Enhancing Organizational Awareness: An Analysis of Whole Scale(TM) Change

By Arena, Michael J. | Organization Development Journal, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Enhancing Organizational Awareness: An Analysis of Whole Scale(TM) Change


Arena, Michael J., Organization Development Journal


Abstract

This article presents a case study analysis of the Whole Scale(TM) Change methodology's ability to enhance organizational awareness and information sharing. These research findings demonstrate the methodology's ability to enhance the level of organizational awareness, which includes a heightened understanding of organizational strategy, clarity around common group struggles, a unified view of the need for change, and an appreciation for the various roles across the larger organization. The case analysis also demonstrates the ability of the Whole Scale(TM) Change process in breaking down traditional organizational boundaries through information sharing. The space created within the events enabled system members to truly share. It provides the forum to initiate and mobilize an organization towards establishing system-wide solutions verses the traditional piecemeal approach, through the process of sharing information and creating greater organizational awareness.

Change-radical and amorphous-has become the standard for organizations today (Conner, 1992; Kotier, 1996; Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, Roth, & Smith, 1999). What has not changed is the necessity of engaging people in the change process to enhance their commitment (Axelrod, 2000). Organizations need robust change methods that promote system-wide information sharing and enhanced organizational awareness in an accelerated fashion (Passmore, 1988). One possibility is large group interventions. In their book Large Group Interventions (1997), Billie Alban and Barbara Bunker state that "large group interventions for organizational and community change are methods for involving the whole system, internal and external, in the change process" (p. xv). They evaluate 12 major large group interventions, which include such models as the Search Conference, Whole Scale'" Change (Real Time Strategic Change), Future Search, and Open Space Technology. Bryson and Anderson (March/April 2000), claim that these methods are faster than traditional approaches and build participant commitment and knowledge across the whole system. Boyett and Boyett (1999) describe the advantages of such conferences to include disseminating more information, developing greater buy-in and commitment, providing better coordination, and driving change faster. However, much of the evidence surrounding these claims is anecdotal (Bunker & Alban, 1999; Weisbord & Janoff, 1995; Polanyi, 2001). This article presents a case study analysis within a major publishing organization of one of these approaches, the Whole Scale(TM) Change methodology.

Whole Scale(TM) Change

Whole Scale(TM) Change methodology is used in a variety of applications such as strategic planning, work design, and culture change in which the whole system engages in the change process at a specific point in time (Jacobs, 1994). Kathleen Dannemiller created the largescale approach during an experience with Ford Motor Company in the 1980s. These events have included as many as 2,000 people in the change process. Whole Scale(TM) Change is a model that can be used for many purposes at various levels and at different stages of a change process. The primary intent is to create "critical moments" across the entire system and develop a "one-brain, one-heart" organization (Dannemiller et al., 2000). The intention of this research project was to evaluate the ability of the Whole Scale(TM) Change methodology in driving the strategic planning process for a large metropolitan newspaper company by enhancing organizational awareness through the process of sharing information.

Methods

Data collection vehicles included event observations, participant interviews, structured surveys, and objective performance evaluations. Over 80 people were engaged in the data collection process as part of one-onone interviews or during one of eight focusgroup sessions. The research focused on three primary stages that included organizational context, event observation, and post-event evaluation. …

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