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OD/U3 Topic 3 Intergroup relations Interventions, Large group Interventions

Intergroup relations Interventions

Inter-group team building intervention intends to increase communications and interactions between work related groups to reduce the amount of dysfunctional competition and to replace a parochial independent point of view with an awareness of the necessity for interdependence of action calling on the best efforts of both the groups. Inter-group interventions are integrated into Organizational Development programs to facilitate cooperation and efficiency between different groups within an organization.

Rotating membership: Such interventions are used by Organizational Development change agents to minimize the negative effects of inter-group rivalry that result from employee allegiances to groups or divisions. The intervention basically entails temporarily putting group members into their rival groups. As more people interact in the different groups, greater understanding results. Organizational Development joint activity interventions serve the same basic function as the rotating membership approach, but it involves getting members of different groups to work together toward a common goal. Similarly, common enemy interventions achieve the same results by finding an adversary common to two or more groups and then getting members of the groups to work together to overcome the threat. Examples of common enemies include competitors, government regulation, and economic conditions.

Characteristics of inter-group conflict: Inter group conflicts are characterized by perception of the other as the “enemy”, stereotyping, constipated, distorted and inaccurate communication and stoppage of feedback and data input. Each group begins to praise itself and its products more positively and believes that it can do no wrong and the other can do no right. There might even be acts of sabotage against the other group. Using the idea of a common enemy outside the group that both groups dislike to bring them closer, increasing interaction and communication under favorable conditions and finding a super – ordinate goal that both groups desire. Rotating members of the group, training, etc are helpful strategies that have been used to deal with inter-group conflict

Walton’s approach to third party peace making interventions has a lot in common with group interventions but it is directed more towards, interpersonal conflict. Third party interventions involve confrontation and Walton outlines confrontation mechanisms. A major feature of these mechanisms is the ability to diagnose the problem accurately. The diagnostic model is based on four elements namely the conflict issues, precipitating circumstances, conflict-related acts and the consequences of the conflict. It is also important to know the source of the conflict. Sources could be substantive issues, which is conflict related to practices, scarce resources, and differing conceptions of roles and responsibilities. Sources of conflicts could also be emotional issues, involve feelings between the parties, such as anger, hurt, fear, resentment, etc. The former require bargaining and problem solving. The latter require restructuring perceptions and working through negative feelings. Ingredients of a productive confrontation include the following. Mutual positive motivation, which refers to the willingness on both parties resolve the conflict; Balance of power without any power differentials between the parties involved in a confrontation; Synchronization of confrontation efforts wherein the two parties address the conflict simultaneously; and Differentiation and integration of different phases of the intervention must be well paced. The intervention involves working through negative feelings and ambivalent positive feeling. The intervention must allow sufficient time for this process to take place. Conditions that promote openness should be created. This could be done through setting appropriate norms and creating a structure that encourages openness. Reliable communicative signal refers to using language that is understood by the parties involved in the confrontation. Optimum tension in the situation means that the stress experienced by both parties ought to be sufficient to motivate them but not too excessive. General principles on negotiation involve approaches to people, interests, options and criteria. People have different feelings and perceptions therefore it is important to separate people from feelings. Interest. Looking at party interests provide a vehicle for resolving conflict rather sticking to inflexible positions that entrench the conflict. Options ought to be generated in order to come up with best option for resolving conflict. Criteria for evaluating the success of the intervention ought to be clear and objective.

Large group Interventions

A Large Group Intervention can be used to present, discuss, validate and/ or develop the Learning History. It can also be a powerful method to come to new actions, in real time. I think the combination of the steps of the Learning History, see stages, and one or more events based on principles of Large Group Interventions brings more satisfying results. It creates opportunities to come to new conversations, new actions, strategic choices. This is based on the principle to invite a wide variety of people, if possible everyone who is part of “the system in focus”, and to create a setting that crosses boundaries between hierarchical levels and between teams.

The family of Large Group Interventions comprises a wide variety of methods. Some of them with detailed prescriptions for the design (like the Future Search), some very open (like Open Space) and everything in between.

Large Group Interventions methods that can be of value in a Learning History process are: Open Space, The World Café and Real Time Strategic Change. Those in particular, because they have:

  • Flexibility in format, to fit the process and goals for the learning history
  • Relatively short preparation time
  • Possibility to restrict duration to half a day (no obligation to have one or more time consuming conferences of  3 days ore more)
  • Stimulating conversations, reflections and actions
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