About Organization Development (OD)

What is OD?

The overall goal of Organization Development (OD) is to improve an organization’s effectiveness.  It involves the application of behavioral science knowledge, in a planned and system-wide manner, and it addresses an organization’s strategies, structures, and/or processes.  "Change management" is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with OD.  It is concerned with how people react to change, and how their needs have to be considered if change efforts are to be effective.  One of the common issues is to understand and work with the resistance to change that usually occurs in organizations undergoing change. 

Why is OD important?

Organizations are increasingly challenged by change.  Competitive pressures are becoming more and more demanding, and rapid technological change and the globalizing economy create new challenges.  In the midst of this, employees seek more satisfaction from their work lives as well as a more balance in their lives as a whole.

Whether organizations are private, public or not-for-profit, they must adapt to this new world if they are to survive and thrive.  They need to become more nimble, more customer-driven, and more innovative, and they need to attract and retain competent and committed employees. This will require more flexible organizational structures, new types of leadership, and new ways of managing.  Ultimately, OD professionals can help organizations navigate this difficult terrain to become more effective in the work they do.

What Are the Values of OD?

Values often tell us a lot about someone or something.  OD values have generally been described as humanistic and democratic.  They have to do with how people treat each other, and how decisions are made.  A key concern is how satisfied employees are in the workplace.  Employee participation and collaboration are key concepts associated with OD.  More recently OD has also become concerned with productivity and organizational effectiveness.  There is more of an explicit focus on business issues and bottom-line results. (This shift has been reinforced by several recent research findings that employee satisfaction has a clear impact on customer satisfaction and therefore on revenue and profits.)

What Do OD Practitioners Do?

OD practitioners are frequently called upon to address a variety of organizational concerns, including (but certainly not limited to) developing and implementing organizational changes; creating a mission and vision; assessing core competencies; attracting and retaining competent employees; improving overall productivity and performance; improving employee morale; reducing turnover and absenteeism; and resolving conflict. 

In order to address these types of issues, the practitioner might employ a variety of interventions, such as those focused on human processes, techno-structures, human resources, and strategy (Cummings and Worley). The following are more specific examples of interventions an OD practitioner may use:  appreciative inquiry, career management systems, change management leadership, coaching culture initiatives, conflict resolution, creative problem solving, goal setting, group (or meeting) facilitation, High involvement work teams, human resources development, large-scale systems change, leadership development, workforce diversity, organizational restructuring, socio-technical systems design, strategic planning, team building, total quality management, vision and mission development, and work process improvement.

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