What is Organizational Development?

Organizational development is planned change. It begins when a leader identifies a large challenge or undesirable situation and seeks to manage it. It is a long-term, sustained process that addresses the whole system, not individuals, even though individuals carry out the change. Organizational Development recognizes that when you change one element, you cause a shift in the rest of the system and the goal is to get entire system functioning successfully.

Organizational development seeks to improve both immediate and long term needs: to improve the current functioning of individuals, teams and the whole organization and to teach organizational members how to improve their functioning in the future on their own. From this perspective, planned change is seen as an opportunity, not a threat.

The change process begins with a needs assessment, which can include interviews, focus groups, surveys and benchmarking. Company culture, processes and structures are evaluated. Each is defined below.

  • The company culture includes the values, assumptions, and beliefs that are held in common by organization members. Culture shapes and strongly influences how individuals and groups perceive, think and act. Culture must be altered if permanent change is to occur.
  • Processes are how things get done. They include problem solving and decision-making methods, resource allocation, conflict resolution, allocation of rewards, human resources practices, strategic management, exercise of authority and the continuous development of employees. To improve what gets done, you must improve how things get done.
  • Structure is the wiring that connects everything together. It also integrates tasks to help things function better. Structures are key leverage points for determining how well or how poorly the system functions.

The journey of organizational development includes the following steps:

  • Sensing something is wrong and should be corrected
  • Diagnosing the situation to determine what is happening
  • Planning and taking actions to change the problematic conditions
  • Evaluating the effects of the actions
  • Making adjustments as necessary
  • Repeating the sequence

The relationship between the consultant and the client is collaborative in nature. They partner as co-learners in the identification of problems, opportunities and solutions. The client provides industry expertise, the history and current practices of the organization and the resources needed to implement the change. The consultant provides expertise in organizational change, organizational dynamics and creating structured learning situations in which the client learns to identify and develop solutions. Structured learning includes any of the following: executive coaching, surveys, customized training and team building.