As a discipline Organization Development (OD) is over 60 years old, but the movement towards a more human economy means that the philosophy and approach offered by OD is in tune with what is happening in the wider social, political and economic systems. Knights (2016: 4) stated that, “to expect ‘the leader’ to always come to the best solution alone is unrealistic especially in our modern complex world.” The world of the charismatic leader that always had the answer has been exposed as problematic, and once feted leaders revealed as flawed. Organizations are facing unprecedented pressures on their operations and this environment is often referred to using the acronym VUCA;
- Volatility: Unexpected challenge over an unknown time period
- Uncertainty: Unknown causes and effects of change
- Complexity: Overwhelming interconnection between variables
- Ambiguity: Unknown, unknowns.
OD can offer organizations tools and techniques to combat these challenges by harnessing the human power and creativity within the organization to deliver sustainable organization performance. It offers a human approach to an industrial problem.
Organization Development: What it is, and why you need it.
Organization Development is variously described in academic terms based upon its behavioural and social science background.
OD is first and foremost a practice informed by theory, and in practical terms the practice of OD encompasses activities, which deliver organizational change through people. Or, simply put, OD is people led change. OD activities influence people to behave in line with their values and beliefs, embracing self and building an organization through using the combined knowledge of the organizational community. OD decision-making and judgement requires high levels of communal communication, which transcends the rational and logical processes preferred by business process engineering. It makes full use of the conscious and subconscious processes of innovation, creativity, intuition, instinct and corporate insight available within the organizational system. Human endeavour requires a tripartite of thinking, feeling and being to be truly effective. Even the most rational of decisions are in some way informed by human behaviour and the underlying values of the person making the decision.
OD has become more widely acknowledged by contemporary organizations because of the prevalence of change and the need for change methods that work following a failure of change programmes to deliver their promised outcomes. There is a growing recognition that organizations that ignore the people bit of change in favour of the more tangible process reengineering and organizational restructures in isolation do so at the risk of resistance to change, cultural malignancy and a risk to return on investment.
Embedding OD as a way of working within an organization requires that organizational leaders create a safe environment where everyone’s ideas are treated respectfully and trust is placed in their employees’ capability to develop ideas which will help overcome challenges and pursue opportunities. The result is an end to a trickle down of strategic plans and documents, and instead a creative connection between personal values and beliefs with the purpose of the organization. Furthermore, the aim of OD is not just about bottom line profit growth for that quarter, but an approach, which seeks to secure a sustainable future for the organization.
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