Choosing the depth of organizational intervention: from revisions to reconsiderations
journal contributionposted on 07.06.2017 by Cox, Julie Wolfram
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In his influential work, Choosing the depth of organizational intervention, Roger Harrison (1970) suggested two criteria for choosing the appropriate depth of change intervention: (1) to intervene at a level no deeper than that required to produce enduring solutions to the problems at hand; and (2) to intervene at a level no deeper than that at which the energy and resources of the client can be committed to problem solving and to change. This paper reviews Harrison's work on the concept of intervention depth in the context of three considerations: revisions in his own thinking, empirical case study data, and recent theoretical contributions in organizational studies. Remaining constant across Harrison's writings on choosing the depth of organizational intervention are four basic assumptions: (1) that OD consultants should work with rather than against client resistance; (2) that there is a change agent/client duality; (3) that the individual is a fixed construct; and (4) that the deep is less accessible and more fundamental than that which resides at the surface. These assumptions are critiqued in terms of relevant organizational theory, and several options are given for reconsidering this and other work in the context of later "developments". These options are defined as extension/renovation, partitioning, moving house; and (the preferred option) of restoration or appreciation of a work in its temporal context while recognizing that that context has since changed.