In the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA), practitioners are taught the seven dimensions written by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968). These pioneers of the field provided the fundamental elements of application of the science of human behavior, guiding our practice and research. In the field of organizational behavior management (OBM), a sub-discipline of ABA, we adopt these dimensions; however, rarely do we read or discuss these 7 dimensions as applied in the workplace setting. After several rounds of brain storming, reading, and writing on the subject of OBM (and of course practicing with clients around the world), we have come up with a summary of an OBM perspective on the original 7 dimensions of ABA. The purpose is simple – to highlight how the original 7 dimensions are absolutely applicable to the world of work, with a twist! We want to engage the OBM practitioners and researchers of the world to see this link and make more of an effort to write about the connection between OBM and our theoretical foundations in Behavior Analysis. In addition, to the broader world of work, we want to highlight how our practice of making a positive difference in the workplace is guided by a high order of principles, namely these 7 dimensions.
Dimension 1: Applied
The original text by Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968) guided us to understand that the science of ABA should first and foremost be applied, meaning working on problems of demonstrated social significance. In the world of work, practitioners and researchers alike should always ensure the work we are doing is applied as well, targeted performance improvement of social significance to all stakeholders to the organization – customers, board of directors, executives, managers, and employees of course. In short, applied is about having a clarity on why the performance change is important.
Dimension 2: Behavioral
Dimension 2 should come as no surprise: it’s behavior. ABA is dealing with measurable behavior. OBM practitioners and researchers are also looking to focus on behavior; however, in the context of the world of work, we look to ensure a clear link between behaviors and business results. Behavior of all involved in achieving the outcome is critical as well, meaning not just the performer of the behavior, but those who influence the performer’s behavior. For example, if we want more sales people to cross-sell, the behaviors do we need from their supervisors, the managers, and the executives becomes a focus to ensure complete alignment of behaviors to achieve desired business results.
Dimension 3: Analytic
The dimension of ABA requiring demonstration of cause and effect of our work is our third dimension, analytic. When we are looking to make any improvement in behavior, our procedures should demonstrate the intended effect. In the world of work, OBM practitioners should be evaluating the solutions to improve behavior change and the business results associated with the behaviors. Throughout an OBM project, the practitioner, along with the client, make data-based decisions, using the information on both behavior and results we are targeting.
Dimension 4: Technological
Our fourth dimension is about being technological. The goal here is to detail our solutions to the point where others can use out procedures to implement the same solution, with appropriate training and resources. In short, the goal of practicing with a lens on being technological is for our clients to have no long term need for an OBM expert. Managers, supervisors, and employees can implement the very solutions we put in place to achieve performance improvement, as well as other OBM practitioners across the globe.
Dimension 5: Conceptually Systematic
The fifth dimension of being conceptually systematic is demonstrating a clear link between science and practice. Here, practitioners ensure solutions are from specific theoretical basis and empirical evidence. Practitioners look to the research to guide the solutions, following thorough assessments and using strategies that are founded in science. For OBM practitioners, this should be no different. Our analyses of areas such as organizational culture and targeted performance deficits require solutions based on sound research, and more so the concepts of principles of behavior analysis. By doing so, we are conceptually systematic in our practice towards making a positive difference at work.
Dimension 6: Effective
Effective is the sixth dimension of ABA, focusing the practitioner and researcher on showing a strong and socially important effect as a result of the solutions implemented. In the world of work, we would demonstrate effective practice of OBM through return-on-investment, along with supportive employee and customer satisfaction. Being effective hits the bottom line of a business, and must be measurable.
Dimension 7: Generality
Our final dimension is equally important: the dimension of generality. The focus of this dimension is how solutions are designed from the beginning to be applied in new settings and continue after the solution had formally ended. What does this mean? In the workplace, if I implemented a solution in one department or one business unit, and it is successful, could I implement it in another? Will an employee or supervisor generalize their skills to other behaviors, in other contexts? In short, the OBM practitioner looks to design solutions in order to replicate its success, creating generality of the solutions and more importantly the positive impact.
Source Reference: Baer, D.M., Wolf, M.M., & Risley, T.R. (1968). Some current dimensions of applied behavior analysis. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 91-97.