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opportunity for their organization


Entering and Contracting

learning objectives

Describe the issues associated with entering into an OD process.

Describe the issues associated with contracting for an OD process.

The planned change process described in Chapter 2 generally starts when one or more managers or administrators sense an

opportunity for their organization, department, or group, believe that new capabilities need to be developed, or decide that performance could be improved through organization development (OD). The organization might be successful yet have room for improvement. It might be facing impending environmental conditions that necessi- tate a change in how it operates. The organization could be experiencing particular problems, such as poor product quality, high rates of absenteeism, or dysfunctional conflicts among departments. Con- versely, the problems might appear more diffuse and consist simply of feelings that the organization should be “more innovative,” “more competi- tive,” or “more effective.”

Entering and contracting are the initial steps in the OD process. They involve defining in a preliminary manner the organization’s problems or opportunities for development and establishing a collaborative relationship between the OD practitioner and members of the client system about how to work on those issues. Entering and contracting set the initial parameters for carrying out the subsequent phases of OD: diagnosing, planning and implementing changes, and evaluating and institutionalizing them. They help to define

what issues will be addressed by those activities, who will carry them out, and how they will be accomplished.

Entering and contracting can vary in complexity and formality depending on the situation. In those cases where the manager of a work group or department serves as his or her own OD practitioner, entering and contracting typically involve the manager and group members meeting to discuss what issues to work on and how they will jointly meet the goals they set. Here, entering and contracting are relatively simple and informal. They involve all relevant members directly in the process—with a minimum of formal procedures. In situations where managers and administrators are considering the use of professional OD practitioners, either from inside or from outside the organization, entering and contracting tend to be more complex and formal.1 OD practitioners may need to collect preliminary information to help define the problematic or development issues. They may need to meet with representatives of the client organization rather than with the total membership; they may need to formalize their respective roles and how the change process will unfold. In cases where the anticipated changes are strategic and large in scale, formal proposals from multiple consulting firms may be requested and legal contracts drawn up.




This chapter first discusses the activities and content-oriented issues involved in entering into and contracting for an OD initiative. We will focus our attention on complex processes involving OD professionals and client organizations. Similar entering and contracting issues, however, need to be addressed in even the simplest OD efforts, where managers serve as OD practitioners for their

own work units. Unless there is clarity and agreement about what issues to work on, who will address them, how that will be accomplished, and what timetable will be followed, subsequent stages of the OD process are likely to be confusing and ineffective. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the interpersonal process issues involved in entering and contracting for OD work.

4-1 Entering into an OD Relationship An OD process generally starts when a member of an organization or unit contacts an OD practitioner about potential help in addressing an organizational issue.2 The organi- zation member may be a manager, staff specialist, or some other key participant; the practitioner may be an OD professional from inside or outside of the organization. Determining whether the two parties should enter into an OD relationship typically involves clarifying the nature of the organization’s current functioning and the issue(s) to be addressed, the relevant client system for that issue, and the appropriateness of the particular OD practitioner.3 In helping assess these issues, the OD practitioner may need to collect preliminary data about the organization. Similarly, the organization may need to gather information about the practitioner’s competence and experience.4 This knowl- edge will help both parties determine whether they should proceed to develop a contract for working together.