Organizational Development - Getting to High Performance on Purpose

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Note: This post will kick off a 3 week series on organizational development; what is it, why is it important, and how can it work for you and your situation? By its very nature, this is a bit complex, too; so hang in there with me and all will be revealed in the coming chapters. First things first:

What is it?
Here is the academic definition: "Organizational development is a deliberately planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization's effectiveness and/or efficiency and/or to enable the organization to achieve its strategic goals."

I believe it is much more than that!  For me O.D. is an all encompassing learning and development system intended to change the basics of beliefs, attitudes, values, and the structure of the current organization to better absorb changes that are coming to every organization and business in the world every day. These changes would include disruptive technologies, shrinking or growing market opportunities, and the ensuing challenges and chaos.

What it is not: In the strictest terms, it is not training, personal development, team development or team building, human resource development, learning and development or a part of HR, although it is often mistakenly labeled as one or some of these. Organizational Development is a system which is all about change; so, as such, they certainly involve people - but OD mainly develops processes, systems and structures. The primary purpose of O.D. is to develop the organization; get the gears of process and systems to mesh; not to train or develop the staff. NOTE: If the preceding is confusing, let me put it this way - the focus of O.D. is on the methods (the how), processes, etc.; the training and development of staff is the important outcome (the why) of O.D. that contributes to the overall success (the what) of the organization.)

Where do we start? The organizations' leadership will need to answer the following questions to begin the 4 Step process:

  1. How are we doing right now?
  2. Where do we want to go?
  3. What's keeping us from getting there?
  4. How do we start?

What does a complete Organizational Development System look like? Many organizations will establish a "Development Center" as the hub of an O.D. system and create all of the necessary spokes of the system supported by the Center. In addition, all pieces are necessary to support the integrity of the whole wheel.

Hopefully, by now, I have given you a good overview of what Organizational Development is, is not, how to start, and what it looks like.

Thank you to my advance readers; Scott Boie, Richard Reardon, and Mike Ware for helping me to clarify the difference between methods and outcomes.

Next week: Why is Organizational Development important to you and your organization?