Organisational development – we’ve all heard of it, but how many of us (outside of the HR/CIPD arena) really know what it means? It’s another one of those jargonistic phrases that’s thrown around with the assumption that we all know precisely what we’re talking about.
The problem is, when it come to organisational development, there are a lot of different definitions. Type in a simple internet search and you’re likely to spend the next two hours wading through ever more complex articles highlighting theories, models and case studies.
Technically, organisational development is:
the planned, comprehensive and systematic process aimed at improving the overall effectiveness of an organisation. As such there is a strong focus on company behaviour, human resource development/people management and organisational change.
Feel clearer now?
Another problem with trying to define what organisational development (OD) is, is simply that it means different things to different organisations, and the people behind them. Like company culture, there is no “one size fits all”, or even way to achieve what you’re looking for.
We all talk about the difference between working in a business, and working on a business. Whilst the working in will ensure that the job gets done, working on allows you to move forward. It allows your business to grow, develop, adapt and change. It can better allow you to predict opportunities and challenges, and handle them effectively.
In short, organisational development is the process (or series of processes) that get you from where you are today, to where you want to be in the future. They’re even essential to just ensuring that there is a future for your business.
How does organisational development work?
Just because you know where you want your business to be, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy getting there. It certainly doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen overnight.
When you set off on a long journey chances are you’re going to have a plan. You’ll map out the best route, pack essentials, work out the best places to stop along the way, and have a back-up plan “just in case”. Without organisational development in your business you’re effectively just pointing your car in the general right direction and hoping for the best. You might well end up somewhere, but that’s no good if it’s not the place you were aiming for.
As we said, things don’t happen overnight, which is where organisational development comes in. By making changes to strategy or even company structure, tweaking job roles and responsibilities and managing planned change, a company can ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction, in the most optimum way.
Just as importantly OD is there to make sure that the journey is as smooth as possible. Rather than immediately changing someone’s roles, it will look at the best way to make subtle changes, to bring everything in to alignment, and to help keep staff on board, rather than alienating them.
Next month we will look at ways that your HR professionals (whether in-house or outsourced) can help with organisational development and get you heading in the right direction.