“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
In 1970, an innovative program was launched at BYU to bring together the best scholars and practitioners for leading-edge organizational change. Established within BYU’s Graduate School of Management as the Organizational Behavior Department, it offered an amazing set of courses for undergraduate students, as well as those seeking a Master’s degree in Organizational Behavior (MOB). Our primary emphasis was on teaching and training graduate students to become internal Change Agents in companies across the U.S., and eventually globally. The distinctive competence was Organizational Development, an innovative new field that was emerging at the time, a humanistic process for diagnosing business problems, doing a needs analysis, designing new structures and strategies, building effective teams, and implementing new strategies. These models of change led to greater company productivity and profits, as well as higher worker motivation and fulfillment in the workplace. Top professors were recruited from the best universities throughout America (Harvard, Berkeley, Michigan, MIT, Cornell, Yale, and Stanford) as we ramped up our program to do transformational organizational change. Because of its quality, the MOB attracted many women and minority applicants over the years who often made up 40-50 percent of each new class. Our graduates were then recruited by top schools and Fortune 500 companies. To firms wanting to hire our students, they sought our internal change agents because they not only had practical change skills, but they were deeply grounded in concepts and theories that gave them real diagnostic depth. On the other hand, many of our students went on to do Ph.D. work, not simply because they had an excellent academic understanding of OB, but they also possessed practical, hands-on consulting experience so as to design and carry out what was called Action Research. This hybrid of competencies made the BYU MOB degree one of the highest-ranked and most respected university programs, usually ranking between being first to fourth in the nation.
Faculty in this mid-1980s photograph of the Organizational Behavior Department are as follows:
Front seated (L to R): Bill Dyer, Gene Dalton, Weldon Moffitt, Paul Thompson
Standing (L to R): Chris Meek, Steve Covey, Reba Keele, Kate Kirkham, Bonner Ritchie, Dave Cherrington, Alan Wilkins
Up the stairs (L to R): Lee Perry, Brent Peterson, Gibb Dyer, Warner Woodworth
A major attraction for me to the field of Organizational Behavior (OB) is that a good deal of it centers around issues of personal, group, and organizational change. One of the reasons I believe there is a greater than average Mormon representation in this field derives from the LDS assumption that we can make a better world. Many of us are utopians at heart and believe in the inner potential each human being has to become empowered and improve society. Organizational Development (OD) is a very action-oriented sub-discipline of OB that includes a manager’s personal style of leadership and influence, team-building and effective group processes, as well as change at the organizational level structural change, empowerment of workers, labor-management cooperation, and organizational culture change. Thus, a considerable amount of my research and teaching, as well as professional consulting work, has centered on organizational change.
I’m sure that my own family background has influenced my interest in organizational change. For example, I’ve held considerable anger toward those at the top of corporations as I saw how my father was treated in his workplace, especially when the firm was taken over by an out-of-state conglomerate, downsized, and finally closed. I’m quite sure that experience helped to frame my distrust of management, anger about company takeovers, and my growing passion as a fighter against factory shutdowns.
I have been especially troubled by the degree of managerial ineptness, power-seeking and unethical practices in corporations manifested by disasters at Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Union Carbide plant explosion in India, Arthur Anderson, BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill, Merck’s painful pharmaceutical disaster, and others. The fallout from bad leadership, greed, and incompetence lead to dehumanizing workplaces, exploited employees, and organizational failures. My consulting has sought to change such factors, leading not only to improved performance of the firm but a better quality of life for all participants from the CEO to the floor sweeper. The articles found in the links below convey some of my professional work as a consultant in OD, redesign, implementation, and strategic interventions at various levels of corporations.
“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.” — Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, author
Organizational Change Links
“Until now the philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it.”
— Karl Marx