Organizational Change in the Human Services

Books

Rebecca Ann Proehl

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • SAGE Sourcebooks for the Human Services Series

    Series Editors: ARMAND LAUFFER and CHARLES GARVIN

    Recent Volumes in This Series

    HEALTH PROMOTION AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL edited by NEIL BRACHT

    FAMILY POLICIES AND FAMILY WELL-BEING: The Role of Political Culture by SHIRLEY L. ZIMMERMAN

    FAMILY THERAPY WITH THE ELDERLY by ELIZABETH R. NEIDHARDT & JO ANN ALLEN

    EFFECTIVELY MANAGING HUMAN SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS by RALPH BRODY

    SINGLE-PARENT FAMILIES by KRIS KISSMAN & JO ANN ALLEN

    SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT: A Family Systems Perspective edited by EDITH M. FREEMAN

    SOCIAL COGNITION AND INDIVIDUAL CHANGE: Current Theory and Counseling Guidelines by AARON M. BROWER & PAULA S. NURIUS

    UNDERSTANDING AND TREATING ADOLESCENT SUBSTANCE ABUSE by PHILIP P. MUISENER

    EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: A Guide for EAP Counselors and Managers by GLORIA CUNNINGHAM

    COUNSELING THE ADOLESCENT SUBSTANCE ABUSER: School-Based Intervention and Prevention by MARLENE MIZIKER GONET

    TASK GROUPS IN THE SOCIAL SERVICES by MARIAN FATOUT & STEVEN R. ROSE

    NEW APPROACHES TO FAMILY PRACTICE: Confronting Economic Stress by NANCY R. VOSLER

    WHAT ABOUT AMERICA'S HOMELESS CHILDREN? Hide and Seek by PAUL G. SHANE

    SOCIAL WORK IN HEALTH CARE IN THE 21st CENTURY” by SURJIT SINGH DHOOPER

    SELF-HELP AND SUPPORT GROUPS: A Handbook for Practitioners by LINDA FARRIS KURTZ

    UNDERSTANDING DISABILITY: A Lifespan Approach by PEGGY QUINN

    QUALITATIVE METHODS IN SOCIAL WORK RESEARCH: Challenges and Rewards by DEBORAH K. PADGETT

    LEGAL ISSUES IN SOCIAL WORK, COUNSELING, AND MENTAL HEALTH: Guidelines for Clinical Practice in Psychotherapy by ROBERT G. MADDEN

    GROUP WORK WITH CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS: Prevention and Intervention in School and Community Systems by STEVEN R. ROSE

    SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE WITH AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN: The Invisible Presence by JANICE M. RASHEED & MIKAL N. RASHEED

    DESIGNING AND MANAGING PROGRAMS: An Effectiveness-Based Approach (2nd edition) by PETER M. KETTNER, ROBERT M. MORONEY, & LAWRENCE L. MARTIN

    PROMOTING SUCCESSFUL ADOPTIONS: Practice With Troubled Families by SUSAN LIVINGSTON SMITH & JEANNE A. HOWARD

    STRATEGIC ALLIANCES AMONG HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES ORGANIZATIONS: From Affiliations to Consolidations by DARLYNE BAILEY & KELLY McNALLY KONEY

    EFFECTIVELY MANAGING HUMAN SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS (2nd edition) by RALPH BRODY

    STOPPING CHILD MALTREATMENT BEFORE IT STARTS: Emerging Horizons in Early Home Visitation Services by NEIL B. GUTERMAN

    ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE IN THE HUMAN SERVICES by REBECCA ANN PROEHL

    FAMILY DIVERSITY by PAULINE IRIT ERERA

    Copyright

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    Acknowledgments

    This book has been a pleasure for me to write; I had the luxury of dedicated time to write it and the support of friends and colleagues throughout the process. I am indebted to all who helped me and would like to express my gratitude to the following:

    • Saint Mary's College of California for my sabbatical, which gave me the gift of time and focus to research and write this book.
    • Michael J. Austin for his role in reconnecting me to my social worker roots and for encouraging me to write on organizational change.
    • Armand Lauffer for his thoughtful and constructive assistance at every stage in the writing process.
    • The friends and colleagues who read from one to many chapters of my manuscript: Garnetta Annable, Elaine Hamlin, Roger Lum, Betty Malks, Mike McElwee, Jeri Mersky, and Kathleen Taylor.
    • Betty Malks, Jamie Buckmaster, and the Santa Clara Department of Aging and Adult Services staff for their willingness to participate in Operation Delta—even though none of us knew how this project would turn out.
    • Kathleen Rose for her ongoing and continued support, care, and encouragement.
    • Kitty Liles, my first supervisor, who taught me that it is OK, even desirable, to care deeply about those I serve.
    • My mother, Marion B. Proehl, who modeled for me and thus taught me to have compassion for those less fortunate than I.

