Introduction to Organizational Development Pt. 1

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it.
–Bruce Lee

Organizational Development (OD) is a practice that has been gaining momentum over the last few years. Defined as “a process that applies a broad range of behavioral science knowledge and practices to help organizations build their capacity to change and to achieve greater effectiveness, including increased financial performance, customer satisfaction, and organization member engagement,” it is an approach that requires a high level of adaptability in order to be successful. Practitioners apply a broad range of research and analysis techniques to stage appropriate interventions and counsel to guide companies towards their goals.

Organizational Development is highly evidence based. Considering what the evidence shows, practitioners must be flexible. If decisions prove ineffective they have to be able to pivot without bias; if effective they must be able to hold the course. OD practitioners are constantly analyzing market trends and finding those that will have an effect on the specific industry they are working with. However, they are also looking at all the different aspects and inner workings of the company itself. Never failing to consider how each individual part affects the whole, and that everything is interlinked, practitioners look at not only the organizational structure but also the human element of the company. One cannot solve a problem without understanding how other parts of the organization are contributing to the problem.

Moving out of linear progression, Organizational Development is more cyclical, fluid in approach. Instead of following a designated path, practitioners go into the process with an encyclopedia of different strategies, which are applied based circumstantially. Adaptability, and a diversified tool belt allow them to bring effective consultation to overcome a wide range of hindrances. Now that we have discussed the general theory of OD and the OD practitioner, next week we will be diving into a deeper discussion of how the process is applied and how it facilitates success.

Managing Cause For Effect

One of the major things that can create success in business is understanding that every cause has an effect and vice versa. Jamshid Gharajedaghi is an expert on “systems thinking,” which is the process of analyzing how systems function, specifically in social and biological systems. He says, “everything affects everything.” It is a deceptively simple statement. The real key is understanding how to apply it in a manner that can promote a healthy system for your business and personal life.

Knowing that everything affects everything, it is important to study what can be controlled, what cannot, and what is the desired result. Every system is subject to the environment that surrounds it. The environment is everything outside of the system that influences (either directly or indirectly) any part of the system. It cannot be controlled directly by the system and consists of things like politics, community, other people and even the weather. Understanding that the environment cannot be controlled is important, because this allows for plans to be made to compensate for it as much as possible.

Compensating for this relies on manipulating what can be controlled. There are two things that can be controlled: talent and process. Talent is the information and energy that is brought into the system. It consists of all the knowledge, skills, strengths, attributes, and disciplines you bring into the project. These can be personal talents, but in a team it is what everyone as a whole brings to the system. Selecting team members that bring different talents or developing them on your own makes a big difference in how a system works in its environment.

Processes are another thing that can be controlled. These are behaviors, action and choices developed to gain the desired result. They usually require practice and time to perfect. However, once they are thoroughly worked out, they can have a strong effect on the success of the system.

Managing all possible causes will help a system thrive in its environment. However, in order to understand how to manage them requires knowing the desired result. These results can be anything from quality, efficiency, and financial gains, to status, satisfaction and happiness. Our personal lives are just as much a system as our workplaces. Manipulating every cause that we can will help us get to our desired result in both arenas. There will certainly be rainy days, and stubborn people that we have no control over, but perfecting our system will make these obstacles overcomeable.

Gharajedaghi,Jamshid.Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity: A Platform for Designing Business Architecture. Print.