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 Structure – Organization 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!