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The Power of Motivation at Work: More Choice, Less Ego

Motivation: More Choice, Less Ego

Motivation is at the heart of business. For decades now academicians have been researching and theorizing about what inspires optimal performance and energizes the workforce. Psychologist Abraham Maslow initiated the modern movement of motivation and performance improvement outlining his famous “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid – citing the deepest, inspirational motivations at the very top after basic physiological, safety, and social acceptance needs were me.

Motivation is Complex

Motivating a workforce is complex; it is not one-size-fits-all. It requires listening, connecting, and building relationships. We differentiate ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ motivation, what ignites our soul and what pays the bills; we need them both. We critique effectiveness of leaders on how well they motivate their teams, and we expect leaders to be able to articulate a compelling purpose because it’s what drives people to go the extra mile and build the better idea.

In the past, I have outlined strategies to finding purpose at work. Many of these strategies also significantly impact motivation, i.e., including people in decision making, job crafting, and cultivating courage and safety. As mentioned previously, the six elements of the M6 Workplace Wellbeing model are related and overlap. This is good news, as working on one often has positive effect on others.

Motivation is Changing

As the world changes, so does work and expectations regarding the workplace. It stands to reason that what motivates team members is changing as well. Ego-driven, top-down approaches are being re-considered as are the need to sit in an office cubicle or the requirement for a 5-day work week. What are you willing to re-consider to attract and retain the best workforce? How can you motivate people to bring their best selves to the table?

“The mother of motivation is choice” — B. Burchard, The Motivation Manual

In my research, I found that the cornerstone themes of positive motivation are freedom, autonomy, choice, and psychological safety. People want to feel included, valued, and in control of their personal destiny. It is about having the freedom to push back without negative consequences, implement appropriate boundaries, and say “no” when necessary. Afterall, as Peter Drucker points out, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Below are some ideas that incorporate these concepts to stretch your thinking, pilot, and evolve; start with one or two; generate success and add more!

  • Diversify compensation options to ensure that what gets rewarded reflects the values of the organization. Add choice; explore creative ideas such as health care alternatives, reliable child care options, flexible work options, and contributions to charities of choice.
  • Use stretch goals to fuel inspiration and challenge people to leverage their strengths and perform at their highest potential while keeping achievement within reach. Chunk large projects into smaller goals and celebrate achievement of milestones along the way.
  • Define career plans that outline innovative pathways to growth including such practices as vertical pairing, strategic exposure, and intentional rotations. Grow ranges of skills and competencies in individuals, focusing on strategic thinking; avoid limiting cognitive entrenchment or over-specialization.[i]
  • Provide experience opportunities by sponsoring programs that take people out of their comfort zone, i.e., out of their culture. Being vulnerable expands perceptions, and builds empathy and trust. Also, encourage participation as leaders in industry associations and facilitating workshops or speaking at professional conferences.
  • Reward effort as well as results because organizations with cultures of innovation know that failure is a part of succeeding, especially when learning occurs. Drive creative ideas by recognizing noteworthy effort, learning, and resilience to get back up when a plan fails.
  • Give permission for self-care by encouraging and building in rest which results in sounder bodies, clearer thinking, and better decisions.[ii]
  • Align jobs with meaning/purpose by ensuring people know their ‘why’ that will carry them through challenging moments and help sustain the organization’s innovation when it is needed most. Understand the connection between each individual’s calling and the organization’s collective purpose with the understanding that purpose will evolve and grow as the organization does.[iii]
  • Ensure psychological safety to create an environment with higher performing teams and increased innovation.[iv]

Balancing Ego

It is hard for many leaders to set aside ego and live into the notion that they are not superior, more than, or better than other members on their team; everyone has their strengths which together make up a stronger whole. While no one is saying a leader should have zero ego, a healthy balance of humility, self-awareness, and appreciation of others is imperative to build a culture of freedom, choice, autonomy, and psychological safety.

