Organization development (OD) is an effort that focuses on improving an organization’s capability through the alignment of strategy, structure, people, rewards, metrics, and management processes. It is a science-backed, interdisciplinary field rooted in psychology, culture, innovation, social sciences, adult education, human resource management, change management, organization behavior, and research analysis and design, among others.
Organization development involves an ongoing, systematic, long-range process of driving organizational effectiveness, solving problems, and improving organizational performance. It is also one of the capabilities identified in the Talent Development Capability Model.
Many OD interventions relate to human resource management and talent management. While HR initiatives focus on people practices, organization development zooms out to consider multiple inputs and tools that cut across the breadth and depth of the organization. OD is more holistic and strategic whereas HR is operational.
Like talent development, sometimes OD functions are under the HR umbrella.
TD professionals should integrate OD skills with the growing number of L&D, performance improvement, and talent management solutions focused upon increasing organizational effectiveness. The process used by OD practitioners to design and implement organizational development strategies is structured in five phases:
1) Entry represents the initial contact between consultant and client in which they present, explore, and identify the problem, opportunities, or situation. The output of this phase is an engagement contract or project plan that establishes mutual expectations and preliminary agreements about project scope (such as time, money, and resources).
2) Diagnosis (assessment) represents the fact-finding phase. It is a collaborative data gathering process between organizational stakeholders and the consultant in which relevant information about the presenting problem is gathered, analyzed, and reviewed.
3) Feedback represents the return of analyzed information to the client or client system; exploration of the information for understanding, clarity, and accuracy; review of preliminary agreements about scope and resource requirements; and the beginning of ownership of data by the client. The output of this phase is typically an action plan that outlines the change solutions to be developed, along with defined success indicators based on the information and data analysis.
4) Solution represents the design, development, and implementation of the solution or set of solutions meant to correct the problems, close gaps, improve or enhance organizational performance and effectiveness, or seize opportunities. Outputs may include a communication plan, a role-and-responsibility matrix, a training plan, a training curriculum, an implementation plan, a risk management plan, an evaluation plan, or a change management plan.
5) Evaluation represents the continuous process of collecting formative and summative evaluation data to determine whether the initiative is meeting the intended goals and achieving defined success indicators. Outputs generally include an evaluation report with recommendations for continuous improvement.
Organization development initiatives are typically categorized as:
· Human process initiatives that include team building, interpersonal and group process approaches, and coaching
· Techno-structural initiatives that include restructuring organizations (for example, mergers and acquisitions, flexible work design, downsizing, business process engineering, total quality management, quality of work life, Six Sigma, and Agile)
· Human resource management initiatives that include employee engagement, employee experience, performance management, employee development, succession planning, coaching and mentoring, career development, and diversity awareness
· Strategic initiatives that include organization transformation, culture change, leadership development, and attraction and retention initiatives
Most initiatives have elements of each category. TD professionals should ensure that any OD solution is aligned to specific strategic objectives.
OD practitioners concern themselves with strategic planning and thinking, so these skills are musts for them. The Talent Development Body of Knowledge lists being an change expert, efficient designer, business advisor, credible strategist, and informed consultant as the major capabilities of an OD professionals. Some of the skills included are data collection and analysis, project management, management skills, emotional intelligence, business acumen, communication, collaboration, and facilitation.
OD practitioners create an alignment of strategy, structure, people, rewards, metrics, and management processes to improve efficiency and productivity in the workplace. These practitioners identify and solve problems that have to do with organizational systems that impact engagement, productivity, and performance, and they may also lead initiatives that benefit individual growth, such as career development, management and leadership development, and performance improvement
OD professionals are adept at designing and implementing employee engagement strategies; facilitating communication between employees and work groups; and articulating and codifying talent and leadership principles, values, and competencies that guide the organization’s culture.
The Association for Talent Development (ATD) offers various resources for those interested in learning more or developing their OD practice. Becoming a successful OD practitioner includes furthering your knowledge in areas such as collaboration and leadership, performance improvement, business partnering and consulting, change management, talent management, project management, and beyond. ATD offers a wide variety of content, education, and publications in these areas. For access to even more resources, including practical tools and templates, research, and insights, you’re invited to become an ATD member. Learn more.
For more information, explore these resources:
Browse our OD and talent management best-selling books, TD at Work, magazine articles, research reports and more.
Browse our courses in organization development and talent management to help grow your skillset and career.
Bookmark the ATD talent strategy and management topic page and sign up for our newsletter.