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  • What is the Healthy Organization? Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment:A Research Partnership
  • Charles B. Lowry (bio) and Paul J. Hanges (bio)

The issues of organizational diversity and climate are of major concern to many organizations, a fact reflected in the extensive literature about both. This interest is based on the simple, perhaps intuitive, notion that we should find ways of measuring organizational climate because climate will have an impact on organizational goals—from service to products. The University of Maryland (UM) Libraries, as a team-based learning organization, is committed to addressing the issues of organizational diversity and climate through its assessment activities. Key to this is the libraries' commitment to service excellence at all levels in order to build a culture of shared vision, values, and leadership.

We observe, though, that organizational health, as a goal in itself, is a chimera. On the other hand, attending to it as a continuum can assure that the organization remains fundamentally sound. It is part of the larger concept of "continuous organizational development."1 The concept of the "healthy organization" has emerged and been validated in a major research project that began at the UM Libraries late in 1999 and today involves multiple members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The goals of the research are to establish that healthy organizations are more effective, to establish the scales that measure health, and to develop strategies for improvement. It is clear, too, that the findings for research libraries have much broader implications that may be applied to other types of organizations.

Some background is useful. The UM Libraries' change process began in 1996 and has affected every member in the organization. These changes include the development of a new service philosophy, formation of teams, data driven decision-making, and the creation of a comprehensive learning program. Like any organization, we have experienced uneven development in achieving our goals of organizational improvement and [End Page 1] found the need to test the extent to which our efforts have been successful. Since 1996, several assessment processes have been conducted, resulting in additional organizational changes (see Two such assessment activities are the Individual-Team-Organization (ITO) Survey and the Organizational Culture and Diversity Assessment (OCDA).

The ITO Survey is a commercially available instrument that looks at three components of an organization: individual members in the organization, teams that make up the organization, and the organization itself. First administered in 1998, the survey has been repeated at intervals, ensuring the libraries' ability to gauge the transition to an effective team environment over time. Areas to improve have been noted and changes made with the analysis of data for each survey period. Gauging the extent of continuous improvement is a critical element of this assessment tool.

The OCDA was developed specifically for the UM Libraries in partnership with the UM Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. The OCDA has led to a research partnership with the goal of providing a Web-based tool and service offered by the Association of Research Libraries ( The OCDA addresses issues of climate for diversity, teamwork, learning, and fairness—key elements of a successful institution. Results of the 2000 OCDA not only offered insight in the areas of work and diversity climate and culture for the UM Libraries but also provided a baseline against which the effectiveness of its interventions could be determined. In 2004, a revised OCDA survey was administered in the UM Libraries. The new instrument included measures of climates for teamwork and continual learning, current managerial practices, and the individual's attitudes and beliefs, and provided an updated snapshot of the diversity and organizational climate of the libraries. This early experience is reported on in the proceedings of the September 2006 Library Assessment Conference on building effective, sustainable, and practical assessment.2

Transforming the culture of a library organization is not an easy task. It involves personal development and mastery as well as continual clarification and maintenance of the larger vision for change. Immediate identification of "enablers" and "barriers" to assessment is critical in determining success strategies as well as knowing...


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