Consider trying some of the strategies above, learn, tweak, and try again. Change sometimes starts small, and one thing leads to another; positive culture is a competitive advantage, not a passing fad.

“When asked about its importance, 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success” — Deloitte’s Cor Values and Beliefs Survey

Yet, 85% of adults worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work — Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2017 Report

For more on the M6 Model and my approach to coaching, take a look at my website and other blog posts about Life Coaching and Organization Development.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to contact me about coaching, and we can talk more about positive relationships and a culture of thriving! Share this post with friends you think my find this of interest!


[i] David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (New York: Riverhead Books, New York, 2019, P 34) Cognitive entrenchment refers to becoming so competent at a specific skill within a specific process, that any deviation throws the expert off.

[ii] John Ratey, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008)

[iii] Aaron Dignan, Brave New Work (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2019, P 64)

[iv] Amy Edmondson, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2019, P 40)

The Power of Purpose at Work – Meaning

The Power of Purpose at Work – Meaning

We discussed the Power of Movement in my last article, and now I continue to the next “M” in the M6 Workplace Wellbeing ModelMeaning. I am using meaning and purpose interchangeably here. Their relationship is symbiotic in that we derive meaning from purpose; or said another way, meaning lies within purpose.  On this basis, they are inextricably linked and may be mutually considered in my model.

The University of Michigan conducted a study to determine the potential relationship between purpose and risks of early death. Their findings were astounding. “. . . having a life purpose appears to be more important for decreasing the risk of death than whether you drink, smoke, or run on the treadmill four times a week.”[i]

People are looking for meaning not only in their personal lives, but in their work lives. This represents an opportunity for the workplace to clearly articulate their purpose and to build a culture where every employee understands their connection to the larger meaning.

Something Bigger Than Ourselves

Meaning is beyond the work itself; it is about the impact the work can have. This past March, Cristina Ibarra made a radical change in her restaurant in Juarez, Mexico.

“There started to be such a strong Cuban presence [in Juárez], I decided to stop selling tacos so that I could start feeding the Cubans,” she said. Cristina saw both an opportunity and a calling as the city experienced an influx of Cuban immigrants patiently waiting for clearance from the US government. She has since built a place that is a . . . “haven for the Cuban community as they deal with the uncertainty of living in a foreign land and an increasingly complex immigration landscape.”[ii]

The bright colors and Cuban flags draw customers from the local hotels and provide some sense of home and community where people can talk, laugh, and be nourished; and she says, “. . . that gives me tremendous satisfaction right now.” Her Cuban staff contributes to the authentic menu and offers more than food; they are providing a caring hospitality and at the same time finding meaning in their work.

“A Purpose Economy organization creates purpose for its employees and customers – through serving real needs, enabling personal growth, and building community. . .  It makes the creation of purpose their imperative, even if they struggle at times to realize their values and vision.” — Aaron Hurst, The Purpose Economy

So, how can the workplace help with this?

Here are a few examples of ways organizations can help build meaning at work:

  • Provide opportunities for employees to help others.
    • Through benefits – A large multinational professional services company allows employees to transfer unused PTO (Paid Time Off) to their colleagues whose circumstances require them to be away from work more days than they have PTO. Employees feel good about being able to help someone else, and research has shown that the person doing the giving receives as much, or more, of the positive brain response than the receiver. Additionally, when someone observes a good deed, they also get a brain boost. This is called elevation.[iii]
    • Through results – Sallie Krawcheck grew her successful woman-centered investment firm called Ellevest with one main purpose: to unleash “. . . women’s financial power and get them invested in their biggest goals.” The people she employs find meaning and a sense of purpose in impacting their clients to achieve positive results in the male-dominated financial industry.
    • Through the supply chain – This may be achieved through using people-conscious sources or environmentally friendly components. Fashion brand Eileen Fischer set goals that are audacious by fashion-industry standards. Their pledge is to use all organically grown cotton and linen and environmentally-conscious dyes by 2020. Since 2005, they have built an alternate source of Peruvian hand-knitted sweaters by promoting a network of in-home factories that employ talented local women as well as investing in the Handloom Project which empowers weavers in India.
  • Be people-centered . . . really.
    • Include people in decision-making. Organizations that value collective insights have been shown to make better decisions while empowering people and developing them to understand how to make good choices – they have ownership. When this happens, people stay longer and bring their best selves to work.
    • Practice job crafting. One person’s interests are another’s bane, so enabling responsibility “swapping” can create jobs people look forward to and at which they excel.[iv]
  • Cultivate courage and safety. The truth is that we cannot grow into our purpose as individuals or organizations without making ourselves vulnerable and allowing ourselves to stretch beyond what we’ve always done. When we encourage vulnerability, there is an expectation that someone has our back – that we are politically and emotionally safe. Learning through failure is particularly powerful — hard lessons are memorable.