    Introduction

    In this day and age, if you are not confused, you are not thinking clearly.

    Burt Nanus

    There is a growing awareness that human service organizations must make fundamental changes in the way they are structured and managed. The advent of welfare reform predicted the future: Agencies must operate more flexibly and creatively to ensure their survival, be more responsive to their internal and external clients, be more accountable for providing high-quality and client-focused services, and manage these changes with smaller budgets. This is true for both public and nonprofit human service agencies, although the challenges are often greater for the former. For instance, David Osborne, coauthor of Reinventing Government, suggested that public agencies must replace

    large, centralized, command-and-control bureaucracies with a very different model: decentralized, entrepreneurial organizations that are driven by competition and accountable to customers for the results they deliver. Industrial-era bureaucracies must be restructured so that they can handle the problems of the information age. (Posner & Rothstein, 1994, p. 133)

    Those individuals working in public agencies recognize that Osborne's mandate is easier said than done. For much of the past century, individual flexibility, creativity, and accountability were frowned upon in public human service organizations. Efforts were geared toward creating organizations in which rules and regulations supplanted individual discretion because discretion, it was argued, “provides a cover for abuses of the public trust, and even when exercised with integrity it smacks of authorizing appointed officials to make policy” (Altschuler & Parent, n. d.). These efforts of building in safeguards against individual judgment were understandable against the backdrop of the widespread abuses during the early industrial era. It further made sense throughout much of the 20th century when public sector stability was the norm, and it was possible to spend months or years to develop volumes of regulations and guidelines to create the standardization and consistency that has become the trademark of government organizations.

    Today, however, public agencies exist within constantly changing social and political environments. This is often true for nonprofit human service organizations as well because the public, legislators, courts, and service recipients place varying expectations on them. The organizations themselves experience frequent changes in leadership and often have multiple, even conflicting, goals. In such circumstances, no program, policy, procedure, or guideline can be viewed as permanent. Therefore, rather than focusing on standardization, “a premium must be placed on the organization's capacity to engage in continuous learning and adaptation” (Cohen & Austin, 1994, p. 15).

    Human service agencies are further challenged because legislation mandates major changes in the way human services are provided. However, enormous skepticism exists among human service workers about these imminent changes. Some workers contend that keeping up with the current job demands precludes incorporating new approaches into their work. They do not want more responsibility in their jobs, nor do they envision how they could take on more authority, given the pressing demands of their present work. Still others do not believe the legislated changes best serve their clients or communities.

    Furthermore, some human services workers suggest that current legislative and financial incentives discourage innovation, and with fiscal and political conservatism on the rise, they find themselves struggling to balance their desire to meet the needs of their clients while sustaining the financial viability of their agencies (Cameron & Vanderwoerd, 1997). The increasing trend toward conservatism also leads many workers to feel extremely vulnerable in their jobs, and they protect themselves by adhering closely to regulations and procedures.

    As an additional challenge, the cultures of human service organizations have become more standard and less flexible as a means to maintain quality control. Although the principle of quality control is laudable, in practice, standardized policies, administrative controls, and service delivery procedures make it almost impossible to experiment with new and innovative ways of providing services to clients. The mentality of standardization is deeply entrenched in human service organizations and becomes a strong impediment to change—even when the staff recognizes the need for change.

    Finally, researchers have found that many agency personnel have little faith that client independence and autonomy—the ultimate goals of many reforms—are achievable outcomes. Underlying many social service interventions is the belief that clients are not competent and are therefore not likely to become responsible and independent citizens (Cameron & Vanderwoerd, 1997). A major shift in this perspective is required before human service workers can institute the changes that are called for by many of these reforms.

