Banking on human beings: action research in human resource development and organization development in a large organization
Changing organizations to suit their socially desirable purposes while furthering humanistic values for its members is a growing challenge to the theory and practice of behavioural sciences. The task appears to be all the more challenging in the case of large organizations. This project was just such an attempt within s larger organizational change programs in a very large and geographically widespread, development oriented commercial bank. Imbued with an existential commitment and e social phenomenological view of organizational reality, the project was actualized through an emerging process of action-research in one of the zonal head offices of the Bank over a period of six months through a quasi formal role played by the author as an action researcher. The fact of action during the period was the facilitation of the activities of the newly constituted Human Resource Development department and Organisation Development activities in other subsystems. The project Bee governed by a strict collaborative ethic so that all the activities were undertaken in collaboration with members or the Bank. The source or valid data use restricted to unstructured observations in option settings and the data generated;-during action. Learnings and creative insights were derived through a process of experiencing and reflections on events and deliberated actions. Relevant existent stock of knowledge was used to continuously sharpen and update the Process of reflection. These events, actions, learnings and insights have been categorized into three themes within an overall concern for the development of an applied behavioural science of organizations and of its scientists. These themes are: (1) Human Resource Development (HRD) systems in organizational context, (ii) Organisation Development (OD) and (iii) Action-Research as s methodology for applied behavioural science. On the theme of HRD it was possible to observe the organizational processes relating to installation of a new department. Absence of appropriate attitudes on the part of the new role incumbent and his immediate superior-appeared to hinder the realization of a fully functioning HRD department. It also seemed that the organisation lacked internal expertise to undertake all the espoused activities of the new department. Major activities in the HRD department during the period of this project were the tedious but illuminating initial phases of the new performance appraisal system, and staff budgeting and manpower planning systems. Collaborative experience with these systems strongly suggests that the participative design of such HRD systems has an effect akin to organizational self-renewal on the whole, the experience confirms the positive potential of creating an HRD department as a system changing subsystem in large organizations. On reviewing, an initial disinclination of the organisation to initiate OD processes led the action researcher to take a proactive approach. This led to multiple interpersonal interventions in relation to the HRD manager to facilitate his development in his role. Wide spread informal explorations for OD resulted in exciting initial phases of‘ an experiment in participative work system redesign at branch level and collaborative work at constructing a survey questionnaire to improve the interface between the zonal head office and the branches under its purview. Both these attempts confirm the potential for initiating processes of organizational self inquiry by an action researcher. Much more potentially useful intervention could also be identified. Further, the experience led to the following insights into OD processes: (i) the positive role of unions in DD, (ii) Counter bureaucratic social structures for more organic functioning, (m) possibilities of achieving congruence between organisation design and intervention design, and (iv) seeing planning-for-change as a mental projective activity. Reflections on the experience, structure, and process of action-research during the project have led to several insights. (i) Existential commitment simultaneous with a social phenomenological view of organizational reality plunges the action researcher in dilemmas which must be resolved through creative adaptation sustaining the overall process in the direction of desirable values, (ii) In such a process, the action researcher can experience personal development through courageous self-examination and with help of his collaborators in academic and the organisation, (iii) Looked at from a larger perspective including the total organisation, the consultants, and the action researcher, the project can be seen as constituting an effective temporary multi-level action-research system (MARS) which can be replicated in other action-research contexts, (iv) The epistemological value of action-research can be enhanced by becoming sensitively aware of the surprises and unintended consequences of intentional actions. Such occasions lead to new learnings about self, about the setting of action research and about theories of organizational functioning and change.
- Thesis and Dissertations