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”

— Brené Brown

  • Use technology wisely. We are gaining a better understanding of the impact of technology and the expectations around it. Author and MIT professor Sherry Turkle has researched the phenomenon of escalating loneliness and isolation when we are, ironically, more “connected” than ever.[v] At the same time, we are discovering that technology also has the power to help us interact in more meaningful ways, i.e., connecting via “face-to-face” apps (WhatsApp, FaceTime, etc.) with people we would otherwise not see, as well as through sharing-tools that allow us to include more remote voices through direct contributions to documents and ideas.

 “We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.” — Brené Brown

The Impact of Meaning at Work

Meaning is a key component of a workplace of wellbeing which enables people to feel connected, valued, and included which encourages thriving and growth. It creates a culture where people want to stay, inspires better performance, and it initiates new thinking and better decisions. All good for our individual and collective wellbeing . . . and not to mention, the bottom line.

What practice will you and your team start today?

For more on the M6 Model and my approach to coaching, take a look at my website and other blog posts about Life Coaching and Organization Development.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to reach out to me at karen@nobleconceptsinc.com, and we can talk more about building a culture of thriving! Share this post with friends you think may find this of interest!


[i] Goleman, D., The Hidden Fountain of Youth (https://www.kornferry.com/institute/having-purpose-lifespan)

[ii] https://www.npr.org/2019/07/30/741936652/a-taste-of-cuba-pops-up-in-ju-rez-mexico

[iii] Haidt, J., The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (New York: Basic Books, 2006) p195.

[iv] Dutton, J. E., & Wrzesniewski, A., “Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work” (Academy of Management Review, 26: 179-201.)

[v] Turkle, S., Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (Philadelphia: Basic Books, 2011)

The Powerful Mind-Body Connection – Movement

Five Ways to Build A Movement Practice at Work

My last article outlined the Power of Mentoring, and now I move to the second of the six “M’s” in the M6 Workplace Wellbeing ModelMovement. This one is near and dear to my heart as I am a physically active person who loves playing hard with friends and teammates. I swim, bike, and run as a triathlete who competes for the fun of it and to support others. Having a race schedule keeps me focused; it is easy for me to prioritize other things over training and end my days “without time to exercise.” Who hasn’t said that at some time?

Living in Busy Times

We are only beginning to understand the immense impact the age of technology and free-flow access to data has on our lives. People predicted technology would simplify our environment with less paper in the workplace; streamlined processes; better, more informed decisions; fewer meetings, and, basically, more time for “time-off.”

While we certainly have more data at our disposal and nearly everything is now electronic, we are hardly less scheduled; and few companies embrace more time off for its employees as a norm. Instead, we are faced with schedules that leave us gasping for air as we move from meeting to meeting, wondering when we will get our “real” work done, leaving little time for fun, volunteer commitments, or the family that may also be woefully overscheduled.

It’s been said that busy-ness is to this generation what smoking was to previous generations – a health-threatening habit of massive proportion.

So, how does moving more help solve these worries?

