What is OD?

Organization Development is an eclectic skill set derived from the applied behavioral sciences.

One classic definition of organization development comes from Richard Beckhard's 1969 Organization Development: Strategies and Models. He defines Organization Development as an effort that is:

  • Planned
  • Organization-wide
  • Managed from the top
  • Focused on increasing organization effectiveness and health
  • A planned intervention in the organization's "processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge.

The OD profession focuses our efforts on an entire organization or ‘system.'  For-profit and not-for-profit organizations each have some blend of financial capital, strategy, and capability to deliver upon that strategy.

The elements of an organizations capability are:

  • Organizational Structure
  • Management processes and systems
  • Work processes and systems
  • Talent/people
  • Organizational Culture
  • Leaders and Leadership

As a consequence, the nature of our work can be both broad and narrow.  However, it all starts with a process to diagnose and determine where and how to improve an organizations performance.  If an enterprise fails to deliver upon its strategy, leaders might choose to change the strategy, increase financial capital, improve the organization's capability to effectively deliver the strategy or some combination of the three.    

Many, if not most, OD practitioners spend their time on improving organization capability. Frequently, clients and many OD practitioners only see and work on these component parts. While this approach adds value and generates work for consultants and HR departments, we are at our best when we work with senior clients who have enterprise-wide or, at least, large-scale accountability and visibility to see the ‘whole system.’

Thus, we caution all our members to integrate your interventions into an overall plan to ensure that interventions to improve the parts of the system are phased effectively and do not otherwise unintentionally cancel out other change efforts.

The complexities behind this overview are fascinating and fun.  Effectively supporting organizations and the people within them is hard work and requires deep professionalism.