Diagnostic Methods, Challenges in Diagnosis

Diagnostic Methods

Once a diagnostic contract is agreed upon with the client system and the desired outcome is identified, the next step is to plan the diagnosis. According to Alderfer and Brown, 1976, diagnosis is also a shared process and is about establishing a common understanding of the client organization and to decide on the basis of this common understanding, the nature and direction of change that is to be implemented in a planned manner.

It is important to note here that any organizational diagnosis work generates a lot of data and ‘planning the diagnosis’ actually refers to planning how data would be collected, analyzed and shared with the client system. Planning for the diagnosis is in a way is the kick-off initiative for the entire planned change process that is to be embarked upon by the client organization.

Planning also refers to choosing a diagnostic method of data collection i.e. purposeful and directed towards the right kind of source, to throw up the right kind of data that could be analyzed to study the right dynamics which the client system and the OD consultant needs to study to arrive at the desired outcomes.

The significance of a diagnostic plan lies in it being the foundation of the intervention process. Needless to mention, better the plan, sharper the diagnosis and more effective the interventions.

Until now, the following models are introduced for organizational diagnosis:

  1. Force Field Analysis (1951)
  2. Leavitt’s model (1965)
  3. Likert system analysis (1967)
  4. Weisbord’s six-box model; (1976) defined by focusing on: One major output, exploring the extent in which consumers of the output are satisfied with it, and tracing the reasons for any dissatisfaction.
  5. Congruence model for organization analysis (1977)
  6. Mckinsey 7s framework (1981-1982)
  7. Tichy’s technical political cultural (TPC) framework (1983)
  8. High-performance programming (1984)
  9. Diagnosing individual and group behavior (1987)
  10. Burke–Litwin model of organizational performance and change (1992)

All models are based on open system (Open System Theory (OST) : From the General System Theory is defined by Von Bertalaffy (a system complex of interacting elements), Katz and Kahn (1978) apply the concept Open System Theory (OST) looks at the relationship between the organizations and the environment in which they involved. This focus reflects on organization’s ability to adapt to changes in environment conditions (with or without the need for information processing (Boulding, 1956; Katz and Kahn, 1978).

  1. Falletta’s organizational intelligence model (2008)
  2. Semantic Network Analysis (2014)(by Zarei, Chaghouee and Ghapanchi)

The Consulting Process

The organizational Diagnostic phase is often integrated within an overall OD process, commonly called ‘a consulting process’. An example of such a process is:

Entry → Diagnosis → Action Planning → Implementation → Termination[3]

As the second phase in the consulting cycle, it is also the first fully operational phase of the consulting process or cycle. The purpose of the diagnosis is to examine the problem faced by the organization in detail, to identify factors and forces that are causing the problem and to prepare the collected information to decide how to implement possible solutions to the identified problems.

The diagnosis of the problem is a separate phase from the solutions themselves.

Challenges in Diagnosis

Since diagnosis is the process of understanding how the client system organization is functioning currently and this understanding helps in determining the interventions to achieve the desired change outcomes, it is important that:

  • Diagnosis has to be a collaborative process – Any unilateral approach to diagnosis is never recommended. It is prudent that the OD consultant along with the key stake holders of the client system jointly approach the organizational diagnosis process. Correct diagnosis is an output of the collaborative approach of the client system as well as the OD consultant to identify the areas of change for design outcomes
  • That diagnosis does not necessarily mean finding faults – It needs to be noted that in the context of Organization Development, the process of diagnosis is to be taken in the spirit of ‘understanding for further development’ and not necessarily making a list of things in the organizations that are faulty.
  • The OD consultant needs to be careful that diagnosis is not a disciplinary activity for punitive measures. It is rather a deep dive into the organization to identify the scope of further improvement in the existing aspects of functioning and identify those areas which may have the potential to be changed for better organizational performance.
  • Focus remains on processes and not on persons. Since the spirit of diagnosis is development, the OD consultant needs to be alert and not play into the hands of the client system by focusing too much on individuals and not on institutional processes. The idea of diagnosis is not to zero upon ‘Who’s not Working’ but to examine ‘What’s not working’.
  • Systemic Challenge – Whatever be the size of the organization and irrespective of the complexity of the processes, organizations have to be viewed upon as Systems. Often, an error of judgement is made by focusing on one part of the organization in isolation of other parts. It needs to be understood that diagnosis must encompass understanding each part of the organization and how the different parts of the same organization, seemingly different, are linked or likely to be linked causing the effects as experienced by the organization today. Scope of alignment of the several parts of the organization into a systemic entity must not escape the diagnosis.
  • Ethical Challenge – The OD consultant must have his ethical radar on full alert to ensure that any proposal on diagnostic approach offered by the client system is not an imposition to steer the whole process into something of its own personal choice in the name and garb of organizational development and change management systems. The ethical challenge here for the organizational consultant is to ensure that the client system does not use the OD consultant and the OD endeavor to drive goals of personal interest.

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