems that leverage structures based on what used to be great and might be great again. A common vision in established in all participants and they are asked to create proposals on what the new organization should look like.
The final stage of the 4D model is the delivery or destiny stage, which is when organizational images of the future are delivered. This is a time when learning, adjusting and improvising take place as change occurs. Momentum built on the possibility of innovation and the shared visions of the future allow everyone to align with the changes taking place. Everyone has the ability to express the things they can do and what their contributions will be for a better, brighter future. This phase is continuous and brings the organization back to the discovery phase because it is a constant effort to continue learning, creating dialogue and making new collaborative changes for the better of the organization.
Three Step Model
In 1947, Kurt Lewin proposed the three (3) step model of change, which consists of unfreezing, moving and refreezing. According to Medley (2008), this model focuses on the balance of forces in human behavior and how shifting those forces towards the wanted change can bring the desired behavioral changes for the entire organization. The driving forces can assist in the change of an organization by encouraging employees to change present behaviors to those of the desired planned change. The assumption is that desired behavior change can happen if there is a modification in the balance of forces. Driving forces, such as incentives, can help with change by moving employees from an unacceptable behavior towards the desired planned change.
The first stage of the 3-step model is unfreezing, which is the preparation to get an organization to accept that change needs to occur. This is the stage of breaking down what is the norm of behaviors to assess how to ready everyone for the coming changes. This is done by highlighting things that need change, such as declining sales or poor customer service, and explaining the new desired outcome. Leadership must challenge the behaviors, values, beliefs or attitudes of the organization and foster organizational self-evaluation to create a balance inducing incentive. This process assists with participation and buy-in from employees which is necessary for change.
The second stage of the 3-step model is moving (movement), which is when employees start to accept the uncertainty and look for innovative ways to get things done. They begin to support and believe the direction the organization is heading and focus on their personal transition within the ongoing changes. The two major keys to change within this model are communication and time; time is needed for people to understand the changes taking place and the belief that they are tied to the organizational change. Management must communicate the needed changes and must emphasize that employee effort, commitment and time are needed to get through the needed changes.
The third stage of the 3-step model is refreezing, which is when the changes are starting to be embraced by staff. Throughout the organizational change there are some areas of the organization that have become steady, such as job descriptions or organizational charts, and the refreeze stage helps the organization and people institutionalize. This ensures that the changes are occurring consistently and are being incorporated into the day to day business. At this stage, there is a feeling of stability, so the employees become comfortable and confident with the new changes.
General Planned Change Model (Cummings, 2009)
Cummings and Worley (2009) explained the four (4) stages used to carry out organizational development known as the general planned change model (GPCM). Change within an organization is not straightforward; areas of overlap and feedback need to be provided pertaining to all portions of the organization. GPCM is a consulting process that focuses on making change from the problem solving perspective. The sequence is typically: a) entering and contracting, b) diagnosing and feedback, c) planning and implementing change and then d) evaluating and institutionalizing change.
The first stage of the GPCM is entering and contracting, which is when management determines they want to pursue change and commit the necessary resources for the process. Entering is the when data is initially gathered to understand the organizational and potential opportunities that may be available. After this data is collected, management and other key members of the organization develop a contract to engage in planning change. The contract explains future changes, the resources to be dedicated to the entire process and the employees that will be involved. The context of this process could be sensitive to the possible changes; so as not to cause any disagreements, the process should be unbiased.
The second stage of GPCM is diagnosis and feedback, which is when the entire organizational system and processes are studied. The focus is placed on identifying positive qualities of the organization or understanding the problems the organization faces. This includes the cause and consequences of those problems. The consultant examines the systems in place to determine where the issues are and provide feedback with possible implementation method(s) that can be used for change. The organization has to decide on a model that suits the culture and issues (Stevenson, 2012). There are different methods used to gather data, including but not limited to surveys, interviews and observations. The consultant gathers information analyzes it and provides feedback; it is at the discretion of the organization to start planning and implementing needed changes for the success of the organization.
The next stage of GPCM is planning and implementation, which is when the consultants and key members of the organization work together to plan and implement OD methods. This team comes up with ways to get to the vision set by the organization based on the consultant’s results. Included in the stage is determining if the organization is ready for change and figuring out the strengths of the team to see who is capable of leading the proposed changes. There are several interventions that can be used for OD based on the outcome of the diagnosis:
a. Human process, which increases the interaction of staff to resolve conflict;
b. Modification of the structure and technology;
c. Use of human resources to find ways to make the performance better through policy creation; or
d. Creation of strategies that involve controlling the relationship of the external environment, structure of employees and creating a process that supports both.
These interventions motivate change, design the vision that is wanted for the future of the organization, manage change as it happens and maintains energy for the coming change.
The final stage of GPCM is evaluation and institutionalization, which is when selected intervention methods are evaluated to determine their effects on the organization and managing the institutionalization of change. Institutionalization is when something is introduced to an organization and it becomes the “norm.” For example, an organization realizes there is inconsistency with the “business casual attire” and decides to make collared shirts standard for the areas of the office that interact daily with customers. Others notice the convenience of wearing a collared shirt, so they purchase them as well and now something introduced for one area becomes the norm for the entire office, but the option of “business casual attire” never officially or unofficially changed.
During this stage, feedback on the interventions that are in place is provided to key members of the organization, who will decide if the changes should continue, be modified or stopped. The use of reinforcements, such as rewards and positive feedback, are encouraged during change in order to institutionalize the changes. These models all have different ways to handle change; there are strengths, weaknesses and effectiveness that make each method successful for an organization to grow and change for the better.
