There are many definitions of organisational development (OD) but ours is “a planned, systematic approach to improving organisational effectiveness that aligns strategy, people and processes.
OD emerged out of human relations studies from the 1930s where psychologists realised that organisational structures and processes influence worker behaviour and motivation. More recently, work on OD has expanded to focus on aligning organisations with their rapidly changing and complex environments through organisational learning, knowledge management and transformation of organisational norms and values.
Many businesses grow and expand without considering that they need to grow and expand the way in which they organise themselves. Old practices and processes can quickly become ineffective when a business changes.
Often inspirational vision for high performance and competitive advantage for the organisation gets created by a few and then thrust upon the many. Too often, this results in these change initiatives ending in a successful change of procedures and structures, but less sustainable change in ways of working, culture and effectiveness.
Organisational development can enable an organisation to be ready for the future by taking steps which create an environment that allows employees to understand, embody and deliver the organisation’s objectives. OD involves both “hard” issues such as strategy, policies, structures and systems and “soft” issues, those that develop appropriate skills, behaviours, attitudes, culture and a style of leadership that will enable organisations to deliver optimum performance. To avoid conflict between organisational goals and needs, it is imperative that both these issues are addressed.
The key distinctive feature of an organisational development perspective is taking a holistic focus. In other words, paying attention to how what is done in one part of the organisation impacts on another. This needs to be seen as an organisation wide initiative and not just a human resources project.