The truth is that moving is essential to activate the brain and maintain consistent energy which humans need in order to work at their potential and make the best decisions. If fact, movement, “. . . impacts mood, anxiety, and attention; . . . it guards against stress and reverses some of the effects of aging in the brain.”[i]  When your body is out of balance, your mind is out of balance.

Movement, just like the cell wall, the mitochondria, the cytoskeleton, and the nucleus, is a part of every working cell. Cells don’t work without movement, and you aren’t fully operational without all of your cells working well. The movement of a part today is what affords it the ability to move tomorrow.”[ii]

Exercise increases growth of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which stimulates new neuron growth and increases the ability to remember and learn while lowering the impact of stress on the body. It expands our cognitive flexibility, or ability to shift and think “out-of-the-box” rather than provide the same mindless responses. This trait “correlates with high-performance levels in intellectually demanding jobs.”[iii]

Leveraging the Power of Movement

Adding movement to your workplace culture has the opportunity to literally change the way people think and the quality of important decision-making. Picture your workplace with less depression and anxiety, happier people, and more effective meetings – in short, where people work wisely.

Every expert I talked with or read agrees on one thing – start with something. If the entire workplace culture isn’t ready to support the science behind the efficacy of a movement-focus, start with one thing on one team. Here are examples of eight behaviors anyone can easily encourage, from a team leader to the CEO:

  1. Walk a lot. Schedule moving meetings whenever possible. Walking and talking is not optimal for all meetings; however, if the objective is to check-in or talk strategy, you may be well-served by stimulating the brain with activity. Beyond walking, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is especially conducive to energizing brain activity.

“If you have an important afternoon brainstorming session scheduled, going for a short, intense run during lunchtime is a smart idea.”[iv]

  1. Understand a deeper WHY for incorporating movement into daily work life. Change attitudes about moving from “having to exercise” to valuing it is a gift.[v] Change the focus from, “I have to lose weight,” for instance . . . to, “It energizes me to walk during lunch with friends.”
  2. Find OTMs (opportunities to move) and ‘stack’ your work life. Stacking, as defined by K. Bowman in her book Movement Matters,[vi] is about achieving multiple desired outcomes in the same block of time. It can be fun to engage the team to think creatively about incorporating movement into everyday tasks, i.e., stretch or twist at the copier, stand up at the back of a meeting occasionally, practice innocuous yoga moves at the desk while on a conference call, take the stairs, ensure the printer is far enough away to require standing up – you get the idea. Everything counts.
  3. Stand up a lot – at least once every 30 minutes.[vii] This particular advice is from Joan Vernikos whose job at NASA is to keep our astronauts healthy within the effects of zero-gravity. In studying zero gravity, she has become an expert on what keeps people fit here on earth, and her finding is basic – stand, squat, kneel – in short, alternate your body position frequently.
  4. Incorporate a sense of fun/play using improv techniques; it encourages movement and builds trust. Identify a handful of “energy breaks” that allow people to quickly reactivate; incorporate them into meetings of more than 30 minutes.

The new science around the importance of movement is incredibly powerful knowledge for organizations – by valuing and encouraging movement in the workplace, we are able to improve our ability to generate new thinking, to be creative and innovative, and to inspire healthier, more resilient people.

“The top 5% of all high performers are 40% more likely to exercise at least three days per week than the 95% below them.”[viii]

Movement is a key component of a workplace of wellbeing which enables people to connect body and mind to thrive and grow. It energizes the brain and fosters innovation and creativity – it creates a culture where people feel valued and want to stay, and it initiates new thinking and better decisions. All good for our emotional and physical wellbeing . . . and not to mention, the bottom line.

What one movement practice will you and your team start today?

For more on the M6 Model and my approach to coaching, take a look at my website and other blog posts about Life Coaching and Organization Development.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to reach out to me at karen@nobleconceptsinc.com, and we can talk more about building a culture of thriving! Share this post with friends you think may find this of interest!


