Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

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Invited Symposium #281
CE Offered: BACB
International Invited Symposium - Total Contingency Integration: Behavioral Systems in OBM
Sunday, May 25, 2008
4:00 PM–5:20 PM
International North
Area: OBM/TPC; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Timothy D. Ludwig (Appalachian State University)
Discussant: Dale M. Brethower (Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora)
CE Instructor: Timothy D. Ludwig, Ph.D.

OBM could be criticized for being dominated by micro-level analyses focused on employee behaviors and local interventions such as goals and feedback. While this approach may demonstrate the effectiveness of ABC's to impact important behavioral indicators of performance, OBM often does not take into account the fact that these behaviors occur in the context of greater organizational systems. Indeed, OBM interventions end up being demonstrations that are not often integrated into the overall system. Thus, many die out as soon as the researchers or consultants leave. We miss the bigger picture. Deming and Skinner were speaking the same language. Deming said that 80% of employee performance is due to the system. Its time for OBM to better integrate the entire organizational system into its performance solutions. This invited symposium features three distinguished systems thinkers within behavior analysis who will address how OBM and other specialties of ABA can benefit from a systems approach.

Survival Contingencies for Organizational Behavior Management
Abstract: Where are we, OBM practitioners in large-scale, sustainable change in the corporate world? Even though several behavior analysts have been successful at large scale interventions, why as a group, haven’t we been noticed or haven’t had a significant impact in the business community? Why does the demand for OBM practitioners remain low or almost non-existent in the market? Why hasn’t the accelerated growth in the treatment of autism driven the demand for OBM practitioners? We are too few and progressing too slowly to be noticed and to make a difference. Although, the OBM network membership has grown 2.6 times since 2000, it remains with about 250 members. The OBM submissions to the ABA annual convention have averaged 51 in the last 14 years, remaining comparatively lower to other areas. Specialized degree programs in OBM are a hand full at the most. I believe these issues are not due to lack of marketing but rather to substance and systems design. Although we are very good at behavior change, altering the behavior of a relatively small number of individuals typically does not have an impact in the larger system where the target behaviors take place. Although we know about behavioral maintenance, designing systems that focus on the long-term adaptation of our interventions to the evolution of the greater systems has not been our primary interest. We need more than a tool kit of behavioral contingencies; we ought to understand and manage metacontingencies of the larger systems to distinguish ourselves. Furthermore, the application of behavioral systems can help OBM survive, grow and compete in the business world as an area of application of our discipline.
Dr. Maria E. Malott earned a Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis from Western Michigan University in 1987. Since 1993 to the present, she has served as Executive Director and Secretary Treasurer of the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABA International), as well as Secretary Treasurer of the Society for the Advancement for Behavior Analysis. She is a fellow of ABA International and received the 2003 Award for International Dissemination of Behavior Analysis and the 2004 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Organizational Behavior Management. She is an adjunct faculty member at five universities and has collaborated with 33 universities around the world. She has authored and coauthored numerous articles and two books, including Paradox of Organizational Change (2003) and presented nearly 200 papers and workshops in 17 countries throughout North America, Latin America, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Past experiences include her role as Vice President of Manufacturing for a plastic production company in the Midwest and managing her consulting company dedicated to process improvement and organizational management for nearly two decades in a variety of industries, including service, manufacturing, retail, education, and government. She has done organizational management work in public administration, the private sector and for educational systems.
The Vulnerability and Robustness of Systems Properties
INGUNN SANDAKER (Akershus University College)
Abstract: Individual behaviour may have great impact on the organizational level of performance. This is however not necessarily so, since one common feature of what we may refer to as systems, is that its properties will be maintained over time, even though individuals may be replaced by new members of the system. The interdependencies both within and between systems calls for analysis of both the functional relations and the structures (within and between systems) that maintain behaviours described as distinct properties of a system. The process of selection within and between systems may be described in terms of vulnerability and robustness of systems properties. This calls for another level of analysis. Even though we may say that systems are “made up of” behaviour, the complex relations of contingencies maintaining systems behaviour may not be captured within the framework of individual behaviour alone. Organizations may be viewed as complex adaptive systems. The unit of analysis is an observed functional entity - interacting with the ”bigger system” of which it is a part. The unit is defined both by its function and its structure, which calls for an analysis both with respect to its functional match with the complexity of the “bigger system” and to the character of the relations between the interacting agents. Measuring the impact of the structure in systems in terms as density, connectivity and centrality may help us understand the vulnerability (extinction) as opposed to robustness (maintenance) of systems, independent of its changing members and taking the systems level into account.
Dr. Ingunn Sandaker is professor and director of the research programme “Learning in Complex Systems” at Akershus University College, Norway. She received her Ph.D in 1997 at the University of Oslo with a grant from The Foundation for Research in Business and Society (SNF) at The Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH). The thesis was a study on the systemic approach to major changes in two large companies; one pharmaceutical company and one petroleum company. During The Norwegian Olympic Committee’s preparations for the games in Sydney and Nagano, she was head of evaluation of a programme aiming at extending female participation in management and coaching. Serving as a consultant on top level management programmes in Norwegian energy companies, her interest has been focused on management performance within a systems framework. Trying to combine the approaches from micro-level behaviour analysis with the perspective of learning in complex systems, she is managing a post-graduate masters program in behaviour analysis.
OBM Redux: The Need for a Systems Perspective
WILLIAM B. ABERNATHY (Aubrey Daniels International)
Abstract: The traditional OBM intervention model was derived from experimental research and early clinical applications. The experimenter-subject and later the therapist-patient interaction translated into the supervisor-subordinate interaction in organizational applications. The underlying assumption has been that improving this interaction is the ultimate goal of OBM. This model, if successfully applied, creates a paternalistic management group that overlooks and often underutilizes the individual employee’s creative capacity or ability to respond effectively to contingencies without close supervisor guidance. Putting aside this issue, most practitioners would agree that improving and sustaining critical employee behaviors is, or should be, the test of the effectiveness of an OBM intervention. For this objective, the dyadic ‘ABC’ model isn’t so much technically incorrect as it is woefully incomplete and insufficient. The presenter will describe a systems view of OBM that addresses a results focused process for selecting which behaviors to manage and when; a balanced measurement tool; an expanded view of improvement strategies that includes Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Industrial Engineering; an integration of OBM with conventional human resource functions including job definition, selection, training, evaluation, promotion, and compensation; and a transition strategy designed to replace traditional bureaucratic management with a free operant, open system workplace.
Dr. William B. Abernathy taught psychology at Ohio University and received his doctorate in I/O Psychology from the Ohio State University. He then joined Edward J. Feeney and Associates as a consultant where he worked in performance improvement with Victoria Stations Restaurants, Sovran Bank, and the Franklin Mint. In 1981 Bill founded Abernathy & Associates, which specialized in assisting client organizations with performance measurement and feedback, performance pay, and performance improvement. Over its twenty-five year history, Abernathy & Associates consulted with over 160 organizations of all types and sizes. In 2005 Bill sold his company to Aubrey Daniels International where he is the Vice President of Performance Systems. Bill also joined the psychology faculty at Southeastern Louisiana University where he will coordinate a new masters degree in I/O Psychology with an emphasis on performance systems. He is the author of two books - The Sin of Wages and Managing Without Supervising.



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