What exactly is organizational development and why is it important?

The term organizational development is used a lot. But what does it mean? Does it mean developing the organization? Or does it mean developing the people that make up the organization? Or, does it mean developing systems and processes? Does it mean something else entirely?  Then again, what are organizational development programs? And how do you discern top organizational development programs? This short article will answer these questions.

According to Wikipedia, organizational development refers to:

Organization development is the study of successful organizational change and performance. Organizational development emerged from human relations studies in the 1930s, during which psychologists realized that organizational structures and processes influence worker behavior and motivation.

Organizational development is therefore about changing the organization to improve its performance. But it covers three key aspects:

  • People,
  • Structures and
  • Processes

Top Organizational development programs that assist people to be more productive by doing things faster, with more skill, with better quality, and so on, is one dimension of the definition. An organization’s learning and development programs are a subset of organization development.

They should be in sync with the changes the organization is attempting to make to be more efficient and effective. In other words, all learning programs should be part of the overall organizational development program.

In terms of organizational structures, the key question is: What is the best way to structure the organization to maximize performance? This dimension of organizational development is concerned with such matters as lines of reporting, self-directed teams, and job specification. These matters have a bearing on organizational performance.

Processes refer to the way business is conducted. Processes include systems and procedures. The key question here is: Are your systems, processes, and procedures the most efficient and effective they can be to run the business? It might also be about eliminating processes rather than adopting them.

Most organizations, particularly in the public sector, have arguably too many processes. Part of a top organizational development program would be to carry out an audit of all systems and processes in the business.

At WINNERS-at-WORK, we take a holistic approach to organizational development. Our organizational development program considers the people, structures, and processes. This maximizes the potential for change and performance in the business.

Nothing is off limits. And a thorough analysis and series of recommendations are made for your consideration and priority. We hold your hand in the implementation process.

Top Organizational Development Programs

The primary objective of top organizational development programs is to improve performance by improving the business’s capacity to handle its internal and external functioning and relationships. Managers working within the system can often be too close to obtain a clear perspective of how things could be changed or improved.

In terms of the people dimension, apart from assisting individuals to improve their performance, organizational development is also interested in improving interpersonal and group processes. How can communication be more effective? How can the business deal with unique problems and circumstances with their current people, structures and systems?

How the organization is lead is also critically important in this regard. Leadership development programs be a subset of organizational development. Without good leadership, nothing else matters. Leadership is the catalyst to change and performance.

In terms of methodology, action learning is the preferred approach adopted by WINNERS-at-WORK. Action learning essentially means that after something has been implemented, it is monitored to determine its impact. If it is working, then it is adopted. If it is not working, the input is either modified or replaced.

Organizational Development Programs

Learning is critically important in any organizational development process. Organizational development is not a static change management initiative. Development comes from incremental change. This is what is often referred to as ‘trial and error.’ Getting organizational members to evaluate change is the best course of action.

Our job is to facilitate a process when employees and managers can assess the changes for themselves and suggest modifications on the basis of that assessment.

In sum, organizational development is based on systems thing. System thinking is an approach that considers the whole organization and all its elements.

This includes external stakeholders, customers, employees, and all the supply chain arrangements and systems associated with the business of the organization. Top organizational development programs do use a systems approach for change and performance.

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