Isn’t organisation development just a waste of time and money?

What is organisation development and how can it help your business? Here is a simple overview and our answer to the question. With thanks to Koru for the inspiration.

No clear direction, management imposing ever tighter controls, increasingly disengaged work force, high levels of politics, stress and sickness, or poor productivity? Your organisation is unhealthy, and heading for a breakdown. If you recognise any of these symptoms, then you might want to visit the organisation development (OD) ‘doctor’.

What is OD?

OD is a holistic approach to improving the effectiveness of your organisation that focuses on aligning the organisation’s direction, often expressed in your vision or strategy, with how it is designed and structured, and its culture and values.

The three key elements:

  1. A clear Vision/Strategywhere are we heading and why?
    An inspirational, clear and well communicated vision and strategy plays an important part in guiding and prioritising effort in your organisation.
  2. Organisation designwhat tools do we need to get there?
    Organisational design includes its structure, processes and systems. These are all interconnected and need to be considered and designed as a whole to best support achievement of your vision and strategy.
  3. Culture/valueshow do we need to behave to get there?
    The existing culture and values of your organisation determine how its people behave with each other and in the delivery of your products and services. This can be the most challenging aspect to understand and change.

Each component plays a vital part in the success of your organisation and issues with any of them or misalignment between them can result in poor performance, disengagement among your staff and loss of business with your customers.

For example, if you are a highly innovative tech company with a key value of ‘discipline’, you would probably benefit from flexible systems that support collaborative working and a relatively flat hierarchy with highly motivated self-directed work teams.

If your company is focused on operational excellence and delivering a fixed range of services or products at minimum cost on the other hand, you would probably require less-flexible processes to minimise variability and a more compliance-based culture to ensure that any changes are carefully managed.

Let the doctor guide your organisation back to health

You can see that any misalignment or issues among the three components can potentially generate serious and complex issues. As its leader, operating as an intrinsic part of the system itself, you can easily become blind to the dynamics within your organisation and struggle to understand what is going on or find solutions.

Coming from outside your organisation OD practitioners often have a clear and objective view of what is going on. They are like doctors who can diagnose the problems and help you develop solutions for them. When more complex issues come up, then much like your doctor, your OD practitioner can refer you to other specialists. More importantly, they can give you advice and guidance on how to change practices and behaviour so that you, your whole organisation and everyone who works there can lead a healthier life and avoid problems arising in the future.

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