How do organizations survive?
The only way an organization survives is to grow. Like people, an organization grows and develops by developing new skills, knowledge, and abilities. An organization’s strategy is nothing without an organization’s development.
Most professionals have an image of what marketing, sales, accounting, or human resource professionals do, but fewer are naturally exposed to the specialists within each of those fields.
Organization development is not only a specialist field within human resources, but practiced by individuals across all functions and at any position within functional, operational, and executive levels. A marketing manager can be an organization development expert as well; a line supervisor can be an organization development practitioner.
Organizations are made up of people, more specifically teams of people who interact through multiple relationships and networks. Just as people learn and change, organizations can cultivate people and team development to align and support an organization’s growth. An organization reflects accumulated knowledge, ability, and skills of the talent within.
Below are a few excerpts around organization development:
Definition: Organization development is an effort (1) planned, (2) organization-wide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organization’s processes, using behavioral-science knowledge.
- Organization development is a planned effort
- Organization development involves the total system
- Organization development is managed from the top
- Organization development is designed to increase organization effectiveness and health (expanded below)
- Organization development achieves its goals through planned interventions using behavioral-science knowledge
Increase organization effectiveness and health – expanded:
- The total organization, the significant subparts, and individuals, manage their work against goals and plans for achievement of these goals.
- Form follows function (the problem, or task, or project, determines how the human resources are organized).
- Decisions are made by and near the sources of information regardless of where these sources are located on the organization chart.
- The reward system is such that managers and supervisors are rewarded (and punished) comparably for:
- short-term profit or production performance,
- growth and development of their subordinates, and
- creating a viable working group
- Communication laterally and vertically is relatively undistorted. People are generally open and confronting. They share all the relevant facts including feelings.
- There is a minimum amount of inappropriate win/lose activities between individuals and groups. Constant effort exists at all levels to treat conflict and conflict-situations as problems subject to problem-solving methods.
- There is high “conflict” (clash of ideas) about tasks and projects, and relatively little energy spent in clashing over interpersonal difficulties because they have been generally worked through.
- The organization and its parts see themselves as interacting with each other and with a larger environment. The organization is an “open system”.
- There is a shared value, and management strategy to support it, of trying to help each person (or unit) in the organization maintain his (or its) integrity and uniqueness in an interdependent environment.
- The organization and its member operate in an “action-research” way. General practice is to build in feedback mechanisms so that individuals and groups can learn from their own experience.
- Organization development achieves its goals through planned interventions using behavioral-science knowledge.
Kinds of organization conditions that call for organization development efforts:
- The need to change managerial strategy
- The need to make the organization climate more consistent with both individual needs and the changing needs of the environment
- The need to change “cultural” norms
- The need to change structure and roles
- The need to improve inter-group collaboration
- The need to open up the communications system
- The need for better planning
- The need for coping with problems of merger
- Need for change in motivation of the work force
- Need for adaption to a new environment*
Wow! Organization development hits every area: marketing, sales, accounting, human resource and more. I am blown away that the above excerpt on organization development printed in 1969, in its entirety, remains relevant today.
We live in a constant change, change affects our relationships with our co-workers, our customers, our internal processes, our work conditions and the technology we rely on. Our skills and our systems demand flexibility and adaptive resilience.
There is little expectation that a strategy will remain relevant before the ink is dry (that I even refer to ink almost dates the analogy), however too many organizations plan, set their plan in motion, look for it to cement, and then wonder why it is abandoned, let alone deemed irrelevant.
The shock comes that 40 years after this article was written an overwhelming majority of leaders, managers, and organizations still don’t get it. They continue to manage and lead through fear, intimidation, and provocation. I have been an active organization development professional for the past 10 years and enter every engagement expecting a C-level leader or senior manager is familiar with organization development as an enabler to success, but too quickly find they count on their goal to get the project done, not to get their people or organization to develop.
Reread the excerpt above and rate your roll in your organization’s commitment to develop sustainable, healthy relationships between their people and systems? and rate your roll in your organization’s commitment to develop sustainable, healthy relationships between their people and systems?
It continues to surprise me to see leaders and managers move up in their career and forget, or are simply blinded by their ego to recall, what it meant in their work and their life when they are motivated and what a good manager or leader has meant to their development.
It’s time to go back and dedicate yourself to the most important element in your organization’s success: people. Your people and your coworkers are where your organization’s health to remain competitive and relevant resides. Organization development is not a management fad, but as early as 1969 was called out for impact. Organization development is just as valid in 2009 as it was in 1969.
So why is organization development important? Because every single thing your organization chooses to do relies on developing first your people, then their role to develop the organization. This is not an human resources challenge it is an organization challenge. There is a distinct difference from getting it done and getting it accomplished.
*Excerpt from: “Organization Development: Strategies and Models” edited by Edgar Schein, Warren Bennis, and Richard Beckhard
Postscript: The latest book by Edgar Schein, released in 2009