[i] Ratey, J., Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008)

[ii] Bowman, K., Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement (Propriometrics Press, 2016)

[iii] Ratey, J., Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008)

[iv] Ratey, J., Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008)

[v] Segar, M. No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness (New York: Amacom, 2015)

[vi] Bowman, K., Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement (Propriometrics Press, 2016)

[vii] Vernikos, J., Designed to Move: The Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health (Fresno: Quill Driver Books, 2016)

[viii] Burchard, B., High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way (Carlsbad: Hay House, Inc. 2017)

The Power of Connection at Work – Mentoring


I have shared my M6 Workplace Wellbeing Model in previous postings, and I thought I would break it down for you starting with Mentoring as the first “M.” I start with this because of just how integral connecting with people is to realizing a culture of thriving. Every wellbeing or positive psychology model out there includes positive relationship.

Living in Anxious Times

We are currently being inundated with worries of all kinds. We wonder about social media and its impact on our lives from the moral fiber of our society to its effect on the workings in our brains. As more people settle in big cities, loneliness is on the rise. At work, people are seeking a balance of empowerment and direction/structure. And finally, people seek others for affirmation, love, and witness, and without them humanity is more anxious, less happy.

So, how does mentoring help solve these worries?

Note that I am using mentoring here as an overarching concept of supportive, positive connections. Positive relationships are authentic, honest, and focus on the strengths of the other; they advocate for the other’s best interest; they celebrate each other’s successes. The fundamental requirement of a positive relationship and a mentoring culture is trust. It is the ability to be vulnerable with a colleague or manager and still feel safe. Brené Brown says that putting ourselves out there, allowing vulnerability, is necessary to courageously grow to our potential. No risk . . . no courage . . . no way you’re meeting your potential . . . end of story. And yet, one in five American adults say they have no one to rely on for emotional support.

The Power of Mentoring

This is incredibly powerful information for organizations – without emotional support and safety, we lose our ability to generate new ideas, to be creative and innovative. We second guess ourselves and leave our potential on the table. The 1970’s psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut proposed that belongingness was necessary for humanity; he defined belongingness as the feeling of being “human among humans,” of being connected to other people. Organizations have a great opportunity to provide a mentoring culture that encourages healthy risk-taking while learning with the encouragement of trusted advisors; to generate feelings that they are valued and belong.

Prioritizing positive relationships in the workplace also plays an important role in curbing loneliness. A 2018 Cigna study on loneliness indicates that nearly half of Americans sometimes or always feel alone. Douglas Nemecek, M.D., chief medical officer for Behavioral Health at Cigna indicates, “There is an inherent link between loneliness and the workplace, with employers in a unique position to be a critical part of the solution.” One such solution is prioritizing High Quality Connections (HQCs), a term used by Jane Dutton at the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations. According to Dutton, building HQCs is a 4-step process: 1) respectfully engaging others, 2) task-enabling others, 3) trusting others, and 4) having fun together.

Achieving these relationship goals may be accomplished informally through a wellbeing culture across the board and may be implemented with formal coaching and mentoring opportunities. A formal coaching or mentoring program can be designed in a number of ways and may be top-down, may use an internal or external coach, or may be structured peer-to-peer. Each adds a customized approach to leadership development, resulting in team members that feel invested in, listened to, and cared about. All this while also growing the overall competency and confidence of the organization, potentially expanding the entity’s base of possible candidates for succession planning.

Mentoring is a key component of a workplace of wellbeing which enables people to connect, thrive, and grow. It reduces loneliness and fosters innovation and creativity – it creates a culture where people want to be and stay, and it initiates new ideas and better decisions. All good for our emotional and physical wellbeing . . . and not to mention, the bottom line.

For more on the M6 Model and my approach to coaching, take a look at my website and other blog posts about Life Coaching and Organization Development.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to contact me about coaching, and we can talk more about positive relationships and a culture of thriving! Share this post with friends you think my find this of interest!



Where Does Executive Coaching Fit Into Organization Development?

