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Sample Projects

Case Example - Organization Design

Minimize risks associated with implementing new work processes critical to software product development

Client Situation[1]: The client company has enjoyed a strong market position and financial success for many years by offering reliable and innovative software products to corporate tax customers. The challenge for the company, as they moved into new and more lucrative markets, was to build more complex software products that met customer requirements the first time, and did so faster than their competitors in the new markets. Process consultation supported senior leaders as they designed the new work processes. Given the high stakes nature of the process changes, they wanted to minimize the risk of a costly "implementation surprise."

Diagnosis: From previous OD interventions, this company was known to have a highly collaborative and respectful culture. Decisions were made after considerable discussion from all primary and secondary stakeholders. At the same time, it was critical in this instance to put the new processes in place quickly in response to market pressure. This cultural foundation combined with an urgent need to know the efficacy of the new work processes indicated a need to engage in an Action Research (AR) project. AR is predisposed to yield practical results through collaboration and participation of people who will be affected by the results. As such, it was well suited to the task of testing and refining the new work processes prior to wide-spread implementation.

Action Planning and Implementation: The project was conceived and conducted in five sequential steps: 1) Define the new process roles and responsibilities, 2) Construct a measurement framework to test the process design, 3) Test the process design in using real market requirements in a managed setting, 4) Collect and analyze process and outcome data and, 5) Determine findings and modify the process design. Twenty-two participants engaged in the AR project for 2? months. Outcome and process measures were taken periodically to conform to the measurement constructs and data collection requirements set out in the research design. Test data collected during the "live" portion of the project included: perspectives from process designers and process implementers, measures of process effectiveness and efficiency, as well as social and cultural acceptability ratings.

Results: The subjective and objective results of the action research project are detailed in the journal reference provided. The results fall into two primary categories: 1) findings that help to answer the original research questions and what further inquiry those answers may generate, and 2) the "discoveries" or unanticipated outcomes that the action researchers themselves uncovered during their participation in the project. An example of each is provided below:

  1. Implementation risks identified as a result of the AR project included: solution requirements documents lacking specificity, deficiencies in service provider skill sets to assume an internal consultant role and, over-reliance on formal meetings to resolve software requirement issues (versus networking and informal meetings in preparation for formal meetings).
  2. The project itself had a "change management effect." was a discovery that had tangible benefits for the client company in that participants became advocates for the new work processes with their non-participating peers.


[1] This OD intervention is fully elaborated in the April, 2011 edition of People & Strategy.