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Posts tagged ‘Leadership Team’

Three Essentials of Organisation Development

I was asked the other day what my three essentials of Organisation Development are.  It was a interesting questions which really got me thinking.  What are the three most important things an OD practitioner should practice in any intervention?

You might have an alternative set of essentials but this was the answer I gave.

#1 – People

Any organisation development intervention must have people at its centre.  Organisation Development is about allowing the people in the organisation to create the change the organisation is looking for.  OD is a holistic intervention, and therefore isn’t restricted to the top brass.  In fact, it works quite the opposite in that it releases everyone from the bottom up to have a say, and share their knowledge, talent and skills in developing the organisation.

If your OD intervention isn’t people centred, and unashamedly humanistic it is probably not an OD intervention.

#2 – Know you Tools, Know your Theory

Whether it is Complexity theory, Action Research Theory, Lewin’s Change Theory, Systems Theory or Appreciative inquiry the cross discipline theoretical background of OD is essential to understanding the tools that an OD practitioner will use in their OD practice.  If you don’t understand the behavioural sciences, sociology and psychology behind methods such as gamestorming, focused conversations or world cafe’s you won’t know which tools to use to deliver the results the organisation needs for sustainable performance and organisational effectiveness.

A mechanic doesn’t try to fix your car engine without knowing how the combustion engine works ‘in theory’ – by understanding the process the mechanic can quickly identify where the process is broken and know what tool/method required to make the engine roar back into life.  OD is no different.

Many practitioners dismiss academic theory as ridiculous ‘ivory tower’ thinking and not applicable to the real world.  The interesting thing is that the theory that OD is built on is often criticised by the academic community because it is built on practice and field work experimentation, worse still, in the eyes of academics, it takes bits of different disciplines because those ‘bits’ are relevant and ignores the stuff that doesn’t add value to the process.  Get to know your theory and you’ll get to understand How the OD toolkit works and when to use the different tools.

#3 – Be Sustainable

I could have chosen a number of things for number three, but the one I plugged for is that of legacy.  The OD practitioner is the catalyst in OD interventions.  They must have the ability to build the business case for the leadership team, get the leadership team on board to sponsor the programme, build relationships with key change agents within the business and draw together disperate groups to make the intervention successful.  They become the centre of the intervention.  The use of self as a catalyst of change is a central pillar of OD practice.  BUT.  What happens when the OD intervention comes to an end?  How do you prevent the organisation from slipping back into old habits?

This is the paradox of the life of the OD practitioner.  You are the centre of change whilst at the same time building a legacy which means that the organisation learns how to change itself.  The OD practitioner must translate the practices, and tools that they use so they become embedded into the way that the organisation does things.  The questions you ask, become the organisation’s questions.  The techniques you use, are understood and used by the organisation you are working with and more importantly you leave the organisation in a positon where they have learnt how to develop themselves without the ‘self’ of the OD practitioner being present.

When the OD practitioner is no longer needed then the OD intervention has worked.

So there you have it, my top three essentials for the OD practitioner.


Making the Leap From Capability to Faith – Organisation Development

It’s all too easy to talk about the need to increase people capability in order to achieve sustainable organisational performance.  Read any company memoranda or share holder report and it will contain within it some reference to the human capital in the business whether in leadership or the wider employee population.  The message that organisations convey is that people matter.

But look beyond the hyperbole and delve into the practices of the same organisation and it soon becomes apparent that there is a difference between words, actions and beliefs.  A change programme will focus on systems and processes, but the investment in people is mere percentage points versus the investment in the business process engineering; the amount invested in developing people is far exceeded by the amount invested in capital projects and along with marketing budgets for learning and development are dispensable when costs have be cut.

People Matter, is not just about the words we use, the message we sell or employee engagement.  People Matter is a choice that leaders, managers and employees make every day.  Do they choose to put people first, or do they choose to do what is best for themselves or for their balance sheet.

A few years ago I heard a story about a senior leadership team that had spent the morning during a development course espousing how important people were to their business.  But when challenged by the facilitator if the ‘really’ were a people first organisation the leadership team confessed that no, what was more important was the numbers.  It sounds shocking, and when I was told the story, the person telling me was incredulous that this belief existed in the organisation.  Actually we don’t care about people we only care about the numbers.  If only all organisations were as honest.

The issue is that all the evidence and research shows that successful organisations are successful because they believe, and more importantly act in a manner, that says People Matter.  Many organisational leaders intellectually have grasped the fact that People Matter, but not many truly believe it.  They have not taken People Matter to heart and do not consider how the choices they make reflect that belief.

The result is a disconnect between what is said and what is practiced, people capability is unable to be released and organisation effectiveness is something that remains out of reach.  But for many Leaders, changing from building capability (how much are we going to spend training people) to belief (people matter) takes a leap of faith.

A leap that requires a leader to understand that in adopting choices that put people first will go against traditional organisational thinking, it may even cost more money in the short term and it requires a different way of leading.  It requires that the organisation puts people at the heart of what they do and that they concentrate on releasing the potential of the people who work in and with the organisation.  Systems and processes might need to change to accomodate the needs of People, and the investment is turned on its head to concentrate building people first, systems and processes second.

The truth is that faith in People is different to faith in capability.  It is easy to place financial values on the return an organisation will get from having a skill set or knowledge base in their business; its much harder to place a financial value on Liz from accounts or Mary from Sales reaching their potential.  Extrapolate that over a population of thousands of employees and it takes faith to believe that people can make the difference between okay performance and sustainable organisation effectiveness.

There is plenty of research which supports the claims that people make the difference.  Leadership parrot the ‘people matter‘ because they have seen the evidence.  But belief and making choices that reflect the belief that People Matter requires a leap of faith.