I was reviewing the feedback I received on my recently posted blog entitled, “What is Organization Development, again?” when I came across a compelling question, and one I think deserves our attention. It was from a friend who asked, “Interesting. Just how does coaching fit into your definition of OD?” The short answer to the question is, “It fits everywhere.”

Coaching Comes in Various “Shapes & Sizes”

To understand this better, it is helpful to have a working knowledge of the most common types of coaching and their purposes in organizations.

Executive coaching is a collaborative process between a coach and a leader which works to assess and understand the leader’s strengths, personality, and preferences. Together they explore how the leader’s behaviors and beliefs influence personal and professional relationships and the potential to learn and grow in order to realize goals. This is generally sponsored by an organization as an opportunity to provide customized development for experienced and potential leaders.

Team coaching explores the collective strengths and behaviors of a team or group in order to leverage each member’s potential, thus realizing the possibilities of the team as a whole. A coach works with the team to develop more effective ways of supporting and leverage each other’s strengths to ensure development of better products, decisions, and ideas.

Peer coaching is the development of a culture of coaching that includes growing the coaching skills of all in order to support and realize the potential of each person as a valued contributor. It is learning from experienced, creative colleagues while sharing our own insights to encourage each other’s growth and development. It is living the old adage, “The rising tide lifts all boats.” Everyone wins.

Mentoring may be formal or informal. Mentoring is similar to peer coaching in that it includes internal connections that provide positive insights and observations. It is different in that the insights are usually from leaders who are typically not a direct boss or manager of the mentee. A formal program is usually managed by HR and includes a well-documented process and milestones. An informal program encourages individuals to connect with leaders and request insights on their specific needs and the business climate/environment of the organization.

So, How Does Coaching Fit into Organization Development?

Organization Development involves facilitation of strategy, systems/structure, culture, and process. It is an enterprise-wide function that works with all areas to help meet potential through collaboration, alignment, and innovation, resulting in improved health and wellbeing of the enterprise. As such, it depends on capable leadership to effectively guide individuals and teams and drive results — this is where coaching fits. Organization Development (OD) improves organization effectiveness, and it is essential that leaders have the skills and competencies to carry out new strategies required to meet evolving needs of employees and those they serve.

Coaching + OD = Equipped Organizations

Coaching, such as the four types I listed above, moves beyond training and development programs to provide customized support and growth. When OD results in organization change, which it generally does, coaching helps leaders understand and embrace their evolving roles quickly. It helps them leverage their strengths to clearly lead and empower others to adapt to change, as well. This results in organizations equipped to “hit the ground running” with new strategies and positive culture change that sustains organizations into the future.

In my experience of coaching and organization development in New Jersey and New York, coaching fits just about everywhere. What do you think?

For more on my approach to coaching, take a look at my website and other blog posts about Life Coaching and Organization Development.


What is Organization Development, Again?

Executive Coaching Fit Into Organizational

A Case Study on Organizational Development

I have found myself answering the question, “What is Organization Development, again?” over the years and still find that people are fundamentally unsure. Folks are looking for a simple, meaningful, and practical definition.

The fact that Organization Development (OD) includes a wide variety of functions contributes to the confusion. For example, I was reading a case study that was part of a job interview for an OD position some years ago, and I experienced an array of emotions from exuberant to dazed. The instructions outlined background, current situation, and numerous elements to be taken into consideration – new leadership, new technology, challenging personalities, emotional resistance to change, and little professional development over the years. The final question was, “What would you do to help ensure the success of the new leader in implementing the new changes outlined?” While I loved thinking through the possibilities of transforming big changes from a scary, uncertain experience to an opportunity for growth and learning, I was struck by the wide range of strategies that might be part of the plan. These ranged from leadership coaching to employee communication and development; and what a difference it could make when done well!

