BRENNER, PAUL FREDERICK; DSW

                         YESHIVA UNIVERSITY, 1980

                         SOCIAL WORK (0452)

                         The purpose of this research was to gain an increased understanding of the processes by which
                         innovation is introduced, developed and managed. Because of the scope of this task, the issue was
                         explored within the more manageable context of a single case illustration. The example selected was
                         command consultation, an innovative service function mandated to practitioners in the U.S. Army's
                         Mental Hygiene Consultation Service. Command consultation, as its name explicitly states, is a
                         consultation service to commanders, rather than a treatment service to the individually impaired soldier.
                         Command consultation was widely acclaimed to be worthwhile, and for the past thirty years, has been
                         presented as a viable strategy for assisting commanders in dealing with dysfunctional soldiers. However,
                         the successful implementation of the process never matched the widespread acclaim that it received
                         from Army social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. This study dealt with the incongruity of
                         command consultation's far reaching, stated appeal to practitioners and its historical record of
                         unsuccessful implementation. Accordingly, the primary interest of this study was exploring the adoption
                         and diffusion process of command consultation. The underlying objective was to illustrate the more
                         widespread problem of how innovations in general may gain acceptance and spread or how they may be
                         rejected and fade out of existence. The research methodology focused on the history and events
                         surrounding the development of command consultation. A grounded theory approach was utilized to
                         develop concepts and process information about command consultation directly from those individuals
                         who had knowledge of its background and experience with its use. A literature search was conducted
                         and a preliminary, exploratory study was undertaken consisting of informal inquiries, phone calls,
                         correspondence, cassette tape recordings, personal interviews, and a pilot survey. After assessing the
                         preliminary data, a full scale study was initiated. Screening procedures were used to identify a sample of
                         Army social workers who were the early innovators and practitioners in the command consultation
                         movement. The procedures yielded a sample of 163 informed witnesses who were included in the full
                         scale study. Statistical procedures used to analyze the data included content analysis, measures of
                         central tendency, frequency distributions, cross-tabulations, and factor analysis. Among the major
                         findings, respondents reported high levels of individual involvement, success and satisfaction with their
                         own use of command consultation; however, they perceived that the involvement of their colleagues
                         was very limited. Respondents also agreed that the ways in which they learned about command
                         consultation were largely informal, sporadic, and experiential in the absence of a formal, systematic
                         approach. Additional findings dealt with factors which interfered most strongly with the practice of
                         command consultation. These factors were (1) the limited experience of mental health personnel, (2) the
                         lack of continuity of the process resulting from rotations of duty, reassignments, etc., (3) ideological
                         commitment of mental health professionals to individuals rather than to the organization or larger systems
                         of the Army, (4) the lack of compatibility between command consultation and client needs, (5) the
                         complexity of command consultation processes per se, and (6) lack of consensus about what command
                         consultation really was. Data also revealed that the extent to which command consultation was formally
                         institutionalized as a mental hygiene function was quite limited. Its concepts and operational procedures
                         were never well developed and commanders' support of the process was often lacking. An important
                         finding which had significance for social work practice was that the diffusion of command consultation
                         affected and was affected by the status of social work as a profession. In conclusion, parallels were drawn
                         between the command consultation movement and the recently developed Organizational
                         Effectiveness program now currently practiced in the Army. A series of recommendations and
                         suggestions were also presented.


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