Conferences and seminars are both excellent networking events as you get to meet a lot of people. They are also opportunities to hear some good thought-provoking conversations. I had one such exchange last year while talking to a professional colleague and friend. Somebody new came in to our conversation and introduced himself to us only to find out that he and my friend were both part of the same extremely large organization and were part of two different entities.
Question to my colleague after the customary business card exchange: “What is your role in our company?”
Answer: “I am an Organizational Development (OD) manager.”
Response: “Ah, so you are in the training department.”
Reaction: “NO, I AM NOT. I am in OD. As you know, training is a different department.”
This emphatic exchange prompted me to explore where we are in the field of OD. It also made me realize that we really do need to get back to basics.
OD is a much used and often abused term which creates a variety of reactions among organization members. The most tactical and basic reaction is that it is often associated with Training. At other times, it can create confusion with another OD, which is Organization Design.
Yes, a degree in Human Resources and associated fields educate practitioners in the theory and field of OD. However, the reality is that the maturity of organizations, and the impact we create with our roles in organizations, determines the application of it.
Let’s go back to basics on OD.
One classic definition of organization development comes from Richard Beckhard’s 1969 Organization Development: Strategies and Models:
“Organization Development is an effort (1) planned, (2) organization-wide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organizations “processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge.”
There are a few things we need to remember in order to make OD truly real and impactful:
- A) Dynamic process: OD is an evolving process and it is critical for us to remember that it is not a static checklist of things that need to be done. The effort to increase organizational effectiveness and health is a continuous exercise. The frameworks and processes of OD theory are often only methods to provide structure and rigor to ongoing initiatives. The process below is a good example of the dynamic process of events that may happen in a program roll out.
source: Western Washington University
- B) OD and Change: OD interventions are usually put front and center when there is a major Change Management initiative being proposed. While OD and Change Management do go hand in hand, change is constant in today’s environment. Therefore, the role of OD is not a transactional solution, but a continuous value proposition for organizations.
- C) Value Based Practice: The core tenant of Organizational Development practice is that it is a value-based practice. It is essential for OD practitioners to ensure that values such as Inclusion, Authenticity, Empowerment, Sponsorship, etc. are all explicitly practiced in all stages of work.
- D) Facilitate Contracting and Marketing: Two of the core competencies of a practitioner are the ability to contract with stakeholders and also market OD efforts. Firstly the OD practitioner has to be able to actively contract with various leaders and stakeholders across the organization’s need, and ensure clarity in the rationale for ongoing initiatives.As defined by Beckhard – “Managed From the Top” clearly states the need to ensure that senior leaders support actively and visibly sponsor OD initiatives. The role of the OD professional is to facilitate the sponsorship conversations with leaders, and is a critical competency that needs to be developed. Additionally, once the support and sponsorship is secured, it is now time for the practitioner to market the initiatives (he second competency) in the organization and gain support from employees across levels. The value of group engagement is critical and, again the role of the practitioner as a facilitator cannot be emphasized enough
- E) Defining Expectations: Success of any OD initiative is directly linked to the ability to identify and define clear desired outcomes and ensure that the expectations of the leadership are met. Clear desired outcomes need to be determined before the commencement of any program, especially if there are long term
- F) Feedback and Measuring Success: In order to ensure impact of the initiative and any associated learning solutions, OD practitioners can deploy ROE (Return of Expectations) methodologies to ensure that results can be measured. To do this successfully, practitioners need to have strong data measurement and analysis skills – a competency often overlooked in HR and OD departments.
Organizational development is an extremely complex humanistic process. It has the potential to add business value to the organization and increase its effectiveness on an ongoing basis. This potential value is in our hands as OD practitioners, and we are only able to maximize our relevance and value proposition if we do this right. OD is NOT training. Training and development is an outcome of an OD intervention.
Let the real OD please stand up and take its place again where it rightfully belongs.