Organizational Diagnosis – A Tool in the I/O Psychologist’s Toolbox – Part Two

Planting Trees 4

Last week we introduced the Organizational Diagnosis methodology to you and the first reason a client may want to have one performed within their organization. As you may recall, Organizational Diagnosis is a methodology used by an I/O Psychology Practitioner to enter into the organization, collect data about the organization, and feedback information to the management team that creates an understanding of the organization’s system and whether a change initiative might be in order It is one of the many tools in the I/O Psychologist’s toolbox and it is foundational to many of the other tools the professional uses especially in regard to change management.

We also explored the first of the three reasons for performing an organizational diagnosis:
• To determine how and why the organization is dysfunctional
• To prevent dysfunction from occurring
• To prepare for a planned change initiative.

We concluded last week’s blog by exploring an example from my practice of how the tool was used with a client whose organization was quite dysfunctional.

Prevents Dysfunction or Poor Organizational Health

This week we will be continuing our discussion and will begin by talking about the second reason a client may want to perform an organizational diagnosis. The second reason is to be preventative – to prevent dysfunction from showing up in the first place. The organizational diagnosis is like an annual medical checkup – the doctor goes through a list of indicators or measures and checks to see if those items are within “good” limits or not. This is to ensure that no leading or precursor indications of the root causes of organizational dysfunction exist. And, if there is some indication that some of those potentially “bad” drivers might be lurking behind a door in a darkened room, the I/O Psychologist can bring them into the light for the management team to eliminate.

Finding the Right Balance

An example of this preventative approach can be found in one of my clients. This client has a long history in senior care living facilities. The client had decided to offer a new line of living facilities that group the assisted living residences in communities – room entries were all adjoining a community space that included a fireplace, a library, card playing space, and the walls were lined with art of all types. Exiting from this community space was a long wide walkway that connected to other community spaces and global spaces including a movie theatre, pub, salon, church, and billiard room. All of this was intended to promote each individual in finding their unique balance of interaction with others in the local and global communities.

In contrast, think about the long hallways found in nursing homes or assisted living centers where doorways to a resident’s room are spaced evenly along that hallway. The architecture promotes isolation and seclusion – not association or relationship with a community.

In addition, staff job tasks and schedules were designed to find a balance between doing the tasks of their job and providing extraordinary customer service and resident “touches”. “Touches” refers to those interactions between staff and a resident that are courteous, edifying, and enjoyable for the resident and staff person.

Of course as the task demands increase in density, the opportunity for and quality of “touches” diminishes. This makes the staff function less satisfactory from both the employee and resident’s perspectives. Related to this is data that indicates that the more this ratio of job demands and residence touches is out of alignment, the more at risk is the mental health of the employee.

Numerous studies have shown how psycho-social risks and well-being at work have affected both the physical and mental health of workers in the medical field, and the DARES’ results indicate that occupations involving care and health sectors are particularly affected by two specific dimensions: job demands (frequent schedule changes, working at night or on Sundays and during holidays) and emotional demands (regular assistance and support to people suffering from physical and / or mental disorders and limited autonomy). (See Christine Jeoffrion, Jean-Philippe Hamard, Sophie Barre, Abdel Halim Boudoukha, “ Diagnostic organisationnel et prévention des risques psychosociaux dans un établissement d’accueil pour personnes âgées : l’intérêt d’une méthodologie mixte et participative ”, Le travail humain 4/2014 (Vol. 77) , p. 373-399.)

So how do you know if the design and layout of the communities in this facility are enabling healthy social interaction for each individual in a fashion that is unique and right for them? How do you determine whether the design of staff work is right for getting the essential responsibilities done and simultaneously making those “touch” moments special for both staff and residents.

Preventative Reason for Organizational Diagnosis

One way of doing this is to use a diagnostic approach to understanding these assisted living facilities. In this case, we had the luxury of having two facilities for performing this diagnosis and could enter these organizations, create a given condition, collect data on that condition about those psycho-social, job design, and environmental conditions on residents and staff, and determine what the impact of these two situations were on “sense of community” and “quality of touches”.

And so we did. I cannot share those results with you that I shared with my client for confidential reasons. But I can say the effort to understand these issues was well worth the effort and resulted in preventing changes in future building designs and job designs that would constrain social interaction, sense of community, and satisfaction with the “touches” between staff and residents. It was proactive – helping to reduce the probability that future dysfunction would show up in the organization.

The above example is representative of the second reason client’s contract an organizational diagnosis. The client wants to prevent problems from occurring. As we consider making a change to an organizational design, knowing what things not to change is important to ensure that one does not accidentally introduce drivers of dysfunction into the system. The focus is on understanding the organization’s current state and most importantly why it is in that state – a healthy state in this case. This is important so that the “why”, the root causes of the current healthy state, are not changed.

Your Takeaway

What do I want you to learn and apply from this article? Don’t sit idly when your organization is healthy and performing well. You must stay in shape, you must be preventative in how you take care of yourself, and you must act if one of the leading indicators of a potential dysfunction begins to show up. There is no such thing as maintaining.  Studies in operational management all say the same thing – maintenance is a reaction to a loss. Being preventative in operational management and in life means to always improve so that loss never occurs. Leaders work to prevent loss. Leaders work to prevent loss by continually improving.

The Next Blog – The Third Reason

In our next Blog, we will review our prior articles on organizational diagnosis and the third of the three reasons for performing an Organizational Diagnosis (to be proactive):
• To determine how and why the organization is dysfunctional
• To prevent dysfunction from occurring
• To proactively prepare for a planned change initiative.

After we have explored the topic of organizational diagnosis, an organization health survey will be provided to you so that you can do a basic diagnosis on your own organization.

So stay with me. The tool is coming.

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