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The Future of Organization Development in the Workplace!

Source | LinkedIn : By Ragland Thomas G

In the recently concluded International OD Conference organized by IODA in Mysore in May 2016, Nancy Zentis, CEO, Institute of Organization Development, USA and I had the opportunity the opportunity to share our thoughts on The Future of OD in the Workplace. I am sharing the key takeaways from our session in this post.

When I talk about Organization Development to others, I have received different types of responses. Sometimes it is “I don’t know about OD, Tell me about it? Or “I have heard something about it, I want to know more?” or “OD is my passion, I want to learn more” or “I am an OD Practitioner or Consultant” and more. Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge & Linda Holbeche share that “Organization Development is not a well understood field. Often questions like: ’What is it?’ will pop up among clients. Even many of the OD Practitioners feel that while they intuitively know what the field is about, it is hard to articulate what OD is to others.” The insight for me is that apart from those who say that they have not heard about OD or don’t know about OD, for many others, OD evokes an interest and there is no standard understanding of what OD is. The same can be said about how organizations approach OD also and there is no evidence of a consistent model or approach being used for OD across organizations even though the value of OD is well understood. So the question is what is Organization Development?

Since the 1940s, the field of OD has been growing in strength and application with the contributions of many thought leaders across the globe. While there are many definitions of OD, what appeals to me as most relevant is that of Wendell French and Cecil Bell and according to them OD is a “systematic process for applying behavioural science principles and practices in organizations to increase individual and organizational effectiveness. It is an organizational improvement strategy and it is about how people and organizations function and how to get them to function better.” So the focus of OD is to increase individual and organizational effectiveness. It’s about taking an organization from A to B to C and so on and to accomplish this task of increasing the effectiveness and furthering the journey from A to Z, OD Practitioners need a set of building blocks consisting of values, knowledge of theoretical roots, mindset and skill set. In our OD program we also use the definition of OD as “a process where an internal or external change agent helps senior leaders solve critical problems by involving all members of the organization to share their views, provide feedback, and determine the best solutions to fit the needs of the organization”. This highlights the role of an internal or external consultant in helping leaders solve critical problems and brings in the humanistic values of involving of all members and empowerment & choice to choose their direction. Now that we know a bit about what OD is, the next question is what are the challenges ahead?

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