Drawing from various disciplines, including psychology, innovation, social science, and human resource management, Organisational Development (OD) is a broad field that encompasses a variety of approaches to improving a business’s effectiveness.

In this article, we will delve into what organisational development entails, why it is beneficial, and how it differs from related concepts like human resources.

What Is Organisational Development?

Organisational development is a field that focuses on improving the overall effectiveness and health of an organisation. At its simplest, it’s about helping businesses change and develop for the better. This development isn’t just about short-term solutions; it involves long-term, systematic shifts that aim to achieve lasting improvements.

In practical terms, organisational development involves a variety of strategies and processes. These may include developing a roadmap for change, and implementing organisational development models, which provide frameworks for this transformation. Central to OD is the understanding that an organisation’s success is largely dependent on its people. Therefore, much of OD work revolves around enhancing the capabilities of employees, improving communication and collaboration, and fostering a positive work environment.

Mainly, organisational development isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It needs to be tailored to the specific needs and goals of each organisation.

Why is Organisational Development Beneficial?

The benefits of organisational development are far-reaching and can significantly impact a business’s success and sustainability. One of the primary advantages is the enhancement of an organisation’s ability to handle change. OD equips organisations with the tools and mindset to navigate major changes smoothly.

Another key benefit is the improvement in workforce efficiency and productivity. Through OD interventions, employees are often better aligned with the organisation’s goals and have a clearer understanding of their roles. This clarity, combined with improved processes and communication, often leads to enhanced productivity and job satisfaction.

Organisational development also plays a crucial role in fostering innovation. By encouraging a culture of continuous learning and openness to new ideas, OD helps in creating an environment where creativity is nurtured. This can lead to the development of new ways of working, keeping the organisation competitive and relevant.

Finally, OD can lead to better employee engagement and retention. When employees are involved in the development process and see their feedback and ideas being valued, it can increase their sense of belonging and commitment. This not only improves morale but can also reduce turnover rates, which is beneficial both in terms of cost and maintaining institutional knowledge.

Organisational Development versus Human Resources: Understanding the Differences

While both organisational development (OD) and human resources (HR) focus on people within an organisation, their approaches and objectives are distinct.

Human Resources primarily deals with the day-to-day management of personnel. This includes tasks such as recruitment, onboarding, payroll, compliance with employment law, and handling employee relations issues. HR is often seen as the administrative backbone of an organisation, ensuring that employee needs are met and that the company adheres to legal standards.

On the other hand, Organisational Development takes a broader view. It’s concerned with improving the overall effectiveness and efficiency of an organisation through change management and development strategies. OD looks at the bigger picture, focusing on how various elements of the organisation, including its culture, structure, and processes, can be aligned and improved for better performance.

The key difference lies in their scope and focus. HR is more about managing and optimising the existing human resource functions. OD, in contrast, is about driving systemic change and long-term development within an organisation. It’s about preparing the organisation to meet future challenges and opportunities, often through initiatives like leadership development, organisational restructuring, or culture change.

In practice, OD and HR are complementary. Effective organisational development cannot happen without solid HR practices, as people are central to any change process. Conversely, HR practices can be more impactful when aligned with broader organisational development goals.

The Organisational Development Process

The process of organisational development (OD) is a systematic and planned approach to improving organisational effectiveness. It involves several stages, each critical to achieving the desired outcomes. While there are various models and theories about the OD process, most share common key stages.

  • Diagnosis: This initial stage involves understanding the current state of the organisation. It includes identifying issues, assessing organisational culture, processes, and performance. Tools like employee surveys, interviews, and performance data are used to gather comprehensive insights.
  • Planning: Based on the diagnosis, specific goals and strategies for change are developed. This stage involves setting clear objectives, defining the scope of the change, and planning interventions. It’s crucial to involve stakeholders at this stage to ensure buy-in and support.
  • Intervention: This is the action stage where the planned changes are implemented. Interventions might include training and development programmes, process re-engineering, or changes in organisational structure. The focus is on facilitating change and helping employees adapt to new ways of working.
  • Evaluation: After the interventions, the impact of the changes is assessed. This involves measuring outcomes against the objectives set in the planning stage. Evaluation helps in understanding the effectiveness of the interventions and identifying areas for further improvement.
  • Feedback and Adjustment: Based on the evaluation, feedback is gathered and necessary adjustments are made. This stage is about refining the change process and ensuring that the organisation continues to move in the right direction.

It’s important to note that the OD process is cyclical and ongoing. Organisations are dynamic entities, and as such, the process of development and change is continuous. The aim is to create a culture of constant improvement, where feedback and learning are integral to everyday operations.

Exploring Organisational Development Models

Organisational development models provide frameworks to guide the process of change and development within an organisation. These models are essential as they offer structured approaches to managing change, ensuring that organisational development efforts are systematic and effective. Several models have been widely recognised and used in various contexts. Here, we’ll explore a few key models:

  • Lewin’s Change Management Model: Developed by Kurt Lewin, this model is known for its simplicity and effectiveness. It involves three steps: Unfreeze (preparing the organisation for change), Change (implementing the change), and Refreeze (stabilising the organisation after the change). This model emphasises the importance of preparing for change and solidifying new ways of working.
  • McKinsey 7-S Framework: This model focuses on seven internal elements of an organisation: strategy, structure, systems, shared values, skills, style, and staff. It highlights the interconnectedness of these elements and suggests that for effective change, all these aspects must be aligned.
  • Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model: John Kotter proposed this model, which outlines eight steps to transforming an organisation: establishing a sense of urgency, forming a powerful coalition, creating a vision for change, communicating the vision, empowering employees for broad-based action, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains, and anchoring new approaches in the culture. This model is comprehensive and focuses on sustaining change long-term.
  • Appreciative Inquiry: Unlike other models that focus on problems, Appreciative Inquiry is built on identifying and leveraging an organisation’s strengths. It involves four stages: Discover (identifying what works well), Dream (envisioning what could work well in the future), Design (planning and prioritising processes that would realise the dream), and Destiny (implementing the proposed design).
  • ADKAR Model: This model, developed by Prosci, is focused on individuals within an organisation. ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. It’s particularly useful in managing change at the individual level, ensuring that employees are ready and able to contribute to the change process.

Each of these models offers a different perspective on organisational development, and the choice of model can depend on the specific needs and context of the organisation.

For practical tools to support your organisation’s development journey explore Omniplex Guide. Our digital adoption platform is designed to integrate into everyday workflow, enhancing your team’s learning and growth. To find out more get in touch or book a free product tour.