A few clients have asked me, “What even is organizational development and how can it fix our problems?” Well it’s different for every single organization out there and yes it can fix many problems, but it will only fix yours if everyone is willing to participate.
Organizational development is a planned, concerted effort to change how an organization does things, in order to make it easier to achieve certain strategic goals. It’s often used when a company is floundering with a lack of effective leadership, or with a company culture that makes it difficult to move forward. It’s not team building or personal development. It’s a change of the group dynamic.
Organizational development is often used when an organization has gone through tremendous change, or will be undergoing tremendous change, such as a change in mission, a buy-out, or a re-location. It’s designed to give the organization as a whole the tools to deal with the change in question, and to move forward in a positive light. Organizational development is an on-going process, not a one-time experience.
Kurt Lewin was the pioneer in the field of organizational development, having made most of his discoveries while experimenting with a collaborative change process in WWII. He was one of the first to realize that group dynamics changed the thought processes of a group; people make different decisions when they’re making them with a group than when they’re making them on their own behalf. This discovery was instrumental in changing how organizations with common goals work together.
In the long run, organizational development is generally used to improve the processes that a group uses to complete work, and the metrics used to measure success. As a long term tool, it’s effectiveness in turning around performance is regarded as successful. However, it’s a long-term commitment, and requires experienced personnel to assure that goals are met.
Danielle VanZorn, PMP, SPHR