Updated: Apr 15, 2021
Organizational Development is too often ignored, misunderstood, and underfunded until companies have reached a crisis and leaders finally acknowledge a toxic culture, management scandals, or perpetual high turnover and realize they need help.
The challenge is that in these situations, organizational development work becomes much more difficult and urgent which in turn makes it more costly. All the energy required to undo damage of toxic work cultures takes time and focus away from innovation and progress and the actual work you're trying to accomplish.
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What is Organizational Development?
When consultants talk about organizational development, they are talking about intentional strategies to influence how employees experience their work. This process helps businesses become more adaptive, innovative, and productive. It requires examining and modifying all aspects of an organization, from talent management (hiring, promoting, & retaining staff), processes, and policies, to physical workplaces, collaboration tools, and communication strategies.
Whereas leadership development focuses on providing management with new tools and skills to adapt, and team development focuses on all employees, organizational development is centered around the processes and structures inside the company that create your work culture. For example, managers and team members may need to learn how to better give and receive feedback to one another, but in addition to personnel skills, you need to build clear, transparent, and consistent mechanisms in your team to collect feedback. These could be anonymous feedback boxes, annual reviews, quarterly check-ins or "innovation sessions."
These three processes combined transform the way teams work together. Instead of scrambling to put out fires, take preventative steps to increase team success and satisfaction.
A Better Way to Work
Plan Ahead | Start by allocating a budget for OD work in your organization. Invest in organizational planning and strengthening leadership right from the start. This may require getting buy-in from leadership. This helps reduce resistance on your team because it moves from reactive to strategic. The team as a whole can think about ways they want to grow and evolve.
Regular Maintenance | Make this a regular part of your workplan and build in consistent opportunities to share feedback, raise issues, and highlight areas you may want to work in. This should become a normal process
Small level intervention | As issues arise in discussion, address them early and create an action plan or process for how to see the work through.