Organizational Development (OD) is the practice of delivering education that helps organizations and the people who are part of them improve performance even as the organization goes through changes. It blends psychology and education on a larger scale than say, individual coaching or even therapy. Some people will recognize similarities between OD training and behavioral therapy.
When I begin working with a new client, I look at these factors:
- The climate of the organization, including attitudes and beliefs about the organization that influence members’ behavior. The climate is a large contributor to things like employee satisfaction, turnover, quality of services, and the amount of stress from changes. A climate in which an organization believes it is “too big to fail” is dangerous, encourages risk-taking above and beyond industry norms, and can damage an entire industry.
- The organizational culture, which speaks to members’ shared values and behaviors. Some of these are subjective, meaning members are not consciously aware of them. An example would be expecting all employees to agree with a dominant attitude within the organization, such as adhering to a particular political or religious belief. This can cause serious problems with individual employee satisfaction, open the company to discrimination charges, or hold it back from thriving in our multicultural society.
This is the basic approach Ingenia Creative Solutions takes for most projects:
- Establish trust with the clients
- Evaluate and discuss underlying problems that are affecting an organization, or that can affect one that’s just getting started
- Co-create an action plan that may include training, team building, and other interventions to help members address these problems, and plan and prepare for necessary changes
- Create a timeline for the plan including how impacts will be monitored, and who will be responsible for obtaining buy-in from stakeholders
- Create tracking and a documentation plan for sharing findings so others will benefit from organizational learnings
Addressing organizational climate and/or culture is very challenging. Groups that are willing to examine these factors must be prepared to hear some realities that will probably challenge their value system or awaken them to unacknowledged and uncomfortable biases. But this is part of learning and adapting. Think back to when you moved from middle school to high school. It was probably both unsettling and exciting. As an adult, hearing feedback that long-held behaviors or beliefs may be harmful is certainly troubling. The question is whether you accept it and learn to move beyond it or retreat back to your comfort zone.
Source: University of Pennsylvania, Health Behavior and Health Education, “Organizational Development Theory.” http://www.med.upenn.edu/hbhe4/part4-ch15-organizational-development-theory.shtml