Organizational Development: What is it?

Given the challenges organizations are facing, what are they doing to ensure success? Some organizations are imposing more controls and becoming more rigid, some are ignoring the changes, and others are becoming more agile and advanced.

To cope with change and develop high performing workplaces, organizations and their leaders should take a long-range perspective. This means creating strategies that are transformational, not merely transactional. It is not enough to hire talented people to pursue lofty goals. To achieve the mission and goals, we have to have a healthy culture where decision-making and problem-solving involve the organization’s deepest levels.

This is where organizational development (OD) enters the stage. To make the leap towards a healthy organization, we need to examine the way we think, plan, collaborate, and evaluate the effectiveness of the whole system.

What is Organizational Development?

Organizational development is a means to bring about complex, deep, and lasting change as well as sustained progress in any area in the organization that needs attention and care. Examples are team effectiveness, leadership coaching and development, and creating a healthy culture. OD is coupled with transactional or strategic business planning.

Organizational-wide learning (synonymous with organizational-wide change and organizational-wide development) is an expansive process. It expands people’s ideas, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. For instance, this may be evident in how leaders live their values and practice behaviors that employees begin to model, ultimately creating the organization’s culture. This kind of learning is farther-reaching than what a strategic plan provides.

Of perhaps most importance, OD accentuates inclusiveness through employee participation in planning, collaborative choices, and implementing new processes. Empowering people is a foundational value of OD. This allows the whole system to be accountable rather than just management.

People are the most vital resource of any organization. A healthy organization means a safe organization – one in which people feel valued, respected, and treated as intelligent, capable human beings. This kind of environment allows people to thrive so that the organization may, in turn, anticipate, adapt, and respond to change.

OD has been rapidly emerging as a leading business advantage. Guiding people successfully, along with managing change, is a requirement for continued success. The field of OD understands that continued success necessitates leadership skills at every level of the organization and that creating opportunities for employees to have their own sphere of influence results in an innovative, engaging, competent workforce.

OD is thus a body of knowledge, an integrated process that enhances organizational effectiveness, facilitates individual development, builds trusting interdependent relationships, and aligns the complex systems within a more extensive system through various interventions and methods.

The discipline of OD diagnoses and creates processes towards a healthy high performing organization. Below are some questions to consider when reflecting on your own organization. They are intended to lend attention to challenges and opportunities that are not evident in financial, operational, and customer service metrics that most organizations rely on.

  • Is communication in our organization balanced? How does information flow?
  • Are relationships in the workplace authentic and trusting?
  • Are intrinsic rewards evident and prominent? Or do we have a parental approach to management?
  • How are decisions made? Who is involved?
  • What gets rewarded in the organizational culture?
  • How would we describe our organization’s culture? Is it in alignment with our espoused values?
  • Are our employees engaged and motivated?
  • How effective is our leadership? What leadership skills are needed in our organization?
  • What are the organization’s strategy, core competencies, and competitive advantage?
  • What does our organization do particularly well?
  • Is our team effective?
  • Is our organization collaborative?
  • What do we want to change?
  • What is our purpose? What outcomes do we wish to reach?
  • Do we have a climate of trust and openness?
  • Do we have high-performing relationships?
  • Do we have high-quality conversations?
  • Are employees empowered to act through engagement?
  • Are people in our organization prepared to support the changes and actions?

This list could certainly go on. The point is that we see organizations as human systems. OD is grounded in understanding such systems as a means for achieving and maintaining success. Employers Council is here to help; please give us a call.