An introduction to public leadership
An introduction to public leadership

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An introduction to public leadership

2.3.1 Organisation development: combining continuous and transformational change

Some practitioners and academics have criticised the Lewin (1947) model for being too simplistic for modern organisations.

In many organisations, there may be multiple changes happening at the same time from different sources (and which sometimes cancel each other out). Dutton et al. (2001) say that often there is not a single change but rather a ‘cacophony’ of changes. This means that part of the role of a leader is to help others understand and pay attention to what are the most important changes and, as far as possible, how they fit together. In the midst of cacophony, where is the tune and what is the rhythm? In fact, understanding the bass-note phases of ‘unfreezing, moving and refreezing’ from Lewin’s work can still be valuable in interpreting, explaining and leading change when there is so much going on.

One way to deal with the complexity of change is to think of continuous but often transformational change as part of organisation development.

One long-standing definition of organisation development is that it is:

an effort which is planned, organisation-wide, managed from the top, to increase organisation effectiveness and health through planned interventions in the organisation’s ‘processes’

(Beckhard, 1969, p. 9)

It has been suggested that organisation development is primarily concerned with the ability of an organisation to renew itself (i.e. its ability not just to adopt change where there is a crisis or external pressure). So there are strong elements of collecting data so as to understand how the organisation and its members and users are currently working, with the aim of using behavioural and improvement sciences to come up with new and creative organisational solutions. It involves an organisational learning approach to anticipating and understanding innovation and change. Organisation development is future-oriented, concerned with increasing abilities to handle change in the future. Leadership is central to fostering a climate of learning in an organisation – learning from past mistakes (rather than ‘shoving them under the carpet’ or creating a ritualistic ‘blame game’), and encouraging team members to be creative and to harvest ideas from other organisations that may help their own organisation to increase its effectiveness in the longer term.

Approaches to improvement and change

In the following video, you will hear an example of organisational improvement and change being implemented in policing. CC Francis Habgood of Thames Valley Police explains aspects of planned changes to organisational structures being led by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

This is a potentially transformational change to the organisation of policing, and CC Habgood explains the careful planning required and stakeholder involvement in that process. However, he also considers how ongoing learning and development work plays an important role in the way the change is led. This illustrates for us how leaders need to attend to technical and human aspects of a change in its planning and execution.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_police_vid_1025.mp4
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I'm actually involved in some work at the moment with a number of colleagues around the country which is looking at levels in an organisation. And if you think about this being a rank-based organisation, and we have ranks that go up from constable up to chief constable, if you had a level within the organisation of decision-making for each of those levels, it can be quite an inefficient organisation, if you think that it has to go through all of those stages. We've been doing some work looking at what the research is around organisational strata.
And I deliberately don't use the term ranks, because this is about levels of the scope of the work, the scale of the work, the time horizon that we might be looking over. So at sort of the lower level in an organisation, you might be looking at sort of what's happening over the next day or two. And moving upwards to the leader of the organisation, should be looking at a time horizon of five years plus. So what's the complexity, what's the time horizon and what's the scale of the work? And what is the level of knowledge and skills needed for each of those different levels.
And most of the research that has been done, and much of it has been done by somebody called Elliott Jaques, suggests that there are five levels in an organisation typical to most police forces. So when you're talking up to probably 20,000, up to 20,000 people with the sorts of work that we do. If you're starting then to talk about international global organisations, you'd probably have more levels than that. But most police forces will have five levels. What we're now doing is saying, OK, let's look at the design of forces and apply that organisational strata work and actually look at how many levels we have.
And we've already done some work in Thames Valley Police where we've sort of said, OK, within particular departments, we've found that actually we've had nine levels. And that's before we get to the executive level. And that then creates additional bureaucracy, time delay in terms of decision-making. So we are trying to flatten the organisational structure. At some point, then, that might have a consequence in terms of the ranks. But I think it's really important to start on the design bit first. It will also have an implication in terms of the people we have, and what we expect of people within those different levels.
And this is not just about police officers, this is about police officers, police staff, and volunteers because actually, at each level, you would have a range of different people. And it's not just about management levels, because you can have different people operating at different organisational strata, some of whom have a line management responsibility for staff, but some of whom are at that level in an organisation because of the level of expertise that they have. So there's sort of a whole piece of work there to be done, which is once you've defined what the organisational strata is, then what people do you want at each of those levels? What powers do they need? What skills do they need?
What educational qualifications do they need? And at each level, it might be that a certain level is a degree-level person. Then moving up to, say, a senior management, that might be more akin to a master's.
--talked about evidence-based practice.
All of that has got to be worked through. And those are your sort of entry points into each of those organisational strata. I think it then will allow us to allow people to come in and out of policing in a much easier way. Potentially, come in as a police officer, potentially, if it suits, then they're not a police officer for a bit. They go out, they go out into a different sector, get some more management experience, and then come back in as a higher level.
So this idea that everybody has to work through from the bottom to the top, as I have done over the last 30 years, is probably not going to be the same in the future.
End transcript
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