    Saddled with more authority and responsibility than they might want, not believing in the mandated changes being legislated, contending with diminishing resources, and facing increasingly difficult societal problems, many human service workers are skeptical about change. Even organization leaders are often daunted by the scope of the changes their agencies are experiencing. Many do not understand the complexity of the change process, nor do they have a clear methodology for leading change. Ironically, many also fail to understand the human factors involved in change. With the increasing demands on human service agencies, extensive barriers to change, lack of organizational leadership, and in many cases, skepticism and apathy on the part of the organizational members, it is no wonder that many human service agencies are struggling.

    Although the constraints are compelling and the limitations are real, there are numerous examples of successful change efforts in human service organizations, ranging from adopting decentralized and team-based organizations to radically altering existing procedures and processes. In addition, there is extensive literature addressing ways to change large bureaucratic, public sector organizations that can be applied to human service organizations. There is also comprehensive information available on changing private sector establishments. Although at first glance, human service and private sector organizations seem quite different, in fact, Robertson and Seneviratne (1995) found that the strategies and processes for successful change transcend organizational type. Osborne even believes that the same tools that have helped transform corporations—employee empowerment, measurement, and internal competition—can be employed to change government as well (as cited in Posner & Rothstein, 1994).

    The focus of this book therefore will be to present a model of organizational change, building on the lessons learned from the public and private sectors but tailored for human service organizations. The book will provide the readers with the conceptual knowledge to understand the complexity of organizational change while grounding them in the practice of leading change. Examples of successful change projects within human service, public sector, and private sector organizations will be examined, and those factors that contribute to their success identified. The reader will understand the dynamic environments in which human service agencies exist, the power of organizational cultures, and the nature of organizational change, including its impact on organizational members. By becoming more aware of strategies for leading change within union environments and examining the political nature of organizational change, readers will be more knowledgeable about two of the challenges that human service organizations face.

    Emphasis will be placed on understanding the skills and tools involved in successfully leading change within human service organizations. Topics such as creating a sense of urgency for the change, building a coalition of support, clarifying the change mandate, assessing the agency's readiness for change, and dealing with the human factors will be examined in detail. Case studies, organizational assessments, inventories, and exercises are included to help the readers adapt the change-management model to their organization.

    Finally, the book presents an optimistic, though pragmatic, view about organizational change within human service institutions. In addition to being more informed about the complexity of organizational change, readers can also anticipate becoming more hopeful that positive change can occur within human service agencies. They certainly will have a model of organizational change that, if applied, will increase the likelihood that their change efforts can be successful, thereby helping to create a new perception about human service agencies' flexibility and readiness to change.

    RebeccaA. Proehl
  • Epilogue

    Of all the topics in this book, is there one lesson that stands out above the rest? Is there one lesson that is pivotal—one on which all the other topics depend? Many potential candidates come to mind. The successful examples of innovative projects demonstrate that public agencies and human service agencies in general can be changed. Recognizing how dispirited many employees are in human service agencies, offering such hope is an important message of this book. The conceptual topics regarding the nature of change and the ways that systems change are important lessons as well. Too frequently we are overwhelmed and confused by the change process and are unaware of the systemic nature of change. We often look to individuals (the director) or groups (the management) to explain why a particular change initiative failed instead of examining larger structural and systemic factors. We must think differently about how change occurs within organizations, and systems theory offers a promising way of helping us do that.

    Distilling the works of numerous theorists and integrating their work to develop the Eight-Step Change Management Model is certainly an important focus in the book. The model, with the many suggestions and cases, can serve as a blueprint for introducing change in organizations, and if successfully accomplished, all stakeholders, especially the clients, will be well served as a result. The latter chapters that deal with the complex topics of bringing about change in union environments, building collaborative relationships with other organizations, and enhancing one's political skills are keys to leading change in the next decade. These are the challenges that confront leaders in human service agencies daily and are often the source of their greatest frustrations. Although these subjects are quite complicated, the initial introduction to these topics can inspire readers to continue their discussion and exploration.

    However, there is another topic that stands out as the most important lesson of this book. At first glance, this lesson is an obvious one, but on closer examination, it is filled with subtleties and intricacies often overshadowed by the obvious. It is simply this: Even in the face of the many challenges that I have discussed throughout this book, change really can be managed. I realize that many factors are not in your control including changes in legislation, the needs of clients, political leaders, and the like. I also am aware, as discussed in the chapter on chaos theory, that there is not always a direct connection between cause and effect, and many times, chaos and conflict occur even as leaders are trying to manage change.

