Organizational Behavior Management and Organization Development: Potential Paths to Reciprocation
The origins of applied behavioral science can be traced back more than fifty years. While Skinner was pioneering efforts in the experimental analysis of behavior, and the grand theorists, Tolman, Hull, and Guthrie were battling for supremacy in the behavioral science arena, Kurt Lewin and Rensis Likert, prominent social psychologists of the era, began emphasizing the importance of connecting research and theory with practice. Their work strongly influenced the field of organizational behavior (OB), and spawned the field we will consider in detail in the present chapter: organization development (OD).
Neither OB nor OD share many of the features commonly identified with organizational behavior management (OBM): direct and frequent recording of behavior, targeting outcomes that workers can influence, and focusing on performance consequences. Indeed, current OD texts (e.g., Burke, 1982; French and Bell, 1990; Cummings and Worley, 1993) pay very little attention, if any, to Skinner’s work and neglect to acknowledge OBM altogether. The OB field, on the other hand, has had fruitful interaction with behavior analysis (Komaki, 1986a). Virtually all OB texts (e.g., Luthans, 1992) include OBM as part of the OB field, although it is more often referred to as organizational behavior modification, or O.B. Mod.
The purpose of this chapter is to explore the potential for reciprocation between OD and OBM. The field of OD has matured considerably during the past two decades, with calls for systematic evaluation and research designed to determine what works and to begin assembling a theoretical basis for the field (Dunn and Swierczek, 1977; Eubanks and Marshall, 1990; Eubanks, Marshall, and O’Driscoll, 1990; Eubanks et al., 1990; Golembiewski, Proehl, and Sink, 1982; Nicholas, 1982; O’Driscoll and Eubanks, 1992, 1993, 1994). Clients have also become more sophisticated and are requiring OD practitioners to show performance gains in exchange for the considerable effort and cost involved in systemwide interventions (Beer and Walton, 1987, 1990). The OD field is briefly described in the following section as a basis for contrasting it with OBM.
DEFINITION AND COMPARISON OF OD WITH OBM
Numerous definitions of OD exist. According to one of the more comprehensive descriptions of the field, OD is:
a top-management-supported, long-range effort to improve an organization’s problem solving and renewal processes, particularly through a more effective and collaborative diagnosis and management of organization culture—with special emphasis on formal work team, temporary team, and inter-group culture—with the assistance of a consultant-facilitator and the use of the theory and technology of applied behavioral science, including action research. (French and Bell, 1990, p. 17)
This definition encompasses a number of dimensions that require elaboration. Table 14.1 lists these dimensions and provides a basis for comparing and contrasting OD and OBM. These dimensions will be used later as a basis for evaluating possible areas of interaction and reciprocation among the two fields.
Within the OD approach to organizational change, support is required by the organization’s chief executive, and the client is typically one or more members of the top management group. Recent writings have emphasized the importance of active involvement and ongoing approval by this power structure in order for change to occur in an organization (Burke, 1982; French and Bell, 1990). In contrast, OBM efforts typically occur in response to somewhat more focused problems identified by line managers (Balcazar et al, 1989, p. 20).
Although there are certainly exceptions in each case, successful OD efforts typically are either ongoing or are framed in terms of one or more years (French and Bell, 1990; Huse and Cummings, 1989), while OBM interventions are frequently completed in less than a year (Balcazar et al., 1989).