What is Organization Development (OD)? *

Organization development is a systems and values based, collaborative process of applying behavioral science knowledge to the adaptive development, improvement, and reinforcement of strategies, structures, processes, people, and cultures while transferring organization development knowledge and capability, as much as possible.

  • The key premise of organizational development is that organizations are social systems.
  • The goal is to increase the long-term health and performance of the organization, while enriching the lives of its members.
  • The ideal is an organization where continuous improvement is so prevalent that it is not thought of as an initiative.

The primary purpose of OD is to develop the organization, not to train or develop the staff.  Although, training may be incorporated in the process of an organization development intervention.

OD is interdisciplinary in nature and draws on sociology, psychology, particularly industrial and organizational psychology, and theories of motivation, learning, and personality. Although behavioral science has provided the basic foundation for the study and practice of OD, new and emerging fields of study have made their presence felt. Experts in systems thinking and organizational learning, structure of intuition in decision making, and coaching (to name a few) whose perspective is not steeped in just the behavioral sciences, but a much more multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approach, have emerged as OD catalysts or tools.

What Does an Organization Development Consultant Do? *

The OD consultant diagnoses the heath of the organization/team and determines the major areas for improvement to ensure not only survival but Thrivability“The role of the OD consultant is varied and dynamic.  Descriptions include: helper, advisor, sounding board, navigator, coach, facilitator, designer, developer, leader, consultant, expert, partner, problem solver, diagnostician, process specialist and collaborator.  These roles can be practiced as an employee within the organisation or as an external consultant.” – See more at: http://organisationdevelopment.org/blog/the-od-practitioners-blog/#sthash.Uoj7w4b9.dpuf



Usually OD consultants are hired to address a “symptom” that is hindering organization effectiveness.  However, the client’s presenting problem is often not the “real problem”.  The real problem is one or more root causes.  For example, if a business owner says they have high employee turnover, the OD consultant will investigate to see which root causes of high employee turnover are operating.

Some of the possible root causes of “high employee turnover” are:

  • Unclear roles & responsibilities
  • Unresolved conflict
  • Lack of performance feedback
  • Ineffective supervision
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of, or ineffective, coaching
  • Unmet promises of pay raises
  • Lack of recognition
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Unclear or no job description
  • Micro-management
  • Poor hiring practices
  • Problem employees
  • Undefined processes

The root causes could include something even more fundamental. For example, is there a vision and strategic plan with goals and targets which lead to the various roles and responsibilities needed to achieve the organizational direction?  There are many factors that affect the success and thrivability of an organization/team.

One of the ways to assess an organization’s ability to thrive is the Thrivability Assessment.

What is the perspective of the OD consultant? *

The OD consultant operates from a humanistic value system.


What is the OD process? *

The OD consultant works to bring about positive changes in your organization by:

  • Meeting with you to discuss the reasons for the consultation
  • Gathering additional data about the problem through interviews, surveys, observations, and internal documents as needed
    • Then analyzing the data collected
    • Synthesizing and reporting the results back to you
  • Collaborating with you, and potentially other stakeholders, on ways to facilitate the organization’s implementation of desired change
  • Continual check-ins to ensure all is on track to achieve the desired outcome(s)
  • If the intervention is successful, this particular project is closed
  • If the intervention is not being successful for any reason and at any time, the OD consultant meets with the client to discuss root cause and options for a course change.


OD: Benefits to You *

More profitability through increased efficiency and effectiveness:

  • Enhanced Resilience and Adaptability to Social, Economic, Environmental and Internally-driven Change
  • Increased Clarity of Organizational Direction
  • Improved Structures and  Processes
  • Higher Customer Satisfaction Scores
  • Better Team Outcomes
  • Rise in Productivity
  • Improved Culture, Morale, Retention
  • Increased Communication & Collaboration while Decreasing Conflict
  • Overall Cost Savings

If you’re not ready to take the organizational development plunge, try it out on a small scale – a workshop, some process consulting, a brief employee survey, some customer feedback. We think the success of that first effort will make you want more – and make it easier to get more.

Sources: *

The Change Leader’s Roadmap by Linda Ackerman Anderson and Dean Anderson.
Toolpack Consulting: http://www.toolpack.com/a/organizational-development.html
The OD Practitioner http://organisationdevelopment.org/blog/the-od-practitioners-blog/

Reference for Business: http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/small/Op-Qu/Organizational-Development.html

Rita SterlingOrganization Development