    Even so, leaders and other change agents can substantially influence (manage, if you will) the success of a given project if they believe in the change management process. The key, however, is that they must be committed to achieving the outcomes of the project rather than content to merely complete the activities of a project. This requires that change agents recognize that implementing the activities in a project plan is not the same as managing a change. Activities are merely steps to achieve an outcome, but if the activities become ends in themselves, then change agents lose sight of the purpose of the change.

    Change occurs most frequently when the project outcomes become the yardstick to judge the project's success, and until these are accomplished, the change agents' work has not been completed. Efforts must be made to ensure that the organization members understand the reasons for the change, know what is expected of them, are provided with the skills they need, are consulted along the way, are held accountable for the change, and are rewarded for the change. These steps increase the likelihood that organization members will successfully change, but they are not failsafe. They are only meaningless activities if the outcomes are not achieved. New strategies and approaches must be tried until the outcomes are accomplished.

    I am familiar with an educational institution in which the dean and chair of a department wanted the faculty to incorporate technology more into the curriculum. A Web site was developed that included references for students and faculty, and faculty were trained to use a software program that enabled them to communicate electronically with students as well as post their course materials on a Web site, set up interactive quizzes, host chat rooms, and the like. After a year's period, however, very few of the faculty had changed their way of teaching although enormous efforts had gone into training them. In this instance, as in many cases, training alone was not sufficient to change the faculty's behavior. Little effort was made to gather feedback from the faculty during the year, many of the faculty did not understand the overall value of technology, no sanctions were established nor were any rewards, and examples of successful uses of the technology were not communicated to the faculty. In fact, few of the steps and suggestions presented in the Eight-Step Change Management Model were followed.

    This situation is similar to the one discussed in Chapter 10 in which a coalition team was attempting to increase the coordination and communication between two departments. They set up improved systems for coordination, created forms to facilitate greater communication, and hosted a highly successful training session to outline the changes. However, when these activities were completed, the team made no efforts to determine if the organization members were actually coordinating more. Once they concluded their activities, they did not follow up to see if they had really achieved the original outcomes of the project. As Wilbur (1999) writes, “Many change initiatives are designed after the ‘Good Luck, Charlie’ method where there's an initial explosion of activity and support, and then, assuming the change will stick, people are on their own. Unfortunately, change doesn't work that way” (p. 13).

    In the future, all organization members will be affected by organizational change—either as leaders, members of coalition teams, or followers. It is an inevitable way of life for today's organizations, and the more organization members can learn about how to successfully manage change, the less disruptive and traumatic change will be. It is easy to look around you in your organizations and say that it is difficult, if not impossible, to successfully manage organizational change. It is equally easy to equate managing organizational change with activity planning and implementation. You now know, however, that they are not one and the same. Furthermore, you have been introduced to many examples of organizational change within human service agencies as well as a model of how to lead change. Armed with this information, you are now challenged, regardless of your role or title, to put into practice the art and science of leading and managing change. Only then will our organizations be able to face the challenges that we will encounter in the next decades.

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    About the Author

    Rebecca Ann Proehl, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of the Management Program at Saint Mary's College of California. She is the former Dean of the School of Management at John F. Kennedy University. She was selected as the first female dean at the School of Management and at that time was the only female dean in any of the Bay Area Schools of Business. Before her career in higher education, she worked as a social worker with emotionally disturbed children, delinquent adolescents, and welfare recipients. She also served as a training specialist with the Virginia Department of Corrections and as program administrator with the Veterans Assistance Center.

    Dr. Proehl has extensive experience in teaching, training, and consulting with 111managers and executives in varied settings: Advanced Micro Devices, Domaine Chandon, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Delta Dental of California, Saint Anthony Foundation, and Santa Clara Department of Aging and Adult Services. At Saint Mary's College she teaches Sustaining Work Team Effectiveness, Leading Organizational Change, Management and Organizational Theory, and Managing Diversity. She has been on the faculty for the Executive Development Program sponsored by the Bay Area Social Services Consortium and the University of California since 1995 and is the author of numerous articles on organizational change and cross-functional teams. She has a master's degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University and a doctorate in organizational psychology from the Wright Institute in Berkeley.


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