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The Weisbord Model

The Weisbord Model

Facts About the Weisbord Model1 This model would mainly be used for cause analysis. Marvin Weisbord developed the Total Systems Model to help practitioners visualize the complex interaction between an organization and the rapidly changing socio-technical environment it works within; in other words, how organizations and society influence each other simultaneously. Weisbord examined the relationship between two key elements of organizational life: tasks (the work that must be done) and process (the ways in which the work is accomplished). It is important to notice that the six boxes (purpose, structure, rewards, helpful mechanisms, relationships, and leadership) must be considered within the context of outside forces (a.k.a. environmental demands). This is where the exchange with the rapidly changing socio-technical environment comes in. This model is useful in helping practitioners organize and report the data that we have discovered about the organization (see example given later in this document). Here are some brief points to understand about each box:

Purpose requires an organization to examine and articulate its reason for existence. The two critical factors in this box are goal clarity and goal agreement. In other words, how well are the goals articulated, and to what extent do people understand and support the goals? This is quite similar to the way business analysis is described in ASTDs HPI model.

Structure describes organizational form through which tasks and processes are organized. The central focus is on how work is actually done or not done. There are three main ways to organize: by function, by product, or by a mixture of both (a matrix).

Relationships focus on who should deal with whom about what and what the quality of those relationships is. There are three main types of work relationships: between people, between work units doing different tasks, and between people and the technology they are using.

Rewards focus on motivation and incentive issueswhat form they take and how they are perceived by employees. Helpful mechanisms refer to the policies, programs, meetings, systems, committees, and so forth, that facilitate concerted efforts to meet goals. They include budget systems and planning and control mechanisms. You must be able to determine what these mechanisms are actually used for in order to determine how valuable they are to the organization.

Leadership is intentionally positioned in the center of the model. This is because it takes strong leaders to continually assess and balance the other five boxes. Weisbord brings all of this together in his Matrix for Survey Design or Data Analysis2 (see next page).

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Weisbord model reproduced with permission from Persus. For more information, see M. R. Weisbords book Organizational Diagnosis: A Workbook of Theory and Practice.

The Weisbord Model

Matrix for Survey Design or Data Analysis

Formal System (work to be done) Purpose Goal clarity Informal System (process of working) Goal agreement


Functional, program, or matrix?

How is work actually done or not done?


Who should deal with whom on what?

How well do they do it? Quality of relationships? Modes of conflict management? Implicit rewards What do people feel about payoffs?

Rewards (incentives)

Explicit system


What do top people manage?

How? Normative style of administration

Helpful mechanisms

Budget system Management information (measure?) Planning Control

What are they actually used for? How do they function in practice? How are systems subverted?

Facts About the Matrix

Formal systems look at how the work is supposed to get done in all six categories. Informal systems look at the process of working. In other words, formal systems represent the game plan for getting work done, whereas informal systems represent how the game plan actually gets executed. The Weisbord model is intended to help practitioners assess two important factors: The fit between the organization and its environment The fit between the individual and the organization The following diagnostic questions help practitioners assess two important factors: How big a gap is there between formal and informal systems? (This speaks to the fit between individual and organization.) How much discrepancy is there between what is and what ought to be? (This highlights the fit between organization and environment.)

The Weisbord Model

Example of the Weisbord Model in Action

Here is an example of how the Weisbord model can be used to organize data. The scenario being described is a continuation of the Tech Aluminum example given in Module 2. Notice that there is not necessarily an answer to each question posed. This tool is just used as a guidepost to help you with your analysis. Dont try to force the data to fit into the model. When we last left Tech Aluminum, they were in quite a bind. The company was having trouble keeping up with demand, especially with filling orders for extruded pipes and tubes. They decided that they needed to increase the number of extruded pipes being made per person per day from 125 to 200. After talking with the three exemplary employees who were already reaching the stated goal (200 pipes per day), they discovered three primary barriers to performance: (1) The exemplary performers did not follow all the recommended steps that were given in the machine operating manual; (2) The exemplary performers kept a careful watch on their inventory of raw materials and called days in advance when they dipped below a certain level; (3) The exemplary performers had all been taught by the same employee who has since retired. Their methods were far superior to the methods of most employees on the shop floor. With this in mind, you institute a new set of procedures for making the pipes, and you put the three exemplary employees in charge of supervising everyone else on the new procedures. After all of this has been accomplished, you find that productivity has gone up, but the company still isnt reaching its business goals. Remember that the companys business goals are to go from having 5percent of the market to having 8 percent of the market and from a 1percent profitability margin to a 5percent profitability margin within the next year. Here is how you organized your other data: Weisbord Organizational Box Purpose: 1. What business is Tech Aluminum in? 2. Does a strategic plan exist? 3. What are the organizational values, vision, mission, and goals? Data Collected Tech Aluminum is really a service company that helps its clients get the supplies and services they need to produce their own line of products (cars, gutters, safety devices, etc.). A leadership vision has never been developed. Supervisors talk one way and act another. Several strategic plans exist, but they dont seem to line up very well. Shift from authoritarian to collaborative. Positional powerlittle diversity.

Structure: 1. How does Tech Aluminum divide work? 2. What formal/informal systems exist for identifying expectations for jobs? 3. Does Tech Aluminums structure support its purpose? 4. How does its structure impact the relationship, communication, and processes? Rewards: 1. Do all needed tasks have incentives? 2. How are Tech Aluminum workers rewarded? 3. For what behaviors are they rewarded? 4. What incentives exist for helping people

Managers not rewarding employees. Managers commented that they need help motivating the work force.

The Weisbord Model

Weisbord Organizational Box achieve goals? Helpful mechanisms: 1. Are systems in place to help keep the boxes in balance? 2. What communication processes exist? 3. What performance improvement measures exist? 4. What technology exists? 5. How is coordination of processes managed? 6. What training and career development processes exist to help people achieve goals? Relationships: 1. How is conflict managed? 2. Which technologies are used? 3. How are the relationships in the organization? 4. How can morale be characterized?

Data Collected A management steering committee was developed two years ago to improve quality. Communication is not consistent. Periodic staff meetings are held to discuss negative issues. No training for supervisors or line managers. No mechanisms for employee feedback. No formal performance management system. Strong informal grapevine is used for communication. President believes in participative management. Strong union. President is trying to establish a more positive relationship. Leaders losing credibility with employees. Employees desire more communication from president and other managers. Desire to build skills for teaming and cooperation and interpersonal skills. Hierarchical leadership, but movement toward participative style. No formal leadership vision. No leadership training exists. Leaders perceived as not walking the talk. No mechanism exists for gathering data from work force on leadership issues.

Leadership 1. How well do the organizations leaders understand the impact of the other five boxes? 2. What is the leadership style of the organization (autocratic, oligarchic, democratic, etc.)? 3. Where do the leaders focus most of their intention? 4. Do the leaders model the behavior they value from the work force? 5. Do the leaders have a clear vision of where they want to take the company?