Interview methods of data collection for organizational diagnosis purposes are used mostly when an organization engages outside consultants for development purposes. Sometimes interview methodology is also used by internal teams and/or change agents. Interviews have the major advantage of providing an opportunity for face-to-face interaction with the participants of the organization. . In organizational diagnosis studies, interviews may form the first step as well as the last stage of diagnosis. They could be exploratory interviews, hypotheses testing interviews, change inducing/idea testing interviews. There could be individual interviews or group interviews. Some details of interview methods of organizational diagnosis are presented.
PURPOSE OF INTERVIEWS
Interviews can be used the following purposes:
Sensing the organization and identifying general areas of strengths and weaknesses for further diagnosis.
Probing for details and getting deeper insights into a given problem or issue bothering an organization.
Testing out the success potential of new ideas/actions/decisions and assessing organizational preparedness e.g. the attitudes of people to an open appraisal system, how do they react to computerization of personnel information system and their reactions to a newly proposed reward system.
Generation of ideas for strengthening the existing systems and processes as to improve the suggestion scheme and to improve work environment.
Assessing the general level of health and climate of the organization using structured or semi-structured interviews/questionnaire.
FORMS OF INTERVIEWS
The interviews may range from highly structured forms to totally unstructured form. Normally unstructured interview methodology is used for exploratory diagnosis purposes. In exploratory diagnosis the interviewer may simply open the interview session by saying that he is trying to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and the interviewee may talk about anything he sees as the strength or weakness. In such cases the interviewee may reveal a lot of significant information about strengths and weaknesses. The issues he chooses to speak themselves may reveal the concerns of employees. Unstructured interviews also could be used for probing in relation to specific issues. In such probing every question asked by the interviewer depends on the responses given by the interviewee earlier. Unstructured interviews require skilled interviewers.
Semi-structured interviews may consist of a list of pre-determined set of questions the interviewer has with him and seeking answer to these questions..
Highly structured interviews are almost like questionnaires. They may infact take the form of verbal administration of questionnaires or asking a series of open- ended questions which are pre-determined. These forms of interviews are useful if the respondent cannot answer questionnaire or if the respondent is likely to give better quality responses in interview settings than in writing, idea generating, influencing, probing for more insights etc.
When there are a large number of employees to be covered for diagnostic study, it is quite common practice to use group interviews. For group interviews the interviewer invites a group of people and interviews them. The group interviews may be conducted department wise or grade-wise across the departments. Respondents may feel inhibited to give their views in front of others and specially seniors or their supervising officers. Hence if group interviews are planned care should be taken to compose the groups in such a way that the interviewees feel free to give their opinions, reactions etc. Normally respondents of the same grade/background from different departments are assembled for group interviews.
For group interviews some extra effort needs to be made by the interviewer to create an open climate so that the interviewees give diagnostic information freely. The size of the group should not be too large for group interviews. About 6-8 is a good size for interviews. Normally some participants tend to speak more in such interviews. In such cases the interviewer should occasionally ask those who are not talking, to express their points of view. Group interviews could also be used to select a few employees for in-depth interviews.
Normally in any organization, once it gets known that employees are being interviewed in groups, much of the inhibitions get removed and employees start giving a lot of information.
INTERVIEWS FOR ORGANISATIONAL DIAGNOSIS
In organizational diagnosis although the top management who goes to the consultant may give all information, the other interviewees may not have the same need as the top management and hence may not be willing to volunteer information. Alternately they may distort data depending on their attitudes to top management, the consultant and the study. Therefore it is very important for the interviewer to establish credibility and build rapport.
Before interviews are conducted it is useful and even necessary for the top management to legitimize the diagnostic study by informing all those who are to participate in it. Such a legitimization could be done either through an announcement giving details of the study, its purposes, the interviewing team members and the help they need from the employees etc.
After such a legitimization, in the interview process itself the interviewers should clarify once again the purposes and assure the confidentiality of responses. Aggressive postures trying to impress the interviewee by talking about the closeness of the interviewer to top management, lecturing, demanding, criticizing others, expression of interviewer’s opinions even before the interviewee starts etc. are behaviors that hinder rapport building. Starting with general and non-threatening issues, talking about the background of the interviewer himself, getting to know’ each other, pleasantries etc. help in establishing rapport.
Using open. ended questions, information seeking questions and suggestive questions helps in probing and discovering many unknowns. Sometimes during the interview process paraphrasing the responses given by the interviewee may help in improving the listening process and understanding process.
A peaceful atmosphere always enhances the quality of data collected. In case of probing interviews the interviewer should constantly guard himself against the danger of putting ideas into the mind of the interviewee. Normally after interviewing a few, the interviewer starts developing hypothesis. Presenting these hypotheses impatiently to the subsequent interviewers may endanger the diagnostic process.
ANALYSE AND USE INTERVIEW DATA
Interview data are relatively more difficult to code and analyze as compared to questionnaire data. Since interview data are qualitative data, after a few interviews are completed it may be useful to develop a coding/analysis scheme. It is useful to categories all responses into those coding categories. Number of person giving a particular response, pointing out a particular weakness, or suggesting a particular hypothesis etc. can be indicated.
The greatest advantage of interviews is the amount of insight it can provide into organizational processes. Many hypotheses can be generated and tested spontaneously during interviews.
Interviews can be used to study any variables/dimensions for diagnosis. All the variable units can be studied using interviews. More softer the dimensions more useful are the interviews. Organizational norms, values, management styles, communication, decision-making, job-involvement, team work etc. are the variables that are normally studied using interview methodology.
From among the variables that come up during interviews, any significant variables ad-hocism, insecurity, long range planning, lack of co-ordination etc could be taken for an in-depth analysis.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWS
The following is the list of questions that are commonly used in interviews:
1) What is your job? How much satisfied are you? What contributes to your satisfaction? What contributes to your dissatisfaction?
2) What are the strengths of this organization? What is going on well and what good things exist in this place?
3) What are some of the weaknesses in this organization? What improvements can be made?
4) What factors provide you satisfaction?
5) What things frustrate you? What are some of the irritants or dissatisfying things?
Next to questionnaire, interview is a potential tool for organizational diagnosis. A lot can be achieved in a short period of time using this method. Interview skills are very crucial for an effective use of this method. Unstructured interviews are useful for general diagnosis as given in the illustrative example. Structured interviews are useful for in-depth explorations. Interviews are used in combination with other methods.
1. Yin, R. (2003). Case Study Research, 3rd ed. ,Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, p105-261