Emil Păun and Anca Nedelcu

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I. 2. Organizational development

This development emerged as a response to the need for an adequate answer to the organizations increasing complexity. It was announced by other social theories on organizations, such as human relationships theory (G. E. Mayo, F. Roethlisberger) and human resources theory (R. Lickert, Mc. Gregor).

These new theories added to the organizational analysis aspects like group dynamics, informal dimension of relationships, working environment and working conditions, degree of satisfaction/ dissatisfaction, extra-pecuniary motivation, need for self-esteem and expression, personal skills, participative management, organizational culture. To put it in one word, we move from an organizational chart to a social chart.

Organizational development tries to provide answers to all problems occurring in organizations. This orientation has various eclectic definitions that have several common elements, represented by what we call basic assumptions:

  • Changes in organization and in human resources in order to improve the life quality of its members, as well as its performances.

  • More flexible and adaptable organizations that contribute to conflict solving.

  • Assisted changes, achieved with the help of specialists called “agents of change”.

  • Directed, designed and anticipated changes with the help of change and development programs. Thus, the change becomes a process conducted by teams specialized in project management.

The common element in these definition attempts is represented by the change and the way of approaching and managing it. The definitions also pointed out the interest for the organization as a whole.

The central concept of this theory is the change, identified as organization development. Still, a certain risk is involved, that of ignoring other aspects and transforming change in a goal in itself or of promoting pseudo-changes.

Nobody questions the need for change in order to adjust organizations to new challenges and increase their performances. This need becomes fundamental in learning institutions for adults where performance is mirrored not only in the degree of adjusting to new challenges, but also in the ability of anticipating and producing changes. The factors generating the need for change are both external, and internal (see annex 1 “Frameworks for change”). Havelock stressed the fact that the real change comes from the inside and moves towards the outside, statement confirmed by the analysis conducted by Crozier on organization members regarded as “agents of change”.

This organizational development theory, when implemented in learning institutions, must take into account their specificity, given that it is based on economic organizations analysis.

Any organization operates in two different symbolic regimes:

  • the instrumental logic (expressing the institutional dimension) and

  • the existential logic (representing the expressive and personal dimension).

The first one can be found mainly in economic organizations, while the existential logic is specific to learning institutions. But more important is the balance that exists here. We include the following visual representation of this balance, specific to managerial activities in an adult education institution (Cohen, Manion, p. 354).



Fig. 2. The role played by the manager of the educational institution

Another visual representation of the same issue from the normative/expressive perspective is presented in fig. 3 (Nuissl, p. 32).



Fig. 3. Differentiation and integrationof individual and organization

Organizational change can be preventive, predictive and anticipatory (before the problem occurs) or corrective (after the problem occurs). Both types of change are important and difficult to achieve, but preventive change is more important from the organizational development perspective.

Preventive change is predictive and anticipatory and keeps the organization safe from troubles and crisis. Corrective change is generated by dysfunctions occurring in organizations. Such dysfunctions have benefic effects as well, by placing us in a space of uncertainty and contingency. Here, the individual’s behavior is no longer subject to strict regulations, thus facilitating the development of an informal and structured organizational environment. These aspects are specific to learning institutions for adults, where this space is created and maintained, representing a mark of organizational identity.

This perspective is important, from the adult education point of view, because it defines individuals as actors in the organization. It also associates the idea that organization progress is generated not only by structural and technical changes, but also by individuals, by their degree of participation, their emotional involvement, their skills and ability to assimilate the values of change. Therefore, the change relies greatly on individuals, on the organization’s human resources, on their ability to “learn” about the change, to perfect. Thus, organizational development assimilated and integrated a new component: staff development.

We can call this new perspective concerning the organization members, considered as actors, “the return of the actor”. The return implies, first of all, his active involvement in the organization, but it can also mean an actor’s creative effort to avoid obstacles that hinder changes. This should represent the individual awareness of the fact that his destiny is the same as the organization’s destiny, and that both are in his control. To quote G. B. Shaw: “A reasonable individual adjusts himself to the world, an unreasonable individual adjusts the world to himself, this is why the entire process depends on the unreasonable individual”.