Good News and Bad News

When I think about the possibilities, I realize being an Organization Development (OD) professional is good news and bad news. The good news is that you’re doing purposeful work and are never bored; the bad news is many that people are unclear on what exactly you do, especially when the initiatives can seem so different from each other. “You do what? But, wait, I thought you were doing . . .”

Let’s start at the Beginning of Organization Development

Organization Development has been around now for decades and was born out of the National Training Labs (NTL) environment in the 50’s with a focus on effectiveness of individuals and groups. In the 60’s it expanded to include organization-wide issues and drove change management using experiential learning and included process improvement. By the 70’s it was primarily centered around organization-wide issues and integrated systems.

Perusing a number of books, articles, blogs and commentaries, I found a variety of definitions in the industry. The two most sited elements are: 1) It is intentional and planned and, 2) It results in increased effectiveness and health of the organization.

The art and science of OD demands a wide variety of competencies and touches all parts of the enterprise. In fact, the OD Network cites 5 capabilities and 15 competencies necessary in the field which is outlined in their model called The Global OD Practice Framework™. OD professionals work on interesting initiatives, some on which the health and wellbeing of the organization are at stake.

Still not clear?

It’s About Long-Term Health and Sustainability of the Business or Organization

Strategy – OD, along with Leadership, owns strategy. Really, you ask?! Yes, OD collaborates with leaders and provides such services as facilitating strategy and planning sessions, providing insights and direction on employee communication plans, collaborating with HR to specifically describe how these strategies are manifest in the roles/responsibilities of all employees (which ties back to structure). After all, what good is a strategy if no one knows what it looks like in their area or job? So, we ask questions such as: Can we clearly articulate how the strategy supports the vision of the organization? How will we know the strategy is being implemented? What does it look like in this area? In this job? How do employees know their priorities? What do we do well and how do we leverage it in new ways? What would it look/feel like if we execute well this year? In 5 years?

Systems and StructureOrganization Development is about the complex systems inherent in every business/organization. It ensures that they are defined, integrated, and are constantly evolving. It understands the current structure and assesses future needs, recommending and implementing new ways of organizing to meet or redefine the needs of clients/customers and employees. We ask ourselves questions like: Do we have a clear identity and purpose that all understand? Are we all living into that purpose; i.e., “rowing in the same direction” across all functions? Are we a growth-mindset-organization with a capacity for learning and evolving? Are we bringing our people along with respect, kindness, and gratitude? Do people have what they need to do their jobs well? Do employees have job security and fair pay for their work?

Culture – OD owns culture, simply defined as “the way we do things around here”, i.e., norms, customs, politics, lived values. We help our organization become a preferred place to work where top talent seeks to belong. We ask such questions as: How do we enable people to thrive and meet their potential? Do we experience positive relationships, authenticity, learning, growth, sense of control, creativity, empathy, contribution, appreciation, celebration, respect, inclusion, trust, safety? Is our lived culture aligned with our stated vision and mission?

Process – Organization Development supports organization processes. OD listens to what is going well in an organization and what is not. It gets involved in improving processes that ensure efficiency of time, energy, mental capacity, and material goods. We ask questions such as: Is there a better way to meet our potential? Have the processes changed with the structure, services, and/or needs? Are we using our resources most effectively or is there a better way?

OD is Holistic

You can see that Organization Development consists of many functions and competencies. Going back to the aforementioned case study, I found it brought to life for me the fundamental purpose of collaboratively serving all functions of an enterprise, while strategically partnering with Human Resources and Change Management functions to do so. Regardless of choice of structural options for configuring HR, OD, and Change Management professions, it is apparent all must work together closely in order to effectively support the organization and enable it to meet its potential.

So, what is Organization Development, again? I would say it is an ever-changing profession that facilitates strategy, systems/structure, culture, and process. It is an enterprise-wide function that works with all these areas to help us meet our potential through collaboration, alignment, and innovation, resulting in improved health and well-being of the organization. One thing is certain — it is never boring.

Does this make more sense? Maybe? I hope so!



Where Does Executive Coaching Fit in With Organizational Development?