What is Organization Development and Why You Should Care?

What is Organization Development (OD)?

In order to understand what OD is, we must first explain what OD is not. OD is not human resources, change management, or project management. In short, OD is about using behavioral and social science to improve the effectiveness of organizations. The field of OD is about building the effectiveness of organizations by examining: what makes people tick, how people interact, and how their behavior plays a critical role in improving the effectiveness of organizations. Therefore, for the field of OD, people are at the heart of organizations. OD is about bringing increased effectiveness and value to individuals, groups, and organizations. 

What is also critical in the field of OD is: change. In today’s globalized world, change and adaptability become necessary characteristics of successful organizations. OD strives to increase an organization’s ability to change and adapt to change. The goal is to build an organization’s capacity to address and resolve its own issues, not to build reliance on the practitioner. Along with globalization, technology and social reform are the leading cause of change in organizations and OD strives to give them the capacity to handle such change.   

The OD practitioner plays an important role in the field of OD. The practitioner acts as a instrument for change, whose knowledge and expertise can be used to improve organizational effectiveness and human potential. It is the OD practitioners’ job to assist organizations in developing the skills and process to manage future change. The OD practitioner will assess an organization, group, or individual, diagnose core issues, develop and design an intervention, and finally evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention designed. OD practitioners do not claim to have the answers or act as doctors with the correct prescription for an ailment. Rather, OD practitioners help to create opportunities for collaboration in building a framework for future sustainable change management. The goal of the OD practitioners is to give you the tools you need for future success.

Why you should care as a professional?

As a professional you should care about OD because of the field’s interest in development of intrapersonal and interpersonal relationship and group dynamics. No matter what, you are probably a member of an organization, community, family, or other social group and interacting with members of that group is probably very important. Interacting with members of the group is especially important if the group has shared goals and values. The field of OD is about helping individuals and groups increase their effectiveness in working together towards a shared goal. Many OD practitioners use research in neuroscience to help individuals and groups understand how their individual brain works and how they show up in groups. By understanding how we think and who we are, we can start to see individuals as complex human beings and through understanding; we can start to work together to achieve common goals.  

You should care about OD if you have ever needed to interact with another human being and especially if you need to collaborate with another human being to achieve a goal. Whether you are interested in one-on-one coaching or your organization is interested in improving group dynamics, OD practitioners are people who can help.

Why you should care as a business?

Many in the field of OD are invested in the global, social, and environmental sustainability in order to create a sustainable future. OD practitioners strive to help build sustainable and economically profitable organizations that are socially and environmentally conscious. By increasing an organization’s sustainability, an OD practitioner increases the overall effectiveness of an organization. An OD practitioner provides the organization with the skills to adapt to the ever-changing competitive external forces. In order to compete your organization has to build internal capacities to adapt to the external forces. Organizations then become living, breathing open systems that can adapt to their environment while maintaining sustainable, economically profitable, socially conscious, and environmentally friendly organizations.  

You should care about OD if you are an organization interested in increasing your overall effectiveness and increasing your economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Far too often organizations turn to OD practitioners when their organizations are in trouble but OD practitioners can bring value to your organization before issues arise. If you are interested in improving group dynamics and process effectiveness, OD practitioners can help. If you are interested in examining areas for opportunities to improve before issues arise, an OD practitioner can help.

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