The key strength of the AI model is the use of an organization’s strengths to uplift those areas that require change. It usually has a positive effect on people because it builds trust, which has a tendency to lead to integrated thinking, creativity and flexibility. Creation of a positive environment allows for leaders to introduce the changes and build on the strengths that already exist. The focus is on leveraging the strengths of the organization, identifying the best practices and coming up with new ideas.
The key strength the 3-step model has is being simple and linear; it limits staff input when there are complex and fast changes that need to take place within an organization. The unfreeze model looks to understand why change is necessary, as well as try to get a better understanding of the worries or fears the employees may have and try to address them through the explanation of why the change is needed. The moving model is a time for leadership to communicate; it is important that during the implementation and planning of changes staff is aware of what is occurring, understands how they will be affected by the changes and are prepared for the coming changes. During the refreeze model, leadership should celebrate any successes by keeping everyone informed, making necessary changes to the organizational structure and creating reward systems.
The general planned change model promotes collaboration with a consultant and key members of an organization to identify problems and develop new practices. This is a key strength because it involves an external assessment based on the input provided from staff, key stakeholders, customers and research on similar organizations. The focus is on solving problems and creating opportunities to bring about change.
The appreciative inquiry model leaves out the step of defining the subject that needs to be changed. This model solely focuses on the strengths within the organization and the level of dissatisfaction with the way things are done in order to change. People have to fully understand that something is wrong with the way tasks are completed, to avoid resistance to needed changes.
The 3-step model does not take in account the personal factors of change, such as employee input. The unfreezing model creates a message to explain the necessity for change and tries to explain the importance of this change organization-wide. During the moving model, it is leadership’s responsibility to dismiss rumors by answering questions honestly, dealing with any issues that arise immediately and trying to get staff to understand how change is a necessity for the operation of the organization. The refreeze model creates ways to maintain the change that takes place, by ensuring there is support of leadership, keeping everyone aware and providing support as needed. This is solely based on management wanting to change the way things are done and nurturing the complaints as they come, but continuing to push the employees toward the proposed changes.
The general planned change model can be influenced by key clients or practitioners and, with the input of agents and members, there is a question on whether the organization becomes a learning one or not. Learning organization is the process an organization takes to get staff to learn and utilize their full abilities, so they can anticipate, react and respond to change in positive accepting manner (Esmaeili, 2014). Even though this model encourages participation, there is no surety that participation will make the organization become a learning organization or has the ability to anticipate a problem and quickly make adjustments to resolve it. A consultant is hired during this change model, but the weakness of this model is that leadership may not be capable of implementing the changes, even though needed, after the consultant is done with their research.
Effectiveness of the models and OD process
The appreciative inquiry model is effective at promoting growth and positive change. Goals and results are reached at a higher rate because there is motivation and new energy created amongst those that are changing. There is improvement on trust, relationships and communication, through increased team bonding and discovery on what the organization has to offer. The assumption of this model is that something within the organization works, so placing focus on those things that work can increase the output. People tend to be more confident going into the unknown if they are aware of the past successes. This model is used to create high performance teams that coach for motivation, development and achieving goals.
The three step model is effective in addressing change based on employee behavior and not the entire system. The steps of this model motivate staff to change by promoting effective communication and empowering staff to embrace the new way of how things will be done. There is usually a transition time as staff takes on new tasks or responsibilities, but this is an investment that will enhance the effectiveness of the structure. The refreeze step gives staff the chance to flourish and take advantage of the change.
The general planned change model is effective in providing guidance on the activities that need to take place at every stage of change in order to get the organization where it wants to be. This model integrates the other two models, but it focuses on identifying the problem, developing new ideas and aims to make change at all levels of the organization. There is an emphasis placed on the need to continue to research and make changes until the organization reaches its desired level of success. These models do not clearly explain how the change agent, someone internal or external that helps with the transformation of an organization, can assist or sanction an organization to develop into a learning organization after the change process occurs.
OD is used to institutionalize change that is needed to move an organization in a direction of positive change. Change is inevitable, but successful change happens at the guidance, support and understanding of leadership. These models place an emphasis on plans of action that start out diagnosing the issues and evaluating the best ways to make change for the betterment of the organization. OD assists an organization in achieving change by improving services and products, increasing productivity and lowering costs (Cummings, 2009). The changes of OD produce loyal customers, satisfied stakeholders, engaged employees, a learning workforce and the ability to motivate employees to work more efficiently.
The structure of Amazon.com has had an impactful success on the organization due to leadership recognizing the need for organizational change and taking the necessary action. The process of OD consists of a full analysis on an organization to discover the current and future needs. There were three models in this research that were analyzed to get a better understanding of their correlation to OD. Appreciative inquiry, the 3-step and general planned change models can all be used during the process of developing and implementing change within an organization.
Although no right or wrong method of change exists, OD helps to improve the effectiveness of an organization with a focus on the entire system, as well as all of the parts that make up the organization (McEwan, 2015). If an organization assesses its infrastructure, OD can bring about the necessary change to reach the best possible success for the organization. It is the responsibility of leadership to keep the systems within the organization healthy and cohesive. The three models reviewed can systematically optimize the functions of an organization. There are similar characteristics, but each had strengths, weaknesses and what makes them effective. This research explained the role the models and OD play in the success of an organization.