What is organizational development?
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 approach emphasizes organizational culture, which influences the way people work, using change based on research and action.
The method is using planned change based on research to increase motivation, remove obstacles, and make change easier. The ideal is an organization where continuous improvement is so prevalent that it is not thought of as an initiative.
Organizational development (“OD”) transforms the culture (loosely, shared beliefs, values, and behaviors) by working with social and technical systems such as work processes, communication, and rewards.
This site describes some of the tools and techniques of organizational development. Though these tools work best as part of a combined whole, they can also be used one at a time - though then it might not be OD!
Organizational development is based on research, not case studies. Case studies can be interpreted differently, depending on what people know and what they already believe. Research into human behavior isolates and tests key assumptions and relationships, and is more reliable as a basis for change.
If you’re not ready to take the organizational development plunge, try it out on a small scale - some process consulting, some work-flow mapping, 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.
Organizational development helps companies, schools, colleges, and governments by:
- Empowering leaders and employees.
- Creating a culture of continuous improvement and alignment around shared goals.
- Making change easier and faster.
- Putting the minds of all employees to work.
- Enhancing the quality and speed of decisions.
- Making conflict constructive instead of destructive.
- Giving leaders more control over results, by giving employees more control over how they do their jobs.
Key benefits of organizational development
The outcomes of organizational development may include increases in:
- Product and service quality.
- Customer satisfaction.
- Cost effectiveness.
- Organizational flexibility.
- Personal feelings of effectiveness.
- Profits (cost reduction or revenue generation, at nonprofits).
- Job, work, and life satisfaction.
More detailed goals of organizational development
The objectives of organizational development are an organization where:
- People and areas have the same goals
- Communication is open, laterally and vertically, and all relevant facts and feelings are shared. People can learn from experience.
- Decisions are made by people with the most relevant, direct knowledge.
- The reward system reinforces organizational health.
- Conflict is treated and resolved constructively — used for innovation, not suppressed or allowed to interfere with productivity.
- Processes and structures are based on present needs rather than past needs or fads.
- People are rewarded for success but not punished for failure of innovation or creativity; so innovation is high.
- Customer needs are always known and thought about by employees and leaders.
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