In business and in large organizations, working relationships are vital to the overall health of the group. Human process interventions are geared towards improving interaction among individuals working together and resolve conflict. Human process interventions include interpersonal and group process approaches such as process consultation, third-party interventions, and team building. These interventions are the most notable human process OD interventions which focus on improving working relationships and maximize productivity. An interesting intervention to investigate is process consultation.
Process consultation is a practice introduced in the works of Edgar Schein a highly respected OD scholar. According to Schein, process consultation is “the creation of a relationship that permits the client to perceive, understand, and act on the process events that occur in client’s internal and external environment in order to improve the situation as defined by the client” (Cummings, T & Worley. C 2009). The emphasis is on forming a helping relationship because process consultation is a mutual understanding between the client and consultant on working together on specific issues put forth by the client.
The intent of the intervention is to form a partnership to improve working relationships by the client presenting the issues to the consultant, and the consultant presenting techniques, thinking, and best practices for finding solutions for pressing problems. Because the partnership is fluid, it explores all possible solutions, but narrows choices down to relevant approaches that can improve the issue at hand. The key objective of any interventions is to produce desired behavior and performance.
The main goal of process consultation is to diagnose the problems facing the organization, find solutions, and improve the overall effectiveness of the organization. The intervention is implemented to establish shared visions. The relationship between OD consultant and client places important decision making in the hands of the client and the consultant’s responsibility is to pin point problem areas and provide actionable suggestions and feedback. The process intervention is executed in stages or steps. The interventions deals with interpersonal and group dynamics and explores how members in an organization interact with each other.
At the group level, the process investigates communication between members. For example, communication can be cover and overt where individuals covertly hide emotions and feelings towards situations and overt where the display of such emotions and feelings are open. The process also looks into functional roles of group members, problem solving and decision making within the groups, groups norms, and the use of leadership and authority to assess group effectiveness and cohesiveness of working relationships.
Individual interventions are designed to help people effectively communicate with others. Once feedback is given to an individual it is meant to create awareness of how their behavior affects others. The Johari window model explains how in the open window personal issues are communal and are perceived by the individual and others while the closed window is hidden and people are aware of their behavior and conceal it from others. The Johari model shows how communication is increased or lessened by openness or closeness of the individual’s behavior.
In interpersonal communication, truthfulness and honesty create trust and collaboration which is important in group dynamics. Group interventions focus on the process, content, or structure of the group (Ross, G. 2001) The process intervention includes every aspect of the group interaction including relationships, communication, decision making, and problems solving skills of the group. For example, to understand the group, day to day activities can be observed to get accurate behavior observations. Content intervention determines the group’s strengths and weaknesses within how well they execute tasks.
Structure intervention helps with understanding the reoccurring methods used to complete tasks such as strategy development and assigning responsibilities. Each intervention named has sets of steps and stages where it is appropriate to conduct the consultation and implement ideas. According to Good Practice Participate a New Zealand government study, normal steps of process consultation or any consultation starts with the determination of the necessity of consultation followed by deciding consultation methods. This includes gathering background information of problems affecting the organization or group.
The next step is to formulate a clear purpose for the process consultation (Steps of consultation 2011). This step included the allocation of feedback once the consultation is completed. Once the consultation starts, it is followed by reporting of the results. Relative strengths of process consultation include the ability to use a third party to diagnose what is actually wrong with the group or organization, constructive intent to improve the problems, and important focus on human behavior that is mentally motivated.
Weaknesses of the process consultation include the fact that process consultation is usually related to other interventions so results are difficult to measure, consultations are conducted with groups performing mental tasks which again are difficult to measure. Process consultation is a new practice that has many unknown variable which can be viewed as a weakness in the intervention. Process consultation would be used in a small company of 50 employees where productivity was constant, but could improve only if all the employees could work cohesively as a unit.
In this small company, employees have conflicting personalities that would hinder effectiveness in increasing production levels. Because we all know employee morale and output are closely tied, hiring a third party would offer feedback to the company to improve the human process including interpersonal communication, group relationship, goal setting, decision making, as well as basic communication.
- Ross , G. (2001, November 5). Management 3000: 21st Century Process Consultation. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from Management 2001 website: http://www. manage2001. com/pc. htm
- Steps in a formal consultation exercise. (2011). Retrieved July 21, 2011, from Good Practive Participate website: http://www. goodpracticeparticipate. govt. nz/levels-of-participation/one-off-consultation/steps-in-formal-consultation. html