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Strategies for Designing Human Behavior Published: Sunday, March 28, 1999 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

Adequate behavior can never be promoted and sustained by ignorance, fear or hindered by knowledge. This is the real challenge when dealing with the design of behavior of individuals, groups and teams in the organization. The study, influence and modification of human behavior, including the consumer, in organizations has come to be termed behavioral sciences or organizational behavior. Some behavioral scientists focus rather exclusively on changing behavior through an important but relatively narrow set of methods: participative decision-making, job enrichment, rotation and enlargement, various forms of awareness training, and the like. A wider perspective takes into account a huge diversity of means by which human behavior can be enhanced, including modifications of organizational structure and technology, organizational goals and culture development, and environmental and demographic properties.

The designer can alter the structure of the organization changing from a functional departmentalization to a divisional or business units form. The shape of hierarchy can be altered and the degree of specialization, formalization and decentralization, increased or decreased. By changing the way people are grouped together, or by changing the access individuals have to decision makers or by changing the mix of the types of people in the organization, major changes can be produced in the motivation to remain with the organization and the motivation to contribute.

A second strategy is that of altering the organization`s technology, the tasks and processes performed in the organization. Time management studies, human engineering, information system technologies, work redesign and rationalization are methods by which tasks performed by individuals can be altered, thereby transforming motivation, interaction between individuals, and other aspects of behavior.

A fourth strategy is one of modifying organizational goals. Top level goals translate into a number of goal-means hierarchies. If a company changes its profit goal from 10 to 20% return on investment, substantial changes will follow in the tasks performed and in the ways the tasks are performed. Such changes will affect human behavior.

A fifth strategy is one of changing the environment of the organization, its vision, purpose or type. If a private company is change into a public company, a non-profit organization into a profit organization, a health care hospital into a teaching and research institution, powerful forces are set into motion that alter patterns of human behavior. Similarly, when an organization shifts its product line or line of services, and thus places itself in a more dynamic or competitive environment, such a condition will also affect human behavior.

The working question (whether the designer is a team, top level executives or a cluster representing different constituencies in the organization, given the state of knowledge about organizational behavior) is: how would the designer unit proceed to shape organizational behavior to reach worthwhile ends? As we shall discuss next week is all about improving performance.

 


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