A case study of a Future Search Conference and the ripple effect on organization learning and development
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This is a case study of the impact a future search conference had on Gas Distribution and Delivery, a business within the Public Service of New Jersey utility company as it made a major transition from a regulated monopoly to a competitive, deregulated business. The study found that problems addressed were both technical and socio-technical. The data displayed four "organization ripples." The first ripple shows how large-scale change methodology can align diverse stakeholder groups, faced with complex challenges that require full collaboration to solve. This was a challenge for a traditional utility company that was very hierarchical and operated under a traditional command-and-control culture. The second ripple addressed the need for a new business model predicated on empowerment and the need for both efficiency and effectiveness of execution. Formal systems must be congruent with organization culture if new technology is expected to have a significant, positive impact. The third ripple focused on the importance of organization culture and its influence on collaboration in the wake of deregulation and changes in state regulation that remove historical barriers from competition and open up possibilities for competitive business--leading to an emphasis on customer response time. The fourth ripple highlighted how an organization can address its supervisors' perception of work, and how an empowered workforce can create a more integrative business strategy, where employees work together as one, not as many individual "tribes" within an organization. The concept of organization "fit" is explored as competitive advantage. The study covered a ten-year span from 1997 to 2007. The initial work of the Future Search Conference covered a period of time from approximately 1997 to 2000, creating the foundation of all four ripples. In addition to documenting the conference, itself, the researcher also was able to interview the management team responsible for these initiatives in 2007 and to document the impact of the change effort over the entire ten-year period. Implications are drawn about what role organization development may play in assisting 21st century companies with their learning and developmental needs.
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