Generally, organizations must adopt a participative managerial style that, together with a constant and direct involvement of their members in the decision-making process, implies an investment of mutual trust between managers and other members. The trust and mistrust spirals are represented in fig. 4.



Fig. 4. The trust and mistrust spirals


But the great challenge for complex organization management was represented by the ability to manage the contingents and the uncertainties. In this context we are talking about a management that resorts to strategies such as the systemic strategy or, more exactly, the global systemic and paradoxical strategy able to master all contradictory and paradoxical phenomena that might appear within the organizations.

Strategic programming or strategic management (Mintzberg) is related managerial strategies that have the same objectives and also the capacity to react swiftly to various requirements.

The manager has to be strategy specialist rather than a technician and, among others, he needs intuition. The most important issue with regard to the new managerial vision is to involve the members of the organization in the managerial activity and to eliminate in as much as possible the barriers between the management and the executive functions. In fact, this is the very essence of participatory management. It also becomes a circumstantial, adaptable and flexible management with regard to concrete situations, by eliminating pre-established solutions and by resorting to solutions based on reality and accurate data. The efficiency of this type of management generally results in identifying the opposition and obstacles that confront the process of change. These obstacles might be external or internal, subjective and objective.

We are dealing here with two types of change:

  • adoptive change, that occurs from top to bottom in a directed and centralized manner that often ignores the internal part of the organization;

  • adaptive change, based on the intrinsic organizational abilities to change and to adapt to new requirements. It is generally based on organizational culture.

Adaptive change proves to be more efficient as it involves a good analysis and understanding of the social and cultural environment. Organizational culture is the key to a successful change. Thus, the stress moves from a change imposed on us or just occurring to us, to control over the respective change and its variables, especially intrinsic organization variables and abilities. Subsequently, learning organizations undergo a “cultural mobilization”.

Development projects involve changes at two major inter-connected levels – the structural level and the one referring to the behavior of the personnel. No important structural change can be successful if it is not embraced by the personnel. This is why most project promoting change and development include a section focused on staff development that indicates the types of changes and trainings necessary in the respective field.

First of all, people need to assimilate the new values and to put into practice behaviors associated with them. This implies an enormous social and organizational learning effort. All organizational development projects must be based on learning strategies, being ultimately a learning project that involves profound changes in attitudes and mentalities, assimilation of new “collective abilities” (M. Crozier).

In this context, it becomes more and more obvious that success belongs to organizations with a “learning” ability. Today, “learning organization” is a fundamental concept within the organizational development. Although sometimes “learning organization” is considered to be rather a metaphor, the more recent trends confer more and more substance to this concept designating realities that cannot be ignored: the development and the viability of an organization depend on its learning abilities. Of course, the central idea of strategies based on “learning organization” is not a new concept, in fact is well known and widely analyzed in studies referring to socializing and social learning. Nevertheless, within the organizational context, social learning becomes organizational learning, subordinated to its needs, objectives and interests and socialization becomes a process through which the organizational individual is being “produced”.

When talking about “learning organization”, our reference system is not the individual learning within the organization but the organization as a whole. In this case, “learning organization” designates the processes that lead to a well-structured organizational change, by redefining, resizing and restructuring the collective behavior and values. “Learning organization” involves changes that occur not at an individual level but at group level. This kind of learning is a continuous process, whose dynamic is fluctuant.

The analysis carried out with regard to the “learning organization” emphasized two meanings for this concept. The first one designates the organization that does the learning. The second one designates the organizations that promote and provide the teaching. More often than not, these are called educational organizations – schools, universities etc. (M. Leicester). When we deal with adult education institutions both meanings should be taken into account.

The first meaning refers to their capacity to change through “organizational learning” processes (P. Dalin, V. Rust). In this case, “learning organization” must be associated with “staff development”, according to C. Duke (1992). It involves the promotion of change that occurs in the way the educational institutions are perceived and this can be achieved only through a process of development and training of human resources. We are talking here about a “staff development” focused on organizational change, where staff training serves and is subordinated to this objective.

The second meaning, regarding the organizations that promote and deliver teaching is based on the fact that the basic activity of the adult education institutions is learning, but here, instead of organizational learning, we have individual learning, education and instruction.


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